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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Rat in Me Compost – Part 4 (Or: Introducing Nala)

So the saga continues.  If you’re keeping up with this story, you know where I left off.  If you haven’t been keeping up, you can catch up here, here, and here.

Many days had passed since we had had the run in with the injured fruit rat in the street.  We were dutifully taking our compost out to the compost bin every few days and seeing no signs of furry critters.  (We have a plastic, air-tight container in the kitchen we keep compost in until it’s full, which happens every few days.)  We still had all of our rat traps set (4 in the garden around the now bare tomato plants, 2 outside of the compost bin, 2 inside the compost bin) and they continued to remain empty.  We were feeling pretty cocky (well, I was feeling pretty cocky) thinking we had taken care of the problem.  But, alas….

One evening I was taking the compost out to the bin, and a mouse scurried under some rotting produce.  Here we go again.  Sigh…

So, I stood in front of the open bin yelling for someone in the house to come help me.  (By now, I have lost most of my fear and jitteriness of these furry little critters, and I’ve become angrily militant against these fruit thieves.)  Mr. Sunshine and Sunshine Girl came running out.  I instructed Sunshine Girl to get the pitchfork out of the shed, and either Mr. Sunshine or I (I honestly can’t remember which one of us) went to go get his oars out of the garage, while the other kept watch over the infiltrator in the compost bin.  (A shovel, hoe, or pretty much any other sharp metal garden tool from the shed would probably have been a better choice, but apparently we now believed a wooden oar was the go-to weapon against rats and mice since it had performed so beautifully during our last encounter.)  Weapons, er, tools secured, we proceeded to go after the mouse by stabbing the compost with the pitchfork (Mr. Sunshine) while the oar was used to block the exit (my job) for about 15 minutes.

To our disappointment, we never saw “proof” that this technique worked.  (Surprising, I know.)  So, now we have a mouse on the loose.  And apparently he’s smart enough to avoid the traps we have set.

And then it occurred to me that we used to have 3-4 cats that roamed the neighborhood, and we didn’t used to have rats or mice (or at least we never saw them).  But in the past few weeks I’ve only seen one of those cats.

So over the next few days, I asked my cat-owning neighbors about their cats.  (Sounds like I was on a cat-hunt mission, but in reality I am outside all of the time, and talk to my neighbors very often.)  One of the missing cats belonged to my neighbor across the street, and he was on his last legs (the cat, not the neighbor).  So that accounts for one.  She also owned the slacker cat that couldn’t finish the job with the rat in the street on Cinco de Mayo.  That’s two.  The neighbor next door’s adult son moved out and took his cat with him.  That’s three.  No idea what happened to the 4th cat.  So now there may be only one cat roaming the neighborhood trying to do the job of 4.  And this cat is obviously a slacker.

Can anyone else see the solution forming in my head?  GET CATS.

Here’s where it gets tricky.  I’m allergic to cats.  Mr. Sunshine is less than fond of cats.  And we both never appreciated outdoor cats (who insist on leaving paw prints on our vehicles any time we leave them out in the driveway for more than 20 minutes).  But it really seemed to be the only solution at this point.  Get cats.  Set them free.  They will eat mice and rats to survive.

Before you call PETA on me, relax.  I didn’t get any cats and set them free.  (Yet.)

What I did do was take my dogs for a walk one morning.  (Stay with me here.)  When I got home from taking the dogs for a walk, I let them off of their leashes to run around in the yard and chase squirrels while I sat on the swing under the oaks.  While I was sitting on the swing, I glanced down the side of our house toward the back yard and a large, beautiful, golden cat walked around the corner and sat down and looked at me.  I had never seen this cat in the 6 1/2 years we have lived in this house.

Not wanting to scare her away, I slowly got up and put the dogs in the house.  While I was in the house, I found some salmon and put it in a small bowl and brought it out with me.  When I got outside, the cat was still in the same location, so I put the bowl near the front of my garage and sat back down on my swing.

Over a period of about 30 minutes I watched this cat cautiously approach the salmon, and me.  The closer she got, the more impressed I was with her.  She was muscular.  She had large ears.  She had beautiful big green eyes.  The dialog in my head went like this, “That’s a pretty cat.  She looks like a lion cub.  But not like Simba.  She looks like Nala.  So I’m going to call her Nala. Nala was a good hunter.  I’m going to put salmon out every day so she likes to come to my yard.  But not enough salmon to sustain her.  Just enough to draw her here.  Then she can feed on rats and mice for sustenance.  Yep, that’s my plan.”

I don’t really know if this cat was a male or female, but because of my internal dialog, I am calling her a girl, and naming her Nala.

While she was approaching and eating the salmon, I tried to take pictures of her on my cell phone.  (Unfortunately, I had pretty much fried my cell phone’s camera on vacation at the beach a week prior to Nala’s visit, so the pictures are not good at all.)  But check her out below.

