October Scrapbook (and Butternut Squash “Croutons”)

by Maria Theresa Maggi on October 28, 2014

First, a humbling sorrow.

mouse grave

Mouse Grave

Just months ago I blithely titled a blog post Of Mice and Vegans in which I chronicled my adventures saving the lives of mice that had invaded the house on Asbury Street. I don’t know why I thought such a thing, but I also blithely assumed there would be no mice trying to get into my new place come fall. Several weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch in the living room on the phone with my sister absentmindedly staring into the kitchen as I listened. My eye caught what I thought was a leaf—and then it twirled around. A mouse! I jumped to my feet yelling “a mouse, a mouse, oh no, a MOUSE!” into my sister’s ear and sent it running for cover behind the stove.

My sister was describing the details of her new place and I was trying to listen. But I was also dousing cotton balls with peppermint essential oil and placing them in corners I definitely did not want the mouse to hide. I opened the drawer at the bottom of the stove to deposit one there, only to find him looking up at me. I screamed in surprise. My sister, miraculously, did not hear me, and went on with her description.

That night, the mouse got me out for my first moonlit walk with Romeo. I was without any live traps and decided I needed to go get some, or see if I could go get some, at the closest drug store and market. Nothing doing. I brought home a conventional trap but just couldn’t bring myself to use it. I could hear the voices of my friends saying they carry disease and you need to get rid of them. I spent the remaining hours until midnight fashioning home-made live traps: jars with dabs of peanut butter on their bottoms, upended and precariously balanced on a nickel; a ramp up into a wastebasket covered with cut paper  made into a trap door studded with peanut butter. I nearly stepped on the mouse as I turned to  fill up a glass with water; he had been about to make his way up the ramp but scampered back behind the stove. Later I saw him peeking out, looking toward the back door, where he must have gotten in.

The next day we walked too far to find store bought live traps. For the next few days, all was silent. I filled holes with steel wool and peppermint oil. I hoped he was gone. Then one morning Romeo sat by the kitchen sink counter giving me a strange look. Later, when he was out in the yard, I went to throw something in the trash which was in the cabinet he had been sitting by and heard a rustling in the bag. The mouse was in the trash.Gently, but quickly, I moved to close and cover the top of the trash bag and get the mouse outside. I was opening the back door when he came flying out of a small crack in my cover.

There is nothing in what follows I am proud of.  Startled,  my adrenaline already running high, I screamed bloody murder. The mouse, though he was at the threshold of the open door he had been longing for, went the opposite way. (Alas, perhaps  it was the peppermint oil around the edges to keep his friends from joining him that sent him in the wrong direction.) I tried to herd him out with the bag, my feet, anything, screaming continuously, unable to stop. The neighbors, if any were home, must have thought I was being murdered. (When I confessed this to a younger vegan friend of mine here in town she said practically, “No, Maria, they probably thought you had seen a mouse. It’s what most of us do when we see one.” Bless her heart.)

The mouse was too fast for me. He was making a successful break for it and had a clear shot to run back into hiding in the kitchen. Still sreaming, I stepped on him. Once. And then again. He stopped moving. While most people I know would simply say, “good, you got him,” the most gracious of my friends who know I care about this stuff said it was instinct. Maybe it was. I was exhausted from several nights of bad sleep, on vigil, waiting. I couldn’t stand the thought of having to start all over again. There was that split second when I could have just let him run back into the kitchen. But the desire to stop him was overpowering. And of course I was too big to just stop him. I scooped him up with cardboard and plastic and sat with him while his nose bled and his life ended.

Now when I reflect on it, I know that something took over in me, or I let something take over in me that once in motion I couldn’t stop. I was frightened and the fear took charge. I was even too frightened to bury him. At first I wrapped him all up in a plastic bag and put it in the trash. But later I felt so bad about the relationship I’d had with him and how it had ended that I took the plastic bag out of the trash and dug a little grave at the edge of the yard. I even put flowers on it.

That mouse gave me an opportunity to learn how to swim in my fear. I did okay for a while but in the end I didn’t make it. I have another friend here who talks to ants and wasps and says it’s a matter of making friends with them and not being afraid. I have a hunch she’s right. I wonder what she would have done about this mouse, but at this point, I’m too ashamed to ask her. Maybe some day i will. For now, I know there are things, violent things, I might do when I’m scared that I wouldn’t have thought I would do. That I’m imperfect, and that this world is not an easy place to navigate. Sometimes my principles help me through, but sometimes, I may also fail to live by them.


Second, a small, but potent joy.

Last melon slice

The Tiny Little Melon That Could

Last July I brought home two bedraggled honeydew melon starts in the same 4 inch pot from the nursery section at Moscow Building Supply. They were so far gone they gave them to me. I was filled with zeal to tuck them into my new raised beds and see if they would rejuvenate. I planted some purple morning glory next to them, knowing from past experience at Asbury Street that melon and morning glory like to grow together. Even so, I have never gotten a truly ripe melon before it turns cold.

One Sunday, though, I was out enjoying the afternoon sun on yet another glorious October day and I noticed a tiny mature melon on the end of a vine that had withered to a papery string the width and color of twine. I giggled and said that I’d cut it open after dinner and see if I could eat it for dessert. And I giggled some more. We’re talking small here: somewhere between the size of a golfball and a tennis ball, but closer to the golf ball. When I cut it open, though, it was a deep bright ripe green, with fully mature seeds in the middle. And it tasted sweet. This is the last slice of it. I saved those seeds. I hope they pass their sweet “can-do” spirit on to a full growing season next year.


