Friday, February 27, 2015

Feverishly tooling away (with a tutorial), and teaching archery again

What have I been up to?  Finally filling orders!
Last year, I picked up both leather working and archery instruction as business enterprises, and though I lost some money (mostly on tools and a tiny archery arsenal), it wasn't a whole bunch, and it really set me up for this year (besides, I hear that businesses usually lose money the first three years).

Even January was a bit slow, but, since I'd put "getting my business running" on my New Year's Resolution list on the refrigerator (that's depressing -- I don't recommend it)  I stepped up my game.

First, I re-connected with the Jungs, a wonderful couple in town who run Southport ATA, a very good taekwondo dojang.  They are both amazing martial artists, and more importantly, great and loving people who have allowed me to again offer archery seminars.

My first seminar of the year took place last Saturday, where nine kids showed up to learn the basics of archery.  A good time was had by all, and I've been asked back on March 21st.  Sadly, I didn't take any pictures.  Next time, for sure!

Next, I set to finishing an order that had been placed by a friend of mine, J.R., who volunteers for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, a group dedicated to protecting our wild places.  J.R. had seen pictures of the bag I'd made for Holly last year, and asked me to carve and tool some arm guards with the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers logo.  I said yes, then immediately became seized with artist's block and debilitating self-doubt.  It's my artistic process.

Three months later, I'd finally worked out my anxieties, figured out how I wanted to approach the job, and set to it.  I also decided to take some pictures and explain the process, since Hippo had asked for me to explain more just how I do it.

It starts with a piece of leather -- in this case, vegetable-tanned leather, the kind you can tool:

The ever-vigilant Rocio... let's all just keep quiet about her being in the house for this part...

I used an earlier arm guard I'd made to trace as my template, and I cut three arm guard blanks with a very precise tool, a "Stanley razor":

Three blanks cut, using the arm guard above as template.  Note the highly precise tool used to cut the leather.
 Next, I printed out a copy of the logo I used, in an appropriate size for the arm guards (it took about one hour to decide on a size... part of my anxiety-ridden "process"):

Note the precision instrument for drawing a circle -- passed down to me by a professional leatherworker.  She didn't say so, specifically, but I am absolutely sure that the flowers are a must.
 Now, I began the process of carving, pounding and stamping the design onto the leather, known as "tooling".  Step 1: Case the leather (a very technical process by which you wet a sponge with water and rub it on the leather).  Cased (or, for you novices, "wetted") leather will look darker.  let the water soak into the leather for a minute or so, then start your work.

Cased leather on the right, dry leather on the left. No biggie.
 I first use a swivel knife to carve out the parts I want to stand out: in this case, the circles and the paw print. Be sure to case your leather when it gets too dry, and strop your blade every few cuts.  The knife should always slide smoothly through the leather, about 1/3 to 1/2 into the leather, not through it.

A sharp knife is vital here; as soon as you feel it "catch" or hang up on the leather, stop and strop.
 After carving out the lines, it is time to pound the leather into place.  A series of specialized tools are very helpful here.  The first one in a beveler.  Push it into the cut line, and hammer down, walking the piece around and along the line.
An edge beveler in action (kinda -- I had to take my own pictures).
 I repeated the process along the outside edges of the paw print.

Next, I used a pear shading tool to put smooth, wide divots into the paw print; then I used a backgrounding tool to stamp out a pattern around the paw print and inside the circle, making the print stand out:
There are many types of backgrounding tools -- this one makes tiny, random dots.
This is the pear shader.
 After this, I made my circles more pronounced.  The two inner circles I pushed down and traced with a ball-point stylus, and the outer circle I traced/cut with a Revlon cuticle tool (that's right).

Stylus on the right, cuticle tool on the left.
 I then used a pyrography pen to burn in the letters.  This took the longest time of any process.

Here are the blanks ready to be dyed and punched.  The pyrography pen is on the left.  Be careful, it is very hot.

Next, I dyed the pieces and cut the edges with an edge beveler:

Pieces dyed and edge beveled.  I then dye the edges a darker color, paint on gum tragacanth, and slick the edges to a beautiful shine.

Following up, I punched holes and attached the hardware: grommets and lacehooks.

