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Bird feeder battles: winning the war against squirrels

(ARA) – For bird lovers, the sight of a bushy tail hanging off the side of a feeder means just one thing: war.

Sure, squirrels have to eat, too, and no one wants to harm the persistent critters. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with squirrels scarfing down the seed you put out for the birds, damaging your feeders and bumping up your blood pressure. It’s possible to discourage squirrels – and even outsmart them – with the right seed mix and some nature-friendly squirrel-control tactics.

Plant the seed. Birds, like people, are selective—even picky—when it comes to food. Seed is the best option to attract the most birds to your feeder. Unfortunately, squirrels also love seed. And while birds will sort through mixed seed to find what they like and ditch the undesirable filler, like red milo, on the ground below the feeder, squirrels are not so picky. They’ll eat the cast-offs on the ground and then move on to the good stuff in the feeder, and devour that, too.

To entice birds, avoid brands that wash or coat seeds with chemicals and mineral oil. Look for brands manufactured by companies that focus on bird feed, like Cole’s, rather than treat it as a sideline business. Some feed mixes are full of cheap filler seeds, crop leftovers and the lowest quality oil sunflower. Cole’s uses only high quality seeds, and each blend is designed to attract specific groups of birds.

Taste aversion. Serving seed that birds find delicious, but squirrels consider down right distasteful, is an effective way to keep squirrels out of bird feeders. Check out a squirrel-proof birdseed blend that uses hot spicy flavor to repel squirrels. Cole’s offers “hot” products that are designed to appeal to birds while dissuading squirrels. Its Hot Meats blend infuses top-quality sunflower meats with a Habanero chili pepper and Safflower oil that birds find delectable, but squirrels simply detest. Or, you can opt to add Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce to any Cole’s blend. It’s a safe, effective and human way to feed birds and thwart squirrels. You can learn more at www.coleswildbird.com.

Squirrel-proof your bird feeders

Another option is to try to make your feed less accessible to squirrels, although that can be hard to do since squirrels are smart problem-solvers. You may find the best results from a combination of methods, including:

* Locate feeders far from trees, wires, porches or other launching points to make it more difficult for squirrels to reach the feeder. Remember, squirrels can jump distances of 10 feet or longer. Mounting feeders on a smooth metal pole at least 6 feet high with no surrounding branches or bushes within 12 feet may also work.

* Place a wire cage around the feeder with openings just large enough to admit birds but too small for squirrels to fit through. This can also help keep larger birds, such as starlings or pigeons, from accessing the feeder.

* Try specially designed feeders that have doors which close when triggered by a squirrel’s weight on the feeder. The doors keep squirrels from reaching the seed. And if you’ve had plastic feeders gnawed to destruction by squirrels, try switching to metal which they’ll be less likely to chew through.




If you can’t beat ‘em …


Sometimes you just can’t win the war and the squirrels refuse to leave. Or maybe you have a soft spot for those fluffy-tailed felons. When you can’t convince squirrels to vacate your yard, another option is to serve them something they’ll find even more appealing than bird seed. If you can lure them away from your feed, squirrels can be an amusing addition to your backyard landscape.

Squirrels love whole, dried corn-on-the-cob and loose dried corn. Cole’s offers Critter Munchies, a blend of whole yellow corn, striped sunflower, peanuts in the shell, black oil sunflower and raw peanuts. Serve on an open platform-style feeder. Or place an ear of dried corn on a stick. A stake or pinecone can be coated with peanut butter.

Set up your squirrel feeding station away from bird feeders and make it as easy as possible for the squirrels to access their feeder filled with temptations like nuts, corn and berries.

If you can make peace with the squirrels, these intelligent characters and their antics can be a welcome sight in your backyard.


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A Rumor of War

Pastor Robert Eckert
Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church
10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford

“Whoever is not with me is against me . . . .” (from Matthew 12:30).
“Whoever is not against us is for us” (from Mark 9:39-40).

