A Taste of Dandelion Wine

When it comes to dandelions, definition is everything.

People who consider them “weeds” seem to experience even one perky, yellow flower blooming in their yard as a personal affront. They respond to the familiar harbinger of spring with corn gluten, digging tools or half-used bags of Weed-B-Gon left over from previous years’ battles, and have been known to curse when they stumble across an aging flower sending its puffs of seed off into the wind.

Others see them as wildflowers, sturdy little delights meant to serve as the season’s first bouquets. Some folks call them dinner and can’t wait to boil up the young, tender greens to serve alongside a slice of ham and a slab of cornbread. Old-fashioned sorts still bottle a sweet, light wine made from the flowers but for me, plump, yellow dandelion blossoms mean only one thing — reliving The Year The Squirrel Went Crazy.

Anyone who’s rescued and raised a squirrel has tales to tell – especially when the relationship lasts as long as eight years.  Inevitably, a squirrel in the house means pecans buried in the bedsheets, gnawed furniture and scratched limbs – human or otherwise. It means feeding a nice, balanced diet to keep those eyes bright and the tail fluffy, and it means a freezer full of acorns, fresh fungi in season, a full complement of assorted greens and an occasional bit of orange popsicle before bed to keep everyone happy.  As every squirrel caretaker knows, if The Squirrel’s not happy, nobody’s happy.

About mid-January in The Squirrel’s fifth year, it became apparent that The Squirrel wasn’t happy.  None of his usual diversions seemed to interest him. He stopped lying atop the front door, scanning the foot traffic in the streets. He stopped dragging around his tennis-ball-in-a-sock, or demanding ear-scratches. He even stopped watching Letterman and begging for his popsicle.

At first I assumed creeping age was slowing him down, causing him to become a little crotchety. Then, he became a lot crotchety.  The same critter who’d loved draping himself across someone’s shoulders and nuzzling their ear suddenly took to flying off the refrigerator, grabbing hold of unfortunate passers-by and biting their ears. He scolded everything that moved, and started chasing the bird.  His silent, malevolent glare took on a certain intensity. Anyone who experienced it could be forgiven their shiver of fear, or their belief that a two-pound squirrel was intending to take over the house by force.

Eventually, after experiencing one of his fits of particularly bad temper, I snapped back at him. He ran to a back bedroom that doubled as an office and scooted straight into the closet, burrowing down among the hiking boots and coolers. That’s where I found him, digging into a plastic bag. A strange but pleasant odor, rather like a brewery, permeated the closet.

Puzzled, I pulled the bag open, realizing as I did that The Squirrel had discovered a bag of mesquite beans. Like so many souvenirs, they’d been collected and carried back from the country, and promptly forgotten. Thanks to their high sugar content and perfect conditions, the beans had fermented. My furry little darling was flying high on a South Texas version of home-brew, called atole by those who mean to produce it.

Even unfermented mesquite beans appeal to cattle, horses and goats as well as to an assortment of wild creatures. When the beans ferment in the wild,  cattle who’ve sampled them will do their best to keep bellying up to the bar.   In the case of my no-longer-free-range squirrel, closing the bar was easy. Getting him clean and sober required a little more effort. It took over a week for the effects of the beans to wear off, and during that week he was a mean drunk – belligerent, contemptuous and confrontational.

Unpredictably aggressive, he engaged in fits of foot-stomping rage.  He became particularly fond of jumping up onto a bar near the kitchen, taking the phone cord in his teeth and daring someone to do something about it. Told “NO!” by one of his humans, our previously sweet little woodland creature would curl his forepaws into fists, stomp his little feet on the bar and chatter away, acting for all the world like a two-year old throwing a tantrum.


Eventually, his behavior began to change and the aggressiveness ended. Still, he seemed lethargic, uninterested in life, not quite the same critter he was before he went on his bender.  We tried tempting him with all of his favorites, but nothing seemed to appeal. He slept a good bit, stopped asking to have his ears rubbed and moped around in his log house. Despite our concern, the Squirrel Gurus counseled patience and so, through the rest of January and through February, we waited.

