On Leaves, Nuts And Squirrels

FallenLeaves

I have owned two houses in my life and both have been in areas with lots and lots of big trees.  Which I love.  Until I am faced with that question that comes up every October – what do I do with all those leaves?

I love living around trees.  Perhaps this is because I grew up in what I call a “cornfield addition”, a housing development that sprung up from what had previously been flat, cleared farmland.  Each sun-blasted house was graced with one or two scrawny silver maple trees in the front yard, and there ya go, instant suburbia.

There were parts of my neighborhood which had been woods of some kind because some of those huge, majestic trees remained to shade the homes and provide some nature beyond the grass and dandelions that the rest of us had.

Where I grew up the idea was to rake what leaves you had out to the curb.  Two or three times every fall big vacuum trucks would come along and suck them all up and take them – – – somewhere.  Although a few folks burned them.  After homesteading in Indianapolis I discovered that 1) most burning was outlawed and 2) there were no vacuum trucks.

So I did what my neighbors did, raked them up and stuffed them into plastic bags for pickup.  When my lot measured only forty feet wide this was not a tremendous undertaking.  When I moved to my current place with a lot that measures a bit under a half acre, it was a little more of one.  Or a lot more of one.

I asked a friend who ran a landscape company what was my best option.  “Get the biggest leaf blower you can afford” he said.  So I did.  I bought one of those backpack style blowers that made me feel like someone from Ghostbusters.

For several years I was fastidious about cleaning my lawn of tree cast-offs.  A full day would be spent two or three times a season.  Leaves would be blown into large piles, which would then be scooped into large plastic bags which were stacked at the curb.  The one year I counted resulted in the tightly-packed filling of 110 of those big bags.

It was one of those jobs I really enjoyed – for about the first hour.  After that it was a full-on chore that was the cost of living among the trees.  And while I am certainly no member of Greenpeace, the idea of cramming naturally biodegradable leaves into non-biodegradable bags for disposal struck me as, well, not one of the best ideas ever.

I eventually found someone who would do the job for me, collecting them into a trailer and hauling them away.  To somewhere that was not my yard.  Then that person lost his dumping spot and suggested that he mulch them up with his mower.  Which has been the plan ever since.

This year I have taken on that job again with great gusto (now that I have the equipment that makes the job reasonably easy).  And so I have another appointment with my lawn this afternoon which will be spent mulching leaves.

Which brings me to the squirrels.  I can’t figure them out.  My walnut trees do their best to keep the squirrels happy and awash in food.  So why are the squirrels not picking up all those nuts on the ground.  Are they waiting for my mower to hack off the husks for them?

Or have they come to prefer the insulation material under the hood of my car (which has now been largely eaten away).

Squirrels have been my nemeses for awhile now.  There was the time I thought there was something wrong with my car when the accelerator pedal would move only a little bit, just barely enough to drive in traffic.  I took a look under the hood, expecting to find a broken linkage or such.  Instead I found an engine in which every available crevice had been packed with walnuts.  I could boast of the only Ford sedan with genuine walnut trim under the hood.

I felt like an evil robber as I removed every one of those walnuts and threw them into a trash can.  That squirrel was a hard worker because he started to restock in the days afterwards.  A restocking that proved as futile as the first because I plundered that one too.  That was enough for him as the walnuts never reappeared.  Did I put him on the squirrel-dole for the winter?  Or is that not a thing?

I really don’t understand the missing insulation from my current car.  I cannot imagine that it tastes very good, but then I have never tried Honda’s under-hood insulation.  Perhaps it goes well with walnuts?

I had plenty of time to think about these things a few days ago as I fixed more of that squirrel damage.  The windshield washers in my Honda had stopped working.  I had assumed that I was out of the fluid.  Until I bought a bottle and filled the reservoir.  The little pump whirred and whirred, but there was no squirting.

“Maybe it’s the squirrels” offered Mrs. JPC.  I will admit to some embarrassment that I did not think of it first, but she turned out to be exactly right.  It seems that a little rubber hose must have been in the squirrel’s way because it had been chewed apart.  Perhaps washer fluid is a great chaser for the insulation.  Or maybe he made a luxury squirrel-condo with a squirrel shower.

Either way, it was one of those inexpensive ($5.14) but time-consuming jobs that involved removing a fender liner and re-plumbing the washer system.  And sorry dude, but your nesting material is GONE.

There was a time when those squirrels would have been considered pretty good eatin’.  Fun fact (which I just looked up) – did you know that the famous cookbook The Joy Of Cooking once contained illustrations on how to skin a squirrel before cooking it?  I’ll bet Mrs. JPC won’t think of THAT first.

 

 

Photo credit:

Photo of fallen leaves used per a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license and was found at https://torange.biz/fx/fallen-leaves-texture-179845

Because I was too busy to take a picture of my own leaves and all leaves covering the ground in the fall look alike.

19 thoughts on “On Leaves, Nuts And Squirrels

  1. I helped my Brother-in-Law with a project once that involved removing the old drywall ceiling in his garage. I figured we could just whack away at it with a claw hammer. Squirrels or something had stashed hundreds and hundreds of walnuts in the attack space, remember Captain Kangaroo and the ping pong balls!?

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    • Hahaha, what a fabulous mental picture. And another one of those soon-to-be obsolete cultural references we were discussing 2 or 3 weeks ago.
      It makes me think that the poor squirrel mizer didn’t live to see the retirement he had planned for so well.

