Monday, May 17, 2010

Anthropomorphic Mice

I blame Beatrix Potter, Disney, and all the illustrators who cunningly sketch mice in pinafores or waistcoats; Mice sipping tea, inhabiting cunning little domiciles tucked in the roots of a tree.

J. has been refurbishing his second hand haying equipment, waiting for the days when it stops raining long enough to make hay.
On Friday he tinkered happily with the hay baler which he had pulled up beside the garage.  I worked some yards away from the building, sifting chunks of decaying sod and roots from my new flower border.

"Come here," J. called. "There's a mouse and her babies in a nest in the baler."
I ran for the camera and then crowded close to see. 
In the rear of the baler is a covered area which houses the reels of baler twine on their several spindles. These reels were nearly empty, just as the baler was left by its previous owner. In the hollow center of a reel of twine was an immense heap of fluff, out of which a mouse ran, dodging in and out of her nest, several nursing infants attached.

"We need to corner them," said J. with resignation, "and relocate them."
I fetched out a plastic bowl with a lid, and J. carefully put his gloved hand into the cavity.
Mother mouse was frantic, darting around the reels, hiding behind a bit of flaccid cardboard, circling the small space with her attached dependents. On one speedy round she lost them and quickly plunged through one of the drain holes onto the ground--lost from our sight.

I gingerly scooped out the baby mice who had shrugged themselves back into the nest of fluff and dumped the wriggly mass into the bowl.
"What do we do with them?" I asked, testily. Rain had started to drizzle down--icy on the back of my neck, dripping into the bowl of nest material.
We nudged the bowl under the relative shelter of the baler, where we had last seen Mother Mouse, and went inside for lunch. From the dining table J. kept an eye on the baler.
"I think she's going to retrieve her babies," he remarked. "She's running around the bowl."

By now you'll have gathered that being idiot softies, we couldn't simply snuff out the mice. But where does one desire to establish a mouse family--who will presumably quickly add to their numbers.

Finding a large mouse nest beneath one of the old kitchen cupboards during our renovation last month was, in a word, disgusting.  It was dirty--nasty.  [Yes, several more words!]
A number of years ago mice got into what we assumed was a mouse-proof storage trailer where our worldly goods were stacked as we built yet another house over our heads.  Mice managed to get into boxes of linens--good sturdy boxes with lids sealed by heavy packing tape. They had a heyday chewing unbelievably large holes in sheets and towels.
Mice in a barn make messes in stored hay, defile grain.

Work on the baler was postponed by a rainy afternoon.
On Sunday, between showers, J. had a look under the twine compartment cover.

Mother Mouse had re-assembled the scattered bits of her nest, rebuilding it on top of an almost  full reel of twine.
She restored all three mouselets to dry safety.
The image of Hunca Munca, with mobcap and sprigged gown, persists.
So, too, does the remembrance of former mouse-messes in closets and pantry.
Since the rain shows little sign of stopping, perhaps the family will mature and move on before J. has to use the baler.
Move on--into the boxes stacked in the garage? Into the container with Pebbles' feed?
Will mouse-murder have to be committed or do we pretend they aren't there?

Tuesday Update
J. managed to scoop Mother Mouse and babies into a box this morning before she knew what was happening.  He conveyed them up to the fence-line by the woods.  Hopefully she will move out of the box and into the woods. Hopefully she will have no mousie dreams of the garage with its cartons and stacks of unsorted belongings.


  1. As long as they're not in the house, I tend to ignore them. During the winter they come into the workshop and nest in the walls. I guess we all have to live somewhere, but I wouldnt like them inside the house nibbling my socks :)

  2. We find it hard to kill anything too, Disney has done us all a job. Mac catches and releases any critters found in the house. We even dislike killing snakes, I blame Sir Hiss for this, but sometimes they have to go.
    Loved the pictures, the mice are adorable.

  3. I've never seen a mama mouse with her babies before! They look downright cute in the after photo. However, I agree, I don't want them in the house or the garage...just happily way out in the fields somewhere!

  4. Tom and I are kindred spirits with you and J!! We use a havahart trap, catch them, and bring them down into a stonewall area.

  5. I'm glad this story has a happy ending, like everyone else I'm OK with mice so long as they aren't in the house or among things that matter in outhouses. Like Southernheart I've never seen a mother mouse with babies before.

  6. Ah yes, the mice! This episode reminds me unhappily of the great mound of "stuff" to sort in the garage before it is invaded.