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Archive for January 22nd, 2008

Squirrel Appreciation Day? Hmmm…

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Well, Monday was one of my favorite holidays, right up there with Thanksgiving. We celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I did work, but I work teaching others and I think teaching/learning are reasonable pursuits on that sort of holiday. I have written long essays on this day in previous years. I am not writing about it today, but that is not to say that the holiday escaped me. It definitely did not.

However, I was reading the comments on Stephanie’s Yarn Harlot blog the other day, and someone mentioned a Squirrel Appreciation Day. And it’s on the same day as Dr. King’s day? Amazing. I admit that the date of Dr. King’s celebration changes because of Monday holidays, but I found it impossible to understand the idea of a Squirrel Appreciation Day at all, and to have it compete with MLK Day was surreal.

I remember a friend from New Zeeland who moved here for several years. She says the first few weeks they were here, they used up much photographic film trying to get good shots of those adorable squirrel creatures. They seemed so exotic!

But for me? If Dr. King is about peace, then squirrels are not. We have one spectacular tree, and from it a squirrel can get on our roof. From there, he/she can get into enough mischief to cause my house damage and me a bit of jangled nerves.

We had a squirrel when I moved here, who was fat and fearless. I think someone was feeding him and I was not amused. He would come up on the step and when you yelled at him to go away, he just looked at you. As in, are you bringing me food now? Quite spooky. They live near humans but they do not usually get along with us quite that well. They should rightfully be a bit afraid.

One day we found squished squirrel in the road and that one stopped coming around so we think it was him. As Kenny says, Curiosity Killed the Cat, and Indecision Killed the Squirrel. They are always trying to figure out which tree is closest to run up if they are startled, and sometimes they head to the closest but not safest tree (or phone pole). Maybe I’m a squirrel, I suffer from indecision myself, though it has never threatened my life at this point.

When I moved here there was a protected spot on the roof where a lot of angles came together, where the squirrels had gnawed a hole and were trying to get through to the attic on the other side. Our neighbor at the time, Marvin, put a metal plate there with a plywood board over it, and that ceased to be an issue.

Then this year I kept hearing “someone” up in the attic, at all hours of day or night. We have had birds before but this one seemed to be scurrying in a way a bird would not. I figured it was a squirrel. We found that one was going in and out the vents on the roof. We got new animal-proof vents. And the sounds did not stop.

So about a week ago I talked to friend/musician/woodsman Paul Bennett and mentioned the squirrels. He didn’t miss a beat. He said, they are traveling in the gutters of your roof, look for a low spot on the very edge, and they get in the attic by chewing a hole through the roof boards, underneath the very last bottom shingle.

squirrelhole.jpg

So a few days ago, I heard it again. And I went outside. It was the perfect weather for the discovery… and sure enough, it was a piece of cake to find it once Paul had described the situation. On the front of the house where we added on the new porch several years ago, there is a side gutter. And there was clearly a little entry hole, and even squirrel tracks going from the gutter a foot or so from that hole up to the top of the roof. Wow.

Well, then I read about squirrel appreciation day. I personally am afraid for my house, that the rodent will gnaw through electrical wires or something. I’m a little less worried about the things stored in the attic, though no doubt it could become bedding for the furry little pest.

But I read the whole page written by the Founder of Squirrel Appreciation Day. And I read that the animals do not like the scent of mint, and if you put peppermint oil on a cottonball in the attic space, they will vacate. This sounded too good/simple to be true.

I had a cottonball, and I had some very strong Eucalyptus oil, which is to me even more obnoxious than peppermint. So I put some oil on the ball and put it in the one attic door I could reach easily. I can get Brian to help me go into the one other door near the squirrel area when he gets home.

I’m crossing my fingers. I am not one to put out bait, and closing up the hole could trap the dude inside which could be very bad. I really want this furry tenant to go his merry way without a formal eviction of any sort.

As I type this I can hear someone up there walking around. It’s really spooky. Let’s face it, we are humans on earth and we make little climate-controlled boxes to keep ourselves warm and protected. But we are not in charge of nature, and animals are much more resourceful than humans are in cases like this.

