poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘squirrels

getting the better of … a squirrel?

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At readings of my book within easy reach, I often include the poem ‘beaked hazelnuts’ and tell my audience:

If I don’t pick my hazelnuts by August 6, the squirrels will get there ahead of me. They watch the calendar!


hazelnuts viewed from the underside of the shrub canopy


The Beaked Hazelnut is a wiry shrub found in mixed woods. The edible nut is contained in a bristly, beaked husk. We have three clumps of the shrubs in our yard, probably sprung from the stashes of squirrels over the years!

For my battles with the squirrels over the hazelnuts, just have a look at



This year, I also watched the calendar. And on August 5, I picked most of the hazelnuts on our hazelnut ‘trees’. Picking is tricky because those pods are covered with sticky sharp hairs that irritate thumb and fingers.



Never-the-less, I have a small bowl of hazelnuts to call my own (I left a few for the squirrels, more than they ever did for me). Now I will wait for them to dry and then have a little feast!


beaked hazelnuts

(Corylus cornuta Marsh.)


hazelnuts hang

husks curve

translucent, lime

they ripen


this year, they are mine


uptight red squirrels agitate, on guard, we watch

the hazelnuts ripen, slow as cobwebs falling, nut pies

browning through the glass of the oven door

green berries losing yellow, making blue

dust motes in a crook of light

float, small hooked hairs



two more days



and red squirrels

bury their hazelnuts



From within easy reach (Chapel Street Editions, 2016)


Copyright Jane Tims 2017

Written by jane tims

August 9, 2017 at 7:45 am

thwarting the squirrels

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Feeding the birds provides me with hours of enjoyment in winter.  However, bird feed is costly when marauders come to call.  I have watched with dismay as the tongue of a single deer laps up every morsel of sunflower seed.  Or laughed as the squirrel eats peanuts from inside the squirrel-resistant bird feeder.  Lately, a very fat raccoon has emptied our suet feeder night after night.




Last weekend, we rigged something new to see if we could reserve at least one feeder just for the birds.  The idea is courtesy of my friends A. and D. who showed me how well the contraption works at their bird feeding station.




The idea is simple.  We stretched a sturdy cord between two trees at a height of about seven feet.  On the cord, we strung six empty 2 liter pop bottles.  We tried all sorts of ways to drill holes in the plastic and found that a screwdriver heated over a candle flame melted a neat hole in the bottom center of each bottle.  Then we put a metal s-hook between the two center bottles and hung the feeder.  The squirrels will try to walk the tightrope to get to the feeder, but when they reach the pop bottles, these spin and the squirrels cannot hang on.


After one week, the squirrels and raccoon have left this feeder alone.  They still have some food to eat at the other feeder, but at least the seed in this one is reserved for the birds!  As you can see, the snow banks are getting higher and soon the squirrels will be skipping across the surface of the snow to reach the feeder.  Higher please!




Copyright  2015  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

January 16, 2015 at 7:04 am

Zoë, watching

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Our feeding of the birds has given our cat, Zoë, a new form of entertainment.  She sits in the chair in front of the glass of the door leading to the deck and watches.  Her head swivels as each new arrival lands and selects its seed.  All evening, the pupils in her eyes are as black as those of the little Flying Squirrels she sees outside the window.

The birds and squirrels know they are being watched but have decided the sphinx behind the window glass cannot harm them.  For her part, Zoe knows she can only observe the antics around the feeder.  She contents herself with the pantomime of predation.



strategic hyphenation


patience nestles into space

between edge-wise foliage

strategic paw-placement where

no dry-leaf crackle, dry-twig snap

disturbs the nothingness downwind

of furred-or-feathered prey

no tattling breeze

can carry scent-anticipation


to be pounced-upon

all muscle-twitch contained

in nervous, horizontal




©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

January 18, 2012 at 9:54 am

at the bird feeder #3

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I am amazed at the volume of seeds these little visitors eat.

The deer, racoons and squirrels take their unfair share, of course.  Last year, I watched a deer attack the feeder with its tongue, scooping up every bit of seed in a matter of minutes.  Even without the deer and racoons and squirrels, the birds descend in a flock and the food is soon reduced to a scattering of seed-husks.

We have come to a conclusion – next year we will put up a mammal-proof feeder.  My brother-in-law has it figured out.  He has installed a large cedar post in an open area and encased it in aluminum pipe and flashing. Enough seed falls on the ground to give a treat to the squirrels and other marauders, and the birds are the focus of the money-drain.



feeding the birds


I wait, no patience to speak of

for the next bird to find


this food more delicious than seed offered

by my neighbour, swears


he had cardinals, mine the left-over

chickadees and nuthatches, flocks of redpoll


litter the feeder, red-dotted heads, their toes

grip courtesy branches, a perch


impossible to find, after the freezing rain, branches

encased in slip-and-slide, candy-coated nutrition


won by complication, every kernel harder than stone

seed in a casing of black, sunflower


and pencil draw the finches, grosbeaks smash seed-coats

with deliberate jaws, shards of sunflower husk and ice-coat


fall as rubble



©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

January 13, 2012 at 10:18 am

jane 9 squirrels 1

with 4 comments

Again, I am in competition with the squirrels (see ‘competing with the squirrels #1 and #2’, in the Category ‘competing for niche space’). 

Christmas is coming and this year, I am decorating with natural elements.  One of these is a ceramic bowl of large pine cones. 

