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Green Acre #21: Of Mice and Woman


Photo above and on the front, iStock.




This Green Acre column was first published on September 14, 2016. We’re rerunning it this week to give LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” a week off.

IF YOU’RE SQUEAMISH about mice you can stop reading now. I am rather fond of them. Indeed, consider them near-pets. Such fluffy little bits they are, with their wriggly pink noses. So unlike the termites and ants that are the antithesis of cuddly.

Have you ever seen a stuffed termite?

Also. Did you know cob webs are made by spiders? The Prince told me this, though I find it hard to believe, even after Googling it. I do not consider spiders pets either.

We do have a grand-dog, Tallula. She’s a mix of Plott Hound and lab, in other words a very large brown mutt, who visits for a week or so each year, when Baby and her Personal Prince Pete are off to some covetable place or other. But she is not a regular tenant.

Ah, mice.

Throughout the summer they are busy elsewhere, possibly Vermont. Now, suddenly they’re back and rummaging about, getting settled in their little niches and crevices for the colder weather that will soon be arriving.

Hullo! I say. Welcome home!

I particularly enjoy their company on wintry evenings, bundled under my down quilt, fire crackling, nose to book. Such happy little things they sound, rustling about the candy wrappers that sometimes find their way to the floor beside the bed, intermingled with the rumpled pages of six-month-old copies of The New Yorker, a toppled tower of paperbacks, and a dusty sock, or two.

We have several that romp around downstairs as well, most frequently in the kitchen, where they skitter across the counters when the lights are out and we’re immersed in something cultural on TV, like “Survivor” or “Dancing With the Stars.” They are usually unnoticed except for our occasional need for refreshment.

If I have pause, it is only on the occasions when we have guests and I notice one or several flitting across the room, which always surprises me since they tend to be so shy. Admittedly it is a behavioral issue that needs addressing. Should they survive The Prince, we will work on it.

Last year, having tried with no success the poison and the snappish trap, he laid in a supply of glue traps, devices that fill me with such disgust, I can’t tell you. While there are several, perhaps even more than several, people whom I would enjoy seeing stuck to such things, chewing their feet off to get free, I cannot countenance doing so to our plump little friends.

The Prince dealt these disgusting traps like cards around the house, no doubt chuckling to himself as he went. Behind the sofa went several, more were dropped behind the bed, behind the stove, under the kitchen counters, and around the basement.

That time, the only thing that was caught was my foot, clad in a pale pink sneaker that had been purchased in a dreadfully chic Georgetown shoe shop with pink and white striped walls and black chandeliers and shoes racked on glass shelving to reveal their red soles. French they were, these sneakers, and terrifically expensive, at least originally. I pulled them out of the bargain basket next to the front door. I felt so . . . Bardot padding about in them, even if they had absolutely no arch support and the little metal things around the eye-holes came quickly detached.

OUT! Went the traps.

His most recent announcement, of a few days past, is that the health department would shut us down were we a restaurant.  Now really. Does he honestly believe that these sweet little creatures are any dirtier than Lula (as she’s called for short), who lolls around in mud puddles with her filthy tennis balls, licks her rump with a tongue coated in god knows what, and then plants that tongue on his face?

Back again came the glue traps, the only thing that works, he claims. I told him FINE then, but if any of our mice are caught YOU will handle the SITUATION.

And this morning I hauled him out of bed at 6am to do just that. For there, on the kitchen counter, was a sweet little mouse SCREAMING for help.

He was displeased. I was more so. I told him I’d rather he go buy a tiny gun that he could put to the mouse’s tiny head and—pow.  But this torture on torture?

Later this morning, while dusting up because Margot is coming to dinner—she’s German and therefore does not appreciate concepts like A Little Dust Makes for an Interesting Woman—my Swiffer got caught in a trap under the dishwasher (where there should be a bottom panel but I assess no blame for its absence). I found another trap tangled in the fringe of my mohair throw, which was artfully draped over the arm of the living room wing chair.

This is neither here nor there, I’m just saying.

And then I was on the Internet trying to find out how to clean my computer mouse, which has gotten fidgety, and I tripped across instructions for FREEING A MOUSE FROM A GLUE TRAP.

Is this not fate? I’m almost eager now to trap one just so I can free it.

Anyway, all you need to do is coat the mouse and the trap with a little oil, being careful not to drown the mouse, “NEVER USE ANY KIND OF PETROLEUM, SYNTHETIC OR LUBRICATING OIL . . . and do not submerge the mouse’s mouth and nose in the oil,” the instructions stress. I love instructions.

If the mouse has gotten really stuck, you might have to poke it a bit, but use something well padded because he or she is probably pissed off—even if you had nothing to do with its predicament—and might nip.

Now place the oily mouse on its oily trap into a plastic container with a lid and “lock it down” because the mouse will work its way free in a few minutes and leap for the safety of behind the stove.

They suggest driving the mouse to a place far away, at least a mile, otherwise it will come right back. A fairly ridiculous suggestion in the middle of a city.

Personally, I would make the gesture of releasing it into the garden* where it might consider partaking of the hospitality of one of our neighbors. I might even point out a promising direction or two.

* See how cleverly I managed to insert the garden into this column, which is theoretically about gardening?

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird Stephanie is working on a book about urban gardening. Perhaps she will even write  about gardening in her next column. To see earlier columns, type Green Acre into the Search box at the top right of the page.

2 thoughts on “Green Acre #21: Of Mice and Woman

  1. Yes Stephanie, mice do come to Vermont for the summer, to keep the chipmunks and squirrels company – but they never actually leave, either. What I don’t like about them is finding their little droppings all over my kitchen counters, stovetop, etc. Terribly unsanitary, is what I am thinking. So my Prince, John, has set up traps which he coordinates with his Excel spreadsheet, to figure out where most of them congregate, and put the most number of traps there. He caught 54 the first summer we were living here.

    1. Ecel spreadsheet. Excel spreadsheet. EXCEL SPREADSHEET???????? Sheesh… laughing.

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