Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rat Shenanigans

Yeah. I've been absent. But I have a pretty good excuse. My house smells like 200 dead rats.

Ever tried doing anything that requires any amount of concentration while inhaling the fumes of dead rodents? It's not easy... The headaches alone are enough to push one into the throngs of insanity. Writing... Which for me requires extreme concentration, is almost impossible, especially after dark when we are forced to shut and lock the cellar door to keep the pipes from freezing.

(During the day the temperatures rise up to the mid 30's range, enough to keep the plumbing working correctly. Keeping the cellar door open creates an alternative and more accesible route for the odor to take, as opposed to up through the cracks and holes under our floor into our house... However at night, the temperature drops below freezing and the door must be closed to keep the cellar room heated to a maintainable level. Of course as soon as the door is latched, the odor starts to drift upward...)

So yeah. Our sweet little cabin in the woods smells like 200 dead rodents, and it has now for about a week.

I knew I had a problem when I would go down to do laundry and open the cellar door. Rodents... First it was mice... Would scatter like marbles dropped on a tile floor as I turned on the light. It was only slightly un-nerving, but I would wash the dirty clothes, and make sure that only a limited amount of laundry was in the cellar at one time. We had that incident last fall when Essie found a nest and 5 pink baby mice curled up together in her top drawer... In the cup of one of her bras. That didn't go over so well with Essie, especially when I boot-stomped the squeaky little fuckers. So I knew that keeping just a pile of clothes in the basement was probably the smart thing to do, to avoid any similar incidents.

I set some traps and caught several mice. I do not mind dealing with dead mice, and got pretty efficient about releasing the spring and "freeing" the mouse carcass from the trap, applying another wad of peanut butter, and resetting the snare.

Then one day, I opened the door and saw a rat.

It sprinted across the floor into my small pile of laundry. I stepped backward, latched the door and drove into town to the Farm and Home store. I bought the biggest bag of Combat Blocks I could find, and proceeded back to my cellar. The door was wide open. Meanwhile, and unbeknownst to me, Essie had gone down to change the laundry while I was gone, and when she opened the washing machine door, a big gray rat greeted her. It was standing on top of our "clean" laundry, and was more than willing to have a 10 second stare down with her before it jumped out and ran behind the appliance. Essie "let out a scream that should have alerted the police", and ran out of there, not bothering to mess with the cellar door. I went in and spread the poison around, not realizing the severity of the problem we had, nor knowing about Essie's recent experience that just happened a few moments before. I placed a few blocks in each corner of the room, and on a couple of cement ledges that looked like what I envisioned as little rat highways. I set the remaining bait on a table behind me, and came upstairs, where Essie, in hysterics, told me her story.

"Don't worry, baby." I said to her comfortingly. " I saw one too, and bought some poison. We will get them."

Well I wasn't exaggerating. The next day during my lunch hour I went down to the cellar to see if any of the blocks had been nibbled. I peeked into the corners, and there were none... The entire supply was gone, without a mere trace. Wow. I thought. Must be a few of 'em.

I turned around to retrieve the bag I had left there that was still almost full of Combat Blocks. It wasn't there. The bag, like the blocks I had already dispersed was completely gone. What the hell... I thought. I took a step back, and there on the floor under the table was the bag. It was completely empty, with six or seven holes gnawed through it. Every single Combat Block was gone, as were ALL the Combat Blocks, even the ones on the cement ledges. I think the hair stood up on the back of my neck at this point, because having once been a pest control technician, I knew a thing or two about the behavior of rats. The first thing is that if you see a rat in the day time, you should know there is a problem, which is why I went to the Farm and Home store right away. Rats are mainly nocturnal, and do not make themselves visible during the light of day. The fact that I saw one during the day told me that there was a bunch of them, and they were sending out hunters early to feed the massive population. The second thing that I thought of was the fact that rats are very cautious animals. Any change to their environment is viewed with extreme caution, and rats will avoid something for up to a week or two, if it seems out of place or is new to their environment. So when I saw the empty bag that had been gnawed full of holes, I got a little spell of the Willies.

The rest of the story is pretty evident... Since that fateful day two weeks ago, Essie and I haven't seen any activity, and have even celebrated our "rodent cleansing". The one thing I did forget about however, was the smell that goes along with the death of a mouse or a rat. It's horrible. Now, with a cabin that sits on top of a cellar that sits on tiop of a rat den that is full of dead rats, it is only inevitible that the smell would drift upward into our living area. Especially, it seems when the furnace fires up, which it does quite often being that this is the dead of winter.

So on days when it's not freezing, I have been leaving the cellar door open, so that the laundry room can breathe. Obviously during this time I am usually at work, and not available to add input to this blog. But at night when the door has to be closed, it get's quite rancid in here... And there we are back to the first paragraph of this post which explains why I have been absent for so long.



Len Cleavelin said...

I lived in an apartment in St. Louis which had a bad mouse infestation back in the late 80s (turned out that the upstairs neighbor had rather loose conceptions of what constitutes "sanitation"; shortly thereafter the landlord invited her to take up residence elsewhere).

I remember the smell vividly. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. Well, maybe on my worst enemy... :)

Hope it subsides soon.

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