Rats! We have rats, and other hazards of urban life


Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against rats per se.  I just don’t like them around my house.  They’re voracious and can be highly aggressive, which is one reason why they’ve adapted so well to city life.  I know they make great pets and I’ve met some lovable rats in my time, but city rats?  Not so much.


  A few nights ago, Glinda and I were out in the garden, and I saw something run past, hugging the wall of the garage.  You don’t live in the city your whole life without learning how to recognize various forms of wildlife by their silhouette and the way they move.  We have rabbits; this was not a rabbit.  It was also not a stray cat, dog, opossum, raccoon, vole, wombat or T-rex (Though I’m told that when our late, un-lamented imported Japanese grass, stuff that laughed in the face of our lawn mower, was at its tallest there were sightings of tigers, giraffes and dinosaurs.) This was a rat.  It wasn’t threatening anyone, it was just using the garage wall superhighway to get from one side of the garden to the other.  The problem is that it or its kin, have been sighted around here quite a lot lately, so I reported it to Streets and Sanitation.


 The S&S car showed up two days later, manned by some very nice folks who do a thankless job.  I brought them into the garden to show them where the rat had been and the guy  said, “I see a problem already.”  Of course I said, “Oh gosh, what?”  “This is way too nice a garden,” he said.  “They want to be here.”  I told him I’d never heard that rats had well-developed aesthetic senses, but that I’d bear that in mind.


This very nice man, named Goodman (Quite apt.), taught me how to recognize a rat hole (Goes straight down about two to three feet, and then horizontal.) and that bleach, ammonia and mothballs all deter them.  I’m not big on mothballs since they’re not only probably carcinogenic but they’re very damaging to cats and can cause total liver failure in short order, but the other two wouldn’t be bad to sprinkle around the house.  The bleach would certainly kill the weeds.  I asked about peppermint oil and he confirmed that they hate it, so our garden is going to smell like peppermint this summer, I think.  I also have a bottle of animal repellent that we got when shopping the other day.  We wanted to use it on our fruit and veggies, but it gets into the plant and makes them taste and smell horrible, which is not really what we want in our crops.  However as soon as the wind dies down a bit here — I totes do not want a face full of that stuff — I’m going to spray along the back of the yards from the sidewalk across to Linda’s place.


To be honest, I wish we didn’t have to call out S&S.  I wish they didn’t have to kill as many rats as they can or put out poison where other animals can get it.  Goodman told me that yeah, rabbits may well eat the stuff.  I don’t like killing things, and I sure don’t like doing it by accident while attempting to kill other things.  I wish there was a better way to live with these creatures.  All we’re really doing is breeding smarter, stronger rats, and that’s not a good thing.

Doin'  the bunny shuffle My rabbit, Nutmeg; she’s one reason why I love bunnies.


Everything about my life is a work in progress.

Shady side of the garden

I’ve been ferociously busy the last few weeks because gardening season hit in a big way recently after weeks of (mostly) sub-normal temperatures.  March was hotter than usual and we got an early start, and then the temps started roller-coastering so we barely knew from day to day what the weather would be like.  Our cool-weather flowers — violas, pansies, ranunculus etc. — did very well for us, but everything else was slow.  The early tomatoes lollygagged in the raised bed and only recently started blossoming a full two months after being planted.  Bunnies ate almost all our pea shoots, roses budded, but the buds looked wrong and bulbs either came up looking odd or didn’t come up at all.

We already have grapes and nectarines, but the nectarine tree has peach leaf curl and I’ve seen black spot and rust on the roses, both of which usually show up much later in the season, so I fear it’s going to be a bad year for fungus. Then we had a freaky, scary storm with a whole lot of hail; a storm so bad that it sounded as if people were outside flinging rocks at the house.  It didn’t break any windows but it tore up the garden and killed one of our baby bunnies. That bothered Glinda and me far more than the plants.  We’ve buried him in a spot between our trio of rose bushes named “Buffy,” “Willow,” and “Cordelia.”  I know  it’s a good resting place for him.  We built him a little cairn, too, to keep out scavengers.

The Tomb of the Unknown Bunny

We pretty much by-passed spring this year and went right into summer.  It’s 94 degrees here today, and of course since it’s Chicago, it’s humid.  We were out all day yesterday and bought a lot of plants, so this morning we stumbled out of bed and went into the garden to plant.  Pretty much everything is finished now, and it looks really nice. Anyone who is interested can find more photos at my Flickr account.

I had a fantastically busy quarter at my editing job, too, which is a good thing because I had to buy a new laptop.  My two older ones couldn’t run the software and while the newest one could, it didn’t run it consistently well.  I had a lot of trouble with my internet connection, too, so I bit the bullet and got myself a Lenovo.  Fortunately I made enough this quarter to pay it off and much of what I spent on plants as well.

I’m very nearly finished with a new story; it’s being revised right now, and I hope to get it edited and out to a publisher by mid-June.  Then I’m going back to “Anna Magdalena’s Song.”  I would love to have that one finished and ready to get shopped around by early autumn.  Royalty payments have been disappointing but then I’ve had nothing new for a while, and if there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that you have to be in front of your audience all the time.

I’ve become obsessed with Pinterest, and have made boards for images that inspire writing ideas as well as the usual ones for gardens and good noms.   I’m Tracy Rowan over there, too, if you’re interested.  My “What do they look like?” board has a lot of images of people who may or may not turn into my characters.  I work sideways with characters, creating them, then finding faces, then developing them, finding new faces and so forth until they have their own lives.  Still it might be interesting to peek at current inspirations.

So now I’m going to go put my feet up.  All that sun and heat finally caught up with me.  Game of Thrones tonight, and some gin and tonic in the garden.  Not a bad thing at all.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 15: In this handou...
Peter Dinklage rocks. I'm just sayin'.