Wednesday, March 07, 2012

I Do What I Have To Do

I spent part of the day yesterday repairing our squirrel-proof feeder. The problem wasn’t that the tree rodents were dining at this supposedly off-limits café. They’ve been doing that with impunity for several months now. In fact it was just the opposite. Because of technical difficulties the food-distributing device had become both “squirrel-proof AND bird-proof” – a hermetically sealed seed silo instead of an “all are welcome” alfresco automat.
A gift from our brother-in-law, the contraption is made up of a square-sided plastic tube with several feeding holes, surrounded by a separate metal cage with leaf shaped decorations. The cage is attached to springs. The tube is not. When a squirrel latches on to the outer enclosure, it drops down and its ornamental leaves cover the apertures on the immovable plastic feeder – putting the dining hall into full lockdown.

The feeder actually worked as advertised for just over three months. The squirrels' weight did indeed force the metal shell down so that its decorative barriers covered up the plastic-lined feeding holes on the interior tube. Unfortunately however the polyethylene just above these apertures was now unprotected – permitting the ever-persistent squirrels to gnaw away enough of it to make the food portals larger than their covers, thereby allowing the sunflower seeds to tumble out into the little rodents wide open mouths.

They also chomped away at the base of the tube creating an additional portal on two of the bottom sides, which caused the seed to spew out like a black oily fountain whenever I filled it – which was once a day. (It could have been more often – mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon, and evening but Mars and I don’t want that much of our retirement savings set aside for critter maintenance.)

The solution was, of course, duct tape. I covered the openings with two layers of the strong cloth-backed waterproof adhesive tape. The bushy tailed gourmands then would take a couple of days to munch their way through the new silver wrapping. Then we would repeat the process. Ultimately the number of layers of tape became too thick, and I would strip it all off and start with a new base. I added thick cardboard thinking the squirrels needed a little fiber. They apparently enjoyed it at least as much as they did the silver tape.

This ritual began in early autumn and continued throughout the winter. The weather being mild and devoid of snow the wild birds that normally frequented our feeders were not around this year. (The few that did show up were able to make do with one or more of our other dining establishments, which in fact are resistant to the gray furry marauders.) Meanwhile the squirrel population increased from four to twelve full-time customers. The birds’ absence, plus the tree-rats tag-team hogging of the “squirrel-proof” feeder, plus my willing collaboration, had made that eating-place pretty much “squirrel-exclusive”.

During this time the two springs that controlled the descent of the outer shell became stretched beyond all usefulness. The cage dropped to the bottom. And all of the openings – man-made and squirrel-made – were sealed tight.

I noticed it that night when I filled the feeder – and not even one errant seed fell out in the process. I decided to ignore it and see how the squirrels would solve the problem. By noon the feeder was still completely filled, and the squirrels were marching around underneath it carrying picket signs and caterwauling.

After some analysis I strategically wrapped a strand of thin wire around the top and secured the outer cage in an open-opening position. Shortly thereafter I noticed a quivering gray pelt hanging down the side of the feeder. About thirty minutes later a male house sparrow stopped by to eat – followed by another. By late afternoon the feeder was one third empty.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery (French Pilot, Writer and Author of 'The Little Prince) said, “There is no growth except in the fulfillment of obligations” This is especially true of the small obligations that we create for ourselves.

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