The Visitor

Just a few weeks ago I mentioned the opossum who knocked on our front door in the middle of the night. I didn’t get a snapshot of the possum, but I did get one of our latest front door visitor.


Chelydra Serpentina

Surprised? We certainly were. Just for the record, the closest body of water to the cottage is a very small ephemeral spring pond covered in green slime, even in the spring, about 600 yards down the hill. Through brush, briars, and scrubby bushes, which, in all likelihood matters not to a turtle. But still, it seems very far away.


She spent the day in the yard, as Mr. H.C. said, Just chillin’. I thought perhaps she’d been hit by a car; her shell didn’t look all that new or shiny. There were actually quite a few nicks and dents, but neither of us tried to get too close. We made sure the cat spent the day inside.

Then as we were eating dinner, she thought to come a little closer. Perhaps she liked the smell of cooked chicken? Mr. H.C. threw her some apple slices, which she disdained. We left by the door on the other side of the yard, and when we returned two hours later, she was gone.

We don’t really know that she was a she-turtle; however, our research implied that female snapping turtles range far and wide from mid-May to mid-June looking for suitable egg-laying spots. Wikipedia says it is quite common to find them far away from water — the females especially are looking for a sandy spot for easy digging. Sadly, she is also far away from any sandy soil here in the land of Greene County clay. Perhaps if she finds that little watering hole, the woodsy litter around it will be good for depositing a clutch of snapping turtle eggs.

There’s a wonderful African Anansi story (Anansi and the Turtle) which I used to tell to during story times: Turtle came to eat at Anansi’s house and he wouldn’t let her in because her feet were muddy. So she lumbered down to the stream to wash them, but by the time she got back to Anansi’s house her feet were muddy again. Yes, her feet definitely don’t look clean enough to come in the house. Hmmm… this sounds like it might be a story post with photos for some other time….

The last snow of spring

Our bird feeder sat on the porch table all winter long, filled with sunflower seeds, untouched by any flying, hopping, or scurrying creatures.

It isn’t that we don’t have flying, hopping, or scurrying creatures: we’ve had flocks of Bluebirds in January, and a mischief of mice invaded our kitchen; herds of deer decimate our gardens; a labor of moles have invaded our lush lawn (that’s a joke, folks); last year a chorus of cicadas denuded our trees;  a loveliness of ladybugs live on the west side of the house all autumn; and right now we’re battling a colony of ants. Yes, I’ve written about critters before.

So where were the birds this winter? My best guess is that since we had very little snow, they weren’t starving and didn’t visit out feeder.

But a week ago we had (what we hope was) the last snow of spring. Snow dusted the ground, the daffodils, and tree branches. And a little visitor found our bird feeder. I didn’t get a picture of him that day; he was skitter-ish, but he discovered that the attack cat is fat and lazy, and his true bravery emerged. Plus he likes sunflower seeds.

Haiku for Squirrel

Red squirrel skitters
Sliding in the slick spring snow
His winter stash spent.

I’m not concerned about a solitary squirrel, but I certainly don’t want a drey of squirrels nesting on the porch this spring or a scurry of squirrels stealing our walnuts this fall.

Troubles behind the Green Door

The trouble with winter … is not snow.

The trouble with winter in the country… is not snowy unplowed roads.

The trouble with winter in the county in an old house… is not frosty, drafty, arctic air.

The trouble with winter in the country in an old house that’s not quite finished…

is mice.

The other trouble is that we were lulled into thinking we had successfully insulated, caulked, and boarded up all holes when we redid the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, the bedroom, and the mudroom.

The other trouble is, we aren’t finished; so there are other parts of the cottage that are not successfully insulated, caulked and boarded up so the worthless little critters can still get in. (Mice can get in a hole that is the size of a pencil eraser!)

Trouble lurks behind this green door.

green door to the basement

(This green door illustrates the most famous post on Apple Hill Cottage’s blog. About 50 (!) people per day read this post about making a shiny brass door handle look like oil rubbed bronze. It amazes me that there is so much interest in getting rid of shiny brass.)  But back to the troubles at hand: behind this green door with the lovely oil-rubbed bronze handle is the basement of the cottage.

We have a split level basement. Behind the green door go down five steps and turn to the left and there’s a door to the outside. There’s also a closet where King Henry the Cat has his litter box. The laundry is down there too as well as built-in shelves, which are filled to the max with the sundries of living in an unfinished house: screws, nails, paints, paintbrushes, stains, tarps, caulking tubes, electric supplies…. Turn to the right and go down six more steps and there’s the rest of the basement — the furnace, the hot water heater, the toilet, sink, and shower (!)  and beyond that Mr. H.C.’s workshop.  In addition to all that stuff, Mr. H.C. keeps a lot of his business inventory down there. It’s a basement’s basement, and there are quite a lot of holes to the outside that have not been insulated, caulked, or boarded up. And frankly, it is WAY down on the list of things to redo around here.

We tried to close the green door last night before we went to bed. About three o’clock King Henry woke us Mr. H.C.  because he needed to get down there to his litter box fast. So there really isn’t the option of closing the green door. There is, however, the option of locking the cat down there with the mice…

(Spoiler alert: If you are a mouse lover, read no further…)

As far as we know, our lovable but worthless cat has caught one mouse. It was dead in his mouth when he brought it to us, but lately I’ve been living in fear that he will jump on the bed at night with a live mouse in his mouth. Mr. H.C. also found a trap with nothing but one mouse leg in it, so the cat could have eaten the mouse out of the trap too. We aren’t sure about that; we haven’t seen any 3-legged mice around lately, but if it gives the cat a taste for mice, I’m all for it.

Mr. H.C. reminds me that Henry caught a mouse this summer too. Yes, he did; but that doesn’t count because he caught it outside. I’m fine with well-behaved mice who stay outside where they belong.

It’s terrible to have mice in one’s kitchen. Suddenly nothing is certain and I can’t be sure if  a mouse did or didn’t scurry over a pan. In the warming drawer of my OVEN I found mouse droppings! Ugh. Now I have to wash every pan before I use it. I’ve lived with mice before. It’s not a surprise. I just thought I was done with them when we finished our beautiful kitchen.

The last straw was a few days ago when I opened the oven door and found a stash of cat food in the corner of the oven. CAN I SHOUT HERE?

Yes, we are feeding the cat expensive Rachael Ray Zero Grain Chicken and Potato cat food, and the mice are stealing the expensive Rachael Ray Zero Grain Chicken and Potato cat food, and hoarding it in the corner of the oven. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?

And just so you know, last week when we were in Home Depot the mouse traps were SOLD OUT! So we must not be the only ones with this problem…

And just so you know, I am blessed that Mr. H.C. takes care of all the mouse trap issues…

And just so you know, the oven is now sparkling clean, the green door is now closed at night, and the mouse troubles are staying downstairs. For Now….

cat napping on blanket img_7762

So the cat can continue with his daily routines.