Rats! – Part 1

There is a point in the TV version of Stephen King’s The Stand where the prophetic character, Mother Abigail, states that “There are rats in the corn, his rats.” Though there are chills aplenty in the book and the movie, this is the moment that always sends my creep-o-meter off the gauge.  Something about the image of the evil rats running through the corn just does me in.

Okay, not our rat - but would you rather a rodent corpse or this image?

This is not to say that I do not have some sympathy for all of God’s creatures.  We have a deal, you stay in your area (e g: out of my house, especially my bathroom, and out of my garden) and I will stay in mine.  We have a HUGE and very disturbing spider living under the front eave of the house – he is still here because he has not violated the deal.  Catch him crawling toward a door or window and he is TOAST however.

Several months ago, while working in my sister’s backyard, I was climbing a little stair case when an odd, flipping motion caught my eye.  I looked down to find a rat at my feet, wedged in between the step and the fence – clearly caught. He looked up at me, not with that shifty Rattigan look that rodents tend to have in cartoons, but with an obvious plea in his dewy eyes, “Please, help me!”

My family had gathered around the spot by this time, in answer to my initial blood-curdling scream upon noticing that odd motion at my feet was connected to something furry. We looked at the creature, wondered how to get him out of his predicament, cried – real tears – because the little thing looked so pathetically like someone’s pet that was suffering intolerably. Of course, not one of us wanted to actually touch it. But still, it needed help.

My brother-in-law saved the day, if not the rat, by using the handle of a shovel to move it out from it’s place between the fence and step.  He then took the rodent to the front yard, where he humanely assisted it out of this life. I thought I heard the shovel clang loudly, but I am not certain.  We do not speak of it.

For the last few weeks, inside my own garage, I have been doing battle with another string-tailed gray intruder. Or several. It seems the residents of the once abandoned house up the hill have been encouraged to move since the renovations started on tree removal day. Warm weather, no A/C, and an open garage door were the perfect invitation for these crawlers to relocate to my premises.

At first, they were pretty stealthy. I heard loud noises late at night and would go out in the morning to find that things from the highest shelves in the garage had found their way to the floor. I didn’t see a rat, or droppings for several days. Then the rat (I hoped it was just one) got bolder. He ate his way through a bag of bird seed on the workbench. A bag of rice on the pantry shelves.  In short, he declared war.

To be continued….

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Epic Fail

I am not one to read manuals.  My thought is that manuals, guidebooks, etc. are meant as fail safes.  Should I put a thing together, and find that it  does not function as advertized I will then check the manual.  This method has worked reliably for me in the past and I don’t see a big need to change things.  Except perhaps where the garden is concerned…

I have used both seeds and transplants to start my garden.  All of them worked reasonably well, and I have posted many photos of the bountiful harvest that resulted from my efforts, a little water, and freshly broken soil. The corn was sweet, the tomatoes prolific, the zucchini large enough to float my dogs out should a flood arise. I now have carrots, pumpkins, acorn and butternut squash growing nicely.

Then there are the, ahem, peppers.  I love bell peppers!  I use them in most of my savory cooking, eat them raw as snacks, get enjoyment out of the sheer wonder of their shape and neat God-ordained packaging. Bell peppers, quite simply, ROCK.  So of course, I planted them in several places in my garden. I planted a rainbow of colors. I watered them, provided supports for th heavy vegetables they would produce, made sure they had enough sun.  I babied them as no other plants in my garden.

My version of the pin up girl, dreamy bell peppers in many colors.

And in return, my peppers sulked. They are the spoiled children of my garden. Perhaps, I thought, they get too much attention – the yellow leaves might indicate too much water, for instance.  Maybe some benign neglect is in order. I put them on a decreased watering schedule, gave them some fertilizer and set out to ignore the little dears.

Behold!  The plants did indeed begin to turn a lovely shade of green.  Tiny white blossoms formed, followed by miniature peppers suitable for a Barbie feast. Hurrah!  Problem solved, yes?  NO.

True, the little ping pong ball sized veggies held all kinds of promise. But as soon as they attained a more “pick me” size they would shrivel. They developed black patches, the skin would dissolve leaving a round yellow crater that seemed to have been sucked dry.  One out of ten actually made it to the table, the rest apparently destined to enrich my compost and nothing more.

My dreams of homegrown stuffed peppers smashed, I realize that it is now time to turn my thoughts to the winter garden. Time to plant spinach and beets, time to forget about peppers. Or time, at last, to admit that I need to consult the garden books I keep around mostly for the lush photographs. Time to PLAN for next year’s summer garden. Time to admit that I may need a manual.