We have several large White Pine (Pinus Strobus L.) on our property and from time to time, they produce masses of beautiful pine cones, perfect for my decorations.  White Pine are easy to remember in this area, since they have their needles in bundles of five.  The cones are between 10 and 15 cm long and are a favourite food for squirrels.   

My husband came in last weekend and announced there were lots of the big cones in the pine tree next to our lawn. “Watch for them to fall, and then you should hurry to collect them,” said my savvy husband (he remembers the sad tale of the ripening hazelnuts). 

I waited a couple of days and then went scavenging.  And now, I am supreme.  I have gathered enough cones for our Christmas.  I saw a few cones with the lower scales and seeds nibbled away, but I found plenty for me.   My hands were sticky, true, but I was so happy.  All I can say is, with an emphasis approaching smug, “CH-CH-Ch-chchchchch-ch.”

just to show that the squirrels do have lots of pine nuts… these cones are about half eaten


in November


we gather pine cones

snakes of lion’s paw


cedar boughs

and holly

we walk the wild ways

pruners and scissors

baskets and stout cord

bind bunches

of branches

balsam and cedar  

blood berries

and evergreen

garlands of fir

rosehips and acorns, gilded


and prickles

and thorns


©  Jane Tims 2011

in the shelter of the lane

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Now, when the trees are shedding their foliage in yellow, red and orange, have you taken the time to stroll down a lane crackling with dry leaves? 


1 lane  n.  1: a narrow passageway between fences or hedges;

2: a relatively narrow way or track …

2 lane  Scot var of LONE


Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1979

Words are so laden with connotative and denotative associations, those similar in meaning may not convey the same idea at all.  For example, the word ‘lane’ is vastly different in meaning from ‘road’, yet a lane is a type of roadway.

A lane, to me, is a narrow corridor, built to admit people from the ordinary world of community to the private world of home.  A lane is bounded on each side by trees, hedges or fences.  A proper lane must have ruts for the tires and a centerline of grass to challenge the clearance of any vehicle.  Once you are in the lane, it is difficult to see anything outside.


When I was young, visiting my mother’s family took us to ‘the old home place’.  It was sandwiched between the main road and the river, but because it was connected to the outside world by a long, bent, shady lane, it was truly a ‘world-apart’.

I spent many happy hours in the lane, wandering up and down its length, singing and dreaming, exploring and examining.  I loved the small woodland habitat created on either side.  I picked the wild blueberries growing there, watched squirrels busy at the workings of their pine-cone industry, and made friends with specific trees. 

One young Silver-leaved Poplar (Populus alba L.) was a particular favourite.  It stood just before the bend in the lane, its bark marked with black diamonds.  When the wind blew, it turned its leaves over in a generous offering of silver.

I have other pleasant associations with the lane.  I remember my Dad working there with a shovel and a pickaxe, trying to fill in the worst of the ruts to save the undercarriages of his car and trailer.  I remember listening to my Mom’s stories of how she and my aunt pushed their doll carriages up the lane to visit imaginary neighbours.  I remembered how excited we always were to see the gate at the end of the lane wide open, since that meant my aunt or uncles were at home.



trees along the lane


to guard its ways

            cone scale mounds

            acorn stashes

            the silver undersides of poplar leaves

            doll carriages with squeaky wheels

            blueberries in slants of light


the lane a wooden shelter 

            its base the rutted track

            its sides the trees, muscled arms 

            branches overhead with fingers locked


charmed paths

moss tablecloths 

fairy rings and follows

protected by

the closing of eyes


©  Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

October 23, 2011 at 7:54 am

competing with the squirrels #2

with 7 comments

We watched our hazelnuts carefully every day until August 11, certain the squirrels would not get them ahead of us.

our hazelnuts, almost ready to pick

Then, as humans do, we went on a small vacation, and returned on August 14, only three days later.

As soon as I was out of the car, I went to have a look at my hazelnuts.

And not one remained.

no hazelnuts

The squirrels got the hazelnuts.

No poem can express my dismay.

Next year…

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.
©  Jane Tims   2012

competing with the squirrels #1

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The squirrels and I have issues.  I say squirrels, because we have at least two species of squirrel (Sciurus sp.) on our property, reds and greys.

The red squirrels were here before we arrived, about 31 years ago.  The red squirrels I see here today must be the great-great-great… grandchildren of the little fellow who used to shimmy down a copper wire to get to our feeder.  The grey squirrel arrived only a couple of years ago and is as big as a small cat.  Both reds and greys compete with the birds for the sunflower seeds and other food we put in the feeder.  The two species of squirrels compete with one another for roughly the same ‘niche’ and my reading tells me that the grey squirrels will eventually displace the red.

grey squirrel cleans out feeder

I overlap with the squirrels’ ‘niche’ in one repect: we all love hazelnuts.  I have two large shrubs of Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta Marsh.) in our woods.   Beaked Hazelnut is a wiry shrub with large serrated leaves.  Its fruit is contained in bristly beaked husks and the nut is edible, to both me and the squirrels.

Beaked Hazelnut shrub with hazelnuts in beaked husks

The question is, when do I pick my hazelnuts?  It has to be the day before the squirrels pick their hazelnuts.  I ask my husband every day and he says he doesn’t know…..

hazelnuts viewed from the underside of the shrub canopy

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

© Jane Tims

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