My wife recently gave me something that came with a strong hint.
The gift was a shop vacuum the size of R2-D2. The hint, I believe, was that it was high time for the lowest portion of our house to receive a thorough cleaning.
Our basement is an area that isn't really a part of our home. It's also a place of limbo, a space where things are stored until we finally decide to throw them out. The cellar's function is very similar to that of our refrigerator.
In the basement is where our furnace, hot water heater and a population of extremely fecund cobweb spiders live. That's if we're lucky. If we aren't so fortunate, other icky creatures might move in down there. And not just trolls or politicians!
The critters we fear and loathe the most - and by "we" I mean "my wife" - are mice. And no, I don't mean the kind that control computers.
Mice are a fact of life out here on the farm. This becomes more apparent when the weather turns colder and the rascally rodents think, "Look at that nice, warm house! I bet they wouldn't mind if I and some of my closest friends moved in for the winter. We won't take up much space. And we'll be as quiet as, well, mice. Promise!"
And they are quiet at first. Sooner or later they let down their hair and in the midst of an otherwise silent night, we - and by "we" I mean "my wife" - will hear a flurry of scuttling and scurrying. A decidedly unquiet mouse party is happening inside our living room wall!
My wife will issue a full report the next morning, since I tend to sleep through even the most riotous rodent rowdiness. Her account invariably ends with the phrase, "You have to get rid of those ucky old mice!"
I have oft pointed out that while the mice may indeed be ucky, they aren't necessarily old. In fact, the mousy merry-making may have involved some juveniles and possibly even babies. Such factoids never seem to assuage her unease nor dilute her strong sentiment that my mouse eradication duties should take top priority.
We have a dog, but he isn't a mouser. Sandy is a sturdy Golden Retriever who is possessed of an outsized friendliness. He's the sort of dog who would galumph up to a burglar with an expression that says, "Hi! You want to be my pal? Huh? Do you? How about a tummy rub? I'd hold the door open for a tummy rub!"
That's not to say that Sandy is a bad watchdog. It's more that he's the kind of dog who would simply watch if bandits paid a visit.
Cleaning the basement is a Herculean task. A person never knows where to begin! Plus cleaning the basement is an exercise in futility since it will soon, seemingly of its own volition, become cluttered once again.
But mine is not to reason why; mine is to tackle the basement!
Our new shop vacuum's crevice tool can instantly remove the most stubbornly embedded navel lint. And if one isn't careful, it might even attempt to remove the actual navel! Don't ask.
I quickly focused on the task at hand. Oh, my! My wife was certainly correct about the mouse parties! The evidence was everywhere in the form of little black specks scattered all about the basement. Either that or somebody has been running around downstairs while operating a pepper grinder. I wouldn't totally rule that out.
Once everything was vacuumed and bleached, it was time to commence offensive operations. This meant deploying poison and traps.
Glue traps are my preferred method for eliminating mice. Poison is OK, but seldom will a mouse do you the favor of expiring out in the open. News of its demise is usually communicated via vile olfactory developments. The need to mask such odors is why lutefisk consumption soars in the fall.
It's much more gratifying to find the repugnant rodent stuck fast in a bed of glue. A stream of squeaks and squeals fills the air.
The mouse makes a good deal of noise too, especially after hearing all those sounds from my wife. But I feel it's my duty to show her the fruits of my anti-mouse crusade.
I don't understand mouse-speak, but gather from their vocal inflections that our glue-trapped guests are cursing mightily.
"We don't tolerate that kind of language in this house!" I'll say as I toss the mouse out.
Now that the basement is clean, it's time to tackle the garden shed. I have WAY too much stuff out there, but I seem to recall that there's some open space in the basement.