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Sunday, December 21, 2014

The chatter around town? A wicked winter's on the way.

Have you noticed the frenzied activity in your yard by the bushy long-tailed crowd? Have you seen critters darting from tree to tree, scrambling over roofs, chirping and yapping? I’m no Dr. Dolittle, but our little squirrel friends are trying to tell us something: Winter is coming, and it will be a hard case.

Since the middle of September, I’ve been hearing the furious chatter of squirrels on my property. They scamper among the branches of my trees, jump to the roof, fix their beady little eyes on mine and call to their friends. The little guys really seem intense. In these last dreamy days of balmy autumn weather, they’re working overtime.

One morning, I quietly approached one of them and leaned down. I actually heard him say, “Buy a warm coat. Not squirrel fur. Get mittens.”

According to a story in The Washington Post, Robert Lishak, a squirrel vocalization expert, says that the sounds they make, called “kuks,” indicate alarm. The chirping, along with the raising of the tail, indicate anxiety of the squirrely kind.

Will they be able to gather enough food before the first snow? Will their coats be thick enough to survive a deep freeze? Where will they have their babies? How can they get back into my attic? These are the pressing issues in their tiny brains.

A particularly frisky squirrel darted across the road one day as Zoe and I took our morning walk. Zoe charged but the leash stopped her. She looked at me, and I could read her mind: “Do you have a good recipe for squirrel?”

It isn’t just the stepped-up nut gathering that has me worried. According to the Farmers’ Almanac, other definite signs of a tough winter ahead are: extra-thick corn husks, woodpeckers sharing a tree, early migration of ducks and geese, spiders spinning larger-than-usual webs and invading homes, pigs gathering sticks, and mice eating their way into our houses. Except for pigs gathering sticks, this pretty much describes my basement.

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