Friday, September 23, 2005

I thought I heard a...

Last night as we were sitting down to reheated homemade chicken pesto pizza (yes, life is good), I noticed that the 35 pound bag of black oil sunflower seeds that we have for the birds was rustling. Making little crinkly noises in the corner, all by itself. No wonder Maxcat has been going nuts back there periodically. It’s inhabited.

As the bag was still sealed, and there was not seed spilling out of it onto the kitchen floor, I figured that it was not a mouse. Also, mice can make a lot more noise than a faint, “did you hear that?” background scratching. It was probably those annoying little grey brown mothy creatures that hatch from squirmy cream-colored grubs and often wind up in your cabinet-stored bulk dry goods. Judging from the noise, there was a lot of them. A bag to be opened outside.

We have to keep the birdseed inside because our squirrels are little demons. Don’t worry, I am long over the bug eyed, crazy with venom desperation that people often get when trying to keep squirrels out of their birdfeeders. There’s just no point in worrying about it. Accept it: they will get the birdseed. One way or another. If they have to break into your toolbox and build something, they will get the birdseed. I am even at peace with the fact that they will dig up any plant or seed that I put into the ground and replace it with a single kernel of corn or a dried-up nut. They killed my first planting of strawberries this way. (Things to do today: dig out fresh new strawberry plants, bite through roots, discard. Replace with old corn.) They have forced me to adapt because they are more clever and more persistent, and as I am supposedly a higher form of life, I can choose the road of tolerance and appreciate the ingenuity and tenacity of my fellow creatures. It’s even OK that they chewed up the edges of our little cooler. We should have put it away. They are on a mission, and if we keep providing supplies, what can we expect but that mission succeed?

It’s just that since they ruined both of our finch feeders by chewing out the tiny holes meant only to let thistle seed through, to the size of quarters, or, in one case, a half inch sized gaping ribbon that goes three quarters of the way around the whole tube (like chewing off your arm to get out of a trap), some of my birdfeeding enthusiasm expired. Birdfeeders are not inexpensive, in the relative scheme of things, and I did not have 60 spare bucks to replace them. Without them, the sunflower and safflower feeders just went by the wayside. All this for seven pieces of millet. Little bastards. Never buy the thistle mix. Shell out the extra 75 cents and go for the good stuff.

But I’m over it. It’s fine. Even the tiny red squirrel who sits in the branch above the feeders and screams rhythmically until all other life forms vacate them. He’s fine too. Really. 6:00 in the morning? No problem. He’s aggressive. He knows what he wants.

He’s loud as fuck.

I have to make some sacrifices for the fact that my garden is magic. If I have to put up with chewing and digging and scratching and cheeping, so be it. I get incredible raspberries and red spinach that replants itself and glorious amounts of basil, which made last night’s meal possible. So, I put little cages around new plants and fencing over top of any disturbed ground, and they seem to leave things alone. In return, they get sunflower seeds. Like last night. What a boon.

We took the bag outside behind the house, and Pete opened it up. Little puffs of bug flew out everywhere, and hundreds more were swarming in the bag, tiny ribbed larvae inching along as well. Clearly this seed could not be stored inside anymore. It was pretty much done. The moths had not hurt anything; I just don’t need them in the kitchen. In my flour. In the oatmeal. Which meant that it all had to go out: fill the tube feeders, fill the platform feeder, cover the ground below it, and leave the rest in an open plastic wastebasket by the steps. Pete wanted to cover it, but I said that the chances of them not chewing up the wastebasket itself were much greater if we simply left it exposed. I half expected to open the back door this morning and find twenty five squirrels, passed out on the steps, in the driveway, in the wastebasket, covered in sunflower shells, little paws on their distended bellies, trickles of drool on the cement, as they twitched and hiccupped in the midst of the best dream ever, muttering about how much they love each other and how great those seeds were, man.

The reality was a crisp, cool, perfect fall morning and one single squirrel in the driveway, surrounded by empty shells, eagerly chipping away at the bounty.

Yes, life is good.

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