I’ve been hearing lately that a War on Christmas has been declared and I’m having trouble picking sides. The battlefields include public speech, government property, and retail businesses. One person’s “Merry Christmas” is another person’s “Season’s Greetings” and either will offend someone. An evergreen tree decorated with ornaments and lights by any other name, be it Christmas Tree or Holiday Tree, apparently doesn’t smell as sweet. And somehow a sacrilege is committed if Meijer starts selling candy canes and tinsel before Thanksgiving. (My favorite lament about early starts on holiday merchandising—ok, Christmas merchandising—was someone who said: “Now they’re advertising for Christmas before Halloween! Of course, I had all my shopping finished last spring.”)
The time of year that begins with Halloween, continues on to Thanksgiving, through Christmas and ends when the final BCS bowl game has been played is a complicated, contradictory mix of cultural, religious, commercial, and family traditions that finds more and more of us vying to have the final word on the “true meaning” of it all—especially the true meaning of Christmas.
We’re all familiar with the contenders for the title and how they tend to fall into either secular or sacred categories. There’s the spirit of giving, good cheer, and celebration of innocence side. Think of Francis Church telling Virginia that there is a Santa Clause in 1897: “Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!…There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.”
And there’s the “Jesus is the reason for the season,” unto-you-a-savior-is-born, God-so-loved-the world side. This one has a couple subcategories. It can be as fully festive as any secular observance as long as celebrants remember that the party is for Jesus. Or it can point to a more somber aspect. Peter Roff, for example, of U.S. News and World Report writes, “It’s true that the remembrance of the Savior’s birth is a time for rejoicing, but his coming into the world is far less important than the how and the why He left it.” Remember the nasty business of the crucifixion?
Far be it from me to attempt settle the question of the true meaning of Christmas. It’s entirely up to us, collectively and individually, after all we invented it. My only question is what’s all the fuss? If I never even mention the name of Jesus but work extra hours to buy a present for someone I love, is God displeased? If I totally abstain from anything that can be remotely described as commercial for the entire month of December and focus instead on prayers of thanksgiving for Jesus, have I gained special favor in God’s eyes? If I give a gift anonymously; if I celebrate unabashedly; if I send a letter to an old friend, invite my family for dinner, or quietly meditate at a candlelight service … if there is anything joyful, hopeful, generous, or grateful in whatever any of us does during the holiday season, can it be other than good and true and godly?
I was always happy when my children played nice together. As far as I can tell, that’s what we do from Halloween to New Year’s, for a little while we play nice together.  Christmas is being co-opted by a secular culture? I wish! If only its joy and generosity really did infuse our increasingly cynical world. Christmas starts too early? It doesn’t come soon or often enough.
Peter Roff goes on to say, “If you believe Jesus is the light and the hope of the world, having someone wish you ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’ doesn’t change that.”
If there’s a war on Christmas, let’s all take a deep breath and give peace a chance.

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Roger on Main St.

Roger on Main Street

Forever War

Have you noticed that our wars just seem to go on and on? So have I, so I looked it up.
Since 1675, we have been in 26 wars. Several early ones were against Indians while we were still colonies. Then came the Revolutionary War against the British. Then, more war against the Barbary Pirates. We had the War of 1812, Texas’s fight for independence from Mexico, and the Civil War. We returned to battle in the Spanish American War. (My great uncle fought in that one.)
In 1918 we entered World War I and fought Germany. That was a particularly nasty one, but we were on the winning team.
In World War II we went up against the Germans, Italians, and Japanese. Dec. 7, 1941: the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I’m old enough to remember the day. It was a Sunday, I recall, and our family was stunned with the news. The whole country was stunned. It took about four years but, again, our team won.
Korea split into North and South, and America went to war to support the South. Fresh out of high school, I was there. With the U.S. Army. We still have troops there.
We lost in Vietnam and the Bay of Pigs. We managed to win in Granada and Panama. Then – remember Bosnia?
Afghanistan and Iraq are still in progress.
Will it ever end? There must be a better solution to conflict than blowing up cities, resources, and human beings.

The good season

In the really old days, what we call Christmas was a celebration of the winter solstice (the sun is coming back, the sun is coming back!). The birth of Christ gave us a focus for renewal; the time of year was retained.
Eventually, of course, Santa came down the chimney and Hallmark took over. There’s something for everyone in this joyous celebration of the good things of life. Have a wonderful holiday, everyone. And peace on earth.


Sister Mary Ann, who served at a home health agency, was out making rounds visiting homebound patients when she ran out of gas. Fortunately, a station was just a block away. She walked down the road to borrow a gas can and buy some gas.
The only gas can the station owned had been loaned out. The attendant said she could wait until it was returned, but Sister was headed to a patient’s house. She decided not to wait.
Back at the car, she looked for some kind of container and spotted the bedpan she was taking to the patient. Always resourceful, Sister Mary Ann carried the bedpan to the station, filled it with gasoline, and carried it back to her car.
As she was pouring the gas into her tank, two Baptist ladies watched from across the street. One of them turned to the other and said, “If it starts, I’m turning Catholic.”

More on War

A dentist and a manicurist fought tooth and nail.

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Intandem Credit Union
Ray Winnie


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