Saturday, November 15, 2014

grit and determination


How stubborn are you in chasing down something you really want?

I'm sitting at the farmhouse kitchen table and thinking about how different we are in going after things that matter. Ed is insanely patient. I put my entire being into something, but if it looks like it's a no go, I jump off and find another path. Isie boy has a little of both: he will sit and watch me cook, eying my every move, waiting for me to bend down and deliver a morsel, but if I continue to ignore him, he'll meow incessantly until someone gives in. If that doesn't work -- forget it. He'll go upstairs and sleep off his effort.

Then there is the farmhouse mouse.

After a brilliant week of capture (eight mice in as many days, released very far, so there is no chance that they would find their way back), we hit on a mouse who's smarter than the trap.

At first, she is caught, but she bounces around inside the plastic box until the trap flips to the side and door swings open.

The next night, after we put a book on top to hold it down, she manages to stretch herself to get the peanut butter cracker without slamming the plastic door behind.

Then, the night after, when I push the treat all the way to the back, she becomes cautiously deliberative. One night, she licks the initial bait at the entrance -- a dab of the peanut butter -- and goes away. Retrieving the big fish is not worth her risk.

But in the end, the nights are cold and that cracker is just too much richness to pass by, so she goes after it. The door swings shut. Is it the end? Oh, not at all. She spends the night chewing the bottom of the plastic flap - just enough so that she can swing it back open. Maybe with her paw, maybe with her snout. And she gets out.

Ed is so intrigued by her cleverness that he wants to set up my camera on a time release, so that we can catch her in the act. I convince him that a shot every 15 seconds (all night long) will do no good. We'd likely miss the moment of cleverness. Besides, we would need to purchase an app for the camera. At ten bucks, it would be five times the cost of a new trap.

But what good is a new trap anyway? Ed argues that it would only take her a day to figure the next "fool proof" gizmo out. And so he sets out to redesign the one we have, the one with the chewed off bottom where she inserted her paw (snout?) to swing it open.

He puts a piece of putty and a magnet on the bottom and on the door. Even if she tried to push it open from inside, the magnet would be too much for her.

But the next morning, we find that she had gone in, eaten the cracker and chewed enough of the putty off that she could hurl her body against the door and get it to open. Cracker gone, magnet off, mouse is victorious.

And so after the first blush of success, we have had a week of failure. Eight regular old mice, disposed of, but now we have come across miss Einstein herself. And she keeps winning.

The thing is -- how is it that she keeps coming back for the challenge? I mean, surely at some point we would wear her down?

Well of course, eventually, she does lose. Last night. Ed redesigned the magnet bit so that she could not push it off. This morning, we have a deflated in spirit mouse.

It's a shame to let such talent out into the wilderness, but mice are not good for us nor for the farmhouse.

And so late in the morning, Ed releases our genius mouse and we load the trap again. We're thinking -- she may have prodigious progeny. We may not be done yet...


It was a very cold night. As I looked at the thermometer just before dawn, I noted 12 F (that's -11 C, for all you non Americans).

Because Ed had been up half the night learning camera technology for his (unused in the end) time release set up, I let the poor man sleep and go out myself to release the cheepers. It is a touch early...

(view toward the old barn and Ed's sheep shed) sun yet.


The fields are covered by a beautiful layer of hoar frost.

(looking out the barn door)

The cheepers are ready to roll! Even though again, their orbit is, initially, very small.

I return to the warm farmhouse and get in a little more time under the quilt.


Still, the light eventually draws the cheepers out of the barn and I have to say, I admire them for it. So cold! And a frozen ground cover!

And when they see that the activity today is all in the farmhouse (they can tell if Ed's in the sheep shed working), they come right over, despite the unseasonable blast of frigid air. (Of course, they don't know it's unseasonable. But I find myself apologizing to them anyway, again and again: they do not deserve such an early winter! Surely their down isn't fully formed yet!)

We eat breakfast (with a tiny touch of guilt on my part) in the warm and sunny sun room. Just the three of us.


It is a perfect morning for hot oatmeal!


And the cheepers? They find comfort in the warm water I pour for them just outside. (I'm imagining it's like steamy warm chocolate... it's hard for me not to anthropomorphize...) Did you ever see a chicken drink? She'll tilt her head back to let it go down!


I look at the girls around the water dish. It's almost as if they are gathering to have a morning cup of something together.


I wish I could tell them that in a day or so, this cold air will pass. That would be lying. For now, all we can do is throw their favorite treats at them (like the mouse, they love bits of bread and roasted nuts) and make sure they have unfrozen water. And lots of hay around the coop to keep the drafts away.

Yep, we, like most of the states, are still working our way through the polar vortex! Can you tell that it's snowing outside tonight?