I will admit to having a deep fear of rats. I’ve never been bitten, thank God, but I’ve had enough close encounters in the crappy places we’ve rented to feed that fear. And, yes, the rat scene in “1984” sent me over the top. Now we have a rat in the woodpile, a packrat to be specific.
(This post is off the track from the ones I’ve been writing about my novel, The Sweet Spot, set for a Feb. 20 release. But I was inspired. Look for a Sweet Spot post this weekend.)
We had a packrat in the woodpile two years ago, and Hank reported that when he dismantled the remaining stacks, it was a healthy little creature, nothing like the city rats he’s seen.
We figured the packrat was feeding off the compost pile encased by wire mesh a few feet way. So, we bought metal trashcans with holes to contain the compost — they’re actually burning barrels. There were no rats last winter.
But I was rather foolish this fall when I cleaned the garden. I put the stalks and other garden remnants in a wire bin although no kitchen scraps except corncobs. That was really dumb. It was like ringing a dinner bell.
The first sign this fall were the pieces of spiny cactus I saw in the woodpile’s two neat stacks and on the ground near its bottom edge. Spiny cactus is the rat’s best defense. I found also stalks and corncobs, of course, dragged over from the wire bin yards away.
I dismantled one nest but discovered another, as the neat rows of firewood I stacked this fall got shorter. Large rat droppings were scattered among the logs. (I make sure to wear gloves and give the logs a good, hard shake outside.)
And I know it is still in there because every other day I go outside for logs, fresh cactus will be on the ground. Probably the noise I make removing the tarp and logs worries it. I also sing or talk out loud.
I’ll give packrats credit for their ingenuity. We don’t have spiny cactus anywhere close to our house of yard. That rat has to travel a long way to bite off a chunk, and then haul it back to its nest. And the spines are long and sharp as hell.
I just wish the rat found another place to live for the winter.
I feel a sense of trepidation when I go outside to bring in logs. I avoid the spot to the left of the stacks where I see the collection of spiny cactus. It creeps me out to know there’s a rat, healthy creature or not, hiding down there.
Yes, I could ask Hank, but he injured his hand in a woodshop accident, so he’s on the DL these days.
Back East we had cats who were ferocious hunters, so rats or mice weren’t ever a problem. We have a cat, but she came from the rescue outfit without front claws. Besides, she’s not allowed outside without close supervision because of the coyotes.
Yesterday, I took off the tarp protecting the firewood. I gave that nest a good look. There’s no way I am dismantling that part of the woodpile, and come face-to-face with the rat. And I can’t bring myself to poison the animal or kill it some other way.
So I guess I will let it be for now.
After all there’s plenty of wood where the rat isn’t, and that’s what I will take for now.
But it still creeps me out.
ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s our woodpile.