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There were no pictures taken

And you should all be profoundly grateful.

We have a wall between the living room and the front door. It soars all the way up along the rafters on the front of the house, forming the side wall of the linen closet on one side and the wall of the cathedral ceiling in the entry on the other side. Because of the pitch of the roof in a Cape, it doesn’t connect with the attic.

This wall has mice.

This has been an ongoing issue for a few years now – particularly at the change of seasons we hear them in there. It is the only place we hear them. There is no evidence of mice anywhere in the living space. We’ve been trying to find the ingress point, because I really didn’t want to have to open that wall up – I’m beginning to share my father’s distaste for drywall patching. Every so often we have an… aroma. The one that says “something died in the wall.” It usually only lasts a couple of days, and while it’s nasty, what can you do?

Well, we’ve had scurrying, and last week I came to the conclusion that we just need to suck it up, open the damn wall, and find out where they’re coming from so that we can make it stop. Also, we’ve had a fresh stink that I’m finding more offensive than usual. Bob has a fairly rudimentary sense of smell, but I’ve been described as “having a nose like a bassett hound,” so it’s been bothering me. I was going to wait until this weekend, but if you’ve been following my house adventures you’ll know that I have the self-control of a two-year-old where demolition is concerned. Finally, last night I looked at Bob and asked if I could pop off the baseboard.

Really, all I intended to do was pop off the baseboard and see if there were any holes in the drywall, and see if the drywall went all the way to the floor. That’s all I was interested in. But we all know that these things never go as planned.

I popped off the baseboard, and the drywall was chewed away in the corner adjacent to the exterior wall. The stink intensified. There was a tail and some fur visible. Ick. There was also a lot of visible fuzz, looking like a nest. ICK. Then a snout and two huge eyes and a couple of little round ears poked out and wiggled its little pink nose at me. Cheeky little bastard. It pulled back in when I banged on the wall. Bob went outside to get the garden trowel (formerly seen during the great sewage backup of 2008), and I picked up the drywall saw to enlarge the hole enough to scoop out the corpse and the nest. I opened up a neat little rectangle about four inches wide, and shorter than the baseboard (as I intended to put that back to seal it back up afterwards.) Mousey-dude kept sticking his nose out while I was sawing, which was odd – I figured that people banging around would cause him to make himself scarce.

When Bob began scooping, it became apparent that it wasn’t a nest – it was a pile of little mouse corpses. He pulled NINE out of that little four inch opening. Did I mention the magnitude of the stink? The stink was prodigious. After consultation, the two of us agreed that even though we didn’t want to, we needed to open up a slot along the bottom of that entire bay – because there was no way that the little desiccated mouse corpses had all neatly piled up on one side. There was also the issue of the live one that was apparently hanging out in the workspace.

So I went back to work with the drywall saw, being exquisitely careful. There were two issues. The insignificant one was that I really didn’t want to gunk up my saw with mouse yuck. The significant one was that there is power in that wall, and I didn’t want to cut through the wires – and I wasn’t sure where they were. When I got the hole sawed all the way to the next wall stud and down to the floor, we gave some thought to dealing with the live one. I went and got an empty sherbert container, and we started to pry out the piece of cut drywall. The mouse darted out into the container, and rather than slamming it upside down on the floor like *I* had in mind, Bob scooped him up. While I was running for a lid, Mickey (predictably) jumped out, and we proceeded to do the “two adults chasing a mouse” dance. Through sheer luck I got the container over it, slid a political flyer from Linda McMahon underneath, and moved him off to one side while we popped out the piece of drywall.

Did I mention the stink? You could practically SEE this stink.

I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that judging by the tails (which remain even after the third dimension is gone), there were over two dozen mouse corpses in that wall, ranging from dried up to various stages of juicy. It’s all better now. We scooped up the scoopable bits, vacuumed up the… other bits, and flipped the live guy outside. Yes, I know he’s just going to come back in, but I couldn’t bring myself to squish him.


With much trepidation, we decided that we should open up the next bay towards the interior of the house (which did actually contain the live wires. Still unsawn, I should add.) That one contained nothing but a bit of dust.

