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free at last

Every few years we have a mice infestation, which is to say we have a mice infestation whenever I'm pregnant. This time is no exception. We have started to catch the culprits two at a time, and so far we have liberated nine mice from our basement.

We use two have-a-heart traps that catch the mice alive. We check the traps every morning and transfer the inhabitants to a cozy terrarium with food and water. Usually they run around the cage for some time to the great delight of our children, then they hide in a toilet paper roll until we bring them to their new home in the Carlisle wilderness. Yes, I know that mice will come back from up to a mile away. That's why we drive them all the way over the Concord river to give them a second chance at life. While denying them the possibility of doing it in our laundry room.

When friends see a cage of mice in our kitchen they typically have three responses. In order. You could call it the Three Stages of Infestation Realization.

1) "Awww! Cute! You're raising mice?" (This stage is dominated by curiosity and attraction.)

2) "Oh, you trapped them from your basement?!?" (Here my guest slowly realizes that she is speaking to the kind of person who TRAPS and HANDLES WILD ANIMALS! Plus, is nothing sacred anymore? Not even the design and use mouse traps? This stage is marked by great psychological discomfort.)

3) "That's disgusting! Do you know those things carry diseases?" (In this stage my guest expresses concern about my health and the soundness of the mouse catching project. Information about mice returning to their nests from up to a mile away will also be repeated here. She is also probably wondering whether any food I offer from my kitchen is safe to eat.)

Finally my friends slowly back away from the cage of mice. Never mind that our mice are just as cute as the Petco variety, that there's no such thing as a "domesticated" mouse, or that the animals are no more likely to give us diseases in a cage or in the car or running into a snowy Carlisle meadow than they are from unabatedly pooping in our silverware drawer.

Having live mice in the kitchen turns out to be a divisive issue.

In the other corner for team mice-catcher are the two boy children in my household. There seems to be no end to their excitement at seeing new rodents every morning. Plus the trip to "set the mice free in the woods" is an exciting adventure.

bridge at foss farm

where is this going?

We've had some nice walks in the Carlisle conservation land thanks to the mice. On President's day Dan came with us and we explored a frozen marsh. Yet I'd be lying if I said the project is a win-win for everyone involved. The mice certainly face a reduced life span when they're relocated away from our kitchen. I always tell Harvey and Zion we're "setting the mice free in the woods," as if it's the animals' primary choice. But they were hardly enslaved in our basement. We're stopping short of killing them, yes, but we're bringing them to a much colder, much more dangerous place. It's not like they're jumping out of the cage, seeing the mountains of snow, and shouting "Free at last, free at last! Thank God almighty I am free at last!"

So last week when the snow was high and Dan set the pace too fast and Zion sat down on the ground pounding his fists in frustration and screaming "Go Away Snow!" I really felt for all the little creatures. Zion's version of pleasant adventure featured a lot more "uppy" than I was offering that day. My version of freedom for mice featured a lot more displacement than they would have chosen. I don't know why I'm the enlightened despot who get's to decide what's fair and what's free. I'm just the one in charge of keeping poop out of the kitchen drawers.

zion in field in carlisle

When you're little, freedom is a word mama uses for a lot of fricking walking.


I want to leap with joy that you capture and release mice. What a great way to honor God's other creatures.

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