Pests and Failings

How is that for a title?  I could have written something a little more pessimistic, I had contemplated, Failures, Major Failures, and Oh Dear Lord, Can I do Anything Right?, but I thought that was was a little too much drama.

Let’s start with the crazy and I’ll try and finish up on the positive side.

So, we host a small group in our home… sometimes… it’s actually at my co-leader’s house for a while (praise God for him).  But when we host it we have about a dozen adults and a dozen or more kids at our house.  The adults of course engage in a discussion about our biblical topic of the evening and the kids TRY not to destroy a small toy room with a TV.  It’s a successful evening if no kids come piling through the drywall.  Afterward everybody hangs out for some snacks and the kids run like banshees through the back yard, mostly avoiding the chickens and the gardens.  A few weeks ago things were going pretty normally.  One of the little boys came in from the backyard and with a mischievous look on his face said, “Mr. Keeeeeeith, I think you need to come outside, right now.”

I was curious and concerned, so I followed him.  He took me to the side yard, where one of the children lifts a plastic storage bin and… yes… a couple of mice scurry and a small nest of baby mice lie there in their pink, cute – oh my goodness I can’t believe I have rodents in my backyard – state.

By this time there is a ruckus going on, adults are coming out to “check it out”.  None of us are much country folk, so to say.  We’re all pretty much suburban – hey I was surprised I found a really cool caterpillar on my front tree – kind of people.  Rodents are not normal.  I quickly try and get people out of the area, adults back in the house, and hand shovels to my oldest sons and ask them to please deal with whatever is under the bin.  All good, let’s all just go inside and pretend this didn’t happen.


I sit down on the couch and try to calm down, the boys take their shovels to the mouse situation, and everything is good.

“Did you get them?”

“We got the babies, but the parents were too quick.  We don’t know where they went.”


Then a different screaming started.


Oh yes, that’s right, a snake, of reasonable size, on the back porch.  Not a poisonous snake thankfully, but a snake none the less.  The boys were still wielding their shovels and quickly pummeled the snake and removed it.

That’s a little over the top.  I’m the most calm about these things and yah, I was pretty freaked out, but not nearly as much as my sweet wife.

“What… what… where did the snake come from?  What is he doing here?  Do you think he’s after the garden or the chickens or the bugs… what?”

“Mom, he’s probably after the mice.”

Ah, yes, thank you my son, that was very helpful.

So… after everybody left and things… calmed down I started my new mission as the mouse killer.

Which evidently, I suck at.

I’ve cleaned up several parts of the yard to try to eliminate possible habitats, hoping that the mice would get the point and head back to the wash that is two streets over.  I got some traditional – smash your fingers trying to set them – type of traps and baited them.  I had to wait until the chickens were down for the night and then pull them before the chickens were up in the morning, but I baited them and put them out.

The mice ate the bait.

No traps sprung, no mouse.

That went on for a while.  I then bought a different trap that was GUARANTEED to kill mice.  It didn’t.  Defeated I gave up for a while.

Then I heard it.  In the middle of the night.  Scratching.  GAME ON!

So I’ve been baiting and placing a variety of traps every night and in the morning I clean up the mice’s dishes and ask if he wants seconds.  I’m not catching mice, I’M JUST FEEDING THEM!

Frustrating.  Any suggestions you have at this point would be very helpful.

But that isn’t the only pest.

Soil blocks have a smell to them from the compost/peat moss mixture.  Flies love it.  My soil blocks are in my garage that my sons like to open when they play basketball, and so my garage became a… haven of sorts… for flies.  It was seriously to an apocalyptic type level and they were getting into the house when people would come out to get things from the fridge.  It was bad.

So last Saturday I went to the garage on a mission, armed with fly tape and my own lightning reflexes and extensive fly killing experience.  I seriously stopped counting after about five minutes.  Just in case you are curious, the best method to swat a fly with your hands is actually a clapping motion.  You move your hands slowly and deliberately until they are about a foot apart.  Then you clap very quickly over the TOP of where the fly is by about 1 inch.  He’ll see you coming and jump up to escape, only to get pummeled.  This works everywhere but windows.  A fly won’t jump off the window.  Just come straight down on him without breaking the window.  It’s a little more touchy.  I’m estimating I got somewhere between 6 and 8 dozen of them.  I actually had at least four DOUBLE kills where I managed two in one swat.  Quite impressive really.  Not to be too gross, but my hands actually got sticky at one point.  Oh yes, isn’t that nice.  Fly tape sort of works, as you can see here.

fly tape


But it would be nice if they were a little more attracted to it.

