Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Squirrel Wars

When we remodeled our kitchen twelve years ago I had only two requests. I wanted an outlet located in the corner where I make coffee so I could keep both the grinder and coffee maker plugged in all the time. And I wanted an indoor switch for a new outlet on the outside of the house near the patio so that I could pursue my Grand Dream.
Our patio wraps around a crabapple tree. Admittedly it is not a particularly nice crabapple tree. It is badly in need of trimming, which I have not been able to do for reasons that will soon become clear. It is also susceptible to apple scab disease, so if the spring is a wet one (like it was this year) many of the leaves turn brown and fall off in June. For years we paid to have the tree sprayed with fungicide, but the only notable impact was on my wallet. But it is the only shade we have for the patio, and it was also the focus of my Grand Dream.

Many houses have a porch light by the back door, but I did not want a porch light. I wanted the crabapple tree to function as my porch light. I ran a heavy cord from my new outlet to the base of the tree and buried it. Then I spent several awkward hours climbing around in the tree, running string after string of white Christmas lights. When I was done there were 1200 lights, give or take, and when I hit the switch in the kitchen the effect was all that I had hoped. My Grand Dream was now a reality.
But the one thing I did not factor into my Dream was the squirrels. Not all squirrels, just the occasional renegade squirrel who, for reasons known only to himself, thinks that chewing strings of lights to shreds is about the most fun a squirrel can have without going to Vegas. I never know when one of these renegades is going to show up. Three or four years may pass without damage, then Chewy the Renegade Squirrel comes to call. He is back this year, and I am ready to throw in the towel.

Three days ago he chewed up three entire strings of lights. My mother-in-law was due to arrive the next day, and she loves to see the tree lit up. It was raining lightly, but I fetched my one box of back-up lights and headed out to do battle. One of the strings he destroyed was, of course, the one at the very top of the tree. If you have never clung to a wet limb 14 feet off the ground while stretching your fingers to yank at a stuck string of lights, you have not yet lived a full life. I filled in as best I could with the new string and tossed the chewed strings into the basement to attempt a bit of splicing. (Note: these strings have three wires, and the squirrel specializes in chewing all three in such a way that you cannot tell how they connect, which means hours of trial-and-error before you toss the whole mess out in disgust.)

Last night I hit the switch to find three more strings out, one of them the new string I put in place just three days ago. As best I can tell, it is now in four parts.

I do not have a clue as to why the Renegade Squirrel does this. Does he like the taste of the insulation? Or is it just a form of amusement for a squirrel with too much time on his hands? Whichever, I am dead in the water until this squirrel finds something better to do or is called to the Great Rodent Farm in the Sky (a final journey I would be glad to help him embark upon).

So this fall I will remove all the strings of lights, give the tree the proper trimming it has needed for years, and start all over. I am confident that it will look wonderful when I am finished. It may continue to look wonderful for years, or perhaps only for days. Like Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill, I will continue my heroic efforts, even knowing I am doomed to defeat. Such is the human spirit; such is human foolishness.

1 comment:

rick in cos said...

John, I know this won't make you feel better, but your grand dream will come alive in our backyard when you get here next week...the squirrels are NOT a problem, but watch out for the bear and cougar....the cougar woke me up at 4am on Wednesday morning, gives you goosebumps to hear it.
I'll share my lighting tricks with you...