Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wisdom in my 10 Year Old's Spelling Sentences

Last night , my son wrote this sentence from the word "keep" in his spelling list : "My Mom keeps the house very clean so we don't get any rats".  If you did not know me, you would think I was either very tidy or very fearful of rodents.  Actually, I am definitely neither.  I keep the house clean enough for safety and sanity, and that's it.  There are so many more interesting things to do with one's day than clean the house.  And I rather like any wild animal for what it is.  I don't really have any expectation of animals other than they will do what they must to survive and that the abundance of survival strategies is amazing.  This spelling sentence is really a reflection of living in an old farm house.  Here's the background:

Last year, we bought and moved into this over 100 year old house.  We found a mouse peering at us from the front door step the first day we came to see it, and after buying it we found several (dead) mice and voles in the wastepaper baskets.  Now a word about voles:  people living in more urban locations never seem to know what I mean and correct me, saying, "Don't you mean moles?", to which I peevishly respond,"No, moles are insectivores, like hedgehogs are and voles are rodents, closely related to muskrats and lemmings".  Now you know, too, if you didn't, and you can look them up all over the internet as they are a pest to farmers. (They ate everyone's cucumbers out here this year and much of the carrots, too).  Anyhow, once we moved in, we saw no more signs of little creatures, so we thought they were gone.  We underestimated the hunting skills of our cat.  Once he (sadly) was hit by a car, we realized there were certainly rodents about the house.  The kids couldn't stand the idea of us killing them, so we got a live trap that kept going click, click, click several times a day as the little critters got in.  It started with a few mice, but then many, MANY voles.  My children thought I had gone mad because one morning I thought I had even seen a groundhog.  Well, whatever it was, it was huge. Huge guy got trapped eventually, and it turned out he was an exceptionally large vole.  I've since found out on the net that they can continue growing nearly unendingly if they have sufficient food and space.  Lovely. The saving grace was that the voles didn't appear to climb, consistently seemed to only go after potatoes and carrots (and once I figured this out I just put them up) and at least they didn't seem as gross as the rats my son so wisely sited in his spelling sentence.  But, I didn't want them in the house, so we got ourselves two new cats.

For the most part, the cats were chasing them into the live trap rather than hunting them directly (maybe they wanted to keep their paws clean), but the cats ended up doing something far more valuable.  One day, our cat Diamond (then 3 months old) chased a vole across the kitchen floor.  In front of my disbelieving eyes, he stopped running, stood on his hind legs and swatted toward the kitten (he didn't quite make contact) and then kept going.  Stunned at his behavior for a moment, Diamond paused, then continued to give chase, and I then followed them.  The little vole ran into the porch and then dug his paws into the porch floor before I could catch him.  I told my husband, who promptly ripped up the old rotting floor and replaced it with some plywood left over from chicken coop building.  Since then, NO MORE VOLES.

My conclusion from all this:  The reason my son wrote that I clean to keep the  rats at bay, and not the voles, is that the only thing to do with voles is to have a sturdy floor and a CAT.

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