Letter Re: Food storage and vermin

I don’t think that the importance of keeping your food stores safe from all sorts of vermin has been discussed here on this forum.  I really never thought about it truthfully.  I have been gathering long term stores, inventorying them, rotating my stock, refreshing my water every 6 months and fleshing out my medical kits and emergency lighting.  I have faithfully vac packed my pasta, my matches and boxes of oatmeal.  My grains are in 5 gallon buckets and my flour is in a bin with a lid that closes tightly with a snap and a seal.  I have avoided cardboard containers for everything except holding my  #10 cans where I have not built or bought shelving yet.   BUT, two weeks ago, I found a bag of rice crackers in the room adjacent to my larder/storeroom with a small, thumbnail sized hole at the bottom and some of the contents missing!  I checked and in the kitchen and yup, you guessed it a cereal box with the same little round hole…. I started looking harder and found little black turds along the floor at the baseboards between my kitchen and my storeroom.  MICE!!!!


Now, let me be quick to say, I live in suburbia, in a nice home, grass kept manicured, school buses run back and forth by the front of my house, etc.  Bottom line is…….  mice are  something that we are used to dealing with in the country.  My grandparents’ farm had mousetraps, the barn had barn cats to keep the mice down, we kept horse feed in galvanized trashcans with tight fitting lids…. that was where we had and dealt with MICE, not my home in the ‘burbs!!!!

Long story short, I went by Tractor Supply, got traps and appropriated my husband’s jar of peanut butter and have thus far dispatched two of the little buggers.  Thankfully they were small mice and not rats, but IF I can have mice in my storage room, then I am assuming that anyone can.  I found where I think they came in…. the dryer vent that is open to the outside and I have since mouse proofed that with 1/4″ hardware cloth screening, but these little buggers can even come in through the garage door, etc.

I think mouse proofing, or critter proofing your hard earned supplies should be a topic that is discussed.  Things in Mylar are not safe from gnawing teeth, cardboard is not safe, anything in store containers of plastic is not safe from contamination and theft and let’s face it, mice breed, well, like mice.  With an abundant supply of food, thanks to us preppers, their numbers will explode if not found and eradicated early.  I think we are more used to thinking about bug infestations and not so used thinking about rodents.

Mouse Proofing might be a good issue to explore both for awareness that mice can “happen” anywhere and secondly, how to deal with them if you even suspect they are in your food stores.  It could make for a lively discussion.  🙂

Thanks for your ear.

K. Steelman

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  1. I’ve had good success using the name brand “Bounce” regular drier sheets as a deterrent. I toss one down in the floor of the pantry or tuck one into the shelves. Haven’t had any more mice since I found out about this trick. If we are away for a extended period we even tuck one under each exterior door or any other entry point. We tried other brands of drier sheets but they just didn’t work. Something about the plain old “regular” Bounce sheets really turns them away. We change them out every other month or so. I put a couple out in my storage shed/barn that mainly holds old boxes or junk and haven’t seen anymore droppings since.

  2. Back in the ‘good ole days,’ one would literally set aside a day for ‘rat killing.’ Mice and rats will gnaw through plastic barrels to get at food. They will eat the insulation off electrical wiring. Their parasites will cause disease.

    We buy Ropax rat killer poison by the drum. The hole through the poison bait is useful for nailing the bait to an exposed 2×4 or suspending with a wire tie. Ropax kills warfarin resistant rodents.

    I’ve only had one dog get into the poison. I dosed it liberally with hydrogen peroxide (which causes vomiting in dogs). Dog promptly vomited up blue granules (the Ropax) and I put it on Vitamin K therapy.

    Dog lived. Rats died.


  3. K – We live on a farm and have lots of rodents. We store everything in metal garbage pails (I wrap crackers, spaghetti etc in plastic bags and then place them in the garbage pails) Rats will eat through even thick plastic bins.
    We also have a large 24 foot by 3 foot long wooden bin with top loading lids
    that is lined with metal that we use for our horse and cattle feed and some of our preps. An old refrig or freezer will work also.
    Rat poison can affect critters you might not want it to( and if a child got into it they could die) and rats can die in walls
    and really smell atrociously.
    Our beloved Bassett hound got into it once and almost died- like PR we used vit K to save her.
    re : moths in cuppoards bay leaves or pepper are exc. deterrents.