Here are two with hardware, and two up next. A rubber or rawhide mallet is a must, unless you like buying new tools all the time.  Note the tiny anvil (a favorite purchase) and the white tool, called an edge slicker (another favorite, since it adds a final touch that makes your stuff look really professional).
 And here they are in all their glory -- four complete arm guards, sealed and waterproofed and ready to be shipped!
Off to Montana with you!
If you or someone you know is interested in an arm guard or perhaps a leather possibles bag or belt bag, let me know!

I am finishing up another website for the two businesses, and will link to it when it is all ready.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

On drought

California's drought continues apace, and I'm sure we will soon see the standard cries to the residential water user to conserve! conserve!

I'm not buying it.

I've written about water at my old blog, "Ethics and the Environment" (if interested, read here).

Basically, California's borders are arbitrary, geographically speaking, and so to speak about a "California" water crisis is akin to speaking about an "Eastern Seaboard" water crisis, or some other similarly sized region.

Sadly, our attempts to conserve water via State mandate only ask for a 20% reduction in urban use, which constitutes roughly 5% of total human water use in the State.  If every municipality were to hit their 20% mark, we would conserve about half of all the water that goes just to almonds in California.  That is to say, we wouldn't do diddly-squat to really positively impact the drought on a "California" scale.

However, we most definitely harm local plants and animals by merely cutting back on water use without taking into account our own local watersheds and ecosystems. (Also, consider that "local" is on a California scale: some of the Trinity River, for example, waters Los Angeles some 600 miles to the South).

For example:  My little region has many small riparian corridors that provide habitat for a number of species, including ducks.  Last year, many folks cut back on watering their yards, which resulted in diminished water for their small, local corridors.  Ducks, finding inadequate habitat, went somewhere; my guess is that they were pushed into smaller patches of protected wetlands, where the higher water temperatures (from warmer climate+less runoff into them from the upstream corridors) contributed to unhealthy conditions.  It seems to me that higher concentrations of ducks would exacerbate the rapid spread of deadly diseases, such as the avian botulism that struck the Klamath Basin last year.

If, instead, people had continued to water their lawns in riparian corridors, would the subsequent runoff (with higher humidity and higher water levels) have helped to sustain local populations of ducks (not to mention the myriad other, at times endemic, species of plants, bugs and animals)?

Though my pond is ended, I will continue to provide water for drinking and for bathing for my local birds. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What would you like in a field bag? And, a quick update around the grounds

For years, I've worn a hand-me-down shooting vest while hunting in the field.  My cousin offered it to me a while back, and it's been out with me a number of places.  However, though useful, it never did fit quite right, and the blaze orange back is faded, a button and zipper pull are now missing (having both fallen off), and the velcro design of the flappy front pockets grab onto my other clothing.

While perusing various online establishments, looking for cool leather work to attempt, I have come upon a couple of nice belt pouches.  What I've realized is that I just might be able to design and build my own pouch (or sporran, possibles bag, man-purse, whatever you want to call it) for the field.

I also know some of you out there who have varied and interesting experiences in the field, and I want to know what you might find useful on a bag for the field.

So far, I know that I'd like a bag that I can fit a box of shotgun shells, a bumper (for teaching retrieving), a water bottle (or flask, but just for the size), a pair of gloves, a tiny first aid kit, and still have room for collecting stuff (perhaps mushrooms or other food).  I also would like a separate pocket that I could line with a plastic or wax-paper baggy for the kind of dog treat my dog cares about (greasy).

It would definitely need a couple of D-rings, and maybe a dog leash latch.  Last, it would have a game strap.

These are my ideas.  Please let me know yours.

I can make a decent pull-string pouch, but the one I'm designing will need to have a bigger mouth

Updates around the house and garden

We've decided to finally end the pond.  Instead, I've filled in the hole with leaves from the walnut tree, and we hope to build a hill with a couple of nice rocks, and perhaps a little trickling stream at the base (we have the pump and liner from the pond, after all).

There has been a wonderful uptick in the number and variety of birds visiting lately, including a bluebird and two extremely violent hummingbirds.  These two went at it hammer and tongs (and yes, the hammer and tongs were precious, being so tiny).  At one point, they almost ran into my son.  One finally got hold of the others leg, wouldn't let go for quite a while, and then the two separated very quickly back to corners of the yard, like somebody had rung a tiny bell ending the round. 

