My grandmother Pirie used to say to me (with relative frequency) "Tell the truth and shame the devil." So I guess I'd better fess up ...immortal soul, clean conscience and all that. . So here it goes...... I chase squirrels.
I just can't help it. I'll be sitting there with a fresh brewed coffee, reading the morning paper, the sun glinting off the fresh fallen snow when out of the corner of my eye I detect unnatural movement at the bird feed. "Squirrel!!", I yell to no one in particular and leap off my chair.
In the old days I would have suffered cold wet feet and risked frost bite but over the years I have learned, oh I have learned. My easy to slip into black rubber boots are in their appointed place by the sliding door. Slip,slip and then the all important click, click of the lock on the door. If this is one of my regular marauders this may be the end of the chase. Click, click I go again pointedly. The enemy holds its ground, inverted on the feeder chugging sunflower seeds like some uni student at a kegger. Clearly this one needs training.
I slide the door open and leap out onto the deck. The enemy changes his stance and perches on top of the feeder. I step closer and clap my hands. Hand clapping is the ultimate weapon. I have tried snowballs but I can't throw worth a hoot and the basic building material isn't always at hand. Besides I'm not out to injure anything, just to move it along. For some reason the clapping works on a great number of animal species : squirrel, cats, dogs, raccoons, though if you have really big animals in your yard like mountain lions or bears I'd probably recommend trying something else. (Probably doesn't work with deaf animals like snakes either) Exceptions aside it works a charm on squirrels. However it has to be delivered properly. You just can't sit inside dozing on the couch and randomly clap your hands in hopes of maintaining some sort of homeland security. There is a definite method to this. Read and learn. Read and learn.
The squirrel maintains its perch and waits for the next gambit. I close the distance a bit and clap once more. It leaps to the nearby small pine tree and does a poor job of hiding. I close the distance yet again and repeat the single clap. The squirrel now goes to the neighbour's maple tree where it climbs to an unreachable height, then turns to make its chirping noises at me. This is the critical moment in the game. Depending on how cold it is, and how I am dressed (some mornings not so much) and how likely it is that the neighbours will see me trespass on their property I approach the tree and begin to clap furiously. If all goes well, the enemy leaps from the tree to the fence and begins to scamper away. The really bold ones go all the way down to the end of the block where the fence makes a 90 degree turn but sit on the final fence post waiting for me to go back inside. I never blink first at this point. Until I see that furry tail go around the corner I will stand there with frost building up on my eyelashes while trying to ignore Jan's pleas of "Get back inside here before someone sees you!" I always stand my ground.
There is fair bit of science in my approach. There have been many a text written on conditioning and every good animal trainer knows that it works. If it didn't, the big Hollywood animals like the lions and grizzly bears would eat all of those expensive actors instead of rolling around with them and then playing dead. I know that if I am consistent with what I do that the squirrel will eventually become so conditioned to the routine that all I have to do is get up and go to the sliding door and give it a good couple of clicks and the squirrel will scamper away right around the bend of the fence. Unfortunately each and every squirrel that finds one of my bird feeders has to be trained and there seems to be an unending supply of new recruits.
Now I know that some "liberal" thinks will say things like, "The squirrels need to eat too." Yes they do. They need to eat squirrel food. I buy bird food. It says so on the bag. It does not say bird and squirrel food, just bird food. Some will say, "Just put it somewhere where the squirrel can't get at it." There is no such a place.
As a somewhat cruel spirited Christmas present Jan gave me some sort of squirrel feeder. It was basically a suet mix filled with various seeds normally associated with bird food and then pressed into the shape of a large acorn. How "cute". It had a piece of wire embedded in it which had a loop at the end so that it could be hung from a tree to feed your furry friends. Not immediately my favourite gift but it had potential.
I had heard that squirrels have trouble navigating clothesline, because to them it acts like a bungee cord. Armed with this knowledge I used a step ladder to hang a three foot length of clothesline from not only the highest branch that I could reach but the one that extended itself the most. I tied the clothesline to the metal loop and declared "Game on!
The first four days were nothing short of delicious. I sat glancing over my morning paper at a small gathering of the furry faithful that had come to drool at the offering which swayed pendulously before them. Their entire crew seemed engaged in a group brain fart while dribbles of coffee quietly escaped the corners of my smile.
Then something happened. I won't go into the horrific details of how the nibbling took place but I will say that the last I saw of the "acorn" was its severely gnawed and truncated body being dragged under the low lying branch of a pine tree. Someone had clearly lied about the clothesline bit.
Spring and Fall bring fresh horrors to the squirrel war. In the Fall these rampaging rodents dig holes in manicured lawns and even in flower pots in order to bury acorns which they have no hope of ever finding again. In the Spring they prove me dead right by fruitlessly digging holes at random for their stored treasures while somehow managing to make off with every tulip bulb that was planted six months ago. A set of uninsulated light weight boots should be left by the door throughout both seasons.
Summer brings peace to the land. The bird feeders are not filled, the lawn and flower pots have been repaired and replenished. I wear my flip flop sandals that have pictures of squirrels embedded on the soles and calmly drink coffee from my mug on which a squirrel asks," Could you direct me to the nearest bird feeder?"
The enemy comes to the yard now only to drink from the pond, which I allow because both sides need to rest and recover........... because this isn't over.
Thanks grandma, I feel much better getting that off of my chest. Ken
Sunday, 15 April 2012
Today, the G&S Choir sang at Golf's Steakhouse. During my solo, the power went out. Jan and I put together this song, to be sung to the tune of "Singing in the Rain".
I was singing my refrain,
Just singing my refrain,
What a glorious feeling,
But the lights didn’t remain.
We were singing for crowds,
But it got dark up above,
The sun’s in my heart
But my song got the shove.
The gloom didn’t chase
Everyone from the place
I’m glad you couldn’t see
All the panic on my face.
The guitar couldn’t strum
The piano wouldn’t hum
What a glorious feeling
To be backed up by a drum.
I’m singing my refrain,
Just singing my refrain,
We blocked all the exits
So the crowd would remain.
It’s so dark on the stage
That we can’t see the page
So we're singing, singing….