Friday, 11 July 2008

After the rain

After the rain has come the cold. We had overnight temperatures in the low single digits, cold daytimes in the low teens all accompanied by a biting wind. Unusually I have had the fire on during the daytime. I tell myself that it serves a dual purpose: heat and dealing with the piles of wood rubbish left from the building. I do have pangs of regret as I have burnt offcuts of solid hardwood handrails and the remnants of morticed studs from the removal of our dining room wall. They aren’t anything that can be reused but they are part of our house. It seems in some way cannibalistic.

Even Blithe Girl who never feels the cold has complained of cold hands and enjoyed the fire. The mice have certainly been grateful. We’ve named all of them Russell after the noises they make in the night. They seem to be making themselves very comfortable. I had to pick up some new traps yesterday at the supermarket (or as we euphemistically call them in front of the children “mouse persuasion devices”). They only had very flimsy models, so much so that the Russells enjoyed a good snack last night without setting off any of the “devices.”

About four years ago we had a mouse plague and I kept a tally of “persuaded” mice. I stopped counting when we got close to one hundred. Mr. Blithe crawled around under the house and filled every gap with expanding foam. It seemed to work. This time there are so many gaps that we can’t eliminate them. We need to replace many a skirting board before the issue is solved. We thought of renting a cat but I am not a cat, nor an indoor pet person so we will have to persuade Russell as we can and live with him/them until the house is less holey.

It struck me though that mice and indeed fending off the winter cold must have been an issue in the early days especially when people lived in slab huts. Wood would not have been an issue as people were clearing the land as fast as they could under government incentives. There must have been woodpiles dotting every hillside. I imagine people would keep their fires going as steadily as they could. There were inherent dangers in these fires. There are many tales in family histories of mothers and children burnt, sometimes fatally, while cooking, tending or playing around fires. And there are many records of buildings burning down including the Marburg Butter Factory. You don’t hear too many tales about the mice, but I imagine that great effort and ingenuity went into keeping them out of precious crops, grain supplies and food if not out of the house. At least for us it is mainly only a nuisance.

1 comment:

Vivi said...

I am a cat person, but cats like to share their catches, so even if you overcame your dislike of them, you might have to then deal with lots of Late Russells dotting your floors and the ends of the children's beds. (At that point, I would call them Leif, because that's what I mistake them for.) A mixed blessing. Or perhaps not even mixed.

The statistic I learned about early colonial life in America (and I'm sure it was true for much longer than just 1640-1700) is that childbirth was the 2nd most common cause of death for women, and that burns were the leading cause of death (burns and infections caused by burns).