Column: Squirrelly friend leads to gathering

Published 9:40 pm Monday, August 6, 2018

Creative Connections, By Sara Aeikens

Our back porch in Albert Lea might be my favorite place in our home here in this town for more than four decades. I grew up in Minot, North Dakota, in just one home, and it was also on a corner lot, like our present house. The porch, shaded by summertime beautiful, blossoming purple lilac bushes, covered the whole front side of the house.

Sara Aeikens

In Albert Lea, my husband, Leo,  after much deliberation, added our porch about four years after we purchased the house. I recall seeing him standing numerous times studying the back corner site possibilities with his hand on his chin, thinking about plan options.  Leo ended up building the back porch to his specific design, which included a second story deck for a couple of lawn chairs, edged on the two open sides by stained, sturdy wooden rails. In the center he included two side-by-side, medium-sized skylight windows, making for a delightfully sunny opening from the top of the porch. 

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The view from both the porch roof and interior transformed over the years, as we developed  fern and hosta gardens on the two screened sides of the porch. When we added a second attached single garage, that we hired our neighbor to build, we improved the view with varieties of perennials, including transplants donated by neighbors of our Minot home, such as lilies, lilies of the valley and even some cacti from our former hardware store.

When the porch was completed, I found a rattan rocker and two porch chairs plus a patterned Persian-like carpet that just fit next to the wood-bordered glass table a friend at work gave me. The entire two sides of the porch facing the gardens are screened in to keep the bugs out, as well as to enjoy the nature-like close surroundings.

However, we recently discovered the presence of another kind of intruder when we came out on the porch one morning recently to relax. I noticed a soccer ball-sized hole in the corner end by the outside screen door on the bottom edge.We both figured out it could have been a squirrel. Leo mentioned getting out our squirrel trap for the first time this year and capturing it for a ride to a new country home.

What I found so intriguing was why the squirrel chose that particular corner at that time. So, during the day as we discussed the situation, my husband mentioned that the peanut bird feeder I’d won at an Audubon meeting during last year’s drawing at Southwest Middle School could have caused a “squirrelly” interest. Leo had placed the feeder near the screen door to hang it later on a nearby tree. He thought the creature could smell the peanuts. That new idea just amazed me, even though I’d never even noticed the feeder sitting there in the same spot for several days.

Leo went to work immediately, repairing the torn and ragged screen with his table saw and a piece of measured plywood. Even though the incident caused a bit of confusion and extra work, I was amused to see the creature crawling up the screen for another attempt inside, and I captured a quick view of his tail after we removed the peanut goodies and Leo repaired the damage.

By this time, I was ready to have a neighborhood summer porch gathering to celebrate our back porch home sanctuary. I actually got the idea from a neighbor on nearby Lakeview Boulevard, who dropped off an invitation for their son’s high school graduation party. We weren’t even acquainted with them, but we knew some of the guests.

So about a dozen people attended our 1 to 3 p.m. afternoon invite, with several at a time until evening ended the interesting back porch conversations. Getting to know the neighbors  resulted in me baking a few homemade rhubarb pies for the first time this year. Even more  important, several of them who weren’t acquainted beforehand expressed similar interests and discussed possibly working together on projects.

Sara Aeikens is an Albert Lea resident.