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December 16, 2004
A squirrel was lounging within the circle of squirrel-barrier bars on the hanging birdfeeder as I came out the back door, his snout in the hole intended for birds' beaks. He could eat without moving, like an ancient Roman at a banquet.

You'd better get outta there, jerk, I said, and he began to leave in a leisurely way. It appears that we no longer strike fear into their horrid little hearts.

They eat squirrels in the West, you know, I told him as he hopped to the ground. He disappeared into one of the woodpiles -- I can't believe these criminals are living in our woodpile. They catch them and cut them in half and cover the bottom half with clay and then they roast it. The fur comes off with the clay and there you are. I read that somewhere when I was a child, and filed it away for future use.

That particular woodpile, right against the house and warmer, I suppose, than the others, has been home to a number of animals. I preferred it when a possum lived there, but now it's just squirrels. We had a skunk family a while back -- sometimes you would see Mama and the kids walking single file up the drive -- but they had a hole in a more private place, not right beside the back door. This was fine with us, because you never want to startle a skunk.

We would like to have more bats. Maybe we should get a bat house. Genevra up in Wellsville has a bat house she made herself, and bats line up to get in. If you have plenty of bats, you don't have mosquitoes in summer, and the mosquito is New Jersey's state bird. A bat house, then, for the new year.

Animals are living near you. Your pets, of course, but other animals, too. You may not see them, because they don't particularly want to be seen -- not all human beings have made the encounter worthwhile for them. But animals you didn't invite are living near you right now. They don't need an invitation. They live here.
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