Finally, in March, it happened. The sun rose higher in the sky, the grass began to green and the first dandelion appeared in the yard. Hopeful, I plucked and washed it and carried it to The Squirrel’s cage, where he still was sleeping in his log. Opening the door and rapping on his house, I heard a rustle, and then a tiny face appeared. When he saw the dandelion, it took only a few seconds for him to hop out and sit up on his feeding log, where he waited for his treat.  Once he had it in his paws, he sampled a petal or two, nibbled on a leaf and then, as neatly as you please, bit off the end of the stem. As the sap began to collect at the bottom, he lapped up the drops with his tiny tongue, acting for all the world like any oenophile sampling a particularly fine wine.

I kept the dandelions coming, and within days he was back to his usual self, hanging out on top of the door and hiding pecans in my shoes. Was it the dandelion that made him happy? The coming of Spring? The simple passage of time?  There’s no way to know. Perhaps in the end it was a combination of all three, but it hardly mattered. The Dandelion Gods were back in their heaven, and all was right with the world for one previously miserable squirrel.

Today, looking around on this soft, early spring afternoon, enjoying the already-blooming dandelions and watching the beginning of growth on the mesquite, I take enormous pleasure in remembering my sweet, funny squirrel. Of course, I also remember my belligerent, mesquite-bean-crazed squirrel and I can’t help wondering about the people I see around me who behave precisely as he did.

“What have they gotten into?” I wonder.  “What has so affected them? What could have warped their world view so badly that life has been reduced to a clenched-jaw, foot-stomping rage?”

I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s spring. Soon the mesquite will be blooming, just as the dandelions are blossoming now, and the cycle will continue. Someone out in West Texas will give atole a try, and vinters around the state will bottle wild cherry, agarita and rhubarb. They’ll all be good, no doubt about that. But if someone gives me a choice, I’m taking the dandelion wine.

 

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  1. What a great story!

    I only had dandelion wine once, and it was a fine and mellow drink, but later that night I had an unfortunate run-on with the belligerent sort of drunk who had been quaffing light beer, I think. I was in such a good mood, I didn’t even realize I’d been attacked until it was over. (Fortunately, a very large friend was on the scene.)

    Dave,

    Glad you enjoyed it. The telling of it was rather more fun than the living of it, but isn’t that so often the case?

    I’m just laughing at your own story. The dialogue to that sort of thing tends to sound like this: “Aren’t you going to DO something?” “About what…?”
    We’ll just chalk your survival up to that dandelion wine, and raise another toast to spring!

    Linda

  2. So wonderfully written, I was there. If only our pets could speak and tell us where it hurts or what is bothering them.

    Twelve years ago when I got Blue, I actually got two kittens. They were brothers and the only two in the litter. They were named by the little girl next door, Peter and Blue, as in “Blue Peter” a children’s programme on TV here in the UK. Peter was the bossy one, the leader, the thug. He would shout at us for food, drink, play and tickles, while his brother followed him around like a shadow (which is why he nearly had a name change!) Blue never spoke or purred, happy to leave all the “talking” to Peter. Mind you, I think he couldn’t get a word in edgeways, as Peter only stopped chattering when he was asleep!

    Unfortunately, Peter died of a heart attack at only two years old, leaving his little brother bereft. For days he refused to come out of his bed. It was as though he didn’t know how to do anything without guidance. Eventually he began to take an interest in life, following me around the house becoming my shadow.

    One evening, about six months after Peter had died, I was watching TV with Blue on my knee when I suddenly heard a faint gurgling sound like a plug being pulled and the water going down the drain. Then I heard it again and I realised it was Blue. He had his mouth open and he was gurgling. Oh, my! I thought he was ill – then I realised he was trying to “purr”! Slowly, and ever so quietly at first, he began to purr and within a few weeks he was calling his displeasure at my choice of food put down for him.

    He has never risen to the decibel levels of Peter, but he is quite happy to let out a “shout” occasionally!

    Sandi,

    I didn’t realize Blue had a brother for a time, or it slipped my mind. The dynamic sounds so much like one I’ve seen with a child or two. It reminds me of the possibly apocryphal story of the child who didn’t start talking until he uttered a fully-formed request at the dinner table – something like, “Please pass the butter.” When his astonished parents asked why he’d never spoken, he said, “I never needed to.”

    Have you ever thought of a children’s story called “How Blue Found His Purr”? It’s a charming story, and I can just imagine your illustrations! I also can imagine you might have been distressed at his first attempts – when I read “gurgling”, I got a little nervous, myself.

