October's downsides - Of mice and pears
I said here a few days ago that October was one of the most pleasant months in the Land of Pleasant Living - all mild temperatures, vibrant colors, dry, sunny days and cool, starry nights. Then we had a visitor.
It was a house mouse. His presence in our home was announced last evening by my wife's shrieks. She was at the kitchen table, correcting students' papers when a member of the Mus musculus family made a run for it. He emerged from under the basket where we keep cushions for the deck furniture, made a beeline across the kitchen to the stove, and vanished into its dark underbelly.
His bold break, in the glare of a half-dozen kitchen lights, was a mistake. Darkness is the mouse's friend. He forgot that.
Meanwhile, alerted by my wife's shrieks, now coming in rapid succession, I scampered down the stairs, expecting to find her impaled on a kitchen implement and bleeding out.
"There's a mouse!!" she gasped. Where? I asked.
"The stove! Under the stove!," says she. What do you want me to do?
"Get the broom!," says she. And what? Sweep him out the door? He may not go along with that plan.
So we pause to think. I have an unused snap-type mouse trap in the basement. We'll put a little treat in it, set it out overnight and see what happens. It's a good plan, she agrees, except for the part where we go to bed with a mouse loose in the house. But I retrieve the trap, we load it with a dab of peanut butter on a cracker, cock the snap mechanism, and set it down in front of the kickboard below the sink.
The arrival of the first cold nights this week - in the upper 30s out on the WeatherDeck a few mornings ago - means it's time for Mus musculus to find warmer places to spend the winter. Those that have enjoyed the bounty of the gardens and woods around our house are beginning to look for a cozy, centrally heated interior to share (preferably with plenty of crumbs to eat and pantries to explore).
It's one of those less-pleasant autumn events that we have come to expect in our neighborhood. A few years back the mice found a gap in our eaves and set up housekeeping in the attic. We would lie in bed and listen to them scratching and gnawing up there, and determined to wipe them out.
So we set out some mouse poison and a couple of snap traps. In a couple of days, the attic was quiet, and the trap was occupied. I cleaned up, and sealed up the openings I could reach.
Autumn can be messy like that. We also have a Bradford pear tree. It was planted in the front yard by the builder because it was cheap and fast-growing. In 11 years it has grown from a spindly stick to a gangly giant, nearly as tall as the house.
In its maturity, the Bradford has become a prodigious producer. Today it is loaded with thousands of tiny pears, about the size of grapes. The birds and squirrels love them. And they have drawn as many as four hungry deer at a time, in broad daylight. But the little globes drop and cover the walks with a squishy mess. They stain the concrete, get caught in our shoes and track into the house.
The tree also stinks when it flowers in the spring. And it's fragile, threatening to split in a storm and drop large branches onto parked cars. It has to go. We plan to have it chopped down, ground up and replaced sometime this fall.
I hate to lose the cooling shade it throws across the house in summer. And in recent days I have been captivated by a large spider web, spun between our Bradford and the neighbor's identical tree, and backlit by the morning sun. But the tree has strung out our tolerance to the limit.
So had our mouse. While I showered this morning, my wife ventured downstairs for a peek at the trap. She returned to announce, with a mix of revulsion and relief, "There is a tail sticking out of the trap."
And so the hunt is ended. Twelve hours. Not bad.