Be Real….

January 28, 2016 garden 005


Let’s be real….. January is a messy month.

Whether you’re contemplating grime covered snow along the roadside, or frozen limp plants in your flower pots; January offers a little disappointment for everyone.  We know this, and yet we push through it.

Did you read my post, Sunday Dinner: First Snow” where I described some super “squirrel proof” suet cake and showed you some hand crafted bird feeders holding it?  I made up the suet recipe in mid-January and had three new feeders filled with it before our first snow of the season.


January 23, 2016 Optimistic 010


And as it snowed, I brushed away the accumulating ice and added little piles of Cayenne laced fresh seeds on top of the feeders to entice our birds.  They rewarded us with lots of action, gathering in the nearby shrubs and trees awaiting their turns to eat.

But all of that easy food attracted the attention of our cold and hungry squirrels as well.  You may know them well:  those pesky little guys who dig holes in the pots in search of tasty bulbs or hidden acorns.   Like deer, they also carry ticks.   You may be a fan of squirrels, but we are not.  Thus, my excitement at the Cayenne laced suet recipe in the first place…..

And in honesty to each of you who read that post, and especially to anyone who may have tried the recipe for yourself: It didn’t deter the squirrels for even a moment.


The birds did enjoy the feeder, between visits from the squirrels....

The birds did enjoy the feeder, between visits from the squirrels….


My partner was skeptical from the very beginning.  No amount of explaining about the Cayenne made a bit of difference.  He wisely knew that hungry squirrels would come anyway.  Their little squirrel eyes might be streaming with tears from the hot pepper; (do squirrels have tears?) but they would smell the food and come marauding anyway.

And as usual, he was right.  The blue cup and saucer, carefully hung  in the Dogwood tree by my office window, on a fragile branch way too slender to support a squirrel, was emptied first.

I watched the little guy gingerly explore the branch and find his way to the chain, where he hung upside down while feasting.  No amount of noise I made from inside caused him the least distress.  He simply looked at me with that stoic look of a feasting squirrel, and kept eating.

It was only when I appeared outside, moments later, with a huge shaker of Cayenne pepper in hand that he took off to the neighbor’s yard.  I shook pepper all over the remaining suet, and the glass cup and saucer for good measure.  But the squirrels didn’t mind the pepper, or the swaying chain, and within days cleaned all the suet from the cup.


January 28, 2016 garden 001


That is when they discovered the other feeders left in potted plants, one in the front and the other on the deck.  Yesterday we noticed their persistence had broken the one on the deck in two.  The suet filled suet cup landed on the ground a story below.   We rescued it, and set it where the birds can still find it, and the squirrels will do no more damage.

The delicate porcelain bowl I’d placed in front had a worse fate, and cracked when the squirrels’ enthusiasm knocked it out of its pot.  What a mess!


January 28, 2016 garden 008


As I said, January is a messy month; and often filled with disappointment.  I say this, having taken stock of the sorry state my pots are in today.  Even the most ‘winter hardy’ ornamentals suffer from days beneath ice, their roots in frozen soil.


Sorry, no grooming here yet.... We just lifted off its ice dome and freed it yesterday. But the Heuchera shrugs off the cold!

Sorry, no grooming here yet…. We just lifted off its ice dome and freed it yesterday. But the Heuchera shrugs off the cold!


A few noticeably perked up once their soil thawed a little yesterday, so their  roots could absorb some water.  Even the toughest can dehydrate in the wind, when the soil remains a block of ice.

But all one can do is tidy them up a little and hope for the best.  I’ve spent the last few days lifting off remaining chunks of ice, deadheading and pinching off spent leaves and stems.

My faith is in their roots….  Soon, I expect to see new leaves and plump buds appear again.


January 28, 2016 garden 009


But let’s be real.  There are a few more weeks of wicked winter weather left before us.  Even as we turn the first calendar page of 2016 this weekend, there is a lot of cleaning up left to do before we welcome spring.


January 24, 2016 snowday 009



Woodland Gnome 2016


January 28, 2016 garden 003



About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

24 responses to “Be Real….

  1. My word, hats off for trying to outwit those squirrels. I do dislike them, vermin with bushy tails. Yet your tales of snow and ice did make me feel a little sorry for them, for a minute anyway.

    • Yes, they do look rather trying to stay warm out there in the weather. Our cat never set a paw outdoors for about 4 days. There isn’t that much difference between a cat and a squirrel, is there? The peanut butter and lard surely helped the little bushy tails survive the storms….. but that means squirrel babies in the very near future…..

