Let it be released from the mind

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

How many squirrels to fill a dinner plate?

I sit here anxiously. The anger is brooding in my temples, and I can feel my shoulders inching up toward my ears as the sound continues.

scratch scratch scratch.....scratch scratch.....thump thump thump thump thump

In August of last year we thought it had all been solved by replacing our roof. The contractor was sad as he ousted a nest of baby squirrels into the neighboring tree, surely to become the next meal for a local hawk or even crow. But he knows the damage and annoyance these tiny little woodland creatures can cause, and he acknowledged the need to oust them from MY home which they had been confusing as theirs.

But several months ago they ate through the shingles again in the front corner of our townhouse and made themselves a nice, warm, dry home in our attic. I thought it was just one because the scratching and running would seem solitary and tend to happen only in spurts. But yesterday, when my anger level hearing them demolish our attic, I definitely heard at least two scampering around. By the yipping and screeching it was hard to tell if they were trying to kill each other or mate.

Why haven't we taken care of this? Well, for one, we don't have a ladder that can reach the roof. I've often considered buying such a ladder, but they are very expensive and we also have nowhere to store it from the weather and vandals. The attic access that we have in our house happens to be on the opposite side of the house and in our closet so it's really difficult to get into without tearing everything up. And, apparently, we're lazy. I have said probably 15 times to D about how much those damn squirrels are pissing me off using our house as their personal space and he says I know and then continues doing whatever he was doing. You're right, I should be a stronger woman and just take care of it myself. Well, I can't get into the attic myself. And I also can't patch it, and it's scary up there with the potential of vermin contact and darkness. I'm making excuses, but so what.

It just so happens that in our White Elephant exchange this year at work, someone got a live animal trap as their gift. I have outsourced this gift, and this weekend it will be placed in the attic to catch that squirrel. Or if I'm lucky enough to get into the attic and realize that there is not a fiendish nut-eating rodent inside the attic, I will somehow work to patch it up before it comes back in.

In the meantime, I've been doing some brainstorming with the help of the NY Times and some crazy Brits...

These days, however, in farmers’ markets, butcher shops, village pubs and elegant restaurants, squirrel is selling as fast as gamekeepers and hunters can bring it in.
“Part of the interest is curiosity and novelty,” said Barry Shaw of Shaw Meats, who sells squirrel meat at the Wirral Farmers Market near Liverpool. “It’s a great conversation starter for dinner parties.”
While some have difficulty with the cuteness versus deliciousness ratio — that adorable little face, those itty-bitty claws — many feel that eating squirrel is a way to do something good for the environment while enjoying a unique gastronomical experience.
With literally millions of squirrels rampaging throughout England, Scotland and Wales at any given time, squirrels need to be controlled by culls. This means that hunters, gamekeepers, trappers and the Forestry Commission (the British equivalent of forest rangers) provide a regular supply of the meat to British butchers, restaurants, pâté and pasty makers and so forth.
The situation is more than simply a matter of having too many squirrels. In fact, there is a war raging in Squirreltown: invading interlopers (gray squirrels introduced from North America over the past century or more) are crowding out a British icon, the indigenous red squirrel immortalized by Beatrix Potter and cherished by generations since. The grays take over the reds’ habitat, eat voraciously and harbor a virus named squirrel parapox (harmless to humans) that does not harm grays but can devastate reds. (Reports indicate, though, that the reds are developing resistance.)
“When the grays show up, it puts the reds out of business,” said Rufus Carter, managing director of the Patchwork Traditional Food Company, a company based in Wales that plans to offer squirrel and hazelnut pâté on its British Web site,
Enter the “Save Our Squirrels” campaign begun in 2006 to rescue Britain’s red squirrels by piquing the nation’s appetite for their marauding North American cousins. With a rallying motto of “Save a red, eat a gray!” the campaign created a market for culled squirrel meat.


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