Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Keeping the Rats Out

We have a teeny tiny problem with RATS at our house, if there is such a thing as a teeny tiny problem where rats are involved.

Before I delve into our rat issue, first I want to show you some pictures. Here are two things that are NOT helping with the rat problem:

Non-rat eater #1

Non-rat eater #2
To be entirely fair, these cats are strictly indoor cats, and the rats are an outdoor problem. But even if the rats were coming inside, the cats would be of no help. The cats understand perfectly that they themselves are merely ornamental additions to the household and do not have to serve any useful purpose whatsoever other than covering the wood floors with a protective layer of cat barf. (Actually, that's not true. The cats did help me pick my bracket for March Madness. And then they barfed on the floor.)

The real reason we have rats hanging around outside is because we have a lovely, rat-friendly compost pile. I know a lot of people who are really into their compost piles. (Not literally into their compost piles. You know what I mean.) Some people lovingly deposit alternating layers of yard waste and food waste onto their compost pile, turn it, water it, sing it lullabies if it is having problems sleeping, and make sure the pile takes an ACT prep course so it can get into a good college. We take the opposite approach, and just basically throw our banana peels in a pile behind the garage and call it a compost pile. The rats LOVE our approach.

Our compost pile: basically an open-face rat sandwich
For years we had no problem with this approach. But the last few years, rats have moved in. I think we started having problems right around the time Scott Walker was elected governor of Wisconsin. I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

Once the rats moved in, we formulated a three-step plan of attack:

Step #1: Ignore the rats and do nothing. That is pretty much our approach for many of our problems. And it worked just as well in this case as it did in all the other cases, which is to say not at all.

Step #2: Get a rat trap. This is like a classic snap-the-neck mouse trap, but three times as large. Every day, David painstakingly baited the trap with chicken skin smeared with peanut butter. And every day the trap was sprung and the bait eaten, with no rat in the trap. The rats all but left little thank you notes for the food. ("Everything was so delicious...sorry we couldn't stay longer.") 

We never caught a rat in the rat trap, but one day I checked the trap and found a dead cardinal in there. That was the end of the rat trap.

Step #3: All right, we're done fucking around. We decided to completely rat-proof the compost pile. We got some metal trash cans and drilled a bunch of holes in the bottom of the can, and in the sides of the bottom half of the can. I would like the record to show that yes, I managed to operate power tools in this one instance and did not injure myself. Much.

This picture just looks like trouble waiting to happen, doesn't it?
And yet everything turned out just fine. Weird.

And then we partially buried the cans.This is our new compost pile! The holes in the sides of the cans let bugs and worms and bacteria in and water out, but rats cannot get in. Look how beautiful this is!

Shield your eyes from the glory of our new compost pile
Seriously, this project turned out so well, and is so visually appealing, that I feel like I should post it on Pinterest. Does Pinterest have a special section for rat-proofing crafts? Because if it doesn't, it should. 

The only thing that is missing is some sort of decoration for the compost cans. Maybe the kids and I could paint some pictures on the can lids or something like that. I might like to paint a cardinal.

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