Instead of spending much time working on Sea of Tigers this weekend, I’m finishing a website (for supplemental income), adding paths to the garden that we’ve created out of our front yard, and building cages to protect our strawberries from the thieving gang of squirrels that work out of the neighborhood trees.
I only resent spending time on this last task. We grow up sure that squirrels are lovable pets given to us by Nature: chipper, whiskered, frisky, a great source of entertainment in making any cat look like Sylvester trying to catch Speedy Gonzalez. And then they eat your entire strawberry crop when the berries are too green to pick. You start to root for the cats. And you long, maybe a little, maybe a lot, for the days when all you had to do was level your rifle or shotgun out the kitchen window to pick ’em off (and, in the pioneer spirit, reuse or recycle them).
Cats aren’t bright and aren’t likely to learn from their squirrel hunting mistakes, no matter how often I dangle the promise of treats while savagely pointing at the chittering little demons in the plum tree out front. But I have something better than cats: little kids, who with the proper financial and intellectual motivation, might get the job done right.
Teaching practical math at our house in 2009 to Noah (10) and Sophie (4):
Kids, I’ll give you a dollar for every squirrel that you trap and kill on our property, as long as you pay for the bait. If you capture 1 squirrel a week out of the starting population of 23, and the cost of bait is $4.29 for a 6 oz package (where you need one half-ounce ball per squirrel), and the squirrels reproduce at a rate of 1 per month, how long will it take you to earn enough to buy either a new copy of Pokemon Platinum or Hello Kitty: Direct Impact for the DS*? You may also supplement your income every two weeks by picking dandelions out of the yard at $1/bag, at a maximum of 1 bag each per harvest.
Assume you will waste 10% of the bait due to weather, mishandling, or neighborhood cats.
To be paid, you must both solve this problem and get rid of the squirrels. You can do the math intuitively or try to work out the answer on paper, as long as you can describe how you went about it.
Bonus: properly tanned squirrel hides are worth $5 each.
*Built-in assumption: they know the current retail price of said games at a given retailer.