Just because we call something, something, doesn’t make it so. Assumptions can be damaging.
The story of Not a Nut begins on a cold, early spring day on my back patio, shortly after I’d moved into my house. A large squirrel approached me cautiously (because I was a new human) yet boldly (because it was used to handouts). “Oh…this isn’t a good sign,” I thought.
As I worked in the yard, I found peanuts stashed literally everywhere: in the ground, under leaves, tucked into crevices, even wedged into shrubbery as though it were some kind of leafy refrigerator. Hungry, persistent rodents questing for their buried loot dug divots in my garden beds, unearthed my bulbs, uprooted tender seedlings, and generally trashed my landscaping. The same bulb would be dug up four or five times, with a single bite nipped out every time. “You’ve already tasted that one!” I yelled at a nearby squirrel. “You didn’t like it! Why did you dig it up again?!?”
Finally I realized: it was multiple squirrels digging up the bulbs. Each one had to taste the same bulb and pass judgment, tiny furry food critics who turned up their noses after wreaking mayhem and destruction.
And I realized: there was a connection between lots of peanuts, and lots of squirrels. I had a talk with my neighbor, and shared what I’d learned: peanuts aren’t good for squirrels.
- Peanuts are legumes, not nuts. They don’t have the same nutrients as tree nuts and can contribute to an unbalanced diet and malnutrition.
- Raw peanuts can harbor aflatoxin, a toxic mold which damages the liver in squirrels and birds.
- Raw peanuts and other legumes contain a trypsin inhibitor that prevents the pancreas from producing trypsin, an enzyme essential for the absorption of protein by the intestine. It contributes to metabolic bone disease (MBD) which causes a squirrel’s bones to weaken.
“Oh!” said my neighbor, who hadn’t known. She quit feeding them peanuts, and that (along with other anti-squirrel measures, such as squirrel-proof bird feeders) eventually got me down to a manageable two diligently-destructive excavators.
Calling a peanut a “nut” doesn’t make it so. Assuming it’s a nut has potentially deadly consequences for squirrels, who don’t know any better.
But we do know better—or we should. Calling anything what it’s not doesn’t make it so. But we keep doing it out of ignorance, or hate, or just habit, for decades and for generations, without questioning it. We need to question it. Letting assumptions dig grooves into our minds can have damaging consequences for us and those around us.
And if I ever get lazy and forget that, I’ll come across a peanut in the yard to remind me.