    I don’t know – sometimes I wish Dixie could speak, and sometimes I think I’m glad she can’t. Because she has to communicate differently, I suspect I might pay closer attention to her than I might if she could talk!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the story – thanks for stopping by!

    Linda

  3. What a lovely story! I don’t drink a ton of caffeine, but when I do I’m similarly disgruntled with life. I don’t always monitor my my food intake like I should, but I definitely pay attention to the caffeine intake – no one should have to put up with me like that!

    The Bug,

    I guess that means one big difference between you and The Squirrel is that you don’t want to impose your disgruntlement on folks! He wasn’t nearly so considerate.

    Isn’t it funny how foods and substances do affect us? Coffee doesn’t affect me at all, but more than one cup puts a good friend into overdrive, and she can turn snappish in a minute. As you say, paying attention can be a good thing!

    Linda

  4. Wonderful, sweet story. How amazing, to “domesticate” a squirrel and have him (?) with you for over five years. I like dandelions & still enjoy blowing on the seed puffs, but it’s an activity frowned on around here. Not enough dandelion wine, I guess…

    ds,

    Yes, it was a “him” – although you’d better use “domesticate” in the loosest possible sense. Cats and dogs are domesticated – squirrels always are wild animals, even when they’re watching tv! The average life span of an urban squirrel is a year, because of traffic, dogs and so on. Under prime conditions, six years is average, so the eight years he lived was remarkable. I’m certain part of it was due to the fact that his diet was monitored so closely – the only “people” food he ever got might be some apple, squash, lettuce and so on. Oh – and his popsicles. ;-)

    We always made wishes when we blew away the seeds – and tucked the blossoms under each other’s chins to see if we “liked butter”. Who knows where that came from?!

    Linda

  5. Linda,

    Your story brought back an experience of a squirrel being mad at me. I had an apartment where a squirrel decided to live in the attic. She (assuming we had an animal interested in starting a nest in our apartment) would glare at me through the window atop the fire escape, and bang to get in that alternate entrance.

    We called our landlord. His response: “I had a pet squirrel once.”
    Our response: “We’ve seen endearing, animated squirrels scampering through the woods in many a Disney cartoon, but that isn’t addressing our problem either, Glen.”

    We called animal control and they put a humane trap in the attic, captured her, and let her loose in a better setting. Probably with a lot more dandelions than around our apartment. I just remember that look of “You’re in my territory.” My response of “I pay rent” didn’t help.

    I know we would have gotten along if we’d met in a field generously spotted with dandelions.

    Claudia,

    Ummm… yes. Squirrels aren’t stupid. Nice, dry attics that don’t blow around in the wind make far better nesting spots than trees. That’s how I got The Squirrel in the first place – something destroyed the nest and all of the babies fell to the concrete driveway. He was the only one who survived, and we almost didn’t realize he was alive. When we saw his foot twitch, we decided to warm him up and see what happened. He didn’t die, so we rehydrated him and one thing led to another… Did you know baby squirrels have to be fed every two hours? ;-)

    I can only imagine that glare. They’re territorial for sure, and their assumption seems to be that, once they’ve decided where to “be”, our job is to go along. Hence, the banging to be let in. Well, yours got moved along in a good way – I hope it did get some dandelions!

    Linda

  6. You actually, really had a pet squirrel? I have never heard of such a thing. What an amazing little personality he had! My dogs take great offense to any squirrel who dares hop the fence into their back yard. There is quite a bit of commotion in the summer.

    As far as the fermented goodies, maybe that’s what the governor of Wisconsin has gotten into!

    qugrainne,

    Yep. I actually, really, truly did! Stories abound. When he still was very young and couldn’t be left alone for long stretches, I’d take him to work with me. At one point I was working on a boat down in Port Aransas, and had to ride a ferry to cross the Intracoastal. I still remember the ferry attendant looking into the front seat and saying, “Lady – do you know there’s a squirrel in your car?” He liked sailing, too. I suppose the motion of the boat felt rather like blowing tree limbs.

    He lived in a huge aviary on the patio. He knew he was safe there, and would delight in tormenting dogs being walked past the house. Interspecies rivalries!

    As for the Wisconsin governor – and legislature – I know a good number of folks who agree with your theory. Then again, I know others who contend they finally sobered up. I suppose only time will tell – but I rather wish all of them would stop throwing tantrums!

