Mystery Solved?

Let’s return, shall we, to the mysterious nest in our shed. To review the background of the mystery click here . The shed is located at the top of the slope behind our house and faces out to the knot garden.
Going towards the shed we are distracted by the rows of iris reticulata ‘Harmony” in its full regalia. Shown above, the southeast quadrant bed.

This is pretty close to the vision we had in mind when these blue beauties were planted several years ago. They have multiplied nicely and filled in more to escape the soldiers in a line planting technique that we have a hard time getting away from here. It is wished that they would be in bloom when the white viridiflora tulips also planted in each quadrant open, but that will never happen, the tulips flower later. We love them anyway. Shown above, the northeast quadrant.

Okay, we are now in the shed. Back to the story of the nest. Here is what it looked like on the day it was discovered, March 2, 2008. The moss was soft and moist, there were sticks and twigs included, I can’t say they were woven in, it was more of a stuffing than a weaving. There was a small hole in the moss near the ceiling where something had made a home.

After the mystery was described in the post, it was suggested by the commenters to check for droppings. We went up and looked at the ceiling edge. At the opposite end of the same board as the one that held the nest, this was found. They look like poppy seeds. There were phone calls and emails made to the local extension office of the University of Tennessee here in town about the identification of the animal that could have made this nest. We have not heard back from them, and understand that this is not a high priority compared to the drought we are having in this area and the impact it is having on the local farmers.

So we have decided to play Inspector Gardener and come up with a solution ourselves. We know about the nest and the droppings. We also know that the shed door was always secured using the above latch. There was a space at both the top and bottom of the double doors that was large enough for birds and/or mammals to squeeze inside.

Also installed when the shed was built is this lock. It is a little too high for me to reach easily so it wasn’t ever used, and it had been painted over in the open position. We began locking the shed with this bolted right after the nest was discovered. It was a little frightening to think that there was a wild animal of some kind trying to move in with the shovels, rakes and hoes. What if, in a gardening frenzy, one was to quickly enter the shed looking for that one tool necessary to complete a crucial gardening task and frighten our little nest maker? Would the cornered creature show us sharp teeth? Or even hiss? (Shudder.) The shed was even avoided for a few days. Finally the need to fetch a tool from the shed overcame that fear. We went in.

This is what was found. The nest has dried up and is falling apart. My better half messed it up a little, and it has not been touched since then. The moss is crumbly and breaks easily. It is now all over the floor, not hanging down the side of the wall like it was before. It is still fairly large though. Now, here is what Inspector Gardener thinks happened. A larger mammal, not a bird as was hoped, made this nest. A smaller mammal, probably a mouse also could enter the gap at the bottom of the doors and thought this nest looked like a good, safe, dry place to make his home. The larger mammal decided that the corner of the ceiling really wasn’t to his liking, and besides, a mouse had moved in. Anyway, someone had locked the door and he could no longer get in!

And this is our prime suspect!


To end this mystery, we will be cleaning up in the shed, sweeping up the moss and twigs, putting them in the compost, and from now on, we will keep the doors latched. We are not one hundred percent positive about this determination, but we do have a plethora of squirrels around and about our property, so for the sake of a tidy ending, the squirrel did it! Sorry Mister Squirrel, but we have a variety of trees for your home building pleasure, not as dry and warm as the shed, but that’s why you have a fur coat.
We may be hearing more from our squirrel friends in the future, just as a teaser to what is coming up!


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33 Responses to Mystery Solved?

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What a great story Frances. I think it a very reasonable deduction. It is a pretty nest. Here the squirrels use lots of leaves in their nests. This is how we can tell it is not a birds nest, with all the leaves sticking out here and there around the edges.

  2. Frances, says:

    Lisa, thanks, your opinion is highly valued here, you seem to know your nests.

  3. Gail says:


    It is always a joy to stop by the Fraire Garden and hear a story. The Iris is distractingly elegant in full regalia.


  4. lintys says:

    Frances I think you’re correct. It does look very much like a squirrel’s nest. We usually have no less than 5 of them in our back yard trees.

  5. Kerri says:

    Your theory certainly sounds plausible. It was a fascinating nest and story.
    It must be a relief to know you can now go into the shed and not expect to bump into a mystery critter!
    We had an unexpected visit from a raccoon yesterday 🙂
    Thanks for sharing. We learn so much from each other’s experiences.

  6. Dave says:

    Sounds like a reasonable hypothesis!

  7. Crafty Gardener says:

    This has been a fascinating story to follow. I think you are probably right, that it was a squirrel and you are wise to stop it from entering the shed.

  8. Mr. McGregor's Daughter says:

    “Round up the usual suspects!” I hope you have no more tenants at sufferance in your shed.
    How do you deal with the growing foliage of Iris reticulata? I used to grow them, but they always looked so unkempt after they finished blooming while the leaves grew ever longer.

