“Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie, O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!”
Robert Burns’ mouse had been disturbed by the plow, while mine cowered in panic under the baseboard heating pipes in my sunroom. Coal black Peter, assisted by Fritz, kept the poor thing at bay most of Sunday morning. Peter was only doing his job, the one he’d been brought in for two winters ago. That was the year of the rat(s) at my house.
I’d suspected for some time what was responsible for the empty cocoa tin, for the gnawed fruit and decimated Christmas chocolate. Suspected? I knew, even as I burrowed under the pillows at night to block out the scurrying, thumping noises in the kitchen. Fritz slept right through.
The final straw, the one that broke my denial wide open, was the text from my upstairs D-I-L. “There was a rat in Cocky’s cage tonight!” I was in Florida, having a blissful break from the rodents that had invaded my house when that message came.CALENDAR
Note: if there is no link to a remote meeting, contact the Town Office or 763-3555
MONDAY, Feb. 22
Selectmen meet, 6 p.m., Remote
TUESDAY, Feb. 23
Wage and Personnel Policy Board, 5 p.m. Remote
Virtual Coffee with School Superintendent, 6 p.m., remote
Lakes and Ponds Committee, 7 p.m., remote
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 24
Library book pick-up, 3-6 p.m.
Board of Appeals Training Workshop 6 p.m., Remote
MCSWC Board of Directors, 6:30 p.m., Remote
Planning Board, 7 p.m., Remote
SATURDAY, Feb. 27
Library book pickup, 9 a.m.-noon, Library
AA meetings, Tuesdays & Fridays at noon, Norton Pond/Breezemere Bandstand
Lincolnville Community Library, curbside pickup Wednesdays, 3-6 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon. For information call 706-3896.
Soup Café, cancelled through the pandemic
Schoolhouse Museum open by appointment, 505-5101 or 789-5987
Bayshore Baptist Church, Sunday School for all ages, 9:30 a.m., Worship Service at 11 a.m., Atlantic Highway, In person and on Facebook
United Christian Church, Worship Service 9:30 a.m. via Zoom
That’s it. I’ve got to get a cat. This was the longest stretch my house had been cat-less, more than a year since our last cat, toothless, lovely Smitten, hadn’t returned from her wanderings one morning as she’d done like clock-work for many years.
She was Wally’s cat, a Christmas gift from another D-I-L. He loved that cat. So much that when our vet, Justin Blake, told us she had severe gum disease which was affecting her health and should have all her teeth out, Wally didn’t hesitate. “Let’s do it,” he said to me.
She had no trouble gumming her food after that and went from a scrawny little thing to a healthy weight. She never seemed to leave the garden, following us around as we worked, sleeping under the sunflowers, prowling for critters. I’m not sure how successful she was as a hunter, though. One day we heard her yowl and saw her jump in the air, cat flying one way and a mouse the other. We figured maybe the mouse bit her.
So the day she disappeared it was one more thing for me to mourn. Wally’d been gone for a couple of years by that time; losing Smitten was another connection to him. I figure a coyote got her or a fox or a fisher.
It took a rat sitting in my bird’s cage, calmly munching on seed, to bring a cat back into my life. D-I-L Tracee heard of a litter looking to be adopted; did we want two kittens? Why not. We apparently had plenty of rats. By this time I’d begun trapping them in those large old-fashioned wooden traps, but you’ll only get one or two that way. Rats are so smart. Old rats are smart, their kids not so much.
I kept count, got one huge mama rat in a trap, then started getting what must have been her litter, six in all, two at once one time, both reaching for the peanut butter bait at the same time. It was winter and I put the carcasses out on the shoulder of the road for our ravens, the pair who hang out here and fly off to the top of Frohock where I assume they have a nest.
