Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Like greased lightning . . .

. . . That's how fast a flying squirrel runs when chased through the living room by two cats.

And it's as hard to catch as a greased pig, as the kitties learned after romping through the house after it all night long -- and as we learned the next evening when the chase resumed during dinner.

It took a day to figure out what the thing was. Mice are common, especially in winter, but this guy was too big. We kept seeing it streak across the floor between furniture, too fast to identify. Finally my husband got a glimpse that told him it was bigger than a chipmunk with a similar tail, but not russety brown, no stripes down the back; gray or beige, smaller than a squirrel. Definitely not a rat.

Once hubby joined the fray, which moved into the basement workshop, he got close enough to look the critter in the face, up in the rafters -- big black button eyes looked back -- and to get a hand on its hindquarters before it squirted free and sailed past his head about ten feet to the floor, disappearing again under the machine tools and engine parts.

A flying rodent! That was the big clue. A year ago summer, we found a flying squirrel climbing up the basement wall in broad daylight. Until then, we'd been unaware that flying squirrels lived this far north. But we had been aware of critters living in the roof gambrels and the walls, scurrying around between floors now and then, and driving the cats nutty. We'd always thought the noisemakers were chipmunks or mice.

Neither critter is as bold (or tame? or tired?) as this one, which kept sticking its face out right in front of the cats, allowing us to get sooooo close before it shot away. I finally donned gloves and followed the cats around until they had the little guy cornered. Then I pounced! -- and caught him before the cats could and scuttled him outside. He fit with room to spare between my cupped-together hands.

End of excitement. We hope he found a warm place to crawl into, plus some food. Most likely, he's back in the gambrel through that hole we can't find, and the scurrying we next hear will be him running his usual route.

As long as he stays up there, we'll live and let live. And the cats will keep sitting on top of the refrigerator, staring at the ceiling.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The switcheroo


The switcheroo

Twenty-four hours after my last post discussing season change, the season changed. Thump, just like that.

We're accustomed to early snows that don't amount to much and disappear quickly. This one was only 4-5 inches, but it was heavy and wet, and bowed over all the trees from the weight of white coating. We worried about power outages -- some leaves were still up, and this is the condition that snaps branches and karate-chops wires -- but nothing happened. What a relief! The longest power outage we've ever suffered was an October storm some years ago that left us juice-free for five days.

This time, it melted away within twenty-four hours.

Same thing happened a few days later. Another 4 inches of wet snow, no biggy for us but it walloped southern New England, which was still in full foliage. Tore down trees by the acre and left that heavily populated urban/suburban area out of power for a week or more! We felt for them, having recently endured the effects of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene. But our life went on as normal, for which we were grateful.

And then it melted off yet again, restoring clement conditions that allowed a final race against the calendar to get outdoor work done before getting snowed in for good. That finally happened with an 8-inch snow dump this week -- again, wet and heavy -- but this time not melting off. Sun came back strong but temperatures didn't follow. What's underneath the snow now will stay there until April. Or May . . . however long it lasts.

I suppose that's appropriate, given that we're now into December. It's rare to go snow-free this late into the year. We're now in full heating season and the longest hours of darkness, wearing parkas and boots and hats and gloves, mounting snow tires, scraping off cars.

It's the time of year when I begin my countdown. Only eleven more days 'til solstice, when the sun resumes its northward path and light starts returning to the land.

Can't wait!