So, as previously mentioned, we moved out into the wilderness. Well, what passes for wilderness in suburbia anyway. Directly behind our house is about 300 to 500 feet of woods. Some of it will, inevitably, be going away to build more housing, but for right now, it is like we live on the edge of Mirkwood. To the side of us is a thin band of trees, behind which is a pond and a wetlands area. That isn’t going anywhere and it is super pretty.
Hand in hand with living on the frontier is the wildlife that makes its home in the places beyond the edge of the maps. Our new locale is no exception.
I’m a big wildlife guy. Not in a hunting, fishing, camping sense, but in that I watch a lot of Animal Planet. This was called into focus our first morning in the new house. I walked out onto our second story deck, cup of coffee in my hand and surveyed the dark green mystery that stretched out before me. I started to sit down and enjoy the view when I realized, to my delight, that something was already sitting in my chair. Being the child of Nina Ayers that I am, I ran down to the garage and grabbed the plastic “critter carrier,” a clear plastic cube a little smaller than a shoe box, a version of which I think I have owned since I was eight. I ran back up to the deck, scooped up the visitor and ran into Cass and I’s bedroom.
She was still under the covers.
“Look!” I squealed. “Look what was on the back porch!”
Groggily, she opened her eyes and struggled to focus on what I was holding.
“Is there a frog in that box?” she asked.
“Yes!” I said. “Isn’t it great? It was on our back porch!”
“And now it is in our bedroom,” she observed.
“Well, yes!” I agreed. “I’m gonna text my mom and show her.”
“You do that,” said Cass, rolling over. “And make coffee.”
Needless to say, the boys where fairly unimpressed too. Nobody was as excited as I was about our amphibian neighbor.
There was more interest in the mammals.
On a regular basis a group of deer, anywhere from two to six of them, saunter out of the woods and drink from the pond. It is amazing to be sitting on the back deck and suddenly realize these gigantic animals are sauntering out of the tree line. Having watched a lot of North Woods Law, a show on Animal Planet that is basically Cops but with game wardens in Maine, I knew that you can bait deer. It’s illegal if you are hunting them, but not illegal if you just want watch them from your family room windows. Cass got on Amazon and bought me a five pound bag of seed that grows stuff that deer like and a salt lick. I attached the salt lick to a tree and put the seed down in the strip of trees between us and the pond. We also use the strip of trees as a dumping ground for apples and various and sundry other fruit.
I am delighted to say that the baiting worked. A few days ago I came home and scared a big group of deer that were in our side yard eating. They scared me a bit too. It was a mutual frightening.
So the big mammals are cool. The small ones…not so much.
The boys both play football on turf fields that use tiny little rubber pellets as filler. These get everywhere, the boys basically shed them and so in the fall months our house have these pellets everywhere. They look a whole lot like mouse droppings which is why we missed the actual mouse droppings for so long.
“I think we have a mouse in the house,” said Cass one night as we were preparing for bed.
“Are you quoting children’s books at me?” I asked.
“No, idiot,” she said. “I think we have actual rodents.”
“No way,” I said.
“I found stuff I think is mouse poop.”
“No way. It’s the turf stuff from the boys. We don’t have mice,” I was confident.
There was a knock on our door. It was T1.
“There’s a mouse in the pantry,” he said.
Can we just stop for a minute and admit that mice are kind of adorable? This one was sitting on a shelf at about eye level, perched on top of a box of oatmeal. It was looking at me and T1 as we peeked into the pantry. It was licking its little paws and wiggling its little whiskers.
“It’s cute,” T1 said.
“It is,” I agreed.
“Is it weird that I am a little scared of it?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “I sorta am too.”
“You guys need to catch that thing,” Cass yelled down the stairs.
“How are we going to do that?” asked T1.
“I have no idea,” I admitted. “I’ve never actually seen a mouse in person.”
That’s when it ran. Mice are really fast. Like…really fast. T1 and I both may have yelped.
Our pantry is more wide than deep. The mouse ran sideways. T1 tracked it while I grabbed the garbage can in the kitchen and pulled out the bag. The mouse jumped from our gigantic Costco box of spaghetti across the to the dried seaweed that T2 doesn’t eat any more and then dropped down to the floor.
It raced across the kitchen floor. We both yelled. I flipped the garbage can over and brought it down on the mouse, catching it.
“Jesus Christ that thing is fast,” said T1.
“I know, right?” I agreed.
“Now what do we do?” he asked.
The upside-down can was trapping the mouse but now we were at an impasse.
Cass showed up.
“Did you get it?” she asked.
“We got it!” T1 and I both said.
“It’s under the can,” I said.
“Well,” said Cass, “flip it over.”
T1 and I laughed the manly laugh of mouse-trappers. T1 leaned against the former bottom now top of the can, holding it down as if the mouse was going to suddenly muscle up and bust out from under it.
“Baby,” I said, “I don’t think you appreciate how fast this thing it.”
“It’s like the Flash of mice,” said T1.
“We can’t just flip the can over,” I said. “It will get away.”
“But it is under there,” she said. Her voice was dubious.
“Oh yeah,” we both agreed. “We just got to figure out what to do next.”
We found an old Amazon box (maybe the one that my deer seed came in). We flattened it out as best we could and then, slowly, like we were diffusing a bomb, slid it underneath the garbage can. We then flipped the whole thing over, removed the cardboard, and peered down into the can.
It was empty.
“Guys,” said Cass, “there isn’t a mouse in there.”
“Where is it?” asked T1.
“It’s gotta be in there!” I said. “Where is it?”
“It’s gotta be in there!” said T1.
“It’s really not,” said Cass.
It had apparently out smarted us. I honestly have no idea how. I would have sworn that we had caught it.
The next day we had a family meeting about how we needed to stop being such god-awful slobs (by “we” we meant the boys) and how we needed to get rid of the mouse.
“You can’t kill it,” said T2. “I’m sure it is adorable. Get those traps that doesn’t kill it.”
So I did. They were six bucks each and used a weighted ramp to trap the rodent in a little plastic box. I baited them with peanut butter and set them up in the pantry. We waited three days.
Well, nothing happened with the traps. We did, however, find evidence that the use had made it way downstairs to what T2 describes as his “man-cave.”
“Look,” I said, pointing to a bag of Cheetos with the bottom eaten out that was under the couch he sits on when he plays Halo.
“The mouse is down here now?” he asked.
“Yup,” I said.
So I went and got the regular old tension spring traps. Four of them for two dollars. I baited them with peanut butter, put them in brown paper bags so as to minimize the gore if they worked, and set them up in the pantry.
In the next three days we killed two mice. Apparently the one we had seen had a wife. It was not pretty but it was pretty effective.
That was the end of our mouse problem. We had defended our homestead from the beasts from beyond our walls. Our long, family nightmare was over, never to return to plague us.
A couple of days ago we got a cat, just in case.