Anyway, two little kittens, brothers, arrived and promptly started making mischief, teasing Fritz, getting in trouble. The grandkids named them Benjamin and Peter for the two bad bunnies in Beatrix Potter’s tales. Peter, a black cat without a white hair on him, and Benjamin, a gray tiger-striped guy, look nothing alike but are perfect companions, spending their days curled up together, paws around each other, on my bed and their nights patrolling the house.
The rats completely abandoned ship (or house) the day the two kittens arrived. The adult rats were bigger than those kitties, but apparently the very scent of “cat” was enough to send them packing. They must have moved back out to the hen house where, I assume, they’d started their assault on my kitchen. Bird feeders are apparently a big cause of rats getting in. The spilled seed attracts them right outside your door and from there it’s nothing for a rat to chew its way into your house.
Chickens attract them, too. A chicken coop is easily invaded, full of grain and lots of cracks and crannies for a rat to slip through. Undoubtedly, this is where our rat invasion started. We almost always spotted a rat flashing by when we went out to gather eggs. It made me think of Disney’s “Cinderella” when the rats scurried away from the carriage-turned-pumpkin, just a blur of darkness, disappearing into a hole.
A search for rat poison showed how prevalent the problem has become. Check out the pesticide shelves at any hardware or feed store; there are several kinds, all promising to get rid of rats. I got a sonic thing to plug in the wall that sends out a high-pitched sound that rats, apparently, hate. I tried a hav-a-hart, which did catch a few until they caught on. The trap and rat then went into a bucket of water.
It was a kind of pellet that I found at Tractor Supply in Rockland that finally did the trick. They’re bright green, so you’re not going to mistake it for anything else, and about the size of Kix cereal. Remember Kix?
A handful of those dropped into the entrance to each rat tunnel (there were holes everywhere in our hen house) and within a few days I started finding dead rats. I buried them in the garden (not fit for raven food, obviously), until Tracee saw what I was doing. She promptly dug them up and took them to the dump. What was I thinking, she said, putting poisoned rats into our soil?
I shrugged, only slightly ashamed. I actually rather like having someone check up on me!
So, while rats in the house are thankfully a thing of the past, apparently an occasional mouse might slip in. Peter and Fritz remained entertained for most of the morning yesterday. At one point I spotted Peter running through the house with something in his mouth. He made it into the bathroom where he dropped it, and it ran into a corner. More excitement as the mouse ran (apparently unhurt) here and there, ending up in the shower, where Peter crouched and stared at it. The mouse froze.
Then Fritz, with zero mouse-hunting skills, got all excited and started barking, breaking the spell. The mouse ran, cat and dog got all tangled up and mouse escaped to live another day.
The thought of a mouse loose in my house this morning doesn’t carry nearly the drama of having a real live rat lurking behind the curtains. I’m happy to share my living space with such a tiny mammal, especially knowing that it will likely continue to give Peter and Benjamin endless hours of stalking enjoyment.
Living in the middle of a forest, as we all do here in Lincolnville (most of us are at least in sight of the woods) gives us so many chances to interact with wild things. If you have a bird feeder, and can keep the rats at bay, you have the constant motion and flutter of songbirds. My dad, living across from Shirt Tail Point in Camden, checked off each species as it came to his feeder. I have his bird book and am amazed at how many different birds he saw from his window.
Wild visitors often come after dark, such as the summer night that a skunk let go right under our window, filling the house with it’s musky, skunky scent, sending us fleeing outdoors with eyes streaming.
There was the night, very long ago, maybe our second summer here, that we were awakened by geese honking and chickens cackling. “Something’s getting our hens!” Wally grabbed his shotgun, ran outside and in total darkness, blasted towards the henhouse we’d only recently finished building. At that moment I turned on a spotlight from the back porch to reveal a naked man with smoking gun, and a big hole in the front of our new henhouse.
Probably a startled raccoon was scurrying away into the woods, vowing never to return.
Another night, driving home from a late school board meeting, he followed a moose galloping up through Sleepy Hollow.
