Monday, April 2, 2012

The One in Which There is (Unintentional) Cruelty to Living Creatures

We have the same conversation often since moving to the country.
"Mum, can we live on a farm soon?"
"I hope so, Lols."
"What animals will we have?" she asks.
"What animals would you like?" I say.
"Can we have a horse?"
"Um...what about some chickens instead? And maybe an alpaca."
"Pigs too?"
"We'll see."
"Can I get a guinea pig?"

We think we'd like to give it a try, owning a little bit of land, growing our own food, both the vegetable and animal variety. Trouble is, our animal track record isn't so great.

First there's the wildlife we've encountered since going rural. The snake nearly had me packing up the boxes and returning to the city. Thankfully, we've never actually seen it, and I'm beginning to think my mantra of "legless and harmless" might have worked.

The possums have been a challenge, noise- and poo-wise, but we're learning to live with them. The mice are another story. I had been hearing them in the walls for a few weeks, and then started to find tiny little parcels of evidence that they were in the house. In the bathroom. Behind the fridge. Then on the kitchen bench! One night, a little browny-grey streak dashed across the carpet in front of me. Aha! You dare to show your face! (He was quite cute, actually). But then, the last straw, tiny poos in the girls' bedrooms. Time to bring out the big guns.

Our previous experience with rodents was in our Sydney home when, after weeks of finding evidence of a night-time visitor, I came across what turned out to be native rat poo under Lola's cot. (That's the common poo of a native rat, not the native poo of a common rat, for those who care.)

The GM and I did what typically wimpy city folk do - we called the pest control. 200 bucks later, we had baits in our roof that, according to Mr Pest, our native friend would eat, which would bring on a terrible thirst, causing him to leave our house in search of water...thus sparing us the horror of a rotting carcass on the premises. I did see ratty, actually, just before the end. I was watching TV one night when he meandered out from the kitchen and stood looking at me. I, naturally, screeched and leaped onto the couch. And he just gazed at me drunkenly (is it my imagination that his tongue was hanging out the side of his mouth?) before staggering off and disappearing beneath the space under the dishwasher. Never to be seen or heard of again. Bait had done its job.

Rats are one thing. Mice, I thought, I can handle. I bought a couple of traps from the supermarket, applied peanut butter as instructed, and placed them in out-of-the-way places in the kitchen. The next morning...victory! One trap was full of browny-grey fluff and the other was...gone. What?!

I searched frantically, only to find it a few metres from where I'd set it, in the laundry, mouse enclosed...and ever-so-slightly STILL MOVING!

My first thought was, "Poor thing, how long have you been dying for." And my second thought was, "Shit, now I've got to end your misery." I'll skim over the bit where I leapt about going, "Eugh! Ew! Bleurgh! Orgh..." Instead, we'll skip straight to where I stoically laid newspaper in the sink, picked up the trap with the very tips of my fingers, my head turned away at an awkward angle and only one eye only just a bit open, and squeezed the clasps of the trap to release mousey's tiny body into the newspaper. I then covered him with more newspaper and looked around for something that would end both his and my own trauma, all the while telling myself, "You reckon you could dispose of chickens for the family table, so dispose of this, lady!"

Gum boot, firm whack, story over...thank God. I felt sad, shaken and triumphant, all at the same time. Sorry, mouse. The box said the traps were foolproof and humane.

Of course, having caught two in a single night, we were sure we had an infestation on our hands. Luckily, a few more nights of setting traps have revealed nothing. Perhaps the little guy was alive long enough to squeak, "Run! Run for your lives! This peanut butter ain't all it's cracked up to be."

I was going to include our fish, Balloony, in this story. He's been unwell for a while and I've already sat Lola down once to tell her the sad news, only to find him nonchalantly swimming about his tank. I think as of today it may be over, though.

Does anyone think it might be a good thing that one of the conditions of our lease is "No pets"?

Tomorrow I'll talk about rainbows, butterflies and fairies, promise.


  1. Lol! Oh awesome. I had a mouse experience myself recently- I pointed the cat at it, then scooped up the cat with the mouse in it's jaws and directed him towards an open door. Mouse escaped, dog grabbed it and before I could rescue it saying 'No no no no!' I heard the bones crunching as my pretty blonde fluffy puppy devoured it.
    I slowly drew the curtains, shuddered and tried to forget the drama...

  2. Mouse traps can be really hard to deal with, I remember once seeing a decapitated mouse in my mum's cupboard after a particularly vigourous spring loaded trap did its work...

    After that my dad used to try and catch them and release them into the park, bless him ;)

  3. Snakes are wrong - you would have been within your rights to pack up!

  4. It does seem this summer (or lack there of!) there is more bush mice around our house..... having chickens does draw them in though too (so don't put them close to the house!) Hopefully your 'farm' change will see a whole new animal experience of joys xx

  5. Oh Greer .... mouse murderer! Kellie xx

  6. Oh dear. I'm not sure what I would do about a mouse in the house. I've seen them outside near the chickens but I'm content to live and let live out there...



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