Monday, April 14, 2014

Peep goes the weasel

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I was in the kitchen, baking a loaf of artisan bread, while clarifying butter and extruding rigatoni pasta from my noodle machine. Probably. Or, I might have just been drinking a glass of water. Ok so I was only sneaking a handful of chocolate chips but really that’s completely irrelevant to this story.

I was in the kitchen.

That’s when I saw it.

Something small and wild was sitting on the deck, peering in through the sliding glass door.

By the time I tiptoed over for a closer look, the long tube of white sped off in hot pursuit of a gust of wind and disappeared around the front of our garage.
Me: Are rats white?

Geoff: What?

Me: Or maybe it was a ferret!?

Jan: Maybe WHAT was a ferret?

Me: The thing that was just on our porch. It was white and long and fast and…

The 5 year old: Is it an animal? Can I keep it?!! Pleeeese?!

Geoff: Maybe it was a mink.

Me: There are no minks around here. Wait, are there minks around here?? 
That’s when this Leonardo da Vinci painting I studied long ago in art school, popped into my head.

Me: WAITAMINUTE! Lady with an ERMINE!!! Ermine! That's what was on our porch!
Let me just say, my family is pretty used to my hallucinations imagination. I mean, in the past three years alone, I’ve witnessed an ostrich running through a field off the highway (old oil tank), seen an alligator sunning itself on a rock (a tree branch) and spotted a baby llama laying on the beach in front our of house (seaweed).

Still, I knew what I knew. I had just seen a creature from the Renaissance.


Not long after the porch episode, Jan and I were in a friend’s kitchen and found out that a weasel had made his way into our neighbor’s basement via a drainpipe. He had also been seen hanging around the chickens. After curfew.

That’s when I realized that my ermine was actually a weasel, which - according to the big book of animals I immediately went home and consulted – are the exact same beasts as stoats. And maybe even polecats.

Which begs the question, why do these little buggers have so many names and anyway who cares because for once I hadn't been seeing things.

That's him!!!
But none of that matters because the most important thing to note here is that ermines (or stoats or weasels) are pricks. And vampires.

I'm not kidding.
Once a potential prey is identified, the ermine approaches as closely as possible. With incredible speed it grasps the back of the victim's head and neck with sharp teeth, and wraps its body and feet around the victim. The victim dies from repeated bites to the base of the skull. (From the NB Trappers Website) 
Um, what?

So, you can imagine my horror when, the other night, while working alone on my computer, I heard an ermine screeching at me from beneath my office window.

I turned off the lights and pressed my face against the glass, to see if I could catch a glimpse of the furry monster who (according to the big book of animals) "confuses its prey by prancing before them in a deranged fashion, lulling them into a baffled reverie".

Which is not unlike how I approach dancing at weddings.

I couldn’t spot anything from the office window but I did hear the sound move towards the front of the house.

I switched on the outside lights and sneaked into the bathroom – determined to get a photograph of the little bastard who was taunting me from the lawn.

That’s when I saw it.

The shrieks were most definitely emanating from the corner of the yard where something small and white sat on the bare grass where the snow had recently melted.
Geoff: What are you doing?

Me: I'm about to record the call of the ermine.

Geoff: That’s not an ermine. It’s a bird.

Me: It can’t be a bird. It’s nighttime. Only owls come out at night and that’s not a hoot. It’s a squeach. Plus, I just googled “ermine sounds” and “weasel noises” and they sound kind of sort of like what's going on out there.
Geoff: I'm going to make popcorn. 

No sooner had I captured this incriminating video of my window screen, than the eerie sound disappeared. (Turn up your speakers.)

I spent part of the night convinced I was hearing weasels scuttling around in our basement – a place where some have entered and even fewer have exited - until I sent Geoff downstairs to put a rock on the drain.

The next evening, the little bastard was at it again.

Squeach. Squeach. Squeach.

I followed the sound as my eyes slowly adjusted to the blackness. “Screw you, you little bloodsucking stalker!” I yelled into the darkness.

That’s when I saw it.

The tiny creature making such a ruckus, looked at the house, stamped his feet and flew (yes flew) off into the night sky, squeaching (ok, peeping) as he soared.

So now the question is, do ermines fly?

No really.

Monday, April 7, 2014

He's baaaaaack...

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

For those of you following my crow adventure, you may be interested to know that Merle (or Haggard) is back.

With a vengeance.

We might need some more roadkill...

No, really.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The crow caws at 5am

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

We were under attack again this morning, this time on Jan's end of the house.


Caw. Caw. Caw. Caw!

It began innocuously enough last autumn, with one solitary, emotionally damaged crow hurling himself repeatedly against one of our basement windows. The stunt ended as soon as it began, and so we just chalked it up as one of those peculiar things that only happen to us. Like stalkers in a foreign land, blindness brought on by Omega-3 pills and turtles that move like roadrunners.

