Garden Lore

“It would be worthwhile having a cultivated garden if only to see what Autumn does to it.”

Alfred Austin, The Garden That I Love (1894).

001Garden lore – rat catching

Sadly, rats are a fact of life and not an indication of squalor as I am sure many river-side residents will know. We get rats here because we have a macadamia nut orchard and processing plant immediately next door and we also have a flowing stream which can bring them in. The current tally this autumn is already 21 despatched. We have a strong preference for trapping, not poisoning these days and a trapping round is part of Mark’s daily routine. He uses small squares of stale bread spread with both butter and peanut butter as bait. The downside of trapping is that you do have to be willing to kill the rat. He used to leave this to the dogs but gave up when one escaped from them. Nowadays, he tips the trapped prey into a sack and whacks the sack on concrete. It is a quick end.
You can buy poison across the counter but follow instructions. A regional council pest control officer once told me he despaired at the number of people who thought they knew better than to secure the bait because the rat would take it back to its nest. He had pulled out a fridge in a shed and found maybe 200 baits behind, stockpiled by the rats (which were still alive) as a squirrel stockpiles acorns. The bait needs to be secured and out of the way of dogs. We had a dog once that ate rat bait. It was a traumatic wait to see if he would survive. He did. We have also seen one of our dogs and a cat from earlier days get quite ill after eating poisoned rats. The experience of having a dying, poisoned rat wedge itself in the chimney breast (they go in search of water), there to decompose over many weeks put us off poisoning once and for all. Hence the return to trapping.

And I managed to get that far without making a joke about the Pied Piper of Hamilton.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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