Are the squirrels trying to beat me at my own game?

By John R. Stone

Every other fall we go through a routine with walnuts that fall from the black walnut tree between our house and our garage.

As the tree has grown over the years so has the crop of walnuts with the crop of 2017 being one of the largest yet.

What happens is that usually sometime in September the walnuts start dropping. I would pick them up before the squirrels got to them and pile them on a wooded part of our lot. If not the squirrels would chew them up all around the house including the deck and sidewalk so a person would have to sweep up all the mess. In the woods the mess was out of sight and out of mind.

It appears something new is happening this year. The squirrels aren’t waiting for the walnuts to fall. For the past few weeks they have been going up and down the walnut tree grabbing walnuts and carrying them off.

Sometimes they don’t carry them off, they just sit in the tree and chew away dropping the remains in the yard, on the sidewalk or driveway.

Recently I was working on the lights on my trailer in the driveway under the walnut branches. As I sat there some squirrel in the tree directly above me was chewing away dropping bits on my head! I don’t know if that was on purpose or not but the squirrel was pretty accurate!

And every now and then the squirrels will drop one on something that makes noise. My trailer is one of those aluminum ones and a walnut dropping from 30 or 40 feet up makes a pretty good thud. It will make a person jump if one isn’t used to it. (I’m not)

So I don’t know at this point if there will be any walnuts left to fall naturally or not. On one hand I wouldn’t mind not having to go out every day for a couple of weeks and pick up three to seven bucket loads a day. On the other hand the squirrels are making quite a mess with walnut remains and they are eating them all over, leaving quite a mess to clean up.

I suppose one could wonder why the squirrels have decided to go after the crop early. Are we going to have an early, cold winter so they are fattening up early? Will we be having a lot of snow so they won’t be able to find them later? Or didn’t they like my pile in the woods and decided to beat me at my own game?

Guess I’ll know more in a couple of weeks.

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Rainfall this year seems to have been spread out more evenly than I can remember for many years. Usually by now the lawns have started to slow down in growth partially from less sunlight and less water.

We had 1.5 inches of rain from the storm that came through late on Labor Day and a half-inch more in the few sprinkles later in the week. I think I can remember only one 10-day stretch all summer when we didn’t get some kind of rain.

So the lawns are green and the grass is still growing. I probably could have mowed twice last week, something pretty rare in September, except that when I had time to mow it was raining!

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It is getting darker earlier which is a reminder that fall and winter are on their way. In August on my after dinner walk I could catch the sunset over Lake Minnewaska about 8:45. On a recent night it seemed pretty dark by 7:45 p.m., although it was cloudy.

Of course the same thing is happening on the other end of the day as well. My trip out to get the paper a little after 6 a.m. each morning is now in the dark. I suppose it won’t be too much longer before that trip will be in the dark and cold!

We know what is coming but I guess it isn’t all bad. Farmers get to finally bring in their crops. Fuel oil and propane deliverers will be busy again. Folks will be getting warm weather gear and the hot chocolate mix sales will pick up at Tom’s. And one way or another I should have the black walnut mess cleaned up!