Thursday, December 12, 2013

Our house should be on New York State's list of Wildlife Refuges

Did you know that private citizens can have their property termed a Wildlife Refuge? People do it. They stop all lawn care, and let every manner of creature live alongside of them.

Well, our previous home owners basically did that. It just wasn't official.

Our house when we purchased it

By that I mean, our previous home owner actually did not even live here for the majority of the two years she owned the place. And before her, the place was owned by an elderly man who had abandoned it to move to Florida and pass away (RIP.)

We got a pretty good deal on the house because of this.

We also got a Wildlife Refuge.

About a month into our home ownership my mom suggested we lay out some mouse traps because "your backyard is a mouse heaven."

That mess in the distance is what she was referring to.

So one night we set some in the basement and under the kitchen sink. The next morning they were all "occupied." And the next, and the next.

Evidently we had a problem. This was a few days before my parents were scheduled to come celebrate Thanksgiving with us and help us fix stuff up, and I told my mom she could stay home if she was too grossed out by our house. They still came.

My dad went around our foundation and filled every hole he could with foam stuff. Then he came inside and said,

"You know how your feet sink into your yard with every step? Well, it's because you have dozens of moles burrowing under your property. It's also why you don't have grass. I can tell you how to take care of them, but first it involves killing off the grubs they're eating."


This was our first inkling that we'd bought a Wildlife Refuge.

Well ... that and the fact that on occasion I would look out our dining room window and witness things like raccoons meandering around our backyard.

Raccoons. We do not live in the country, and only have a half acre. But apparently raccoons were used to being able to chill at our house. I'd never even seen one in real life.

After my dad "sealed" the foundation, the mousetraps started coming up empty, and we lived all winter in blissful belief that our house was rodent free.

Then spring came. Ahhh, spring; flowers, rain showers, new life everywhere, discovering entire wasp civilizations in the attic ... wait, what?

It started in March. While alone with my 10 month old in our living room, I would suddenly see 5 wasps creeping around the floor nearby.

Cue me grabbing Darby, shutting myself in our bedroom and calling Greg frantically (This is what a normal woman would do in the case of an intruder. For me, wasps = intruders.)

So Greg went into the attic and crawled around on random two by fours looking for the wasps. First we put Darby in her crib with a towel stuffed under the door in case a swarm flew down the chimney into the house.

Then I stood under the attic door, wringing my hands and calling up every few moments to remind him not to slip off and fall through our ceiling to his death.

He came down and told me we needed a professional. Wasps had come in through our attic vents and made very nice establishments for themselves because for years nobody had cared.

After a lot of money and life threatening chemicals, we finally became free of wasps. They stayed away like we had the plague. Then after a couple months, I saw some flying around our attic vents again. Apparently animals and insects literally have their own List of Wildlife Refuges. And our house is on it.

"Don't even think about it!" I would yell, shaking my fists at them. "I will punch every last one of you wasps in the face!"

One day this autumn, I innocently said to Greg, "Remember how our house used to be a Wildlife Refuge? Ha! So glad we're through with that. We've taken care of the mice, grubs, moles and wasps!"

A couple weeks later, I put Darby down for a nap, went into the living room to start a craft project, and smelled death. After tracing this smell to a vent and quickly researching what a gas leak smells like, I immediately called Greg to inform him that we needed to call the gas company (not 911 this time since it wasn't the middle of the night.)

I could hear his eye roll over the phone. He came home, went downstairs, removed a section of vent, and then promptly came up to tell me that in one vent he could see at least eight mouse bodies in various stages of decomposition.

"What?! What?!!!!" I yell/whispered (Darby was napping,) "How could they possibly get in? And what are they living on? I keep this place meticulous and we empty the trash every night!"

"Well ... they're not living on anything. They're getting stuck in there and dying. We have to call the Exterminator so he can professionally seal the place."

"Ok, ok, ok!" I said, "But just get them out, get them out!" I cried, utterly panicked.

"I'm going to. But there's at least one I can't get to."


"I can't reach him. I can just see his legs sticking up in the air at the end of the vent."


Thankfully, this occurred in late September when we needed neither AC nor heat for a couple weeks; I wasn't about to let any air come out of those vents into our house.

I don't want to think about the air I'd already breathed in.

The really weird part? The next day my parents were again scheduled to come and watch Darby for a week while we flew to San Diego for our first baby free trip.

At first I debated not telling my mom. But I knew they'd need to know not to use the AC or heat, so I called her and said,

"Mom? Umm ... apparently we still have a mouse problem."

"How do you know?"

"Well, Greg found some ... um something in our vents."

"What was it?"

"A dead mouse."

"Oh, well that's not too abnormal. Is that all?"

"Umm, well, no, there were actually more like, eeiigghht?"


"Yeah, but he got them all out! Except ... except one. But he knows it's dead because he can see it's legs sticking up in the air in the distance."


"Well, I'm glad you think it's funny because guess what? The exterminator and the air duct cleaner won't be able to come until after you're gone!"


"So ... if you're really too grossed out this time, you don't have to come."

"Allie, this better not be your way of trying to cancel the trip so you don't have to leave Darby..."

In the end, I look at this as a positive thing. Three hundred dollars later, not only do we know there's currently no way for any critters to get into our house, we now have super clean air ducts!

Someone please tell me we're not the only ones to have dealt with something like this.


  1. LOL. You do have all the fun, don't you?

    Hmmm...well when we were putting the new kitchen in our old house, we had a few mice that were coming in through the crawl space under the floor in the room we were turning into a kitchen. And Steve's cat OH so helpfully would just stare at them as they ran ACROSS HIS PAWS. I kid you not, I saw it myself one night. His head turned to watch the mouse, and that was it. Apparently chasing it would have taken too much energy.

    Steve got the great idea to set out glue traps because Jessica (then about 3 years old) and Katie "couldn't get hurt" with those. One day he called me at work to let me know that while he was doing office work, Jessica had managed to get the glue all over herself, then crawled around with it gathering up fur from the cat that was on the carpet. Wonderful...

    And there were the ants that took over our backyard one year. I have no idea WHY. We had bought a swing set that year that came in two boxes, which we put in the back yard until we had some friends over to help assemble it. I noticed lots of ants crawling around the boxes a couple of days later, so I opened one up, and saw more ants...and more...I started pulling out the boards and shaking the ants off, making a pile of "clean" boards. I eventually found the ants had laid a ton of eggs in between the layers of boards. YUCK!!! I really hate ants, a house I lived in as a kid was infested with carpenter ants--we had to have most of the roof ripped off & replaced it was so bad. So anyway, once I got the box light enough that I could drag it by myself, I just dragged the whole box into the "hidden park" that was behind our backyard...and left it there for Steve to deal with. Later we had to treat the yard for the ants because there were just SO many of them...they'd start crawling on your shoes if you stood still in the yard. Makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

    1. I hate ants too! And I can't believe that I forgot to mention that we started getting little ants AND carpenter ants at the same time, at the exact same time we had the second mouse issue. LIke I said I'm OCD about food garbage being cleaned up, so it was so frustrating! Just another This house hasn't been taken care of for years issue. We had to get the foundation sprayed on top of everything else! LOL