One of the best ways to provide organic nutrients to a garden is with compost. We have a compost bin in our back yard. It started as a compost pile. It included dead leaves, garden scraps (no animal products, just plant scraps like orange peels and apple cores), and water. It worked wonderfully. It attracted only worms and flys as far as I could tell. But I figured sinced it was working so well, I’d go ahead and try to “fix” it. (As in, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.) I went to Home Depot and bought a fancy schmancy compost bin. This bin is rather large and black (to help provide the heat to aid decomposition), has a flip lid on the top with a removeable stopper so you can pour water in it (necessary for decomposition) and 2 sliding doors on the bottom sides to remove the rich, dark brown soil that is just waiting to feed the garden tomatoes. Ever since I got this thing, the scraps have taken longer to decompose. I have also noticed an increase in the flies and what appears to be a decrease in the number of worms (the “worker bees” in decomposition). In other words, the new bin stinks. I had been thinking about getting rid of it and just going back to a pile, but I was worried that that might attract unwanted critters (AKA: fruit rats). So I kept the bin assuming it was pretty secure from critters.
Last week I went out to the compost bin to dump kitchen scraps. I flipped open the top of the bin like I always do, and inside something furry scurried around in circles a few times before squeezing through a slit in the back “door”. A FRUIT RAT! I screamed like a little boy, danced a little jig, and ran inside yelling like the town crier, “There’s a rat in the compost bin!” To be honest, after my initial shock, I thought the little thing was kind of cute, like a baby squirrel minus the furry tail.
I had hoped this was going to be an isolated incident, but the next day, Mr. Sunshine took some scraps out to the compost bin and got to meet the little critter as well. While I wasn’t happy about a rat in the compost bin, HE was adamant that the critter NOT be given the opportunity to move into a warmer abode such as our attic. Hmmmmm, I hadn’t considered that. The rat must die. So I went out and bought spring-type rat traps. We set them in the compost bin with peanut butter as the bait. I also threw a whole apple and a rotting orange from our tree in there hoping the smell of the fruit would entice him back, silently singing to myself, “There’s a rat in me compost, what am I gonna do? I’m gonna fix dat rat, dat’s what I’m gonna do.” (http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D353ah1Vkbyg&h=pAQG5wANcAQF52VdZ4udaLt0NjL_7N0wsXnBVpN5sQ-L0cQ)
I went out to check the traps the next morning and one of them had been tripped. But alas, all we had caught was the orange peel from the orange he had apparently dined on during the night. It appears the rat is flaunting his craftiness.
The traps have now been in the bin for 4 days and still no dead rat. Apparently he’s smart enough to recognize a trap and he’s avoiding the bin. I’m going to have to up the ante and put some irresistible bait out there for him. But what does a fruit rat like better than rotting fruit and peanut butter? Anyone? Anyone?