Man vs. Squirrel


The following is another excerpt from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.” It involves one man’s war against squirrels in order to keep his nuts.

Man vs. Squirrel

Where we live is a very rural area, with thousands of acres of wide- open farmland. We have some wooded areas and small mountains nearby, but not within a mile or two from my house and the barns where we pack our onions, which are on the same property as my house. What this translates into is essentially a low squirrel population zone. Squirrels you see in the woods, or in a suburban neighborhood. We simply are not that. But, on occasion, every so often, a squirrel or three will venture out to our area. They must be forward scouts or something. You’ll see them in the trees or running around for a few days. Then eventually you’ll find them on the side of the road, dead, roadkill.

Set within that context allow me to present one example of the eternal battle waged between MAN and NATURE. I proudly present this microcosm of the struggle … Polish walnut lover vs. the squirrels!

My brother lives outside the Village of Montgomery, about 30 minutes from my house and the barns. He has 4 walnut trees in his yard and my dad back in September of 2010 had him collect a bunch of the nuts that had fallen from the tree to bring to him at the barn. Did I mention that my dad loves walnuts? For those of you not familiar with walnuts, Wiki points out:

“Walnuts are rounded, single-seeded stone fruits of the walnut tree. The walnut fruit is enclosed in a green, leathery, fleshy husk. This husk is inedible. After harvest, the removal of the husk reveals the wrinkly walnut shell, which is in two halves.”

My dad early that morning separated most of the walnuts from their green outer shell, which took some time and effort, and then decided to lay them out to dry out on my blacktop in front of my house. It took him about an hour to separate the nut from the outer green goo casing. He so loves these black walnuts. Where he laid them out was clearly visible from the barn where we were working, and since it was warm and dry we had the barn doors open. As I would feed the grader with onions and take away the stacked pallets I would occasionally catch a glance of my dad’s walnuts on the ground.


He had two distinct piles, those shelled and those still with the green outer casing.

As we were grading, around mid morning, I brought in some boxes of onions from outside into the barn and I noticed a flash of gray. It was a squirrel. It was making a dash for the pile of booty. And then I blinked and there was another one, heading towards the walnuts. As I watched, doubling over in laughter, the two squirrels started taking all of the nuts my dad had separated from the casing this morning. They were in heaven; they had found a veritable walnut goldmine.


I told my dad and everyone at the grader what was happening. My dad says, “hmm … how they know, they must smell them or something.” I said, “looks like the squirrels are taking all of your nuts.” My dad replies, “I’m going to follow them and take them back.” I replied, “looks like they are winning here.” In response he said, “it’s two against one, that’s not fair.” He chased them to our neighbor Moose’s yard. They went up a tree and also tried to hide some of the nuts in different little spots on Moose’s yard. He gathered what he could, the squirrels watching helpless … for the moment.


My dad went back to our yard and proceeded to gather all of the nuts he separated from the shell and put them in a bucket and covered the bucket. He had the last laugh … or so he thought …..

About 10 minutes later I look back out towards my house and the squirrels were not so easily deterred. They knocked over the cover to the bucket. So in response my dad took away the ones he already had shelled. But they weren’t so easily deterred.

The squirrels started to shell the unshelled nuts he had left. By the way, they furiously licked those nuts before they scurried away with them, almost as if they knew his counter-plot to steal them back. They then started working on the ones that weren’t shelled. One after another after another they shelled, licked furiously and scampered away with the walnuts. Doubling over with laughter I called my dad, “you better do something quick, or you ain’t gonna have no nuts left.”


Quickly my dad grabbed some onion bags and started to put the nuts in them. He then hung them in the bag on the clothes line, and went back to the barn. What do you think happened a few minutes later?  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in this instance on man versus nature, score one for the squirrels.

I have photographs of all of this, as you can all see.

The reincarnated Larry, Moe and Curly came to my farm to buy onions today

Today, like most days during late July thru late September was really busy. We were harvesting about 7 acres or so, and a car pulls in. Sometimes people that have been stopping by for years pop in to try and buy some onions. Sometimes total strangers just pop in looking to buy some onions. That latter happened today when during a lull between trucks a car pulled in and these three characters popped out:


As soon as these guys started waddling around I thought to myself, “oh crap, it’s Larry, Moe and Curly.” I wasn’t far off.

When they pulled in I was busy on the big field forklift bringing onions in the barn so they would be dry for grading and packing tomorrow. I really didn’t have time to stop. Once a full army truck pulled in I had to stop and work on on unloading the truck. So, I let my dad handle these characters, it’s right up his alley anyway.


