Tuesday, February 12, 2008
My Complicated Life

Okay. I'm pretty sure I've already pointed out Sinfest to y'all. But this one really cracked me up. I keep going back to the page, re-reading it, and laughing. So go read it then come back here. I'll wait...


Okay. For those of you who don't already know, I live in Wisconsin. In the winter, Wisconsin is cold. For some of you who don't live in a similar climate, it's probably hard for you to understand how cold. Recently we've been having a few snaps around here where it drops down to more than 20 below, not counting the wind-chill.

Don't get me wrong. I know other places are colder. I'm not trying to start a my-home-is-colder-than-your-home sort of pissing contest here. Because, honestly, pissing at these temperatures can be downright dangerous. I'm just laying the groundwork for a story here. I'm setting the scene. Wisconsin + Winter = Cold (+/- Damn).

Another thing that you might not know is the fact that I like squirrels. Mostly I like the big fluffy grey ones. When I have more free time, and the weather is more clement, I have been known to keep peanuts in my coat pocket. Then, if I see a squirrel and I don't have anything pressing to do, I sit down and spend a half hour slowly gaining the trust of a squirrel until they feel comfortable coming to take the peanut out of my hand.

Knowing these two things, you can understand that when I found a dead squirrel on my front lawn, I was ensaddened. I felt kind of responsible, because it is my house. And I don't have birdfeeders or anything where they can get easy food. And it's been so *cold* lately....

So, whelmed with guilt, I went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of peanuts, and last night at 3:30 in the morning I'm standing at my back door with an armload of them, ready to strew them around my backyard.

That's when I realized that I had accidentally bought _salted_ peanuts.

I threw them out into the yard anyway, because it is really cold, and it's likely to stay that way for a couple days. But now I'm worried that the squirrels are out there, really cold and really thirsty because they just ate a bunch of salty peanuts. Where do they get water when it's this cold? Do they have to eat snow? Can you imagine living outside when it's this cold, then having to eat snow because you're thirsty?

Can squirrels get hypertension?

Anyway, that's what's going on with me lately. I hope everything is less anxious with all of you, regardless of geography, climate, and local fauna.



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posted by Pat at


Anonymous Josie said...

You will now be known forever as the patron saint of squirrels, Pat.
I loved this tidbit of randomness. The snippets of daily life really add heart and soul to a blog. As it is, I don't think the squirrels will hate you for giving them salted peanuts, but rather be eternally grateful that you provided tehm some nourishment. After all, I would think that their winter stores would be buried under all that snow.
Maybe next you could knit them some little blankets or something. You know, to prevent frostbite.

February 12, 2008 5:28 PM  
Blogger Scott Marlowe said...

I go the bird feeder route, which inadvertantly also feeds the squirrels since they're damn resourceful when it comes to getting seed out of even a "squirrel-proof" feeder.

February 12, 2008 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Sienged said...

I understand your concern but I must protest your belief that it was natural death.

I say it was murder. And your peanut endeavorer is just going to distract the rest of the squires from their tireless investigation.

I first thought that it could have been a heated lovers quarrel or an organized squirrel crime syndicate taking out a greedy acorn barren.

But your previously unmentioned love for squirrels makes me wonder if you have an alibi.

And your tails of bribing other squirrels with nuts all the more makes me think its all just a not so covert cover up.

I hope you have a good lawyer pat.

February 12, 2008 6:15 PM  
Blogger Mainjari said...

Don't google "squirrels salt", because it will just depress you. Not because of what you'll find considering the health effects of salt in squirrels, but because all you'll get is recipes.

February 12, 2008 6:17 PM  
Blogger Mainjari said...

Oh, and that comic was made of epic win.

February 12, 2008 6:18 PM  
Anonymous Kalligenia said...

You're so sweet to buy the squirrels nuts. I have a pair of squirrels that raid all the balconies in our area. I always put out bread crusts for birds and in the past year, the squirrels have claimed the area. They knock on my balcony door when there isn't anything out there. Yes, the squirrels can knock on doors. Scared the flannel pajama pants off me the first time they did it!

February 12, 2008 6:19 PM  
Anonymous billyverona said...

I remember when I was 20 and first went to your area (Great Lakes), I was surprised to see black squirrels.

The other thing you reminded me of was whn Bill Mahr talks about the quiet, tranquil life of a wood land creature. "Have you ever seen a woodland creature? They are all scared shitless."

February 12, 2008 6:50 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

So you were worried about the cold. Got it.

Poor squirrel. There should be a memorial service for him/her.

