Thursday, December 14, 2017

The raccoons next door

There are times when I can't believe my life, especially these days when it's pretty much a long string of stuff happening that I don't want, plus dishwashing.  Brief digression to today's opening photograph:

It's fingerless gloves, both of them from Viola yarns... what is it about Viola yarn, apart from Emily's enormous colour sense and hand-dying talents?  I haven't worn the brown ones with the little finger stubs until this fall, and every time I put them on I deeply regret having messed up with the design I was improvising such that the thumb holes are too big, but they sure look nice on the counter waiting to go out, don't they?  The background for them is a stack of Christmas-present chocolate bars.  They are also extremely nice, in my opinion... I wonder whether I could do with one less of them?

No, I could not.  Back to this post, Mary.

Thankfully I have a drawer full of tea to enforce brief breaks for something I do want, which is in this case FINALLY writing a new Hug.  I have had at least one Hug a day write itself in my head, and I take probably three Hug pictures a day as well, but when I try to get upstairs to my computer it's like all the Stuff Happening coagulates into some sort of tentacled delay monster clutching at my pantlegs and dragging me back down to the main floor to resolve three more crises at once.

(this literally happened on Tuesday, by the way, apart from the monster which remains, thankfully, figurative.  Ray needed me for a bunch of decisions and a trip to the garage which will be detailed shortly; I was trying to get through to the hospital where another aunt for whom I am POA had been taken by ambulance on the one day I was absolutely not able to rush to her side in part because of weather issues; and the condo concierge was calling to tell me there was a leak in our unit and a flood averted by the duct cleaners, but that I had to fill out a maintenance form online, stat. I was dialing the hospital from the landline while the concierge called on the cell phone as Ray called from the side door.  And the sink was full of dishes the whole time, too.)

(my aunt is okay.)


Probably we should break for another cheerful picture after all those parentheses.  Yes?

The significance of this picture is
a/ I am still knitting socks
b/ I like the way the stripe on this shallow bowl looks with the current sock
c/ I really, really like sitting my knitting on this wide shallow bowl and am amazed I never thought to use it before
d/ I bought this bowl two years ago at the antique market for a friend who is an alumni of the school from which it was apparently removed, and whose daughter currently attends it, and forgot I even had it until two weeks ago
e/ I am wondering whether I could just keep it? I mean, she probably wouldn't really appreciate it anyway right?  It's probably not actually vintage to her time there, and she doesn't knit.  She probably doesn't appreciate a truly great stripe either.
f/ I am wondering whether I truly am the worst gift giver ever, even though I did just give Jan the incredible cabled purple alpaca fingerless gloves I bought for her birthday, in spite of really wanting them for myself.
g/ I am thinking being a bad gift giver is part of the reason I have way too much stuff in my house.

Okay, time to finish my original thought:

I am seriously thinking I need to set up my computer on the main floor to increase my chances of being able to post or do any kind of writing, because the idea of a soundproofed tiny upper-bough nest in which to write was wonderful in theory but in practise is simply too remote to access.


none of this is what I wanted to tell you about today.

Today, it's:

The raccoon story

Raccoons are everywhere in Toronto and everywhere else in this geographical area I expect.  Do you have any where you are?  Just in case not, they are large furry grey-brown animals with a distinctive burgler eye-mask and matching dark coloured nose who are SO ADORABLE to look at, ambling along the street by lamplight.  They are accessorized by sharp claws and teeth which enable them to tear up your lawn for grubs, rip open your garbage cans for the rest of their meals, and make wild and extremely noisy love to their chosen partners in mating season.

We have had many encounters with raccoons in this house, most of them causing my heart to swell with the longing to hug and cuddle them.  Not all, but most.

For example:

The house behind us has an odd, sort of 1970s modern upper addition which only now that we have a second floor of our own I realize is attached to the exact bungalow we are in - there are only five of this layout in the whole neighbourhood which is kind of cool.  Their addition includes a third floor window with a little roof over it and one rainy day a few years ago I watched from my desk under the back window a lone racoon taking shelter in the tiny dry spot in front of that window, surveying the landscape for hours and then eventually curling up for a nap.

In spring and summer, I would wake to hear raccoons horsing around in the back yard and would sometimes open the curtain to watch them scampering across the fence tops, their distinctive curved backs and stripey tails lending a certain undulating grace to their movements.

I mean they are SO cute.  Even the night Pete had to open our side door a crack to brandish a broom at one who was about to attack our garbage can we both had to admire its polite persistence, even as we were daunted by its size.

One time when I was not enchanted was actually a bunch of times - night after night in fact when a small family of them were living in our fireplace which I had boarded over temporarily with plywood for reasons I don't fully recall but am grateful for (otherwise, they would have nested on the living room sofa.)  I have always been a bit slow on the uptake as a homeowner and it was many weeks before it occurred to me I could call a raccoon removal service to install a one-way door on the top of the chimney to get them all out before capping it.  By that time, the unpleasantness inside the fireplace was unpleasant indeed.  This is when I learned that raccoon poop has a very bad parasite living in it that is very, very bad for humans and must not be touched without extreme hand washing lest it be spread.

We cleaned thoroughly.  And the artwork I had painstakingly applied over the living room side of the plywood went into the bin.

