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Cornmeal-eating field mouse learns a lesson the hard way

A field mouse burglarized our green house, probably because it was looking for food and a warm place to spend winter, and although I didn't catch it in the act of feeding on the cornmeal I was storing to fertilize our vegetable garden, it made its presence known by leaving behind small, seed-shaped, black droppings.

In the meantime, the field mouse is no more. I moved the corn meal and replaced it with a mouse trap.

For a little while, though, the field mouse lived the high life, until it learned its lesson: "The House Mouse and the Field Mouse"

"The House Mouse and the Field Mouse" was a short story written by Aesop in the 6th-century B.C., and it was one of many stories in which Aesop used animals in metaphors to teach life's lessons to children.

According to Aesop's story, a field mouse lead a subsistence lifestyle. But it had a friend, a house mouse, that enjoyed a lavish lifestyle at a homeowner's expense.

Wanting to experience an elegant lifestyle, too, the field mouse visited the house mouse. Except the field mouse cut its visit short and went back to its home in the country after it was chased and nearly captured by cats and dogs.

Dealing with field mice

Originally from China and the Mediterranean, "Musmusculus" (field mice), now live alongside people all across the planet. Their fur is gray on top and white on the bottom. Tails are long and tapered with circular scale-like rings.

Field mice are hard to catch. They run up to 8 miles per hour. Plus they can climb and swim. Prolific, too, within two months of being born, they can produce between five and ten litters yearly, with each litter consisting of up to eighteen mice.

Since they constantly gnaw, mice are also highly destructive. Indoors, for instance, they can destroy walls and furniture. Outdoors, they kill plants. They're also dangerous, because they can transmit diseases such as typhus, salmonella and the bubonic plague to us.

Mice are also omnivorous. However, they're particularly fond of peanut butter. So I exploited this weakness to bait the trap that caught the green-house squatter. Mouse traps, by the way, are becoming more and more user friendly. Plus for those that may be squeamish, plenty of the newer traps are designed specifically to protect the user's sensibilities.

In any case, the field mouse should have heeded Aesop's lesson. What lesson? "Poverty with security is better than plenty in the midst of uncertainty."

This week in the garden

Fortunately, the plants on our property were spared by Super Storm Sandy. But I did take certain precautions, such as doing some last-minute pruning.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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