Mousetraps – My First Product Endorsement

These traps really work!

These traps really work!

We have caught two mice in our house in the last month. No doubt they were seeking shelter from the winter weather, but that’s too bad. They picked the wrong house.

You see, over the nearly five years we’ve lived here, Handsome Hubby has waged war on more than a dozen mice. And he’s perfected his system of mouse hunting.

We do have a cat that comes into the house, but to our knowledge, she has only caught one mouse in our house. So her role in the mouse hunt is almost nonexistent.

Handsome Hubby uses and strongly recommends the JT Eaton brand of sticky mousetraps pictured here. He’s even purchased some for friends. We purchased this pack of four at a local farm/ranch supply store for $3.99. Upon the first sign of a potential mouse in the house, he places these pre-baited traps strategically along walls or alongside furniture since mice tend to snug themselves up against things as they move from place to place.

He’s tried the spring-loaded traps, and he’s tried other brands of sticky traps. None work as well as these. Few things are as frustrating as when a mouse is able to steal your bait without getting caught or stuck!

The downside to this method of catching mice, is that there really is no “release” option. You really must kill the mouse after it is stuck to the trap.

While I have not been able to kill any of the mice we have caught myself, I understand that it must be done. Handsome Hubby takes care of this task, because killing the mouse truly is a more humane option than letting it slowly die on its own.

Not only that, but if we were to release the mouse back outside, it would probably just find it’s way back into the house. And it might bring friends along the next time. There just aren’t that many other places for it to go around here.

The other downside to these traps is that they really are sticky – and not just for mice. Lots of other things get stuck to them including Busy Toddler and even the cat! These other items are easily removed, although some sticky residue generally remains for a short time. It’s a small price to pay for successful rodent removal!

I did find a source to buy these traps online at The WEBstaurant Store. It’s a bit disturbing that you can buy these at an online store that specializes in restaurant and food service stuff, but I guess I’d rather they get rid of any mice than ignore them. If you have a mouse in your house (or restaurant), you should get some of these, too!

My First Trip to the Ranch

This is the scene from the car window these days as we drive through the pasture to get to the in-laws house.

This is the scene from the car window these days as we drive through the pasture to get to the in-laws house.

Handsome Hubby and I became engaged while we were attending South Dakota’s land grant institution East River. I had never met his parents, so the first long weekend we had, we took the long trip across the state to his home and family ranch.

East River is predominantly farm country, and I was about to visit a ranch. At the time, I don’t think I considered the differences to be much more than subtleties. But after nearly 18 years of marriage to a rancher’s son, I have certainly come to understand that there are almost as many differences as similarities between farmers and ranchers. I noticed one difference right away on that first trip.

As we edged closer to the ranch as an engaged couple, it seemed as though Handsome Fiancé was somehow trying to prepare me for the visit. “This is a ranch,” he said. “It’s nothing fancy and there are cattle around.”

After a few statements like that, I said something like, “Well, it’s not like you keep the cattle in your front yard, is it?!”

As it turns out, the answer to that question depends on exactly what you consider the front yard.

It was spring – calving season – and we turned into the driveway of the ranch, crossed a cattle guard, and proceeded to make our way through a herd of cows and baby calves. About a quarter mile later we crossed another cattle guard, leaving the pasture, and made our way towards the house.

I sat speechless. Technically, I suppose, the pasture wasn’t exactly the front yard, but I had sure never driven through someone’s pasture on the way to their house. East River you drive up to the house first and the barn and cattle (if there are any) are generally behind the house.

I’ve gotten used to the concept now. In fact, for a few weeks at certain times of the year our visitors must drive through a herd of cattle before reaching our house, as well. I’m sure some of them think it’s strange. But now I just wish that we had a second cattle guard at our place – because that sure would save on having to get out and open the gate!

City Girl from Farm Country Moves to the Ranch

I grew up in one of the largest South Dakota communities on the east side of the state, or East River as South Dakotans say. Agriculture east of the Missouri River in South Dakota consists mostly of growing crops with some livestock production done primarily to supplement income.

