Archive | November, 2015

Remembering Squirrelsquatch

13 Nov

There’s a lot to be said for living in the woods. It’s especially serene to sit on the porch in mid-spring with a warm, gentle breeze whispering through the trees & the smell of  the new season’s flowers on the wind. It’s very quiet & like no place else on Earth. It’s also beautiful watching from our sunroom as the leaves go through unbelievable color changes in early fall. And nothing can compete with that earthy, pungent odor of wet leaves in the woods that have been rained on for several days non-stop.

Surrounded on three sides by very old woods with very tall trees, we really don’t see our neighbors beside or behind us until the leaves have uncoupled from their branches to make tall piles on the ground at Thanksgiving. Until then, the world is inhabited by us & our neighbors across the street; no one else. It’s a delightful illusion.

We watch the seasons come & go, chronicled by the lovely view out our back windows & there’s simply nothing to equal that. Living in the woods is a singular experience, enjoyed especially by those of us who are tuned in to the beauty of each new day.

Living in the woods is not without pitfalls, however. Roofs get moldy unless you invest in those anti-mold shingles when you build or get a new roof (we did). We watch in horror during summer storms as those old, tall trees sway in 30 mph wind gusts, threatening to tumble into the house, sunroom or one of our vehicles (that actually happened to my car when it was only 6 months old). And there are a ton of leaves that need raking, blowing, sucking & mulching time & again during the fall. We deal & in the end we are always glad to live where we do because it is home & the woods offer comfort & just seem to wrap their warmth & protection around us…mostly.

The one thing that is associated with ‘woods dwelling’ that seemed innocuous, but totally isn’t, is squirrels. At my other house I used to feed one every day & even if I was late, he always got there on time & waited for me. So I was completely unprepared for the squirrels that inhabit the woods in this area. They are a different breed.

The first thing I noticed was my front door mat. Pieces of the woven natural fibers kept disappearing, then it became shredded & finally the picture of the cat in a hammock that adorned the mat had disappeared altogether. Along with the mat, some of the wood from our front steps & corner decorations on our deck railing  were damaged. There were teeth marks in the wood & deck & until I actually SAW a squirrel doing the damage I would have argued with the Pope that squirrels were gentle creatures that cause no damage to anything.

Several years ago in late fall we began hearing a rustling noise near the large, Palladian window in our second floor bedroom. We thought it was birds roosting on the eves until we began hearing actual scrambling in the attic above the master bedroom. The cat was intrigued. He’d race across the bed, bound to the back of the chair & stand on his back legs trying to find a vantage point perfect for at least hearing the activity in the attic. If we were able to actually GET to sleep, the racing cat woke us up.

The rustling noise advanced to scampering & what sounded like critters jumping from rafter to rafter. After a month or so we began hearing scrambling & scratching in the walls that sounded very much like shredded drywall falling. Willy suspected a squirrel invasion but couldn’t find where they might have been coming in. By then the cat was ecstatic. He began sleeping all day long, obviously saving his energy for tearing across us in the bed at night trying to get to the source of the wall sounds. We were a mess.

Fearing damage from chewed drywall & electrical wiring, & desperate for sleep, Willy called an exterminator. Arriving at our door looking for all the world like  Ghostbuster, the man spent what seemed like hours in our attic. He emerged none the worse for wear & gave us his diagnosis. We definitely had “squirrel activity,” but he, like Willy couldn’t find how & where they were entering the house. He made  a few suggestions, charged us a minimal fee for inspection, but not removal of our elusive squirrels & left. Who You Gonna Call ………..?

I was very concerned about relocating our pests & not actually harming them. One of Ghostbuster’s few suggestions was to set off a flea bomb in the attic. He said the smell would strongly encourage the squirrels to vacate the premises; AKA their balmy winter home in our Virginia attic. So Willy did that … not with one flea bomb, but two. I was never sure what immediate affect it had on the squirrels but none of US (Willy, the cat nor I) could sleep in the bedroom for several nights while that caustic cloud settled. But it seemed to work.

