After Halloween each year, we set our jack-o’-lanterns out under the maple trees in the front yard as treats for local wildlife. We enjoy watching as the deer and squirrels make short work of them. Last year, once Thanksgiving had passed, we also offered various small pumpkins, gourds and squash, which the squirrels had been nibbling at, uninvited, since early October.
By mid-July, fuzzy, big-leaved vines with yellow blossoms were popping up throughout our flower beds. The squirrels, it seemed, had planted several varieties of squash.
As farmers, the squirrels took a carpe diem attitude, eating most of the buds as soon as they appeared. The occasional tiny proto-pumpkin developed, only to be gobbled up quickly before it had a chance to grow. We couldn’t complain. The squirrels had done the sowing, so they were entitled to reap according to their whims.
One little pumpkin escaped their notice. A thick tangle of vines among our black-eyed susans sheltered a single dark green fluted globe. I checked on it regularly, expecting its color to turn to orange. It grew to just over softball-size and remained green. When I examined it more closely, I saw that it was an acorn squash. How fitting, considering it was planted by a squirrel.
When our furry little farmers continued to neglect the fruit of their labors, I claimed the acorn squash. My daughter and I will make a tasty fall meal of it soon. (My husband only eats squash under extreme duress.)
As a thank-you gift, the squirrels will soon receive our decorative gourds.