Greenpoint: A mouse in the house? This means (nonlethal) war!


Our house is old and full of cracks and crevices, and when the cold weather hits for real, the mice generally decide to move in with us, at least for as long as they are welcome.

This year’s troupe seemed larger than usual, and they wore out their welcome pretty quickly by making a racket at night and dining on bathroom soap.

Then one nibbled a large hole in a new Christmas stocking I had just finished knitting, right through the penguins.

“LOOK AT THIS!” I hollered at my husband, waking him up. “It’s a disaster!”

“Uh, oh,” he said. “Looks like they’re making nests.”

I declared war. My husband remained calm, suggesting I not throw out the stocking before I thought a little more on its general repairability, and said we should get more of those plug-in lights that emit a sonic wave unpleasant to mice.

We got some a few years back when we had a bad start-of-winter infestation. The theory is that mice have poor eyesight but super-sensitive ears, and the sound waves will repel them. And they did work, at least initially. Then I think the mice got earplugs or something, because they started to ignore them.

I headed to the hardware store in search of a new, nonlethal repellent. The store was full of helpful old guys.

“Mouse stuff is way up front on the left,” one of them said. “Get a cat, a big one,” another told me.

When I told him a cat could kill my husband, he said, “Well, you have to take the good with the bad,” and all the old guys laughed uproariously.

Might not be worth it anyway. I recently spotted my neighbors, who have two cats, coming out of the woods with an empty live trap after catching and releasing mice from their basement.

The hardware store had no sonic repellents, but did have various fibrous items soaked with various aromatic natural oils — peppermint, cedar, rosemary, balsam. The theory: Mice have poor eyesight but super-sensitive noses, and strong smells will clear them out.

The hardware store guy said they really work and had rid his car and attic of mice. I blurted out my saga of the chewed-up Christmas stocking. “This is a really bad year,” he said, sympathetically.

I bought three varieties of smelly things. War.

I started in the bathroom, putting a peppermint repellant under the shelf near the bathtub and another under the sink. I noted that I had basically bought cotton soaked in peppermint oil, and figured I could easily soak my own cotton balls in essential oil. I mean, if it works.

So far, mouse activity has significantly slowed in the bathroom. I put another repellent in my husband’s car, where his resident mouse had nibbled a hole in the dog-biscuit box. In the Stocking Disaster Room, I set out two balsam oil repellents and there has been no further activity I can see. So far.
In the meantime, I knit a second stocking, with reindeer on it, while I studied the one with the hole in it. Turns out the mouse hadn’t touched anything from the snowflakes at the ankle to the end of the foot, so I cut the stocking in half and recast yarn on at that point to knit up the leg in the opposite direction. I made a braided border to hide the change in stitch direction and knit some new penguins.

This time after I washed both stockings, I dried them on a towel near the wood stove, then mailed the pair to Brooklyn before disaster could strike again.

Mice or no, festivity rules.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Dec. 18. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or on Twitter @Hartley_Maggie. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are not necessarily those of the newspaper’s.

Categories: Life and Arts, Life and Arts

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