February 12, 2008 9:14 PM  
Blogger KYDS3K said...

man . . . and i was waiting for you to tell the story of how you thawed out the poor frozen squirrel and revived him, and now he rides on your shoulder!

my neighbor in NC used to have 2 squirrels that he found as babies and raised. they would race each other all over him while he stood there . . . it was adorable :-)

February 12, 2008 9:55 PM  
OpenID ravenvoice said...

Worse case scenario is, you'll have to add little Diovan pills to the next batch of nuts. Or just rationalize and decide that you just treated their goiters with a little extra iodine. :0)

February 12, 2008 10:05 PM  
Blogger Althalus said...

The squirrels we have down here are suicidal, I'm not even kidding.

You'll drive down the street and just stare your car down just daring you to hit them.

It's the same thing with the birds.

I never had this problem in NY, we had an understanding.

February 12, 2008 11:43 PM  
Blogger Mary J. said...

I adore you and your squirrel fascination. :-)

Btw- brrrrrrrr!!!

February 13, 2008 12:13 AM  
Anonymous Thad said...

Got no squirrels around here, for some odd reason, but I've got a couple raccoons that come by to visit a lot. They will come up and take an Oreo cookie out of my hand. They love Oreo's. I just wish they didn't take the cookies out to my pool, and spend 3 hours splashing around eating them while I'm trying to sleep.....

February 13, 2008 2:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now I know you did not want to start a pissing contest but... My home is colder than your home. I live in Regina Saskatchewan (you would be surprised by how many people ask if it's near Afghanistan)Canada, and to day it's almost -50 degrees (Celsius, 50 below freezing)with the wind chill... Ahh... Well now that I have reaffirmed that I live in the freezing colon of hell I will sleep easy at night. Anyway, love your book, and your blog, keep up the excellent work.

February 13, 2008 7:14 AM  
OpenID suziko said...

The salt might actually be good for them at this time of year, having trace minerals and such good things (hmm... I seem to have read that somewhere).
I know what you mean about the pissing contest. I live in Madison and my sister lives in Fargo. No matter how cold it is here, it's at least 10 degrees colder there in the winter, so she always scoffs at me. In my opinion, once it gets much below -10 it doesn't really make much of a difference. It's just damn cold.

February 13, 2008 7:31 AM  
Anonymous Kate said...

That's really incredibly sweet.

But why anyone would voluntarily live somewhere where the temperature is 20 below is beyond me.

February 13, 2008 8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fifty below...good gods. Living in nc wi like our esteemed Pat, I share his pain. Why do we live here? Well...we don't get giant bugs as can be found in places thar are say..warmer!
We have less snakes.
The cold can kill off viruses (wait that might be bs....but using it anyway). Cost of living is pretty cheap. Its pretty.

I'm trying to think of more reasons why we live here...crap...thanks Pat, now I am thinking about moving. I blame you!!

February 13, 2008 10:30 AM  
Blogger Shane said...

Careful, Pat. My father used to feed the squirrels in our backyard in exactly the same way as you described.
But, one time (the last time, actually) he dropped the nut just seconds before the squirrel was going to eat it from his hand. This caused the squirrel to go completely insane and it attacked my dad. It shredded his arms and face pretty bad.
So, yeah, watch out for that.

February 13, 2008 2:54 PM  
Blogger dragongirl said...

Hi Pat!

I've read the whole blog archive in the past couple of days, while I finished reading the book. Finished the book this morning.
Just want to say how brilliant I thought it was! *g* I absolutely love it!

Now, though, I want to talk to other fans about it. In one of your earlier posts, (and it was earlier, like March or something) that you hoped to get a message board up on the site. Has there been any progress towards that?
I also looked through a search engine for anything like that, but unfortunately couldn't find anything. Care to shed any light on this subject?

(If there isn't anything, I'd actually quite like to set up something.)


February 13, 2008 4:11 PM  
OpenID kilks401 said...

I live in Waterville, Maine. So I'm going to do the opposite of the my place is colder than yours and be thankful that even though its snowed every day for the past two weeks except for 2, its not nearly as cold here.

thank you for brightening my day.

February 13, 2008 4:28 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I was on deployment in the persian gulf a few years ago, and around Christmas time I began to feel nostalgic for the snow-capped winter bliss of my Michigan childhood. To get back that loving feeling, I decided to go skiing inside the Mall of Emirates in Dubai. As cool as it was to be on an indoor ski slope, it had the doubly cool effect of reminding me why I hate the cold.

February 13, 2008 5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your squirrel died of cold and/or starvation? We have no squirrels around our suburban So Cal home, but we spent a weekend up in the mountains close by. Two or three weeks later we detected a strange, rather unpleasant smell coming from our car engine. Yep, they found a nice warm place to take a nap. Sadly, they never woke up.