Then there was the yearling moose that wouldn’t get out of the road up at Stevens Corner (Youngtown and Beach Roads). Cars were stopped in all directions watching the apparently bewildered creature. Wally walked up to it, put his arm around its neck and led it back into the woods. I patted its rough fur as they walked.
A barred owl attacked our parrot one winter night, crashing into the window where its cage was visible. It did this three nights in a row before I got there quick enough to see, a big white owl, sitting in the snowbank and confused, I’m sure, at why he couldn’t get at the tasty morsel on the other side of the glass.
On another winter day a red fox trotted down Beach Road, right on the shoulder next to the waist-high snow drifts. I saw it when it passed the opening to our driveway. Yet another time, spring maybe, a neighbor reported seeing our Siamese cat sitting side by side with a fox up near the corner where Frohock Brook crosses under the road. But on another occasion we came upon a frantic flight across Ducktrap Road of a big yellow cat being pursued by a fox. Our car came between the two and the cat escaped.
These days with wildlife cameras spying on animals everywhere, we’ve become accustomed to see the animals who live amongst us. A Crowley Road neighbor posted a video showing a nice, hefty looking bobcat strolling across his yard this past week-end. I remember that Skip and Arlene Day were visited by a bobcat regularly one winter at their house off Beach Road.
The bears are hibernating at the moment, but when they do wake up you might want to take in your bird feeders for a couple of weeks. One year a hungry bear bent over and trashed bird feeders on a trail through town that led all the way to Northport.
Ravenous ravens circle this neighborhood, chasing away the occasional eagle that strays into their territory. Deer criss-cross the road at night, mice and voles tunnel under the snow, while the rats – the survivors of my purge – sleep contentedly, tummies full of our grain, in their tunnels safely under the old henhouse.
Just so they stay there.
Superintendent Kate Clark is holding a Virtual Coffee for LCS families on Tuesday, February 23 at 6 p.m. She says, “We can address specific questions, or just chat. These are unusual times, and we are certainly all in this together! The best way to work together is to get to know each other a bit more. So, if you’re available, come meet Mrs. Clark and let her get to know you!”
Beach Schoolhouse Renovation Project
Saturday the Historical Society held its third take-out, curbside meal for the community, and once again, townspeople and several out of town supporters, came through. We have taken in roughly $6,000 with these meals; at $10 a meal there obviously have been many donations above that price. This month Rose Lowell of Dolce Vita Farm made fish or corn chowder and corn muffins for 180 meals; some 50 of them had been donated by folks who either live away or just wanted to give a meal for someone else. These were delivered to people all around town, to folks who perhaps couldn’t get out easily, or were alone, or had illness in the family. Let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re aware of someone who’d enjoy the gift of a meal next time.
Next month will be Pie Day, you know, 3.1416, pi? So March 13 (3/13, close as we could get) we’ll have homemade pies for sale by pre-order. With a target of between 40-50 pies we’re looking for pie bakers. Let me know if you’d like to bake a couple of pies. Stay tuned for more information about that.
Meanwhile, as winter gradually exits, plans for the first repairs/renovations to the old building are being formed. We’ll be looking at a new roof, structural support for the second floor, a revamped fire escape and attendant siding repair. Some electrical upgrades, hook-up to the new Beach sewer plant, and certainly a coat of paint are all on our list as well.
Sympathy to the family of Alice Boody who passed away last week.
Ice fishing, snow mobiles, skating, skiing
The weather is due to warm up a bit this week (they say!), but the cold and ice hasn’t stopped people from getting outside. Here at Sleepy Hollow I was pleased to see the old ice traps, survivors of many a day on Coleman or Chickawaukie or Pitcher, go out the door, tucked into the beat up pack basket Wally wore on his back out on the ice. Tracee took his auger down to her dad’s who got it running again, and the next generation was all set.
I’ve never been interested in fishing, but remember fondly those rare days in February with the sun getting higher in the sky and the temperature climbing into the 30s, when we’d take lunch and sleds and traps and auger and little boys out onto the ice for a whole day. They were the best.