Words On Wellness • Red Squirrels and Saving Seeds
Fall has it’s own frenzy as people zoom about getting to classes, meetings, events or working on projects that need to be finished before the winter rains. We are joined by the nature around us that may appear tranquil, but is scurrying about in food-gathering mode. Birds are storing acorns and fattening on seeds. Watch the white-breasted nuthatch as it jams walnuts and acorns into tree bark, then whacks them with their sharp bill to “hatch” out the seed from the inside. They may be small but their voices are loud, and part of the cacophony of the season. Squirrels spend hours nibbling ‘cone-on-the-cob’ and horde acorns and bay-nuts when they find them. So focused are they on the task (and so busy chasing other squirrels off their finds) that they don’t look when crossing the road – watch out! A gray squirrel can create several thousand buried caches of food each season, not all of which it will rediscover, which is one way nature does her fall planting. People experience a similar phenomenon when they can’t find the holiday gift they bought months ago.
Red squirrels, whose numbers have shrunk with our thinning forests, are clever about preserving food when they make mushroom jerky. They harvest certain mushrooms and hang the fungi out to dry between tree branches so that it keeps over winter. Mushroom jerky is also less likely to infect their larder with insect larvae and worms, than a fresh mushroom would. Once the first rains dampen the earth, people will be out looking for mushrooms and taking them home to the food-drier in a similar manner.
It’s wise for gardeners to save seeds for next year’s planting as wood rats and mice are busy transporting seeds they collect as well. A certain percentage of their food store germinates and this is how plants relocate to another neighborhood. California poppies are favored by our native seed harvester ants who are reddish in color and have large heads with hairs on their chin, for excavating soil. Harvester ants on the coast make holes in the ground and sometimes you can spot seed-hulls in the entrance. Their nest creates a loamy soil that fosters new poppies every spring. Our bodies naturally tune to this cycle of seasons. Healthy choices and clear intentions we plant now and foster through the winter, will bloom in the year to come.
Karin is at http://rainbowconnection.net.