My family moved to the country, just a few miles outside of town, the summer before I started ninth grade. But we didn’t choose country life for agricultural purposes. My father is a diesel mechanic, and he wanted to build a large shop for his work. The only animals we ever had were my mom’s Shih-Tzu and a few outside cats, and the closest thing my dad did to farming was to plant and tend a shelter belt of trees around our place.

Uncles, aunts and cousins, however, exposed me to farming as I was growing up. There were cows to milk, sheep to shear, corn to combine, and hay to bale. I spent weeks visiting these relatives during my summer vacations from school. I remember the farm talk, and I remember some of the actual activities. But overall my actual experiences were fairly limited.

My experiences are still limited, but I am learning more about country life and ranching all the time. It certainly is a lifestyle choice as much as it is a career.

Meet Calf “Red 100”

meetcalfred100Sports Girls shot this photo for me as we were leaving my in-laws place yesterday morning. It seems they are using red tags on the calves again this year. (See my previous post entitled, “How to Tell One Cow From Another.”)

Handsome Hubby’s family calves in February, so this little calf is probably about 2 months old.

February is a bit early for calving in South Dakota, but our family was sure thankful to be done calving by the time all the winter storms hit later in March. My father-in-law said all he had time for during those blizzards was to feed. He wouldn’t have had time or been able to get around well enough to check and sort cows who were about to calve.

The calves learned to stick close to their mothers during these storms, and thankfully it was never really that cold. So all faired well.

They were busy branding, castrating, vaccinating, etc. But I think they are about done, and I didn’t get any pictures of any of that (probably for the best). Maybe next year.

Speaking of next year, it’s almost time to start the cycle over again. The bulls get let out into the cow pasture May 1.

Duh … Let There Be Light!

When I told my sister on our recent visit that I loved the light inside of her new dryer, she looked at me kind of funny. “My old dryer had a light in it, too,” she said. “I’ll bet yours does, too. You probably just need to change the bulb.”

I have had my Maytag dryer for almost 15 years – since the year before Sports Girl was born. It’s served me well, but I don’t ever remember there being a light inside of it. But when I was doing my next load of laundry back at home, I checked it out.

Sure enough – I noticed a night-light sized bulb just inside the door at the top. I had to stoop over and look up to see it, but it was there. And by chance, I happened to have a replacement bulb just the right size – I had them on hand for use in the night light in Busy Toddler’s room.

So I replaced the bulb, and voila! I now have a light that comes on whenever I open my dryer door! It’s not quite as bright, but it works on the same principle as the light in my refrigerator, except I’m not embarrassed by how dirty it is inside of my dryer – which is a definite bonus.

On a similar note, a friend recently told me about her latest “Duh” moment.

“Do you know how to tell what side the gas tank is on from inside the vehicle?” she asked. I didn’t.

“There’s a rather large arrow by the gas gauge that points to it,” she explained. “Someone just pointed that out to me today. I never noticed it before.”

I checked the next time I got into my vehicle – the one I’ve owned for more than two years and have driven for 50,000 miles. And there it was – an arrow pointing towards the driver’s side, which is where the gas tank is filled.

There’s probably been a similar arrow on the gas gauge of every vehicle I’ve driven for the whole 23 years I’ve had my license. Had I known, I wouldn’t have ever had to open my driver’s side door and hang out to peer at the rear of my vehicle. I know I have done this more than once over the years to confirm the presence of the gas tank or lack thereof before pulling up to the pump.

I wish there could have been some solace for me in our mutual lack of awareness on this gas tank arrow, but I wonder … does she know there’s a light inside of her dryer? I’m afraid to ask.

How to Tell One Cow From Another

In my previous post I mention “Purple 44.” This is the method Handsome Hubby’s family uses to identify beef cattle.

