The 2014 edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac says it’s going to be a long, cold winter with above-average precipitation. The squirrels in Texas apparently agree — the resourceful little creatures began their winter preparations in the height of the heat last month in Dallas.
Common tree squirrels do not hibernate and often leave their dreys (the tree nests where they huddle comfortably with family members to keep warm) to search for food. Resident squirrels commonly bury food and nuts in the ground near their favorite trees, and they have been busy, alternately playing and burying winter stores, since late August. Now that it’s nearing the end of September, and we have had a small taste of fall weather, they seem to be working a bit harder to stock up for the season.
They still occupy their time running along the telephone lines, perching atop fences, and playing tag around the bases of large trees. But one can also watch them, mouths full of nuts, searching for a convenient spot to dig and hide their treasure.
Maybe they know that Old Man Winter is just around the corner and they’d better be prepared!
You, too, can prepare for winter, and have great food ready to eat during the colder months if you stock up now on fresh produce from your local farmers market. Learn to can, pickle, freeze and preserve fresh food. Make jams and jellies from the fresh fruits now available, and pickle any number of vegetables, from cucumbers to peppers. Even meats can be preserved.
Follow this column over the coming weeks as we explore some old fashioned ways to eat well during the winter.
Oops, I’ve been spotted!
Though the tree squirrels are sometimes shy, they have come to accept the fact that people live nearby, and sometimes they have to share their space with humans. Still a bit skittish, however, this little guy tries to hide when someone comes too near his territory. The neighborhood squirrels seem to be busy this fall preparing for winter.
Looking for a good spot
Found a nut — now the dilemma is where to store it for the winter. This little squirrel seems to be giving the matter serious consideration. People nearby didn’t bother him at all on this occasion. The need to stock up for cold weather ahead is instinctive behavior for the common tree squirrel. Snow cover can make it difficult to find food in the winter.
Posing for the camera
Not at all shy today. This one seems proud of himself, and ready to pose. Wary as always of a human who tries to get too close, he waited patiently, but seemed always ready to run. The question remains of whether he would have dropped the nut if he had been forced to flee.
Good enough to eat
“Maybe just a little taste?” In the end, the need to store it for the winter won out, and the squirrel was true to his training. In the fall, they do eat more than normal, however, to prepare for the lighter diet they will likely face during the winter season. Tree squirrels do not hibernate, but they do sleep a lot, both to stay warm and to conserve energy.
Laying in a supply
Preparing for the winter is second nature for squirrels, but for humans it’s not a priority. Some local residents, however, are stocking up on the season’s fresh fruits and vegetables, preparing to can, pickle and make preserves from the late summer and fall bounty. Soon, unless you have your own greenhouse, it will be harder to find locally grown produce.
The nut the squirrel holds, and later buries in the ground, may become a tree itself someday if the furry creature can’t remember where it is. Frequently, new sprouts emerge in the spring from the nuts stored away by squirrels. The animals offer a view into the cycle of the seasons — fall is here; time to prepare for winter.