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Friday, March 21, 2008

Rodent Rant

While Henrietta was recuperating in the greenhouse she must have invited some friends in to share her meals. Every morning I would see mouse droppings around her feed dish, but never saw any mice. I didn’t want to set traps in case she might step on one and trip it, and I refuse to use poison. Besides, since watching Ratatouille I had begun to view mice in a more favorable light.

I had cut way back on watering the plants we'd moved into the greenhouse during the winter to keep them sort of dormant, but with the weather warming up this month and with me itching to start some seeds, I decided it was time to get busy in the greenhouse again. The plants were beginning to look quite thirsty, too. So I dragged the hose out, aimed it at one of the big pots and began to water. All of a sudden, critters began pouring out of the pot – a kazillion little mice, tripping all over themselves to get away from the water. They scurried over and under the benches, ran along the beams, across the floor, out the door, everywhere they could run to get out of the way. I was afraid they would try running up my pants leg or something and that I would run out into the back yard screaming like a banshee. But that didn’t happen and I was able to maintain my cool. The mice seemed to have gone away in search of drier ground, and all was well. Or so I thought.

So I gathered up the gear needed and seeded some herbs and veggies- Bright Lights chard, tomatoes, parsley, chives, basil, lettuce, clary sage, miniature cabbage, squash and a few other things to plant in the garden.
I have a big mortar mixing box that I put up on one of the benches and fill with sand. I bury a heating cable in the sand, then put in the seed flats, which in my case are a variety of plastic containers with holes punched in the bottoms. I use margarine tubs, the bottom of milk jugs, frozen food containers- if it looks like it can be used for seeds I save it for seed starting. I fill the containers up with vermiculite, then use a big plant flat without holes for sub-irrigation. When the vermiculite is good and damp, in go the seeds, and I pop the containers back in the mortar box, cover the whole thing with a big sheet of Plexiglas, then use a fluorescent shop light on chains to keep the light just above the seeds for 12 hours at a time.

I always get as excited as a kid at Christmas when the seeds begin to sprout- I even talk to them and tell them how beautiful they are. These sprouted beautifully. They began to put on their first true leaves. The chard was especially pretty with all its lovely brightly colored stalks topped by tiny leaves.

So imagine my shock when I went in the greenhouse one day last week to discover that I had forgotten to put the Plexiglas cover in place when I’d turned the lights off. There in the box, a scene of total devastation. Plant markers had been knocked out of containers, the lettuce looked as though a miniature tank had driven through the middle of it, and my beautiful Bright Lights Chard was reduced to nothing but stalks. Not one leaf was left. The cabbage had also been chewed on, and the clary sage that had been so slow to sprout was completely destroyed. I was devastated!

I had begun to think the little mice had been kind of cute, scurrying about when I first disturbed them. And Ratatouille, as I said, made me somewhat sympathetic to rats and mice. I was half-thinking that maybe they had just gotten an overabundance of bad press. I know now that I was completely wrong. They are evil, destructive, beady-eyed little fiends. I’m still debating whether to set traps, since anoles are beginning to show up in the greenhouse and I don’t want to catch one of them- they are excellent at insect control. But woe betide the next furry little rodent who dares to show himself when I’m in there from now on!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm fighting a mystery lettuce eating rodent in my greenhouse as well and just cannot catch it no matter how many tricks I try. The greenhouse is only 12 X 12 and I grow in the fertile ground. I have 4 sticky traps, 2 rat traps and a 5 gallon pail of water strategically placed for a fine drowning all to no avail. Grrrrrr-- getting ready to give up and throw in the towel after 2 successful seasons.