But shortly afterwards, "something happened that changed my world forever. It inspired a quest that has been driving me for nearly two year; the same quest that motivates eighty million other Americans. That February afternoon, I returned from an errand, opened my door and saw a squirrel in my feeder. My birdfeeder! The whole squirrel -- tail and everything -- was inside the feeder, a rectangular lucite compartment attached to my window with suction cups. Nothing has been the same since."
Adler then goes on to describe his various and increasingly desperate attempts to keep squirrels from raiding his birdfeeder. He "stood guard" over the feeder, banging the window whenever the squirrel approached, but the animal soon learned to ignore the noise and eat the seeds anyway. He tried opening the window and screaming at the squirrel, which worked, but as soon as Adler walked away the squirrel seized the opportunity and returned.
Determined to outwit the squirrel, Adler studied its behavior. He noticed that the squirrel had to climb a brick wall to get to the feeder. Adler went to the hardware store to buy a can of liquid Teflon. "With the glee of a sixteen-year-old on prom night, I coated the walls around and below the air conditioner [which the squirrel jumped from to land on the bird feeder] with a visible film of Teflon." The stratagem worked: "The first squirrel that leapt onto the Teflon-coated brick was as surprised as I was overjoyed. The moment his claws caught the Teflon-coated surface he scrambled furiously to keep hold, his little legs moving rapidly in circles, as if he were being chased by a cat. It was a fun, funny, fantastic sight."
The Teflon worked, until it rained, and Adler was back to square one. He described a number of other methods he employed in his attempt to outwit the enemy (which soon gained his grudging respect as a highly intelligent, resourceful combatant) but the squirrel outsmarted him every time. I tried reading parts of the book out loud to my wife, but I was laughing so hard I couldn't talk. I just handed the book to her and managed to squeak, "Read it."
Eventually the human won over the squirrel, and the rest of the book is devoted to descriptions of various squirrel-foiling contraptions and their efficacy.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects