About a decade or so ago, I decided that Rusty Metal Farm was in need of a plan. More specifically, a forest plan to help direct how the acreage is managed and tended.
Following in my late husband’s footsteps, I made wildlife management the primary goal of that plan. And it’s worked out really well.
Today, thanks to active stewardship of the farm’s woodland, grassland and wetland, there is a thriving population of critters of all shapes, sizes and species.
Moose, deer, rabbits, coyotes, bear, grouse, ravens, snakes, frogs, woodpeckers, bumblebees and more roam or fly freely about the farm. Few things make me happier than interacting with these creatures.
With one glaring exception.
The damn squirrels.
How do I count the ways they annoy me?
Is it the fact they eat the seeds meant for the winter birds from the first snowfall of November right up to the first blooms of the flowers of spring? Could it be the sound they make, reminiscent of a herd of elephants as they cavort on my roof? Then there is the ear-grating sound of their loud chattering as they bicker with each other high in the treetops. Or maybe it’s the gnawing and chewing they insist upon practicing under my eaves.
In truth, it’s all of the above.
Because if there is one species that has evolved to get on my last nerve, it’s squirrels. And don’t they know it and search for new, creative ways to drive me to distraction.
The other morning, for example, I was sound asleep just before sunrise when some loud thuds woke me up. I thought it was my tenant up early and piling boards or lumber.
As I started to doze back off, tiny farm dog Chiclet decided she needed to answer her first call of nature for the day and sat on my chest until I was awake enough to take her outside. As she trotted off to find a suitable clump of grass for her morning constitution, I noticed my tenant was nowhere in sight. But the loud thuds were continuing. Looking around and listening, I determined they were coming from the woods just behind my old sled dog yard.
I was intrigued. Perhaps it was a male moose knocking his antlers against trees. Or maybe two moose(es) duking (hoofing?) it out.
Once Chiclet was finished with her business, I scooped her up, brought her back in and grabbed my camera. Back outside, I quietly walked toward the woods from which the thuds were emanating.
I stood and noticed a branch on a tree was shaking. Looking closely I saw it — a squirrel. As I looked at him, he glared at me, chattered and flung something down. THUD!
A few moments later, I realized he was picking the cones from atop the spruce tree, eating them like a piece of corn on the cob and then tossing them with remarkable force and aim directly on top of an old dog house.
THUD, THUD, THUD.
How I hate squirrels.
I know I am not alone in this.
Last year the varmints took over a Bangor neighborhood, chewing and chattering their way over and through residents’ homes and wiring.
Wire-chewing squirrels were the prime suspects in an electrical fire that destroyed a building and tools at a woodworking shop in Dedham in 2013.
Last August a squirrel also caused major commuter headaches when it damaged a protective device in a Brewer power station, cutting power to 3,000 Emera Maine customers and knocking out several Brewer traffic lights.
Back here on Rusty Metal Farm, when I had sled dogs the squirrels delighted in cavorting in the branches over the dog yard, just out of reach of snapping husky jaws. And while I can’t prove it, I am convinced a family of squirrels nested in my attic in a spot directly over my bed last winter.
When I finally got up the nerve to crawl up there (well, more to the point, got up the nerve to ask my tenant to crawl up there) to look, they had packed up and moved on. All that was left in their wake was a trail of shredded insulation, some rodent poo and the knowledge they had outsmarted me — again.
I really need to write them out of the Rusty Metal Farm plan.