dc misc. index
11-29-08 - Life and other lives in the Barn
Must pause from vital work with the SSLP today to continue de-ratifying the archive room. When I got back from the trip to Crestone Mt. Zen Center (searching with Richard Baker for Shunryu Suzuki lectures etc) and first walked into the archive room, there was the unmistakable and appalling smell of rat pee. We've got two cats that tend to keep the rat population upstairs down but some rats (rats, large mice, wood rats? - we get various shapes and sizes.) had gotten to living behind the books and boxes on the shelves in this room. And for good reason. There's a shelf for the cats to eat on which always has catfood on it. I've always wanted that out so now the cat eating shelf is in the main room in plain view. I hope this helps.
Last night I took all the books and boxes from the archive room shelves and stacked them on and under the dining table (once used by the Grateful Dead at Slide Ranch) with three extra leaves in place to hold it all. Most shelves had some to lots of rat evidence - little black pellets, shreds of paper, wetness. They gnawed a big chunk off of Moon in a Dewdrop (Tanahashi's great Dogen translation) - good choice. A few books and some papers have got to go - nothing important. Well, the whole box of Japan notes was used for a nest, a large envelope of correspondence from that time shredded professionally. But would I ever have gone back to it anyway?
There's a closet in the archive room that must be emptied, my hanging clothes on bottom will be fine but the shelf on top will surely reveal more infestation. When the small room is bare I'll vacuum and scrub then spray with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and amonia (a urine-odor-elimination tip from a Consumer Reports book on cleaning, a tip I used to get rid of the horse urine smell downstairs when I moved in here). Then I plan to give away, recycle, burn in the stove, throw away, and compost as much as possible, dust and wipe what's to stay and return it to the shelves but pushed all the way back so there's no vermin aisle, maybe with plastic on top. It would be best to get everything in sealed containers.
For a while the horrid odor will be gone. Maybe it won't return in that room because there won't be any cat food in there. According to an exterminator I talked to once, cat and dog food are the staple of rats and mice who live near humans. And maybe our own feline exterminators have already digested the rodents in question. Yesterday when I got out of bed I stepped on some innards and teeth from a nocturnal meal Frida, I assume, had dined on. (I never see what Misty catches but I know she does sometimes because it's her I place up in the attic when I hear skittering about and it does stop with sudden rapid heavier footsteps and even at times tiny shrieks) (Mysty is John's cat though she lives with us a lot). Frida likes to crunch and chew little critters up in front on us. Katrinka doesn't like to watch. I do. It's amazing to me she eats the head, the tail, the fur, the feet and almost all. If our incessantly snoozing Anatolian Guard Dog, Lady Jane, notices, she'll stroll up to the feast, bark and jump, and gobble up what's left after Frida has run off. If Lady Jane doesn't notice at first, she'll find the leftovers later and get them. These leftovers usually consist of some slimy innards, colon I guess and maybe some other parts Frida doesn't like. She takes them out first reminding me of fish cleaning.
I think people have, or at least I have, an innate revulsion to rat smell which I guess is mainly rat urine smell. They don't go off to urinate but do it wherever they are. I've thrown out two stoves and one refrigerator because of rat smell - each time discovered in an irreversible (I've tried) noxious state upon coming back from being away. The cats just didn't do their job. Now I have the back of these appliances screened off with sticky traps inside the perimeter and steel wool in the appliance orifices. There's a lot of work that could be done to eliminate their entry points. One would be to get a front door. Right now there's just a curtain. I came home recently to have a mouse run from the dog food dish to fly past my face to the stairwell. And it's not just rodents - I've come home to have neighbor's cats do the same - even frantically zooming past me to smash into the wall below on their way out.
When we got back from ten days at Tassajara this August there were two adolescent possums living in Clay's room. They're sort of blind and would walk around in front of us at night and were rather slow but I failed in the first attempt to get them. Even though they were no bigger than some other critters I'd seen Frida eat, she and Misty would just look at them. They even hung out in our bedroom where the cats tend to sleep. I know for two reasons - scat which I originally thought was Misty's and rubbed her nose in and threw her outside only to have to apologize later - and because the first night we were back I was rudely awakened by something biting my finger. I knew it was a real bite and not a dream bite (no penetration) and thought it must be a cat but they were asleep. Later I realized it was a possum crawling over my pillow as I slept. I caught one with a Have-a-heart trap and the other by hand with work gloves on - picking it up from sleep under a pile of bedding in Clay's room. Wasn't hard. I put each in a waxed-cardboard cat carrier and took them to a ravine. I opened both containers, let one out, turned to the other and it was already gone - I thought. Two days later I found it sitting on the back seat of my car as I filled gas at night. I nudged it out and tried to direct it toward a field but it insisted on walking out on the highway. I drove off wondering about its fate.
