Dealing With House and Garden Pests

Reader Contribution by Anna Twitto

An unpleasant surprise – a black scorpion we discovered in our bathroom cabinet.

Having lived in town for most of my life, I experienced a kind of shock when we married and moved into a little house on a plot of land. The critters that have invaded our premises over the years could form a small menagerie: we’ve had lizards, snakes, black scorpions, giant yellow centipedes, mice, rats, spiders and, of course, a whole host of insects – beetles, ants, woodlice… you name it.

At first my reaction was very visceral: grab a bottle of insecticide! Spray the creepies until they’re good and dead! But thankfully, over time I began understanding the many dangers of using chemicals, not to mention the ecological imbalance thus introduced to our surroundings. For example, poisoned mice may in their turn poison beautiful and beneficial birds of prey. So in the past few years we try hard to live in harmony with our surroundings and incorporate bio-friendly methods of pest control.

Indoors, this first and foremost means, again, good insulation. This is really very important. If there’s a large crack under the door, it invites mice to get in.

Another no-brainer is keeping counters, floors and work surfaces clean (can be a challenge in a house with kids, I know!). Trails of crumbs on the kitchen counters and under the table will attract various critters.

One natural mice-repelling tip many people swear by is placing swabs of cotton wool dipped in peppermint oil in strategic locations throughout the house. Apparently mice, which have a very sensitive sense of smell, dislike the sharp odor of peppermint oil. I tried this and, in fact, never saw traces of mice inside the house again, but can’t say if it’s thanks to the peppermint oil or to the two kitties that came to live with us at the same time period.

Speaking of cats, I really must say that ours are by far the most effective tools of pest extermination we’ve ever tried. They will go for snakes, large beetles and, of course, mice (but never chicks, as they’ve been brought up with chickens and see them as companions). I’d encourage every homesteader to have a couple of good cats around.

Owls are also fantastic when it comes to getting rid of mice. In our old house we used to have a barn owl that made our yard her territory, and from seeing dozens of mice scurrying around the chicken coop to pick up remnants of feed, we soon went to noticing almost none at all – she just picked them all off. You can try to encourage owls to come and live near you by providing suitable nesting boxes.

We also acquired some humane mouse traps which allow catching a mouse intact and re-locating it far enough from the house, but this can be time-consuming if you have a lot of mice.

In the garden, our chickens are fantastic about picking up all sorts of bugs, caterpillars, grasshoppers and centipedes, but this is a double-edged sword as they also love to snack on our precious plants. So this is a balance we constantly seek to improve, but there’s no doubt we get a good measure of bio-friendly pest control from our chickens. I’ve heard guineas are even more effective for this purpose, especially in picking off ticks.

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna’s books are on her Amazon.comAuthor Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blogRead all Anna’s Mother Earth News postshere.

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