When last I discussed the local squirrels, it was 2015. That's a lot of proverbial water under the rhetorical bridge. It's two moves, a job loss, and the death of my father ago. It's also six months in a hotel while I played dutiful son to my widowed mother and found a house for the two of us. So you'll forgive me if there's a bit of a disconnect between the squirrels in part one of this account and the different squirrels in part two.
But nonetheless, this place is still considered a "working class" town, and greatly derided by the folks in Seattle, who are all convinced that this Navy town must be some odd bastion of conservatism (they never visit, and haven't bothered to check). The truth is that the United States Navy doesn't employ NON-UNION laborers these days. Too many problems with contractors who were on the make and robbing from everyone. Everyone in my town is pro-union. Most of us vote Democrat. Our voter-protection laws and actually MORE in keeping with the state statute than the County of King. Why even the SQUIRRELS have a union!
I learned this the hard way. The century-old house I moved into in 2014 was in use as the meeting hall for the Amalgamated Union of North American Sciuridae, Local #392. I know this. We sealed the house against them. The sent a DEPUTATION.
My new neighborhood is adjacent to a forest. The local squirrel meeting hall is probably a tree in the woods. Everyone is likely happier for it.
The squirrels of this neighborhood commute to work along the fence line laid out for them by a developer about a decade ago. "Work" being the big pile of peanuts our neighbor to the west puts out for them, which they accumulate and drag back to places where they cache them. I've observed all this. There's a bit of a deal going on there. The squirrels gather nuts which the neighbor provides. The neighbor gets squirrels in her yard, which entertains her, and I get caches of nuts in the dirt on my property. Raw nuts. Fertile raw nuts. But this wasn't a problem for the previous owner. They didn't care. The ground was as hard as a rock and they didn't actually live in this house, except it seems, to sleep. Definitely weren't cooks. Certainly didn't garden. Anyway, I've got a ton of work to do to make this place actually liveable, seeing as the folks before me tolerated the fact that the builder just threw sod over the gravel upon which it thereafter DIED. Why? Why? Please builders. Have a shred of decency! But this is okay. That job I lost?
So I know exactly what to do to break up hard soil and turn it into something I can work. All I need is WINTER.
WINTER IS COMING.
So here's what you do to make hard soil workable. You start with extremely good quality organic compost. Mom and I ordered eight and a half cubic yards of the stuff. Had it dumped on the front "lawn." The mass of hot, still-composting, bacteria and fungus-laden soil, mixed with sand, was still steaming when it arrived, and still steaming a week later as I started to move it into raised beds, and still steaming nearly a month after that when I reduced it to a patch of bare ground. It had by then killed the weeds which comprised the alleged "lawn." The power of bacteria and fungi. All the weeds dead. I applied no weed killer. Just soil! Hot soil. Hot, steaming, organic soil.
Now for the backyard, aside from the steel raised beds, I took all the boxes from our move and broke them down. I laid them out on the ground and covered them with that steaming hot organic dirt. So here too, totally killing all the "lawn" in the back too. But by now, it's September and the steaming hot stuff isn't quite so steaming and hot, and spreading it around has caused it to cool a bit.
I am READY.
Now... The ground is covered with warm, no longer steaming, organic soil. It's time for me to invoke an episode of STAR TREK. This is not a backyard. This is Sherman's Planet. And I am not Brian McNett. No, I'm the UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS and I'm sending a shipment of triticale to Sherman's Planet. Why? Because I want colonists there. And triticale is hardier than either the wheat or the rye it's a hybrid of. Hardy triticale. Good stuff. But not Quadrotriticale, sorry, just ordinary Bunker Triticale. Close enough. At least I have no Klingons to trouble me or tribbles to either. No one will be insulting my starship by comparing it to a garbage scow. Triticale is good to make flour from, but not the point here. I'm using it for its nitrogen-scavenging ability and its winter hardiness. In the spring, I'll dig it in and plant clover.
Did I mention our backyard is an even-smaller postage stamp than any of our neighbors' backyards? Doesn't matter. I can't work a full-sized farm anymore. Totally proved that in the last job.
Now... Where was I?
Oh yes... Bare soil. Squirrels.
This is the thing about squirrels and loose dirt: They love it. No sooner had I laid out the dirt than a squirrel came out to inspect my work. It was dutifully pleased. I didn't ask it. I don't speak squirrel. But you don't have to. Squirrels are arboreal. It takes a lot to get them to explore the ground. Interesting things like FOOD or HEY, THERE'S LOOSE DIRT HERE!
And then there's the squirrel highway. We're right on their morning commute. So it's morning. THIS morning. I'm eating breakfast. Here comes the squirrel. It has a peanut. But there's dirt. So it stops to inspect. It wanders around making little inspection digs. "Is this soil deep enough?" "Maybe here." "No?" "How 'bout this spot?" Eventually, it finds a place, digs a very NICE hole, places the nut into it entire, covers it over and pats it down. If you've never seen a squirrel do this, it's the most adept act of actual agriculture you'll ever witness. Planting a seed in my yard, in the deepest, loosest soil it can find. Peanuts. Raw. Live. Growing. In hot soil.
Yes folks, I duly expect a bill from my union gardener.