    Linda

  7. I love this story! It’s true the winter has its cruel effects on everyone but there is something special about spring that rejuvenates the soul.

    belleofthecarnival,

    There is something special about spring, and so many people this year are having to wait so long to experience its effects! I’m not fond of the full-blown heat and humidity of our summers, but our early springs are wonderful.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the story – I hope your spring comes soon!

    Linda

  8. O my, what a story! I’d never imagine keeping a squirrel as a pet. But your post brings back memories… my dandelion story.

    This happened when I first came over to Canada from HK, as a young teenager. I was walking home from school with a friend and I saw all these little yellow flowers on people’s lawns. I couldn’t help but exclaimed: “Oh, look at all those beautiful flowers! They’re so pretty against the green!” I was laughed right in the face, so to speak. “They are weeds!” My friend was more than amused. “People try so hard to dig them out.”

    Ok… first lesson in cultural understanding: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Of course, my aesthetics changed very soon after that.

    Arti,

    Ah, but they are beautiful, and they are so pretty against the green! Did you know their name comes from the French “dent-de-lion”, or lion’s tooth, because of their deeply toothed leaves? And they have shown up in art – as in this lovely Bouquet of Dandelions and Wild Flowers by Vitali Komarov.

    My dad was a dandelion digger, partly because of peer pressure. My grandparents allowed them to flourish, and I think he would have as well, but one yard of flowers-gone-to-seed can infect a whole neighborhood, and in our neighborhood anyone who didn’t get with the program started getting pointed remarks.

    When I moved to Texas, I was surprised to find new varieties of dandelion – many of them weren’t the thick, plump flower I’d grown up with. It turns out there are over 150 varieties, all more-or-less nutritious. In fact, they’re grown as a crop in France – maybe elsewhere.

    As for beauty – technology can bring a new appreciation!

    Linda

  9. I think that I have stopped laughing enough to write a little note. This is one hilariously funny and enjoyable story. A drunk squirrel as a pet!
    Actually your squirrel was a very smart creature, he knew that dandelions have curative powers specifically for his ailment. Dandelions aid in the detoxification of the liver!

    I have never sipped on dandelion wine but have eaten the dandelion leaves as a vegetable, and drunk dandelion tea. Not bad. I also like the dandelion flower-weed to look at and photograph. I guess what is a weed to someone is a flower to someone else.

    I must say that only you can make literature from dandelions and a drunk squirrel. You tell the story vividly and beautifully, and there actually is ‘meat’ for thought in your story.

    Thank you for the laughter and the mind jogging.

    Maria

    Maria,

    I’m glad I could bring you some enjoyment. Even at the time, it was a funny experience, although I did a little teeth-clenching of my own while we got through it. The thing about squirrels is, they’re so smart there’s always a new story waiting to happen. For example, did you know you can create a squirrel-sized drinking fountain by chewing into the water line for a refrigerator’s icemaker? It took forever to figure out why he’d make a run for the refrigerator when the icemaker clicked on. There’s a repairman somewhere still telling that story.

    I didn’t know about dandelions and detox – just did a quick skim of dandelion health benefits and there it is. That makes the story even more interesting – I wonder if a little dandelion extract could have moved the recovery process along more quickly?

    My grandmother’s friends always cooked the greens. They’d send me out to pick them – but it always was a spring dish, as they wanted the youngest leaves, even before the flowers appeared. I never liked them much, but in those days I didn’t like spinach or other greens, either. Maybe I should cook some up and give them an other try!

    Thanks so much for stopping by – a little laughter’s good for the soul!

    Linda

  10. Linda; What a wonderful story! When I worked for Fish & Wildlife I was surprised to hear from my boss that squirrels were actually capable of being quite vicious; so I guess that your pet wasn’t the only one who could be a mean drunk!

    I think fondly of dandelions, too. After all, not only did we make necklaces out of them as children, but as a mother and grandmother, both my children and grandchildren have given me sweet bouquets of the cheerful, sunny blooms.

    We used a yellow flower to “see if you liked butter” as kids, too, but we used buttercups for that. I don’t know what it told about liking butter, but we’d end up with a chin-full of yellow pollen every time!

    Thanks for a great read!

