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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - A Mouse in the House

Frugal Kitchens 101

We have been happily married for over 30 years and while I did have to deal with mice in my childhood home, I was very fortunate to not have to deal with them until we moved to a rural location.  I have extensive experience with lab mice (they really don't like pap smears!) and pet mice,  I'm sorry but I do not tolerate wild mice in home.  Wild mice are vectors of disease while contaminating foods and surfaces.  I find nothing cute about them so take a very aggressive approach to rodent control.  They are nasty little, destructive critters!  Our second last house had a farmer's field behind and water in the front as did our last house.  This house backs onto a small farmer's field.  When the crops come off the mice come in.  It is a given.  I did the house walk-around, sealing every crack I could find here and when the crops came off though I was in the clear yet when we arrived home from vacation on December 21, there were mouse droppings in the pantry.  There were no signs of it getting into any food but aside from a few packages, all the food in the pantry is protected and when we checked the traps yesterday they were completely clean of the peanut butter!  My husband reset then with cheese, securing it tightly under the bait area.  This morning there was a mouse in one of the traps.

Rodents (eg. mice, rats, squirrels) can be a potential problem in any dwelling regardless of the age, style or location of the home.  They can create an health and safety hazard as well a fire hazard if they chew on the electrical wiring.  However, some locations such as those within a close proximity to crop fields are more prone to rodents getting indoors.  Older homes may be more prone as quite often they are not sealed as well.  If you live in a location where there is an existing higher rodent population (eg. inner city) there is a greater likelihood of a rodent getting into your house.  If one or more rodents get into your house there are four steps that must be followed:

  • clean-up and removal - A mouse in the living area of the house is easier to deal with than one in the attic or walls.  Mice and rats are nocturnal so turn off the lights and television then listen for the pitter patter of little feet.  That will give you an idea what area of the house the rodent is in.  If you see the tell tale signs of rodent droppings, mark the location then vacuum them up and set traps in that area near the perimeter of the room which is the normal path mice take.  Do not sweep up rodent droppings as that can cause virii or bacteria to become airborne.  If the infestation is bad, call in an exterminator especially if dealing with mice in the walls or larger infestations.
  • seal rodents out - Seal all holes or other sources of entry for mice.  Pay particular attention to where wires and pipes enter or exit your house, under the eaves and where the house sits on the foundation.  Caulk all cracks, crevices and holes.  If the hole is larger, patch it with the appropriate material then seal well. 
  • remove all food sources 
    • All food should be stored in glass, metal or heavy plastic containers.  Be aware that plastic can allow food odours to escape attracting rodents and rodents can chew through plastic.  All boxed or packaged foods can be stored in non-food grade plastic as the food itself will not come into direct contact with the plastic.  There are several styles of plastic totes and bins with lids that will help protect your food.  Be sure the lid snaps on tightly though.  An alternative to bins is to use a metal storage locker that rodents cannot get into.  Use a metal breadbox to protect breads and rolls or put them into the microwave for storage.  Use food grade plastic to store foods that will come into direct contact with the plastic.  Heavy plastic pails can be found at doughnut shops and restaurants, usually free for the asking.  This is a good source for large glass pickle jars suitable for dry storage as well. 
    • Floors and countertops must be kept squeaky clean, free of any crumbs as should your stove surface even under the burners where crumbs can accumulate.  The best tools to ensure no crumbs is the vacuum cleaner, electric broom or hand held mini vac.  
    • Maintain a food in the kitchen only policy.  That will keep any crumbs confined to one area of the house making it easier to clean.  During an active infestation, put away all foods including your candy dish and fruit bowl.  Once the potential for infestation has been eliminated, they can be brought out again.
    • Protect root vegetables, squashes and apples in your pantry by placing in a mesh box.  This is a box constructed using a wood frame and solid bottom with finer weave carpenter's cloth for the sides and lid.  The food smells may attract any rodents in the house but they will not be able to get to the food.  This box is best set up after eliminating any infestation and sealing your house.
    • Remove any garbage and food unneeded leftovers from the kitchen and place in secure garbage bin until garbage collection day.  Use a bungie cord if necessary to keep rodents out of your garbage bins.
  • prevention - I tend to declare a rodent infestation over once all signs of the rodent are gone.  However, once a rodent has got into your house it pays to continue with a good prevention plan.  Here are a few tips to help you keep mice out of your house:
    • habitat removal - Remove any tall grasses including ornamental grasses and English Ivy from garden beds around your house.  Both provide nesting areas for rodents.
    • feeding the birds - Feeding birds using any type of seed will attract rodents who are happy to help with the ground clean-up.  Any bird feeders should be kept well away from the house and seed droppings should be kept cleaned up.
    • bait - In some locations, the regular use of poisonous rodent bait will help control the rodent population.  However, this is not a method I recommend on an ongoing basis.  It presents a danger to children and pets, as well as hawks and owls that feed on the rodents.  Instead, use the laws of nature to attract rodent predators that will keep the rodent population in check reducing the risk of them getting indoors without using poison.
    • electronic rodent deterrents - These are electronic devices that emit a sound frequency and/or use your household wiring to create a vibration that mice do not like.  There has been some debate as to their efficacy but I have had excellent luck with them.  I use six indoor (Weitech, Victor, Global Instruments) electronic devices all sonic with one sonic/vibration.  Simply plug in the device where it will not be obstructed to keep rodents out of the protected zone.  I plug them in on the first signs of mice in the house and leave them plugged in until I am sure the mice are gone and I've done a complete perimeter check for any entry points.  I also plug them in a few days before the crops come off and leave them on for a couple of weeks.  These devices use the same amount of electricity as a night light which isn't much but we don't really need them on year round.  In some locations though, leaving the electronic devices on year round may be wise.
    • the Scarecrow - The Scarecrow is a motion activated device that sprays a stream of water while making a startling noise to drive away pests including the two legged kind in the garden or other protected area.  From experience they are very effective against cats, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, dogs and meter readers snitching tomatoes.  I would think they would be effective against rats as well but can't say for certain as I have no experience with deterring rats.
    • attract natural predators - Cats are good predators for mice but not all cats are hunters.  You really need a cat with inborn hunting tendencies.  Snakes, owls and hawks are all good predators to attract into your garden to keep the local mice population at bay.
    • don't let your guard down - Even if you have sealed your house to prevent rodents from getting it, remember rodents tend to chew their way indoors if there is no easy point of entry.  Keep an eye out for any signs that a rodent has been trying to get into your house and block that point of entry as well.  If you get snowfall, watch for any rodent tracks near your house and take immediate preventative measures if you see any tracks.

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