The children are unhappy that they have to mow around one more thing in our vast and rambling yard. It is only two inches in diameter, but apparently it is still enough to warrant grumbling.
The intruder has been on Scott’s to-do list for months, years even. All winter long, for at least two winters, as he cursed the acrobatic squirrels dangling from our spinning bird feeder like they were part of some midget circus, Scott was laying plans for the three hundred pound, twenty foot length of iron piping currently inhabiting the shed rafters.
When the ground thawed, the pipe made its way down into the belly of the shed, where it would win accolades as ‘Most Irritating Supporting Actor’ in the Ottinger Garage Tony’s, propped up on the mid-shed ladder and several bursting bags of aluminum cans. Expert and indiscriminate in it’s blocking abilities, that pipe managed to be squarely in the way of absolutely every shed-based mission, from mowing the lawn or riding a bike to finding a wrench or getting out the camping gear – any of the camping gear. Pick a trip.
By May several implements of pipe-cutting destruction had been secured from the far corners of the neighborhood and stowed – in the shed – until the time was right. The victimized bird feeder – chewed and mangled after years of housing playful squirrels – also found purchase in the fertile grounds of the pole shed. The players had assembled.
It should be noted at this point that I have remained at a safe distance from this project nearly from its inception on that dark and snowy December day. At first mention, I voiced my opinion that no pole – of any sort – was going to keep the squirrels from their favorite hamsterball/Old Country Buffet. My doubt fell on deaf and simmering ears. Sometimes it is best to just nod and smile, and then refuse to offer any further input.
A couple weeks ago – apparently the moon and stars were all in alignment – the hole was dug, the tools and pipe were brought together in symphony, and – with the help of local reinforcements – the pipe was cut to the calculated size. The length would accommodate the depth of the hole, the hanging length of the feeder, and the stepstool that would henceforth be used to pour buckets of sunflower seed into said feeder, all the while taking into account the maximal leaping height of Wisconsin squirrels, the average depth of snow buildup below feeder placement, and the prevailing winds on the Ides of March during a full moon. (The stool and bucket were called into action for a dry run against the loose pipe wobbling in the ground to ensure the proper height was chosen.)
The project was underway, as projects always become when the family is supposed to be packing for a vacation (what is that?). Thankfully, the project was not started in earnest until after all the camping gear was hauled, for the fourth or twelfth time, over and under the star of the annual shed awards. Timing is everything.
Rebar was acquired in lengths appropriate for cross members, and the pipe was removed from its hole to be carted off and drilled through with perfectly-rebar-sized holes in its topmost regions. Quickrete was unearthed. The wheelbarrow and hoe were called into action as the rickety concrete mixer that they are so often asked to play in these shenanigans. And the wife, despite hiding behind the couch and feigning a headache, was summoned to wield the level and ensure that the pipe was set true.
Next morning, Quickrete having worked its magic, the feeder-that-was-sure-it-had-entered-retirement emerged once again from the shed to be installed on its new perch, belly filled with seed. Another hapless feeder, a triple-tube thistle feeder with a leaky roof and only one operational tube, was retrieved from the nearby tree that it hadn’t left in seven years. Its rotten contents were dumped out onto the lawn and it was positioned opposite the first feeder, balancing out the first rebar crosspiece nicely.
Sighs of satisfaction were heard the world-wide. Oohs and aahs were solicited from the skeptical children. Eye rolls were contained. There was patriarchal smirking. The wife breathed deeply. “It’s gorgeous.”
The feeder has now been filled for the second time. The birds are enjoying their newest hip and happening dining spot. It does seem that in the seven years since we have fed the finches their beloved thistle, we have evolved them into sunflower-loving machines, so they are not really touching the thistle, but that one full tube is doing a great job of counterbalancing the aesthetics of the whole installation.
And so it was with great sadness that the children and I were interrupted from our yoga session this morning at the wry observation of our yoga instructor/grandma. As we were coming down into deep and intense contortions of unknown name, we leaped to our feet in unison as the yoga guru cocked her head and interjected, “I see the chipmunks are enjoying your new feeder.”
If you need me, I’ll be snickering at the front window,