How I Now See Squirrels

From my previous blogs any astute readers might have figured out by now that I have been deadlocked in a war with those I call ‘them varmints’ for the produce of my garden.  In particular, I have been fighting the fervid forces of chipmunks and squirrels for my treasured tomatoes.  But what readers will not know is that over this same summer I have also been battling a much more pernicious enemy–my eldest son (who on this blog I refer to as Little Lion at his request) was diagnosed with a chronic gastrointestinal disease known as ulcerative colitis when he was only four.  We were very fortunate that he was able to remain on a medicated remission for the following four years but now, starting in May, just as the garden was beginning to grow, the medications stopped working.  Little by little as the tomato vines grew up their stakes, the beans wrapped around the fence, and the squashes spread underneath my son’s health declined in equal measure.

And then came the rodents.  First it was the greens–nibbles on the luscious lettuce and big bites out of the succulent spinach.  OK, I put out those evil-smelling coyote-urine granules and figured that would stop the damage.  Meanwhile, we took LL to his specialist and put him on new medication and hoped that would do the trick.  But the varmints wouldn’t stay away and either would LL’s symptoms.  Thus began a war fought on two fronts; battle for the veggies in the garden and battle for my son’s health at home.  And somewhere in the midst of it all, the two became linked in my mind.  I know it sounds insane.  It’s not like I really thought that if I took care of the garden my son would get better.  It’s just that it was a lot easier to get mad-utterly outraged–and battle with the damn beasties than stop the progress of my son’s disease.

Unfortunately, as the summer progressed, I continued losing the battle on both fronts.  In the garden I brought out the organic arsenal: smelly sprays, urine granules, netting, fencing, even traps made from buckets of water and bird seed lures.  Nothing has worked.  First one tomato with a bite, then a few, then we started seeing the smug little squirrels running across the lawn with whole tomatoes in their mouths.  And it’s at the point where I’m afraid to let any tomato ripen on the vine, if there is even a blush of color there is a bite mark, too.


Squirrel-damaged tomato.

Meanwhile LL, has been dealing with this disease so long he has become somewhat of a minimizer, and rarely complains, even with the cramping and multiple trips to the bathroom.  So we tried to ignore it the best we could and enjoy the summer.  Then the other day, just as school began, he doubled over in pain before running to the toilet, and called me over with the first bit of fear in his voice. (WARNING: GROSS GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION FOLLOWS.)  Let’s put it this way–you know that scene in the movie CARRIE, the stuff that they dump over her head at the prom?  That’s what was in my kid’s potty.  Only it smelled like day-old road-kill.   Still, I calmly shrugged and said, “Oh, no big deal” before rushing out to call the doctor.


Now it’s been several weeks with visits to the specialist, blood tests, new medications, allergic reactions to new medications, more new medications with more and greater side-effects and we are still trying to get control over this disease.  And I feel totally helpless.  As it turns out, I’m pretty helpless defending my garden, too.  Which all leads me to why, the other day, when I found several big bites taken out of my prized giant tomato (see previous blog) which I had been carefully watching over, defending with everything I could muster, and waiting to show just enough color I could pick, well, I could not help but cry.  Because sometimes a tomato is just a tomato.  And sometimes it’s not.


  1. Michele, I am so sorry you and LL are going through this difficult time.
    I hope the doctor’s get the medicine right and that he he feels better soon.

  2. My heart breaks for LL. Hopefully very soon the meds. Will help him out. I hope those rodents will leave before everything is gone or maybe they have already left since they already ate it all. One can only hope that they are suffering more than LL due to all they ate. Hopefully next growing season you’ll be more successful obliterating them.

  3. My heart breaks forLL. Hope the new meds will work very soon! Maybe next year you’ll have more success in obliterating those rodents! All that work, I’m sorry.

    • Thanks everyone for your well-wishes. It just occurred to me that tomatoes would be very bad for LL’s condition (too acidic) AND are bad for his little brother’s reflux so maybe G-d had a plan afterall…

  4. Reading this post made me want to cry…Not for your tomatoes, I’ve had them, they are AMAZING and it’s no wonder the squirrels want them too. By the way, they won’t even touch mine so it may be that rodents are bigger connoisseurs than we give them credit for. I think one day when LL is not so little anymore and his condition gets sorted out (and it will), you and he will look back at this story together with a smile knowing that at the end of the day, those pesky varmints could never really outsmart the gardener or her amazing little son. You’re both too smart, too determined and too resilient to be beaten down by rodents or illness. While the varmints hibernate content with their bellies full of juicy tomato, we’ll hope the meds do their job and by springtime all will feel renewed.

    • Thanks N, I really hope you are right and we make it through the winter without any more health issues. It’s really been one thing after another! And every time I turn around more bad news (another friend of my parents–one I really love–just died). It all makes rodents eating my tomatoes really very small…


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