Monday, October 11, 2010

Mouse Camp

It takes a while for the born-and-bred Townie to get with the program.  I'm talking about the particular things you have to bear in mind when living in the country.  Only being at the house part-time at the moment, it's even more important to take care of certain issues.  In case you haven't guessed, I'm talking about Mouse Dirt Duty.

Every rural home (and many a suburban one too) has mice.  It's simply a fact of life.  Mouse dirt is something you should clean up as soon as you get into the house, because it can carry some highly unpleasant diseases that can make humans sick.  A particularly nasty one that you've probably heard of is Hanta Virus.  You can find out more about that here:
although interestingly, CBC states that Nova Scotia is free of infected mice.  Nevertheless, you really don't want mouse dirt around your home for the simple fact that it's nasty and mouse urine is smelly and Ugh.  So, let's get rid of it, as well as the little perishers that caused it!

In the time-honoured tradition of "don't do as I do, do as I say", the first thing you want to do is wear a mask.  One of the cheap disposable ones they gave out during the SARS outbreak in Toronto will do fine.  Sweeping up mouse dirt raises fine dust particles which can lodge in your lungs and give you a nasty cough.  The best way to clean up is with a vacuum, but a regular broom and dustpan will do, just make sure you dispose of the stuff in a sealed bag in the garbage or put it out to be burned.  Don't just sweep it under the floorboards (where the mice live!) or anywhere inside the house because it will just attract more rodents in.

The next thing to do is clean counters and food cupboards with a diluted bleach solution.  We keep a spray bottle handy in the kitchen.  It cleans and sterilizes, and also gets rid of that funky smell.  We have a tall pantry which we call "Mouse Cupboard" (into which no food will ever be put unless it's in a can) and that is definitely one for the vacuum cleaner. 

As for getting rid of the little blighters, we've had moderate success with cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil (which they apparently dislike) and lately, steel wool instead of the cotton balls (thanks to some advice from a Scottish mouse expert, you know who you are, and thanks!) as it's about the only substance they can't gnaw through.  The little blue blocks of mouse bait are good too.  We're convinced that a couple of these have been carried off entire to the nest and presented to the family as a treat!  We don't know where they got the tiny little dolly to transport them ...

Anyway the good news is that, thanks to judicious hole-filling through the miracle of expanding foam, there are no more nocturnal disturbances. 

The bad news is that the culprit who left all the wood shavings and poop at the back door is not a mouse at all; it's a chipmunk.  How do we know this? Because the little rascal decided to investigate our bags ... right inside the house!  When spotted, he bolted up to the ceiling and froze.  After a while he came to his senses and started making warning chirps.  Next up, expanding foam!!

Rodents are not the only visitors we get at Avalon Woods.  While out walking, we came across this guy:

Just your common garter snake minding his own business - until I almost stepped on him!  Here's a better view:

This time up we were also treated to a spectacular sunset.  The hills are placed just so we can't actually see the sun setting, but we certainly get some gorgeous skies. 

In other news, it will probably come as no surprise to learn that the beavers are back.  Here is the state of the road when we drove up:

There's really nothing much to be done except call the guys at the DNR - so that's what we did.  Six traps were laid, and we'll see how it is when we get back. 

That's it for now.  Looking forward to the day when we can call Cape Breton home all year round!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Gift of Pine and Apples

It was with more than a little anxiety that we drove up to the house this time.  Hurricane Earl had torn through a couple of weeks ago, followed closely by Hurricane Igor, which did immense damage in Newfoundland.  Would we find a tree through the roof?  Would the barn still be standing?  And what about the water supply?  As the place came into view, we breathed a sigh of relief to see both barn and house intact.  One big pine tree had been snapped off and was resting in the arms of its neighbouring birch, so that would have to be dealt with – but that was the only one close enough to the house to make any kind of impact.
There is a type of tree which we call “the Standing Dead”.  This is quite literally as it sounds: trees that have died and yet remain standing.  The woods at the back of the house have quite a few of these, and they are the ones that are most likely to come down in a wind storm.  When we hiked up to the power house to check on the water line, we were shocked to see how many trees had been blown down.  Criss-crossing the trail, leaning precariously above us, or caught on other trees, they were everywhere.  A fair few days work for a clean-up crew!  But for now they will have to wait. 
After checking the water line and making sure the power house was intact, we hiked further up to the intake and Paul checked that it was clear of leaves and debris and flowing well.  It’s quite an interesting process and I can’t claim to understand any of it, but Paul does and I’m hoping I can persuade him to write a “Water” blog entry just like he did for the micro-hydro system. 
Dealing with the fallen tree took up a good part of the day.  Here’s a picture diary of the event:

Successfully cut down & dragged out ...

The Suburban did a first-rate job at pulling the tree out from the bush.

Putting the chainsaw to good use.

The end result: a nice stack of firewood.

The other thing I was worried about was how much fruit was going to be wasted due to windfall and animal damage.  I needn't have worried as all our fruit trees were intact and the apples were only just ripening. 

One of our many apple trees, loaded with goodies.

A good haul.

An offering of thanks.

I think this log at the base of the apple tree will become my offering spot.  Just right for a fairy table! :)

Lovely ripe rosehips! 

We took a nice full box of apples to our friends down the road.  Hopefully they'll put them to good use!

Okay, that's it for this post.  Next: mice, sunsets, and snakes! :D