Currently the problem is under control.  I also went through the house for a few rounds and got another 20 or so.  I say rounds because you want to move through the common fly attracting areas trying to get them.  The flies move and the secret is moving with them.  They like windows, certain colors, countertops, or any place where some food residue might be.

Isn’t that fun.

So as if all of this really wasn’t failure enough.  Something seems to think that I’m running a loose leaf salad bar (it better not be my little mouse buddy, he should be full from all of the CHEESE AND PEANUT BUTTER).

My overall success rate on the soil blocks ended up being about 30%.

soil block pile

Hmmm… I’m thinking it’s a pH issue.  I’m adding a small amount of lime to the next batch.

I think I’ll track down a recipe for some homemade bug spray to try and protect my lettuces, just in case it’s not my furry nemesis.

Okay, so some GOOD NEWS.

The sick chicken is still with us and getting stronger.  She spends most of the day standing but can’t seem to walk around for too long before her legs wear out.  Still, it’s progress.  None of the other chickens are showing symptoms.

My peas are doing GREAT!  Of all of the plantings so far they are really taking off.

I got 2 ¼ pounds of green chilies, including this guy.

NM Pepper

Wow, the biggest one I’ve grown.  I’ll have to roast some chilies this weekend.

Everything else?  Well, that’s all going crazy right now too.  Thanks for asking.

It’s comforting to know that as crazy as all this is and as surprising as each new chaotic adventure turns out to be, God is still in control and he is always good.  He knows the end from the beginning and all my tomorrows are already written.

There’s comfort in that.

For now, I just need to spend some time meditating on his word… and praying for a better mouse trap.





This entry was posted in bugs, Chickens, flies, mice, peppers. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Pests and Failings

  1. Val Bjerke says:

    My best solution for mice – cats! Actually on a farm you can’t get by without them – I actually have ten of them – one of which is allowed in the house – all of which are lethal mousers – not that I would recommend you get ten cats haha. I’ve always had zero luck with setting traps in my pantry – rather I leave the door open at night and often wake to the sound of stuff flying off the shelves and the squeak of a mouse meeting an unfortunate end 😃

  2. valbjerke says:

    Oh – and inspect your lettuces very carefully – if you find any soft bodied pests (slugs etc) dust lightly with your diatomaceous earth – or simply sprinkle on the dirt around the plants. Works like a charm. Coffee grounds make a good slug deterrent as well if you put them where they have to crawl on them.

  3. If the rodents, flies and snake continue to visit maybe someone else will offer to hold the small group meeting. There could be a positive here – no house cleaning or food prep for visitors. 🙂

  4. valbjerke says:

    Oddly enough I don’t like cats either – and I’m hideously allergic to them. But no cats equals a mouse plague of biblical proportions on a farm……so we keep an uneasy peace. They make sure the mouse population is under control – I make sure they’re spayed and neutered and keep the stray cat population (at least around here) is under control. I guess in the end I hate mice more than I hate cats haha.

  5. Bill says:

    Well, focusing on the positive, that’s a fine looking pepper. 🙂 And I’m envious that you have peas. Our’s bit the dust with the first frost.

    I have about a 50% success rate with the mousetraps we use. Sometimes they manage to steal the bait, but it’s a risky business for them. And your snake situation could certainly be worse. A few days ago I killed a copperhead moccasin in our basement. Not good.

    • Yowsers! Copperheads are no good. I am trying to avoid the mice, eggs, and chickens attracting a rattler. From my limited experience a 50% success rate with the mouse traps is phenomenal. I used the sticky traps this weekend with great success. 🙂 I’m hoping the problem is done, but I’ll keep putting traps out just in case.

  6. HI Keith. What a fabulous post. I could just picture the chaos. Our small group is still quite new so we only have half a dozen rampaging kids! At least summer is coming so they can burn off energy outside.
    All the best with the mice and flies. I imagine we will be bothered by the slow fat flies in the coming months that just buzz about the place lazily and it is too hot to do anything about them. Disturbingly it seems to be one of the sounds of summer.
    We don’t have snakes here – which is just as well because I really don’t like them!
    Cheers Sarah : o )

  7. I love crazy animal stories! You made me laugh. Thanks!

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