And then, spring came, and the flowers in the yard bloomed, and the hibernating squirrel woke up…
I used to not know that there were two types of squirrels. The kind with a tail that curls up like a spring and jumps around on branches is cute…that’s the tree squirrel. The other kind is plump with a drooping tail like a guilty dog, and when it sees a hole, it runs away like a mouse always sticking to the wall…that’s the ground squirrel. He digs holes to hibernate, and he is the protagonist of today’s story. It is because of the pandemic that I have come to know him more intimately.
The Most Evil Recipe
I chopped two onions into small pieces, tears streaming down my face as I did so. After the water boiled, I threw the onions into the pot and added a large handful of deadly Mexican chili peppers. I poured in a large cup of vinegar and a spoonful of black pepper, and added a few pieces of star anise, which Americans hate the most. If there is leftover spicy hot pot base at home, I will also add it in.
The recipe says one onion is enough, but when my heart is filled with hatred, all the ingredients must be doubled – including the time. The recipe says 15 minutes, so I stewed it for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, the large pot of soup had condensed into an evil black-brown color, quietly waiting in the pot. There was a small bag of Sichuan peppercorns in the cabinet – this is the final touch every time I make mapo tofu. In the American taste buds, there is no word for “ma” (numbing sensation), and their definition of spicy is also very shallow. The English words for “spicy” and “hot” have no distinction. One time, I took a colleague to eat Chinese food, and I guess he accidentally bit into a Sichuan peppercorn in the Chongqing spicy chicken dish. His face showed a confused and bewildered expression, and since then, I noticed that he never touched that dish again.
If the American taste buds are like this, then I assume animals are similar.
I took a handful of Sichuan peppercorns and crushed them with a knife, generously sprinkling them into the soup. The finishing touch of this dish is to drizzle a layer of chili oil before turning off the heat. The kind of unforgettable spiciness doesn’t need to be tasted, just smelling it makes me feel sorry.
I was forced to do this because I had no other choice. Everyone says that making your own chili oil is the best method. So this recipe was learned from the internet, and the star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, and chili oil were my personal grudges added in.
I once sprayed this chili water that would cause death if it touched the tongue on his commuting route and on all the food he might steal in the backyard, and then waited quietly. I expected to hear him scream one day, but I was disappointed. He still appeared in the backyard from nine to five as usual, not letting any edible thing go to waste. Adding spice to food is useless, it can only last for a day or two, and when the spiciness fades, he comes back again.
Feud with a Squirrel
My feud with the squirrel began a year before the pandemic. It had chewed through the internet cables, satellite TV cables, and even the electrical wires of the backyard surveillance cameras. It didn’t discriminate, it even ate rubber. Eventually, I had to bury the electrical wires underground to achieve temporary peace.
This is the vegetable garden.
During the early days of the pandemic, we were stuck at home and decided to cultivate a small piece of wasteland on the side of the backyard into a vegetable garden. I mentioned this in a previous article, but at that time, I only reported the good news and didn’t mention the dark side that followed. Anyway, that vegetable garden never had a chance to grow up because the seedlings that had just sprouted were quickly eaten up. It was the shortest-lived vegetable garden in the world.
So, I completely gave up on the vegetable garden. After the salad was gone, the squirrel had to eat grass. I’m sure it couldn’t survive on that for long. After giving up on growing vegetables, I suddenly had a period of peace.
Then summer came, and the fruit trees in the backyard began to bear fruit.
This is not a guava, but a male fig.
Before, I was too busy with work to pay much attention to the fruits in the backyard. Now that I’m at home every day, I realized that the main course was already on the table. I watched as the fresh and tender fruits on the trees were destroyed one by one by the squirrel: plums, loquats, cherries, tomatoes, and even the unpalatable male figs (don’t laugh, figs are divided into male and female, and only the female ones are edible. I didn’t know that before)… Even the Western holy fruit that appears over 5,000 times in the Bible, the fig, was not spared. But he was very clever, he never touched the lemons.
He would take a bite out of each fruit and then discard it. Since it was free, he could just taste a little bit of everything. After finishing the vegetables, he started to crave meat. I never knew squirrels ate meat, let alone that they liked fresh seafood.