And third, quintessential Fall comfort food. A healthy, easy way to top a salad or a bowl of soup.

butternut squash croutons

butternut squash “croutons”

I got blessed with the gift of overflow from my friend Jody’s winter squash crop. She brought me 6 beautiful winter squash. Two spaghettis, two red kuris, and two butternuts. I made these “croutons” by chopping up the top of one of the butternuts into little cubes and tossing them with my As You Wish Spice Blend and some nutritional yeast. You can also add a splash of lime or lemon juice,  or use garlic powder, chili powder, cumin–whatever grabs your fancy. I baked them on a sheet of parchment paper at 400 for about a half hour.


"Winter Twilight" chalk pastel by Maria Theresa Maggi

“Winter Twilight” chalk pastel by Maria Theresa Maggi

In the old Earth centered way, Halloween, or Samhein, is the start of the new year. The time approaching it is thought to be the time when the veil between earth and heaven is most thin. It’s easy, we’re told, at this time of year, for souls to pass from here on to the spirit world. I don’t know if mice have souls. But I feel connected to this mouse forever. In some plan beyond my comprehension, it gave its life so I could contemplate my fear and my own limitations, and  live in humble penitence and acceptance of my own animal nature. And that sweet little melon–I opened its tiny purse of seeds and ate its shimmering flesh. I was both greedy and reverent for what might come next Spring. The pulse of life and the throes of death are intertwined  this time of year. Sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other. Sometimes that hurts. Sometimes I’m made to remember I am  not outside of the dance. I am  light and I am shadow, too. In experience. Not just in words.

Maria (moonwatcher)

Leave a Comment

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Teresa October 29, 2014 at 7:45 am

We’re all human and your interaction with the mouse is something I can surely relate to! I need to find a live trap although thankfully no mice at our house for quite a while.

Your melon looks like it was juicy and sweet! Our very shady backyard in Boise starts giving us tomatoes in September through the 1st frost. I always try to get through to November and this year, I think that will happen. Vine ripened are the best, but letting the green ones ripen in our basement are a treat as well.



2 moonwatcher October 29, 2014 at 9:03 am

Hi Teresa–thank you for your kind words about my debaucle with the mouse. A mild late Fall is wonderful for those tomatoes, isn’t it? Enjoy your tomato treasure. 🙂


3 Sara October 29, 2014 at 4:07 pm

This was a beautiful blog – with several topics. I absolutely love your blogs and savor every word, along with the great recipes and helpful links. I especially resonated with the mouse story, as I have just gone into top gear to try and deal with the mice that have come back to the basement as the weather here has gotten chilly. This year I am learning how to set the HaveAHeart trap – which is really rather challenging! Two days ago there was a scared little mouse in the trap (with a tummy full of peanut butter). I dutifully transferred the trap to my cardboard travel box, put it in the car and drove it about two miles from home to some nice woods. Well, it should have been Funniest Home Videos, because it was very difficult to hold open the doors, and the mouse refused to leave. It actually clung to the trap!!! I had to talk to it and jiggle the trap while trying to keep the doors open. Finally it left. I offer you my care for discovering what you are capable of when flooded with fear. I also offer you the thought that it is important that you be able to protect yourself. Maybe you would do it differently, if you could do it over, but you had an instinct to protect yourself and you acted. I honor your strength. I also honor your courage to share the experience. We live and, hopefully, learn.


4 moonwatcher October 29, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Sara, welcome, and thank you so much for this heartfelt comment. I loved hearing about your own experience with catching mice! I, too, had a similar experience at my old house, which I recounted–and illustrated– in my post “Of Mice and Vegans.” It makes my most recent experience all the more pointed. Thank you for your gracious and honest words about my choice to share this. I treasure them. Here’s to living, and, yes, hopefully, learning.


5 Veronica October 30, 2014 at 9:00 am

I’m so sorry about your mouse ordeal. I teared up a bit. But, as you say, we’re all human, and sometimes instinct kicks in and does something we wouldn’t think we’d do. It was kind of you to be with him, and bury him- a kindness most “pests” never get. (Random side note: the pic of his gravesite, the item next to the flower looks like an artichoke with a long stem that’s covered in dirt or something.) Fear is one of the toughest emotions, and learning to “be” with it is a powerful thing.
I’m glad your melons grew into tiny joys of flavor! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the next crop. Great idea to use the roasted, seasoned bnut squash as croutons! I’ll have to try that.
Your chalk picture is quite lovely, too!


6 moonwatcher October 30, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Thanks, Veronica. I’m sorry to make you tear up a bit, but I appreciate the honest response and all your kind words about it. About the gravesite–that was over there in an corner of the yard when I started digging up. Looks like a seed pod of some kind or perhaps, indeed, a partially decomposed artichoke. It just seemed to “go” with everyting so I put it back there as a kind of marker. Thanks, too, for the good thoughts about the melon seeds! The “croutons” were born when I had some extra squash left over. 🙂 I’m glad you liked the drawing. It’s a new card here at the co-op. 🙂


7 Pam November 1, 2014 at 11:13 pm

Thanks so much for this post. It is interesting, as you say, to try to learn to “swim” in our fear. Your honesty here is so refreshing, and important. Thanks for your posts.


8 moonwatcher November 2, 2014 at 8:50 am

You’re welcome, Pam. It’s important for me to know my honesty is appreciated. Means a lot to me. Thanks for your faithful readership, even as you travel the globe. 🙂


9 Jeanne Costopoulos November 12, 2014 at 10:30 am

These are the best quality live traps on the market in my opinion:



10 moonwatcher November 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Thanks Jeanne!


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