Saturday, November 24, 2007

Some quality squirrel time, and I have tea with Psycho's sister

According to the forecast for this morning there were a few hours of clouds before a week of rain/sleet/snow. The overnights recently had been below zero (below 32 degrees), and the daytime temps were 3 to 5 degrees with wind chill. And because of the cold I had been thinking and worrying about my neurotic yet somehow lovable family. No, no, not my HUMAN family, I mean my squirrels! Someone has to care about them and that is going to be me! I know this smacks of me going off the deep end and “them” finding me in a few months without food or heat but a wall stacked with shelled peanuts and birdseed (with me wearing the standard ‘nutty-lady’ shapeless knitted funky hat which used to be a teapot cozy).

It is a hard job but someone has to find those moment of sunshine and feed the squirrels. And yes I anthropomorphize (attribute human qualities to non-human things) them from nose tip to tail. For example, in this picture, I am feeding Twitchy while an envious sea gull looks on. I might feed the gull except, a) they shit on me, b) they shit on my car and c) they shit on my windows. Three things which the squirrels have never done (these are three habits that tick me off; take note readers who might want a free meal at my place in the future). I call this squirrel Twitchy because he has a very short and pathetic tail which he thinks is magnificent but mainly because this squirrel has ADD. I mean, Twitchy is incapable of running a straight line, much less going two feet without being distracted. I would bring him squirrel Ritalin if they created it.

A reader suggested I was channeling Snow White to get the animals to flock around me. Not really that complicated; first make sure your feet, hands and groin smell like food (good advice when feeding squirrels, bad advice when feedings bears!). Then simply “become the squirrel!” As you can see in this picture, the squirrel and I have the same hunched over posture. I have become a version of Squirrel Santa, a giant wheeled squirrel bringing peanut gifts for all. You may also notice my NEW wonderful skull scarf I bought on Thursday. In the UK, the scarf you wear indicates the sports team you support. I am supporter of “Team Terminal.” Members of the team don’t always head for the goalposts right away, and there is often a lot of weaving about, but we all get there in the end.

At first we had a great deal of difficulty getting any black squirrels to approach. It seems that in November, like for the Grizzly Bears, the older and faster squirrels had already gone to nap (or off to a party somewhere?). So more grey squirrels and a few skittish black ones. This was one of the most confident of the grey’s who had no problem using my feet as a begging platform. I am sure he will be back with a tiny guitar and a sign soon.

Probably, like me, you want to know, “Where is Psycho?” I mean, there are black squirrels and then there are black squirrels who launch themselves right onto your lap (and try to steal from you). We went back to the grove and was approached by a cheeky black squirrel who a second later climbed up my black handrims, grabbed the peanut and did a back flip off the chair (seriously!). I like this picture though because while he seems interested somewhat in the peanut it could as likely be that Victoria is reduced to hiring squirrels as companion animals and he is pushing my chair.

So, what about Psycho? We went all up and down and every time a black squirrel ran toward me, I thought, “This is him.” But then they would get all wary and edgy and you could tell it just wasn’t Psycho. That is until Psycho’s little sister showed up. It was obvious from the way she approached that they were from the same family. However, Psycho arrives at parties with a belch and grabs two handfuls of the hors d’oeuvres you spent three hours making and stuffs them in his mouth. She, a little sister by the look of her, was obviously the one people go, “And she is related to him?” and is named after a flower like Daisy or Violet.

I mean, she walzed in with a charm and elan of the assumption there ALWAYS a standing invitation for HER. But this was enacted more like a friend or person of grace dropping in for a congenial tea in the sun than the smash-n-grab equivalent of a meal.
She climbed up, positioned herself, took what was offered and ate in those tiny sized nibbles that were beaten into us as manners of a well bred girl…or squirrel in this case.

I like to think of her as Violet or Fiona, and quite honestly it was more than a little disappointment when she turned and headed off, “Other engagements,” she said with that smile, “you know how it is.” Ahhhhh...so soon? A human and squirrel lesbian relationship is wrong right? Does that count even if we’re just dating? Still, I want her to be my best (squirrel) girlfriend. We can have a slumber party!

She never came back (I am starting to see this as a story set in WWII and she is stationed up north and we promise to write each other every day.....).

But we continued on, thought it was getting cold, very cold by this time. We feed a few more squirrels including this black one who decided instead of just jumping up and taking the peanut to turn it into an aerobics class, with the “Stretch and all the way out now....hold it, hold it, do you feel the burn?” Whatever. I’m just the dispenser of peanuts, they want to be neurotic, that’s their choice. Oh gosh, now I sound like a bad counselor. Um, what is it I say next: “I can’t make you become a saner squirrel, it has to be someone you want for yourself.”

