"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

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Eco-friendly pest control

I have long waxed irritatingly with regard to the field mouse problem here at Foothills Farm.  I realise that we are invading territory which they have inhabited for centuries, but, I have to ensure that they stay within their natural environment and don't invade ours.

So, this last week we took steps to ensure that no more of those incontinent field mice gain access to our home, and those pesky flies stay outside - permanently.

Firstly, I have an aversion to rodents.  Not only for their incontinent disease spreading capabilities, but also because each and every time they have entered our home, it has resulted in my having to wash anything that I think they may have traversed.  Spring cleaning a kitchen 10 - 12 times a year is not fun!

And, having to clamber up onto a chair whenever I saw a mouse inside was disruptive to say the least.  Hey, just because I live on a farm - no one said I had to be or was brave ;)

Way back in 2008, when we initially built phase 1 of our farmhouse, it was only planned that it would be a weekend / holiday situation, so open plan kitchen shelves were part of the "farm" look we were willing to embrace.
Before - open plan kitchen shelves
But, the open plan decor made it easy-peasy for the mice to climb into everything that was at floor level, and, through a gap in the shelves, up onto the shelves and into their contents.  That included pots and pans, casserole dishes, and the basic kitchen appliances which were stored in open boxes under all the shelves.
After - kitchen cupboards LOL
I guess I wore RMan down with my field mouse nagging, because, when we were in the local Co-Op and I saw an advertisement for work posted by a local carpenter, and I suggested that we "just" get a quote from him, and RMan finally succumbed.

Receiving his quote, and checking the references he gave, we gave him the go ahead to make cupboard doors for the open shelves.
As I only had the one drawer my kitchen utensils
were stored in "trays" on the shelves.  What a
waste of shelf space!
 The difference was immediately noticeable.
After - kitchen utensils are in their proper
place.  Can you tell where they are...?
Because the beautiful clay floor tiles are hand made, the floor is not completely level.  Some of the tiles are concave, and others convex.  That creates a problem when you are trying to create an opening which is less than a pencil width.  Why a pencil width?  Well, apparently a mouse can squeeze through any opening wider than a pencil.
A mouse proof strip across the entrance at floor
level takes care of the gap below the doors.
Note the big drawer above the cupboard...
Thus a strip was installed across the opening of the cupboard at floor level.  It will also help in preventing dust and dirt from accidentally "brushed" into the lowest section of the cupboard.

But, not only did he make doors, he also made me a wonderful, wide and deep drawer.
...Ha! This is where all my utensils are now
stored :)  For the drawer runner we have used
a sliding mechanism usually reserved for a
drawer / sliding shelf in a TV cabinet - so we
 know it is strong enough to handle the weight
of all those utensils without collapsing in future 
It is the perfect size to accommodate all those carving knives and forks, hand whisks, potato mashers, egg lifters, scissors, garlic press, wooden spoons, etc. that one accumulates after 31-odd years together.

It is too wonderful - everything is now in one place- no more searching through individual "trays" in a shelf :) 
We kept the old drawer from the caravan drawer
- why not, it was perfectly usable.  We
merely changed the face of it to match the
new drawer and cupboards.
And the old caravan drawer is now allocated only for our daily knives, forks, spoons and teaspoons, as well as the tin opener, cup measures, peelers and spoon measures.  Which gets the old cutlery caddy off my work surface, and gives me that little bit more room to work.

Sigh - I love it :)

Then - the fly problem.

Flies are part and parcel of farm life.  But there are just so many fly strips we can hang in a day, and just so many flies that I can, and will, handle crawling over me in the evenings when we are relaxing in front of the TV.

That's where the carpenter came in useful again.
A very solid fly screen covers
our kitchen door entrance
 He made us very sturdy fly screens - for both the back kitchen stable door...
A double fly screen was installed at
the Happy Doors :)
 ... and for the front "Happy Doors" which lead onto the patio.

Fly screens are commonplace in the US of A - I know because I have seen plenty of them in sitcoms and movies - both on TV and on the big screen the few times RMan and I have gone to the movies.

But, here, in fly country / continent, they are uncommon.


Who cares - I finally have some, and they work! It is the strangest sensation to stand at what looks like a closed door, and feel the breeze wafting through. Quite peculiar LOL

Yeeeeeha!  No more complaints about field mice or flies on this blog ever - I promise.


MsBelinda said...

Your carpenter did an excellent job following your instructions. The kitchen cabinets are beautiful and he did a good job on the screen doors as well.

Not having to spring clean your kitchen after seeing a field mouse....priceless...as the credit card commercial would say :-)

P.S. do not know if they show that Mastercard or is it Visa commercial where you live?

Dani said...

MsBelinda - Hope you're feeling better?

No - I haven't see that commercial :)

Vicki said...

I remember a time when we were living in an old farmhouse, and every fall about the time of the first frost, the field mice would pack their little suitcases, gather all of their relatives, and move in. Made me crazy. I did keep a couple of cats that helped to keep the mouse population down. In the spring, the mice would move back outdoors.

Your carpenter did a beautiful job on your cupboard doors. I would never have thought of adding the strip of wood as a mouse barrier. Brilliant.

Dani said...

