March 26, 2017

Of Mice and Men: The Other Residents in Our Old House

The Enos Kellogg House has mice.  I think it is pretty safe to say that it always has.  With a steady supply of food, sources of heat, and a (usually) sound roof, the house has always had a lot to offer to people and critters alike.

Our vermin aren't nearly as cute as these from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas
And there is ample evidence that our predecessors in the house experienced the not-so-enjoyable company of various varmints over the centuries.  It is the rare opening of a wall or ceiling that doesn't uncover a mouse nest of one size or another.  Unfortunately, the restoration process has also revealed more than a few desiccated mouse bodies, as well.  I keep hoping to find gold, valuable artifacts, or at least a good-luck shoe tucked away, but all that ever surfaces are miniature mice mummies.

In scraping layers and layers of paint from original baseboards in the house, I also uncovered a few good old fashioned mouse holes.  Most of these had had pieces of tin (including old can lids) tacked over them to close them up.  Once the tin was removed, they looked surprising like the kind of mouse holes that you see in cartoons.  We patched and repainted the baseboards, and, happily, no new portals to the mouse world have appeared under our administration.

So, it's pretty clear that humans and mice have coexisted in our house since probably the 1780s.  Now for a little disturbing math.  Based on the age of our house and the life cycle of the mouse, I estimate that there have been over 1,200 generations of vermin in our house.  Scary.  Assuming, as Darwin hypothesized, that species evolve over time, who is to say that some sort of weird creature hasn't emerged in the semi-closed system that is the Enos Kellogg House.  Maybe that would explain the sometimes disturbing noises that we hear behind the walls on some nights.

At the risk of upsetting the delicate environmental balance of our home's ecosystem, we have taken what is probably a more aggressive position on mice than was practiced by our forefathers.  We have had cats throughout our years in the house, and a few of them have been fairly active mousers.  Taking things up a notch, we also employ a pest control service that installed and monitors bait stations around the yard and house.  This has made a noticeable difference in our mouse population.  And while we are still visited by the occasional trespasser, we are now much more likely to find them hunkered down out back in our firewood stack than in our living room.  While I tend to be a purist when it comes to our house, authenticity can only be taken so far, and mice rank right up there with outdoor bathrooms when it comes to elements of 18th century living that I am happy to forgo.

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