I came, I gave peanuts, I met and had tea on the green with Psycho’s sister, I got a crush, she left me, I sulked, I gave a few more peanuts and I went home. Sort of classic day in the life of Elizabeth actually. Especially when you throw in my new “Team Terminal” scarf (The only team that LIKES going into overtime!). So I don't care what cool thing you were doing this weekend, because I want you to envy me. I communed with nature (and broke several biblical laws of inter-species attraction!)

18 comments:

lilwatchergirl said...

A human and squirrel lesbian relationship is wrong right? Does that count even if we’re just dating?

Ahahaha. I did love this post. More squirrel pictures please!

tornwordo said...

Thanks again for the charming and fascinating glimpse into the squirrel world. I love the anthropomorphization. (spelled wrong, but you know what I mean.)Thanks for inspiring broad grins.

Marla Fauchier Baltes said...

I so love the picture of that squirrel pushing your wheelchair. You do remind me of Snow White too. I love your posts on these adorable little creatures.

Thanks for the piano advice. I have never thought about it like that. We don't have a piano and I don't know if I could fit it in our tiny house. But, for Maizie I sure would try. I wonder if I could find a teacher who could teach Maizie in the way you describe. I am going to ask her tutor what she thinks about it.

Oh, I also love the scarf!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Hi Elizabeth. Found you via Marla's blog. I absolutely loved these pictures. You obviously have a wonderful approach to animals and these squirrels are proof. We have many grey ones here in our garden but they are so quick!

See you again soon.
Crystal xx

Sara said...

So, so, so great! Awesome pictures (thank you, Linda).

Is it okay if I'm just really happy for you instead of envious -- especially since you share the experience so generously? :)

Gaina said...

I loved this blog. I know exactly where you're coming from as I have to confess to preferring the company of animals to that of 99% of the humans I've ever met.

Raw Peanuts are not good for squirrels, as they contain and enzyme that stops them metabolising certain protien into their bodies. If you are going to feed peanuts, get the unsalted roasted variety.

Great treats for them are Hazel nuts, cracked corn, raw green beans, apples, peaches, pears, persimmons, and sunflower seeds, as well as dried fruit and brazil nuts. The place where I park my car in town has two lovely Oak trees so in the Winter I take a bag and fill it with acorns for my squirrel, which he enjoys...and it stops him taking neat little squares out of my bird feeders! :).

Another useless fact for you from my nerdy brain - squirrels don't hibernate. Like us, they try and stay 'indoors' when it's cold but they are still active over the winter :).

I do envy you actually because I sat hidden in the conifers waiting for Fieldfares to eat the fallen apples like they have done every day this week when I didn't have my camera. 2 hours and ONE bird, and even that one just peered out at me from the apple tree and made no attempt to show me his lovely plumage. I will try again tomorrow though! ;)

Elizabeth McClung said...

Lilwatchergirl: er Okay, as often as I can safely get down there and back.

Tornwordo: Yes, I think they are very used to the wheelchair since now they look up and start coming over when they hear me coming.

Marla: Thanks, the scarf rocks! And the squirrels do too.

Crystal: I have observed the squirrels WAY too much and can tell which ones will approach and how far because of their previous experience (for example, any squirrel that lives near where cars go by generally won't come very close because there are effectively "deaf" and helpless when a car goes by and thus move quickly and are kinda paranoid - with good survival reasons).

Sara: Thanks for thanking Linda, I did that too - and errr...okay, you can happy but SOMEONE should be envious.

Gaina: regarding the shelled peanut; I had already heard this "protien blocking" story as well as that raw peanuts contain lethal mold. I checked with two wild vets and shelled peanuts are fine as long as they are getting other sources of minerals (for calcium) - indeed processing the nuts wipes out most of the calories (or adds salt which is eventually lethal) http://www.squirrels.org/faq.html#Q5

As for Brazil nuts - if I could afford brazil nuts I would eat them.

I give the squirrels unsalted shelled peanuts because it is what I can afford and because it allows the squirrels to choose to eat them right away or bury them (they actually do dig them up later, I've seen it many times, I'm not sure if it is THEIR peanut they are digging up). Also because I know way too much about the peanut - a single plant which permently changed the population in Indonesia from 1 million to 8 million for example - becuase it is so high in calories people had more children. The peanut is one of the perfect high energy foods. Also because these squirrels I visit are actually VERY picky eaters and will refuse many of the items you mention (seriously, I've seen them turn down sunflower seeds and hazel nuts) - particularly at this time of year - they like things they can bury. I guess since they don't hibernate, then they must have all been at a party, because I still haven't figured how so many squirrels can live in such a small area.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Giana: I stand correct as Linda has shown me we give them unsalted roasted peanuts in shells.

alphabitch said...

