“I smell a rat!”
Graham R. Cooper
“I smell a rat!” you exclaim when one’s decomposing under your floorboards.
“I smell a rat!” But that wasn’t the problem this time. I didn’t smell a rat. And neither did June.
Vacuuming under the living room rug, June wondered how rice grains had got under there. Then she noticed movement. Maggots! Not more than a dozen, and not the writhing wriggles of happy maggots: these ones were dying – nothing moist and edible under our rugs!
Puzzled and not a little alarmed as to why maggots were under the rug, it wasn’t until she cleaned the top of the woodstove later in the morning that the mystery was solved.
Several brown fibres that looked like the bits that settle at the bottom of an All Bran packet. But definitely not All Bran – these were crispy baked maggots, no doubt quite edible – but would you?
We’ve got a gas activated rat trap in the ceiling space that under optimistically optimum conditions can humanely kill up to twenty-four rats before the gas canister needs replacing. But I find that by the time I’ve caught three or four rats and a few pesky mice, and the gas has leaked a little round the seals, I have to put in a new canister.
If someone had said, “I smell a rat!” then I would have gone up there and got to it before the maggots ran out of gooey rat and started to look for more food. They must have dropped over the lip of the hole in the ceiling where the flu pipe goes through, and then wriggled and dropped off the edge of the steel plate that shields the ceiling from the flu’s heat.
The ‘All Brans’ (R.I.P) must have gone over the top when the stove was fired up. The ‘Rug Wrigglers’ that got sucked up the vacuum cleaner, must have plummeted when the stove was cold and then wriggled all the way to the rug.
You don’t say, “I smell a rat!” when they die in the ceiling space. You’d think you might get a whiff, especially as the trap’s on a vertical strut near the flu pipe. I guess the stench is wafting upwards and escaping through the roofing iron; it’s not only the hot air round the flu that’s rising!
It’s a good place to attach the trap – a handy vertical strut at a high central point that’s easy to get at, and the only area (because it encircles the flu), clear of wool insulation batts.
Not good though when the blowflies get to the rat first. I get to it through a small trapdoor in the bathroom ceiling.
I put off going up there longer than I should. It’s such a hassle.
I have to remove toothbrushes, soap, flannels, hand towel, floor rug; cover cosmetics shelf; haul in big stepladder; grab head torch, dust mask, disposable latex gloves, brown paper bag, scoop, container of peanut butter, knife; put on or carry said gear; hoist myself up through the trap door; gingerly step my way along the ceiling joists; scoop the rat into the bag; use the knife to smear peanut butter close to the trap; take the bait bottle out of the trap and put a big blob of the butter at the opening; screw it and the protective cap back on; reverse my steps.
But we don’t want a repeat of the maggot visitation. More vigilance needed. If we’re around at the time, we do get some help in the vigilance department: the sickening realisation that the trap’s killer rod has pistoned into a rat’s skull.
There’ve been a couple of occasions when I’ve had to explain the thud to dinner guests, and that what followed was a rat thrashing about in its death throws on top of the ceiling’s tongue and groove boards.
Of course, how I’d approach an explanation would depend on the company, and how much wine I’d had at the time. Come to think of it, a bit like today’s blog post – and, yes, I was stone cold sober when I wrote it. So don’t go telling me: “I smell a rat!”
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.