My Garden Thief!

Who stole my sunflowers?

You can see one of our Italian honeybees right in the middle of this beautiful sunflower. Sunflowers are so pretty, aren't they?

You can see one of our Italian honeybees right in the middle of this beautiful sunflower. Sunflowers are so pretty, aren’t they?

I had six beautiful large heads of sunflowers growing in my orchard.  The bees were enjoying them, I was enjoying them, and I had the perfect recipe lined up to use the seeds. Then, one night, the largest sunflower disappeared.

Harrumph…  🙁

Well, I never…

Do you see something missing here?

Hmmmm…   something seems to be missing.

Do you see how it looks like the top of the stalk has been chewed off?  That was the first piece of evidence I saw.

who stole my sunflowers 4Then, throughout the orchard in no less than six separate spots, I found piles of cracked seeds. Strange that the thief would move from spot to spot to eat the seeds, but then (of course) there may have been more than one culprit!

It’s a real shame because I have a really neat recipe I couldn’t wait to try out using the sunflower seeds.  I was going to use the honey from my beehive, with ground almond flour from my almond trees, along with chopped toasted almonds, dehydrated apricots and cherries from my orchard.

I was going to use egg whites from my neighbor’s chickens (we will be getting ours next year) and some pine nuts from, well, pine trees!  We are surrounded by Sugar Pines and if we can get to the cones before the squirrels do, the nuts are mighty fine!

I found this recipe many years ago when our homestead was just a dream.   I didn’t write down the name of the book, so I can’t give credit to anyone.  Sorry.  Then, in my shortsightedness I didn’t write down specific amounts either – just ingredients.  What was I thinking? So, this recipe will have to end up as another one of my experiments. Apparently, however, the base of the bar was to be made with frothy egg whites into which almond flour is folded, then poured into the base of a rimmed cookie sheet and baked  for some amount of time. I would assume about 8-10 minutes – just to get it to set.  A mixture of chopped dried fruits, seeds (my missing sunflower seeds), chopped nuts and honey is spread on the base, then baked for another amount of time until done.

Doesn’t that sound good?  The best part is that I will be able to produce every single ingredient called for in these delicious (I think) and nutritious bars!  I may even add pumpkin seeds to the mix.  For a different variety, wouldn’t dried apple and pear chunks be good with toasted walnuts?  Maybe even acorn flour!  Yum.  I can’t wait to try this, but alas, I have no sunflower seeds.

Speaking of squirrels…who stole my sunflowers 8

I think this may have been our thief.  We have lots of them in our trees.  In fact, our neighbor lady (who recently moved) fed them!  I know this isn’t a great picture, but the silly things won’t stay still for a photo!  😉


However, this may have been the culprit…

Steller's Jay

Did this Steller’s Jay eat my sunflowers?

The Blue Jays have been hanging around a lot lately.  We have had a terrible drought here in California and it seems our bee waterer may be one of the only sources of water around for all the forest critters to slake their thirst. Sometimes they go through more than a gallon of water every day!

Nonetheless, I would assume the bird would have just landed on the stalk, eaten the seeds and dropped the shells below the plant.  Besides, chewing the entire seed head off the stalk would have been difficult for a Steller’s Jay. Since there are no shells directly below the plant, and Jays don’t have teeth, I don’t think the culprit was the Jay.

Yeah - right outside my window! Sneaky little thief!

Yeah – right outside my window! Sneaky little thief!

The evidence speaks for itself –

Mr and Mrs Squirrel enjoy sunflower seeds!

I am glad that right now I don’t have to feed myself and my family completely on what my dear hubby and I grow and raise here on our fledgling homestead. I would like to be food self-sufficient soon, however, and if TEOTWAWKI happens (as many people think it will) we will need to protect our food sources more carefully.  So, the squirrels gave us a valuable lesson today. (Um – thank you?)  We need to protect our permanent garden much better than we have protected the temporary garden we have set up in our orchard.

If we plan to be self-sufficient when it comes to fruits and vegetables, nuts and herbs, we must build our permanent vegetable garden like a fortress and reinforce our orchard!  The garden will have metal fencing at least 7 feet high (so my tall hubby Ray can walk upright in the garden) with a metal roof (chicken wire?) over the top, and at least 1 foot deep into the ground to prevent tunneling critters.  This should keep out the squirrels and Jays.  It sounds like a lot of work, but I believe at this point it will be an absolute necessity!