Just as we were enjoying the third week without attic sounds & “squirrel activity,” & were starting to believe that Ghostbuster was actually a miracle worker, 3 weeks before Christmas the squirrels were back; rummaging through the attic, chewing the drywall & swinging from the rafters. Our cat had totally lost interest by then & gave only an occasional disinterested glance towards the source of the commotion in the ceiling. We were thankful for small miracles.

In deference to the season, Willy drug our artificial Christmas tree out of the attic & proceeded to take the branches out of the box. Laughing, he called me to the living room where he showed me a neat pile of well-cleaned nuts lying among those artificial branches. The more branches he removed from the box, the more little piles of well-cleaned nuts he found. It was amazing that the industrious little rodents had not only cleaned & stored the nuts with such care & precision, but that they had chosen to place them in the next best thing to their natural habitat … an artificial tree. My respect for our “housemates” jumped several hundred points that day.

I was in awe of the squirrels’ ability to clean & neatly store those nuts & I told Willy that I couldn’t evict anyone or anything at Christmas. So I put those several piles of nuts in a disposable bowl & set them on the floor back in the attic. Willy gave me a bunch of reasons why that was a bad idea, including the fact that squirrels notoriously were carriers of fleas. I told him, “Not THESE squirrels,” & reminded him that he had recently set off not one, but two flea bombs in the attic. Our squirrel winter house guests were as flea-free as the inside of a watermelon. The nuts were gone in less than a week.

And so we ended up spending Christmas peacefully coexisting with a large family of squirrels; none of whom we had seen. Because there was OBVIOUS evidence of “squirrel activity” … well, duh … but we had never actually been witness to a squirrel “in-house” sighting, I began referring to our squirrels as Squirrelsquatch. Like Sasquatch, whose footprints have been seen just about everywhere as well as evidence of trash can scavenging, no one has ever REALLY, seriously documented a Sasquatch sighting … just like our Squirrelsquatch.

We endured a second winter hosting the Squirrelsquatch family & a second Christmas brought us more clean piles of nuts in the branches of our artificial tree. Like the very gracious host that I believe I am, a second time I placed the nuts in a disposable bowl & put them back in the attic; to be gone in a matter of days. Again, for me it was the influence of the holiday …

The following spring we got new gutters & the Squirrelsquatch family had expanded their living quarters to include the ceiling above our porch. The gutter installers found the hole that Squirrelsquatch & his kin were using as a front door & covered it. Fearing for their safety, I encouraged Willy to buy a Have-A-Heart trap & he placed it in the attic; baited with cheese & enticing amounts of crunchy peanut butter. Willy’s plan was to take ‘anyone’ caught in the trap across the county line & dump them in Campbell County where he had friends who owed him … well, something… & would give the Squatches as good a home in their attic as they’d found in ours.

Fortunately, nothing was ever in the Have-A-Heart & we guessed the noise the gutter people made while installing the new gutters prompted our squirrels to leave before their front door was permanently closed. To me, that was a good thing.

This year at Halloween Willy & I were going through the catalog from the costume company we order Halloween costumes from & we ran across a New Item – adult squirrel costumes complete with inflatable tails. Willy said we should get them as a way of remembering the Squirrelsquatch family that shared our home through two Christmas seasons. So we did.

Not only did we win First Prize in a Halloween Costume Contest wearing those squirrel suits, it gave us a moment to remember Squirrelsquatch & his family; how cool they actually were & the respect I felt for them & their work ethic when we found those piles of nuts in our artificial Christmas tree branches.

This summer I bought a new front door mat … one that is made out of artificial fibers & is still intact as we start into this year’s holiday season.

We wish the Squirrlesquatch family Happy Holidays! I keep searching for some little part of me that misses them, but to be honest … I don’t.

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