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  2. When I lived in Terre Haute, they sent the leaf vacuum out. I’d never seen anything like it before and wished my hometown of South Bend had had something like it.

    When I moved to Indy in a lovely sprawling ranch in the old suburbs, after the first miserable autumn with all those mature trees I bought a lawn tractor with the buckets you hang off the back. Used it for 19 years to clear the leaves.

    Now out here in new suburbia with one (1) regulation Army-issue tree in the yard, I just wait for them all to fall and then mulch them into the ground.

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    • I have to do the mulching in small bites, if I wait until everything is down it would be way too much. Then there is the Bradford Pear tree in the front yard that will not dump its leaves until some time after December 1, a time of year when any leaf-cleaning enthusiasm I had is long gone

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  3. We are on House #4 and this one has more leaves than the other three combined. Only the oak leaves in the front yard cause me any concern. For them, I get out the riding mower and run in circles until it’s all chopped up, the leaves becoming fertilizer for the underlying grass. Of course the street gets some fertilizer in the process.

    While you undoubtedly have this covered, I’m obligated to mention you should check your gutters to ensure they are free of leaves and other debris. Water can be nastier than squirrels. My gutters have protectors but I still put a paint brush on an extension pole to clear them off in the fall.

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    • Gutters have become a problem here. For our entire time here I have gone onto the roof to walk around the perimeter with my leaf blower, cleaning the gutters of their leaves maybe 2 or 3 times a season. Mrs. JPC has informed me that I am now too old to do this. Which is odd, because my neighbor is older than I am, but is still permitted up there by his Mrs. I am still working on this problem.

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  4. On the leaves front, at least you don’t have a pool. It’s a small percentage of the area of our lot, but it seems like a third of the leaves wind up in the water on top of the winter cover and need scooping out, dumping on the grass, and then cleaned up a second time. However I don’t think we can complain too much, if we can afford stuff like pools and half acre lots we can afford to deal with them.

    On the squirrels front there have been several publicized cases locally of rodents eating car parts, and it always seems to be Honda. Why is it that Honda materials appeal to squirrels? Do they not have rodents in Japan?

    I was thinking there could be a compelling social justice case for feeding all the squirrels so that they aren’t so desperate that they have to eat car parts, but the presence of your walnut tree would seem to cover that base nicely. I’m more for reducing the endless supply of squirrels, possums, raccoons and skunks around here by any means available, but that’s just me.

    Although we did recently have a push to put a new slogan on the provincial license plates, and the most compelling entry I saw was Ontario – Too Many Squirrels 🙂

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  5. My brother in law had a GMC van that the squirrels got into the wiring. He got rid of it in favor of a Ford Transit. As for the trees, I remember when I was a kid that we raked them in a big pile & burned them, which you can’t do now. Most of the trees near my house have been cut down for one reason or another, so my leaf raking has been cut down significantly.

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  6. Loved your Greenpeace paragraph and the image of your auto walnuts—as well as your terrible puns. I adore bad puns.

    We lost most of our wonderful old trees, alas, but we do have a service to blow our neighbors’ collections off our lawn and into the street, where they rest before the West Wind returns them to us if the township delays in removing them.

    Our squirrels, unspoiled by walnut trees, are quite tame. Aside from an occasional swing on our squirrel-proof bird feeders, they behave fairly well.

    I must say that I’m with Mrs. JPC vis-a-vis the roof issue. The next door neighbor in the house where I grew up did not listen to his Mrs.—and did not live to tell the tale. If you’re missing the adventure, you might try one of those rock wall-climbing deals they have in a number of malls these days. Most of the climbers may be a bit younger, but at least you’ll be safe. Wear a helmet!

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  7. I enjoyed all the visuals, but 110 bags of leaves? That must be a record. The most I ever had was 63 when I had 12 now dead and removed ash trees. Now the neighbours donations and the remaining maples are mulched, although they fell off late this year after the lawn service was done for the season, so they will have to mulch themselves. Plastic leaf bags are not allowed anymore, you must use paper ones which disintegrate when it rains. PS. I’m glad I park my Honda Civic inside the garage. PS2. Mrs. is correct about staying off the roof. I can recall a few patients to back this up.

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    • Sorry to hear about your ash trees. Losing 12 would have been a terrible jolt. I have one that is still healthy, at least so it appears.

      Yes, I could never gin up much enthusiasm for paper leaf bags for just the reason you say.

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      • I just posted about it in my Kitchen Reno blog. It was expensive – $5000 as I recall, about $500 a tree as they were extremely tall and they had to climb them and take them down in sections. In kindness I let them take some of my neighbours down too, and they got the truck stuck in the mud. I miss the trees because I used to have a hammock slung between two of them…..but not the leaves.

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  8. Our squirrels favor avocado peels which we put in our compost pile, even though these peels don’t seem to biodegrade. Last year I pulled a few boards off the fence which is right next to the compost pile, for a repair. There was a stash of several hundred desiccated avocado skins between the inner and outer fence boards. Nest? Winter for larder? Or just a hoarder? I don’t know, but I put them in the trash. We have two orange trees and there were a few dried orange peels in there too. We’ve never found automotive squirrel damage, but did have rats nesting under the hood of my wife’s New Beetle at our previous house. Those large plastic engine covers which are popular on many cars now seem to make a nice platform bed.

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    • I had never thought about the biodegradability of avocado peels. They are certainly made of tough stuff.

      I would like rats a LOT less than I like squirrels (which is little enough as it is). Maybe there are enough others around with Hondas that the squirrels won’t bother you. 🙂

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