For the first decade we lived in our house, we never saw a squirrel. There was no reason for one to be here. The houses sat in the middle of grass lawns with only a few foundation plantings around them. The nearest trees over 10′ tall were at least 100′ away across the street. We lived in what was essentially a green desert. When I dug the soil, I did not even find worms or roly polies or anything visibly alive.
I had a plan for my yard that involved not just planting the yard but increasing the biodiversity in my 1/3 acre plot as much as possible. We planted trees, shrubs, native and non-native plants. We planted roses for no better reason than that I liked them and wanted them. We lost quite a few to poor soil in the early years, but the hardy plants survived and made way for more delicate ones as the soild and habitat improved.
Over time, wildlife also started to find its way to us. First it seemed it was only mice, house sparrows, and butterflies. After a few years we started seeing our first worms, beetles and more interesting birds like blue jays. But it took a long time before the yard was welcoming to the squirrels, funny given the fact that in urban neighborhoods squirrels are borderline pests. Even squirrels, it turns out, have their standards.
I remember the first time I saw a squirrel in our yard. I was on the phone with my sister almost a decade after we’d first started this project and she thought I’d lost my mind when I yelled excitedly that there was a squirrel in the yard. But it was a welcome sign that the yard was finally maturing.
Now the tallest trees in the yard are at least 20′ tall and the squirrels visit almost every day, scampering over the roof, down the trellis of our back deck, over the ledge of the compost big and down to the ground. Even though we don’t have acorns for them yet, they are happy to visit the birdfeeders. (Fun Fact: We planted a white oak for the squirrels 15 years ago, but it could be another 15 before it has any acorns. A very unfortunate fact, actually, since most of the oak trees that used to stand across the street were cut down for development.)
Here is today’s visitor, coming and going: