Friday, June 22, 2007

I'd Rather Have Bats in My Belfrey

This is a post that I composed in early February but, for some reason, never got around to publishing. Since the purpose of this blog is to document my life and times in the interest of friends and family and for my own future nostalgic amusement, I decided to go ahead and post it now and just add an update at the end. So, here you go.

The Fraternal Order of Rodentia

Remember Ratilda, the suburban rat that was a regular at my mother's bird feeder last year? Well her city cousins have clearly interpreted our absence and the plethora of openings facilitating entry into our house as an open invitation to replace us as occupants.

When we left on August 28, 2005, there was food in the house. When we came back last January, it was obvious that the children of the night had been paying regular visits. Before we left, I had hamster food and a big bag of sunflower seeds in the den, all zipped up in their bags. These had all been raided and all that was left was a nice pile of sunflower seed shells on the floor. But the food had been stored in the kitchen cabinets seemed to be okay.

When we gutted the kitchen, I put everything, including the few remaining unopened food items into boxes and moved them into the dining room where most of our Virginia possessions were being housed. I really thought that we'd be progressing on the restoration and things wouldn't stay where they were for very long. Besides, I usually go to the house every day and like having a few food items around for myself when I work.

I have, for the most part, refrained from poking around things inside the house, as most of the work I've been doing has been outside and I don't really want to know too much more than I already do about the mysteries of the closed spaces inside. But last week I needed something from the kitchen stock and started moving boxes around. And lo, what did I find in the recesses but the scene of a ratty feast. These suckers took the corrugated paper packaging from the light bulbs and made a nice, comfy little lounge behind the boxes near the fireplace. I think the defunct chimney is an express elevator to and from the attic, one of the main rodentia ports of entry. (The other is in the huge floor gaps along the exterior kitchen walls.) All that was left of the Sweet and Salty Nut bars I kept for occasional work-day snacking were the empty wrappers. Same deal with some individual bags of Pepperidge Farm Milanos. And they ate through a shrink-wrapped box of matzo, which they annihilated along with two boxes of matzo ball mix. (Kosher rats?) And in the middle of it all were huge rat turds. I'm not experienced in this department, but based on an extrapolation from the tiny pellets produced by our dwarf Siberian hamsters, I'm scared.

The next day, I was cleaning upstairs and found the can of smoked almonds I had on the night table in my bedroom, empty under my bed with the plastic lid chewed off. (I'd taken the metal pull-top off and had eaten a few, but left it with the plastic lid secured.

How do they do it? Do they have x-ray vision and some kind of analogous olfactory powers? How do they know there is food inside something like a can with a tight plastic lid? Or a sealed bag like the nut bars?

There's lots of evidence that the rodentia have been having a good old time in the wide-open attic since we've been gone. Now all that insulation has to come out. Um, I swear I'm not going to start getting paranoid about hanta virus or anything. Oy.

The Fraternal Order of Blattodea

Then there are the hideous members of the Blattodea order of Insecta, an order so despised by me that I will not use their common name, but at least one person out there thinks they make great pets and has provided instructions on how to feed and care for them. (Just think about how funny that is. But this guy's serious and obviously doesn't live here.) Anyway, these vile and disgusting insects rooted out their share of stuff, too. They like candy, especially chocolate. Their calling cards and little shards of foil are all that remain in the candy dish that was hidden behind some boxes. I saw the same in a closed plastic file drawer upstairs that contained lifesavers and protein bars- little snacks I liked to have handy if I got hungry while working at my desk. It grossed me out too much to investigate what, exactly, they had eaten. But all these things were sealed in plastic. I was a fool to underestimate the power of these wretched creatures. They apparently ended their little orgiastic debauchery in an egg-laying spree, indiscriminantly depositing their little capsules on whatever was convenient, including the surface of my dead Titanium PowerBook. (Never seen anything like that before.)

When this house is resurrected, I want it to be hermetically sealed. I don't want anything coming in that I didn't invite in.

So, here's your warning, vermin:

Get the hell out before I start my own Shock and Awe campaign, because once the house is sealed, so will be your fate!
UPDATE 6-21-07

I'd like to amend that warning to include the buckmoth caterpillars (affectionately called mumkins by some one New Orleanian), that decided to roam around and pupate inside my house this year.

As updates go, I think the rats came, feasted and left, as no new rat *evidence* showed up once I cleaned the area and removed any remaining traces of human food. The mice, on the other hand, apparently hung around to scrounge the seeds out of the flowers in the potpourri and one seemed to find amusement by making me jump and utter a little muted scream as it scampering through the den. When I retreated to the dining room to pack things there, it followed me and was rewarded again with the same response.

I went several weeks after that without seeing any signs of mice, but a few days ago I was in the den (the only room in which any furniture remains), playing around with a piece of lath board from my wall, (a little steel wool and it produced a rather pretty sheen!), when I heard the subtle ping of a string on my Moroccan goatskin lute, which still sits nestled between old sheets and other utilitarian items on my sofa. I stopped and listened for other noises, but heard nothing, so I resumed my activities and, there it was. I cautiously started poking things on the sofa but heard no movement. I think they're just messing with me now. If they like the sofa that much, they can have it. But I'll have the last laugh...

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Anonymous charlotte said...

I cannot stand a freakin' roach....when I first moved here I was totally freaked by the roaches. I had never seen one before, much less a flying one. Aack!

Mice? Mice I can handle. Rats....NO WAY!

9:18 PM  
Anonymous adrastos said...

Hmmm, I though you *did* have bats in your belfrey...ducking.

Btw, I introduced myself to Alex at Croissant D'Or this week. He was very nice but flinched a bit when he was I one of the bloggers. I assured him that you said nice things about him on the blog but that the pictures might be a bit embarrassing...

4:29 PM  
Blogger Leigh C. said...

Ouch! Buckmoth catapudlars in your HOUSE? Ugggh. I'm amazed you're even coming back to it...well, not that amazed, but I've been stung by one of those suckers. It is NOT fun.

Hang in there. The little bastards may be winning some battles, but they won't win the war.

9:56 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

Yeah, Charlotte, I'm with you on that. The kids have seen the mice hanging around outside a couple of times since the storm, too and they're really little and we all think they're kinda cute. But the rest of the creatures... blech!!!

Adrastos, thanks for solving the mystery! Alex told me he met one of my "blogger friends" at the shop but, of course he couldn't tell me who. When pressed for a description, he said a jolly guy with glasses. Jolly? I asked, with images of Santa dancing through my head. "You know," he said, "happy and friendly." I'm thinking that cynical Shecky mustn't have had his morning coffee yet. (Not that Shecky isn't also jolly. Oh, and the rats scared the bats out of my belfry, but they're back now.

Leigh, I had more buckmoth caterpillars in my house this year than I could count, but if you saw how many free entry points there are, you'd understand. I had a picture of one pupating in a cardboard box but deleted it by accident. However, you can see one right near the top of my plumb-line in this photo. Before the storm, we'd get one in the house every now and then, too.

1:01 PM  

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