Fast forward to the winter, when not one, but two crows began taking turns dive-bombing our double paned glass, at 5am. Not long after, I watched them case our house. That’s when I named them.

Here’s the thing… Crows are smart. Really freaking smart. I know this because I’ve watched The Nature of Things. Crows can make tools. Tools! In addition, they have remarkable memories and possess the ability to recognize faces. Also, they can solve puzzles. Sudoku puzzles. And, when they are in a gang, they are called a murder. Talk about being bad-ass. It is for these reasons that I have always had a deep admiration for crows, despite the fact that they emit horrific squawks, not unlike some of the indie death metal musicians I used to interview.

However, when our two crows - Merle and Haggard – started jumping from window to window in a far too meticulous manner and telling all of their friends about the super plus good times that could be had at the Mulder Slater residence, I knew something had to be done to end the assault which was no longer limited to the early morning hours.

This is Merle. I can tell from the way he looks and screams at me.

Last week, I did what anyone in my situation would do. I consulted the Internets and in the process uncovered not only a bag of worms and a kettle of fish, but also a barrel of monkeys. Ugly, angry monkeys. With red butts.

Turns out, this is a problem of epidemic proportions, with widespread damage being regularly inflicted on commercial glazing, residential glass doors and car windshields.

How are you people coping with this crap day after day after day?

Bombardment solutions from folks online were all over the map and ranged from removing all screens from your windows and covering up all reflective surfaces with cardboard to setting out rotten meat and playing a “Crow be Gone” disc*

The thing everyone agreed on (based on experience), was to never yell or toss rocks at the birds. Unless (commented one warrior) you own a big-ass Mardi Gras party mask. Because remember,  crows recognize and remember faces.

I was feeling a little hopeless as visions of an Alfred Hitchcock film I’ve never seen, danced through my head. But then, I ran across a Globe & Mail article* written by Jason Tchir.

The article begins with this question from a reader:

“How do you keep a murder of crows from picking at your sunroof?”

The answer, according to Tchir’s research, is simple:

“Make ’em think your car has murdered a crow.”

The article also quotes Kevin J. McGowan, a behavioral ecologist at Cornell University who thinks that crows attacking windows could be a sign of juvenile delinquency. "And," he says, "they could be teaching the trick to other, younger crows – so this could go on for years."

This could go on for years?! I knew what I had to do. The only way to get the crows to stop throwing themselves at us, was to make our place appear to be dangerous, even though it isn't. Like Miley Cyrus. Or Justin Bieber.

Finding a dead crow decoy for sale is harder than you might think. But after some searching, Jan located and ordered this. 

We weren’t hopeful. Still, I placed it outside (but not before plucking and scattering a couple of feathers – as if to say, shit just got real).

It didn’t work.

Plan B involved sticking the 5 year old’s stuffed toy kitty behind one of the windows which I was pretty sure would just attract more crows. Or cats. Which - between you and me - would be worse.

I had given up hope of ever ending the rampage against our basement glass when... the unthinkable happened.

Geoff walked into the house and said, "Honey, I've got a dead crow in the back of the truck."

"WHAT DID YOU DO?!!" I looked in horror at my husband - a man who rescues orphaned field mice and nurses baby birds back to health. Did the lack of sleep finally get to him? Was the relentless tapping on the windows making him go crazy?

"It's roadkill!" he said, "I just picked it up."

My repeated barks of, "Don't touch it!" followed by, "Did you touch it?", "Don't breathe around it!" and "That poor bird", were silenced by Geoff who alerted me to the fact that blood was now dripping from the crow's head onto the pristine snow below so could we decide what the f*#%  to do next, please for the love of god, please.

We were both revolted as we stared at one another. We paused, gave each other a quick nod and then, walked toward the basement window.

"Let's. Do. This."

Geoff laid the crow down and after a moment of silence, we said a few words including - but not limited to - ugh, ooh, ew, and aw.

Then, we walked away. And felt sick to our stomachs.

Sure enough, Merle and Haggard and all of their friends came around to see the corpse.

They circled from a distance, chattered a lot and left the yard shortly thereafter. A little while later, I saw them flying around in front of the house - far, far in front of the house. But they have yet to return to the window.

No, really.

Please note: No crows were harmed in the writing of this blog post. Well, except for the crow that some son-of-a-bitch drove over on the highway. May he rest in peace. On our yard. Until we give him a proper burial. Away from the window. And to be clear, I'm talking about the crow. I can't believe I have to clarify this. But then again...



A poem for Opa

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I'm presently working on a blog post that is borderline revolting. Not unlike my time in 9th grade. But before I share it with you, I thought I would share something completely unrelated I recently found while digging through old boxes.