  4. Our house is 125 yrs old, lots of experience with vermin. I use traps and poison, sometimes I have to put the trap on a rat size sticky for the smart ones. The poison dehydrated them so if you take a small bucket of water and put a rampup to it you will find it a lot easier to collect the dead ones.

  5. The bounce sheets work, but expose your family to toxic chemicals. A better way to rid yourself of vermin are to use mint plants. Totally safe and you. An use it for jellies, too.

  6. I used to leave a little grain in a 55-gallon drum in the shed. I then placed a “ramp” from the shelf to the bin. Invariably, the mice would fall into the barrel and become trapped. I also used mouse traps baited with peanut butter tied with thread. When the mice tried to lick the peanut butter, their teeth would get caught, and the trap would go off. We also kept poison next to the wall, because we didn’t have any animals or kids going in there. My greatest assets,however, were my chickens, whom I kept in the pen next to the shed, they were mouse eaters extraordinaire. No mouse or insect(and once, a young Roadrunner whom DH rescued) would escape if they tried to cross during the day. I would occasionally go in the shed and move anything I had down on the floor, to rout out any hiding mice. It was amusing to see the look of anticipation (yes, they had it) on my chickens’ faces. The Buckeyes are the best at mouse-catching. When we first moved there, I caught a black snake and put him in the shed. He lived in an old window air conditioner I kept on the floor and never moved. He was there, eating mice and doing his snakey thing, the whole 10 years we lived there. I would look up when entering the shed and sometimes see him coiled on one of the rafters. He did have a little hole he could get outside if he wanted to.

  7. We live in the city, but we have woods by our house and part of our property is wooded. We have 2 cats that make short work of the invaders and our backup is good old fashioned Victor wooden mousetraps. None of the plastic cheese smelling ones. With the Victor, you KNOW they’re dead. We tried D-Con but were afraid the cats would eat it. We used to use peanut butter, but now use bacon. Bacon can’t be licked off because you can wind it around the flat part that holds the bait and it dries to fit.

  8. Love the bacon idea, MI Patriot. To think of it, mice are a lot like us, lol. Gotta love that peanut butter and bacon! I’ve never heard of using mint, Mark. Thanks, sometimes the simplest solutions are the best!

  9. I’ve commented before that if the blacks want someone to idolize it should be Carver (who gave us peanut butter) not that plagiarizer and panderer, King.

    Having so said, peanut butter can trap most of us. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that peanut butter can spoil in hot weather (we always keep it in the refrigerator) and that it freezes really well. One of our freezers has gallons of peanut butter frozen brick hard. I can’t tell any taste difference between fresh store bought and thawed either. You preppers might want to think about freezing a few gallons. Its thawed shelf life is long enough that a family on a reduced diet could probably go through a few gallons before it went bad. The high calories would be especially useful during a period of hard labor such as one might expect immediately after a SHTF event.

    We keep all of our horse and cattle feed in metal trashcans which is the only thing we’ve found that will withstand rodent teeth.


  10. One thing to keep in mind too is the small bugs that get into your rice,……I dry can all of my rice, whether it’s for my home or my stash, because I guarantee within a few days there will be bugs in it. I always throw my rice in the freezer after buying it. The night before I’m going to can it I take it out of the freezer. I had bought a bag of rice about a month ago, and instead of putting it in the freezer my son put it in the pantry. When I cleaned my pantry last week I found this bag of rice and it was packed with bugs, the same thing happened to my pancake mix. How they got in the bag is a mystery to me, as neither packages had been opened. The only thing I can figure out is the eggs were already in there when I bought these items. My flour, sugar and oats I buy from Augason Farms…everything is sealed so I don’t have to worry.

  11. Mark-thanks.We have lots of mint.
    PR Did the peanut butter go bad AFTER it was opened or while it was sealed?
    I always freeze rice and wheat for a few days and then remove it from the freezer
    just in case theres any bugs/eggs in it. It works. Arlene

  12. Mark, is it the smell or the oils in the mint that keeps mice away? I only ask because we have a bumper crop of spearmint. Are the 2 interchangeable?