  9. Marie says:

    What a interesting story Frances. The photos from your garden are very beautiful!

  10. Annie in Austin says:

    By the time you finished leading us along the garden path I was too enchanted by the iris reticulata to be afraid of what was behind the shed door!

    The theory sounds logical, Frances, and your experience may remind me to keep our shed door shut.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  11. ourfriendben says:

    I too would have said it was a squirrel, Frances, as soon as I saw that nest. Ecccchhhh!!! Tell him or her to head back out to the trees and leave your shed alone! And yes, what beautiful iris. I am totally jealous!!!

  12. Frances, says:

    Gail, what a nice thing to say, thanks. This is the iris’ time to shine.

    Linda, thanks for the backing. It fits my brain nicely to think it was a squirrel.

    Kerri, thanks. Yikes about the raccoon, they are very scary!

  13. brokenbeat says:

    at this hour, while listening to danish music, your story is feeding my imagination and my mind’s eye pictures all sorts of possible creatures, fictional and not, that could be further perpetuating their guile (or perhaps happy goings-about) in the shed-lair, but fear not. my imagination predicates regardless of the pointing-to-the-common-squirrel facts obtained in your sleuthing.

  14. Frances, says:

    Dave, thanks, reasonable is a compliment around here.

    Crafty, I agree, there have been some bad squirrel in building stories around.

    MMD, HA! Poor squirrels, getting blamed for everything around here. The foliage of the iris does get long and gangly, I just blind myself to it, it becomes invisible as it dies down.;->

  15. Frances, says:

    Marie, thanks for visiting!

    Annie, we do love the iris now, and keeping the shed door shut is something we were doing anyway, just not shut enough!

    ourfriendben, thanks and welcome. I was excited about the thought of a cute little bird, but don’t care much for rodents.

  16. Frances, says:

    brokenbeat, thanks as always for a thought provoking comment. love.

  17. Robin's Nesting Place says:

    The iris bed is spectacular.
    Glad you have solved the mystery.

  18. Frances, says:

    Robin’s Nesting Place, thanks, me too.

  19. Melanie says:

    Hooray, I was so excited as soon as I saw your title. Oohh, then I had to stop for a moment and enjoy the photos, I love the opening shot of the shed and the knot garden!

    Sounds like you have your culprit, can’t say I’m not disappointed it’s not some incredibly rare bird that squeezes through shed cracks and makes moss nests but still…it sure was an enjoyable mystery!

  20. Barbee' says:

    Whew! Now that’s solved. Anyone else have a mystery story – that’s not too scary!?

  21. rusty in miami says:

    Great story, I put my money on the squirrel, I don’t have any in my garden but they have quite a reputation around here.

  22. Frances, says:

    Melanie, thanks, I wanted a rare bird too.

    Barbee’, thanks and welcome. You have a beautiful site.

    rusty, thanks, squirrels do have a well earned reputation, don’t they?

  23. semi says:

    Those retics look great in the knot garden. I love seeing that nest it’s so semi

  24. Frances, says:

    semi, it took me a minute to realize you were talking about the iris! They are coming along nicely.

  25. Mary Beth says:

    Mystery solved! And as a bonus, we got a tour of your lovely garden!

  26. Meems says:

    Frances: oh I am so envious of those irises and you get to have tulips!
    I think you have come to the right conclusion. Squirrels do make a large nest and a mouse could easily take up residence and slip through the tiny crack when the squirrel could not longer get it. Those pesky squirrels… definitely a nuisance in more ways than ten!
    Meems @ HoeandShovel

  27. Frances, says:

    Mary Beth, Thanks. We did think we had the culprit until we finally heard from the extension office, it was a carolina wren!

    meems, thanks, we are so lucky to be able to grow tulips, sometimes there are failures though. The extension office says the nest is that of a carolina wren, not a squirrel!

  28. Meems says:

    Frances, Now I feel foolish for not thinking of that. Of course! Carolina wrens are everywhere here and they get in my garage when the door is open and build away. For some reason they are not discouraged that the door is not open most of the time. They also build very sloppy nests on just about any ledge that suits them. Wow. It was too easy. LOL

  29. Frances, says:

    Meems, maybe it was too easy, it was my first thought since they have built nests all over the place here, but it was so messy and the birders seemed to think it wasn’t a bird. Thanks for following the story!

  30. Di DeCaire says:

    The first photo of Iris r. has me swooning. Still under snow here in Upstate NY.

  31. Frances, says:

    Di DeCaire, welcome and thanks. Your blog is lovely, what a wonderful garden you have.

  32. Kylee says:

    Glad to hear your mystery is solved, Frances!

    Ooooh, love the iris! Ours is just now peeking out of the ground. It will be awhile before we see blooms!

  33. Frances, says:

    Kylee, thanks, so am I. We will be back to normal around here now. The iris are wonderful, ours are starting to fade a bit, they are fleeting but beautiful.

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