I tried again tonight.  I am resorting to chemical warfare, natural, organic, but nonetheless chemical warfare.  The weapons: blood meal and Cayenne pepper.  I am determined to have sweet potato vines growing in the large pot on the deck, and the squirrels are determined that it will not be so. 

When we first moved in there were no squirrels.  I longed for them.  When the first one came, I fed it.  Now there are a cluster of them.  I still feed them.  That makes it even more annoying.  The ungrateful buggers.  I have taken care of them day in and day out and this is my thanks — eating my sweet potato vines?

That is not all.  I planted some Salvia in the barrel — four plants.  I caught one eating a salad of Salvia leaves.  More than that, chewing off the stems at the surface of the dirt.  If that is not enough, later I caught the squrrel as he was chewing off the Salvia plants that were still in the flats, awaiting transplantation to small circle of plants in front of the house.  I managed to salvage four plants for the front.  They are still growing a week later.  The squirrels seem not to venture into the front yard. 

I have a theory about the squirrels specifically choosing to eat the Salvia.  I mentioned my plight in the Wednesday morning group that meets on the deck.  One member remembered her daughter mentioning that kids sometimes smoke Salvia to get high.  Apparently a strain of Salvia is a hallucinogen.  I decided that the squirrels are partying on my Salvia!  I haven’t noticed any unusual behavior, but then who knows what  behavior is normal for a squirrel.  Actually, the strain of Salvia kids have smoked has been illegal in Kansas for the last few years. 

I have now been assured by two people that blood meal will repel squirrels  and by another person that the vines will absorb the Cayenne pepper — one bite sending the squirrel screaming in agony.  For some reason the movie Caddyshack, Bill Murray and Gophers just popped into my mind. 

With Mary Ann supervising, in the last week or so, I have planted three large pots on the deck, an area behind the house, a barrel near the front door, a small area in front of the house and will soon plant a vining Petunia on a berm next to the house.  There is very little rhyme or reason to the plants and flowers picked and only limited aesthetic value, but at least they are planted. 

Since our circumstances tie us to the house much of the time, it seems worth the effort to work at creating a nurturing environment.  Flowers and plants are a part of  creating that environment. 

One of the activities that creates interest at home for me is creating a friendly presence for the birds.  There are eleven feeders of one sort or another attached in some way to our little deck.  In addition there are a couple of ground feeding areas in the back yard near a tree behind the deck.  There is a heated bird bath attached to the rail.  I have just hung a new little meal worm feeder outside my office window at the front of the house.  I am still in the process of waiting in hopes that a neighborhood wren will discover it.  We have a speaker in the dining room that picks up bird sounds from the deck area through a microphone just outside the window. 

We have planted trees in the back to provide shade and cover for the birds and squirrels and aesthetic variety.  The wildlife that has wandered through includes a couple of Mallard Ducks who regularly come by to eat, a possum seen once foraging in the feeding areas under the tree, last night a brazen Raccoon stopped by to climb on the deck and munch seed from one of the bird feeders.  I have seen his paw prints more than once in the bottom of the birdbath.  Rabbits hang out under the deck and often join the others at the feeding areas. 

We live in a maintenance free cluster of townhomes with multiple subdivisions in all directions.  We have created such a welcoming space for wildlife because I find their presence to be nurturing to my mental health.  Mary Ann enjoys it some, but mostly just tolerates my penchant for feeding the fauna.   

Next week ABC Ponds will begin work on the pondless waterfall that will be constructed behind the deck.  What precipitated the idea was the need to deal with a problem with standing water behind the houses in our area.  Sump pumps cycle constantly emptying into the area.  The clay will not absorb rain water when comes.  What will be created is essentially a manmade wetland with a deep reservoire filled with natural filtering material, covered with perennial native marginal plants.  The water will be pumped from the base of the well to the waterfall.  Kansas State University has been using this process in recent years to deal with run off. 

The environment I have sought to create is not just a novelty.  It is an essential element in my survival here.  The television provides entertainment for Mary Ann.  I watch my share of it but find it to frustrate my sense of well-being rather than nurture it. 

Many a day we are not able to set foot off the property due to the complexities of Mary Ann’s physical needs.  There need to be nurturing elements in our environment. 

Inside the house are paintings, a metal wall sculpture, antiques, crystal and china and ceramics to add quality and variety to the interior of our home.  A few  years ago I commissioned two members of the congregation, a cabinet maker and an artist to create a small worship center that sits in my office, providing a focal point for meditation.  We have a sound system in the living room that provides a good quality of sound for the occasional time after Mary Ann is in bed for just listening to music that feeds my spirit. 

If I will be a healthy and able Caregiver for Mary Ann, there needs to be regular access to that which nourishes my well-being.  I am then better able to provide for her as nurturing and safe and healthy an environment as possible.  Rather than allowing the four walls of our little living space to be confining and boring, empty of the richness we both need to maintain our emotional health, we have committed our time and resources to creating a nurturing space in which we can live meaningfully. 

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