Squirrel, meet Scoville

I thoroughly dislike vermin.  Can’t stand ’em.  When I see a mouse, I have the stereotypical female reaction: screech, jump on furniture.  My feminist tendencies are ashamed of me when I do such things.  But I can’t help it.  I. Hate. Vermin.

Vermin Supreme

Vermin Supreme, anarchist, activist. Photo by Adam D., Obtuse Photo

 This is Vermin Supreme.  He’s an anarchist, activist, and performance artist.  He wears a muck boot on his head and carries an enormous toothbrush.  From time to time, he runs for president.  Maybe I should have voted for him as his particular brand of nonsense, non sequiturs, and confusing quirks seem to make as much sense as anyone else’s.  Check him out: www.verminsupreme.com.

My hatred of vermin becomes an issue as I have a rather significant squirrel population taking up residence in my yard and the surrounding environs.  No only are they in every tree, on every fence, and crawling about my sacred outdoor world seemingly all the time, I am almost always greeted by one when I open my garage door.  Cue girlie scream.  Run away from garage.

This makes it difficult to access my car.  Ever.

I’ve had more than one standoff with the little buggers.  One afternoon last December, I opened my back door to find myself face to face with a big ol’ squirrel who had somehow gotten himself (or herself) trapped in my screened porch.  Scream.  Slam door.  Vow never to leave the outer porch door open again, no matter how convenient it is for the dog.

I felt like I was living in Christmas Vacation.  In between epic freakouts during which the squirrel climbed all over my screens, knocked over everything in sight, and destroyed the blinds, he sat there and stared at me with his beady little squirrel eyes.

Now that spring has returned (finally) to the North Country, I have planted my garden.  It’s my first time planting a garden, so I cannot yet speak from experience, but I feel relatively certain the the squirrels will want to eat my veggies.  I doubt they limit their diet to the garbage in my trash cans.

I am especially concerned for my tomato plants as I know the rascals are especially fond of picking green tomatoes off the vine and then strewing them half-eaten around the yard.  Or they just stand on the vine to eat the tomato, still attached, and break the vines in the process.

But never fear.  I have a plan.  I will introduce my not-so-friendly neighbors to Scoville.  (Cue maniacal laugh).

Wilbur Scoville, 1910. Source: Henrietta Benedictis Health Sciences Library, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Wilbur Scoville was an American pharmacist who studied, of all things, a way to measure the hotness of a hot pepper.  His method–developed in 1912–uses alcohol to extract capsaicin, the stuff that makes hot peppers hot.  The results can then be measured and assigned a number based on how much one must dilute the capsaicin compound before the hot stuff is no longer detectable.  These numbers are then arranged on the Scoville Scale.  For example, the jalapeno pepper must be diluted 3500-8000 times to eliminate the capsaicin, thus giving the peppers a Scoville rating of 3500-8000.  Habaneros: between 100,000 and 350,000.  Pepper spray: 2,000,000.  Ouch.

I want to deter the squirrels, not harm them or, heaven forbid, kill them–I may hate vermin, but I respect their little lives and their place in the ecosystem.  So I will use the miracle of the Scoville Scale to keep them away.  I mixed up a hot pepper solution, poured it into a spray bottle, and started a summer-long ritual of spritzing my veggies with the resulting liquid fire.

If the smell of the peppers doesn’t drive them away, the squirrels will take one bite of a tomato and when Scoville lights their little mouths on fire they won’t be making a repeat visit.  Bingo.

The downside: the solution washes off, so it must be reapplied after it rains or after watering.  It also becomes extremely important to wash the veggies before eating them, otherwise the whole plan backfires horribly.  I am certain I will forget this, but like the squirrels I hope to make the mistake only once.

My arsenal.

My arsenal.

Here’s my recipe:

Slice up one serano pepper (or a similarly spicy little devil).  Dump the pepper, seeds and all, into a spray bottle.  Wash your hands really well.  Until you do this, don’t touch your face, and for goodness sake don’t rub your eyes.  Add some white vinegar to the bottle, then fill up the rest of the way with water.  Shake.  Let it sit for at least 24 hours to get good and fiery.  Spray on veggies.

If possible, find a spray bottle with the word HOT plastered across the front.  It makes the whole thing that much more maniacally enjoyable.  And it prevents confusing this mixture with the spray bottle I use to get wrinkles out of my clothes or frizz out of my hair.

Other tips: You can also shake cayenne pepper on your plants and veggies.  The smell and the heat will supposedly keep the vermin away.  And you can plant marigolds around your garden.  I did this.  Apparently vermin hate marigolds.  They also hate mint, but there is no way I’m putting mint in my garden.  That would start a whole different kind of war against the relentless march of invasive herbs.  No thanks.

We’ll see how my epic summertime squirrel battle ends.  I fully intend to come out victorious, with a bountiful harvest to show for my efforts.

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