It has taken me nearly ten years of rural living to get comfortable with the knowledge that at various points during the year, I live with rats.
My house sits on a field stone foundation that was hand-dug by farmers back in the 1930’s. It is less than ideal and gives us a headache every spring when the ground thaws and our house starts to move, causing cracks in the ceilings and floor boards.
That shifting foundation means easy access for field mice and rats. No matter what we do, they gnaw their way into the warm basement once the February winds blow. And where I live, those winds blow hard. And so, for obvious reasons, we’ve never used our basement for much. We certainly don’t hang out in it. But last year, in a desperate need to find a place to stash a box of summer yard toys, I reluctantly decided that the basement was the only viable option.
A few weeks ago, we pulled that box out of the basement and it looked just fine. No obvious bite marks or unexplainable tears. I opened it up and saw to my great disappointment that there were rat droppings in the bottom of the box. Everything in it was contaminated. I pulled the Slip ‘N Slide out, which had been rolled up tight and found a hole chewed all the way through, making it so that when rolled out, there was a repeated hole dotting the center of the slide from end to end.
With two dogs and my neurotic need to avoid rodents in our living space, rats are not a threat to our home – at least the part of our home where we actually, you know, live. But the basement with all the dirt chinking between rocks provides easy access for a rodent to dig into and make a nice little home for the winter. A few times a year, I go down there and clean everything. The floors are swept, the walls – even those granite blocks and giant field stones – get vacuumed off and any sign of rodent holes get filled back in. We put out traps. We do everything we’re told to do to keep those little devils out.
In the spring we find all kinds of weird signs that rats and other rodents have been around. A few years ago, something – we think it was a rat or maybe a raccoon – ate the gas cap off our lawn mower. Another time, a family of mice set-up a next on the engine block of my car.
No matter how hard we try to avoid them, rodents are an inevitable part of rural life.