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    When the Squirrels Get Tough, the Tough Get a Water Wiggle

    Fie upon you, day-rats. You don’t fool me with your bushy tails and twitchy noses: I have seen what treachery you have wrought with your tiny hands and I aim to put a stop to it. Your reign of terror ends here. A pox upon your burrows. Or nests. Or whatever your houses are called! 

    Squirrels are destroying my garden and I have had enough. In a single day, they have dug up and eaten approximately $200 in bulbs. Jack-in-the-pulpit, crocosmia, spider lilies, and species tulips, all vanished into thin air. In their place was left a half-chewed peanut shell. This is a lopsided trade, you foul beast, and mark me, it will not stand. This is war.

    Innocent vegetable seedlings have been ruthlessly pushed out of their beds while that varmint roots around for stray acorns. Freshly planted fava starts, have been chomped in half. And it’s not just the baby plants being killed; established corn plants—a foot high by the 4th of July!—have been yanked from the soil. One year, every last one of my peaches was picked and set on the fence, a single bite taken out of each. I haven’t been able to grow a sunflower from start to finish in over five years.

    I’ve consulted the oracles—Facebook groups, Google, Beatrix Potter. Nothing has worked. I’ve tried hermetically sealing my garden in mesh; this is effective at keeping squirrels off fruit trees, but it destroys curb appeal and worse, traps bees in the nets. I’ve tried sprinkling a pillowcase-sized sack of Korean gochugaru (chile flake) on the soil, which is at least biodegradable, but it only works until it gets wet and moldy—or until the squirrels develop a taste for spicy food. 

    I’ve encased whole flowerpots with fly-proof food tents and overturned glass bowls, but these, too, are just temporary measures while the evil-doers lie in wait. I have had some success with laying storm windows over larger planters, but springtime weather can be super variable and I’ve ended up cooking my seedlings when I forgot to remove the glass on a sunny day—which is when the buck-toothed marauders are most active. 

    Finally, at my wit’s end and out of options (my attempts at luring hungry raptors having proved fruitless) I stumbled upon the heavy artillery: a motion-activated jet-sprinkler. For around $40, I could buy a device that would fend off all manner of creature by shooting a stream of water at anything that came  within 20 yards of the garden. When I got mine home, I popped in the batteries, hooked it up to the hose and waited.  

    Sadly, I’ve yet to see any acorn-chasers get popped right below their bushy tails, but I have noticed a sharp decrease in dig-holes in my veggie beds. I’ve even seen honey bees visiting to sip water drops clinging to the side of the sprinkler, which is pretty damn cute. 

    The motion sensor on mine also uses infrared, so it doesn’t just keep squirrels out of the garden during the day. After dark it goes all Dirty Harry on nocturnal invaders set on stealing my already grown salad makings—raccoons and groundhogs and their ilk. The biggest bonus of having a motion-activated sprinkler, however, is that it also scares off my neighbor’s cats, who have recently developed a penchant for dropping their processed kitty chow in my raised beds. 

    Yes, I have at times forgotten that thing was on when bopping out to the garden to do a little light morning weeding or to grab some parsley for dinner, and been pelted by the startlingly firm blast. And yes, it has a really itchy trigger-finger that goes off randomly at various points throughout the day—if the wind blows too hard, for example, a plant’s breezy swaying can set off the jet stream. 

    But this shouldn’t be a surprise. War has casualties, and I’m willing to accept a surprise soaking and random showers throughout the day if it means I can keep my garden alive without killing anything. After all, The Art of War reminds us, “the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

     One of these days I hope to have a picture of a stunned and soggy little rodent to prove it.

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