Each year a different colored ear tag is used for that year’s crop, and each calf is labeled with the same number as his or her mother. So if Purple 44 had had a calf, it may have had a blue or yellow ear tag, but it would have also had the number 44 on it.

I wish I had understood this about 10 years ago. On one rare occasion, I was on horseback up in the woods helping check the cattle. For some reason and I honestly can’t remember what it was (although it probably had something to do with pairing up a cow and a calf), we were looking for the cow “Red 39.” I’m unsure of the exact number of the cow, and it’s really not relevant, but the color was definitely red.

At the time the cattle herd was mostly black, but there were some red ones intermingled. I checked every red cow I came across, but none had the number we were looking for on its ear tag. Actually, no one found the cow, and we gave up after much searching.

It wasn’t until after the horses were loaded into the trailer and we were seated in the cab of the pickup headed down the hill that somehow I came to realize we were looking for the cow with the red ear tag; the cow itself wasn’t necessarily red. In fact, odds were that she was black.

I hoped that I hadn’t been the one to miss the cow on our search that day. But now that the years have passed, I can laugh at my ignorance of ranch ways.

We Ate Purple 44 Tonight

I made a nice pot roast from the crock pot for supper tonight — complete with carrots, celery, onions and seasonings. As we were enjoying the savory meat, I informed everyone that we were eating Purple 44. In other words, we were eating the cow with the purple ear tag emblazed with the number 44.

We had looked this cow in the eye – more than once – but no one was upset about eating her. In fact, Sports Girl thought it was great.

Purple 44 actually spent most of last summer in the corrals just over the hill from our house. She ended up not calving or else she lost her calf last spring, and so she was being fattened to be butchered along with two steers Sports Girl has selected to “finish” and show in the county fair for 4-H. Handsome Hubby and Sports Girl provided the cow and two steers with thousands of pounds of corn and alfalfa hay – one five-gallon bucket and pitch-fork full at a time.

Unfortunately the steers never did get halter broke and weren’t tame enough to show. Handsome Hubby and Sports Girl attempted to get close to the steers, but Purple 44 actually seemed to interfere with the process. She must have been the “alpha cow” in the herd, if there is such a thing with beef cattle.

As the week of the fair eminently loomed, Sports Girl’s aunt came to help try to halter the steers one day. All the activity that ensued resulted in the ornery cow bashing through the panels that surrounded her pen and running off into the next field.

Purple 44 was missing for quite some time. In the fall a neighbor found her amongst their herd; the family brand on her left hip showed to whom she belonged. After this she was kept in a corral at the home ranch to be finished again, and then she was taken to the meat shop in February. We picked half of her up in three boxes a few weeks ago and now she’s in our freezer.

She doesn’t provide the most tender meat, and it is strange to know which critter we are actually eating. But at least no one’s too upset to stomach the meat.

The steers ended up in someone else’s freezer. We had spent too much money buying feed for them, and we needed to recoup some of our expenses. Besides, their meat was much too tender; we simply couldn’t enjoy such a guilty pleasure. I keep telling myself that a smart business owner never keeps his best products for himself.

So now I’ll be spending the next six months trying to tenderize the wild cow meat, and we can think of her ornery behavior every time we eat beef!

Nissan Pathfinder Falls Short, But What’s the Alternative?

I drive a Nissan Pathfinder, which is considered a mid-sized sport utility vehicle or SUV.

But I don’t drive an SUV just because it’s cool and I’m a soccer mom (although it is, and I am). I drive an SUV because I drive six miles on gravel roundtrip each time I leave my home, and we thought it would work best for our country lifestyle

The Pathfinder features four-wheel drive power and control. It also has plenty of clearance between the ground and the bottom of the vehicle. Lastly, it is constructed on a frame much like a pickup truck, so it should be better equipped to withstand the gravel roads than a car or minivan, for example.

