Pests, Poison, and the Potato Patch


We got a hollow potato from the garden this afternoon.  We’re pretty continuously reminded that we’re the guests out at our cabin.  Bushy-tailed woodrats defy our live traps, but skitter in parts of the roof that shouldn’t exist (if we understand the construction).  Mice leave droppings like the frost fairies left ice trails in Fantasia–and they gnaw resources we’d considered our belongings.

For a short time we used poisons on the rats and mice, and it worked, but it didn’t figure with our feelings about what’s fair and what isn’t. To see a very ill mouse stagger into the open is a very heart-rending scene.  And so is replacing our propane range, its electronic ruined; our hammock, gnawed through; insulation spread on cabin the floor; the truck’s air filter, a smelly nest. Throw cushions, jackets, food.

The balance is personal. We recognize that we’re on the pendulum swing where we’re content to share.  Inside the house, we leave edibles and easily damageables in cabinets or jars or sealed spaces. I made waterproof “showercaps” for the beds and we placed a candle globe in the bathroom to protect the toothbrushes.  We buy live traps, and we invent our own live traps, the latest being the use of deep buckets the mice fall into but usually can’t jump out of. But outside, besides a little precaution–a fence around the garden–we just let it go.  Most of the apples are for the bears and raccoons, all of the raspberries and grapes are for the birds, and now I guess we’re sharing the potatoes with the gophers.

And there’s the flip side of this co-existence.  A few feet from the hollowed out potato, my husband found a tiny, tiny green frog in the lettuce. Our apple trees have claw marks from the bears, and their branches are trimmed neatly by elk–and we have it on the game camera.  The bushy-tailed rats have piles of fluffy fur and look almost like chinchillas, and the mice, with their brindled browns and shiny eyes are absolutely darling.  Call us goofballs, but even though sometimes we have some crazy consumptive issues (like replacing the range), we enjoy the wildlife out there. Mostly.

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