Monday, October 20, 2008

The Past 32 Hours

Yesterday morning, I was mowing my lawn. This was quite the endeavor, since it had been a couple of weeks, the weather was good for growth, and I have a push-reel mower. This meant that instead of my usual mowing each row twice (up and back), I had to mow each four times, the first pass being substantial effort.

I'd finished the front, which is the worst part of my yard, mower-wise, and started mowing the side. The side is a bit of a pain, since it's on a slope, but it's small, so it's not generally that bad. As I'm pushing the mower up and back, I glance at one of my basement windows. And see a squirrel looking out at me.

Of course, I immediately cease mowing, and go inside. After pounding on the basement door a few times, I open it, turn on the stairway light, and close the door behind me. The squirrel is still sitting in the window, trying in vain to get out. I open another window, and it immediately runs over to it, but neglects to jump up to flee to safety. I figure that the window's too high for the squirrel to reach (a fact belied by the signs of gnawing I later notice), and stack a couple of boxes by the window. The squirrel won't go back, though.

At this point, the squirrel is, so I think, behind my TV and stereo setup, so I start looking around the basement to survey the damage (which at the moment seems minimal). That's when I see something that doesn't look right. There's a hole in the wall, through which I can see daylight. It's clearly a hole that was created by a human being. Not yet sure what the hole's for, I notice the dryer exhaust hose lying partially coiled behind the dryer.

I continued my survey of the basement, and find no sign of the squirrel. Now, I'm hoping that it found a way out while my back was turned. I close the window and go outside to take a look at the hole. It's behind a big plastic mini-shed that holds my garbage cans to keep the raccoons out. I see the remains of the vent hood, but no sign of the pieces of plastic that were formerly part of it. Given its placement behind the shed, I'm not sure how long it was like that. It could easily have been in that condition when I had the house inspected prior to purchase, though I'd hope the home inspector was more diligent than that.

The rest of the day was squirrel-dominated. After finishing the lawn, I went to Home Depot to pick up a new vent cover. While getting advice from the retired plumber working in that section, another customer (who was waiting to ask a question) ventured her own opinion. She claimed the plastic vent covers were useless, and that squirrels would just chew through them again. Of course, the store had nothing better. She finally asked her question, and was on her merry way, so I asked the plumber, "What would you use?" He didn't put much stock in the woman's claims, which are really probably more relevant if the squirrels have nested in the house, so I made my purchase and left.

Of course, with the current temperatures, it's not the best time to try getting caulk to set, but needs must win out, so my new cover is slowing sealing itself to the outside wall. However, I'm getting ahead of myself. After home depot I went over to Marco's to keg our latest batch of Winky Dink Marzen. Then I came home to replace the vent cover, which remains un-gnawed.

The day's manual labor done, I went over to my parents' house to borrow a squirrel trap. I didn't think the squirrel was still inside, but better safe than sorry. After baiting it with peanut butter, I called it an evening.

This moring, after getting ready for work, I went down to the basement again to check on the trap. I didn't get that far, though, because I could see the squirrel sitting at what it must have come to regard as its window. I opened a window, but it wouldn't budge. Figuring noise would stir it, I turned on the stereo and played NPR's pledge drive at high volume. That got it moving. Not to the open window, though. It was away from its window, however, so I opened that one as well.

There's a particular state of mind, helped along by wanting to get to work, that causes you to try to reason with a squirrel. It, however, was being thoroughly unreasonable. Fed up, I moved the trap into the finished part of the basement, close off the doors to keep it from going back to the laundry or furnace rooms, and left for work.

Knowing there's a squirrel in your house, trapped with your 42" flat-panel TV among other electronics, can make it difficult to focus on your work. I soldiered on, though, and put in a good innings. By the end of the day, however, the stress had my stomach a bit twisted.

Once home, I put on some old clothes (what I used yesterday to mow the lawn), a denim jacket, and a pair of reasonably thick gloves. Then I ventured into the basement. Sitting patiently in the trap was the squirrel. It didn't object when I approached, and only slightly when I lifted the trap and carried it up the stairs and outside. Outside—that was something it recognized, and became considerably more animated. I set the trap on the ground, with the door facing the large tree in my back yard, and carefully openened the trap. Squirrels can be, well, squirrelly, so I was prepared for it to view me as its foe rather than its liberator. No such occurrence, though, as it flew from the trap and up the tree.

I am now relaxing in an ostensibly squirrel-free house, enjoying some homebrew (Whitey's Gone Fishin' Pale Ale). And, of course, recording this for your entertainment. The clean-up will wait for another day.


Julie said...

Oy! Leaving a squirrel lose in my house would've made me nervous, too. I wonder if there's a way you can mesh over the hole to at least keep critters out if they get through whatever other ineffective hoozit you have set up. Those push mowers really are a pain, too. I had one at the last house I rented, and mowing a corner lot with big front and back yards was horrible. My roomate once borrowed a neighbor's electric mower and promptly mowed the cord in two. Since I always fear the worst-case scenario (instant electrocution), I thought she was a walking miracle to still be alive. But I guess there's some sort of safety doo-dad and law of science that kept her safe. *shrugs* Also: good to see you blog here!

Mike Marsh said...

The new cover should be fine. The squirrel clearly didn't want to be in the house, so I doubt it'll make much of an effort to gnaw its way back in.

The push-reel isn't so bad, when I can mow often enough. I'd had to wait at home a few days for service techs, so I've been working later to make up the hours. Evenings, when my yard is mostly in shade, are the best time to mow, but it requires daylight.

And just as a reminder, the request line is still open. I'll try to respond to requests within 72 hours.