We Took to the Woods

We Took to the Woods

I didn’t have a good book lined up to bring with me on our visit to my mother- and sister-in laws’ house in Maine. Everything my eyes rested on just seemed wrong for my current mood. I hate it when that happens. As visits to Maine generally involve a leisurely sprawl with lots of time lounging and reading, I knew I’d need something so I packed a couple of second-choice desperation books. Fortunately, my mother-in-law is a reader. I browsed her book shelves and didn’t have too much trouble finding something more appealing than the back-up-plan books I’d brought.

We Took to the Woods, a memoir of life in remote back-country Maine in the late 1930s, by Louise Dickinson Rich was a perfect fit. Just about the only thing my sister-in-law’s house has in common with Dickinson’s is that they are both in Maine; but the book still felt just right. This house has electricity, running water, cable television, high-speed internet access (finally!) and even a swimming pool. Louise Rich’s “cabin” in the woods has none of those things. And yet this house is also on a wooded slope on a dead-end road. Through the trees I can sort of make out the the three nearest neighbors but behind the house is a wooded hill and from the back yard you can imagine you are in a wilderness. And from my cozy vantage on the screened-in front porch I can only see the road and the shape of the house across the street. Because it’s early evening there’s been a bit more traffic on the road as people return from work; but I think I’ve seen a total of six cars all afternoon. I hear the wind in the trees, the buzz of cicadas and chirping of crickets and a distant hum of a mower somewhere. But no sound of traffic as is a constant white noise at our house. The windchimes play quietly, soothingly in the breeze from the oscillating fan.  A space to breathe, think, listen, write without wondering who will cry next or when. And no dinner to plan or to cook or dishes to do. Ah bliss!

Anyway, back to Louise… that’s another sort of vacation. The allure of the book is partly the local color, the pleasure of visiting another place and another time and all the little details that sometimes made this book feel a little like a blog: details about clothing and shopping lists, the skunk they adopted, the dog sled team that wasn’t, loggers and lost hunters, blizzards and what it’s like to be in the woods for years on end. But most of all the pleasure of any memoir: getting to know another person. After reading We Took to the Woods I’m eager to find more of Rich’s books.

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  • Ugh! I feel for you. We have had mouse problems before, thanks to a child who left a bag of unused animal feed from the open farm in the garage. Mouse heaven! Fortunately they never made it into the house proper, but I have not been able to use the garage for spillover food storage since. Inconvenient as we have a small kitchen with little storage space.

  • Horrors, my biggest fear!  I live in an apartment complex and have had a couple.  One time I found a dead one behind the baker’s rack in my kitchen (WHY do they ALWAYS die in a far corner??!).  The smell was awful for days until I finally found it.  I had to get the guy across the hall to take care of it for me. 

    Keep in mind that with glue traps, they are not dead.  They’re just stuck.  One time an exterminator put some big glue boards behind my sofa and sure enough, one got stuck.  Had to get another guy to get rid of that one!  (Here’s why I could never live alone in the country.)

    I suggest putting out some bait like Dcon or there’s another one with a K in it (I forget the title), along with the snap traps.  As long as you can be sure that Isabella won’t touch the poison.

  • Mice are the absolute pits! You don’t want to hear my mouse stories. Except a cautionary one about using D-con. They sometimes die where you can’t easily get at them. (It is a myth that they go outside to die.) Had one die in the dining room radiator, it was awhile before we figured out what was stinking up the place. My best solution? Get a cat. We haven’t been troubled by mice since we have owned cats (and they are cute and fun). If you get a kitten, then they grow up used to kids.

  • GB,

    duly noted. The muffins I made this morning are now sealed in plastic containers.


    I’m afraid a cat is out of the question, no matter how cute and useful they might be. I’m allergic and am having bad enough asthma right now with the pollen and whatnot. No furry animals in our house.

    I do know a little something about stinking dead animals, though. When I was in high school a 40 pound raccoon died in the crawlspace above our English classroom and the body fell into the wall. It took weeks for them to find it and dispose of the carcass. Ugh, ugh, and ugh. Words cannot describe the stench. I do not want anything like that in my house.

  • A mouse in the kitchen, my nightmare! One evening I made muffins with pecans on top and left them in the oven overnight to let them cool. In the morning, the nuts were all chewed! Guess why… I couldn’t believe I had a mouse until I SAW it!! Anyway, our experience is that big glue traps are the best. And yes, thank God for manly husbands! Good luck!

  • It’s true that glue traps only catch them… That’s why I wrote “Thank God for manly husbands” wink It’s just that we tried everything (we’ve met with three mice in 4 years…), even called an exterminator who put down those black boxes, but we only had rapid success with glue traps.
    I may be a whiner, but after a mouse, it takes me months to feel again at ease in my house, just like after a burglary… This last mouse lived in the drawer at the bottom of my stove, and I’m still nervous when I clean it!
    Melanie, I hope you can close the kitchen with a baby gate if you’re going to put traps on the floor.

  • Can I tell my worst mouse story?  They got into my van and, attracted by the smell of groceries, one of them came out from under the dash and sat looking at me as I drove down the highway!  I called my kids and told them to be ready to remove me from the van when I got home …  There ultimately were about five of them to get out.  My husband uses peanut butter in mouse traps.