There were two fish in the backyard pond, and he never gave up on them. I knew he couldn’t swim, but I suspected he might be secretly practicing. At least I once saw him trying his best to use one foot to pull himself to the shore, with his upper body leaning into the water trying to catch the fish. Seeing him perform such a trick, I felt a little sorry for him.
He came from out of town and worked at my company on a commuting basis, with a daily routine similar to mine. So I started to try out containment policies. After he left for home from work, I installed nail boards on all the entrances to the company. One day, while cleaning up fallen leaves near the wall, I accidentally stepped on one of my own nail boards. Luckily, I was wearing work shoes. The nail board was originally fixed on the fence, but now it was on the ground with the nails facing upwards. Leaves were also scattered on top, making me suspect it was a trap. Squirrels are said to have similar intelligence to engineers.
My fence is full of anti-rodent nail boards.
I feel a bit sorry because this time the pepper water was not food, but a weapon.
That day, he climbed up a fig tree with fruits that were difficult to eat, and after destroying a few fruits, he hung on the tree and took a nap. When he opened his eyes and saw me, he didn’t react at all. When I took out the pepper water, he still didn’t take it seriously… Then I pulled the trigger and watched the stream of water fall gracefully in an arc on his chest. I used to suspect that he was mute, but that day I was sure he wasn’t.
He escaped from my house, and I followed him all the way out, watching him run wildly and disappear into the fields on the other side. My apology suddenly turned into guilt, and I never saw him again. Actually, I could have been more vicious. There is an indestructible BB gun at home, and the pest control company tried to sell me poison bait, but I think that’s murder.
The subsequent calm quickly dissipated that brief sense of guilt.
Then autumn came, and the squirrel never came back, but a new juvenile appeared in the backyard. It was the season of falling leaves, and I stopped planting vegetables, and all the fruits except lemons were destroyed. He could only eat grass. Every time I saw him eating grass so sincerely, I felt that I didn’t have to treat him as an enemy anymore.
There was enough grass in the yard, and grass is always more nutritious than electrical tape or erasers. As long as he didn’t cross my bottom line, I could turn a blind eye. So I had a peaceful autumn.
Winter came, and he dug a hole to rest on time. This was the most beautiful stage of my life. In order to take care of local artists during the epidemic, we bought a coarse pottery Garfield cat feeder at the farmer’s market and hung it under the tree. Watching the birds come to fight for food every day also became a kind of adjustment during work.
When I bought the container, I asked if it could prevent squirrels. The artist said that as long as there were no branches nearby to use as a bridge, he couldn’t climb down along the 40cm thin wire… You may start to laugh; the squirrel may also be laughing. But let’s leave this for later, at least there were no squirrels in winter, which was also the most peaceful time in my backyard.
But all of these are from last year.
And then, spring arrived.
After a four-month break, spring has arrived. The flowers in the yard have bloomed, and the hibernating squirrel has woken up – right on time… I had hoped that he would stay asleep forever. The first thing he did after waking up was to go back to eating grass, and I felt relieved. This year, I dare not plant vegetables. In the mild March weather, the fruit trees are still bare, and he really only has grass to eat. But summer will come sooner or later, and the fruit will eventually grow. Going from frugality to luxury is easy, but going from luxury to frugality is difficult. Once he tastes the sweetness, he will never go back to eating grass.
So, I decided to drive him out of his home early, without harming him. Last year, he was still timid and would run away as soon as I knocked on the window. So this year, I just knock on the window whenever I see him. However, after four months of rest, his intelligence and experience have improved, and he has become more cunning. This year, he has learned to play “123 wooden man” – he freezes whenever he hears a sound, even stopping chewing. I even suspect that he has trained himself to stop breathing. If I chase after him seriously, he will run away a few steps and then stop, maintaining a proper social distance. He knows that I cannot catch up with him, so we both save energy.
