Another Day in the Country

Mice in the pantry

© Another Day in the Country

While I was gone this summer, mice invaded my pantry.

I have no idea how they got in or where they went after they ate the DeCon, but I know they were there. What a mess!

They had parties in the corners. You could tell they had invited guests who were messy.

They feasted on quinoa and chewed into packages of rice noodles.

They left their calling cards on the tops of the cans.

They even tried out the dehydrated gluten shreds which work in lieu of meat in chili; they didn’t like them and ate more plastic chewing into the package than chowing down on vegetarian products; but who wants to eat the rest? Not me.

The same thing happened last summer. When I got back I did some lightweight sweeping up and clearing off, but I really didn’t have time (I thought) to get into the real nitty gritty and remove everything from that room and really clean!

Well, after the second hit, deep cleaning was a must. Every time I went back into the pantry I said to myself, “You’ve got to get this cleaned up.” Then I started saying things like, “This is disgusting!” and “Why haven’t you already done it? You’ve been back for a month!”

What all this self-chastising did was make me grit my teeth at night and didn’t do a thing for the cleanliness of the pantry. I did stop putting anything new in there.

When I got diced tomatoes on sale, I sat them on the counter in the laundry room and didn’t take them into the pantry and you know why! I had to clean that room before anything else went in, remember?

When I shredded all that cabbage from the garden and made it into sauerkraut, did I put it in the pantry? No!! It sat on my cabinet in the kitchen for two weeks. My cousin stopped by and she said, “Oh, you made kraut! Why haven’t you put it on the shelves in the pantry? Do you need help?” Oh, the “help” word!

Nonchalantly, I told her the mice story and how I had to clean everything before I could add anything new to the mix. I think it was then that I realized that I did need some help.

This pantry was originally my mother’s. She kept it full to the brim! On the highest shelves are boxes and boxes of canning jars, all of which the mice seemed to have visited. There’s a high shelf with her bottle capper that I use when I make root beer (once in a blue moon). There’s my parents’ old hand-cranked ice cream freezer with a bag of salt. There are miscellaneous thermos containers that Dad used to keep in the trunk of his car, along with his hand soap, towels, and tools, long before the days when bottled water was an easy thing to come by. There are emergency supplies like a “crate” of healthy breakfast bars, “just in case” and a bottle of wine dated 2000 in honor of the millennium. There’s the colander for making applesauce—you get the idea. This and more, plus rows of canned tomatoes and grocery supplies.

This week, after our Sunday ritual breakfast, I asked my sister for help.

“Maybe for starters just climb the ladder and hand me stuff?” I said.

She said she would, gladly; but I hadn’t a clue that this job would last all day! We had categories of removals all over the house, literally on every counter and table so that Jess could wash down the walls with soap and Clorox!

During this whole procedure, I was processing much more than cleaning up mouse droppings.

First of all, me asking for help is a rare occurrence. I’ve always been the one to do the helping. You can see this was a necessary lesson, albeit difficult!

There was grief for more than the loss of macaroni products. So many decisions.

For instance, what to do with this shelf of hot pepper jelly that Tooltime Tim helped me make and no one else seems to love quite as much? How sad that Tim died. That jelly, made in 2007 is getting old so I threw most of it out.

And what to do with all these empty canning jars? How sad that I don’t can as much.

How sad that times are changing and I no longer have a family to feed and big events to plan for.

How sad that I’m not as strong as I was 20 years ago or as carefree on ladders.

Tears filled my eyes as I cleaned. Who knew that this sad awareness of how time changes everything was what kept me from cleaning that pantry?

Well, we got the job done. Everything is squeaky clean and organized. My soul was gently cleansed in the process. There are even empty shelves waiting for new things to happen and memories to preserve on another day in the country.

Last modified Sept. 14, 2016