As I kept bringing the boxes in I watched as they walked all over the place … taking a handful of onions from one place, then from another … my dad right behind them, showing them around. We get people like that, real pests … want a 10 pound bag of onions, or even a 50 pound bag, but balk at the absurdly cheap wholesale price we charge and offer us cash … as if we really will get one by the taxman because we sold some doofus 50 pounds of onions for a dollar less which we won’t report. We always tell these people, “we’re getting paid $12 per 50 pounds for 900 bags, and getting paid in 30 days (usually), why do I need to sell you a bag for $10?”

Well, going back to the customers today, as I watched them I thought to myself, “hey, these guys are a step down for Larry, Moe and Curly, I mean look at the shirts, and hats, and pants, and the way they walk, all that was missing was an occasional eye poke and ‘nyuck nyuck nyuck.'”

I had to stop and talk to them. First, while I was still on the forklift and Miguel was removing a cover off a box, I surreptitiously snapped some photos of them as they dug in a box:


I then engaged in conversation with the guy wearing the hat that said “Total Clean Ups.”


Me: “So, where are you fellas from, are you local?”

Total Clean Ups (in an ethnic accent I couldn’t at first place): “We’re from New Paltz. We got a farm, but not like this, small place, and we don’t grow onions.”

I looked at his shirt and noticed the name tag.

Me: “Your name must be Bruno.”

Total Clean Ups: “Nah, my name is Larry. Bruno is my brother, my other brother, I just wear his shirt after work.”

He then went back to work, furiously digging through a box of undersize onions. At this point the man with the white cap approached me. He had a raspy voice and a slight accent, one that sounded Polish.

White cap: “You guys Polish? Those two (motioning to the other other two guys, now both furiously digging through the box) are Italian.”

Me: “Are you all brothers?”

White cap (laughs): “What? No way! Those two are brothers. They are crazy! I’m just a friend. (yells to Larry) “Hey Larry, what are you going to do with all those onions?” (then continues with me) “They’re crazy, and their other brother is crazier yet.”

Me: “You mean Bruno?”

White cap: “Yeah! hey, do you know Bruno?”

Me: “No, not really, though I did meet his shirt.”

At this point the brother of Larry, who looked like Rip Torn in one of his mug shots and whose fly was on the way to being fully open, approached me. I was a bit apprehensive because White Cap did say he was crazy.

Actually, he looked like he was the byproduct resulting from a romantic encounter between Rip Torn and Bela Lugosi.


Fly open: “Hey, when are you going to start digging the potatoes?”

Me: “Uhm, never. I don’t grow potatoes.”

Fly open: “WHAT? Get out!”

At this point these 3 Stooges started to load their car … with White Cap repeatedly asking the crazy brothers as he scratched his chin “what are you going to do with all these onions?”


At one point White Cap grabbed a 50 pound bag which held about a dozen onions in it or so.

White Cap: “How much for this?”

They were buying over 200 pounds of onions … why did he need that? As I looked at the bag I think it contained onions that suffered mechanical damage and were just bagged to get them out of the way. I thought for a second and said:

Me: “I don’t know … why don’t you just keep it for free.”

He gave me a big smile. At this point an army truck full of onions pulled in and I had to go. I paused for a moment and wistfully hoped that one day my 3 Stooges would return for more onions to my farm.

A new tv appearance.

So, I appeared on tv back on May 10th in a story on YNN about the top priorities for the next Farm Bill that Rep. Maloney’s Agriculture Advisory Committee issued in a report.

My fantastic friend Sharon Soons does a fantastic job in the piece!

Dad and Meredith

So, this is the 4th story I have been interviewed by new, intrepid YNN reporter Meredith Zaritheny (see: )

It is now the third story she has interviewed me on the farm. And now the 3rd time my dad has gotten a good look at her. After the first story on the farm, which took place during the late winter in early March she was all bundled up and my dad didn’t really get a good look at her. Afterwards he said to me, “she’s too short, I’d throw her back.” I replied with, “what is she, a fish.” And my dad replied with, “yeah, she’s no keeper.”

Well, after the last 2 stories, after he has gotten a good look at her up close, his position has changed. He chatted with her multiple times on Friday, and told some of his basic stories and jokes.

Later, after she left and as he and I were on our way to spray our onions he said:

“That Meredith, she’s something else … if something happens to Gracie (my mom) I’m going to be giving her a call.”

Now, will this eventually translate into something he couldn’t get from her predecessor, Elaina Athans, a hug? Even a “full hug,” with a pat and a sway?