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Squirrelly business

Ever wonder what’s in a squirrel’s nest?  Me neither.

But I was given the chance to find out  earlier this week. Before we began painting, we discovered that we had a small family of squirrels living in our attic. The pitter-patter of their feet overhead was the first indicator of their presence.  Frequent sightings of the bushy-tailed critters scampering along the ridge of the roof made me more suspicious. And when a neighbor drove by and announced that he’d seen something crawl into our roof, I knew it was time to face the rodents. A quick climb into the attic revealed a family of three squirrels balled up in the soffit, right next to a huge hole that they’d gnawed through the fascia board. The biggest of the three gave me a defiant look that seemed to say, “Yeah, so?”.

A few days later, I came face-to-face with one of the them as I was making repairs to a window sill on the roof. He stuck his head out of his hidey-hole and chirped an incessant message that translated from squirrel-speak probably meant, “Beat it, scumbag!” It probably HAS been his house for the past two years, but still. I  should have trapped the critters in the attic and relocated them, but I chose to let them be until the painter’s carpenter replaced the rotten fascia board. Fortunately, the squirrel family was out foraging at the time and must have vacation digs in the next yard over because there’s no indication that they’ve tried to return.

Just to verify this fact, I made another trip to the attic on Tuesday, and decided to clean out the nest while I was up there. It was a foul job. The nest was horribly dusty and reeked of urine. Among the things used to build this particular nest were: plastic bags, camellia cuttings, leaves, bark and…a squirrel’s tail. Seriously, squirrels? How can you sleep at night with the full-length severed appendage of one of your housemates wrapped around you?

squirrel nest

I used to think squirrels were moderately cute as they bounded around the yard. That opinion is currently under review after the nest-extraction event.  Know what’s absolutely, 100% super-cute though?  This guy:

frenchie puppy

We haven’t settled on a name yet, but this is our new 3/4 French Bulldog, 1/4 Boston Terrier puppy.  We both miss Jacques terribly.  It hasn’t been the same without a goofy bulldog around the house.  In about five weeks’ time, we’ll remedy that by going to fetch our new furry fella and introducing him to his new house and yard.  I suppose given our current heating situation we’ll need to stock up on doggy sweaters.  Until now, this is not a purchasing activity that has been endorsed in this household, but I’m certain that my wife is delighted by the change of heart.


7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Weezie #


    December 16, 2012
  2. Dear Reid,

    First of all, I should introduce myself…..I’m your neighbor (my partner andI bought the Webb House on W. queen Street, at about the same time that you folks bought 7 Hearths).

    Regarding our local squirrels? I had one of those meet-in-the-middle-of-the-street-while-we’re-all-hauling-our-recycling-bins conversations with Sharon Schirro this past week. She lives across from us. I gather from her that our squirrels are an enterprisingly tenacious tribe. when she mentioned squirrels in her attic, I chipperly suggested (as you may noticed, we English majors JUMP at opportunities to appear practical) that she and her husband get one or several of those machines that supposedly emit a high-pitched screec that drives out the squirrels.

    She gave me the most intensely “I am so OVER that” look I’ve seen in a long while, and she flatly announced “We DID that……the squirrels gnawed through the cord and dismantled it.”

    Someday, when we meet, ask me for the tale of my former neighbors in Durham who had not a couple, but a pulsating herd of coons living in their attic (also between the walls and different floors of the house).

    As for your house? Herve and I actually went there about four times over the course of eight months…..a year or so ago. The last visit was the most remarkably unpersuasive (I happened to like the house a great deal). I had my tiny, visiting French in-laws with me as our very knowledgeable and pleasant agent began extolling the wonders of the house. At one point, she spread her arms wide in the backyard and exclaimed “Can’t you just see a wedding here!!”

    Quickly reviewing what I know of North Carolina’s laws regarding gay marriage, I rather sourly replied “No, in fact.”

    This was followed by her vainly trying to get the determined-to-remain-unimpressed in-laws interested in the history of the house. They made it fairly clear that 200 years was as nothing to their European selves. The agent smilingly opened that little staircase which leads to the attic above the “law office”, saying that it might have been used to house slaves. My father in-law (who’s the regional head of the Socialist Party) predictably (and all too obviously) decided “non” at that moment.

    Eventually, we said goodbye to the agent (whom I like a lot; she got us this house, eventually). We got in the car, and the first thing my mothger-in-law (who’s perfectly fluent in 3 or so languages) said was ” ‘7 Hearths’?….they should be more accurate and call it ‘6 and a half hearths and NINE levels’…”.

    All in all (and as I later told Herve), they weren’t going to win any prizes for even trying to muster some enthusiasm.

    I loved the house, though….and it’s awfully good to see the care you folks are giving it.
    When you have the time, come up and visit. If nothing else, we have fully-functioning heat systems.

    thanks for starting your blog, and I’ll look forward to meeting you and your wife.

    David Terry
    The Webb House
    117 E. Queen St. (what I do for a living….which requires a working environment somewhere above 40 degrees)

    December 17, 2012
    • jrh #


      Thanks for your wonderfully entertaining response…I particularly enjoyed the story of your French in-laws and their reaction to our “old” nine-level home. You artwork is lovely. My wife is a sucker for a dog portrait, so I see a commission in the future….

      Looking forward to meeting you and Herve. We’ll stop by sometime, and don’t hesitate to do the same the next time you’re on King St.

      December 17, 2012
      • Oh, Reid…I hope I made it clear that I thought (for the first time in ten years) that my inlaws were being idiotic (despite their being professors of physics and 17th century literature) and flat-out rude (the real estate agent is a very pleasant and well-informed person)….and you’ve gotten yourself a lovely house.

        I went by your house today….mailing off paintings to clients in France (whoo-woo! aren’t I fancy these days?), and I saw your newly-painted house. It’s really lovely…..Lord knows how much work that took.

        My telephone number is 245 0087. do, please, just give a call, and I’ll have you and your wife over.

        —david terry

        December 17, 2012
  3. jrh #

    David, your message was clear, and even if they weren’t particularly pleasant about it, I got a good laugh out of the story…one has to admit that it’s not the most convenient floor plan ever devised. We do love the house though, quirks and all. A good chuckle is the best antidote to the frustrations we endure trying to coax this place back to life.

    December 18, 2012
    • Oh, the floor-plan of the Webb House completely boggles everyone (including the in-laws, who were here for 3 weeks in September, but who were quite deliberately excluded from the house-hunting process this go-round).

      Amusingly enough?….my mother and 8 year old nephew were here a few weekends ago for the Christmas parade; that first morning, he appeared in the kitchen doorway, with a pained expression and both hands pressed against his crotch. He wailed “I can’t find a BATHROOM in this house!!’s all mixed-up!!!”.

      My mother quickly guided him to one (six feet away from him, behind a tiny door) and came back into the kitchen, saying “Good Lord…that child acts like he’s stuck on ‘The Poseidon Adventure’….”

      Just for the architectural record?….we have four full bathrooms, but they’re all squirreled away (so to speak) in odd, former-attic spaces. Only one of them has a door higher than 5’6″ which seems to confuse folks. At 5’6″, I’m not particularly bothered by any of the arrangements, but Herve (who’s 6’1″) recently pointed out to me that the toilet in his office’s bathroom sits under an angled celiing so steep that even an average-height man has to stand about 3 feet away when “using” it. I told him that, rather than spending time perfecting his aim (no, he’s never played basketball), he ought to simply resign himself to considering it his “sitting room”.

      —-david terry
      The Webb House (which is about to get itself decorated today…don’t ask me how it suddenly turned out to be the 18th of December….)

      December 18, 2012

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