    Beth,

    I never paid much attention to squirrels before The Squirrel dropped into my life, but he certainly sensitized me to the nuances of squirrel life. They can range from feisty to downright vicious and mean, particularly when they’re involved in territorial disputes or defending the nest. On the other hand, they’re social and companionable and can be unbelievably playful. I certainly don’t regret any of the scars I bear. ;-)

    I’d forgotten about the dandelion necklaces, but of course we did that, too. What intrigues me is that I don’t remember buttercups. The photos I’ve found online of Iowa buttercups call them “swamp buttercups”. That could explain it. Our variety may have been blooming in places I didn’t go. In any event, the dandelions made a fine substitute. We always were going around with pollen under our chins!

    I’m glad you enjoyed my little squirrel’s “tale”!

    Linda

  11. Oh, my, how I love this story on a day when the pesky dandelions (that I never seem to do anything about because they are pretty after all) seem like a distant memory and a future dream. Just one — to say spring will at some point be here!

    I love your story — I’ve never known anyone who made a pet of a squirrel, either, but it sounds as though you two had a wonderful relationship (apart from that brief period of debauchery). It simply makes me smile. It reminded me a bit of a friend I had as a young teen — her parents would sit up the dog, the cat, the bird, and the raccoon in a row to give them treats as they begged for food. A peaceable kingdom.

    Sounds like you had one, too.

    jeanie,

    The longing for spring seems to be getting pretty strong up your direction – there are so many folks who sound almost desperate for the snow to be gone and the flowers blooming. After days in the 80s we’re back to sweatshirt weather this morning – and a jacket, too, I suspect. The nice thing about dandelions is that they’re hardy enough to smile through the fluctuations – and they’re so bright on these gloomy days.

    Peaceable kingdom – to a degree, yes. After an entire life without pets of any sort (except for the unfortunate little turtle who was accidentally dispatched) I started out as an accidental pet owner. After The Squirrel died, he was replaced by a prairie dog – who came with his own set of challenges.

    And there are hundreds of raccoon stories. I didn’t have any of them as “pets”, exactly, but I had a strong, years-long relationship with one mama who’d bring her babies by for me to see. I know for certain she meant for me to see them, as she had to climb a tree, carrying them in her mouth one at a time, so she could deposit them by the balcony door and scratch until I came, looked, and told her how wonderful they were. Then, she’d carry them back down and back to the nest. I found the nest every year but one, and they were such fun to watch grow up.

    We humans think we’re such hot stuff, but there’s an almost unseen world surrounding us all the time – we only have to look!

    Linda

  12. Linda – what a beautiful story! I’ll never look at a dandelion the same way again! I love to pull the ‘puffs’ up and blow on them – you clear the puff, you get your wish. My grandsons do this now, so when we are off on walks, we look for them! When I was a young child, my mom told me that if you put a yellow dandelion under your chin, and it turns yellow – you like butter! Isn’t it funny the memories that one short story can bring back!

    I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who had a squirrel as a pet in their home! Oh, and one more thing. My students in 4th grade learn about atole, but I believe it is a different atole. It’s a food that the Native Americans used – atole (corn mush) and pinole (ground parched corn) both of which were aboriginal favourites.

    • Karen,

      I learned something else about the dandelion puffs – some people call them “clocks”. As I understand it, the number of puffs it takes to blow away all the seeds will tell you what time it is. I can see that for the hour. Something like 4:24 might be a little harder. ;-) And your mom agrees with mine – it’s the dandelion under the chin that tells the truth on butter. (If there’s no yellow, I wonder if that indicates a liking for margarine???)

      I double-checked on the atole, and it appears to be a general term for a certain kind of food/drink. It can be made with corn or chocolate, and I’m sure the early settlers (and perhaps some of the tribes) used the mesquite bean in place of corn, while keeping the name. There’s also a variety made with blue corn in New Mexico.

      Isn’t it a wonderful world we have around us?!

      Linda

      • Hey, I see you got the Reply links working. Cool!

        • Just sent an email filled with thanks and “the rest of the story”! ;-)

  13. Okay, anything that has the words dandelions and the line “The Year the Squirrel Went Crazy” prompts immediate click-that-link attention :-)
    What fun!
    It’s nice to read one of your pieces that doesn’t have me thinking and pondering but sends me with broad grin careening down a memory lane of laughter.
    Still, I look forward your thought pieces as well.
    Thanks for the big chuckle this morning!