Our unscientific conclusion after looking around is that the critters are coming in up at the eaves and falling into that stud bay. Once they’re in, it’s like an oubliette – they can’t climb back out. We figure the scurrying that we hear is them trying to climb up and falling back in. The one we saw was a deer mouse, and apparently they're climbers. The outside of the house is cedar clapboards, so that’s probably easy. Inside the stud bay it’s dimensional 2x4s on two sides and drywall on two sides – both (reasonably) plumb, and both very smooth. That’s why Mickey was hanging around while I was sawing and prying and such – he didn’t have anywhere to go.

We scooped and vacuumed and sprayed air freshener, and then I sprinkled the first bay with baking soda and we put the baseboard back in place. That’ll keep any future mice containerized until we resolve the issue. Then we washed. Because


My father’s take on this? I quote: “Don't close up the entry hole, install a drawer in the bottom so you can empty a very efficient mouse trap.”

Sadly, I may just do that.



( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 28th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
Deer mice can jump. All mice can jump, actually, afaik, deer mice just jump higher. And I believe they can live in trees so they are VERY good climbers of anything that has any purchase at all. And they're buggers for spreading lyme disease.
Oct. 28th, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
PS: Can you keep a bit of rat/mouse poison in there to speed the mousies demise(s)? Less scrabbling as a benefit for you, and less starving to death for the mousies.
(no subject) - kls_eloise - Oct. 28th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - golden_meliades - Oct. 28th, 2010 08:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kls_eloise - Oct. 29th, 2010 01:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kls_eloise - Oct. 28th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - golden_meliades - Oct. 28th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 28th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
Argh. That must be just the most AWFUL thing to deal with. I know the smell of dead mousie. Kumo is a killer and we get field mice in the basement from time to time. He ALWAYS finds them but the trick is to get them disposed of before he forgets where he put them. Otherwise it ends up being "Oh damn Kumo what did you kill?" and a hunt. With a stinky prize at the end.

It must have driven your cats crazy to hear the mice, smell the mice, but not to GET the mice.

The drawer is a good idea. Aside from plugging every possible hole in your eaves (not viable), you need to get the mice out somehow BEFORE they die. Here's a good idea: install a "mouse removal door", place a baited live trap just inside the door, and that way you won't have to hunt for live mice from one tiny access spot...they'll come to it to get the bait, no matter where they enter your wall. You can just check it every day or so to remove visitors. Before they die & smell bad.
Oct. 28th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
The cats were actually completely uninvolved. The first few times it happened they went and staked out the hall. When nothing ever appeared, I guess they decided it was a tease. Periodically Nishka would give me a look like she was trying to say "are you going to do something about that?" Lazy sluggards.

I'm actually kind of liking the idea of a drawer, and since it's behind the front door it won't be terribly obvious.

What a terrible smell...
(no subject) - isabeau_lark - Oct. 28th, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kls_eloise - Oct. 29th, 2010 01:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - isabeau_lark - Oct. 29th, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 28th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
You have such an interesting house!
Oct. 28th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
Yes, like those interesting times no one wants to live in...

It's part of the charm of a house in the woods, unfortunately. Although I think I prefer the bears...
Oct. 28th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
OMG.... We had a bit of a problem for a while but nothing on this scale. At least I don't THINK it was on this scale. But the next time I see any evidence AT ALL I am printing this out, handing it to the Spouse and dealing with it in a very firm manner.
Oct. 28th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
I had NO IDEA we had a problem on this scale. It's certainly not something I would have shrugged off if I'd had any inkling.

I have to admit that I HAVE been enjoying myself horrifying my coworkers with the story...
(no subject) - safiya_shirazi - Oct. 28th, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kls_eloise - Oct. 29th, 2010 01:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - safiya_shirazi - Oct. 29th, 2010 01:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kls_eloise - Oct. 29th, 2010 01:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - galingale - Nov. 11th, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - safiya_shirazi - Nov. 12th, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 28th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
Also, a friend (who is in the business of bodies and therefore knows whereof she speaks) recommends two things for that great decomp smell. The first recommendation is lemon juice and lots of it.

Unfortunately, if that doesn't work, her next recommendation is fire.
Oct. 28th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
Excellent - thank you!

I'll be picking up a new bottle of lemon juice, as fire seems a touch excessive. :-D
(no subject) - kls_eloise - Oct. 29th, 2010 01:21 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 28th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
A few (ahem) years ago I worked in a building in NYC that had mouse issues. The landlords would put down poison but that meant we had DEAD mouse issues for days afterwards. Our CEO finally talked them out of it tenderly -- for some reason we suspected the word "moving" may have come up in passing -- and chemicals were replaced with stickypads. So instead of having corpses in our HVAC system, we would get them in the industrial-strength stickypads behind the file cabinets...the photocopiers...the desks... may I say that those are MUCH easier to remove than what you went through.

