Nuts about squirrels? Retired N.S. teacher shares tales from the backyard

·2 min read
Nancy Rose's books feature real squirrels in elaborate sets she makes herself. (©Nancy Rose 2018 - image credit)
Nancy Rose's books feature real squirrels in elaborate sets she makes herself. (©Nancy Rose 2018 - image credit)

A retired teacher in Nova Scotia has combined her love of squirrels and photography to make a second career for herself — right in her own backyard.

Nancy Rose's sixth children's book, Oakley the Squirrel: Camping 1, 2, 3!, comes out next week and, like its predecessors, features photographs of squirrels in elaborately staged sets — this time in camping scenes.

Rose told CBC Radio's Portia Clark that her squirrel journey started in 2010, with just a few snaps of the rambunctious rodents in her Bedford backyard before she moved to Hubley.

"I was learning how to use a digital camera and practicing taking pictures of just about everything and there were the squirrels, raiding my bird feeders," Rose said.

"After awhile just a squirrel sitting on a deck rail got a little boring, so I stuck a few little props outdoors, a coffee mug and whatever, and it kind of grew from there."

Rose, who worked as a home economics teacher and guidance counselor, said photographing the squirrels helped clear her mind after work and was a "really great way to relax."

The teacher retired in 2016, but has continued to build squirrel-sized props and sets, which feature the animals doing laundry, eating at a restaurant and building a snowman, among other adorable activities.

Rose shares many of her photographs on her social media pages, and is now making a living writing children's books with her photographs.

She said for her latest book, she worked everyday for two months to build the camping props and sets. The cover of the book features squirrels roasting marshmallows over a campfire.

Workman Publishing
Workman Publishing

She said some sets are more elaborate than others and take longer to make, but it's a great way to avoid housework.

The squirrels are not always co-operative, Rose said, so she uses chopped peanuts hidden in strategic places to attract them. Then she takes a huge number of photos to get the shot she wants.

"Sometimes I'll have everything set up for a whole day and at the end of the day, I download my 500 photos on the computer and I might only get four or five that are really good," she said.

Asked if she plans to branch out to photographing other animals, Rose said she plans to stick with her nut-loving backyard residents because of their "cute factor."

She said they make the perfect candidates because of their little arms and their ability to sit and hold things in a way that a bird or deer can't.

Her new book, part of her Nutty Numbers series, will be available at booksellers from May 9.