If I chase him too hard, he will run away, but he may be secretly laughing inside, knowing that he will come back soon. So we play this game of chasing, hiding, and arguing every day, and he still eats his fill. Sometimes, I curse at him while chasing him, deliberately making loud footsteps, thinking that this will scare him. Using sound is ultimately more humane… Such chases happen six or seven times a day, and I am starting to worry that my neighbors will think that there is domestic violence in my house every day.
Every time I watch him run away, I am amazed at how long it will take for car technology to catch up with his design. His instant acceleration and 90-degree turns without slowing down, which violate the laws of physics, are things that Tesla should spend time understanding. Although I can never catch up with him, and my IQ may not be higher than his, I am worse than him. I once had a thought that if I put a transparent acrylic board on his escape route… I wonder if that would be considered animal abuse?
Of course, later on, I got tired, too tired to chase or be bad. Let him eat grass, and let’s wait for the fruit to grow.
But I don’t have to wait until that “let’s wait” moment.
Spring has arrived, and the yard is full of flower buds. One day, I saw him standing against a flowerpot, as if waiting for a date. He would occasionally pick a chrysanthemum bud from the flowerpot with his right hand and put it in his mouth, like eating sunflower seeds. His eyes were not fixed on the food, but were looking around. Eating chrysanthemums was just a way to pass the time, as the whole yard was full of things to eat. Chrysanthemums are cheap, so he started with them.
After trying the cheap flowers, he had enough of them and started tasting the roses a few days later. He would only pick the most precious colors. There are so many roses in the backyard, with all kinds of colors, but he chose a rare color that was somewhere between pink and orange. This color is hard to find. Obviously, he also has some taste.
Next up is the part where he really got a taste for it. A few days later, I saw him jump into a hanging pot full of purple flowers under a tree and eat to his heart’s content. I walked into the backyard and saw him suddenly jump out of the pot, and we both got quite a scare… But the real shock was that even the hanging pot couldn’t keep him out!
Then it dawned on me. Just a few days ago, we were thrilled that a little bird had started coming every day to eat all the food in the pot. It was filled with nuts and raisins, much like my hiking snacks. My wife even suspected that I might have been sneaking out to eat it myself… If you chuckled at that, then you guessed right.
Sure enough, I didn’t have to wait long to witness his aerial acrobatics. That day, I watched him climb up the tree and then, using an incredible feat of skill, inch his way down the thin wire until he reached the Garfield cat. Finally, he jumped right in. At that moment, I was truly impressed by his determination and intelligence. I was even moved by him. Why couldn’t I accept such an excellent mouse?
Finally, I turned to Amazon for help, hoping to find a humane way to protect my assets while coexisting peacefully with him. I found an organic spray that was made entirely from natural ingredients and guaranteed to keep squirrels away for 30 days. Everyone who had used it said it was effective. On the first day I received the package, I followed the instructions and made a large bucket of spray, then sprayed all the flowers and fruit trees in the yard. I must tell you, it really worked because it was incredibly stinky. It turned out that the “organic substance that squirrels hate the most” was that indescribable stench… It reminded me of the 144 pairs of smelly socks we collected at the Success Summit. I had collected all the socks that had gone sour and put them in a burlap bag, then loaded them onto the laundry truck. The smell was like adding a little sourness to Shanghai-style steamed stinky tofu.
So as long as I could tolerate the stench once a month, the problem was temporarily solved. He could only eat grass and coexist peacefully with me. It was already May, and seeing him wearing a fur coat in the scorching heat and eating grass with a guilty conscience, I didn’t dare to disturb him anymore. If this continued, he would get an ulcer. I no longer knocked on the window to force him to play 123 wooden man, no longer cursed and chased him out, and no longer made chili water… The authentic Sichuan peppercorns were better used for Mapo tofu. Of course, the idea of putting down acrylic boards was just a momentary outburst.
And so, we coexisted peacefully for two weeks.
The day I saw his companion appear on the lawn, I even felt a little relieved. As long as they only ate grass and there were no more than two of them, I could live with it. The yard was a bit smelly, but I could enjoy the flowers without smelling them, and no one was eating the fruit anyway. The Garfield cat could just hang there as a decoration.
Once I let go of my hatred, life was still enjoyable.
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