Living with Critters


Except for earwigs, I don’t mind our insect neighbors. Spiders fascinate me. I’ve had pet rats I still miss (RIP, Zed). Mice don’t make me scream and stand on chairs. I’m pretty cool with life. Live and let live, right?

But out here I am overwhelmed by all this life. Everything here is alive. Fallen trees nurse ferns, mushrooms, miner’s lettuce, huckleberries and more trees.

I’ve seen rabbits by the snowberry patch. Ground squirrels, Douglas squirrels, deer mice and wood rats live in our shadows. It’s always the little things that wake the dog at night.

In the early morning, if I stop on the way to the kitchen and listen, I can feel the hum of insect life in my bones. They flit, float, bumble and dart in and out of shadow like tiny woodland fairies.

We built a bat house in the back of the kitchen. Brown bats tumble out of it at dusk to hunt up and down the creek. Birds of every feather: tanagers, thrushes, wrens, visit our wild berry bushes, cascara trees and cedar tops. We often wake to the coo of the band-tailed pigeon.

All of this is beautiful. I love spending afternoons in the deck watching all this life explode all around me. When we first moved out here, I didn’t want touch anything. Every leaf, frond, stump and branch was home to some living creature.

When we were evicting the wood rat from the kitchen construction site, I threw a fit when Nathan set traps. Afterall, they were here first. We moved to their house.

Then the little jerks decided to cut down my favorite tomato plant and use a few leaves in their elaborate nest. I followed the wreckage of my once-beautiful carbon heirlooms to their nest and yelled threats, kicked it down (freaky because two fat bushy-tailed rats jumped out and watched my tirade from the bathroom roof) and then I cut down the bushy cover around where I found the nest. How quickly I went from tolerant to “kill them all” in one very disappointing morning.

From what I’ve read, I can’t simply tolerate them. Although they are territorial, so our little property likely has one family at a time, rat families include one male and several females plus babies. Everything I’ve read says I need to clean up the brush, seal up stuff they like to get into (outhouse, food storage, etc.) And routinely kill them.

Our neighbor has been catching them in live traps and driving them out into the woods and freeing them, but as soon as a male is caught, another takes its place.

We cleaned up the brush around our buildings, sealed up the plants and fertilizers, but I haven’t been able to set the traps yet. In India there is a temple which honors rats. The uglier cousins of our humble packrat.