    Btw, cockatoos will also ball up one of their feet and pound it on perch to punctuate a fit.

    • Nanette,

      Chuckles are good. Big chuckles are better, especially if they’re associated with great memories. Besides, you know how some of the public-speaking coaches will advise folks to imagine their audiences naked? or in one of those chicken suits? I’ve recently discovered that it’s easier to deal with some of the ranters and ravers running loose in the world by imagining them as my dear squirrel. The more I thought about it, the more I thought I ought to share the joy. ;-)

      Not only that, now I’ve got a visual of Syd pitching his sort of fit to tuck in with The Squirrel’s tantrums. Who says these critters don’t communicate?

      Linda

  14. Wonderful story. I read it yesterday shortly after I saw that our one and only neighborhood squirrel, who made his home in a neighbor’s woodpile, met his demise on the road. He was the first squirrel I had ever seen in our neighborhood. Just his wild little life scurrying to and fro made me smile. I was sad when I saw that he was gone.

    • Martha,

      I never paid much attention to squirrels until I lived with The Squirrel. Now I notice them all the time, and when I see one who’s met that sort of demise, I can’t help myself. I always apologize, saying, “I’m sorry”. It’s a crazy little gesture, but it makes me feel better. Sometimes people in the car with me will give me one of those sideways looks, but that’s ok.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. Even after they’ve been gone for years these creatures remain a part of our lives, and their stories are worth re-telling.

      Linda

  15. Hi Linda,
    I came by and read this story yesterday and tried to leave a comment but got kicked out. I see it did not take so will try again!

    This was a delightful story; I loved it! I have never tried the Dandelion wine, not that I know of anyway… but I know growing up we had so many dandelions and clover growing in our yards… no one in my family ever even tried to get rid of them. And they made the areas that don’t get mowed often much prettier.. and Yes we made those necklaces from those blooms.

    Thank you for keeping us entertained! I still cannot believe you had a pet squirrel living in your house!

    Patti

    • Patti,

      Bless your heart for coming back and leaving your comment a second time. It’s hard to know what goes on with these sites. Just like life, they have their little glitches.

      I just heard them talking on the garden show about ways to get rid of clover. That’s another one that’s very much a matter of definition. I was amazed when I first heard people call clover a weed! To me, a field of clover is the best thing in the world, especially when it’s full of softly buzzing bees. All that pink and white – just beautiful, like the dandelions.

      We always nibbled on the clover blossoms. I remember them as being sweet. Whether they really were I don’t know, but the experience certainly was sweet!

      As for The Squirrel – well, it happened just as it does with so many kids. I didn’t really plan for him, he just happened! ;-) And that wasn’t the end. He softened me up for the prairie dog who came along next!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Linda

  16. As much as I enjoy your stories, I also appreciate the comments from such a wide variety of readers. I’ve often noticed that geography enters into our take on what you have written.

    I’m with Beth on the buttercups. We have those yellow wildflowers growing abundantly over New York state (well, we will, once this winter and the snow go away…), and the buttercups were the flowers we held under each other’s chins.

    Ah-ha! And I just discovered that the comment box expands on this site also!

    • NumberWise,

      I just got a (repeat) geography lesson this morning. I made a quick trip down to the farmers’ market and discovered my favorite strawberry farm’s had berries for a month. You can take the girl out of Iowa, but… it takes a long time to reset that internal clock that says: “Strawberries? July.”

      It is true, though. With bloggers scattered around the world, you never know what’s going to be familiar and what isn’t. I still stumble a bit over the reversal of seasons between northern and southern hemisphere.

      On the other hand, I saw a photo on Andrew Gould’s site and couldn’t believe my eyes. He’d taken a photo of women selling carved spoons and such in a Chilean market. I took one look and said, “That has to be mesquite. They look exactly like the mesquite utensils sold at Texas arts and crafts fairs.” In fact, they were. It turns out that something like 60% of the world’s mesquite trees are in Chile.

      As a matter of fact, it was seeing that photo from Chile that started me thinking about mesquite, reminded me of the mesquite beans, and… well, you know the rest!

      Linda

  17. I am utterly in awe after reading your post. I adore squirrels, and to have found someone who does as well, and even owned one, is the gold at the end of the rainbow. Bless you for taking in this adorable creature and fitting it into your family.