Vicki - LOL- thinking laterally (or should that be horizontally?) helps ;)

Whenever we do something like this, I try to always think out of the box, to make sure that we're not totally wasting our time (and money). You should've seen me - scrambling round the floor, pencil in hand...

Thank goodness the carpenter was patient LOL

Mrs. Mac said...

This is the second farm/mouse story I've read this morning! Great, great improvements to your homestead. Want to read the other farmer's wife's woes?http://www.rural-revolution.com/2014/03/prepper-mice.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+RuralRevolution+%28Rural+Revolution%29

Dani said...

Mrs Mac - Bwahahahaha!! That's hysterical - prepper mice...

Quinn said...

I love your screens, Dani, and I'm sure you must, too! It would be very difficult to live here in mosquito country without them.

Quinn said...

I followed that link and posted my experience with a seed-sorting mouse and my winter boots!

Dani said...

Quinn - I couldn't imagine living in a mossie invested place without them! THAT would be hectic!

--Leanan-- said...

Cabinets look really great. We also have problems with mices that get inside our house. Luckily they come only in the fall so we make sure that windows and doors stay closed. Still it can be difficult cause our dog likes to walk in and out all the time.

Dani said...

Leanan - We also have a dog, but he seems to have accepted the screens very well and it seems that as long as he can feel the air he doesn't want to go out into it constantly.

dreamer said...

Your kitchen adaptations are great. I share your fear of long tailed things, brrrrrr, so I would have been right there with you on the floor with the pencil :)
Love the screens too. We get flies when the cattle are in the field behind the house during summer, I gave in and bought one of those zapper units that get used in restaurant kitchens. I take great satisfaction in hearing them sizzle - not good for an animal lover really, but the thought of flies roaming around my kitchen after feasting on cow dung - yuk!

Dani said...

dreamer - "Long tailed furry things" - couldn't have put it better myself.

The only problem with the fly zappers - apart from the expense - is that they draw power. I'd rather reserve our solar power for more mundane day to day requirements. Even if the zappers only draw 25"- 40 watts - that's continuous and equates to 600 - 960 watts for that only. If we're only producing 4 - 5 kWH / day that's almost a 1/4 - 1/5 of our power production. For a fly zapper... LOL

dreamer said...

Luckily we only get about two weeks each summer when we need to use it ,not the long hot spells you have, but I guess in your situation it would be one of those things that wouldn't be worth running. I'm intrigued as to what you use your solar electric to run and for how long you get to run them on an average day.How do you manage with refrigeration/freezers or do you use other methods for preserving foods as I would imagine they would be a big draw in a hot climate?

Kris said...

I have screens on ever door and window. There have always been screens at every house/apartment I've lived in since grade school and can't imagine NOT having them. I always wondered why you didn't have them. Glad you've taken care of flies and mice. Bet you are a lot calmer these days.... :-D

1st Man said...

Oh my, those cabinet doors (and drawers) look awesome. Great thinking! And the screens, yes, here in the states they keep out flies and more importantly mosquitoes (in this part of the country). I hope you have a mouse free season!

Harry Flashman said...

That looks really good. The carpenter did a great job. Do they have ferrets in South Africa? Ferrets get rid of mice and squirrels, not so much by killing them as just by being in the house.

Barb. said...

Looks good. Another one here who couldn't imagine not having flyscreens. They still get in but not too many. I need a plan for cockroaches...


Dani said...

dreamer - We can only run our fridge, unfortunately. I tried running a small chest freezer too, but our system is too small. I'd love to be able to store my harvests in the freezer... (sob)

So, solar dehydration and canning are my only options.

We power the PC, laptop, printer, charge phones / camera and rechargable batteries, 40 watt fan, (only when necessary) washing machine, small vacuum cleaner, TV and Pay-to-View box, lights and hi-fi (CD and record player). And power tools less than 1000watts.

We get by :)

Dani said...

Kris - Oh yes, no mice to worry about, no flies which have come in from the warm and wet cow paddies outside - life's a breeze now LOL

Dani said...

1st Man - Me too LOL

Insect screens should be mandatory in every home, especially new builds - world wide.

Dani said...

Harry - We do have ferrets in South Africa - more as pets than in the wild. Although I have heard that the Government has banned them due to concerns that they may escape and naturalise...

Dani said...

Barb - Ugh - cockroaches... :( Have you tried mixing equal,parts of borax and sugar and placing it along baseboards, in cracks, under cabinets, under the sink and anywhere else you've seen cockroaches? You'll need to re-apply as needed until they are all gone. Apparently the borax destroys their digestive system and their external skeleton...

Dani said...

P.S. Make sure that children can't access the mixture...

dreamer said...

That's pretty good. If we had to rely on solar it would probably just about keep the lights going, lol.

Kris said...

As for the rest of the little creepy-crawlies that can get inside.... Where I grew up we had a bare concrete floor under the bathroom sink. A friendly toad lived there. He would come out at night and ate smaller, less welcome critters. True story. :-D

Dani said...

Kris - Reminds me of when I was a teenager (l-o-n-g, l-o-n-g ago) and I walked outside the kitchen door at night. I stood bare foot on a frog - the thought still makes me shudder... LOL