"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Of mice - and a woman...

(With apologies for paraphrasing the title of John Steinbeck's novel, and using a line from Robert Burns poem, "To a mouse")

You all know the problems I had with field mice and my tomatoes last summer.  And, shamefully, you know of my one moment of weakness when I left out a dose of mouse poison to try and get rid of these pests.

Well, it would appear that moving all the remaining building rubble, remaining bricks, wood piles, and even RMan's ride on mower (which saw major damage to the wiring occur) away from my vegetable growing area, didn't solve the problem.
The shadecloth veggie house is planted up
with onions and garlic hehe
This winter I planted up my shadecloth veggie house with onions and garlic - the mice, thankfully, don't seem partial to that diet.  Hopefully they will forget the smorgasbord they enjoyed there last summer...
A rogue tomato plant lives on amongst the
broad beans - the mice, naturally have
found that... (I didn't know that tomatoes
grew in winter)
I decided to plant broad beans and peas where I previously had pink popcorn, sunflowers and squash growing.  They love the spot and are thriving.  But, it is too close to the empty field next door, which is home, apparently, to many more mice than even I had bargained for.  They have had a field day with my precious pea pods.  I envisage the broad beans suffering a similar fate, and decided, no way - I've been pushed just a tad too far.  This is WAR! 
A chunk out here, a chunk out there -
not nice!
Having read that tomatoes do well with a sprinkling of urine, I thought that perhaps that may deter the mice.  A perimeter pour was applied.
Telltale signs - one of the mouse runs under the
It caused a 36 hour hiccup in the diet.

Nope.  I'm not giving up.
My poor peas
When  Natasha, WGuy and Mike arrived with their 2 dogs and 2 hamsters they also brought along Sam - their grey cat.  She has proved excellent at assisting in diminishing the mouse population - to the point of leaving the lower extremities on the floor of Mike's bedroom - no doubt awaiting the accolades she feels she is due for the services she has rendered.  (note to Sam - if is completely unnecessary to bring these rodents into the house - I am aware of your superb feats, without needing the physical proof - please!!!!!)  But, as grateful as I am for 2 mice having thus met their timeous demise in the past 10 days, I reckoned that stronger action is required.
Again - they don't eat the entire pea pod -
just a mouthful here and another
mouthful there - selfish creatures!
Google to the rescue.

Beds of lavender apparently deter these nasty critters.  But - I seriously can't  wait for lavender bushes to be big enough to make a difference - not if I want a successful harvest next summer.

Lateral thought was applied.

So, off to my local pharmacy, and "Yes!!!" they had it - lavender oil.  Lavender and lavender oil - they have to be the same surely?

I mixed roughly 6ml of lavender oil with 5 ltrs of water and started spraying.  The first spray consisted of only one section of pea plants -  and round the very base of the plants where they emerged from the soil, as well as round the base of the support poles - just enough to wet them.  As the bottle says for external use only I made sure that I did not spray any pea pods and I telephoned the manufacturer to clear this use of their product.

The next morning there did not appear to be any newly munched pods...

Hmmm... that emboldened me.

Thus a two pronged attack began.
Damp used cat litter strategically placed along
the fence to the neighbouring property where
the mice reside
Firstly, the (damp - but not "solid") contents of Sam's cat litter box, which she was allowed for the first couple of days whilst she acclimatised to her new location, were spread between the pea / broad bean bed and their visible mouse runs - no, not right on top of the plants but roughly 3½ metres from the bed next to the fence.

"Smell that and quiver you mangy rodents" <evil grin>.

Secondly, I took the balance of the 5lt bottle of lavender oil and water mixture and sprayed a perimeter ring around my pea and broad bean veggie patch  -positioned at least a metre away from the veggies, and ½ metre wide.

It is now Day 10 and there is a dramatic reduction in the number of peas which are showing signs of being munched, so I'm hopeful.  It seems the lavender oil is effective for 6 - 7 days, and thereafter a perimeter respray is required.

I am prepared to fork out the R83.00 a month (until I find a wholesale supplier that is) for 20mls of lavender oil in order to create a perimeter ring to deter these incontinent pests away from all my vegetables.  At least I know that it is the eco-friendliest solution (and one which wont also harm the nearby resident owl) until I purchase and plant up a whopping crop of lavender plants....
Peas are the one veggie that RMan will consume
with gusto - even raw.  and, he's willing to shell
as many as I can pick.  I have to save the peas
from the mice!
The moral of the story?

Don't mess with a woman who is trying to provide for her family ;)


  1. You are persistent. We have the same problem with squirrels, they just take a bite out of my tomatoes & leave the rest to rot on the ground.

    Glad you seem to have found a solution. Good to know. I just planted my first ever lavendar in pots on my city patio. Hopefully by the time I'm ready to plant a country garden I can have some planted, as we do have mice up there.

    1. DFW - Perhaps it will work for squirrels too - they are, after all, also classified as rodents? :) A bird net and a perimeter of lavender oil spray?

  2. The only way I'd plant anything here is in a quarter inch mesh cage which will protect against mice, birds, rabbits and keep poisonous snakes out. That was what my garden was in back in Plano and it also kept the squirrels out there to. Doubt that you could pull that off there though.

