I had heard that the despicables (Norway Rats) had moved into our fair city.  They have apparently been hitching rides on the transport trucks from the coast.  This is probably true.  I lived on the coast for about 40 years.  My parents believed in composting EVERYTHING.  I have seen despicables the size of cats.  The appearance of these noxious vermin in our neck-of-the-woods strengthens my resolve to do anything and everything to “grow local, buy local, eat local.”  Clearly, we are moving more than produce across provincial and national borders with our heavy reliance on imports and exports.  However, as far as the despicables goes it is already too late. Done deal. Now we need to focus on damage-control.

The first sign that our yard had become occupied territory was in August of this year when my prized San Marzano tomatoes began to ripen. First it was one tomato with little marks that looked as though Bugs Bunny had taken a chomp.  Soon almost every San Marzano was hit as it ripened.  For the most part our Beefsteaks and cherry tomatoes remained unscathed. Clearly the despicables have taste.

The offender managed to escape detection until the concord grapes started ripening.  Apparently despicables love concords even more than they love San Marzano’s.  I was outside on a sunny day when something streaked up the stock of the grape and into the foliage.  It wasn’t until the offender flew onto the neighboring grape vine that I saw him clearly.  Yes, the despicables had arrived (or at least one).

I briefly thought about moving to an even more arid geographical area but common sense prevailed.  I had to find some way to cope. To shift my thinking, I decided to name the rodent “Willard.” This worked.  At least I could go into the backyard without becoming overwhelmed with disgust and revulsion.  In fact, this strategy worked so well that on one occasion I thought briefly about going out to rescue Willard in an electrical storm.  Thankfully, common sense prevailed again.

I have now accepted that the despicables will forevermore be a part of my gardening life.  I have moved on to problem-solving.    A few years ago, my multi-talented hubby built me some beautiful raised cedar garden boxes. These will probably out-last me (to future owners of my property…you’re welcome).  Hubby used irrigation pipe to fashion hoops over these boxes.  All that is required is for me to toss netting over the hoops.  This protects my crops from deer, quail (adorable but oh-so-destructive to tender greens) and now the despicables.  The hoops are dual-purposed in that I can put 6 ml poly (plastic) over them in the fall and spring. This turns the garden boxes into “season extenders” in which I grow cool-season crops like lettuce, kale, kohlrabi, collards, and radishes.  I will address this topic in more detail in a future post.  Now, back to the despicables…

I am in a dilemma about my compost boxes.  I use compost a lot in my vegetable boxes and on our fruit trees and berry bushes.  I am going down swinging on this one.  A few years ago, we stopped putting fruit residue including tomatoes (skins, cores, seeds etc.) in the compost because these seemed to be attracting the dreaded Spotted Wing Drosophila (fruit flies).  We live close to orchards and it is not fair for us to jeopardize our neighbors’ livelihoods by vectoring crop-destroying insects in our little “Backyard Homestead.” If there is evidence that the despicables are being attracted by our compost we will cease and desist with composting vegetable parings.  Hopefully there will still be enough leaves and pruning’s from our perennial flowers and shrubs to make sufficient compost.

There you have it.  My inaugural season of coping with despicables in my garden.  One of our neighbors must have put out rat poison. Willard consumed it and crawled back to our yard to die.  I felt a wee bit sad when I found him.  My main piece of advice is….DO NOT give the rodent a name.