“Look and you will find it – what is unsought will go undetected. “
It has been quite a while since I have posted anything here. Not because I haven’t wanted to write or had nothing to say; on the contrary, life has been a veritable whirlwind; one that swept away What Was and created a new What Is. To keep this a tiny tale, the simple explanation is that we have finally abandonded the city and all of its inherent busybody, nanny-state, NIMBY nonsense. We picked up and moved to the outer limits of a manageable commute to work out to the country; a rural area filled with farmlands but in the section that is filled with woods. A place where property is measured in acres, not feet; a place where history and self-sufficiency still matters and where neighbors don’t monitor, don’t snoop, and don’t whine about what others do that doesn’t affect them but are quick lend a friendly hand when you need help.
In a word, we’re finally home.
Though it took years to get here, it was worth the wait. We traded my grandparents’ pretty little old bungalow for a very large and rambling, very, very old vernacular farmhouse. It’s not a fancy place but she’s solid with park-like grounds and a few acres of woods. The original structure was built circa 1850 and I’ve been told that, like many houses in this area, the house was moved to this location and was paired with part of what was once “township offices” on a full block basement, with a large, open family room addition put on in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Vintage aerial photos show the house in this location in 1949 but so much remains a great mystery that unraveling it will be our never-ending quest.
So in another word, it’s perfect. We have named it, “Faded Glory Farms”.
Moving to a place like this comes at a price, though. While well-loved and livable “as-is”, there was and there remains much to be done both to update and to restore its original patina. And therein we reap the whirlwind. We did not move in for almost two months after closing because we discovered original hardwood floors throughout so it was immediately carpet-up so tiger maple and heart pine floors could be refinished, as well as replacing a majority of the plumbing, the electrical, and all the gutters. Then began the inevitable surprises. First came the culvert heaving its last sighs and starting to collapse. Then came the flooding of the garage after a heavy rain. Then came the discovery that it wasn’t just a bat or two in the attic but instead a very large, decade-plus established colony numbering in triple digits. Each of these had be remedied and remedied properly, for there can be no circling back later because there are decades’ worth of restorations and updates to be made.
But this tiny tale is about the tiniest surprise. Well, not really a surprise; old house + country = critters. And so it is that we have mice. Mostly pretty little deer mice but we’ve a few even littler house mice, too.
We saw the first one running around the dining room on a Friday night a month or so after we finally moved in. With baseboards not yet replaced, it didn’t take the mouse long to slip away through a gap at the bottom of the wall when it realized we wanted to capture it. The next morning we headed out to buy several live traps and within a day or two we began catching and evicting the indigent mouseguests. Eventually the weather settled firmly into winter’s bitter cold grip so the last two of that period of captures were set up in an aquarium to overwinter. I’d done this before but these two were far more personable and charming than any I’d yet known. They settled in quickly enough and so we began to bide our time until they could be released in the spring. The second pair arrived a couple of months later and were put up as well. As spring finally took hold and our very wet and very flooded fields and woods began to dry up from the spring rains, plans were made for release, and we caught several more mice in a row; finding out not only were there deer mice inside the house but also house mice. All of these were able to be taken way out back and released except for one deer mouse. She was obviously very pregnant and happened to be captured during a downturn in the weather. While I anxiously awaited the birth of her babies, one of the second pair of overwintering deer mice accidentally dragged a neonate nursing baby out of the nest box in her eagerness for their evening feeding. I was beside myself with excitement and at the same time not very pleased that release plans were now postponed until the babies were weaned and could survive on their own. But much to my delight this group was quite personable and unexpectedly less shy than their wildness mandates. No handling, of course, but certainly their more easy-going temperaments meant hours upon hours of entertainment as the tiny babes began to wean, then to explore and to play with one another. It took almost a month until I was able to ascertain there were five babies in the litter but to me this was like a gift that keeps on giving.
Imagine a peanut M&M with four little legs, a long tail and big ears; I found that I can sit and watch them for hours. They became my “mouse TV” and like many of my squirrel babies they grew up in front of the camera.
Not to be outdone, the first pair had not only a litter of six themselves, but I found out when releasing them that they had had a second litter. Fortunately, as the mother and first litter took off merrily into the woods, I figured out why the father was more reluctant to leave but only after he finally left. One of the four wee babes managed to make its escape but the other three were resettled inside again until they grew to a better size for life in the woods. Which ended up coinciding with the release of the single mother’s litter.
By the time all were back out in the woods where they belong, as much as I enjoyed being able to watch them up close and personal I was actually rather relieved. A good deal of work was still planned for the house before the end of the year, some of which would help close off any openings where mice had been finding their way inside. The count for 2016 at that point was 42; we then caught and released 36 more before this winter hit so fast and so hard but many lessons were learned and we were much more prepared to accommodate any overwintering guests while avoiding any more baby-making nonsense.
Life, always good, is now even better.