Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Secret Lives of Squirrels (and Birds!)

For our upcoming year using Adventures in My Father's World, one of the subjects we'll cover is a section on birds. As part of the curriculum, we were encouraged to purchase a bottle cap bird feeder, very inexpensive, which would attach on to a regular 2-liter empty soda bottle that would be filled with birdseed and hung up. I decided to do this during the summer to give the birds a chance to find our feeder in advance of our studying them. I had no idea what an adventure it would be to do so.

Within 24 hours of hanging the feeder, I saw no birds. But squirrels found the feeder in no time. It was hanging from a tree limb, and the squirrels had no problem scaling down the tree to the feeder, then hanging onto the feeder and grabbing the seeds by the fistfuls. Before long, they had eaten half of the bottle, with nary a bird to be seen anywhere near the feeder. The next day, the feeder was no longer even hanging. I found it discarded in our backyard, all the food gone, a big hole chewed out of the bottle. The squirrels had had quite a party in the middle of the night, apparently.

To make a long story short, I bought another feeder, outfitted it with a "squirrel baffle" to prevent the critters from climbing onto the feeder from above and stealing the food, then I hung it in a different location, but it was still too close to the tree trunks and the squirrels attacked that feeder as well. Again I found the feeder in the morning some distance away from its original location with parts definitively gnawed on by the squirrels. It was salvageable, but I needed a new solution. Finally, I strung a thin but sturdy length of picture wire between two trees and suspended the feeder that way. So far, it has worked out, although there are times when multiple squirrels are beneath the feeder, circling below it like a brood of vultures, waiting for the scraps that the birds drop when they come to eat. And they have started coming--at least black-capped chickadees, in frequent numbers! We are looking forward to seeing other feathered friends visit in the near future now that we've solved the squirrel problem. Who knew that I'd be spending so much energy in homeschooling prep on squirrel deterrents?

One last comment...I never understood why people would get into bird watching until now. It's a little addictive to keep checking outside to see which birds might be there if at all, and trying to catch a glimpse of a new visitor to identify. And when you do find a bird sitting happily at the feeder, munching away, you feel a little bit like you've made a new friend, albeit one that flies away whenever you get too close!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Testing the Waters

This summer, I decided to start to dabble in homeschooling, in part to get an idea of how it would go in the fall, and also to help Harry catch up in some of the areas where I felt as though he were a little weaker--math, most notably. I'm not sure how I expected it would all go, but suffice it to say that things have NOT gone as I had imagined. I did not imagine that there would be so much challenge to being able to teach and help Harry with what he needs while keeping the other two from melting down or getting into life-threatening situations. As soon as I start doing schoolwork with Harry at our dining room table, which will serve as our school home base, the other two are instantly nearby. They want to participate and similarly do activities at the table, which is both cute and also utterly distracting. It's nearly impossible to be able to explain what I need to with all the ruckus around us. Our toddler in particular has become extremely vocal and LOUD. I have no idea how to manage all the chaos and noise so that Harry is able to learn and practice what he needs, not to mention the time I try to spend with Ron in learning how to read and starting basic math. I have put a post up on some message boards at The Well Trained Mind forums and hope the online community of homeschoolers will be able to provide some good suggestions. I don't want to start the year off with big doubts about whether or not I can do this going forward! But right now, I confess that I'm asking myself more often than I'd like, "What have I gotten myself into????"