April 30, 2013

Points East: Got a surprise when looking for mice

By Ike Adams

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — There is a little shelf, high on the wall, just inside my garage door, where I keep a whet stone and half a dozen inexpensive, but razor- sharp, fillet knives out of the reach children and most other people who should not be handling dangerous cutting tools.   

I haven’t needed the knives recently because the water has been too high to fish, but tonight I need to put an edge on a cheese knife and couldn’t find my Amish knife sharpener.   I went to the garage to get my stone and found that both knives and stone were completely covered with a conglomeration of dead grass and feathers about the size of a shoe box.  In other words, what appeared to be the work of some industrious field mice.

I like field mice, but not so affectionately that I’m going to allow them to deny me access to my knives,  so I reached up with both hands to grab the mess, intending to throw it out in the pasture where field mice are supposed to dwell in the first place.

Before I even touched the “nest” there was a loud, angry, scolding, downright alarming “che-che-che- che-che-che-che-che !!!!!!!!!!!!!! from up in the rafters followed by thump on my cap and then the flapping of wings beating at my ears.   I fell backwards out the door, landed on my behind on the asphalt while a father wren perched on the door knob and continued to give me pure screaming hell and continued to literally dare me to make one false move.

At least I’m assuming it was the father because when I got up, mindful of the complaining bird, I looked back inside and noticed what I assume to be the mother,  with her head poked out of a hole in the mess of grass and feathers.  She cocked her head sideways. took in the scene, and seemed amused but not the least bit frightened by my presence.   

And there’s a reason why. I have absolutely no way of knowing for sure, but I would bet a hundred dollars that she is the same Mama who raised two broods of baby wrens on our front porch last spring and summer. One of these broods happened in the top of a Bluegrass Hardware shopping bag sitting on a bench on my front porch.  The bottom half of said shopping bag contained about forty dollars worth of garden seed that I’d purchased the week before.

I had to go back to the store because there was no way I was going to disturb the wrens. I’m currently hoping that last year’s mammouth melting sugar peas, bodacious sweet corn, Roma II beans,  and couple dozen bedding plant seed will sprout this spring. But that’s another story. Suffice to say that I’ve kept m y seed  this year in a rubber maid box that is not open to the feathered public.

Later in the summer, the same wrens nested in an asparagus fern hanging right beside out front door and they didn’t even complain when we carefully watered the plant while making sure the nest was not disturbed.

So I’m guessing that Mama has found a new man and that he’ll get used to me soon enough. I’m also guessing that she figures that as long as she has her nest on something important to me, she will get my attention and  I’ll pay close attention to her welfare.  

And, of course, she’s absolutely right. I believe I can get at least one or two knives out from under the nest without bothering the birds when the bluegill commence biting before the first of May, but the whet stone will have to stay there for the next few weeks. When the first brood finally fledges, I’ll remove my belongings and build another shelf.  I intend to let the nest stay right where it is and hope it becomes a permanent home. Which is to say that I have infinitely more affection for wrens than I do for field mice.

In the meantime, I have found a rat-tail chain saw file in the garage and it has served the purpose needed by my cheese knife. The blade’s edge is a bit ragged but the good Wisconsin babySwiss sliced thinly enough and the taste was unaffected. Come Monday I’ll venture over to Granny’s Amish Country Store on 39 between Crab Orchard and Lancaster to purchase a new whet-stone and one of those dandy little sharpeners for when I’m in a hurry. There’s a bunch of other stuff I need from over there anyway and I’m betting the wrens already knew it.