I have purchased a small smoker that fits into my barbecue, and hope this weekend to smoke three pheasants from a recent hunting trip (where my dog was amazing, unlike a recent snipe trip, where she was horrid.  More on both very soon).

Pictures to come soon, too.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My newest hobby, perhaps a little side job?

Last year, I found myself wandering through a nearby Harbor Freight store.  If you ask yourself, "does this happen to him very often?", then I know you are unfamiliar with Harbor Freight (or, you make a decent living, in which case you probably don't read my blog, either). And if you are reading my blog, and you haven't heard of Harbor Freight, I must warn you to stop reading right now.

Harbor Freight is unlike any other store you may visit.  Like many stores, it sends unsolicited advertisements in the mail, filled with enticing deals.  However, these deals really are enticing: free flashlights, head lamps, utility scissors, sometimes without any purchase required!

In the size of a thrift store, Harbor Freight carries everything from pop-up sunshades to Rambo knives, from solar-powered lawn lights in the shape of hummingbirds to anvils, from hand-planes to arc welders.  I bet you didn't even know you needed a 4" table saw, or a 35 watt solar power kit, or a combo disc and belt sander; but for forty bucks?  You now realize, in a daze, that these are exactly the things you were looking for!  You just didn't know it.  And though their motto is fitting ("quality tools at ridiculously low prices"), it should probably be something closer to, "marginally effective products that pretty much do what you'd expect of them, -- with a free flashlight! -- at ridiculously low prices." (No need to wonder why I don't work for an ad agency.)  But when you are staring down a bench-top drill press, that kind of nuance gets lost.

In my case, it was an $8 pyrography pen kit that got me (don't ask my wife, or she'd probably add to this list).

If you aren't familiar with the pyrography pen, it does just what you might imagine: it writes with fire (actually, just a really hot tip, heated electrically in this case, but "fire" sounds much better).  More commonly known as a woodburning pen, it can also burn other things (like your house down, if you aren't careful).  As I looked at this deal, I immediately thought about cutting some leather arm guards out of an old leather shoulder I knew I had in the attic, and shooting tabs, too, in my new role as an archery instructor.  With this pen, I could possibly design some nice things to them, add that extra little touch.  I knew that other pens go for $30+, and a stamping set for leather tooling would set a person back $40, at least -- and all the hammering would keep my family awake and annoyed.  But for eight smackers, who could say no?

Not me.

I bought the kit, which came with a number of different tips (and can also be used for soldering).

What I didn't know was that something inside of me that had been trying to get out would find a way through this pen.

The next thing I did was head for the local library for a design book by Lora Irish, the, "Great Book of Celtic Patterns" (yes, I'm a cheapskate, which is why this story starts out with a trip to Harbor Freight). I first made a copy of a design by Ms. Irish (an amazing artist, by the way, with a great website) -- an arm guard with what was supposed to be a fierce Viking-styled wolf.

Lesson #1:  The mouth is a very important part. Rather than looking like he (and, by affiliation, I) might just eat you alive, an accidental upturn of the pen at the corner of his mouth gave him a rather cheerful look.  If you smile brightly while saying, "I'm a wolf!" an octave higher than your speaking voice, you'll catch his look exactly.

Strangely undaunted by my first attempt at "art", I took a trip to my local Tandy Leather Supply shop.  ANOTHER WARNING: this place is amazing.  Everything for leather work.  Stamps, tools, dyes, finishes, little tools for slicking and edging, buttons, conchos, rivets, skivers... everything.  And piles and piles of different types of leather, from vegetable-tanned, vanilla colored sides to deerskin with bullet holes in them.

I'd opened a door I immediately knew I should have opened thirty years ago.  I'd been into Tandy Leather before, but for some reason, this time was different.  I felt like I was just about to start something.

To quote Paul Simon, after "reeling in infinity" in that place, I bought a pack of leather stains in eight different colors, an edge beveler, and a plastic creasing tool that also slicks leather.  I ran home, stained my arm guard "bison brown", and finished the edge.

I stepped back and looked at it, and I'll be danged if I didn't make something that didn't just look like a ratty piece of leather strapped to my arm.  I saw all the mistakes, but I also saw a potential I hadn't felt in some time...

