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Rescue day – baby kittens and Fern the squirrel

This past Saturday Joy had to work. I spent the morning fighting with the new Facebook features messing around on the computer, then worked outside for a bit. I’d been putting off a full attack on the overgrown forsythia bushes outside the yard, and finally decided to get started. I worked on that for a while, then went down to the shelter to volunteer for an hour or so, then Joy and I came home and decided to sit out in the yard in the sun instead of going off to run errands. It was so beautiful out, it seemed a shame to waste it.

That plan was cut short by a call Joy received from one of the animal control officers: he’d taken a call about some kittens under a woman’s porch, and had picked up two tiny kittens, so small that their eyes weren’t even open. We needed to quickly find someone who could raise them, or they’d have to be put down. Joy called Blue Ridge Humane Society and thankfully one of the staff there said she would take them. Awesome! All we had to do was to get them there; so much for our lazy afternoon in the sun, but a small price to pay to help save two lives.

Adorable fuzzy little week old calico babies!

The officer dropped the kittens off to us and I was instantly smitten; how can anyone resist a week-old kitten? They were fluffy little calico girls, a bit chilled but very healthy and VERY hungry. We headed right off to Blue Ridge to get them to their new caretaker. I have to confess the kittens rode there tucked inside my shirt, to warm them up.  I was almost reluctant to hand them over, but luckily I still remember how much work it is to raise bottle babies.

It was after five o’clock when we headed home and our sunny day was about gone; I hurried to feed the dogs and take advantage of what little daylight remained to continue my assault upon the forsythia patch. The nearby oak trees on our neighbor’s property had been raining acorns all day, and I’d gotten used to all the thumps of things hitting the ground around me (though initially I admit I had thought someone was throwing rocks at me) but then there was a thump nearby — followed by the sound of a small bird or animal screaming.

Jumping up and scanning the grassy area, I spotted a very small squirrel sort of stagger-crawling back up the hill. I approached it warily, convinced it would either (a) take off at a high rate of speed as soon as it saw me or (b) bite the crap out of me if I tried to pick it up. It did neither. I gently scooped up the squirrel and it nestled down into my hand immediately:

I had my iPod in my pocket and snapped this just seconds after I found the squirrel. This is almost more cuteness than one person can stand.

The poor little thing was very, very young, cold to the touch, and very dehydrated. My guess is that the mother had probably been hit by a car and not come home, and the baby — starving — crawled out of the nest and fell out of the tree. Joy got on the phone to find a rescuer for the second time that day.  She called several wildlife rehabbers, and finally found a lady who said that everyone was overwhelmed with hurricane orphans from the coast, but she’d call a few other people and get back to us. She also gave us some recommendations on what to do in the meantime.


The first problem at hand was the fleas; squirrels are loaded with them, and when I picked up the baby, what immediately happened was that literally hundreds of them swarmed off her cold body onto my nice warm one. I was standing way out in the middle of our driveway so as not to contaminate the house and yard, flicking fleas off myself frantically. The rehabber had said that Adams flea spray is safe to use, if you just wipe it on lightly; the fleas on a wild animal don’t have any built up resistance to insecticides so they die pretty easily. Thankfully she was right, and after a few minutes we’d removed most of them. I still had the heeby-jeebies for the rest of the night, imagining they were still crawling on me.


Next, we needed to get her rehydrated and warm. While Joy was on the phone, I had already been syringe-feeding the squirrel water – she was so thirsty she grabbed the syringe with her little hands and drank more than 3cc immediately. The rehabber told us not to try bottle formula, but rather to stick with the water short term and offer the squirrel some apple. Luckily we had apples in the house and she took to that pretty readily as well. Joy set up a little nest with a snuggle-safe underneath, and our houseguest was settled in for the evening:


Fern the squirrel (I know you aren’t supposed to make pets of wildlife, but we had to have something to call her temporarily, right?) slept most of the evening, with a few more drinks of water. At one point we heard a sharp whistle from the bathroom where we’d set the cage up (the only safe place from our houseful of predators) which apparently signified that she was hungry or thirsty again – I had no idea squirrels whistled? Each time I fed her, she’d crawl up to my neck and snuggle down against it, I was trying not to handle her too much but it was really hard to resist her apparent fearlessness acceptance of me as her replacement ‘mommy’.

