Saturday, September 29, 2018

Bye-bye Bats—for now!

9/26/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

This has been quite a year for animal stories at our house. The latest one has left me shaking my head and wondering how pioneers ever survived various scourges let alone wolves and bears. It all began a few months ago when I went out to Chuck’s workshop. He works downstairs and I store important things upstairs like holiday décor and outdoor furniture.

A few months ago, I was climbing the stairs when I heard what sounded like a herd of mice scurrying around in the ceiling. Then it was quiet. This happened several times until I asked Chuck to give a listen. He didn’t hear any scurrying noises but to appease me he put out extra mouse traps. We found lots of droppings but caught no mice.

A little background. We are used to dealing with unwanted critters. We bought our house in 1989 and there were mice in the walls. One morning early on I found a bat in the shower! Periodically our dogs would spy a bat flying around the house at night. We would capture it with a butterfly net and take it outside to fly away. A new roof solved the problem. The original cedar shake roof was their home. The day the old roof was removed, hundreds of bats were awakened and darkened the sky overhead. Bye-bye bats? Nope.

Fast forward to summer 2018. The bats were still living outside. We thought all was well. Our son John and grandson Josh were visiting and we were going to Bohemia Park for the Eugene Symphony. Josh and I went upstairs and brought down four folding chairs. They were strangely dirty.  Each one had a large, black blob in the middle of the chair. A closer exam revealed sleeping bats!

You would think that I would get hysterical but I found them kind of fascinating. I took the chairs to some nearby trees, moved the bats and we went to the park. End of story? Not by a long shot. The so-called mice noises got so loud in the shop ceiling that Chuck could hear them. An exterminator came who was “pretty sure” that the droppings were from mice. He put down some new-fangled traps scented with pheromones and we caught…wait for it: nine (9) bats! This time I got pretty close to hysterical. We were bat killers!

I spent that evening googling everything I could about bats. Did you know that next to rodents, bats are the second most common land mammals? They are an invaluable insect predator, sometimes eating half their body weight in mosquitos. They eat insects that could damage crops and can live to be 20 years old. They have a bad rap about rabies. And finally, they are feeling a housing crunch because their favorite hollow trees, old barns and houses are disappearing.

Thus, we ended up with not one but two colonies of bats in our warm, sheltered shop. They found an entry and exit area where birds had picked holes in the walls. Then I learned that once they nest in your home they will come back to the same place year after year. So, I went looking for a professional who could evict the bats humanely.

Here’s a quick overview of how to evict bats:
    •    Find all outside entrances
    •    Install one-way bat check valves that allow bats to leave but not return.
    •    Leave in place 5-7 days
    •    Check to make sure all bats are gone.
    •    Remove the check valves and seal the entrances.

Sounds easy. Right? Wrong! Fish and Game regulations apply to Oregon bats. The company that we chose came out in mid-August and explained that our bats would soon be migrating to Mexico! They could not be evicted until after the first of Sept. Their babies had to be strong enough to fly with them to hibernate over the winter. Then, they will return next spring to their favorite new home at CG Lake.

This was getting so complicated that it made my head spin. What to do?  Well, one evening around the first of the month, Chuck was out pottying the dogs. Suddenly, he looked up and saw hundreds of bats circling and taking flight. The next day, the bats were gone out of the shop. We had dodged one bullet. Then came the cleanup. If I had more room, I would tell you the process in detail. Suffice it to say that it involved men wearing masks, removing ceiling panels, vacuuming guano, sweeping, sealing holes and quarantining the area.

We were told that the bats have good memories. They will return next year—to our house. So we’re going with a plan to put up bat houses and attract them with some of their saved guano. I’ll let you know how that works out.

 Hasta la vista murciélago!

 Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox Sept. 2018 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Military news from Cottage Grove and more

8/29/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Colonel Kirsten M. Palmer
I have been following USAF Colonel Kirsten M. Palmer’s career for 20 years. She continues to amaze me. A local girl, Col. Palmer received her commission, as a Second Lieutenant, from the U.S. Air Force Academy in May 1995. Last year she was promoted to a full Colonel after receiving a Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy with concentration in supply chain management at National Defense Univ., Ft. McNair, Washington, D.C

This year, Kirsten’s parents, Ron and Linda Palmer, were thrilled to learn that a promotion and a new duty station for her will be on the west coast. On Aug. 5, 2018, they, along with other family members and invited friends, attended an Assumption of Command Ceremony for their daughter at McChord Field in Washington State.

Col. Palmer is the new commander of the 446th Maintenance Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. She is now responsible for directing all aircraft and equipment maintenance support for three squadrons of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. She will also oversee the quality and quantity of training for over 400 Reservists, ensuring they are prepared to perform the wing’s mission in peacetime and during combat.  Very impressive.

On the lighter side, her promotion means that for the first time since her career began, her parents will be close enough to often visit Addyson, their now 9-year old granddaughter, and her parents on a regular basis. Another change in the family life is that dad, Col. Roger Lang, a former USAF pilot has retired and is now a pilot for United Airlines. They will be living in Gig Harbor, WA. It doesn’t get much better than that. Congratulations, Kirsten!

On another note, I would like to say a few words about the passing of local resident Leonard Waitman. His military service reads like a page out of Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation.” 

Leonard was both a soldier and scholar. His time as a soldier began before his graduation from Grant Union High in Sacramento. The day that WWII was declared, his entire class of seniors went down to enlist. He received his high school diploma while in training and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, a precursor to the U.S. Air Force.

His obituary related some of his 3 1/2 years of service without liberty in the war zone. At his memorial service those stories came alive. He had first-hand experience with people and situations that we’ve only read about in books: Invasions of countries, aiding Col. Doolittle, Gen. George Patton, blessed by Pope Pious XII, seeing the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. etc. Each one gave him insights into the real world of war that would be with him forever.

Leonard’s years as a scholar came after the war. His degrees and accomplishments are impressive. His education included both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees and a PhD.  He taught for 32 years and wrote several books. He was a dedicated Christian and served as president of Bethesda Bible College. He and his wife retired to Cottage Grove.

I met Leonard around the time of the 9/11 attacks. He and his fellow Veteran of Foreign Wars buddies were fountains of information for me as I struggled with what was happening and how to communicate it to my readers. A gifted communicator, he was front and center at every CG Memorial Day remembrance ceremony. Our city was blessed for having him amongst us and he will be missed.

I recently read that for many Americans, today’s wars are closer to Reality TV than to reality. War is not at our back door so we’re oblivious. Some of the hotspots around the world where we send our young men and women in the armed forces are Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Niger, the Philippines, Somalia and Syria. Many of us don’t know where those countries are or why we are there.

At Leonard Waitman’s memorial, little toy soldiers were given to each person who walked in the door. We were asked to put the soldier in a conspicuous place in our house to remind us that freedom is not free. Somewhere in the world, right now, real people are fighting, dying and being maimed in real battles. The toy soldier can be a reminder to pray for their protection and wisdom on the part of those who send them to war.

Finally, as I put this column to bed, news came over the airwaves that Sen. John McCain has died. He was a good man. Whether you liked or disliked his politics, he served his country well. God rest his soul.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at