Monday, October 17, 2011

Varmints

The squirrels are the new gophers, wrecking havoc in J&R's summer garden. They've taken out cucumbers, lettuce, squash. Maybe they're going for their corn, too.

They're ground squirrels and although we used to see them in Los Osos Valley, we didn't have them in ours. Until now. There seems to be a giant colony of them under the orange shipping container next to the garden orchard. My garden has escaped their greedy paws since it's beyond J&R's much bigger and more productive garden. Why move beyond the gourmet buffet?

As if the squirrels and gophers weren't trouble enough, we now have a population explosion of mice and rats. They are all over the chicken coops, storage sheds, and now Oak House where the McC Family live. All of this has turned Big Dog into the X-Terminator.

Each afternoon, he goes around setting traps, baiting the mouse traps with peanut butter (it doesn't fall off the traps) and the live animal traps with whatever fruit or vegetable we have available. Each morning, he goes back around, dealing with the dead (and sometimes headless!) rodents in the traps, as well as the live animal traps (we release the live animals on the other side of the valley.) We might have trapped one squirrel but they seem to be smarter than we think. Most of the animals caught in the traps have been birds, tiny ping-pong ball sized field mice, big eared deer mice (they hop like kangaroos!) and one time, a too-curious-for-her-own-good Ellie (J&R's cat who let out plaintive yowls until I came and got her out. She seemed a little embarrassed as she slunk away.)

At first, we used our own organic peanut butter as bait -- it was surprisingly effective -- but Big Dog, thinking it was a waste of decent peanut butter, went and bought a jar of the cheapest peanut butter he could find. We have not caught a single rodent since then! Now, what does that tell you about store-bought factory-made peanut butter?! It's not even good enough for the rats!

"I think there's something dead in our laundry room," Mama McC told us a few days ago. "I can hardly stand to go in there because of the smell."

Why doesn't she do something about it, I wondered, but I had to go to Oak House to see if I could plug up any rodent entry points anyway, so I decided to have a look.

After plugging up some holes in the kitchen and hallway closets, I had to go into the laundry room -- it seemed that there were entry points in that room as well. The minute I opened the door -- OH MY GOD! There was definitely a dead thing somewhere and it was putrefying the air with that fetid smell of death and decay. At first, I couldn't tell where it was coming from -- the laundry room was a mess of lint and dust and piled up junk -- but the moment I opened the closet to the hot water heater, there was no doubt the Dead Thing was in there. I wanted to just run out of there and never come back. Instead, I held my breath and started sucking up the rodent feces with their shop vac. And that's when I found it. Dead and decomposing and, worst of all, writhing with maggots! It was the most disgusting thing I had ever had to deal with.

"Oh, I can deal with it later," I heard Mama McC saying from the bedroom, but she hadn't dealt with it in all these days and I had no confidence that she would do so any time soon, so I manned up and managed to pick up and discard the Dead Thing, dump bleach on the maggots to make them stop writhing, suck up everything from the water heater closet that wasn't supposed to be there, plug up entry points and run home. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. And once home, I immediately ran into the shower where I stayed for at least the next half hour. I couldn't scrub enough, gargle enough, wash out my nostrils enough. I finally allowed myself to scream hysterically for a while, too. A scream worthy of the best horror films. A scream worthy of the famous shower scene from Psycho. A scream worthy of a young Jamie Lee Curtis. A scream worthy of "Scream."

Who needs Halloween after an experience like that!

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