    I loved every bit of this story. And the photo of the lounging squirrel – priceless. One of the best mini memoirs I’ve ever read. I do so want to own a squirrel but I’m content with watching them race up and down my fence tormenting my two Boston Terriers.

    • Snoring Dog Studio,

      The poor squirrels do have a pretty bad reputation, don’t they? Bulb-chewers, attic destroyers, birdseed moochers and so on. But they’re smart as can be (part of the “problem”) and danged cute, too. I really wouldn’t say it’s possible to own a squirrel, but sometimes one allows you into its world, and it’s quite amazing.

      You’d be surprised how many people have squirrels. Many rehab them and release them back into the wild. The Squirrel didn’t seem a good candidate for release, though. The one time he made a mad dash up the pine tree he was born in, he couldn’t find his way back home. He got as far as the Chinaberry, and waited for the folks with the ladder and flashlight to show up and help him find his path back down the tree. Was I saying something about “smart”…? ;-)

      Thanks so much for stopping by. You’re always welcome!

      Linda

  18. Smile, smile, smile! I can’t wait to read this to my husband. He’ll love it.

    My aunt and uncle had a squirrel for many years. He did bite my aunt once, but he never had quite the experience your squirrel did.

    I loved dandelions when I was a kid. I loved them when they wore bright yellow hats and especially when they went to seed. They were magic. Every kid knew that. I would snap it off it’s stem, close my eyes, make a wish and blow the fragile fluff into the air, spreading potential dandelions (and wishes) all over the place.

    This post was pure fun!
    Bella

    • Bella,

      Luckily, when The Squirrel decided to bite, it was very much a hit-and-run sort of event. He never really wanted to fight, he just was registering an opinion. It didn’t happen often, and when it did he knew what the punishment would be – banishment! When he was mad at us, he’d literally turn his back and refuse to look at us. We discovered the same treatment would drive him crazy. We’d put him in his big cage, and then go out from time to time and turn OUR backs to him. After a day of that, he was ready to be sweet again. ;-)

      I have a friend in the hospital just now who’s read this. I went out to gather a bouquet of dandelions to take to her and couldn’t find a single one that was suitable. Apparently the Weed-B-Gon forces have taken over the neighborhood. Pity!

      Linda

  19. Linda, whenever I come to your blog, I’m smiling in anticipation of good writing. This time, the bonus was your squirrel story. Have you ever thought of writing a book, a memoir of sorts? :)

    I drink dandelion tea, but that’s as far as my acquaintance goes. Spring is unknown in Singapore, as is winter and summer. We have warm, hot, rainy, sometimes all on the same day, all days through the year.

    • Damyanti,

      Oh, of course I’ve thought about writing a book, or a memoir. Haven’t we all? On the other hand, I’ve received more pleasure from my blog than from the magazine articles I’ve published, so there you are.

      I am glad you look forward to stopping by – that’s a great reward all on its own!

      I’ve had the dandelion wine, but not tea. Of course, I come from a long line of coffee drinkers. The coffee pot always was on, but I don’t remember anyone drinking tea of any sort except when it was iced in the summer.

      It sounds as though you’ve even more “seasonless” than Liberia – when I was there the basic distinction was between the rainy season and the dry season. Hot was the constant!

      Thanks for stopping by – and I’m glad you enjoyed my little squirrel story.

      Linda

  20. Hi Linda. I know nothing about mesquite or dandelion wine, and very little about squirrels. I remember the latter from before the age of ten in our garden in England, and saw them in winter in Kansas one time. (We have possums that peer at you out of forks in the trees in parks in Australia, though.) Nice squirrel shots!

    • Andrew,

      Well, I can tell you this. That shot of the squirrel with cross forepaws is the very essence of ticked-off squirrel!

      The homemade wines I grew up with – dandelion, rhubarb, cherry, plum – were sweet, and very fruity. I wouldn’t choose one just to drink, now, but if I were given a porch, a summer evening, a neighbor lady in gingham and an old hound dog curled up on the step, one of those wines would be just the ticket!

      Live and learn – it never occurred to me there might be possums in Australia. I had a friend with a dog that liked nothing better than treeing one – we’d be sitting around and that dog would begin to howl and we’d know what had happened without even getting up. He had a particular way of saying “Look at me! I got one!”

