It started, I believe, as an error on the squirrel’s part. He looped himself up over the fence and out of the garden, in his mouth a green tomato the same size, shape, and color as a walnut in its husk. If he tries to stash that for the winter, I thought, he’ll be disappointed.
But either he was indeed disappointed and kept coming back hoping for a different result, or he bit into it and found it as delicious as I do, because he has been in the garden regularly since then, conducting what seems to be a very thorough taste test: a bite here, a bite there, green, red, small, large. He never finishes any of them, but he ruins a great many.
So here’s the really odd thing – this doesn’t happen every year. I’m pretty sure I have the same squirrels, or mostly the same squirrels, every year. Do they forget about tomatoes over the winter? Do they only eat tomatoes when other food is scarce? If I threw a lot of walnuts into another part of the yard, would that keep the squirrels away from the garden, or reaffirm them in the notion that my yard has the best eats in town, or increase the local squirrel population?
Meanwhile I spray hot sauce and critter repellent, which are resolutely washed off by rainstorms, and bring at least some of the tomatoes in before they’re ripe, for protection. And think up original imprecations against squirrels.