Monday, August 05, 2002

Living in Northern Virginia, I'm realizing I'll be battling nature for the rest of my life. Admittedly, it is a small scale war, but for a boy from Nevada, it's quite an experience.

First, there are the bugs. Mosquitoes, spiders, moths and fireflies. Most of them are benign. They don't bother us, and we don't bother them. But the spiders: Miriam is constantly sweeping up webs in all the corners of the house. And the mosquitoes are vicious. We've gone to calling each other "the bug buffet," we are covered in so many bites and welts. Even so, I prefer them all to the damn cockroaches & cicadas of Southern Nevada.

Then, there are the frogs. In my lawn. Frogs. Not just that one toad that somehow ends up in your garden and you decide to keep him around because, well, you really don't want to pick him up, but lots of little frogs. I guess they could be toads. A very quick search of Google points out:

"Generally, frogs spend most of their lives in or near water. Toads on the other hand, get out on land a little more and find their way into gardens and yards. Frogs also usually have moist slimy skin, while toads have dry bumpy skin." (Thanks, Science Bob.)

So I guess we have toads. Anyway, there are quite a few. One night I counted four on the patio. Bianca was playing with a large one for while, until she got it in her mouth. Then she dropped it and ate some grass. I think we'll just leave them alone, as they're probably eating a good number of bugs every night. I am even considering buying a few of those little terra cotta toad houses and build toad tracked housing.

A few weeks ago, I had to rip out all the ivy from our front flowerbeds because it was coming into the spare bedroom. Right above the baseboard, in the corner of the room was a small vine with a single leaf. So out came all the ivy. I must have evicted about 200 spiders and caterpillars from their home that day. At first I was skittish with the spiders, not wanting them to eat me alive But after a few minutes I was just brushing them away. There is still a large patch of ivy in the backyard that is threatening to come into our bedroom. If time permits, I'll have it pulled out this week.

Finally, there is the psychological warfare: mice. We haven't seen too many. But they gnawed on most of our wooden spoons and you can hear them scamper through the attic early in the morning. I put out some traps a few weeks ago, catching one under the sink. This weekend I checked the traps in the attic both of them had caught their victims. And last night, as we were watching TV, we heard the trap in the laundry room snap, and then we heard the trap clack around, as the mouse went through its death throws. Miriam and I just stared at each other, waiting for it to stop.

I really don't like killing things. Maybe I read "Watership Down" one too many times, but I honestly believe that all animals (not just mammals, but even those damned mosquitoes) are sentient to some extent. If I could, I would make a deal with all the mice: I'll build you a little shelter in the back yard, away from the house. We'll bring you food scraps, and you stay out of the house. But you can't reason with mice, so you either have to catch them or kill them.

I guess I should at least try the "catch & release" traps. I could let them out along the bike trail, or in a field near the office. But my gut instinct is that that won't work. And I refuse to use poison. I know I'd rather have my neck snapped or my skull crushed in a split second than be paralyzed and drown in my own vomit (or however it is that rat poison works). Besides, then I'm left with a house full of dead or dying mice; with the traps I'll know exactly where I'll find them.

More later. Must work.

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