    There is a lavender scented pinesol and supposedly conenose beetles don't like it so I used that in the trailer with a wick. Don't really know if it worked or not, but I may try it in the falcon to see if it keeps the mice and rats out of it. Right now its just mice and rat poison in there and they seem to eat it and keep on going. :(

    1. Tffnguy - mice can squeeze through a hole as wide as a pencil, so any wire cage would have to be narrower than that!

      If, and when, Shelah joins you be careful of her finding dead mice. If she eats them she will ingest the poison from their carcasses.

      Rodents need water to drink in order for the poison to be effective - once they eat the bait, water activates it and they die.

  3. Oh, I sure hope that does the trick for you. It's great to find things that help---and aren't toxic or dangerous to be around. Best of luck to you!

    1. Sue - I am committed to finding Eco-friendly, organic ways of combatting whatever problems I hit whilst trying to grow what we consume. I really don't want to succumb to "the easier, but more harmful" way which is so prevalent in the world today.

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  5. I'll keep reading to see if this helps in the long run. We have voles (underground mice) and our new kitty seems to enjoy her daily outings (slurp). We have whole onions that get sucked into a black hole and disappear. Some of our beds for root crops have the mesh 1/4 in. wire hardware 'cloth' underneath and that does help. It's a battle. This year I have put up bird netting over my strawberries and cherries .. the birds have cooperated and not one has had a free meal .. nor been entangled.

    1. Mrs Mac - seems like we both have a rodent problem...

      Wonder if planting plenty of lavender wouldn't resolve your problems too?

  6. A few years ago I found that a scattering of crushed eggshells stopped the mice or chipmunks from eating all the bulbs I planted. It was such an easy fix! Now I scatter crushed eggshells around my vegetable plants as well, just in case it will work there as well. Might be worth a try with your varmints?
    Glad to know about planting lavender - thanks!

    1. Quinn - These feisty little beasts would probably view egg shells as an addition to their diet, instead of a deterrent. But - I'll give it a try - thanks :)

  7. Great attack plan...have you thought of traps.

    1. Stephen - Thanks for dropping by :)

      Judging from the mouse runs I can see I'd need to buy up every mouse trap in South Africa to get rid of the Mischeif of Mice from the smallholding next door where they are skulking...

  8. Dani, here's one for you and I discovered this by accident. Has happened quiet a few times since I've been here. Of course part of it is just because I'm a slob and hate doing dished, pots and pans.

    I always put pots and pans out in the yard after I use them and put water in them to make it easier to wash when I need them. More times than not when I finally go out to wash a pot I find from one to several dead mice that have some how managed to get in the pot and then can't get out and drown. Nothing toxic about it just plain old water in a pan.

    1. tffnguy - LOL - thanks. I'll certainly bear it in mind - mebbe even adapt it. We've plenty of empty paint containers - if I shove a blob of peanut butter (or suchlike) on a plank of wood, and "float" the plank, maybe the mice will be attracted to the peanut butter, fall in, and move on to their next lives...

    2. Dani, I think what attracts them to start with is they want water so they manage to get in to drink, but then drown instead. The stick with peanut butter might even work better. Just make it small enough that they couldn't float on it. You might find some live mice in there.

    3. LOL - that would seriously give me goosebumps (imagining The Revenge of the Mice as they run up my legs a.k.a The Birds by Hitchcock)

  9. I like that way of getting the mice to move on. I have barn cats, who keep them out of the feed stored out there. In my house, I have ferrets. Two are very old and just eat and sleep. They are retired. But the other four are active. They don't kill the mice, but ferrets have a slight odor, and rodents won't come within a country mile of it if they can help it. My ferrets are as clean as cats and use their corner box, so the four active ones can cover mouse patrol duty through all three levels of the house and in my shop.

    1. Harry - thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Any chance you could bottle some of their odor and send it my way...?

  10. No matter where in the world we try to plant something.....the little rodents follow. I have two cats, One is assigned to the barn and one will only stay in the house. That leaves no one patrolling the vegetable garden !

    1. Jane - They are the bane of my life...

  11. I recently read that mint wards off mice so we planted some around our compost pile in the hopes that it'll work! I like the idea of planing lavender, too, though. Our chicken coop definitely has a mouse problem. So gross!

    1. Bee Girl - I've heard that too and have mint planted. So adding lavendar is a two pronged attack...

  12. Good luck with the lavender! With 4 desexed farm cats, 2 of which like to sleep in plain view in the vege garden, I don't have mice or bird problems. The birds fly over and perch on the fence, see the cat/s and fly off. Cats can't be bothered with something that much trouble to catch so stick to catching the mice for a free fresh meal. They drew the line at eating the bandicoot though and let it munch on 2 of my pumpkins. I decided I had more than enough to share so just harvested the rest and "donated" the chewed ones for Winter feed to the pointy nosed crop sampler. Lol, the possum isn't pleased with me as I netted it's favourite orange tree. I leave the little sod an orange a week that it should be grateful for :).
    Cheers, Robyn

  13. Robyn - The only problem with cats is that RMan is moggy about them - to the point that if we had one, or two or three he would NOT allow them to be ouitside cats - they would have to be indoor ones. getting all the TLC that he could give them. So I dunno if they would even think of hunting mice. His last cat was fed topside mice!!

    Yup - have even tried "donating" what I don't want / what they've half chewed to the mice - well away from the veggie patch - no luck.


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