Farm Life: Caught With Your Hood Down

P1040767Sometimes when friends stay overnight, when they see our vehicles they ask if they should put their hood up.  We just tell them that this depends on their willingness to take risks or not.  What would they be risking by leaving their hood down in th country?  Rodent damage.

The woods are full of little creatures with sharp teeth and an appreciation for plastic insulation around electrical wires.  We learned the hard way that providing squirrels, mice, and rats shelter (aka garage, barns, sheds), food (aka livestock feed), and a warm bed (aka a vehicle engine before it cools down) is better than a “Vacancy” sign at a motel.

One of the first incidents was during the winter when we had the heater running on the truck.  White smoke began to come out from the air vents.  We turn the heater off and ran below freezing outside air through the system until we could take it to our local mechanic.  He pulled out a pile of leaves that mice had bedded down in, tucked in nicely around the heater unit.

In sequence, both of our othe vehicles started having trouble running.  The Subaru’s incident was driving to work, when it would not go into idle but continually ran fast.  I had to take it out of gear if I wanted to go slower than 30 mph, coating up to stop lights, until I could coast into the repair shop parking lot.  Rodents had crewed through the wiring of the electrical systme, shorting out the mechanism that regulates the engine speed.

IMG_0366Putting the hoods up at night cooled the cars down.  But, we also needed some night patrol.  Maggie, Queen of the Driveway, became our first mouser.  She was an adorable kitten with fuzz-ball black hair and a bad attitude.  Our neighbor who works at a vet’s office brought her home after someone brought her in to be cleaned up and left her.  She was covered in maggots, hence her name (sorry, all you Margarets out there).  She is now a big black fuzz-ball with an attitude, alternating nights between the garage, the garden shed, woodshed, and under the fire-pit furniture.  If you sit quietly, at night, you will see her green eyes suddenly looking at you through a window.

P1000248A year later, our friend’s barn cat had a litter of three gray kittens.  We befriended them, with permission, and brought them down to live in our calf barn.  Smokey, Ashes, and Charcoal now bed down with our goats and ducks.  Smokey is long haired and the other two short-haired and too similiar to tell apart.  We just call them the Gray Boys.

Having barn cat parents, the ferral cat genes are pretty strong.  You can tell this by their rodent hunting instinct.  When they were kittens we saw them taken on rats twice their size.  One moring I went to feed the critters in the barn.  A trap that I had on a high shelf had caught a rat by the tail.  It had crawled off, falling to the ground.  While it lay their in its missery, each Gray Boy in turn walked up and took turns wacking it with their little paws.  The other day, I saw the three of them playing “Pickle” with a mouse.

P1000240Bella is a great rodent patroller too.  She keeps the voles, mice, and chipmunks in check (sorry, those cute little striped guys lose their charm when they start taking one bit out of every tomato in a row).  Consider that the alternative is more black snakes in your yard.  Bella is also chief big-game rodent warden, taking on squirrles and opposums that seek shelter and a mid-night nosh in our garage.

A final reason to leave the hood up at night is that such rodents might just take a nap on your engine block and still be there when you turn it over.  All those belts whirling catch tails and other small body parts, making for a lot of noise and mess.  Leaving the hood up, lets the rodent patrol clear the area before you have too.

So, if you stay for an over night visit, we will leave it up to you to decide whether you wish to leave the hood down or up.

About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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15 Responses to Farm Life: Caught With Your Hood Down

  1. Mother Suzanna says:

    YIKES! Remind me never to drive my rental car up YOUR driveway! On another note: where in this list of rodent hunters is “TIPPY”? Out having other kinds of fun?

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Tippy herds things up, but does not touch them. Watch that flash of black run across the yard, corner something, then look around, “Hey, Bella, I got one over here! Come play with it…” Bella is on the search and destroy mission. I learned this (before Tippy came our way) one day while walking her on lead along our dirt roads. I noticed a groundhog about 40 feet ahead on the edge of the road. In a second, I had to decide whether to let go of the lead or have my arm pulled off. Before Bella even noticed the groundhog, I began running toward it. Bella took off throught the woods (with me dodging trees, lest the lead get tangled up), caught the groundhog, and broke it’s neck in one movement. No more squeeky toy. We had to visit its carcass every walk for the next couple of weeks, until some type of beetle turned it to fir and bones.

  2. I always enjoy your city-boy/country-fella transition – amazing bits of wisdom!

  3. Barneysday says:

    Had my car serviced a few weeks ago. In the garage was a new Masserati, with huge damage to the wiring throughout the car, even in the trunk. The owner had stored it in his barn during an extended trip, and returned to a car that wouldn’t run.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      I hear that those cute golden marmets (look like groundhogs to me) in your mountains can eat just about anything non-metal on a car. Guess that guy’s expensive car is no better protected than my work-horse vehicles against those sharp little teeth.

  4. I laughed when I came to the photo of the cat snoozing in the bird bath(?). The origin of her name was very amusing.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Oh, Maggie, such a tease. She likes to make poses such as that one in the bird bath, when the dogs are up on the deck and cannot get to her. We find her sauntering along the rock walls, rolling on the fire pit furniture, or perched in the apples trees. Those green eyes are always glaring a dare to come get her. The dogs go wild. Glad you enjoyed the chuckle… or should I have said, “Such perfect comment you make to this rare blog. Come much again soon.”?

  5. Barneysday says:

    In all the excitement about the cars, I forgot to mention our disaster at the hands of sharp-toothed invaders. We had just purchased a nice, string hammock for me to lie around in. We had the perfect spot, in almost constant shade, but open enough for the afternoon breezes to flow through.

    Mistakenly, I left it hanging there, its bright colors providing a wonderful view over my first cup of coffee in the morning.

    One day, we went to the “big City” for trips to the bank, car wash, doctor, and Costco. When we got back, a glance at the hammock showed a number of “strings” hanging down where they should not have been. Thought perhaps some local kids had done that, though we’ve never had that issue before.

    Closer inspection yielded ragged, unravelled edges. Only one culprit. A huge squirrel who had challenged my right to be there only the day before. We have these destructive, gray rodents everywhere, but I no longer see them as “cute.”

  6. cindy knoke says:

    My daughter came to visit and I was shocked when the mechanic told her rats had been in her engine. We live in similar places, albeit on different sides of the country. How cool is that!

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