  21. How interesting that, at a time when so many of us are succumbing to spring fever, your squirrel regained his senses. Wonderful story, Linda, about a wonderful character. Thank you for the glimpse.

    • bronxboy,

      The Squirrel was a character, for sure. And he could communicate. When he wanted a drink, rather than using his water bottle he preferred to go lay under the kitchen faucet with his mouth open. Well, until he chewed the fitting off the icemaker water line so he could get his drinks that way. ;-)

      At a time when so many people seem to have taken leave of their senses, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to just give them a dandelion bouquet and straighten them right out?

      Thanks so much for stopping by – glad you enjoyed the little tale!

      Linda

  22. Oh thanks for a great read. I too had no idea one could keep a squirrel as a pet, or that they’d allow a human to get so close, or that they had personal quirks!

    I’ve waged a 7 year war on them and lost! We lived in a house with large oak trees in the yard and whatever I planted – either in the garden, or in plant pots – would be pulled out roots and all and thrown on the ground to die. With the spring bulbs like daffs and tulips, they’d wait for it to flower and then break off the stem and throw it down… And when I’d come into the garden and find my poor plants dead on the ground (veggies and flowers) the squirrels would look down at me from their branches and shout at me! Yes I’d shout back at them but it didnt help.

    I’ve also eaten Dandelion greens in the spring (very bitter), and had dandelion coffee but not tea.

    I know a little about dandelions from my daughter who is a Naturopath.

    • Rosie,

      There’s nothing in the world more frustrating than an on-going battle with a determined squirrel. They’re smart, but I think they’re more stubborn. Once they get it in their head that they want YOUR bulbs, they’re going to have them. End of discussion.

      My favorite lunch-time squirrel story is about the one who discovered I was bringing my lunch to work with me at a certain marina. One day I opened the car door and there he was in the front seat. He’d hopped in through the open window, pulled an apple core from the trash and started noshing. Maybe we should add “brave” to their description.

      They are individuals, for sure. A squirrel rehabber I know says she’s had the whole gamut, from shy and timid to obnoxious tricksters. We were lucky to have one that was affectionate as well as too smart for our good!

      I had to look up naturopath – very interesting!

      Linda

      • Linda,
        Here’s a recent article from my daughter’s website on the health benefits of Dandelions.

        (Her business is called Dandelion Naturopathic clearly dandelions are close to her heart.)

        • dearrosie,

          Really interesting link. Here’s to dandelions, and the Elixir of Spring!

          Linda

  23. What a wonderful story! I can just imagine a drunk and angry squirrel! I used to have a rabbit who loved eating dandelion leaves (not the flowers though).

    Juliet
    Crafty Green poet

    • Juliet,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. You would have enjoyed The Squirrel, too.

      Do you have the squirrels with the funny ears in Scotland? I have a copper mold hanging in my kitchen with a squirrel embossed into it. His ears are very long and tufted. I thought it was “just art”, but I was told it’s a British mold and that it’s therefore a British squirrel. He’s quite cute, and not at all like our fox squirrels.

      Here’s a link to a pic of an Abert’s squirrel that shows the tufted ears.

      Linda

  24. Bronxboy55 linked your post to mine. Cute story. I’ve a different take on the creatures if you grew up in my house. Check it out, you’ll laugh, I hope.

    • Jess,

      Check it out I did – finally! It did bring a laugh – thanks for adding to our “squirrel archive”!

      Linda

  25. I love your photos. They are really amazing!

    • Emma,

      I’m glad you liked them. There’s nothing that brings a smile to my face more quickly than a cute squirrel. I have friends with gardens who think they’re furry little devils incarnate, but since I don’t have any bulbs or growing fruits, I’ve got less to worry about.

      Linda

  26. I’ve spent more time on this one post than I spend on a number of posts. The comments elicit yet another wonderful story. I am new here, but I will be back. I came from Steven Schwartzman’s blog where he mentioned you. You write beautifully. I enjoyed the visit! :-)

    • George,

      And you got squirrels and dandelions together – what fun!

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the story, and am so pleased that Steven sent you this direction. His photography has opened up the wonders of Texas wildflowers in a completely new way – even the lowly dandelion.

      Thanks so much for the visit, and the kind words. You’re welcome any time!

      Linda


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