Not exactly a fierce wolf in the Celt-Norse style, this fellow just looks amused at my shooting prowess.  He also might have gingivitis.
My next projects were gifts.  I'd forgotten to make my first arm guard as a gift (it is an idea taught to me long ago by an old acquaintance), which is probably why I'd been so sloppy with the artwork.  I found an absolutely gorgeous piece my wife had picked out during our trip to D.C., where we'd visited the Museum of the American Indian, copied it, and made an arm guard for her.

Still learning.  This time, learning how to dye leather, and learning the effects and interaction of pyrography and dyes -- and getting a small sense of the Northwest style of art, which is geometric and aesthetically amazing in its relationships.
Next, I built a leather quiver my daughter had designed, carved a few shooting tabs, designed and burned a "celtic" black phoebe, and started burning a pictish boar onto arm guards.  I branched out, bought a strap cutter, and made bracelets, a sporran for Rubén, and covered a metal camp cup in leather. I picked up George Bains' amazing work, "Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction", learning (painstakingly) how to solve celtic knot patterns, and re-opened a book I'd bought on our honeymoon over eleven years ago, "Northwest Native Arts: Basic Forms" by Robert E. Stanley, Sr.

At the Pleasanton Scottish Highland games, where my brother in-law and I set up a booth to teach basic archery, I also brought along some of my leather work, and sold a couple of arm guards and bracelets -- a wild success for me, considering I'd never tried to sell any piece of art or craft of mine in my entire life.

Trying to solve a fairly complicated, intricate (and small) beautiful celtic border with birds, I reached the end of the pyrography pen's capabilities.  I couldn't get the pen to make the very thin lines I needed for the double lines of the birds' tails.  Instead, I had to solve for a thicker and "simpler" knot, which came out good, but made me realize that $8 -- in my hands, at least -- has its limits.

The end of the line for my $8.  I can (and will) still use it for larger patterns, but the detail for that border was just too much for me+it. (The eagle and bird patterns are from George Bains' book, taken from the Book of Kells.)

What could I use to create more detailed and intricate patterns?

Why, a leather tooling set, of course!  They only cost around $40. A leather-carving swivel knife can cut very detailed, tiny designs, and with some basic stamps, I could make them pop.  For Christmas, then, my loving family bought me a basic 7-piece tooling set.

I don't think they quite know what they've gotten themselves into.

My first real tooled project, Aix sponsa (wood duck).  It started out as practice, and became a Christmas present for my cousin.

 Sales at the Highland Games really lit a fire under me, and I've officially added leather work (arm guards, bracelets, and belt pouches) to my side business. Our name, "Wild Spirit/Old Soul" tries to split the difference between the young 'uns who are interested in the popularity of archery right now (the, "Wild Spirit" part) and the old fogeys (like me), traditional archery guys, and maybe re-enactors who might want some leather goods (the, "Old Soul").

If you know anyone interested in leather work, please send them my way and I will do my best to accommodate them.

I just hope my family can get used to all the hammering.

A deerskin and vegetable-tanned leather possibles bag for my friend, Holly.
The front panel of Holly's bag.  Some of this was with a pyrography pen, but the more detailed work was a pencil on wet leather.
A collection of bracelets.  They are quite fun to make!  The designs are of the Pict/Celt school -- even those fish are Celtic salmon.

My son, Rubén's, sporran (also called a belt pouch, possibles bag, or man-purse).  This was my first attempt at a bag, and was a lot of fun to make.

An arm guard with a very basic knotwork border and brass lace hooks.

A more traditional, long and thin arm guard, with my rendition of a Pictish wolf.  Not my best edge work, but the wolf is very savage looking and fun to draw.

Arm guard with a Pictish boar and nickel laces and grommets.

An arm guard for my daughter, Phoebe.  I tried to "Pict-ify" the bird in the fashion that they reserve typically for mammals.  Oh, well, I'm learning. Also, she wanted the natural look of the vegetable-tanned leather.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Splitting the Difference, and preparing for a New Year (with resolutions like a nitwit)

What with Hippo back at his blog (warning: graphic content), and with even Holly Heyser posting for the first time in years, I've decided to give this writing baloney another go.

A new year...