  13. Panhandle, have you tried the powdered peanut butter from beprepared? I’ts wonderful, and I now won’t eat anything else. It doesn’t take up much room, and the flavor is off the charts!

  14. Karen, yuck!

    I was living in Mobile when I first learned that peanut butter would go bad. I was trying to be tough and bear the heat and few days would see the air conditioner on. One day I opened the jar of peanut butter and it smelled, well off. After that the peanut butter was always kept in the refrigerator.

    Arlene, I thaw frozen peanut butter by placing it inside the refrigerator and then eat as usual. I’ve never had peanut butter go bad when kept in the refrigerator. Again, the thawed frozen tastes as good as that just off the grocery shelf.


  15. Hmmm, Panhandle Rancher, I grew up in Mobile, and still have relatives there! Too hot and humid for me anymore, and too many red ants…Boy, I sure could grow peppers and tomatoes and purple hull peas, though!

  16. PR-thanks. I just froze a few containers of PB. Where do you buy large containers-I havent ever seen it up here. We also have the freeze dried large can which someone else on the blog said is great- we havent tried it yet.
    Be well. Arlene

  17. I have never refrigerated my PB and I live in south Mississippi. I do keep the ac going though. I need to ask my mom but I don’t remember it being in the refrigerator and we didn’t have ac until I was 13. I always put flour, rice, pasta and baking mixes in the freezer for at least 24 hours. When I sold Tupperware we were told to do that because the bug eggs would be in them. The containers we sold would keep the bugs out but if they hatched in the containers they would eat their way out. You usually couldn’t see the holes but you would end up with bugs in the containers even after freezing because they now had a way in.

  18. Arlene,

    I just freeze the quart jars of Skippy.


    The copious rainfall makes it easy to garden. I remember what we called New Orleans Runners, the Palmetto bugs. When you turn on the lights, they run to New Orleans. My inlaws are from Mobile.

    I was young when in Mobile and physically very active even competing in some of the organized ‘runs.’ After a while the heat and humidity just felt good.


    My PB went bad over time. I had a traveling job when in Mobile and could be gone for months at a time. I’m sure that any PB exposed to heat would do better in the refrigerator.


  19. karen, you’re one smart exterminator!
    my grandparents lived in the n.c. smoky mountains. in the 70’s a large rat took up residence in their kitchen. they tried everything (well, almost everything–grandaddy wouldn’t allow cats in the house), but nothing worked. then one night grandmother ate a square of chocolate ex-lax and forgot to put the rest of the bar away. in the morning all the ex-lax was gone, and they found the dead rat a couple of days later!

  20. Good idea, teabag!! I’ll add Ex-Lax to my arsenal. I have a “rat” story too. When I was kid, I kept hearing a gnawing noise under my dresser. I’d hit the dresser and it would stop for a while. I told my dad, but he didn’t believe me.
    Then, it was discovered that there was a very, very large rat living under the dryer in the utility room.
    My dad and uncle got in there with wading boots and baseball bats, and went after it. It was the size of a house cat, and kept jumping at them and trying to bite them. They were screaming like little girls, but finally managed to bean the thing to death.
    Good Lord, it still curls my toes to think of it.

  21. Ok, teabag and Karen, I’ve a rattle snake in the house story. Off topic but in line with a good rat killing.

    It was back in the 80s. My son was about ten. We had been working on fence at our Texas ranch and I had killed a rattlesnake earlier that day. I was tired and after the evening meal, I went to bed. About 10pm my son woke me up and advised that a rattlesnake was in his bedroom. He already had all of the lights on. I got a largely unused cattle prod used to move difficult balky bulls. This thing has two brass contacts at the end of a yard long fiberglass rod. I mashed the button and electricity arced between the contacts. Sure I had a snake neutralizer (I didn’t want to shoot it in the house) I thought. I went looking for the snake. Looked in the closets, looked under the bed, under the dresser, but alas no snake.