We haven’t been completely satisfied with our Pathfinder, however. We’ve had some mechanical problems with the Pathfinder, which I’m sure I’ll address at another time. But our biggest complaint has been size; the Pathfinder isn’t nearly as spacious as we would like. Yet we’re hesitant to commit to something larger like a GMC Yukon or a Chevrolet Suburban. These vehicles come with a much higher sticker price in the first place, and then they consume even more fuel. What if the price of gas went back up to the $4 or even $3 per gallon range? I wouldn’t want to be filling one of those tanks, always wondering if there’s a whole in the bottom.

We looked briefly at buying one of the new crossover models on the market. But let’s be honest. Isn’t “crossover” just a new way to say “station wagon”?

I actually loved the Dodge Grand Caravan that I drove for almost eight years before we got the Pathfinder. But you almost can’t even get an all-wheel drive van anymore as manufacturers are focusing more on seats that fold up and disappear and other convenience configurations. And even if you could, there are still the clearance and unibody (lack of a true frame) construction issues.

So what’s a family of five who lives in the country to do? We’re hoping to drive this vehicle for at least another year and then decide. Perhaps a new and exciting vehicle model will come along. Or perhaps the nation’s energy crisis will be solved. We can always hope, right?

Feet of Snow + 40˚ Temps = Muddy Country Roads

The vehicle was so muddy that I didn't even have to blur out my license plate on this photo before posting it!

The vehicle was so muddy that I didn't even have to blur out my license plate on this photo before posting it!

The feet of snow we have piled around has started to melt with our 40-degree temperatures and sunny skies the last few days. The result? So far, just lots of mud!

And much of the mud was becoming attached to my vehicle – literally! I struggled all this week to overcome my urge to wash my Nissan Pathfinder. It would be like shoveling when it’s still snowing, I rationalized to myself.

But today I finally broke down and drove the car through the wash. My reasons were many including safety, image and practicality. Regarding safety, I couldn’t see a thing out my back window. And my image was on the line as I was planning to make some business stops. And finally, I thought it might make some practical sense to remove the mud before it got so thick that I could no longer get the vehicle through the garage door!

Look at all of the mud accumulated on my tire, wheel well and running board.

Look at all of the mud accumulated on my tire, wheel well and running board.

The mud hasn’t completely dried up, so I am driving slowly on the mucky three miles of gravel leading to our even-muddier quarter-mile driveway. But at least I can see out the back window – for another day or two, anyway!

Little Lamb Lost

If you watched the videos and did the math from yesterday’s post on our five lambs, you might have figured out that we have four ewes, but I only mentioned three of them lambing.

All four ewes actually did lamb. Unfortunately, the last one lambed at the start of the first blizzard two weeks ago, and her lamb did not survive. It was our first sheep loss since Sports Girls first started showing in 4-H almost six years ago. And while that’s a respectable survival rate, it didn’t make the loss any easier for us.

Handsome Hubby said the ewe, Cocoa, was acting strangely when he went out to feed the sheep at 7:30 a.m. But by the time Sports Girl went to check her again later that morning, she had given birth and the lamb was dead. It was Cocoa’s first lamb, so we really don’t know if she experienced any complications giving birth or if the lamb died as a result of exposure to the cold, snowy weather.

Sports Girl said Cocoa was nudging at her dead baby; that’s how she knew the lamb was there under a light dusting of freshly fallen snow. Sports Girl carried the lamb up to the house, but it was already cold to the touch and certainly wasn’t savable. It was heart breaking to watch Cocoa continue to sniff all around her pen for most of the day looking for her baby. She was new to this lambing stuff, but she knew things hadn’t worked out right.

Sports Girl said she felt a little guilty about not checking on Cocoa sooner, and I even felt guilty over not telling her to check on the ewe sooner. Who knows if it would have made a difference, but I’m sure next year we’ll all be more attentive when the sheep are due to lamb

And while I didn’t actually see Sports Girl cry, I think she probably did shed a few tears over losing the lamb. It’s certainly reasonable to think a 13-year-old girl would be affected by such a close encounter with death. I know I would have been at her age – it was actually still difficult for me at 38!