The Winter Solstice Approaches

The winter solstice is approaching, and it is still unseasonably warm. We have not had a frost here yet, though friends down on the flats have. We are still picking peas and a few peppers from the garden, and the broad beans that I planted in autumn have started to flower already.

Still, it has started to feel a bit wintry, mostly because we have finally had a decent dump of rain. The claggy clay soil in our house paddock is now making seasonally-appropriate squishing and sucking noises under my trusty gumboots. Best of all, our new dam is now full. Kevin and I walked up the hill the day after the rain cleared, and found that it is full to the brim, with some water coming out the overflow. Seeing our dam full for the first time gives us immense satisfaction!

The dam is full

The cold and damp weather has also had some less desirable effects. A few resourceful rodents have been driven to seek better living arrangements. Alas, they have moved into the house with us, and we now have a mouse problem. Last year we had no difficulty trapping the mice with a bit of peanut butter, but this year’s mice seem not to like peanut butter or cheese! We are really starting to wonder how we can get rid of these creatures.

Though the weather is unseasonably warm, I’m glad to say that it has been cold enough to stop the white cabbage moths in their tracks. Instead, we are seeing increasing numbers of praying mantis in the garden. We imagine they are cleaning up all the other bugs and insects that multiplied in the garden over the summer and autumn. Yesterday, as Kevin worked at the computer, he felt he was being watched. Looking up, he saw a big green mantis at the window, staring in at him with its hundreds of eyes.

11 Responses to “The Winter Solstice Approaches”

  1. culley says:

    nothing mice like more than a little bacon grease!

  2. meabh says:

    Mice are supposed to like chocolate too! You could give it a try…

  3. pebble says:

    Try chocolate on the mouse trap. If you melt it on, it lasts through catching many mice.

  4. gaile says:

    How exciting to see your dam full of water! Sorry to hear about your new mouse tenants though. Perhaps some really hungry housecats could move in as well? 🙂

  5. Karen says:

    Try a bit of uncooked bacon tied to the trap trigger with strong sewing thread.

  6. tochigi says:

    but make sure it is manuka-smoked bacon with no sodium nitrite 🙂

  7. Doug Mitchell says:

    The number one mouse solution on the planet: a feline.

    Between hunting mice and generous bowls of fresh, raw milk you’ll have the healthiest of cats and a significantly reduced (or more likely wholly eliminated) rodent problem.

    Unfortunately, finding a feline here in the backwater borderlands of Germany isn’t as easy as you might think. Sure, there are stable cats in large numbers, but they’re sickly and underdeveloped as far as I’ve seen, all being born and raised on the same garbage sold as “cat food” the world over.

    Having read Pottenger long ago, when we do eventually locate and acquire a healthy feline (born to properly fed parents) to manage our large local mouse population, they will never see a single, solitary speck of industrially prepared wheat gluten lumps suspended in artificially-colored, vegetable oil-based slime.

    Raw meat and raw milk. That’s all the best mouse management system known to mankind requires.

    Until we find a source for healthy felines, we currently use uncooked pork (“speck”) in our traps. Bacon grease is also very effective, but much harder to affix to the trap. On an interesting side note, the modern snap-design mousetrap which we’re baiting with various lures, was invented in a small village (Neroth) just a few kilometers east of my current location. Mouse problems are as old as the hills around these parts, especially when winter’s firm grip takes hold and they squeeze through every little crack in our old stone house.

    In the funny (or maybe tragic) story category, we also deal with what is known locally as the “spitzmouse” (shrew), in addition to the prolific field mouse population. In our first year here, Anita made the mistake of leaving a large flat of sugar peas drying in our unfinished attic space. The resultant spike in the now well-fed rodent population kept us madly trapping for weeks. Lesson learned.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for all the suggestions about mouse bait. We will certainly try baiting the traps with bacon fat or chocolate, and see if the results improve.
    Kevin and I both love cats, so it would be very tempting to try the cat solution (a healthy cat fed on raw milk and meat, of course!). Since we live near a kiwi reserve, however, and have so many lovely birds around, we are strongly inclined to resist our urges to get a cat. This is certainly a sacrifice for two mouse-plagued cat-lovers, but the reward of seeing little brown quail bob around the garden, and tui, fantail and waxeye feeding outside the kitchen window helps make it seem worthwhile.

  9. tochigi says:

    I love cats too, but your decision to put the welfare of the native birds first is commendable. Introduced predators and NZ native bush only means one thing–far fewer and more wary birds.

  10. pookie says:

    Cats do perfectly well indoors, and completely enclosed welded wire outdoor “runs” can be fitted up, so that Kittypoo can push through a series of cat doors to get to an outdoor litter box area, thus protecting native birds and allowing Kittypoo some outdoor excitement. Many moons ago, when my husband and I married and moved into our first home with our 2 kitties, the morning after we moved in, our kitties had tastefully arranged two dead mice on the carpeting outside our bedroom door as a wedding gift. Naturally, we were charmed by their thoughtfulness.

  11. Rebecca says:

    Hi Pookie,
    Wow! A welded wire cat run? For sure the neighbours and relatives are going to think we are bonkers if we install one of those in the yard. Still, as a cat lover, I’m rather tempted by this plan. . . and I’m sure cats would be easier to contain than goats.