Anyone off grid has pest stories to tell, we move right in with them when we move into nature. Our pest story is all about mice and ants. Ants have been pretty easy to deal with, I removed them from our on grid house in the past. The ants here seem just as easy to deal with. We get what I believe are field mice, or some kind of little mouse. I’m in no way an expert on mice. From what I can tell from my research, the poops and food they have eaten from are telling me mice. I also saw one…cute but eeewww!
First the ants. Their quick to find the stickiest little thing here. Being proactive can keep them from invading our space in the first place. I’m careful to wipe down the kitchen, give it a good evening cleaning and wipe down things like honey food containers. I use fist clean with an antimicrobial cleaner I make then I disinfect with my home made disinfectant. I let it sit for 10 minutes. All disinfectants, made with man’s or Gaia’s ingredients doesn’t matter, needs to site on a surface for 10 minutes to work. We leave no food or crumbs out at all. Ants need a reason to invade. For the most part we do pretty good keeping ants away however, every now and then we get forgetful or don’t notice something that may attract them.
There are many essential oils that deter ants, I choose cheap peppermint oil. You can certainly use more expensive essential oils, the ants dislike them equally. I save my organic, more expensive essential oils for our apothecary products and our personal products. Peppermint isn’t the only options, ants don’t like cinnamon, eucalyptus and many other aromas, many in the Mint Family. Finding one you like is important, the oil will leave a fragrance in you home so make sure it’s one you like.
I did a little experiment…a few times as I have shown others as well. If you put a drop of peppermint oil in an ant’s path, it will turn around and go in the opposite direction. If you put it in the path of many ants, they all will retreat. It’s a great way to deter them without harmful chemicals. I put the oil where they come in as well as where they might go…the counter, around the propane cooker, etc. You can also sprinkle dried peppermint leaves, tea form is great for this. It’s a bit messier but will do the trick. You can also make your own peppermint oil by infusing peppermint into oil. Either dry or fresh peppermint works. You can also warm it up slightly and let it steep. This is not essential oil.
The second pest is the mice in the outdoor kitchen. These guys aren’t as easily deterred as the ants, they take a bit more work. They, much like the ants and other critters, do not like peppermint. Our kitchen is currently a temporary outside kitchen covered in tarps on plastic pallets. It’s not exactly critter proof. We do keep everything in sealed totes to keep both critters and moisture out. Until we get the permanent kitchen built, I’m going to need to put a few minutes of time every evening into pest control.
In the evening, I clean the kitchen really well and make sure all food is put away. I put anything I don’t want critters crawling on into sealed plastic totes. I focus on not leaving anything out that could give mice a reason to visit us. I then sprinkle peppermint tea leaves all over the counters and floor in areas they get in. I use peppermint oil in areas they enter and around anything I don’t want them near such as the entrance to the hot tent.
So far this is working. They key is remembering to put the peppermint out. I’ve forgot a few times but it wasn’t so bad because the kitchen was clean. I did see a few mouse poops, like they were just passing through. I still disinfected everything. I know it’s excessive, I don’t deny that. One of our motivating factors to moving out here is to get healthier. I would rather be a little excessive than to get sick or eat whatever critters leave behind.
So far these methods of deterring ants and mice are working well. From this experience we know to be mindful about how well build our permanent kitchen. These experiences are great learning experiences. Another use for peppermint is in the garden. I’m sure mice are out there, I don’t know what the mystery critters are. I go out to the garden every morning and there’s nibbled on plants and others missing completely. The critters love the garden, I can’t blame them. I love the garden. There’s nothing more delicious and healthy than heirlooms grown in our own back yards. The critters are very impatient, they won’t let a plant grow beyond seedling size. I experimented by putting peppermint tea on all the plants that the critters like to eat. So far it’s working!
Let’s be realistic here…we are growing crops in the middle of the woods where just last year at this time was uninhabited by humans. We moved onto their land. The presence of bugs and critters is to be expected. We’re here to live symbiotically with Mother Nature, not to harm her or her creatures. As long as we can deter a pest we will go that route. I would rather keep a critter or bug away than to kill them, we don’t need that energy here. We do understand that this may not always be the best option. When we are able to use it, we will.
I’d love to hear about your critter story! How do you deter or get rid of them? What are your experiences?