While researching this column, I found a web page that says in Council Bluffs, Iowa it may be illegal to do what I am doing.

City Attorney Richard Wade said roughly in the 1930s, the City Council adopted an ordinance barring people from bothering black squirrels.

According to the ordinance, it is illegal to annoy, worry, maim, injure or kill the squirrel.

My squirrel is red. Go, cottonball!

Author at Schuler Books, Eastwood (Lansing, MI)

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

If you read here often, you know that I eat healthy (mostly because of a long list of food allergies and sensitivities). I buy fresh ingredients, very few canned or frozen items, and I make things myself so that I am very clear what I am eating. I feel well when I do this, and often if I give in and buy at a restaurant I regret the choice.

However, I learned to read labels on food when I was just a child, before my food sensitivities took over my life. I am discovering that many otherwise well-informed people in my life never really look at what is in their food, even though it is right there for the reading.

I am always on the lookout for foods with one or two ingredients in the package. I have written about this search before, if you want to read an archived column. The ones which come to mind are pumpkin (for pie, but not the pie filling version), and tomato paste.

Even tomato sauce usually has citric acid added, which is funny because tomatoes have some citric acid in them naturally. I am guessing they use it to regulate the exact level of acidity in each batch. At least one brand doesn’t use it so the theory it might be needed as preservative would not be valid.

Citric acid is not lemon juice (though it sometimes can come from citrus fruit, it can also come from fermented corn and I can’t have mold or corn). Bet you didn’t know that!

Just to illustrate how little most of us know (until health requires us to be informed), here’s one source supporting what I just said… according to a supplement-information web page by Ray Sahelian, MD:

How is Citric Acid made?
Citric and lactic acids are produced by fermentation which utilized a carbohydrate source such as corn based starch and sugar beet molasses… Fermentation yields a crude purity product which requires further refining. One refining technique utilities a precipitation process, this process first uses lime to produce calcium citrate solids, this is then contacted with sulfuric acid which produces a partially purified soluble citric acid and calcium sulfate by product. Another technique used is solvent extraction…

Citric acid can be extracted from the juice of citrus fruits by adding calcium oxide (lime) to form calcium citrate, an insoluble precipitate that can be collected by filtration; the citric acid can be recovered from its calcium salt by adding sulfuric acid… and can be obtained synthetically from acetone or glycerol.

Yum. Yum? Now, the point is that for most people this is not an issue, but if you make your own food you don’t get the synthetic citric acid made from acetone (fingernail polish remover). I don’t like making my own food, I do it kicking and screaming sometimes, but I am clear my system is happier when I do it.

(For the record, Eden Organic Foods has canned “crushed tomatoes” that contain tomatoes and nothing else. It is essentially thick, beautiful tomato sauce. They also have Buckwheat “Soba” noodles that are 100% buckwheat… which I order by the case through their website. I love Eden Foods!)

SO… I just was checking out the Schuler Books website (because I’m doing an in-house promotion on Designer One-Skein Wonders at Eastwood, on February 28 at 7:30pm). And what did I find? This Thursday, local author Kimberly Lord Stewart is doing a presentation on how to read food labels. It’s at 7:30pm. Here is what the Schuler books website says:

Learn to read food labels with Eating Between the Lines
Award winning journalist, natural foods expert, and Lansing native Kimberly Lord Stewart is returning to give us a lesson in reading food labels, a topic that is rapidly gaining importance through the rise of food allergies and genetically modified products.

Her new book, Eating Between the Lines: The Supermarket Shopper’s Guide to the Truth Behind Food Labels, tells readers how to be discerning shoppers by breaking down the mystery and the marketing behind the countless food labels touting the health benefits of every food from potatoes to potato chips. Learn the tricks of healthy grocery shopping and have your own questions about food labels answered by an expert!

Thursday. January 24. 7:30 p.m., Schuler Books, Eastwood Towne Center, Lansing

The photos are of foods I have made and shared with you readers over the last several years. All healthy and with as few ingredients as possible, yet still tasty. And beautiful, no?