I totally envy you and your squirrel-whispering abilities. I feel kind of bad for the squirrels in my yard, because Ruby chases them. They are never in any danger, but they often drop pecans from the trees and look like they'd really really like to just run down there and get them. But Ruby won't have it. And the whole time they are in the trees, she stares at them, and occasionally barks. Which has gotta be disconcerting for the squirrels.

On the other hand, they've pretty much devoured the pecans from both trees, and most of the black walnuts. So I don't feel too bad for them. They seem to be doing very well.

Oh, and I envy your scarf as well. "The only team that LIKES going into overtime!" is cracking me up.

Artistic Soul said...

You and the squirrels!! So cute. Looks like the weather was nice out - like the new scarf!

cheryl g. said...

I am envious of your squirrel relationships... to be singled out for favor from THE debutante squirrel of the park is too cool.

You do realize you are single handedly proving the homophobic belief that if same sex marriage is allowed than inter-species relationships aren't far behind. (Said with tongue firmly ensconced in cheek)

belledame222 said...

that was awesome.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Giana: for the third time and hopefully without errors this time, I stand CORRECTED! You were right in your instructions but it turns out I actually follow them (I was not doing a gloating thing, "I stand correct!" - I just can't put "ed" at the end of a word) Also Linda says that I constantly call "unshelled peanuts "shelled" because to me, they HAVE a shell - ergo they are shelled: to be covered in a shell. (Linda says, "Think verb, not noun")

Alphabitch: The thing I like best about animals is that they are who they are, so I know a great deal about squirrels because I watch them and if they are edgy you see the tail twitch and twitch and there it is. This is why I also like Rudy because Rudy is Rudy and I think that Rudy and the squirrels both know the game that is played, but the squirrels can't afford to take a chance so the squirrels do what they do (eat everything they can get their hands on) and Rudy does what he does (guard the domain entrusted to him). I'm glad you liked that line, I do work on my jokes and I can never tell if the dead silence means I am not finding my audience or that the material is a bit too...um....not supposed to be joked about (the thought about just not being funny, haven't considered it yet).

The squirrels and I have a symbiotic relationship: they unlike the rest of society actually prefer that I am in a wheelchair and greet me thus, while I am glad that we have a intense seconds to minutes relationship but I don't have to meet their parents or send them christmas cards.

Cheryl G. - Yes, when you have a brush with the squirrel equivilant of Grace Kelly it is hard to not make a little photo album with hearts on the cover.

Excellent point about gay marriage, I think since getting married I have done so many "degenerate" things I should be the poster girl of "Gone Wrong" and maybe the Christian TV Network could make a afternoon School Special based on my life: "She started out as a Preacher's Daughter....but same sex love and "playing with flipper" was only the start of her ride down Degenerate Road"

BelleDame: Yeah, it was cool. I do was a squirrel as my assistive animal though!

Tui said...

Hilarious post!

The teapot cozy is so right-on. I knew a gal who always wore a purse on her head. She would come up and whisper the most creative (albeit insane) things, like, 'You do realize you are actually a Scottish fairy princess, don't you?' One of those wacky compliments would put a smile on my face all day. She made her living selling little rocks she'd find, but would claim were hidden gems.

Back to the squirrels, though:
There are certain people I've encountered who are so out of touch with their feelings that I've had to anthropomorphize *them*!

belledame222 said...

while I am glad that we have a intense seconds to minutes relationship but I don't have to meet their parents or send them christmas cards.

i'd like to see squirrel christmas cards.

elizabeth said...

I used to be known as "squirrel lady". I nursed 3 orphaned squirrels with a bottle when their mother was killed by my friends boston terrier. Then word got out and for years I was called to tend to wounded and motherless squirrels. Love those furry little buggers.

Elizabeth McClung said...

tui: you can entice me but I'm still trying to veer slightly left of teapot cosy lady - though I will sell you a "hidden gem" rock if you want?

Yes, squirrels actually have a wide variety of facial expressions compared to some people.

Belledame: they are very heavy on scratch and sniff ones - scent of conker, scent of brazil nut.

Elizabeth: That's amazing, I've only ever met one baby squirrel who had fallen from the tree and was chasing a black squirrel mother around (it was a baby grey) - didn't want to take it unless its mother came looking but felt sad for it.

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cheers