The next day, we had a rehabber that the other lady had contacted called us back, and we arranged to meet and get the squirrel to him. Most of these pictures, except for that very first one, were taken just before we bundled her off to her new caretakers. The couple were very nice and were currently raising eight other squirrel orphans, and they said that this one was very young and had probably just opened her eyes. She’ll be safe and well cared for, (and most importantly, grow up knowing the things she needs to know to be a wild squirrel) then released onto their large wooded property once she’s ready.

This is my favorite picture, she was on her way to her snuggle-spot on my neck, and just after Joy snapped this she licked my face. You can really see how little and fragile she was, in this one.

All in all, it was a pretty eventful weekend, I’d say – with a pretty good outcome! We’re so happy that we found a safe place for both the kittens and the squirrel, and it’s actually pretty amazing that I was in the right place at the right time to save Fern in the first place – if I hadn’t been outside the fence cutting down those bushes right at that moment, there’s no way either of us would have heard her little cries when she fell.

Ok, you’ve got your picture…

…now put me down before I kick your ass.


Intercepted home invasion…


I busted this little guy trying to get through the front door this morning. I think it’s a male black widow, but even though he has the classic hourglass, I’ve never seen a widow with banded legs and the shape seems wrong. I sent these pics to What’s That Bug for a second opinion.


He’s already made a web in his jar, so he doesn’t seem terribly inconvenienced by his incarceration. Though I guess he gets the last laugh, since I ‘stopped’ him from getting into the house by giving him a lift… into the house.


Today is the autumnal equinox: the day the hours of light and dark are once again in balance before descending into increasing darkness. I’ve felt the change coming, and as usual it makes me unsettled and a bit melancholy. Typically I don’t do well with this time of year; it’s a beautiful time, the light has this crisp, high contrast quality to it, and the turning leaves are so pretty, but I hate to see everything dying off, and I know that winter is coming. I don’t deal well with either change or death, and autumn is all about both.
A sampling of the bounty our garden has produced this year

It’s been almost a month since the above photo was taken and the harvest has mostly tapered off. The peppers are just now in full swing but it’s tough getting to them before the crickets do – they chew holes in them and then crawl inside…yuck. The tomatoes are still trying valiantly to produce, but we’ve had some cool wet weather and the big ones are tending to rot before they can ripen. The leaves have some sort of ick on them and there are whiteflies and caterpillars moving in on the weakened plants. I prune away the bad stuff as I pick the tomatoes — I just can’t bring myself to chop down all the vines that are full of flowers and ripening fruit — but I suspect there is a balance that is reached where the amount of viable produce vs. the amount of work and mess is no longer worthwhile, and I wonder if allowing the plants to continue is possibly even counterproductive; am I letting disease and pests get a good foothold so that I’ll have to fight them twice as early next year?

I hate being in the position of deciding who dies and when… for that reason I’ve always coped better with crops where I am harvesting fruits and vegetables the plants produce rather than the plants themselves, and have shied away from growing things like cabbage or radishes. While I perfectly understand, on an intellectual level, that my overly sentimental attitude is counterproductive, I can’t help it…  though I imagine that if I ever did have to live off the land, I’d have to toughen up quick – or starve.

The one thing that fall has going for it this year is that I am really worn out with tending the garden. Some crops did very well this year, (that beastly cherry tomato vine!) others had issues, but produced decently (the squash, the peppers) and a few were a complete bust (we got exactly three strawberries and a chipmunk stole the best one, the cantaloupe plants never fruited) but it’s been a lot of daily work making sure that as much of the harvest as possible is not wasted. I’ve got a half dozen assorted winter squash sitting in the bottom of the pantry, three bags of frozen butternut gnocchi, two loaves of frozen zucchini bread, and lots of frozen tomatoes, tomato sauce, and pizza sauce. I even canned six jars of jalapeno jelly. There have been a lot of days where I came home from work and then spent all of my hours until bedtime picking, cleaning, processing, or cooking; it will be a relief to have this time back for other pursuits.