14 Apr 2013

early autumn garden (rat) ramble

A fairly empty vegie garden

The smell of autumn. Currently, that smell is of sheep poo and chook manure. Yes, to borrow a phrase from Jo, I have been putting the vegie garden ‘to bed for the winter’.

Over Easter I picked up where I left off with my end-of-summer clean-up. I bought many bags of ‘vegie mix’, full of composted organic matter, manure and soil-essential nutrients (according to the bag). It was dark and fine and just beautiful to work with, and smelt rich and sort of mushroomy – a lovely compost smell. Dad gave me a few bags of sheep poo, so I generously spread that about, too. I then scattered great handfuls (well, old ice cream containers-full) of pelletised chook manure. I’m tempted to buy some mushroom compost too; when I do this kind of thing, I want to pack in as much of the good stuff as possible.

Dad advised raking back the sugar cane mulch to let the sun and rain directly into soil. I think he is being rather optimistic about that rain stuff, and the soil and all that lovely new dark vegie mix may dry out, but I bowed to his experience and wisdom.

Of course, what to do with the raked-back sugar cane mulch presents a problem of the rattus rattus variety. I’m sure you can work that one out. For the past few autumns, I’ve had rats – not just in the garden, but up in the roof of my house. Looking for warm safe places to breed more disease-carrying, disgusting horrible rats. I should take out shares with the amount of Talon and Ratsak I have about the place - I simply loathe rats.

Mum and dad were up the other day, and we were out in the garden, talking while dad worked on near my garage and I raked up the sugar cane mulch. I disturbed a small pile that had accumulated around the base of a nectarine tree when a fat mouse jumped out. I of course squealed and called out for my father. Strangely, the very large mouse just sat there. Dad hurrumphed at my female helplessness and increasingly high-pitched calls to ‘kill it - kill it!’. I think just to shut me up, he came over and very calmly said, ‘that’s not a mouse…’ (very shades of Crocodile Dundee, don’t you think? ‘That’s not a knife…’). No, dear readers, it was not a mouse. It was a young rat.

Well, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. Calm but decisive, dad reached over, killed the rat with his bare hands (I know!), then tossed it on the garden bed where it twitched in its death throes. I then carried on a bit more and made him bury it – we all logically agreed it would be ‘blood and bone’ and good for the garden, but I made him bury it in a spot where I was unlikely to unearth it in the near future.
There's a dead rat under there

Since then, I have bought more all-weather rat baits; disturbingly, some of it has gone missing. I have visions of the rats eating this stuff like candy and growing into some super breed of rattus rattus that merely laughs at our futile human attempts to wipe out its superior species, mwah ha ha! Okay I’m getting a bit carried away, but missing bait (and no dead bodies to count) freaks me out.

After this, the garden is just about ‘put to bed’. I have some lingering green beans that may produce another meal or two, but once they’re finished, they’ll be pulled out and dug in, their trellises put to one side and their patch boosted with all that lovely smelly stuff, too.

Then the garden – apart from some parsley and silverbeet - will hibernate over the winter months, and I too will have a rest from watering and digging and pulling and picking.

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