Nala

Here’s an interesting tidbit.  After I told Mr. Sunshine about our good fortune to have a cat come visit our yard and how she looked so muscular and like a good hunter, he asked me some questions about her.  Before I showed him pictures of her, he jokingly suggested that she might be a Florida Bobcat, or a juvenile Florida Panther.  Ha! Ha! Ha!

Then he looked at the pictures.  And said it’s not outside the realm of possibility.  ha. ha. ha.

So, apparently I may have gone from having a rat/mouse-in-my-compost-problem, to a beautiful-stalking-predatory-possibly-wild-cat-who-would-probably-prefer-to-eat-my-dogs-to-a-rat/mouse- problem.  All because I wanted to grow fresh organic produce.

Publix tomatoes aren’t really that expensive after all.

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Rat in Me Compost – Part 3

Maybe you remember that I’ve written 2 blog posts already about a furry little critter (rat/mouse) that Mr. Sunshine and myself have both seen in our compost bin. (Read about it here and here.)

Well, the saga continues.

When we originally set the rat traps in the compost bin and caught a little mouse, I figured we both had only seen a mouse (or mice), and not rats, and that we were taking care of the problem with the traps. I should have known better. This is Florida. There are fruit trees everywhere. What rat wouldn’t love to live here?

A few weeks after catching the little mouse in the compost bin, we started to notice that the tomatoes on our tomato plants were disappearing from the vine right before they were ripe, and we’d find remnants of them throughout the garden. We suspected a fruit rat was to blame (since everyone knows that tomatoes are really fruit, not vegetables). No wonder we weren’t catching the little bugger in the compost bin, he was eating fresh fruit from the garden! Now I was getting mad!

I had Mr. Sunshine go out and buy 4 more rat traps, and I set them all around the tomato plants, hoping that I’d snap his little neck as he was trying to steal my organically grown tomatoes! After a few weeks, all I had to show for my effort was bare tomato plants and 4 rusting rat traps. Grrrrrr!

Fast-forward to May 5th. Mr. Sunshine and I were getting ready to go out to a Cinco de Mayo party at a friend’s house. I was wearing an adorable skirt and fancy flip-flops. There’s a reason you need to know this (well, you probably don’t need to know that my skirt was adorable, but it was). Because as we were preparing to leave the house, I went out in the driveway to wait for Mr. Sunshine to pull my little truck out of the garage.

As I was walking out of the garage, I noticed a furry little critter “ambling” from my neighbors’ house across the street toward my driveway. Their cat was nonchalantly following behind it. At first, I thought it was a little bunny rabbit. I rushed to the edge of the driveway to yell at the cat to leave it alone. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, it wasn’t a cute little bunny rabbit. It was…(drumroll please)…. a fruit rat! Apparently the neighbors’ cat had gotten to it and did some damage, but was unwilling to close the deal.

So, there I was. Walking toward an advancing injured fruit rat. By myself. In my skirt and fancy flip-flops. Mr. Sunshine still in the house.

Well, I did the only sane and sensible thing to do. I screamed and jumped and danced around and took my fancy flip-flops off and prepared to throw them at the rat. The rat was oblivious to my histrionics and kept coming toward my driveway and house!

But my hero, Mr. Sunshine, was not oblivious to my histrionics. He heard me from inside the house and came running out. He immediately sized up the situation and figured out what was going on. (Could my jumping and screaming, “It’s a rat! It’s a rat! Get it cat!! Get the rat, you stupid cat!!” have clued him in??) (Oh, and apparently I rhyme when I’m hysterical.) He ran back into the garage, as I continued to threaten the slow-moving rat with my fancy flip-flops, and he reappeared with a fishing net and an oar.

He scooped the rat up into the net, all the while yelling at me to stop screaming and calling attention to our situation. (Turns out, he was afraid that some animal-loving neighbors might object to what was about to happen to the rat. Some people will sympathize with anything, including a rat. Whether it’s in my compost or in the Whitehouse.)

So, I composed myself (easier to do now that the rat was secured in the fishing net and no longer advancing toward my wide-open garage door) and picked up the oar and followed Mr. Sunshine to the side of the house, out of sight of the street. Mr. Sunshine asked me to hold the net secure on the ground (I could not force myself to get close enough to hold the handle) while he “put it out of its misery” with the oar. I was able to go get 5 plastic shopping bags and we layered the dead rat in them and put it in the trash can.

Job done, we went inside to wash our hands, grabbed the black bean and corn salsa with chips, and proceeded to go to the Cinco de Mayo party, albeit, late. As always, we had a really good story to explain our tardiness.

And you would think that that was the end of the story. But it’s not.

(That’s what you call a teaser.)