Honeybees and Flying Squirrels in the Walls
For about a year and a half, in the eighties, I lived down the road from my place, in Owl Hollow. It was the cutest little house in the back of the Thackers farm. I had to get out and open and close the gate each time I came through the lane, to keep the cows in. The drive was about a third of a mile long and in the winter, my VW bus tended to be parked out by the road, and we walked in. There was only one bedroom, up in the attic, and the three girls shared that. I divided it up with a fabric and two by four wall so my older daughter could have a modicum of privacy from the two little ones. I slept out on the screened in porch on a futon on the floor. When it got cold, I installed insulation and plastic to keep it warmer. The woodstove was in the tiny living room and I kept the window into that room open for the heat. I don’t know how I managed to fit it all in, but I had my weaving loom, treadle sewing machine, and an armchair in there. The kitchen held a sink with gravity fed cold water, an old fifties style refrigerator, a gas cookstove and the kitchen table. I also had my big shelf of canning jars and the China cabinet (turned sideboard) I helped my Dad build when I was a kid in there too. It was pretty tight but homey. There were two tiny little sheds coming off the kitchen. One had a short iron bath tub in it and we kept a pee pot in there. The other was the mudroom entrance with the chest freezer in it and a flap cut into the screend door for the dogs to come and go through. I’ ll bet the whole house measured less than 500 square feet. It was simple and really cheap. Rent was $65.00 a month, electric was maybe $30 dollars and the phone was like $25. I was able to work off the rent by helping the landlord with chores sometimes. I painted the walls up at his house on the hill, mucked out the barn, repaired fence, chased cows, cut firewood. I finally managed to convince them to let me install a hot water heater. They were sure it wouldn’t work on a gravity fed line and the cows got first dibs on the water. It was esy to set up though and I sure enjoyed being able to use that bathtub inside the house. We still had an outhouse for a toilet but we were used to that. There were two large Sugar Maple trees in the yard and the kids had two tire swings hanging from them in the shade. I had a job as a cook at a conference center about 15 miles away and things were starting to look up. I was hoping to build a house on my land nearby as soon as I could swing it but this little house was a fine place for us in the meantime.
The critters who lived in the hollow with us shared the space freely. Cows would wander right up to the door. Skunks and raccoons came in the dog door into the mudroom. Something lived in the walls and I was hoping it was not rats.
One night, while asleep out on my futon, I felt something run right up the covers on top of me. I was not really thinking, being asleep, and I just grabbed at it, fast like. It was warm and furry and definitely alive. I jumped up, grabbed the empty water glass, pushed it inside, and turned on the light to check it out. I had never seen one before, but I was pretty sure it was a flying squirrel! The poor thing was as startled as I was. He didn’t bite me though. I got a half gallon wide mouth jar from the kitchen, rigged up a screen lid for it and went to wake up the kids. I was so relieved we didn’t have rats. I hate rats. Flying squirrels, on the other hand , are cool. He had the biggest round eyes, although he was smallish in size. The kids were good sports about being woke up and after we all had a good look at him, they went back to bed. I took him outside and asked him,
“Please to not come inside again. Living inside the walls is OK, but running across my bed is not. OK?”
He was quiet but I think he got it. It never happened again and when I heard them in the walls at night, it no longer bothered me. Now that I knew who it was.
I was woken on another night by a scritching sound on my pillow. I could not imagine what it was but it was constant and it seemed loud to me. I got up turned on the light, and looked back at my pillow. There were hundreds of honeybees walking across my pillow! Not flying. Not buzzing. Hundreds of tiny feet, walking across my pillow. They were all headed in the same direction and seemed to not notice what was in their way. I st down cross legged on my bed and watched them for awhile. It was very strange for them to be up at night I thought. And strange to be walking, not flying. Quiet too. I decided to have a conversation with them in the same quiet way. I sent my thoughts to them. I asked them ,
“Please, do not walk across my pillow or come inside the house anymore. I don’t mind sharing the house with you, but you need to stay in the walls and use an entrance on the outside. Please don’t sting the kids or scare them and you can stay right where you live now. I don’t want to hurt you. I can’t have you walking around on my pillow though. Please?”
The bees kept marching. I opened the door to the outside for them and they left. I closed the door , went back to bed, a little nervous about noises on my pillow. In the morning, I put my ear against the wall and could hear them working inside, but they never came inside the house after that. I appreciated their cooperation. Bees are usually fairly calm and docile if you treat them right. They have work to do and like to be left alone to do it. I think of them fondly these days while I tend to my bees at home.
Writing at http://www.edgewisewoods.com
November 16, 2014