Rita Howell 9-20-13

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 20, 2013

Menagerie makes diverse feeding time at Animal Farm

Feeding time at our house should be a simple procedure.

After all, there are only two of us. That is, two two-legged folks.

But if you count the four-legged creatures, the food bill grows.

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Two dogs, one cat. Not that outrageous.

Wild birds who come daily to sunflower seed feeders in the front yard.

Hummingbirds currently in their eating frenzy to store up energy for their 2,500 mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico to their winter quarters. They quickly consume the sugar water I prepare for them.

Squirrels–four, six, a dozen, who knows?–that come from the large trees all around our yard to help themselves to the sunflower seeds I put out for the birds.

The dogs, if we are home, will act all protective and chase the squirrels away…for a few minutes. When the dogs retreat to the back porch or their resting place beneath the shrubs, the squirrels come right back to the feeders.

They are fun to watch in their acrobatic mealtime routines, sometimes dangling  upsidedown as they stuff themselves with my sunflower seeds.

The squirrels and I have reached an agreement to coexist.

No so my mother.

She detests the squirrels that come to her porch to eat the crumbs she faithfully leaves out for the birds.

It is a common sight to view her running out her back door at all hours of the day, clapping her hands and yelling, “you get out of here” to the squirrels.

But she keeps feeding her birds and the squirrels keep coming back to her porch to steal the crumbs.

She has declared no truce. Instead, it is a never-ending battle. And the squirrels are winning.

Meanwhile at our house I have been diligent this summer to continue to keep my bird feeders filled with the shiny black seeds they love. That keeps the goldfinches, cardinals, titmice, chickadees and doves coming to the yard all summer. It also keeps the squirrels coming.

For the past few years I have planted red salvia beneath the dead cedar “bird feeder tree” in the front yard.
For the past two years, some critter has eaten the salvia.

I planted it again this year, just out of tradition.

One day I was refilling the bird feeders on the tree and I noticed that something had been nibbling on the salvia. The bird feeder had not been empty long, but I noticed that the chewing had begun on the flowers when the seed was all gone from the feeder.

I figured it out.

Squirrels were eating the flowers when there were no seeds to eat. I think they were just bored.

So the feeders have remained filled consistently and the flowers are still there and I conclude that the birds and squirrels are happy.

And then there’s Nanny.

That’s the doe we have seen so often in our yard that we have named her. She has two fawns. She is on a first-name basis with our dogs, who basically ignore her unless we are in the yard, and then they feel the need to exert their authority. Without fail, Nanny chases them back to the house.

Nanny has been helping herself to the low-hanging pears on the tree near our house. She has eaten everything she can reach. There are many more pears hanging on high branches that must leave her frustrated. I feel sorry for her, so I shake the tree and retrieve a few pears each day. I leave them on the fence posts nearby. When I come back later, the pears are gone.

The moral of this story? Looks like I’ll buy my preserves at the Square Market and leave my pears for Nanny.