Squirrel Wars

I have been in a constant brutal struggle. After years of scheming and planning; after countless hand crafted stealth devices I finally, a couple years ago, threw in the towel. I was humiliated in defeat. I surrendered to the will of a superior being. I gave up trying to keep squirrels out of my bird feeder. I would fill the feeder and cast seed on the deck. At least birds might get some of the seed left over from the overstuffed squirrels strutting with overconfidence like Ramad├Ęs retuning to Thebes. Their cheeks stuffed with the spoils of victory.

But, perhaps the battle isn’t over. Was it Yogi Berra that said “The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings”? Well this fat guy hasn’t sung his last song.

Recently I was reading an article: “What Makes Us Love the Pain of Hot Peppers? Matt Siegel WSJ Aug 28, 2021”. The article suggested that capsaicin (the stuff that makes chili hot) is a plant defense mechanism. Mammals chew seeds making them useless for plant reproduction; hince mammals do not tolerate capsaicin. Birds, on the other hand, pass seeds through their bodies allowing germination of the seeds. Birds tolerate capsaicin.

African farmers sometimes construct bricks of elephant dung and chilis. They burn the bricks the keep animals from eating their crops.

I could not find much elephant dung in West Hartford. Besides, there is an ordinance against open fires. But I do have cayenne pepper. I sprinkled a little on the birdseed. The birds eat the seeds and I don’t see any squirrels.

In truth, this is a well know cure for my squirrel issue, I just was not aware of it.

Experiment

I noticed that the treated birdseed did not attracted many birds. True, it kept the squirrels away but there were few birds. Usually I note a lot of birds and that the feeder empties in a relatively short time. So, it is time for an experiment. I have put out four piles of seed:

  1. My control with no addition
  2. With red pepper flakes
  3. With Tabasco added
  4. With Cayenne added

Six hours later and neither bird nor squirrel has visited the seed. I will change the location to a place that birds and squirrels congregate.

Same order left to right
24 Hours later
And there are larger birdseed raiders

I have noted a number of birds at work on the piles of seed. I have only seen one interloper, a chipmunk was into the cayenne spiked pile. I do not see a clear preference for any particular pile. However, there seems to be a slight preference for the non spiked pile. Second, I would guess to be the pepper flakes followed by the Tabasco then the cayenne.

Going forward, I will lace the birdseed with pepper flakes. I wonder if bears are put off by capsaicin.

My Covid Adventure

Preface: I recognize that my general demeanor is that of a cranky old geezer. And, anyone who knows me understands that I embrace that image. I am afraid that you may find this post particularly cranky. My sincere apologies. I do have an excuse; I feel particularly punky as I am isolating in quarantine with COVID.

After dutifully getting both vaccine shots and continuing to mask in public places like the Lone Ranger or Superman sans tights and cape, I tested positive for COVID. Both a quick test and a PCR test were positive. I am now quarantining in my daughters old bedroom: my wife leaves meals outside the door like I am in the”nick”, and I am writing this blog post. The good news is that my fever has broken and am feeling almost 100 percent. I still have many days of quarantine left. And, yes, I plan to quarantine the whole time to assure, as best I can, that my wife doesn’t have to experience this and I don’t spread COVID around to the rest of mankind like some cranky Typhoid Mary. To make it particularly troublesome, the State of Connecticut virus trackers contact me daily. Big Brother is watching.

I recently received a note from a friend who asked if my next blog will be the humorous side of Covid. That was the best question anyone could ask. Otherwise I would have created a blog that went off on a tear about big government, big pharma, and the lousy state of the republic. What fun would that be? And I want to be especially sensitive to people who have had a rough time or who have lost loved ones to this mysterious, troubling disease.

I am fortunate on many levels: I have a somewhat mild, although prolonged, case; my wife tested negative; I have a place to hang out that’s dry; my Social Security checks keep coming; I am blessed with friends and family and, if I am really fortunate, the sun will rise in the morning. Covid shots, it turned out in my case, are not an iron gate against this virus; I do recognize that I likely would have a more serious episode without the shots.

Speaking of being fortunate, I quickly came to the realization that what makes me most fortunate are my friends and family. When I tested positive, I broadcast the fact very widely to anyone with whom I had recently connected. I wanted all to be aware of their possible exposure and get tested if they felt it to be appropriate. I also contacted others with whom I had not been in contact to let people know that vaccination, in cases like mine, is pretty weak protection. I have been tremendously taken aback by the response. I have received numerus inquiries as to how I am doing and well wishes. I cannot begin to express how very much their outreach has meant to me.

A couple mornings ago I realized that I lost my sense of smell. I had just bought some aftershave, the kind I use at the gym in South Carolina. My wife likes the fragrance; which was the most important factor in deciding to buy it. Well, I splashed it on and thought that I had mistakenly bought fragrance free – no indication of that on the bottle. I then went to the kitchen and tried to smell the jar of ground cinnamon, nothing. Losing my sense of smell is particularly troublesome to me and is turning out to be the worst part of this experience.

My son had a like experience when he had Covid a couple months ago. Losing his sense of smell was truly troublesome for someone in the wine business and currently getting certification in the field. Fortunately his loss was very short lived. I am hoping for a similar experience.

The whole politicized international response to Covid reminds me of what a very wise boss, an ex Navy Mustang, told me years ago. We were discussing a new corporate initiative from our California headquarters. We were in Pennsylvania and considered the red headed stepchildren of the corporation. They tolerated us because of the profits we generated. Charlie, the Navy Mustang, said to me “You know Bill, if you have a bunch of cooks you can have a banquet, if you have a bunch of musicians you can have a dance. But, if all you have are clowns your going to have a circus.”

Apologizing in advance for this glumb post. Hope the next one will be upbeat. I hope that I smell better in the future. (Hmmm, that statement doesn’t sound quite right.)

My guard dog
My other guardian, this one’s awake