Saturday, June 16, 2007

On achieving the shmaltz-grub

Quedar bañada en oro: to be bathed in gold

This expression was used, in one of our telenovelas, by a happy widow speculating on the fabulous inheritance she would shortly be receiving. (This being a telenovela, she, of course, didn't get it - it's all going to a beautiful, deserving daughter born on the wrong side of the blanket.)

In a story from "Motl the Cantor's Son" by Sholem Aleichem a much different sort of widow - a kindly, humble, indigent widow - enthused that her son, by marrying the moustached daughter of a fat crass wealthy baker, was at last falling into a shmaltz-grub.

Shmaltz-grub: a pit of chicken-fat

Sounds a little gross to me, but I thought of it Thursday when Menticia and I came into my house in the early evening and, through the kitchen door, saw a squirrel sitting in the tray of my birdfeeder ecstatically stuffing sunflower seeds into his maw. He had located and attained the shmaltz-grub.

My indignant astonishment - and awe - was owing to the fact that in the seven or eight years since I came up with the perfect anti-squirrel situation, no squirrel has EVER BEFORE managed to get into this feeder. Despite thousands of tries by hundreds of squirrels.

I shouted in rage and banged on the door and the squirrel madly flung itself to the ground and vanished.

Later, when things had quieted down, Menticia and I observed its technique. It climbed the screen on my door (now busted - and there's no moneyback guarantee on damage caused by squirrel attacks), perched on an itty-bitty outdoor light, and launched itself completely horizontally a distance of fully eleven feet. You can see traces of his former launching pad - just the white and black wires now because I instantly took down the light - on the clapboards to the right.

I thought taking down the light would solve the problem, but once the squirrels knew it was possible to achieve the shmaltz-grub their attempts increased exponentially. They threw themselves onto the baffle and, little by little, lowered it somehow (I think) and soon other squirrels, not just the original genius Evel Knievel, were achieving nirvana.

My ex-husband's brother and his wife came to dinner last night and helped me raise the baffle again, but the squirrels were back in the feeder this morning. The brilliant, industrious squirrel community has cracked the code.

I blame this all on Zed. I used to trap squirrels on my porch - I trapped 34 the first year and took them off to establish emigré communities elsewhere. This prevented large-scale assaults on the feeder. But Zed got on me about the poor little orphaned squirrels back home... waiting patiently for their mothers... mothers who were never to return... waiting... waiting...

So I stopped. And now look!

My trap is a bit twisted after assaults by raccoons so it's less perfectly engineered than it used to be. There are chipmunks living here too, now; they're small enough to sneak in, spring the trap, eat peanut butter, and escape through the side.

Here you see three of my opponents, waiting for me to leave. Just another proof that there's no such thing as a happy ending. Or maybe, if you adopt the squirrel's perspective, the moral is exactly al reves.

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At 2:34 PM, Anonymous susanlynn said...

That is a study in DETERMINATION. We should all learn from it. I do not like squirrels, and we live in the country surrounded on 3 sides by woods. When we had a black Lab, our yard was pretty much a squirrel-free zone---Toby hated the squirrels , and they, in turn, were terrified of him. However, Toby is chasing squirrels in heaven now , so the squirrels frequent our backyard more than before. I still don't like me, they are rats with fluffy tails. Hope you can outsmart them ,Melinama~~~Bueno Suarte, Amiga !

At 1:02 PM, Blogger Alma said...

Great story, Melinama!

I bought one of those cage traps -- I think they're called have-a-heart traps -- to get the rabbits that kept sneaking in between my fence boards and feasting on my annuals. My husband thought this would be a good excuse to go out and buy a bibi gun, but I promptly boycotted that idea.

My own genius plan was to catch the rabbits with the trap, then drive to a forest perserve and set them free. When the trap was delivered, my excitement was squashed by my hubby and dad ROLF laughing at me! They pointed out that rabbits are known for their multiplication skills and I would therefore never catch enough of them to save my garden. My dad then put up chicken wire all around the inside of my fence, which actually has kept the rabbits out (mostly). It worked so well that most of the block ran out and bought chicken wire of their own.

Wow, that turned into a long story, huh?

In any case, I have a brand new have-a-heart trap still in its sealed box sitting in my garage. You are welcomed to it if you want it. Just let me know!

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Jean said...

Hi Melinama: I relate to your tale of squirrel woe. The rule is that a feeder has to be at lease 4' from any place a squirrel can jump from. My urban back yard is tiny - there is no place that is 4' from a squirrel jumping place. I have tried every anti-squirrel feeder with limited success.

I have a feeder that closes the access to the seeds when the weight of a squirrel is on the perch - the squirrels spend all their time trying to get to the seeds without closing the feeder and thus the birds won't get on it.

I have a tube feeder in a cage - the squirrels hang on the cage and scoop the fallen seeds into their ravenous little mouths.

I have a feeder where the perches are hinged and when a squirrel gets on the the perch, it folds down and the squirrel falls off except that the squirrels learned to hang on to the feeder somehow.

I also trapped squirrels who had learned to get into my feeders and relocated them across the Delaware river in PA so that new squirrels would have to start from scratch to learn how to do it.

BUT the best thing I have done to counter squirrels is to buy shelled sunflower seeds that are coated with red pepper stuff. The brand is called: Cole's Hot Meats. I get it at Whole Foods Market.

The squirrels will not eat seeds coated with this stuff and they just leave the feeders alone. It is amazing. Previous to this kind of seed, I had tried the red pepper powder that you could put on your birdseed but it went everywhere - in my eyes, etc. This coated seed is much better. I now mix it with the regular seed. It probably costs more but I use so much less seed.

I also have a feeder that I made from instructions I found online. It is made from a liter soda bottle and is just for chickadees. The chickadees have to hang on the feeder upside down to get the seed. They figured it our right away and for whatever reason, the squirrels never get on it.

Good luck in your battle against the squirrel varmints!


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