Monday, March 8, 2010

Are you a blog squirrel?

And from that improbable title, I will pose the question to blog writers out there: how many blog posts (or "nuts" in my super clever analogy) do you have in draft form at the moment?  But first, a little squirrel trivia.

My source is the most expensive book I had to buy in college: "The Encyclopedia of Mammals," edited by Dr. David MacDonald and published in North America by Facts on File, Inc.  I paid $62.35 for the heavy tome (about 900 pages), which was a fortune then for a book.  Actually, upon reflection, I don't know that I have purchased a book more expensive since.  Rather than sell it back to the bookstore (a common practice for a destitute student like myself) for a loss, I believe I kept it out of spite.  And now it keeps the other encyclopedias company on the bookshelf.  I see I have peculiar taste in this book breed: flags, rocks, dinosaurs, pond fish, etc....I think the only encyclopedias I am missing are: farm animals with spots, soil organisms smaller than 3 millimeters, and rock bands from the late 1970's. 

Did you know there are 267 species in 49 genera in the big old squirrel family (Sciuridae)?  That's a lot of squirrels, from about 3 inches in the African pygmy squirrel to more than 25 inches in the Alpine marmot.  And most people (and bloggers) out there have experience with squirrels as they are found worldwide with the exception of Australia (and thereabouts), the southern part of South America, desert regions like the Sahara, Polynesia, and Madagascar.  So to be more succinct about it: they are almost everywhere.

Alaska has more than our share, from my readings of the University of Alaska Anchorage's mammal list, with 17 different species and subspecies from all three groups of squirrel: flying, tree, and ground.  Marmots to woodchucks, we've got 'em here.  The Red squirrel, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (and two subspecies), is the tree squirrel we "enjoy" here in the 49th state.  I put enjoy in quote marks because frankly, there are plenty of folks out there that don't care for them at all.  When they are raiding the bird feeder and spilling an entire bag's worth of seed onto the gravel, even the tolerant Last Frontier Gardener can get testy.  I also put it in quote marks because some people enjoy them served on dinner plates.  Yes, it's true: squirrels rate their own entry in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's list, where they are rated as "good eating" and their fur is sold in our great state and Canada.  I'm afraid I can't attest to their tastiness due to lack of personal experience.  I'm not real broken up about it either.

I feel bad for those poor saps that have to deal with the Gray squirrel.  Apparently in England (it was introduced there in 1876 from North America, a big "sorry" for that) it regularly strips the bark from sycamore, oak, and beech trees whereas in N.A. it favors the sugar maple.  Most squirrels love nuts and seeds, a few bugs here and there, fruits, and other plant bits.  They have also been known to take (skip ahead squeamish ones) baby birds and reptiles.  A plus for squirrel aficianados, Gray squirrels can have as many as nine or more in a litter.  Another bonus, they can have two breeding seasons a year if conditions are favorable.  Squirrels, squirrels, everywhere!

Some characteristics of most tree squirrels are: good eyesight, chisel-shaped incisor teeth, well-developed sense of touch (those whiskers help), and nests in trees called "dreys."  I also discovered Red squirrels can locate pine cones buried 12 inches below the surface.  That goes a long way to explain some of the
disruptive behavior in the garden, such as that time I planted hundreds of crocuses and they mysteriously unplanted themselves and got nibbled and moved around.  I won't describe my thoughts at the moment when I discovered my work undone.  After all, this is a family friendly blog.  Just imagine some steam coming out my ears and you'll about have it.

So now that I have captured your attention with this fascinating bit of squirrel lore, I will shift gears and get back to my blogging analogy.  Thank you for your patience, as the automated customer service voice intones when I am put on hold....

I suppose I am a bit of a squirrel hoarding my posts, as I seem to feel safe with a minimum of three in draft form, but then I've always been the highly-strung, nervous type.  Right now I must be feeling particularly creative because I have four (a lot for me) in various phases, from two lines to two hundred.  That's a bit of an exaggeration, but "two lines to twenty" just doesn't have the same weighty feel.

