uh-oh… we have a problem.  i’m not sure if it’s something i really want to admit to, but it exists and appears as though it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.  you see, a certain kind of critter has taken refuge in our garden.  and not just any kind critter.  the kind where you skew up your nose, curl your lips and look for the nearest chair to stand on… we have rats.

the first visual indication of our new garden squatters was near the compost bin, as an attractive nest of shredded paper started to grow along one of its edges.  “huh… i think something is nibbling on our tasty compost.”  firmly in denial at this point, i asked a friend of mine who had recently gone through the city’s three day composting program if they addressed how to deal with say, i don’t know, rodents in residential compost…?

“oh, no, we didn’t cover that,” she said and quickly asked, “why…”

“well, i think we may have rodents in our compost.”

“oh dear, you aren’t putting your kitchen scraps in your compost are you?”

“why, of course we are,” while i thought to myself, isn’t that what compost bins are for…?

“oh, you shouldn’t do that…”

um, okay.  it’s not like we put meat, dairy or oily products out with the spinach, egg shells and veggie debris… but hey, if i were a rodent in a new residential development, i’d belly up to the free bar too!

and then the neighbors started talking…

“have you seen any rats around?”

“no, but i think i may have heard some scampering feet last night – we had our windows open and the kitties were captivated by something going on out there.”

“you open your windows at night?”

“yea… it’s good to let a little fresh air in the house… i think the scampering feet were running along the fence lines.”

“well, we’ve seen ’em in our yard, and have trapped a few.  i hear the neighbor’s dog, behind your lot, caught one that was as big around as a rudy’s cup (our local bbq joint, and yes, they have HUGE plastic cups for sweet tea)…”

that's a big... glass of sweet tea...!
that's a big... glass of sweet tea...!

“really?  that big?!”

“yea, and it wasn’t the only one…”

“huh.  well, we’ll let you know if we see any.”

“we’ve put out some bait traps.  the kind that your cats shouldn’t be able get into, so they should be okay.”

“alright, thanks, we’ll keep an eye out…”

i think the neighbor’s bait stations are working.  about two weeks ago i found a small (4″, not including its tail), decapitated rat in our front yard.  how it lost its head is a mystery to me.  last week dude, our black cat, alerted me to the second dead rat in our back yard.  euwww… it was lying near a generously-sized opening under the fence, with its mouth clenched around a tuft of sedge that was surprisingly difficult to pry it away from… i take it the poison must’ve worked poor thing

side note: aren’t you glad i’m still camera shopping?  no macro closeups for this story…

pumping station
pumping station

late last week i was awarded another good find… i decided to hookup the pump to drain the ever-collecting water in our backyard, as it’s been raining here and the pathways are a soggy, muddy mess.  we’ve installed a french drain system that’s connected to a submersible pump to convey the water from back yard to front yard.  the not-yet-automated pump is in an open hole (we’re working on it…) that frequently fills up with water.  i was pumping the water from this hole, occasionally cleaning out the grass clipping debris with my gloved hand.  when the water got to the half-way mark the thought occurred to me, i wonder if something’s been living in the drain this whole time, like a snake or something… and a few moments later, a furry mass with a long ratty tail came out of the pipe and floated next to the pump intake…

EUUWWW…!!!  good thing it wasn’t alive, and was smaller than a rudy’s cup…

three times must be the charm for this rodent family, because i haven’t seen one since…

have any of you had similar experience with critters in your compost?  any suggestions are welcome…


4 thoughts on “drats…

  1. um, no, but we get decapitated mice–just the heads though. Bud loves to play keepaway with ’em. David Perry the garden photographer blogger had a really funny post about rats a while back–he caught 3 of them in 1 trap once! Laid the corpses on the fence for the crows to eat and to scare off any of their friends. How are you supposed to compost w/o throwing out the eggshells & whatnot?!

    • thank you.
      keepaway with mice heads eh… think i’ll stick to tug of war, with a rope…
      found david perry’s “rattatouille” blog post. we might just have to try that technique… i bet the scary dinosaur birds (grackles) would love them some freshly served garden kill… in the meantime, we’ll keep composting – kitchen scraps and all.

  2. What sort of scraps is your neighbor using if not kitchen scraps? Grass clippings I’ll bet. doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose? Good luck with the ratties- hope they continue to stay away!

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