I hope everyone has a great one, though if history is an indicator of future results, don't bet on it.  I feel a bit bad knowing that my 2014 was darned good, while many I know had a pretty, or a very, rough year. Professionally, I'm still wildly stressed out, but personally, I was blessed to get to watch a four and a seven-year old. Seeing the world through their eyes and their perspectives expands my own experiences of this great, big World. I remain married to an amazing woman who took a full-time lecturing position at UC, Davis. I got certified to teach archery, and also began leather work (armguards, belt pouches and the like), which I find very rewarding.

The final week of this great year summed my year up nicely: We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (which is nice, but not as nice as they charge you for, so no link here), and the next day, spent a morning watching big surf.  We then visited my old workplace at Seacliff State Beach, where I learned (yet another) revolutionary surf fishing technique and caught a surfperch for the first time in years and years. The next day, I hunted with my brother in-law, and my rescue dog of unknown bloodlines found every bird in such short time and with such efficiency as to put our shotgunning to shame.  She still runs a bit far in open country (she works amazingly tight in thick brush), and she doesn't retrieve, but her nose is impeccable.

I am truly blessed and try real hard to be thankful.

But while I was enjoying a great year, others were struggling with leukemia, nearly losing a toe (or a life) to venomous snakes, putting down family pets, losing loved ones.  My heart and prayers go out to those who had a rough year. 

This year is prepped to be another good 'un, but requires some effort on my part.  My archery business needs tending including a website, as well as advertising and such.  I couldn't decided on a name, so I picked two:  Wild Spirit/Old Soul.  I figured I could capture the increased interest in archery by the young and hip with the "Wild Spirit", and perhaps get a curmudgeon or two to buy a leather armguard or possibles bag with the "Old Soul" moniker. 

I also need to step up my archery practice, which has suffered in recent weeks.  I'd like to try one of those friendly traditional archery competitions I run across from time to time, but have been too scared to give a shot.

So, like millions of other morons, I've made a list of New Year's resolutions.  I've even put my resolutions up on a handy-dandy, shame-inducing calendar posted to the refrigerator, so I can consciously ignore them by actually looking down in disgrace on a regular basis.

There are no diet goals, nor goals to be a "better person".  Rather, these are concrete objectives, weekly increases in hours spent on my business, archery, art, or gardening, along with some monthly goals, in check-off fashion -- perfect for failing on paper.

As this is my Agrarianista blog, I suppose a garden and field update is in order.  We picked our oranges yesterday, after a fourth day of below-freezing temps, and they look great!  We saw a five-and-one-half fold increase in yield over last year's harvest: eleven oranges off our three-foot dwarf orange tree (thankfully, the oranges aren't dwarfed).  Our rose also has a load of rose-hips in need of harvest.

We lost the flowers off our pineapple sage, which doesn't help our resident hummingbirds, so I'll be putting out a feeder today.  And speaking of feeders, the bird feeder that Rubén and I built this Summer has been getting visitors -- mourning doves, scrub jays, white-crowned sparrows.  Our giant trees also hold some overwintering Sierra birds.  Pacific-slope flycatchers and chestnut-backed chickadees take refuge here, among others.  Of course, the yellow-rumped warblers are back, too.

The walnut has done its job, providing leaves for cover and conversion to soil in our raised beds.  The boysenberry was pruned far back last Fall, and the pomegranate has gotten a first pruning, too.

We are filling in the pond, which has become more trouble than it's worth, and may put in a hill with a sizeable rock or two.  We may also add a small stream, since we already have all the materials (pump, liner, and water).

In the field, we had a First Annual Kilted Snipe hunt at a friend's property, and had a great time!  We got three fools to show up in kilts (including myself), and one "liberated woman", my cousin Kevin.  J.R. Young, kilted, was the only one of us to get birds -- two snipe -- although there were quite a few.

God bless, and may you all have a great 2015.

Maybe my best work so far -- a deerskin and veg-tanned leather belt pouch for Holly.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Me, Certifiable

Back in March, I took a class that I hope will kinda change my life: a two-day seminar on archery instruction, at the end of which I received my Level II Archery Certificate.  I have always loved archery, and though I'm no Howard Hill, I am comfortable with a bow, and comfortable showing folks how to draw and loose an arrow.