High strung might be one excuse, but I also think I have more quality control if I have a week or two lead-time.  I don't seem to be the type that can churn out literary gems with short notice.  Only on rare occasions am I am struck with inspiration and a post seems to write itself to my satisfaction in one sitting.  Apparently, I need a good deal of time to work out logic, flow, and wit (If I can summon any: I do notice this post is sadly lacking in that respect). 

Also, time is needed to come up with pictures to adorn said post.  For example, for this post, I felt like I needed a squirrel picture, or at the very least a nut picture.  Normally I'd start combing through my pictures stored on the computer, but I just happen to know for a fact that I have A. no squirrel pictures, and B. no nut pictures.  Drat.  I think the squirrels are all still asleep, as I haven't heard any chattering in, say, four months.  So that's not happening.  Perhaps I'll root out all the different kinds of nuts I have around the house and photograph them (did it, see below).  Remember, I did put an "if" in association with witty content.

Roll call: pine nut, peanut, almond, walnut, pecan and pistachio.  Apparantly blog drafts aren't the only kind of "nut" I am hoarding...

So to recap, my reasons for hoarding posts are:
1. personality
2. development/editing
3. finding appropriate pictures

So time to 'fess up: how many draft posts do you have right now?

And what squirrels call your garden/country home?


  1. now that was a fun post..I learned some new things about squirrels..and I learned that others have drafts waiting to be posts...I usually have 3 or 4 at all times...I found it is easier to do several posts when I have free time..then I post them as I want...also gives me a little more time for quick visits...there are so many blogs I like to visit...couldn't visit them all and do posts every day...or I wouldn't be able to have a life and things to post about...

  2. I have none! I pick walk around and take photos about once a week, pick one daily, write about it and post it. I guess I should put more thought into it, but I probably won't!

  3. Dear Christine, I have enjoyed this informative and entertaining posting and as I seldom have anything but a 'lifted' picture myself the absence of a squirrel or nut illustration has gone unnoticed.

    On squirrels where, in the UK, the grey ones have almost entirely ousted the red who are now exceedingly rare and only to be found in any number in the far north of England and Scotland. Happily this is not the case in Hungary where the red squirrel remains a fairly common sight.

    On the question of draft postings, I am afraid I have none. I rely, rightly or wrongly, on the inspiration of the moment.

  4. Hi Christine - I have one blog draft which is in my head at the moment. I need pictures for it. Up to now my post just come to be a day or so before I write. I try to blog once a week. Right now I have no idea what I will write about this week. I never worried about it before, but now I am feeling panic set in, oh no! :) PS: squirrels can access their fat in cold weather to prevent hyperthermia, humans can't - :) Gloria

  5. I almost never write posts in advance. It's usually : get an idea, write and publish. I don't have the patience to leave them sitting there. But oddly yesterday I wrote four all in a mad burst, of which I only posted the first today, scheduling the others for the rest of the week. So I guess the squirrel in me must just have come out of hibernation :)

  6. I really enjoyed this post LFG! I too have posts in edit...5 at the current time. Often I'll come up with an idea or crafty title, log it in, and save it for the next time I think of it. My reasoning is mostly due to shortage of time and multitasking. Mom of two (12 and 8), wife, full time work, hobbies (gardening, fitness, fishing...)..I have to make the most of my time!

    I have the gray squirrel in my yard. Actually, to be precise, I counted 12 at one of bird feeders one day...the feeder had to go! My dogs play with them, and they like to tease from on top of the 6' fence or telephone pole. It's entertaining.

  7. I prefer gray over the red squirrels. The red insist on breaking into the house and making a mess. Porcupines are the bark eaters around here. The grays seem to have more than enough better food sources available.

    I don't fool myself. I'll never be a 'writer' so I don't have any drafts. My posts are served up fresh within a day of when I capture an image in a photo I want to share. Not that I'm speechless but if there's any value in the post it's usually the photos.

    If you ever need a pic, ask.

  8. Zip, zilch, nada. I have zero posts in draft. Never crossed my mind to do so but now I'm afraid you've started something...

    PS: I also have zero squirrels. I don't think they like my mountain terrain.

  9. Ha! Nice post. I don't edit posts much--get'er done I say. However, I do have many notes on how I can kill squirrels, or, at least methods to subvert their bird-feeder-seed-taking antics. Also working on an anti rabbit list. I like rabbits fine, but I've lost $200-300 worth of shrubs this winter.

  10. Hi there,
    Now I feel inadequate! My posts are definitely not literary gems but rather a few quick sentences here and there about what I'm doing in the garden, written in a way that I hope will help inform a newer gardener. It doesn't take more than a few minutes to write each one and you can probably tell... But I enjoy reading the more poetic posts that other people write!

  11. No squirrels in our garden. But this country does have invasive alien grey squirrels. And blog posts lined up, oh yes, sometimes a set of pictures. Or a title. Or again the words just flow. And I always read yesterday's idea again today - to see if it still works, or if it was a midnight disaster, better strangled before anyone else sees it.

  12. We have the typical (well, for us) gray squirrels, and I find them cute and clever -- although don't expect friendly remarks from me moments after they've dug up my bulbs. The nice thing about having cats patrolling the garden is that my feelings toward the squirrels have improved.

    F. calls me "squirrel" as a pet name in his native language, because I am so busy and quick and annoying and adorable (or something like that), but he comes from a place with huge red squirrels with hair coming from their ears. (I did verify early on that the pet name referred to the much cuter grey squirrel. ;)

    Oh, and I typically have one or two posts in active draft. Often, they end up in perpetual draft because I'm not satisfied with them in some way -- and never end up being published, unless I see the way to rewrite the whole thing. Usually I just go with whatever is the inspiration of the day!

  13. I do love to be prepared ahead of time - I am famous for that particular character trait. So that is why it is so strange why I rarely ever have more then one post in draft form. I don't know why, but so far it works for me. I loved watching the brown squirrels around my California home when I was a child. We do not have too many here in the desert.

  14. I have 23 blog posts squirreled away in draft, and am worried I will be taking pictures of the newly emerging garden this spring before I get everything from last year's photo stash posted. Like the squirrels I may simply lose track of some topics, and find them again next year. Very creative post! I had fun reading it.

  15. No 'squirrel' drafts at the moment (do post ahead when going OOT) but plenty of squirrels (want some)! Mostly grey ones (that dine & dash on my bulbs) here but the red ones are the biggest pests and have built nests and store nuts around my Acadia engine! Up north at the cottage we have only black squirrels that don't seem to be so pesky.

  16. I'm sort of forgetful, so if I ever get an idea, I draft the title. I draft a title for Bloom Day in advance so I won't overlook it.

    When I thought of the native azalea post and realized I had too many photos and too many cultivars for just one post, I wrote the series and scheduled them. I'm not usually so prepared.

  17. We have gray squirrels, red squirrels,and woodchucks here -- and I will admit that I don't have friendly feelings toward any of them, or toward the chipmunks (are they also in the squirrel family?).
    How many blog drafts I have depends on what counts as a "draft." Right now, I have 12 saved, but most of these are just titles, a way of keeping track of ideas for posts.

  18. I'm in the write a blog and immediately post it camp. The only thing that might hold it up is if I need a picture, but generally I grab my camera and am back shortly.

    As far as squirrels, it is all out squirrel city here, and they are considerable pests unfortunately, eating through fascia boards and living in the entire cities walls and attics, ripping to shreds insulation and worse! And of course, constantly burrowing in the garden. It has gone a long way to squash my childhood love of the creatures.

  19. Posts in waiting? Are you kidding? I have enough trouble trying to get one a week done! I was shocked to learn that some people actually schedule posts in advance - oh, if only I was that organized - lol.
    As for squirrels - they are cute and funny when they are sonewhere besides my yard. They dig up plants and bulbs and just dig for the fun of it. I have a personallized squirrel control system. My grandson regularly thins them out (by shooting them) and we have squirrel for supper. (Note: We do not kill for fun, only for food - if we did not eat them, I would just have to put up with them)

  20. Lucky if I have one draft, but usually have dozens of ideas floating around at anytime. Getting to the age where half the ideas then float away and disappear before I get them on paper (or screen).