    I went back to my room and no sooner fell asleep until the son called again. The snake was back. Are you dreaming, I asked him after once again clearing his bedroom. It might be in the wall he opined. He could hear it rattling and was quite insistent.

    Once again back to bed and once again wakened. This time I found my son in bed with the sheets pulled up around his neck. It’s in the wall he assured me. Once again I cleared his room and pulled up a chair to set with him. Well, in a few minutes I heard the unmistakable sound of an aroused rattler. It was in the wall I thought, just like the boy said. I tapped along the baseboard tying to localize the snake. Great, great, great, I thought a rattler in the wall. However will I get it out? The rattler buzzed again and there was a thump of something hitting the floor. Did it fall from the shutters or drapes I thought. Extending the cattle prod ahead I poked around near where I heard the thump. It was somewhere between my son’s bed and the wall. I moved the bed and what did I find?

    It was my pager (in those days before cellular telephones)! The pager was on vibrate and eventually vibrated itself off the shelf where my son had put it (after playing with it).

    Happy I was that there was no rattlesnake and even more so that one of the dreaded beasties hadn’t gotten into the wall. We finally got to sleep.

    A few years later the wife was bitten on the ankle by a rattlesnake out by the feed barn. She spent a week in intensive care and almost died. We declared war on rattlesnakes thereafter and no longer would I stomp them into the prairie. For those of you like I once was, looking at those things with contempt, I refer you toL http://rattlesnakebite.org/rattlesnakepics.htm.


    DH, who is a diabetic, almost stepped on one in the yard. Luckily, he saw it and backed away slowly. Unfortunately for the snake, he asked me to stand there and watch it while he went to get a hoe. Soooo, as the snake and I were quietly eyeballing each other, I whispered to him that he should probably leave very quickly, as “things were about to get real ugly.” Which, they did. I jokingly offered to cook it for the big hillbilly, lol, but he declined.

  23. All of my off-topic comments aside, I do need to ask a question. Since we now live, at least temporarily, in an apartment, I’m seeking out alternate places to stash my food storage buckets. I thought of our local mini storage, until I drove past and saw that someone had tried to break in to some of the units, and they were severely damaged. I live in a very, very small town. Anyway, if I do go with another storage unit, I’d like very much to protect my stock from mice and rats. Any ideas?

  24. Like I commented earlier, ROPAX is a proven rat and mice killer. It is available at your farm and ranch store in plastic buckets. I left a bucket hanging from a nail in our feed barn only to discover a rodent had gnawed through the bucket! Tractor Supply sells another brand with similar ingredients.

    Heat is the big killer for stored food. Most mini-storages are uninsulated and super hot in the summer. My son has some things stored in a cooled and monitored inside storage but I worry about his access.

    Some LDS store food under the beds.

    Karen, I lived in the big cities around the world when I was young, sometimes renting sometimes in my own (mortgaged) and way overpriced house. Kudos for living in a small town.

    Having been raised in Texas, I knew that there was nothing like owing a large chunk of land. Excess land gives one the options of growing food (crops or animal), accumulating all sorts of equipment and tools, and building whatever you wish. I hope all of the readers have a plan to someday own excess rural land.


  25. Panhandle, we do have 5 acres, but we are stymied because we must have a cabin, water and electric, and sewer set up before we can move. It’s the cost that’s killing us. I’m trying to work through those things one at a time.

  26. Karen,

    Depending upon zoning of your land (or hopefully the lack of it), you may be able to get by at least for a few years with a cesspool. These are nothing more than a lined hole in the ground with a cover that waste drains into. I had a 140 year old ranch house that drained into a cesspool for decades. We used what is locally called a ‘tin horn,’ which is an open 6′ diameter, round corrugated tin barrel buried a couple of feet below the surface. A metal lid was fabricated and after plumbing with a 4″ plastic pipe I covered the whole thing with earth. Of course I told the wife what would happen if she parked the tractor over the cesspool. Unlike septic system, these things depend upon the area of the barrel to percolate water into the soil. This rules out a lot of girls taking endless showers.