Especially after we found jack rabbits in our compost pile!

How do you keep critters out of your vegetables?


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24 thoughts on “My Garden Thief!

  1. I didn’t have to worry about garden thieves, but we did have to figure out a way to prevent the neighborhood cats from doing what they do in the dirt. Nothing like working in the garden and putting your hand into a pile of… well, you get the idea. We ended up building PVC frames and stretching netting over them to create a barrier. We called it the Kitty Deterrent System or KDS.

    • Ugh – I also had to deal with the cat problem when we lived in the valley! Everyone around us had a cat… or two. My son had a motion detector sprinkler that worked very well. Once a cat was detected, the sprinkler went off (it was pretty loud, too) and that cat never came back! It took a while to “train” all the cats in the neighborhood, but it worked! Hmmm… I wonder if that would work for squirrels? 🙂

  2. Hiya!! I know about your problem with your sneaky little garden theif! Unfortunately the chicken wire won’t work. You will have to use rabbit wire. It has smaller square holes. Squirrels are like rats, skunks and Mice( mice eat seeds and nuts too) the rats skunks and squirrels can all squish down and flatten out to squeeze right through the smallest crack and chicken wire. If you have little diggers, use corrugated tin around the bottom, buried a foot deep. Most critters don’t dig deeper than that. It’s totally worth it!! And on top of all that, I use a product called ” Shake Away” It’s an all natural critter repellent that really works!! Order it off the internet. Good Luck!! 😉

    • Thanks for all the advice, Renee. Looks like I am going to need it!! We have so many squirrels up here that I think our nut trees will be stripped every year! Hopefully, since our neighbor lady who fed the squirrels are gone, the population may decrease over time. We’ll see. And mice? Yup – they got my strawberries this past summer. Good old mouse traps dispatched quite a few of them! Thanks for stopping by today, Renee. I hope to hear from you again soon!


    Hello Vickie,
    again a great post!
    The recipe, as you described it, sounds promising.
    I think that the the theft is very natural with animals, because they want to have food, like we did.
    For us, this is similar, snails, caterpillars and other animals get their share.
    In my opinion, one can mitigate, but we must not close off everything with fences and roofs made of wire.
    Then is the natural look of your beautiful garden there. But is just my opinion!

    Much love and hugs


    • Thank you, Uwe! I would not worry about animals eating my food, as long as they leave me some! However, the squirrels took all of my sunflowers! I am lucky to have 5 acres in the forest (hopefully more, soon) so our vegetable garden will not be seen easily from our house. We have many oak and pine trees, so I hope in the future the squirrels will eat the acorns and pine nuts and leave most of our vegetables to us. Have a great weekend, Uwe!

  4. I’ve never found a way to completely deter critters… Once you find something that works, a different critter comes along to cause a new problem. I decided to “become one with the animals” (lol), and I plant a messy “critter food” corner far away from my food sources. I don’t worry about weeding it and they seem to like it better.

    • I have heard of planting a “detour garden” before. I think I read an article about it in the “Mother Earth News” magazine. Apparently if this garden is left to the animals, they will satisfy themselves there and leave the “human” garden alone. I would just be afraid that the detour garden would attract more critters to our homestead, then they would find our human garden a delicious dessert! But, it’s worth a try! Thanks, Jenny, for your input! At this point I am willing to try anything!

  5. those furry tree rats ate our sunflowers and everything else they could get in the garden. I don’t know anyway to keep these pests away – I did try the red pepper, vinegar kind of spray some people recommend but things still went missing. If you do figure it out lemme know!!

    • I just bought some stuff called Shakeaway off the internet. I got some to repel mice and rats. It’s all natural. Seems to be working. It also is supposed to repel squrrels too. Just Google Shakeaway and you can order it. Good luck!!

    • Yes! I tried a jalapeno pepper spray myself! I will tell you, just opening the bottle of this spray made my eyes water and my nose run! Unfortunately, it must have made the critter’s MOUTH water and it did NOT run! Haha. I guess it will take some experimentation to figure out what will work best. I was told last year to try bobcat pee. Really? Ick! No thanks. I hate smelling cat pee! Also, how do they get bobcat pee anyway? I can only imagine cruel systems to get enough bobcat pee (or wolf pee, or mountain lion pee, etc.) to make a commercial product! Ah well. Life’s all a learning experience anyway.

