Dispatches From the Deep Woods: Furry Farmers

Posted by Leah on 7/20/2020 12:31:03 AM

The more I pay attention, the more Nature amazes me.

Chipmunks plant sunflower seeds, only to return for the harvest a few weeks later. The sprouts dug out of the flower pot they’d been lovingly shoved in. As far as I’ve seen, they either eat oat seed immediately, or take it back to the den for the clan. They munch garden snails and slugs as they find them, these live protein sources a rare live delicacy for the folk. I need to pay them more attention, but I think they like watching us about as much as we like watching them. In a way we are their tenants, as they will be here long after we’re gone. Certainly not the individuals, but the clan itself is immemorial. I only hope to learn the proper ways fast enough to do them right.

The gray squirrels are also farmers. They plant stolen sunflower, oat, and nearly any other seed as well. They also eat some right then, some as shoots, and bring some to share with the family, as the chipmunks do. What I’ve noticed the squirrels doing that the chipmunks don’t is much more advanced in technique and forethought. Not only do the squirrels purposely plant seeds of certain things in planning for the harvest of future generations, such as in the case of the Hickory tree; but they also ensure that only the biggest and best nuts make it to the final harvest to begin with!

I witnessed this behavior just the other day in my back yard. About fifty feet or so from my back door is a large white pine tree. In the tree is a gray squirrel nest which houses a family of four. When I’m sitting on the toilet in the morning I can watch the squirrels doing their squirrely morning thing; like gathering lichen from the underside of a branch two down and to the left, and chasing each other round and round while mom yells.

Anyway, I heard a noise the other day in the direction of the squirrel tree, and when I looked up one of them was making its way back to the nest in the pine tree, from an oak sapling. Upon inspection under the tree afterward, I found the ground littered with malformed little baby acorns.
Wanting to know if they’d done this to the entire yard, I made my way around. From oak to oak I went, first eyes to the sky to pick out the leaves, then to the ground in search of acorns. They were everywhere.

We also have red squirrels here, but I haven’t seen them around enough to see them doing anything other than arguing loudly with the chipmunks.