Thursday, 18 June 2015

Smarter than the average squirrel, we are

It’s only 9:00 in the morning, and already we have had an exciting day. We caught the squirrel!  The latest chapter of the story began  last night when we heard rattling outside the  window — about 10:30, just after we had gone to bed to bed.  

I threw  a jacket over my nightgown, grabbed a flashlight, and ran out to the driveway. I could see a squirrel fussing at the air vent. Earlier, Greg had taped the flap down with very sticky packing tape — a temporary solution until our builder’s “boys” (his employees, not his offspring) could  fix it properly.

I shrieked. The squirrel ran into the woodpile. I ran in to the house. Greg and I discussed  tape;  I felt we should tape the vent even more, as one side of the flap had been bent.

As I went to the back door, I jokingly said I’d better open it carefully or the squirrel might come in. Well, those were words well-spoken, as there it was right on the porch.  I startled it so it jumped through the railing. I jumped back into the house. Clearly this was a squirrel afraid of nothing: Mother Courage and her as-yet-unborn Children.

Yes, photos I took of her of her last night proved conclusively that she was not celibate or a bachelor after all:

I reopened the door and we crept out into utter darkness — lit only by the motion light, pointed in the wrong direction. I held both of our flashlights, so the light would be brighter for Greg’s  re-taping. That done, we went back to bed.

At 6:00 in the morning, I heard not only scrabbling but also tiny shrieks. Were these squirrel labour pains??? They originated in a different location: the gap in the siding under the eaves. I had inspected it yesterday. Horrors! Was the squirrel now nesting in the wall under the eaves? Did we now have seven or eight squirrels where before we had only one?

Pulling on a pair of pants over my nightgown, I left the house and checked the siding; indeed, there was a wider gap now.  Then I checked the trap. The cream cheese container with the peanut butter bait had been pulled nearly out of the cage, which of course was empty. But there were little claw marks across the peanut butter.

At this point Greg joined me, and as we were discussing the state of affairs, one of our neighbours came by. She was walking her dog. It was 6:30 a.m.  No, we didn’t usually get up this early. We exchanged squirrel stories. Apparently someone’s daughter had her car disabled when she visited because a squirrel got into the engine and chewed up the air filter. This was not encouraging news.

While we chatted two squirrels ran, no — gamboled — through the branches of the fir trees. They were playing tree tag — maybe to bring on labour. My sense of vicarious fun diminished rapidly.

Really and truly, I knew deep in my heart that Greg and I were smarter than the average squirrel. That would be both of our brains taken together, mind you.

We toyed with the idea of putting some mouse poison from the mouse traps we had strewn around the inside of the cottage but decided that would be bad for other wildlife.  Our neighbour said someone, maybe her husband, used to just shoot them. I wasn’t sure of my ability in that regard and could envision shooting up the cottage in a wild attempt to coordinate aiming and firing. Also we don’t own a gun, so there were complications in that regard, but I must admit I had given it serious thought in the middle of the night.

Greg came up with the brilliant notion of attaching the bait container to the bottom of the cage so it couldn’t be moved. He did this.

Just for the heck of it after breakfast, I went out and lo and behold, there was movement near the vent… in the cage… Busted!

A very angry, frustrated, frightened squirrel was trying everything she could to get out. She had eaten all the peanut butter. 

Long story short, we put the cage in the trunk of the car in a box lined with plastic just in case she was a car-sick type of squirrel — or worse. 

Then we drove off to Little Pond where there are fewer houses and more woods and let her go in a secret surrounding. 

She ran off instantly, went partway up a tree where she paused and looked back at us. “Of all the nerve,” she seemed to say.

On our way, we had noticed the Little Pond bakery was open, and after we had said good bye to our erstwhile tenant, we dropped in and bought hot biscuits fresh out of the oven and some iced cherry squares. Now you know what traps us.

Speaking of which, flushed with success, we reset the trap as soon as we got back and then settled in for another cup of coffee and a hot biscuit each to celebrate.

Epilogue: Just finished this when I heard a noise, went out and there was another squirrel staring up at me from the woodpile … I told him he was not as cute as he looked. Film at 11:00, as they say.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Trespassers Will

We are back at the cottage for another summer. I am always filled with trepidation, as we turn off the highway onto Howe Point Road and I see the cottage for the first time in eight months. Is everything OK? Yes, it all seems intact, at least from from the outside. Big relief, especially considering the 25 feet of snow which smothered the province last winter. But what about the interior? Have mice chewed the place to bits?

Not this year, thank goodness, but we did have a number of other trespassers  from the animal, plant and human worlds.

The plumber, who came a few weeks ago to turn on our water, reported evidence of a squirrel in the crawl space under the cottage. Thank goodness, he seems to be a bachelor, the squirrel not the plumber, that is, as there is no evidence of a nest for babies. I was heartless in wanting him gone dead or alive, until I saw him scampering around the bunkie, the woodpile and most recently the deck.  So cute.  He seems to have eschewed the crawl space now that the weather has improved. One of the vents, which he pushed on to get in, needs repair, something Greg discovered when he lowered himself into the depths.  Greg is tired of doubling over and ducking his head down there, so Nutkin's departure is a good thing.  

Alas, the bad news is that Nutkin has also rejected the live trap we set. We used  peanut butter as irresistible bait. A friend suggested using Squirrel peanut butter rather than the No- Name brand might have been the better choice. 

And people at church attest to the native intelligence of PEI squirrels. Apparently, they have long since figured out you can get at the bait by putting a paw through the bars and not actually going in. 

We have reduced the amount of peanut butter to a dollop rather than a ladle-full and have now placed the trap out by the woodpile. I am not holding my breath. The young woman who sold us our trap at Home Hardware in Souris said they caught two birds, a mink and several other critters before nabbing their squirrel.

We shall of course have to get the vent fixed. Our builder was by early one morning to investigate, and the thumping and crashing convinced us we had caught the squirrel, but no, unless squirrels have also learned to drive trucks and are called Mackenzie.

My second area of concern was the labyrinth which I have renamed the dandelinth, because of the thousands of  dandelions now overtaking it.  There is also a lot of twitch grass invading the path. However, the path is still visible, and Greg has made a few more  runs for the large, flat, red sandstone rocks we use to mark the outline.

Initially I was quite dismayed by the weediness. But then I thought it is a wild labyrinth not a perfect one.  Dandelions are great for bees, but I must admit not seeing too many redeeming features to twitch grass. I may try to discourage it by pouring on a mixture of vinegar, salt and Blue Dawn dish detergent, a non-poisonous remedy  recommended by friends on Facebook. I will keep you posted.

Then there was the possibility of ear-wigs in the well. The plastic casing around the electrical wires had come apart, thereby opening a way for bugs to crawl in. Initially I thought the mowers had hit it, but more likely it was the result of frost heaving the ground and snapping the housing. When I went to pay the plumber’s bill, I asked about it. Turned out it was something plumbers fix, not the well drillers. Go figure!

Lucky I mentioned it, as having earwigs get into your well contaminates the well and is therefore something to be avoided  at all costs. A somewhat taciturn young man turned up at our doorway at breakfast  the next day and once we realized why he was there, he put things to rights and we had a nice chat about the weather. So our delicious water is now safe from insect invasion.

The fourth trespassers were of  the human variety and a bit more complicated to deal with. I’ll save that for another instalment, as I  have promised myself not to be too lengthy. Also I have run out of steam for this afternoon and feel a murder mystery beckoning.

 ‘Til later then…