Recently I woke to hear noises on the roof - with a steel roof, you hear a lot of noises and none so gorgeous as rain falling, but this one was not that good sort of noise.  Coming reluctantly into consciousness I thought, this is either wind blowing leaves over the shingles or it's an animal walking around.  After about forty minutes of drifting back to sleep only to be wrenched awake again I decided it had to be an animal, but was it on the main roof or the porch roof?  I dragged myself out of bed and drew our beautiful new drapes a bit to the side so I could peek through, wishing I was in the habit of bringing a pair of glasses up to my bedside table so I had a better chance of seeing whatever it was, and quickly realized I did not need them because it was - of course! - a large raccoon.

It seemed to be stuck, because it kept walking to the edge of the roof and looking down with just its back legs holding it in place, then forlornly getting up and turning back.  It walked right past me three or four times - the bottom of the window is a little more than a foot above the roof - and then suddenly it stopped and looked up and saw me.

It got up on its back legs, its front legs and claws dangling softly against its clean white belly, and stared into my eyes through the window and the screen which, I was deeply thankful to remember, is on the inside of the glass.  Then it dropped down, and a moment later it was back up again, so that the two of us were staring at each other perhaps forever.  I was mesmerized... those animals are even more gorgeous up close than they seem cute at a distance.  Finally I raised my hand to wave - what did I think this was, a cartoon? - and it dropped down and ran away down the side of the house.  Not stuck after all, I guess.

The point is: raccoons live here.  

And apparently, they also live IN OUR GARAGE.

I have been thinking a lot about our garage lately.  It dates back to 1942 like the house, and its cracked cement floor to 1945.  It looks charmingly like a boathouse.  It is painted white with a dark roof and I love to look at it and also, fear to look at it because it is currently full to the top and front to back with Stuff.

Stuff that belonged to us when we first married and couldn't bear to part with when we stopped needing it later because it reminded us of those years, stuff we found in the house or at the flea markets we used to frequent with Pete's dad, stuff that belonged to Pete's dad that couldn't come into the house after he passed away because he was a smoker and we didn't have room anyway, and other stuff that belonged to Pete's dad that should live in a garage regardless, like a second lawn mower.  Also, stuff we stored there in bins while the house was rebuilt.

And for the last four or so years there has been a hole in one of the doors where a wood panel fell out, and mice and the weather have been getting inside. 

So I was actually happy to be in there on Tuesday with Ray after the condo leak had been dealt with, and the hospital had confirmed my aunt was okay ish, cleaning it out to make room for the imminent delivery of our porch railings... which are finally ready now that it's too cold to use the saw to trim them to fit around our round porch columns.

Another digression, please?

WHY did I not agree to square columns??? It's so much easier to buy those anyway.  We had round columns originally and that's what Pete wanted again, so I didn't even consider the installation question.  But I also didn't consider using wood, because I got so tired of scraping and painting wood every few years... and composite railings take a while to produce, at least when you're getting the good stuff.

Anyhoo.  There we were in the garage deciding what could stay and what could go as we metaphorically held our noses because it really smelled like a bad toilet in there in spite of the freezing temperatures, and suddenly as we neared the back of the garage I saw a light grey ball of fur, size large, moving from A to B.  I got outta there and called for Ray to follow and then we had to rethink.  Well, I had to rethink.  He had been pretty sure there were raccoons in there and was wearing gloves and telling me not to move anything myself since I had none.

Except that I did - I was wearing the stub-fingered fingerless gloves.  And I was trying to help, as I do, moving things out as I came to them, only to have Ray tell me again not to move stuff.

To my credit, I was only using my fingertips.  Some of that stuff was super dirty with - well, I now realize with what.  And I didn't want to get any of it on my gloves, obviously, regardless of what it was.  What I didn't remember was that I would have to get the gloves off over my dirty fingertips.


Thankfully, we possess many containers of Lysol Wipes, so I was able to wipe off my exposed fingers properly, carefully peel off the gloves, wash my hands, and carry the gloves to the laundry room for a good soak and a dry on the laundry shelf rod.

Those thumbs are definitely way too big.  What was I thinking?

The raccoon crises has a resolution, and it's similar to the raccoons-in-the-fireplace one but on a bigger scale.  Raccoons mate from January to sometime in spring and their babies are born from March to June, then weaned by September, so this is not the worst time of the year to discover you must evict raccoon tenants not paying their rent.  I have bought a one-way door online and while we wait for it to arrive, Ray will repair a small hole near the garage roof (the raccoons would chew it to be much bigger if that was their only way in) as well as the garage doors so they shut properly and have only one 8"x8" hole, to accommodate said one-way door.  Then we will hang ammonia-soaked rags in the garage and play a radio on 'very loud', to make it unpleasant for them to stay on their side of the metal wire one-way door.  After Christmas, we'll remove the metal door, repair the rest of the real door, and hire a service to cart away the rest of the Ick; in spring, we'll wash it all out with bleach and start over.

Only this time, I'm hoping for less keeping of Stuff.

Whew.  That was a lot of post!  And I have so many more things to tell you, after I go wash the next round of dishes.  More on that exciting story another day.

See you again when I can and meanwhile, enjoy every minute of your precious knitting time!  I know I am, when I get it.


JackieLemon said...

Glad to have you post a Hug. Figured you were really busy with the remodel. Years ago, We heard a noise on our back porch, opened the door to half a dozen raccoons after our garbage. Looked at us like " Huh, we could take you out in a second" went back to calmly taking apart the garbage cans. Never liked them since then.

Mary Keenan said...

Omigosh - 6 at once!! Yeah, that would be offputting... they are so cute at a distance or in cartoons but definitely not in that context, ugh!