For starters, four of them had the poor taste to die under our bathroom sink cabinet, creating a stink like rancid gym socks (only far worse). I pried a board off the cabinet and found them all dried out in there. One got stuck in the vacuum cleaner hose, glaring defiantly with his little dead mousie eyes.
They also chewed up a bunch of stuff: a box of Kleenex was shredded for bedding and they gnawed a hole through a vinyl/canvas car top that was stored out in the garage. They chewed a hole in an expensive sail. Who would do such a thing?
Although wed never seen a single mouse in the cottage for the 10 years that weve been there, several of them decided to show up for a big party at the beginning of the summer, being so bold as to run around on the kitchen counter just as the guests were arriving. My wife caught two of them under a pan lid, which were subsequently transported 200 yards into the woods for release.
Im not keen on killing anything -- even a mouse -- but enough was enough. In the past, I had used some poison PlayDough-type substance. The label claimed that the mice would nibble on this stuff and then get deliriously thirsty and go outside to die. My son pointed out, however, that it was probably better just to set traps because then they dont even know what hit them, dying with a pleasant whiff of peanut butter in their snouts. After some reflection, I decided that he was right; better a little ultraviolence to whack the mice into the next world than slow death by poison.
Anyway, it all goes to prove its the law of the jungle out there.
Take trees, for instance.
Ive been a tree-hugger since the time I was a twig, but owning a cottage in the woods has taught me that trees can be rather hostile individuals over the long haul.
Were not talking about a few trees surrounding a home, like in your typical neighborhood. Our cottage was built over 50 years ago and is overshadowed by numerous maples, oaks and pines more than 100 feet tall, just a pebble toss from several acres of woods. Those trees throw a lot of biological litter, humidity and bugs our way. Tons, in fact.
Several years ago, I spent $800 to repair our garage roof, which had gone as squishy as a wet paper bag due to the slow influence of the overhanging trees. Between the shade and the ceaseless litter of pine needles and oak leaves, an invincible carpet of moss and lichens invaded the roof, creeping under the shingles and rotting out the underlying wood.
Bugs, mosquitoes and spiders? If you want extras to go around, take care to ring your home with plenty of trees.
For years, I wondered why in the world anyone would be crazy enough to want a lawn around their home. After all, youve got to mow a lawn -- its a big, time-consuming pain. But owning a cottage in the woods finally enlightened me on that score. Lawns were invented to keep those house-wrecking, bug-generating trees at bay.
But how can you not love a tree? Trees are keeping us alive on this planet, generating oxygen and doing their bit against global warming. They suck up CO2 as part of their natural respiration (although they also give off methane -- a greenhouse gas). Some scientists feel we need to plant billions of trees if were going to survive. I still love trees. But at a distance.