Care and Feeding of Your Compost Rat

December 13, 2010

Frankly, I was a little worried last Winter.

From our dining room window, I could watch a rat going about its business some 15 feet away. It had made a home for itself below the mixed-seed bird feeder, its burrow entrance jutting through the snow.

Fortunately, Barefootheart (who’s having a birthday today!!) allayed my fears. She predicted that the rat would move along come Spring, and wouldn’t try to enter our house. And, when Spring came, Barefootheart’s prediction was confirmed.

Barefootheart also referred to the rat as a “she”.

So this October, when Somebody moved into our fancy plastic compost bin, I decided to name her “Josephine”. The dogs know she’s there, but she’s safe from them. She’s also a whole lot further from our house than last year’s Winter Rat, who gave no trouble. Why not let her be, then?

Frost beside a hole -- I'm guessing this is Josephine's bedroom.

And guess what? Robbie Burns’s philosophy, “I’ll get a blessin’ with the lave”, is proving true, too.

In Composting 201, we all learned that the transformation of banana peels into garden soil is facilitated by:

– air circulation;

– a little extra soil;

– stirring;

– chopping of vegetable matter;

– warmth;

– moisture;

– nitrogen.

Josephine provides all this. She has formed tunnels, excavated underneath the bin, and mounded up the pile in the back left corner, to make a comfortable home. She eats the kitchen scraps that appeal to her, and buries the rest. Her wee body, the length of your hand and the girth of your fist, adds a little warmth to the otherwise stone-cold wintertime bin, and her breath adds moisture. And the nitrogen? Well…some of us refer to it more commonly as “piddle”.

When Spring comes, Josephine will move to the blackberry patch on the City land, and I will have the loveliest barrowloads of garden food.

These happy thoughts have led to increased consideration of the kitchen compost bucket’s contents. Will this cabbage core give her gas? Will she enjoy this nice squash rind? Should I “accidentally” add this bit of pork chop fat?

One day recently, I did contribute a nonfood item. I was trimming ends on some all-cotton dishcloths, and…

Clementine rinds, chamomile flowers, and cotton bedding bits.

Josephine has squirreled away every last thread.