So after a short road trip and visit with relatives over Christmas, the Old Lady and I returned home yesterday tired but happy. As we settled back into The Bunker here in Eastern Krasnovia, I started breaking down the family truckster’s load plan and began putting stuff away. That’s when I noticed that something was amiss in Ye Olde Man Cave. As I looked over at my food supplies I noticed the unmistakable signs of mice—their droppings evident and difficult to ignore.
This wasn’t the first time we’ve had the perimeter here breached by the little furry devils, I remember when I foolishly left a bag of deer corn in the garage before departing for a short year-long holiday in sunny Afghanistan. The Old Lady informed me a few months into my luxurious stay there via e-mail that we had a significant number of them firmly entrenched in the garage, jealously guarding the sack of corn. She being the stoic, unflappable individual that she is, took to the task of slaughtering the little monsters like a true professional. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration… she may have screamed a lot, and used the words “Eewwww!” and “Ick!” while executing the unenviable task whilst I was away. I can’t say for sure since I actually didn’t witness the Global War On Rodents firsthand, but believe me, when I got back I heard all about it. And she was kind enough not to clean up any of the mess in the garage—it was all waiting there for me to clean up when I returned from the deployment. Joy unbounded.
In any event, we have had one or two minor incursions since then and it gets a very quick and visceral reaction from the Old Lady. She gets worked up into a blood lust—berserker style (not to be confused with Gangnam Style… but I digress)—and lets me know in no uncertain terms that I am to get hot taking them down. Hard. Picture Vietnam-era search and destroy operations at The Bunker, sans napalm. And indirect fire support.
So where was I? Oh yeah, mice in the prepper food pile.
You see, I’ve got my preps nice and organized and even inventoried with dates of purchase on everything. I’m pretty much an unorganized, procrastinating slob by nature whose personal mantra is “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute!” I live by this rule in all things, except when it comes to preps—where I become this hyper motivated Type-A personality that cannot accumulate stuff fast enough, who catalogues everything and makes detailed plans for all things SHTF-related. I guess it’s the Infantryman in me—always planning and preparing for the worst possible scenario. So when I saw that my food supplies may have been compromised by rodents, I immediately went into action.
I saw some detritus next to one of my boxes so I opened that one up first and looked straight into the darkest depths of Hades. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I still felt like I was messing with that little black puzzle box and was fully expecting Pinhead to be standing right behind me ready to say something like, “We have such sights to show you!” Okay, I think I just dated myself… whatever.
The contents of the box formerly held Mountain House freeze dried food. Now it contained chewed up Mountain House bags and a liberal supply of mouse poop.
Yes, you caught me. I have been working all day trying to figure out how to put the words “liberal” and “mouse poop” in the same sentence. Mission-fucking-accomplished!
Oh, and you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t come to the point of this whole treatise yet. That’s because I’m drinking Smirnoff vodka and writing. That’s what happens when I drink and write, I ramble a bit and shit gets real. So just be patient.
I inspected Ye Olde Man Cave and found what we in Afghanistan affectionately referred to as “Rat Lines,” only these were actually created by mice. Go figure. Anyway I put down a shitload of those glue pads and strips at choke points where the little bastards would be canalized, just like we used to do in Hohenfels at the Combat Maneuver Training Center. Except instead of employing wire/mine obstacles and using pre-planned artillery and mortars and liberal amounts of crew-served weapons and DPICM, I used a glue pad designed for spiders and mice. Pretty much the same concept though, put your most casualty-producing weapons in their avenues of approach and they will come. More or less.
After that I donned some old clothes, a surgical face mask, some rubber gloves and grabbed the vacuum cleaner with hand-held hose and got to work. As I pulled the box of Mountain House bags apart and put them in the trash, some of the mice got spooked and made a break for it… straight into my glue-pad ambush. It was a thing of glory. A work of art. A masterful maneuver if I do say so myself. And as I continued to work two small mice in an adjoining box poked their little heads out only inches from me—brave little cusses, I’ll give them that—and watched me haul their food away. The whole time I was speaking to them, giving them full warning that they had made me very angry and that my wrath was great, and that they would suffer terribly for their insult. They had been warned.
Later after hauling out the Mountain House flotsam and jetsam, I moved to the next box… the mouse sanctuary. They scattered like… well, like mice frankly. And they ran into an L-Shaped Ambush constructed of glue pads. The body count was beginning to mount.
Now, for those of you with no experience with the glue strips, they do not kill the vermin. The vermin simply get stuck and cannot escape. And since I am a dark-hearted sonuvabitch, I left the mice in the traps and made them watch me dismantle their little safe haven. Cleaning and eradicating at the same time. The whole time I looked upon them squirming in the traps, squeaking up at me begging for their lives. I was not impressed, in fact I lectured them the whole time on how they should not have angered me and that I was going to bring a great punishment upon their kind. And by doing that I renewed my resolve to go through all of my not-insignificant foodstuffs inspecting all of it to ensure that it had not been despoiled.
When I finished I cleaned up the area with a bleach solution and took out the trash. And when the butcher’s bill was tallied it turned out that the damage was isolated to a single box. The food-grade buckets were untouched and the MRE’s survived pretty much unscathed. Some of the MRE’s had the outer bags nibbled on, but nothing was touched on the inside—which I would expect from an MRE. They ought to be able to survive such a thing, and they did. The food-grade buckets were like Kryptonite to the mice and there was no damage there. The only thing affected was the Mountain House bags, which my small furry friends chewed through with little effort. Luckily for me, I had very little Mountain House on hand and it was pretty old. In fact the stuff that the mice got was purchased over ten years ago and it amounted to little more than a day’s worth of food. So while it was a big mess, I ended up only losing a tiny portion of my food—and stuff that was fairly old to boot. At the end of the day I consider myself lucky and I was able to draw a few lessons from this.
1) Food-grade buckets are terrific protection for your long-term food storage preps. They seem to provide a good deal of protection from vermin, and that’s a big deal.
2) Obviously my canned food was untouched. Mouse teeth cannot generally get through metal.
3) MRE’s are good to go. I’ve got civilian and military MRE’s… and both repelled the mice effectively and that was reassuring.
4) Anything stored in a plastic bag is vulnerable and should be reinforced. If you’ve got food stored in bags you should think about sealing them in buckets or some other material to make it tougher for rodents or other vermin to penetrate.
The bottom line is that if your foodstuffs are vulnerable you may lose them not to looters, but to tiny creatures that steal from you while you sleep. That could amount to elevating a bad situation into a desperate one, and that is something you should think about.
I learned today that not only should I stock, catalogue, and inventory my food—I need to reinforce and routinely inspect it. If you invest the amount of time and money that I do toward storing food in preparation for adversity, then you should invest the time and effort toward making sure that it is safe and secure.
Your family’s future may depend on it.