Guest commentary: Home for the summerMost years, like this year, we find we need to leave our little cabin in Lake County and return to the Chicago area for a little while. And. Like this year, I often come back by myself for a last visit.
By: Jan Kent for Lake County News-Chronicle, Lake County News Chronicle
Most years, like this year, we find we need to leave our little cabin in Lake County and return to the Chicago area for a little while. And. Like this year, I often come back by myself for a last visit.
Leaving the cabin for a short period of time isn’t much of a job. The refrigerator needs to be checked for things that might go south before we get back. It took only one batch of mac and cheese covered with fuzzy blue mold, to make conscientious fridge police out of us. Then, close and lock the windows and doors.
All the food has got to go. I usually make a quick run to the food shelf and give them cans and jars of things we would never eat, but have been left with us by well-meaning visitors. Anyone who has a summer place will understand that. The only things—sort of food—that we leave are salt, baking soda and sugar, all sealed up in glass jars. Another check of the refrigerator, this time emptying it completely, giving it a quick scrub, and propping open the doors.
Next, I need to walk around our screen porch and outside to rustle up all the whimsical cabin things we’ve accumulated over the years. There’s the miniature log house a cousin made for us one summer when we gathered here for a family reunion. There are glow-in-the-dark dragon flies, a bell made from an old propane cylinder, many, many rock creations stored on sills in the porch. The bird feeders have to come down.
There are really important jobs—pulling the pump, blowing out the water lines, putting up storm windows, climbing up on the roof and covering the chimney—that, more and more we leave for the person who does the final close-up for us. We’ve been coming to this cabin for more than 20 years, and it seems we haven’t gotten any younger.
But a really critical job us one I do just before I shut the door and close the padlock. That’s the mousetrap routine. We’ve got the old spring-loaded mousetraps (the kind that can really smash a finger). A giant box of them came with the cabin, so we knew what we were in for. Over the years we’ve shut down a lot of mouse routes, but we’re not foolish enough to think the mouse problem is solved for good. We’ve got newer, plastic snap traps, too. We bait them with rancid peanut butter we’ve kept for years, just for that purpose.
We all know, however, the saying that goes, “The second mouse gets the cheese.” A while back, someone up here told me about the bucket trap. It’s made from one of those big ol’ white five-gallon buckets. Probably lots of you know about this trap, but when I saw my first one, I all but wept. I drilled two holes near the top rim of a bucket and suspended an empty pop can using wire. The top of the can is baited with peanut butter. I’ve never witnessed it, but I can picture what happens. Along comes an optimistic mouse who smells the peanut butter, walks the wire, jumps onto the can and gets flipped into the bucket. The bucket is half filled, and since it will get below freezing in the cabin, we add anti-freeze to the water.
Last year we had no mice in our bucket trap. The year before-well, it’s hard to tell. My husband had the best advice—don’t look.
Another summer is almost gone, another winter coming along. We’ll check out the bucket in the spring.
Jan wrote her column “ Home for the Summer” from 1993- 2008. Some readers will remember her. We’re so pleased that she will be sharing more of her thoughts when she returns to her cabin in Lake County next summer.