    On the other hand, Lowe’s Hardware sells everything you need to install your own septic system (especially if you have no zoning problems). Rent a backhoe, dig the laterals and holding tank area, drop in the plastic components, fill the tank with water and back fill. This is an easy weekend job.

    Water can be expensive, either to pipe from a water district or to drill a well. I recently drilled a dry 800′ well that cost more than 10k (down the proverbial drain). I hope to author a brief article on my rain harvesting system including filtration and disinfection. Unfiltered rainwater works great for a garden and it never has hurt my horses, cows, or dogs. We use filtered and sterilized rainwater for the first level toilets and bath tub and for the basement toilets and shower. The only pressure comes from elevation differential so it’s not like the shower will take the hide off. Toilets and bathtubs can fill slowly to pressure is not an issue.

    Electric, well you’re better off, off grid, but if you start with a small cabin for the weekends (that can be later added to) then a small solar system may make sense.

    In any event you should be congratulated for owning excess land and even more so for owning land in a rural area. That puts your family far ahead of all city dwellers.

    I lived in a large city for a decade until I could finally retire and we commuted to the family ranch most weekends with a list of things to be accomplished. I now have several places and am unemployed so my major problem is stopping work at the end of the day. In fact, I took this day off and just did nothing and it sure felt good. I try to never work for myself on Sundays either.

    Best wishes to you Karen.


  27. Thank you so much for your help, Panhandle…Unfortunately, I have made the decision that I must sell the land. My life depends on it. I am now in severe agony from a botched root canal, which has now become infected. The military did it, but the VA won’t fix it, and I can’t afford to get anything done. There is no help anywhere; I have to have oral surgery. I cannot eat, and can barely drink.

  28. Karen, I am sorry to hear about your mouth infection. The VA should be able to give you antibiotics. Please go to the ER. I will keep you in my prayers.Arlene

  29. Hi Arlene and Panhandle,

    Thanks, I appreciate your concern. I went to the civilian dentist and got some very strong antibiotics. So I’m holding my own right now, even though I will have to have extensive oral surgery. The dentist can’t do anything, because of all the root canals. I’m being very careful not to aggravate my teeth. I don’t feel up to par, but hopefully we’ll get the land sold soon, so I can afford the surgery. I’m going to ask to go ahead and have all my teeth removed so I can get dentures later. They look fine, but I have had many problems with my teeth. It seems like everyone in my family and everyone we ever knew who drank well water growing up where and how we did has bad teeth. I’ll keep you appraised.

  30. Karen,
    I was born down by Midland, Texas. The water there was gyp water. It yellowed my teeth as surly as if I were a lifetime smoker. To this date when I see a physician, they ask if I smoke.

    About 30 years of age and I got wise to oral health. Bought a Phillips sonicare (http://www.usa.philips.com/c-p/HX9170_10/sonicare-flexcare-platinum-rechargeable-sonic-toothbrush) with UV sterilizer and battery charger. I can’t be happier with it and I’ve used the toothbrush for decades (replacing the brush heads regularly). About the same time I started seriously using Listerine and flossing. By then I had a mouth full of gold crowns but the damage was halted. Dentist claims that I’ll likely enter the grave with the teeth God gave me.

    We later moved north to the Texas panhandle and our well water had a lot of calcium, so much that women didn’t need supplements, it just tasted bad. I now live in an area where the tap water tastes like well water and am back on caltrate for calcium.

    Might it be possible to encumber your land with a mortgage and use it to pay for your dental problems?

    Best wishes,

  31. Hi Panhandle,
    Clindamycin, 24, 150MG Q6H
    I finished the course, and now I feel like I’m treading on thin ice…Oh, and I haven’t been up and down at night so much since my babies came back from the hospital, lol.
    No to the land thing; I just wouldn’t be able to pay any mortgage back right now. I’m hoping I’ll get an interview for a particular job I’ve applied for…
    I will definitely purchase the sonic toothbrush. But right now, the thought of using one of those makes me slightly queasy, lol.

  32. Karen,

    If you keep your teeth, by all means talk to your dentist regarding the Sonicare. It is hands down the very best toothbrush I’ve ever used.


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