This is the blog Michelle didn’t want me
to write. It’s too personal. It exposes some of the negative details of
life here at Sunflower Farm. Some dark corners of the human psyche are
just left best left unexplored publicly.
But explore and expose it
I must, because it’s part of rural life. In fact, the way things are
going, this is becoming more and more a part of city life too. I speak,
of course, of dealing with the animals that want to live with you that
you don’t want to live with. These can be raccoons or squirrels or mice
or rats or bats or possums, the list seems to get longer all the time
and urban dwellers are not sheltered from this reality. In fact Toronto,
the largest city in Canada, has become the raccoon capital of the
While we’ve had bears in the backyard and raccoons in the
corn, the big critters seem to leave us alone most of the time. We’ve
battled bats in both buildings and have come to accept them as
inevitable in a farmhouse that was built in 1888. But flying squirrels
have proven to be quite a challenge in the guesthouse. It’s less than 20
years old and has far fewer gaps and crevices than our old farmhouse,
but these little creatures are able to contort their bodies into some
amazingly small spaces to get in.
- Photo courtesy of wikicommons.
first experience with a flying squirrel took place one night at dusk. I
was standing on the driveway and heard a commotion at the top of our
40-foot metal phone tower. Once my eyes had adjusted to the low light
and I could finally make it out, I was surprised to see a squirrel at
the top of the tower. They don’t usually like climbing metal stuff. I
was even more “surprised” when it jumped from the tower into space, and
came hurtling towards me at light speed like something fired from a
killer drone. It came within a few feet of me before it veered off to a
tree branch nearby. This is the now famous incident where I admit to
uttering a manly expletive at my surprise of the unexpectedness of it
all, while Michelle contends that inside the house she heard me “scream
like a girl.” Perhaps the truth lives somewhere in the middle.
next thing I knew, the flying squirrels had decided to set up camp in
the guesthouse. Several of our friends who stayed over had quite
exciting nocturnal experiences with them. Ellen likes to regale people
with the story of Jerry trapping one in the “Canopy Room” and using a
badminton racquet to humanely direct it to the open window as it leaped
from wall to ceiling to wall. It was a warm night and Jerry had chosen
to sleep without pajamas, and frankly when I think of the unpredictable
nature of a trapped and panicked flying squirrel I have an instinctive
tendency to want to cover up certain exposed parts of my anatomy.
brings us back to why Michelle didn’t want me to write this blog. We
have begun hosting paid guests for renewable energy retreats. We offer
these as a way for anyone interested in renewable energy to get a real
sense of what living off grid and within your means is like. Michelle
didn’t want anything out there that would give people pause when it came
to booking a visit.
I can now confidently say that the flying
squirrel menace has been defeated, but it was not an easy fight. In fact
I spent the better part of 6 months trying everything I could think of.
There was the standard attempt to use humane elimination through traps.
I believe that if I were a mouse or small rodent-like creature who
faced an untimely death, I would choose for it to be instantaneous and
to not know it was coming. This is how a mousetrap works. One minute
you’re eating a tasty treat and then it’s lights out. The treat is the
tough part. We keep a small pantry of staples in the guesthouse and the
flying squirrels seemed to like to get into just about anything that was
wasn’t in an heavy plastic container. Pasta, rice, tetrapaks of almond
milk … no problem, the flying squirrels were all over them. Cheese or
peanut butter on a trap though - no way. They wanted no part of it.
Smart little devils.
I went to Plan “B” which was to plug up all
the holes that they seemed to be getting in, but as fast as I could
stuff pink insulation in the holes they were tossing it out at night.
got it admit, it was pretty frustrating. Michelle wouldn’t let me use
poison and I agreed. Even though a significant portion of the human
population in North America uses Warfarin to help avoid heart attacks,
it didn’t seem fair to feed it without prescription to rodents in lethal
That’s when I decided to get into a flying squirrel’s
brain to figure out how to get rid of them. If I was a flying squirrel
having the time of my life every night in Cam’s guesthouse, what would I
find most offensive? What would detract from my quality of life to the
It finally hit me. Do what some urban authorities
have been doing to discourage loitering… use music! In some cities, they
have begun playing classical music to get youth to move on from their
hangouts. In this case though, I had a feeling that classical music
wouldn’t be discouraging enough.
So I went through all my CDs to
try and analyze what would be most offensive to a flying squirrel. Sure
Celine Dion might drive them crazy, but if they’d seen Titanic it might
have the opposite effect. (OK, I made that up, I don’t even own a Celine
Dion CD) My worst fear is that since these are country squirrels,
someone like Tim McGraw would draw critters from a huge area around the
building. No, it was a gift from my cousin Dave that I finally settled
on. It was Velvet Revolver and one of the greatest rock and roll songs
of all time called “Slither.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKz2U4fvA4U&ob=av2e)
heroin-induced lyrics from Stone Temple Pilot’s Scott Weilands and Guns
& Roses caliber guitar licks from Slash and other GNR refugees
would be too much for anyone but the hardest core metal head banger. I
thought it just might do the trick.
So every night at dusk for the
next few weeks I went into the guesthouse and set up an old laptop. I
cranked up the external speakers to “11” and put iTunes on replay, so
this song would play in a infinite loop all night long until I shut if
off. And every morning at dawn I went back out and put on ear protection
to turn it off. I could handle the blaring music at night but first
thing in the morning, compared to the usual peace and quiet of our place
in the woods, it was too much even for me. It was jarring to my system,
which is the effect I hoped it would have on the squirrels. And since
this was during the spring, with our new batteries our off-grid power
system hardly noticed the power use. Quite amazing what you can get out
of a little set of speakers these days.
Now I can confidently say
that our guesthouse is flying-squirrel-free. I don’t hear them in the
walls near my office and there’s no sign of them in the pantry. That’s
right flying squirrels; I kicked your ass with superior intelligence and
strategy! Led Zeppelin might have done it, Green Day may have been
enough, but Velvet Revolver was just too much for any rodent to handle!
You want to live in my guesthouse? You can’t handle living in my
guesthouse, cause I’ve got “Slither” on my side. Take that you furry
Now get back to living in the trees in the woods
where you belong. I’ve got 150 acres you’re welcome to hang out in. But
if you try hanging out in the guesthouse again I’ll call out the heavy
artillery. And when PETA contacts me to complain about the cruel and
inhumane treatment I will point out that I subjected the critters to
nothing more than I’d be prepared to submit to myself. Well, maybe not
* * * * * * *
more stories about dealing with the wildlife, be sure to read our new
book "Little House Off the Grid." For more information about Cam or his books please visit www.aztext.com or www.cammather.com