In his first column as our rural affairs correspondent, Charles Mitford Cust tells of the stags rutting near his Devon home and discovers a remedy that sends mice on their merry way
Down here in deepest Devon, the red deer rut has started and the majestic sight of the powerful stags proudly displaying their magnificent new antlers, freshly out of velvet, is an everyday occurrence on the hill opposite my house. At night my sleep is disturbed by their roaring, the primeval challenge to rivals for the possession of the beautiful young hinds in the locality. No political correctness in the deer world, the biggest and strongest stags get all the girls, and the wimpy nerds go without.
However, it is not the roar of the stags which has been disturbing my sleep for the last few weeks but rather creatures from the other end of the animal kingdom, at least in terms of size, which have moved into my loft since the early autumn has brought its customary evening chill, namely mice.
Mice can be a serious problem in any house. They have a penchant for eating their way through electrical cable amongst other things and if left alone, breed prodigiously and become a real health hazard. Unfortunately my mice are old hands at avoiding any conventional methods of reducing their numbers. I have tried every type of trap that has ever been invented and every sort of bait, cheese, chocolate, peanut butter, the lot. I also have tried every type of poisoned bait, but they simply laugh at my efforts.
In frustration, I splashed out on the most expensive mouse trap ever designed which consists of a labyrinth of tunnels leading to an electric execution chamber which supposedly fries the mouse in a millisecond with a high voltage shock. Despite the manufacturers claim that this is the most effective mouse killing device ever devised by man, my ‘uber mice‘ merely regarded it as an amusing challenge as they ate their way through the hard plastic wall of the execution chamber and helped themselves to the peanut butter whilst managing to stay clear of the 1000 volt electrodes.
In despair, I turned to Google in my search for ancient remedies, as clearly the latest technology wasn’t working, and I found a most unlikely solution, peppermint oil. It turns out that the one thing mice really cannot stand is the smell of peppermint. It seems that your average mouse would rather face being dropped into a house full of cats whose senile owner has accidently got on a plane to Australia and left them starving than find themselves within a mile of a single drop of pure peppermint oil.
Just the scent of this wonderful smelling liquid, was enough to send my mice packing. In fact when I went up into the loft with the intention of placing a few drops in half a dozen upturned bottle tops, I actually saw mice scurrying from their hiding places within a single second of unscrewing the lid. That was proof enough for me.
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Now my loft is perfumed with the sweet scent of peppermint rather than mouse droppings and the only noise at night is the roar of the stags, but they are music to my ears and finest lullaby nature can provide.