A Reason to Adopt A Cat

There is an invasion in the National Heritage Corridor. Whether a house is old or new, updated and renovated, there’s no way to avoid it – the mice are moving back in. House mice or field mice are very small and the most troublesome rodent in the U.S. Mice are also incredible climbers. They will run up vertical surfaces and can manage thin horizontal surfaces wires. They are nocturnal and their presence is obvious from droppings and a slightly musky odor in their vicinity.
Mice typically have between 5 and 10 litters each year with 5-6 young in each litter. Little mice are born about 20 days after mating and begin to reproduce themselves in only 6 to 10 weeks. So if my calculations are correct, one pair of mice entering a house at this time of year could potentially create an enclave of hundreds more mice in a few short months.

The little critters damage structures, contaminate food supplies, shred paper and other materials, often chewing up items humans consider valuable. Worse, mice can carry pathogens like salmonella and their dropping contaminate surfaces.

Professional exterminators that will offer up baits and traps. It is advisable to close up any cracks that mice can use, although this is very difficult in the average size house. Eliminating sources of food may be more effective: keep food stored in tight containers and don’t forget the dog and cat food, and bird seed. Playing on their acute sense of smell, good peppermint or spearmint oil (not extract) applied to cotton balls and left in areas that mice frequent will overwhelm their sense of smell and they will leave that area alone.

There’s always a cat…


At the beginning of the holiday season and pies are integral to our cultural traditions, due to our heritage from the British Isles and French-speaking Canada.

Pies are a pastry container for meats, vegetables and fruits, as we all know.  The 10-12 inch exhibit of bakery perfection that graces our holiday dessert tables is fairly recent in the evolution of pie.  Pies, or pyes as they were called in medieval England, were usually meat spiced with pepper and small fruits like currants or the more exotic dates.  Those with one crust were known as tarts; it took two crusts to be a full blown pie.  Small, individual sizes were baked for travelers or tavern-goers.  Larger version were served at gatherings and some of them were very creative, including live birds added inside at the last minute so when the pie opened up – surprise!  Remember the children’s nursery rhyme Old King Cole?  There is always truth somewhere in a folk tale!

Not to burst the folklore bubble surrounding the first Thanksgiving, but the Pilgrims had no pumpkin pie at their feast in 1621 according to historical documents.  The first reference to pumpkin pie is not found until 1675 when it was first recorded in a cookbook – actually it was a version of boiled squash and spices.  As the colonists expanded in the new country they make “opportunistic” pies, putting anything between two crusts of pastry – meats and an increasing number of all-fruit pies.  Canadian meat pies, one of my favorites, became a traditional Christmas dish in northern areas of New England as well as Canada and in National Heritage Corridor as French-Canadian immigrants came to work in the mills.  We can also thank the French for placing a cheese custard with meats, fish or vegetables into a crust – the famous quiche.

Pie definitely caught on.

Lady Bug, Lady Bug, Fly Away Home

The last warm days of the fall brings swarms of ladybugs.  They invade houses, seeming to get through every tiny space.  Not 10 or 20 – hundreds.  They are an invasive species –the Asian Lady Beetles – up to 22 spots on an orange back with a distinct “m” on their pronotums.  Native to China, they were introduced in 1988 to control aphids.  I don’t know if that worked but they did displace and destroy the three species of ladybugs native to Blackstone Valley –  Parenthesis Ladybugs, the Convergent Ladybug (most common) and the Nine-Spot Ladybug, now an endangered species.

Asian Lady Beetles, while carnivorous, do not prefer human flesh but they will bite.  They are a major nuisance, finding their way into everything.  If crushed or vacuumed up, they release a foul odor and leave spots on objects.

So how do we bolster the populations of native Ladybugs and send the Asian Lady Beetle packing?  There are sprays and dusts available from commercial sources that will prevent the Asian Lady Beetle from entering the house.  Non-toxic methods include traps placed near windows and other entry points that use lures to attract and trap the insects.  Caulking cracks, installing weather stripping and repairing broken screens are all useful solutions that will also reduce energy bills.

Thirty Years Ago

It was November 10, 1986 when Public Law 99-647 was passed and signed. What an impact that had on our Blackstone Valley! That was the day that Congress created the second National Heritage Corridor in the country – the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. From that day forward, the role that our watershed played in shaping the future of American Industry was federally-recognized: we became known as the Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.

So has it made a difference to have a National Heritage Corridor here in Massachusetts and Rhode Island? The Corridor has brought a federal investment into the region of more than $10 million. It has been able to assist partners – nonprofit, municipalities and state agencies – with scores of projects to preserve our history, our culture, and our natural resources. It has created a unique identity for the 25 towns and cities that make up the geography of the National Heritage Corridor. It has given birth to a new National Historical Park.

That’s 30 years of great work! Here’s to the next 30!