Saturday, November 19, 2022

A Basecamp Country Mouse

The winds were from the north when we buttoned up our Airstream Basecamp 16 and left for home, thirty-nine miles away. Yes, it was cold, but we had some chores and appointments in town, so a couple of nights off our land was the best solution. I felt a bit strange leaving the trailer because usually we're either camping in it or it's parked in our driveway where we can keep an eye on it. Owning land has changed our habits, though, and in many ways our Basecamp has become our country cabin--a place to stay and also a place ready for us to stay. We're getting used to leaving our little travel trailer, and at least it has the company of our storage shed that we also have established as part of our country basecamp--a Basecamp at our basecamp!

One task on my to-do list for the Basecamp has been to set a drop light one night on the ground beneath the trailer, and then to go inside and open benches and cabinets to look for light and, therefore, small open spaces that could provide access to the trailer for bugs and critters. Those spaces I can stuff with steel wool. Well, I've never gotten around to it, and I'm sorry that I've put that task off. On returning to our trailer two days later, the trailer winterized and the electric Truma furnace set at 47 degrees, I discovered evidence that a mouse had taken up residence. On the kitchen counter I had left three acorns from one of our mother oaks on the property. Upon my return, two had disappeared except for some remains of chewed shell. Yikes!

I don't mind mice; in fact, I think they're cute--in their own environment. What I've found, though, is that mice aren't fun if they are in my environment--chewing on this and that, and the scat and urine. I had no traps, though, so dealing with the situation had to be left till we returned home. The mouse was remarkably neat and hadn't chewed into any food, not into the protein bars or the ramen noodles. We have most of our food stored in hard plastic containers, so that did limit the critter's access to our food. However, there was no doubt that the mouse had taken up residence in our trailer and was somewhere nesting.

That night, the motion sensor for our cabinet light flashed on even though the door was closed and my wife Sandy and I were in bed--corroboration that the mouse had not just visited, eaten a couple of acorns, and then vamoosed. The next morning, Sandy was drinking tea when she saw motion through the smoke-colored plastic cupboard door, and there was the mouse, happily checking out our food yet not chewing on anything. Very cold weather, north winds, and snow were arriving in a couple of days, so Sandy and I decided to pack up and head for home with the travel trailer, a good decision since the little Basecamp can be a tight space when we have to stay inside for longer periods due to more extreme weather.

When arriving home, I unpacked and then found a mousetrap in the garage. Setting it with sharp cheddar cheese, I was both hoping and dreading catching the mouse. I have as much right as any other critter to maintain my home, yet those traps are pretty brutal. For two days I played the game of baiting the trap with cheese and having the mouse eat it. I think the cheddar was a bit hard and flaky, so it fell from the trigger more easily than soft cheese. I changed out traps, and on the third day caught the mouse. Sad, yet happy that I didn't have to worry about chewed wires or insulation (or soiled cabinet and living space), I reset the trap just in case I was dealing with a family.

I've always felt okay with trapping mice that have invaded my living space, but I think I'm going to research humane traps and maybe try them. For our health and the integrity of our home (whether camping or permanent residence), I intend to keep our home critterless, but I hope a humane trap will work next time. I hope that's possible. If necessary, I'll send a mouse into its next cycle of evolution, into its next incarnation, playing the same role as a hunting hawk or a fox; it's part of the structure of the world. However, as a human, I have a choice, and I think I'll try a catch-and-release system next time. So if you discover a new mouse has arrived in your area, unless you have video . . . it wasn't me.

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  1. My brother (in NC) trapped and took mice out of his basement one fall. Several mice in fact. Then he began to be suspicious, and put a drop of red paint on the back of the mouse and discovered he'd been trapping and relocating the same mouse for more than a month. :) Make sure you relocate your visitor far enough away...but maybe near a food source and some water.

    1. Yes! I relocate chipmunks I catch to the opposite side of a lake about two miles from our house. "Beachfront property." :)