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March 24, 2013
Keeping out the vermin


Russell cuts a roll of tree netting that will be used to keep woodpeckers away

After several months of barely visiting our mountain home, we are now here for the second time in less than a week. That is, Gail is here for the second time. Russell is here for the first time since Christmas. Fortunately our two sons are both home for the weekend and keeping an eye on each other.

The reason for this trip is clear: our mountain home is being infested by woodpeckers and mice. During her last visit, Gail improvised a hasty stopgap of hanging reflective strips from the eaves. She also set up glue-traps all over the interior floors. But this will be our last opportunity to visit for at least the next month, so we want to check the status of things.

When we arrived on Friday, March 22, Gail did not see any further damage to the exterior of the house. The reflective strips were still intact and glittering in the breeze.

Inside was another matter. There were several mice stuck on various glue traps. One of them was still alive. Russell got the task of cleaning all of this up. He took the living mouse outside – still attached to the glue trap – and put it on the ground under an overturned bucket. The good news is that the following morning, the bucket was empty. The mouse had been able to free itself and burrow away to safety. (Actually, that’s only good news for the mouse. Gail was convinced that it would turn around and find its way back into the house.)

Gail also had Russell take a look under the kitchen sink to see what is creating a bad smell. There is a small cupboard under the sink where we keep various cleaning solutions and supplies. Russell went through the entire cupboard, removing everything from the garbage bags to the packs of paper towels to a half-empty bottle of cleaner missing its cap. He was convinced there was a dead mouse in the paper towels, but he was wrong. There was nothing there.

In the process of putting everything back, Gail poured the cleaner down the sink. Across the house, Russell heard a blood-curdling shriek. There was a dead rodent at the bottom of the bottle. (The opening was less than an inch in diameter.) At least we found the cause of the smell. Russell took care of the bottle.

During the past week, we have received a bid from a contractor to cover the entire house in stucco. The bid came in at more than $10,000. We need to decide whether to accept the bid, try to stucco the house ourselves, or try an alternative solution. Putting stucco on the house will require a huge amount of preparation effort that may include removing all exterior trim and possibly resetting the windows.

In the meantime, we need something more than reflective strips to keep the woodpeckers away. Russell took the task to come up with a mid-term solution. Using tree netting, eye hooks and quarter-round trim wood, he measured and cut a set of netting sheets that act as awnings on each second-story wall. One end is attached to the roof eaves; the other end hangs over the deck rails.

    
Russell installs netting on the eaves.
Once in place, the netting is almost invisible. (In fact, we needed several attempts to get it to show up in a photo!)

Gail continued her ongoing task of spraying for weeds and clearing fallen leaves. On this sunny but non-windy weekend, Gail was able to enjoy her first burn piles on the mountain. She declared burning to be easier and much more satisfying than raking leaf piles over the edges of the roads.


Gail’s first burn pile

Gail and Russell also worked together to install sheet metal over the exposed ends of the roof beams. Yes, the woodpeckers have infested those as well.

    
A roof support beam, before and after sheet metal. (Note the unbelievable size of the woodpecker hole.)

On Sunday morning – our last morning – we awoke to the sound of a distant beeping. It sounded like an alarm over on our neighbor Scott’s property. We were surprised when we got up awhile later and still heard the sound. It wasn’t until Gail walked outside that she realized the sound was coming from our property. It was our septic alarm.

We shut off the septic system, and fortunately we are leaving today. But we will need to call a septic repair company to come out and troubleshoot what’s wrong.

While we’re away for the next month, the netting and reflective strips should keep the woodpeckers away. Gail also set out more glue traps throughout the inside of the house to handle the mice. But ultimately, she wants a permanent solution that will seal the entire house against all vermin and foreign invaders.

It’s time to start saving our pennies for some additional expenditures…


The current state of our mountain home: while the reflective strips are easily seen, the netting is almost invisible

 

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