The drawer is an interesting idea. Perhaps you could get a small latching door to match the pretty new ceiling grating.

In other news a question -- what's that URL for reporting bear damage? Our bear (number unknown) has now taken out the hives again.
Oct. 28th, 2010 08:29 pm (UTC)
I hate those stickypads with a vengeance, mostly because of bad issues at my first job in the hardware store. But it's also problematic for the other fur-bearing mammals in the house. Not to mention that they'll just become cat hair magnets. Which is a whole different type of "yuck."

I like the idea of the grating, but that'll be big enough for it to get through - they only need 1/4" gap. On the other hand, I can blend in a removable piece of molding so that it won't be noticable.

Bears: http://www.depdata.ct.gov/wildlife/sighting/bearrpt.htm

Apparently they've become so common that the range my dad goes to in New Milford is *stocking* rubber bullets for 12 gauge shotguns. I guess it's about the only thing that drives them off.
Oct. 28th, 2010 11:03 pm (UTC)
Got to love dealing with mice living or dead. I have to do it every time we go up to my parents place so I do know well the stink and the various states of dead. By the way, a shop vac does a real nice job of ending the mouse chase if you ever have that happen again.
Oct. 29th, 2010 01:24 am (UTC)
And we had the shop vac right there...

The reek is just horrifying. And of course we're having people over on Sunday. I detect some scented candles in our immediate future.

I definitely think I prefer dealing with the bears.
(no subject) - merimask - Oct. 29th, 2010 05:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kls_eloise - Oct. 29th, 2010 01:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kamau_d_lyon - Oct. 29th, 2010 10:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kls_eloise - Oct. 29th, 2010 01:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - galingale - Oct. 29th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 29th, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)
There's nothing quite like DedThing™ stink in your nose, is there? I have the same problem with small critters in my walls. The ex found the spot where (as you postulate) they fell thru from the attic into the kitchen wall. Once he covered that with fine wire mesh, problem solved.

These days they've moved further into the house and are falling into the Master Bedroom wall. Great. I'm not sure I'm tackling the problem since I'm not sure how long I'll be there (I HATE being up in the attic).
Oct. 29th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)
quick and painless
Well if you want the little critters to not suffer the best way is a covered trap. It snaps their little necks and keeps the body inside so you don't have to touch it.

Bait and poisions make they suffer, and seek water and is just as bad as starving cause instead they drown themselves in water or go insane seeking it out.

Sticky traps hurt them. They pull their little limbs off trying to get away or dislocate body parts and such, and can be stuck there for a while. Think duct tape on a hairy chest...it hurts.

So snap their little necks. Painless and easy to clean up. Not that I like the idea of killing them, but I don't like the idea of them being in my house either. Plus the cats can't get to them once they are dead in the traps either.
Oct. 29th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
While the poison is nasty for the mice, I've been told it makes the corpses less fragrant. I recently found a small collection of corpses that we should have noticed since they were hidden behind the window fan which pulls air in (over the bodies) and pushes it over our bed. Our mouser has also been sick a few times, not hair balls, and not changes in his normal food, so I suspect someone else is laying out bait, and we see the end results.

But I think I'd almost rather what you have than what I got to deal with this morning. Woke up way too early, wandered into the bathroom to relieve my bladder, turned to flush, and saw a mouse swimming in the bowl. I will not lie, I flushed anyway, but he swam well enough to not go round the bend. So I got him into a small re-usable no-kill trap I've got and dumped him on the front porch.

The hopefully "new" place is 120 years old. I wonder how much fun the mouser will have? We're not going to be letting him into the fieldstone basement. 8)
Nov. 4th, 2010 01:05 am (UTC)
One of my clients said that she used the spray foam insulation because mice don't like to eat it. She closed up an "entryway" in her house that way several years ago with great results. Thought I'd pass that on. Am waiting to find out if it is good against squirrels too...maybe we have a fix for the garage? She will ask her friend who suggested it and let me know. Oh my, did I laugh envisioning your exploits!
( 39 comments — Leave a comment )