Monday, August 06, 2007

In which I find myself talking to rats

I talk to myself. I'm not even shy about admitting it anymore. And I keep up a pretty regular banter as I go about the farm doing all the chores, or checking on things...most of it is directed towards the animals, who are consulted on all sorts of topics from gardening to politics, and some of it is just general commentary. Any human who is close enough to hear can join in, but it's mostly just my way of keeping my thoughts from racing so far ahead that I lose my train of thought about what needs to be done next, and I find myselft standing stock still in the middle of the yard with a completley blank look on my face, struggling to remember where I was going and what I was supposed to do when I got there.

So it was with much surprise and dismay that I found myself talking to the rats in the barn. They are not supposed to be there; and more than that, they are not supposed to break my reverie of rodent denial ( I know - having chickens means having rodents, but it's all good until I SEE them) by making noise, but they did.

Walking into the barn, I see the broody hen with the hatchlings, and I answer their chirping with a greeting, and I chatter while I feed them, and I turn to leave the barn and I hear squeaking that is too high and at the same time too quiet to be the chicks. I freeze in my tracks and bark, "I did not just hear rats, did I?" They fall silent, and I wait for more. After a minute, I turn to leave, and they squeak again. (Mocking me now, they are.) So I threaten them with poison pellets, and they fall silent, so I can leave. (Oh, for a chicken like Kathy's....)

But this scenario is repeated an hour later when I am back in the barn to retrieve the grain scoop. Bold, audible, too-numerous-to-be-one, rodent squeaking. And before I can stop myself, I explain to them that my next actions are regretable, but that they brought this all upon themselves by letting me know they are there: I break out the poison pellets. And I sprinkle. Liberally, but in all the spots too tucked away to be appealing to the chickens. Like under the floorboards.

I have been told, that rats are smart. So smart, that when you try a poison or trapping method once, they are then hip to it and won't fall for it a second time. So, I tell the rats that they are NOT that smart, and that they will come, eat the tasty pellets, and go far, far away to die. Any human listening at this point would surely be questioning my grip on reality as I am conversing with rats, but that does not stop me. I am keeping up this banter to quell my absolute disgust at the fact that I am in the same building with cootie-carrying rats.

I move on. To something far more interesting and productive - my latest natural dyeing experiment is finished. I have dyed two skeins of fingering weight (enough for men's socks), with butternuts.

I love the color, and even though the photo included coneflower for color reference, they still did not show quite as golden as I had you'll have to trust me.

We are going to try and do a fiber festival next fall, and if we get accepted, it is our plan to have a nautral dyes line. This is the season for dyeing, with lots of plants available on the farm. This is our year to experiment and develop reliable colorways. Maybe four or five will make the final cut...Rudbekia is in the pot now (a repeat) and we are still searching for an acceptable pink. Goldenrod coming up soon...and I am experimenting with sumac bark for an orange...
Oh yeah, before I forget: two dead rats on the floor of the chicken coop the very next day. Obviously they did not hear my admonitions about going far, far away to die, but I'll take dead over live and sqeaking anyday.


Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

This is one area in which we do not live parallel lives. Oh, my mind is always going ninety, but I don't talk to myself. That's Rick's department. I always know when he's wrestling with a predicament, because he'll really talk to himself then. Once upon a time he didn't realize he did this, and when I'd ask him what was bothering him he was a bit freaked out, thinking I could read his mind! Ha! I shouldn't have revealed his "tell."

Karin said...

Melanie, you are a much much braver soul that I.
Rats! Good grief.

And you know something? You're a damn good writer.

Kathy L. said...

ROFLMAO! I can box up Josey and send her right out, Melanie! ;-) Now, mice are actually dragging the traps (somewhere) with them!

Just watch out for your cats...when we lived in Kansas, a dairyman I knew was having problems with his barn cats dieing off. He had put poison bait out for the mice and rats, then when the vermin were under the influence of the poison the cats would catch them (much more easily) and eat them getting secondary poisoning from the poison-laced rodents. Once he recognized what was happening, he discontinued the pellets and got way more cats. Not that you want to be one of "those" ladies with 157 cats. ;-)

And the yarns are a really nice shade - butternut brown. I remember trying a crabapple tree (leaves) in late spring. I pre-mordanted the yarns so I could get a color range from one dyebath and out came a beautiful cornsilk yellow from the alum skein. The best thing was that for years the skein had the faint odor of apple.

Can't wait to see the socks you make!

melanie said...

Josey is welcome ANYTIME...however explain to here that I don't want to SEE her doing her work...(eeeeww!)

Now Max only runs in the barn to see if I am in there (to feed her) and shows no other interest, and Henry I found sleeping on a shelf in the garage amongst the rubber gloves and refinishing materials, so they shouldn't come into direct contact....and CATCH THE RATS? Are you kidding? That would be work, and that clearly is not what these two think they are supposed to be doing.

I have told myself I am entering the socks in the county fair. That forces me to knit them quickly, which is a good thing...I'll keep you posted.

Barbara from Nova Scotia said...

Rats. My condolences. I discovered rats in my barn when I was cleaning it out this past winter before getting another load of hay. I was living in denial until the moment I accidentally stabbed one with my pitch fork. GROSS!! And a short time later during the same cleaning session I stepped on a baby rat to boot. That one sent me screaming outside while my 18year old son laughed himself silly. I borrowed traps from a neighbour after that. Obviously my cats where not keeping up with the supply. And there I often thought why the cats would choose to stay in the barn on a freezing night instead of coming into the house with me to beg for some of the warm milk I had in the bucket!