  6. Oh no, sorry to hear about your sunflowers! I’m like that with recipes, too, I’ll forget to write down where I got it from or the exact amounts for the ingredients. Sounds like a great recipe 🙂

    • I know! I think I will remember everything I need to know about a recipe, but then I set it aside and years later run across it! By then, of course, the details are gone! Actually, it looked like I had written the details on another piece of paper that was somehow lost. Darn post-it notes! 🙂 Oh well, I am know for experimenting in the kitchen anyway! Thanks for stopping by today, Bernadyn! I slipped over to your blog for a visit and love it! My sister also sells Jamberry nails. Aren’t they fantastic?! Have a great week!

    • Thanks for your sympathy, Angie. Hopefully I can find a way to prevent this happening next year. With all the suggestions I have received so far, I think I am well on my way to preventing critter theft again! Thanks for the invite. Enjoy your day!

  7. Perfect timing on this post and it’s grand! I have an orphan squirrel and have been gathering winter supplies for her and did not know that love sunflowers and I had a great crop this year and now Cindy had a new item on her menu to last her through the winter. We will release her to the wild in the spring when there’s plenty to eat. We’re having such a wonderful time playing with her and learning the ways of squirrels. Glad you found your culprit!!

    • A squirrel named Cindy – how cute!! However, truth be told, I don’t think MY squirrels are very cute! They stole my sunflowers, the little varmints! Anyway, sunflowers must be a favorite food of squirrels because they had to risk certain death to get to my sunflower plants! We don’t have any dogs, but all of our neighbors do, and they seem to use our orchard area as their “meeting ground”, which is right where the sunflowers were. Ah well – at least they keep the skunks away from our beehive! Have a great day, Rita, and thanks for stopping by to comment today!

    • Yup – %$#&@#& squirrel! I guess after a mundane diet of acorn, bugs and what not, the sunflower seeds were like dessert! Unfortunately, that means they will come back for more! Ah well – it’s just another obstacle we need to overcome in our quest for self-reliance. Thanks for throwing the party, Danita!

  8. Hi, Vickie!
    It has been a long time since I have left a comment or emailed with you. Tax season finished, a busy summer ensued, we added to our quiver of grands and the harvest has almost been completely reaped. I only have applesauce to complete and potatoes to dig, but after reading your sunflower saga I didn’t want you to feel so alone! You see, after digging up an initial 48 feet of red, yellow and sweet potatoes, we only have a bushel and a half of potatoes to show for it. Why? Ground squirrels tunneled onto our land this year for the first time ever and ate almost everything. It was so disheartening to dig up nubs of potatoes if anything at all. We, too, will be looking for further ways to fortress our crops. While I love all of nature, I am not willing to feed it! It has been a strange year all around as something (or someone) came in the night and took our grapes and the Japanese Beetles got most of our fruit. But, there are always friends willing to share and next year to look forward to. Here is to better luck next time, right? Meanwhile, with less to do until tax season is upon us again, I will continue to enjoy your humble homesteading adventures. Thanks again for all your writings. I learn so much. And what a lovely outhouse . . . 😊

    • It’s so nice to hear from you again! So sorry about your potatoes! When we have our homestead fully up and running, I know we will rely upon the potatoes we grow. To have most of them disappear would be so disheartening! And to have someone actually take your grapes? Well, I never… Actually, with the climate change that is upon us, I have been reading other blogs going through the same things. The ground squirrels probably didn’t have much else to eat! But, as you said, there’s always next year. Otherwise, I hope everything is going well with you, and I look forward to hearing from you again!

  9. I have a 6 foot fence around my veggie garden but no ‘roof’ so the critters still manage to get in. They take bites out of my tomatoes when they are just about perfectly ripe for picking – boy is that aggravating! But, we had such a good crop last year there was definitely enough to share.

    • Yeah – little stinkers! Of course, they couldn’t go for the tomatoes and squash, which I had plenty of! Noooo…. they had to go for the sunflowers. I saw a really smart solution on pinterest: after the flower is done flowering, but before the seeds are ready to be harvested, wrap the head with nylon netting several times. Apparently the thieves can still get through the netting with their sharp little incisors, but they would prefer not to bother having that stuff in their mouths, so they might go elsewhere. It’s worth a shot, don’t you think?