    We live on a farm and see very few squirrels, I think they must like town living better, maybe they prefer socializing over soil and toil.

  21. A fun article, thankyou. Like other, I thought I was the only one who had a list of pending articles awaiting that final finishing touch. We keep our pending blogs on a Google so that we can add to them when ever or where ever we are in the world.

  22. 30 years of presenting slide shows on landscape design. Give me a pic I've got a post.

    The topic NEVER gets old. Only expands.........

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  23. We've got the gray ones and I've given up getting mad at them when they eat from the bird feeders. After so many years of trying baffles and squirrel proof feeders I've accepted they are part of the garden here. Although after they dug up newly planted lily bulbs recently I wasn't as forgiving :)
    I usually have a few blog titles in draft mostly as Nell Jean said to remind me of Bloom Day or my end of month view post. Most of my writing is done fairly quickly between interruptions from kids. Sometimes I'm a bit embarrassed about how they sound, but then that's why I usually put in lots of pictures to distract from the writing :)

  24. Hi Christine~~ Nice tarp there! It's awfully tidy. Wait'll you see the one I've got in store.

    The only time I have a post in draft is when I've run out of time to finish it. Photos are usually my inspiration so I start with Picasa, look, edit upload to Picasa web albums then copy and paste into Blogger.

    As for the squirrels, in the last few years they've taken up residence in my neighborhood. Thankfully they stay out of my backyard thanks to a very attentive kitty cat. Thank you for the fun facts. I had to laugh at your pricy $62.00 text book. You're aging yourself. LOL. Anymore, I almost rely exclusively on Google for research.

  25. Wisconsin is home to ten members of the squirrel family with the most interesting being the flying squirrel. They don't really fly, but have skin between their front and back legs that allows them to glide from tree to tree. I've only seen them at night and we once had one come down the chimney and land in the fireplace. No need to worry, there was no fire at the time.

    I never have a post in draft form and if you've read my blog, that fact won't surprise you.

    Makes me happy to have found a blogger from Alaska.


  26. I'm a writer for a living. All my ideas and creative juices get used up daily. The only reason I'm hoarding a post is because I didn't have the time or inclination to finish it that day. I wish I had a months worth of posts saved up.

  27. I don't usually squirrel away more than one or two blog drafts at once. I don't think I could keep up! lol

    I remember when I first moved to NC, I was astounded by the size of the squirrels O_O They're huge! And they're not even as big as some of the squirrels up in the NE, like you mentioned. I was used to the fluffy little red squirrels in Alberta, which my husband laughed at when he saw one. I got him back when he saw his first jack rabbit though, he was like O_O

  28. That was fun, reading all that squirrel lore that you've been squirreling away. ;-)

    I have no draft posts as I publish them straight off. Sometimes I feel I should make a draft but I never do.

  29. Christine~~ My apologies for neglecting to give you credit for my Tarp of the Month. This has since been rectified.

    Alaskans are so tidy with their tarps. Now if only the legislature would ban the blue ones...

    Have a great weekend. Grace

  30. interesting post about squirrels - both the animal and the analogy. :) I'm not really a squirrel. Sometimes I hoarde a list of ideas, but this is mostly a time issue. If an idea is on a list for too long (like more than a week), I usually lose interest and scrap it.

  31. I enjoyed your post! Squirrel away blog posts? I've never done that, but maybe I will, if I ever get the time. Usually I go out with my camera and get inspired, come in and write about it and publish it, all on the same day. Or I just write about something I've been doing in the garden. Writing is the easy part. The pictures take longer. But I enjoy it all.

    We have gray squirrels, though not as many as we once did. We have a red fox and also a resident hawk family who are keeping the squirrel population in bounds.

  32. Interesting post about squirrels :)

  33. Hi Christine -

    Great post! I am both a blogging squirrel and host to the very rare black squirrel that seems to inhabit just a five block radius around my house. They hang out with their gray brothers - act just as normal as can be, but are pure black.

    I just posted my last hoarded post. I've got to start saving up again!


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