February 13, 2008 6:07 PM  
Blogger Kelly Swails said...

Did you know that in the Quad Cities area the squirrels are black? Just a little pocket of black squirrels. My neice didn't realize until she moved to Georgia that squirrels were any other color. Next time I'm there (and the weather's decent) I'll take a pic for ya.

Oh, and near Olney, IL, I believe the squirrels are white. Another little pocket of creatures that said "screw you" to Mendel.

February 13, 2008 7:58 PM  
OpenID jeff-h said...

We feed the birds, squirrels, raccoons, oppossums, and deer. I am always saddened when I see one dead (mostly birds who fly into the windows). So we help them by feeding them but are indirectly responsible for killing them because the feeders are near the house.

Usually the birds are just stunned so I'll grab them to keep them warm until they snap out of their shock and then they fly away. Last year, we had a hummingbird injured and tried to keep it fed (they need constant nourishment due to their excessive use of energy) by holding it up to the feeder, but ultimately it had broken its wing and could no longer fly. That was a hard one to swallow abandoning it to die of starvation.

On a less dismal note, to those who have black squirrels in their neighborhood, they are actually gray squirrels who have a pigment mutation. But black squirrels are very rare. We had a bunch in my hometown in rural Western New York. So if you have them you're pretty lucky.

February 13, 2008 10:06 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

A birdbath de-icer (or heated pet water bowl, or stock trough heater, or any such device) is a Godsend to little critters supplemented by humans in the winter. The water not only offsets the salted peanuts, but heated water is priceless in winter.

February 13, 2008 11:58 PM  
Blogger I. M. Bitter said...

Oh! those poor squirrels!

February 14, 2008 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, at least you didn't have a squirrel trapped in your roof unable to get out until it starved to death.

;scratch; ;scratch; scratch for two days.

Landlord repaired the eaves, we had a squirrel roosting problem..i assumed they got the squirrel out first.

said worker wouldn't come back to let it out, he said that's not how it's done, you have to wait until it dies.

pretty heartless business.

February 14, 2008 4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the crap? Stop feeding squirrels and start working on the sequel! I'm re-reading the first and keep thinking, I have to wait a whole year for the next one????

Okay, I'm just kidding. I, too, love to hear all these little details about your life. There are only two blogs on the internet that I check regularly, and yours is one of them because of posts like this. (Okay, ALL your posts rock.)

I once got a squirrel to come up to me. I'm a city girl, so that was a big deal. I stood there as still as I could as he little by little scuttled over to me. Once he put his little paw on my boot, however, I was afraid he thought I was just a funny-looking tree. I didn't want him and his sharp claws getting any wise ideas so I moved a bit to encourage his furry little departure. Ah well. It was neat anyway.

BTW, I'm a city ARIZONA girl, so I think that kind of cold should be a punishable offense. Yikes.

February 15, 2008 12:58 PM  
OpenID bluharlequin said...

Squirrels rock.
They're my friends.
Toads too.

February 15, 2008 5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a tip: move to California! It was 75 degrees yesterday and guess what? We have lots of squirrels here too.

I don't know if you read all these comments or not, but your book is awesome and I hope to find lots to read in the next year while waiting for the sequel.

February 16, 2008 9:48 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

I do read all the comments, actually...

February 16, 2008 5:05 PM  
Blogger Alena said...

For anyone who cares... :) Upland, Indiana (where I went to college) supposedly has the highest concentration of black squirrels in the U.S.

When feeding birds and squirrels, the most important nutritive element is the fat or oil content, which is what enables the critters to maintain body heat in the cold temperatures. So, while feeding bread and grain products is fine for summer, it can actually be lethal in winter, as the animals will fill their stomachs, but not be able to convert that food to energy.

So peanuts are fine, as they're high in fat. Birdseed, which is rich in fatty oils, is also good. But no bread for the wildlife.

And there's your random unsolicited information for the day! ^_^

February 18, 2008 3:59 PM  
Blogger Mickey said...

I also hail from wisconsin (brookfield) and can second this story.

I dont think ive ever come across frozen squirrels, but i can attest to the absolutly inhuman cold and snow that we here in the tip of the rust belt have to deal with.

Here our banner is "Cold? I come from Wisconsin, bitch."

February 18, 2008 9:32 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth said...

Ever since I was little my parents would buy big bags of "squirrel peanuts", which are bulk bags of unsalted peanuts in the shell, and sprinkle them liberally near our myriad bird feeder to distract the squirrels into giving the birds a fighting chance at eating their seed first.
I still think watching squirrels figure out clever ways to get into your most squirrel-proofed birdfeeder is time well spent.

March 8, 2010 7:12 PM  

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