Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Of Mice and Men

I needed a new bag of oatmeal.  I descended the stairs and went to the pantry.  I grabbed one off the shelf, not really paying much attention, and started back towards the kitchen upstairs.  Soon, I noticed I was leaving a trail, Hansel and Greta like.  Little rolled oats littered the floor where I had tread.  "Is there a hole?" I mused and gave the bag a tentative squeeze.  A puff of oat dust escaped.  I gave the bag a thorough look.  There, at one of the bottom corners, was a jagged hole.  I was confused; I was pretty confident I would have noticed a hole of that size at the store if it had been there. This led to the question, "when did this happen and how?"  I went back to the pantry and looked on the self where the oatmeal had been kept.  Heart sinking, I saw, amidst the stray oat flakes and dust, small black pellets.  Mouse poo.

I don't like mice.  I don't like any creature that invades my house--my "supposed" safe haven from the elements.  Despite my talk about composting, canning, gardening, shampoo and soap making, I am not cut out to be a homesteader.  Wildlife and I don't really get along.  I am not willing to share and live peaceably with other earthly inhabitants when it comes to my home and my extraordinarily expensive gluten-free certified rolled oats.

Initially, I wasn't too concerned as my husband has sufficient mouse trapping expertise.  Just this year, they have caught eight mice in his office, so he has some practice.  He swears by peanut butter, but not the natural kind containing only peanuts and salt that we buy.  The mice treat that with utter disdain.  What calls to them like crack is the brand name Jif which contains sugar, molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, mono and diglycerides, and salt--the stuff that will kill you and obviously mice too.

The morning after Mr. F. had set the trap, we had a dead mouse.  However, Mr. F. was under the misconception that Finn and I would be interested in viewing the dismembered carcass and left it there on the pantry floor when he went to work.  My Facebook feed gives you an idea about what I thought about that:
[Mr. F.] left a dead, smashed mouse on our pantry floor in case [Finn] and I wanted to see it. I can only imagine the questions. So, I will let [Mr. F.] take that on.

Plus now there is a dead smashed mouse in my pantry, so gross.

I had to go into the pantry just now. You know, the one with the DEAD MOUSE in it. Ugh.

It's last meal was peanut butter, by the way.
In the end, Mr. F. tossed the dead mouse overboard while I distracted Finn.  And, like responsible home owners, we set another trap in case there was more than one.  We know the drill.  The next morning, however, did not reveal a dead mouse.  But that wasn't because there wasn't one.  The trap had been licked clean of peanut butter.  Frustrated, Mr. F. set another trap.  The next morning saw the same result, a cleaned off trap still set. 
Well one mouse has gone to his reward up above. But another mouse has outsmarted [Mr. F.] *four* times and has been gorging itself on peanut butter. Not amused. 
Yes, four times, the mouse ran free after eating from the trap.  We decided that we needed bigger and better traps.  And yes, we resorted to the abominable glue traps.  (Because do you really want to deal with a stuck live mouse?  No.)

Looks intimidating, right?  But we were obviously dealing with a professional here.

The above picture shows the same setup but with the missing peanut butter.  Five failed attempts!  So we went a little crazy with with the glue traps:

Mission impossible right?  The trap is surrounded by glue.  At first it seemed like the mouse had met it's match.
Mouse breaking news: the satisfying snap of a sprung trap was just heard moments ago from the pantry. Report to follow as the story progresses.

Foiled again! The mouse (or perhaps a rodent of a more sinister nature) only set off the trap. He still remains at large. Precautions are being taken.
The peanut butter on the trap of the last picture was only partially eaten.  The mouse obviously had to abort the mission before it was fully completed.  He made it out, but it was a close call obviously.

So we got a little carried away, setting the trap on top of the glue. But by now, the mouse had eaten peanut butter for six consecutive nights and could afford to wait for more favorable circumstances.  In the meantime, a number of my friends were following the mouse saga on Facebook, and one came through with some experienced advice.
Mouse still at large. However, we learned of a secret ingredient. We are putting it to the test tonight with a veritable smorgasbord. We either catch him or he will have the feast of his dreams and invite all his relatives to invade.
You, lucky reader, get to learn the secret ingredient.  *Drum roll!* Velveeta cheese slices!  Fake, processed cheese.  Because, it appears that food products are incredibly addicting to mice as well as humans. 

My friend found best results when the cheese was paired with the peanut butter to form a little sandwich: peanut butter, cheese, peanut butter.  The mice go bonkers for the stuff.  She thoughtfully brought over a few slices over since she correctly surmised that we would not have any on hand.  She also told us to buy the cheapest traps available.  "You want the ones they sell in a pack at Walmart.  They are the most sensitive.  The one's at Lowes do nothing."

We didn't have the cheap traps, but we did have the stuff to make a sandwich.  We set the smorgasbord:

Please note the piece of cheese on the far back right trap.  Compare to the following:

No cheese.  The mouse had run away with a nice little snack.  Mr. F. made a trip to the dreaded Walmart to pick up some cheap traps.  We set it again.

The rodent at large has been apprehended! The death appears to have resulted from a quick snap of the head by means of a cheap trap.

At time of death the rodent appeared to have recently gorged on peanut butter and velveeta cheese. Much to his detriment.

Further investigation will continue to ascertain whether the deceased was working alone, or as part of a larger group.          
I feel like we have won a rather epic battle.  However, I know the war still rages on.  I must resign myself to likely invasions in the future.  But!  We are more prepared.  We better understand the enemy.  We have honed our skills and future mice will meet with a more formidable opponent.

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