  2. The squirrels just know you put out the best food! I’m sorry the cup idea didn’t work. I surely thought it would! Maybe you have circus squirrels that can bend their bodies in ways they probably shouldn’t! I watch my neighbor try to keep them off her feeders. I think she’s tried everything even putting out hair as she had heard this was a deterrent! But to no avail, she is out there daily clapping her hands at them. The snow has melted here, but frost set in again last night and things were quite white this morning. I have noticed daffodils popping through the soil! That always puts a smile on my face. If you find something that works for the squirrel, do tell! My neighbor would surely love to hear it. Happy New Year! Koko:)

    • Happy New Year, Koko! I would be interested to know your neighbor’s experience using Cayenne, which she has surely tried. I shook Cayenne over loose birdseed, added a few drops of olive oil and stirred to distribute the oil and pepper before putting loose seeds outside. The birds loved it! But alas….. The hair idea is interesting. A good friend uses hair to keep deer away from parts of her garden with good success. We passed a frozen pond today at midday. There is still snow on the grass, but many of our Daffodils have broken the soil, too. Stay warm! Cheers! WG

      • I will ask her! 🙂 Maybe that’s what the hair was for! Deer. Haha…I have to admit I have a couple of squirrels in my back yard that i love to watch scurry around. But I’d love to get some bird feeders going. I put out water for the birds. I am trying to stay warm. I’ve been super cold. Hugs, Koko:)

        • Koko, we’ve both had so many tick bites that we hate to see squirrels or deer get close to the house. We try to keep things cut down and cut back so the ticks have no place to hide and ambush us here. It is a shame, but that is how we survive here in the woods! There is no disputing that they are cute and fun to watch 😉 Another cuppa Koko! Hugs, WG ❤ ❤ ❤

          • Hahaha…you made me smile big on “another cuppa Koko” Ahhhh yes those awful ticks! They weren’t so bad last year. The year before was insane. I am hoping for another tame year. There is a herd of deer that have grown here…8 now. They are so beautiful to watch and in all this beauty the downside is real–ticks! Chickens readily eat them, which I wish I could have chickens running around. I love chickens. Sadly my city says NO! 😦 Thanks for the smiles. Koko

  3. It’s definitely a challenge, learning to live with all the critters. You must admit that the squirrels can be entertaining.

    • It is a challenge, whether learning to live with 4 leggeds or 2 leggeds, Rickii 😉 Squirrels are quite the acrobats, aren’t they? We didn’t have acorns this year, so it is quite hard on them this winter. What an exciting time for Oregonians! I wonder if they’ll turn this saga into a film? Take care, WG

  4. Tis true. I have tried cayenne too and whilst it’s obvious the squirrels don’t enjoy it, it doesn’t stop them for a second. You might enjoy my current post…

  5. Those pesky squirrels! Sorry the cayenne plan didn’t work and you lost that plate – shards for the bottom of a future pot. 😉 Nothing wasted.
    Your garden plants cannot help but respond to your tender ministrations! Warm weather next week will surely help!

    • Always the optimist, Eliza 😉 Actually, I’m planning to use the porcelain to decorate a new hypertufa pot in spring. It is a beautiful dish, and I thought long and hard before using it for the birds! Nothing wasted in the garden, you are right. Most everything can be recycled in some fashion. Do you have warm weather coming next week? ❤ ❤ ❤

      • 40s predicted. It’ll hopefully take care of the ice layer that is virtually everywhere.

        • I hope you’ll have sun 😉

          • Thanks! Me, too! Our yard slopes to the north, so this time of year it is shaded most of the day.

            • Brrr! But it must be lovely on hot summer days. Our forecast has some warmer days coming, too. What an odd winter, Eliza! Are you ordering seeds yet?

              • Fancy you asking me that – My seeds came in the mail today! Orca beans I had to try because they are so cute. And cutting garden flowers: larkspur, cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers and sweet peas. Looking forward to some great vases next summer. 🙂

                • Both of us! I was working on an order for flower seeds last night, and ordered some lilac astilbe plants yesterday. I finally made a vase on Wednesday with cut branches of Forsythia and some beautiful ivy. I’ll have a vase on Monday (finally!) 😉 Can’t wait to see your flowers in bloom in just a few short months! Do you start them indoors, or direct seeds where you want them?

                  • I will most likely sow directly. I find that slugs devastate my transplants, whereas seedlings probably don’t smell ‘distressed’ the way a transplant does. Strange, isn’t it? But it makes sense.

                    • Thanks, Eliza. My small transplants didn’t make it the last 2 years. Things get too harsh here too quickly in spring. I will try direct sowing this year and see what we get… 😉 Hadn’t considered the transplants could ‘smell distressed,’ but it makes sense. ❤

                    • I noticed it quite by accident a couple years ago when I sowed some sunflowers inside to ‘get a head start,’ the slugs mowed them down after they were transplanted out in the garden. Meanwhile close by, the ones self-sowed by the birds were untouched. Then I realized that the stress of transplant shock was signaling, “Victim!” to all comers!

                    • Well, they get better light from the very beginning when sowed outside, too. I’m going to take a page from your handbook and only sow outside this year, and see if I can end up with some lovely flowers to cut, too 😉

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