One mammal that gets into the barn I don't have to do much to get rid of except wait. Bats. They fly up the stairs and over or through the mindfulness curtain, a beautiful blue segmented hanging noren. It's called the mindfulness curtain because you've really got to pay attention not to knock it down. Back to bats. I'll be sitting in my office working and a bat will fly in. A large bat. My office is packed and small - like ten by twelve feet with a seven foot ceiling. The bat with a wingspan of a foot or so will fly around and I just can't sit there and work with that happening, especially since it will brush up next to me at times. It'll stop to rest too and my are they frightening looking - real horror movie potential. So I open the curtain to my room so as to block the small archive room as well as I can and leave the door from there open to the main room and sit in there and read or do dishes and eventually I see it back in that room and go close the door to the archive and office (and bathroom too), make sure the screenless window by the sink is open as well as the curtain to downstairs set aside, and go back to the office. This happens about once a month.
Frida gets gophers and moles and birds - I won't let her keep them and scold her for that which seems to help a little. We get lizards in the barn. I think Frida likes to play with them and she eats them sometimes but they sure get away from her a lot. They seem to be able to live for a long time on nothing. Found a half a snake in front of the refrigerator recently. It was almost an inch in diameter. Gopher snake I think.
I think it's strange we don't see raccoons here much at all. There are squirrels here and there. I've seen bobcats, foxes, and coyotes and hear the later at night - with the horses, goats, emu, llama, sheep, ostriches, and cows vocalizing across the hills. I've heard that ever once in a while a bear will find its way near here but I find that hard to believe. Katrinka hit the jackpot a couple of months ago. Coming home from work at around eleven PM, just as she was about to turn into the driveway, a large mountain lion leaped in an arch in front of her car and bounded majestically into the neighbors' yard. I think about that when I'm rolling the trash and recycling out at night to the highway.
I'm sorry about all the death that goes on because we're here. I like rats but have direct experience that if nothing is done they take over. I've seen them run around in front of us in the daylight when they get no negative feedback. I'm not so worried about sanitation but the odor motivates me strongly. It's not only the cats that kill them. I've put out traps and taken many dead bodies to the trash and said little prayers for them and even drowned a few that were hopelessly wounded. I could use Have-a-heart traps but it's not cool to dump them on others. I have twice read one suggestion as to how to get rid of them without killing them that everyone thinks is horrible but which I'd prefer if I were a rat. That is to catch them and torture them and let them go where you live. I actually read that that's what the song, Three Blind Mice is about - that if you catch them and burn or cut off their tails (with a carving knife or other sharp implement) they'll not only not return but will tell others not to go where that awful thing happened.
I prefer cats to traps. It seems so organic. I read that all cats come from what is now Israel and that the original ancestor's descendents still live in the wild there. Cats evolved to their present world wide dominant status alongside grain which attracted rodents. Now the rats eat the cat food and the cats eat the rats. What a natural cycle. I wish it were some other way, that the cat could lie down with the mouse, but it's not. We don't live in a vegan biosphere. I've created imaginary worlds of peace and love though. I told Kelly (35) and Clay (17.5), when they were little, that cats and dogs get married and have mice for children. My Japanese neighbors liked that idea - for some reason they weren't so negative about mice and rats. Japanese sailors are said to regard rats on a ship as good luck. So I imagine that the rats here are signs of good luck. Then I plot their demise.
I also imagine that all suffering that happens because of me I will experience seven times over or seven times more severe - a Tibetan idea. I'll do the time for the crime to get rid of that smell. I also imagine that all the kindness I express will be experienced with the same magnitude. So I stroke dogs and cats a lot and look forward to my rewards in future lives.
One unfortunate side effect of having cats is that they don't care what they kill. It's a big problem world-wide. I'd put a bell on Frida but we'd be overrun with vermin. The other day while sitting on a swing outside and watching Frida stalk in the field, I sang a song. Later I'll record it and put it on cuke as an MP3, but for now, here are the words. I think it would make a nice singalong.
My Friend Frida is a Killing Machine
My friend Frida is a killing machine
Frida like to kill the rat
Frida like to kill the mole
Frida like to kill the gopher
Frida like to kill the rabbit
Frida like to kill the snake
Frida like to kill the bird
Frida like to kill the butterfly
Frida like to kill the mouse
And just recently I've noticed for the first time - ants.
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