An outbuilding: June’s craft studio and the adjoining storage room (called ‘The Retreat’ in a previous life), turn their south-facing, walled-in backs, at a distance of some hundred metres, on our house; there’s an outside concrete pad flanked by native shrubs and an uninterrupted view of Mt Michael to the north.
A room that’s more than a shed and less than a sleepout. We put a double bed, bedside sets of drawers and lamps, and a panel heater in there when we had the felting business. We’d retreat to it for a couple of days whenever we were desperately in need of some time out but were over travelling anywhere because that’s what we’d been doing every second weekend to get ourselves to the Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market to sell our handmade felt apparel.
Dubbed, tongue-in-cheek, ‘The Retreat’, it worked well as a bolt hole. Business closed, we no longer felt the need (no pun intended!), so we took out the bed and used the room as a storage space.
This winter, rats, inhabiting the property as successfully as squatters with rights, have taken ownership of the storage room. The studio is lined with plywood – vermin proof. Not so the adjoining room. In there, batts (pink insulation slabs) in the ceiling and walls, are held in place by black building paper, that in turn held in place by tensioned lengths of blue baling twine.
Neither of us into the blackly fatalistic outlook of Noir Interior Style, we brushed cream paint onto the black building paper to keep noir-loving vampires away.
But this winter it hasn’t kept a horde of rats away. Teeth sharp as a vampire’s, rats sank their fangs into the foam strips designed to seal off the gaps at the back end of the roofing iron where it’s nailed, at the top of the wall frame, to a 4″ x 2″ plank. Tunnelling through the foam gave them access to not only the roof space but to a room with paper-thin walls. (Literally – no figure of speech required!)
A few days ago, June went to get some felting gear out of the room. The first time this winter either of us had been up to the secluded area where she has her studio.
We’re both battle hardened from decades of dealing with rats that, every winter, get in the roof space of our old house, but she was genuinely shocked by the smell and the aftermath of the carpet-bombing of that room: rat droppings carpeted the floor, table and tops of the cupboards; urine streaks and damp patches in all sorts of places, even urine pooled in the hollow below the handle of a large suitcase stored on its end. Being a closed in area, the stale, musky background stink was not completely overwhelmed by the stale ammonia stench of all that piss: it felt like you were wearing it – like a perfume created to make you as repulsive as humanly possible.
Then there were the gnawed plastic items; the holes in a plastic basin a sure sign that rats had used it as you would a sharpening stone – honing and keeping in check the chiselled edges of continuously growing fang-like incisors.
So pleased we provided what they needed to maintain their dental health. I’m not kidding. Light years better that they gnaw on a basin of tough plastic in preference to electrical wiring. One did that, a few years ago now, to a cable feed to a sub-mains up there. Luckily, flicking off sparks into the air rather than onto something flammable.
Lacking the chutzpah of New Zealand’s Predator Free 2050 true believers, I’d be content, when it comes to rats, to keep the population at Little Owl Gully in check. My focus, over the course of the next two weeks, will be the storage room, and, I have to confess, my objective will be to take no prisoners. In my next post, I’ll let you know whether I’m winning the battle. I’m not so naive as to ever imagine I can win the war.