100 Years of Mice

Reader Contribution by Lori Havens
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Moving into a new home is always an adventure. Moving into a “new-to-you” home that happens to be around 100 years old is even more of an adventure. Moving from the mega-suburbs of Chicago into a “new-to-you” home that happens to be around 100 years old that is on a 40-acre farm on a ridge top in rural Wisconsin … that’s the ultimate adventure! Winter here has been a crash course in rural-living …from heating with wood to coping with snow and ice sans the suburban services we were accustomed to, to dealing with the furry creatures who are searching for a warm place to stay and a bite of food…creativity and determination reign.

Fortunately for us, the previous owner of this century farm was a part time builder, and he added on a brand new kitchen to the tiny farmhouse about eight years ago, so we are the blessed recipients of his hard work.

Nonetheless, we find ourselves plagued with the same problems that, I am sure, a farm wife and mother found herself coping with 100 years ago in her then-new farmhouse. This winter, it’s mice.

Since we didn’t believe the pest-control man who told us that we should let him treat the home preventatively for mice at the end of the summer, we now find the furry little critters’ “calling cards” on the countertops and in some of the drawers in the kitchen. After a two-day “away” from the farm, we came home to find a bread bag that we’d left on the countertop nibbled open and bread crumbs scattered about. I began to worry about the many bulk-sized bags of dry goods I had stored in the nearby cabinets and on the countertops, and new I needed to find a solution.

A dear friend had sent an email asking if I might have need of some of her hundred-plus used canning jars that she wanted to get rid of. I offered to take all of them, not knowing at the time when I would ever use them all, but farm-plus-canning-jars seemed like a smart thing. I’ve now used over half of them! To keep the dry-goods safe from mice, I turned to my new favorite pastime: oven canning.

I spent an enjoyable three days oven canning, and ended up with dozens of jars. Not only was it a very satisfying process to make the food supply more secure, but the results were just lovely to boot.

Bryan plans to build a large pantry-storage area in the basement once the mess of an electrical system is all updated down there. Until he gets that done, I decided to *loan* him my 100-year-old pie safe, built by his great-grandfather and rescued by me some 20 years ago from my mother-in-law’s garage. Bryan’s not nuts about the pie safe, which is why I’m only loaning it to him. Hopefully someone will join him here on the farm someday who will see how perfect it is … and then I will let it go. If you look closely, you can see a gnawed-open mouse hole above the drawer on the top right of the pie safe. Perhaps that hole was chew-carved out 100 years ago by a hungry mouse with a taste for great-grandmother’s apple pie!

How perfect that a 100-year-old “tradition” of raiding mice in Bryan’s 100-year-old Wisconsin farmhouse should link a great-grandfather farmer from Iowa to his great-grandson farmer in Wisconsin through a 100-year-old pie safe.

I call it a perfect fit. Thanks, mice! I think …

Want to learn more about oven canning? This is the site from which I learned:

Oven Canning 101