The certification course, taught by Nico Gallegos of Ohlone Archery (a great guy), was extremely informative for my own form, and also a great confidence booster.  If you are a bowhunter, I highly recommend getting at least a Level I certification from this man, and/or lessons from him.

When I got home, I talked with my wife, who, it turns out, is enthusiastically supportive of this attempt at a sort-of small business, teaching and coaching archery.

Yes, that means I was granted permission to purchase all kinds of archery gear and accoutrement.  I picked up three bows -- two PSE's (a Razorback and a Razorback Jr.), and an OMP -- two dozen arrows, three bag targets, and some PVC pipe and toilet bases for stand quivers. 

I also bought a nice fletching jig and feathers (not vanes), and my daughter learned how to fletch.

Shooting the light-drawing bows (20lbs. at 28" draw) has also done wonders for my own form, as I am able to draw, think about individual parts (anchoring, expanding, etc.), and correct prior to the shot.  I should have bought one years ago.

To stay close to my love for the atavism in archery, I carved a few leather shooting tabs and leather arm guards, but I also bought a couple of armguards and a tab, to provide some options for students to try out.

Next, I made a deal with our local taekwondo dojang, Southport ATA, run by two amazing teachers and also friends, David and Anna Jung.  They jumped at the chance to provide a space for me; and really, what better place to arm children then at a martial arts school?

My first seminar went well.  7 students showed up, most between 10 and 12 years old, (though a couple of dads also shot), and most of them black belts, which made a huge difference!  These kids had great physical awareness, and required only a little tip here and there.  They all quickly took to it, and were smacking the targets in no time.

David was also happy with the seminar, and offered to give me one day per month.  And, with a good city Parks and Recreation department, a local outdoor range, and some enthusiasm, the opportunity exists for me to grow.

I must admit, I am still extremely nervous.  I'm good enough at archery, and I've been doing it long enough, to teach the basics, but still, I haven't been up in front of a regular class in eight years.

My confidence has been helped a great deal by a few people these past few months, however, and I feel I'm up for the challenge.  Nico, the Jung's at Southport ATA, and, of course, my wife, have all provided the boost I needed.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Writer's block, so... more on gardening and other backyard pursuits

Still no piece on hunting with the nephew, I just can't seem to get it out on paper.  However, I have done quite a bit on the back yard, and I've started back into archery again.

First, a pic:

This is how real estate folks sell houses: a panorama shot of my back yard.  Images are closer than they appear.

Yes, the barren grass stands out, but what I see are improvements:  thriving trees and vines, a pond that is still mostly keeping it together, and a straw bale with a target in it. At right, the spectre of the shed looms...

The biggest good news for our yard is that the boysenberries are growing vigorously, the pomegranate survived my hacking at it over winter, and the fig is finally producing, keeping me from cursing it.  It already has figs the size of my thumb. (Tom, I have great hopes for your figs, too!)

We've also put peas into the ground.  Typically, this is getting close to being too late in the year, but I think we'll get a few in a couple of months.

One of the more labor-intensive activities was tying up my boysenberries.  I'd neglected them over the winter, and they needed to be raised up off the ground, untangled, and some of the old vines removed.  I'm no expert on pruning them, so I erred on the side of caution and kept all the vines coming up that were close enough to be tied onto the trellis.

Two years ago, I'd cut river reed from one of the nearby levees, drilled 5/8" holes into some redwood 2x4's, and trained them up.  Over time, the river reed (Arundo donax, a local invasive) had deteriorated, and so I pulled out the old cross bars and considered replacing them with some hardwood 5/8" dowels from the local big box yard store.  One trip and a price of $2.85 per dowel convinced me that a quick trip out to the levee to cut my own new river reed would add a nice touch of rustic charm to the back yard.

Ah, the rustic charm that comes from being a tight-wad... a river-reed trellis.
But my favorite "improvement" was the purchase of a straw bale for use as an archery target.  You see, I've been meaning to start up again, but couldn't bring myself to grab my gear and make the five mile drive to the archery range for the three or four shots I'd be able to physically make before wearing out my atrophied muscles.  Pretty pathetic, I know.  But the target in my back yard, plus signing up for a certification class to teach archery, have lit a fire under me, and I've been shooting nearly every day for the past ten days.  I'm even up to nine or ten shots a day.

Squirrels, beware.