It's a poem I wrote for my dad's father, when I was 9 years old... and (evidently) enamored with poultry.  Which, now that I think about it, actually makes this poem marginally related to what I'm currently writing.

But that's another story...


No, really.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Click. Flick. Flush. Repeat.

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

My television is state of the art. Circa 2001. It weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 pounds and has a built in DVD player and a VCR.

That’s Video Cassette Recorder for those of you born after Charles in Charge was taken off the air. I miss you Buddy.

Needless to say, not a lot of TV is watched in our house.

It wasn’t always this way, but a few years ago we terminated what had been a long and arduous relationship with our satellite TV provider. It had become a costly alliance and once we discovered that we were spending as much per month on the goggle-box, as it costs to import a unicorn from France, we made the decision to pull the plug on the liaison.

The breakup with our entertainment pusher was messy and involved a lot of late-night, long-distance phone calls, tears and heavy breathing.

They were upset too.

We’ve since filled the gap with three semi-local channels. Also, a Netflix account.

As a result, the 5-year old is so unfamiliar with the concept of broadcasting, that any time she encounters real television at a friend’s house or while in a hotel room (she’s on the road a lot… you know, for work) she tries to figure out how to pause the program so she can go for a pee.

And commercials are a mystery.

“Is this a show?” 

No, it’s an advertisement.

“What’s an advertisement?” 

It’s when someone tries to sell you something.

“Like a giraffe?”

More like soap. Or cereal.

“For the giraffe?”


“Is this a show?”

No, it’s another commercial.

To be honest, I don’t miss satellite TV any more than I miss the Duran Duran inspired haircut I used to rock in high school. Sure it was awesome - I have really thick hair after all - but it involved too many eggs and sexual ambiguity.

The reflex...
And so, I’ve become rather fond of getting my news online and watching long-ago cancelled sitcoms on my laptop.

But that was before I went to Florida, where I caught the flu. Although technically, the flu caught me, kicked me in the back of the knee, cracked a walnut on my temple and knocked me flat on my back for the better part of a week. Beyond groaning, all I could do was lay down, sweat out the fevers and watch the colors float across the black box in the corner of the bedroom while drifting in and out of consciousness.

The view from there.

Dateline: Florida, January (or was it February?) 2014. 


Keeping Up with the Kardashians.


My 600-Pound Life. This is not a typo.


Wife Swap. Flick. Sister Wives. Flick. The Real Housewives. Flick. The Waltons. Flick. Where Are They Now? Flick.

I flicked so much; I broke the TV Guide Channel. 

There were so many channels, it took me 1/2 hour to flip through them all. So in essence, I watched every show that was on television while simultaneously watching nothing at all. Which brings me to two very important questions “When did Harry Connick Jr. become a judge on American Idol?” and “Why is Sponge Bob Squarepants on Channel 53, twenty-four hours a day?”

But before I knew it, I was hooked… mostly on infomercials featuring products like these:

A set of 50 soft rock CDs
 The shipping is free but it will take 100 years to listen to all the songs, once. 

The Bacon Bowl
 You make a bowl. Out of bacon. Three for $10. For a limited time. 
Night Vision Glasses
They normally cost $439 each but by calling a toll-free number at 2am,
you can own 2 for $10. And, you can’t break them. Not even with a hammer. 

"Kitchen" Knives 
(including the 4 foot long saber, for onions) 
188 pieces for $188, so you know we're talking high quality. 

Zumba Exercise Videos 
Guaranteed to make you paper-thin as long as you have
a live-in choreographer named Chip. (Wait, is that Will Wheaton?)

This little powerhouse can puree a cat. At least, I think that's what I saw at 4am. 
Then there were the regular run-of-the-mill commercials for things I never knew I needed. Like free, no-obligation Hair Replacement kits, Pasta Sides by Knorr and a Ford Escape.
Day after day, night after night, I would fall asleep to the sounds of slick salespeople and expensive "Real" Housewives, only to be awakened by the drool puddle on my pillow and the jeering of a Giant Hissing Cockroach, which as it turns out was just a dead TV channel signal. Except for that one night when, while after crawling to the bathroom for the 40th time, I glanced up to see a gargantuan six-legged beast on the wall trim. He had a suitcase, said his name was Winston and explained he was on his way to Cuba. 

It may have been the codeine talking.

And speaking of drugs, there are far too many pharmaceutical advertisements on Channel 24. From painkillers and anxiety reducers to skin clarifiers and penis lifters, there's a pill, potion or lotion to cure whatever ails you. 

Which reminds me… apparently I pee too much. But that’s okay, because on satellite TV, there’s a patch for that.

No, really.
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