Care and Feeding of Your Compost Rat

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.

22 Responses to Care and Feeding of Your Compost Rat

  1. Jayne says:

    I think Josephine is a spoiled little Miss who would be silly to move on in Spring if she knows which side her bread’s buttered (or how full her compost bin is!)

  2. eyegillian says:

    Having a rat living in the composter is, y’know, a bit icky. But having a creature named Josephine with homey yarn cushions sounds so much nicer.

  3. Binky says:

    If the Wombies decide to move into your bin, I hope they’ll be treated as well!

  4. lavenderbay says:

    Unfortunately, she won’t have much choice, Jayne, when I fork all that black gold out of the hatches at the bottom of the bin. But I wouldn’t be surprised if she returns next Autumn.

    It does sound inviting, doesn’t it, Eyegillian? Kinda like the snooker table in Snoopy’s doghouse.

    Any Wombies would be treated equally kindly, Binky! They might, though, prefer to live on our second floor, where they can pose for my watercolour pictures and enjoy their wine gums in peace, away from our Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

  5. I still feel unusual says:

    I want to see a photo of the rat! Husband has mice in his workshop. He is not happy about them though.

  6. Colleen Dick says:

    I like your philosophy about the rat. I always felt that the composter was a magnet for the mice so they would stay away from the house. Now if I could just find a way to lure pantry moths out to the composter.

  7. Tony says:

    Will this cabbage core give her gas? She sure has caused extra composting concerns. Have you “accidently” composted any chunks of cheese recently? I will have to be alert to all this as I could lose my 2 main Pub Alley characters if Barry & Cedric become tempted to move to Canada…

  8. pennycat says:

    Purrrhaps you should give Josie a crochet hook so she could fashion a little dishcloth or maybe some baby rat booties!

  9. lavenderbay says:

    Unfortunately, S. Le, Josephine is shyer about having her photo taken than you are! Not sure about your hubby’s workshop; maybe one of your cats can become a shop assistant?

    You have pantry moths too, Colleen? Yuckers! We’ve been trying to rid the kitchen cupboard of them for weeks. Welcome to my blog, btw.

    Heavens, Tony, with Cedric and Barry and Winky, Twinky, Binky, and Faz in there, Josephine and the compost may have to move elsewhere! I was tempted to give her a smoked gouda rind the other day (party fixin’s) but decided smoking might be bad for her.

    Lol, Pennycat! I seem to recall an image — Beatrix Potter, purrhaps? — of a baby carriage with several bonnets peeping from one end of the blanket, and several long tails extending from the other. Booties would complete that picture nicely.

  10. Tony says:

    Yes it could get a bit crowded, maybe you could invite Dennis, Tucker, Trixie & Trouble with a bunch of Ninja Hedgehogs to join the party too

  11. Josephine sounds a lot more productive than the rat that’s been tunneling around the insulation in our attic. P.S., Dennis & crew will be on their way as soon as their passports come in.

  12. lavenderbay says:

    You aren’t working for a compost bin company on the side, are you, Tony? Do I get a discount if I order a dozen?

    Insulation rats are what give rats a bad name, James! (Well, that and the Bubonic Plague…) I’ll keep an eye out for the furtourists. Shame that they need passports at all to cross the erstwhile world’s-longest-undefended-border.

  13. Binky says:

    This has the making of the biggest bin party in history! I hope your neighbourhood deer coming, too. We Wombies will be sure to bring some party hats and gourmet compost.

  14. lavenderbay says:

    It’s a deal, Binky! But…umm…let’s make sure that fella from the market, Mr Dunderbeck, isn’t invited. (If you’ve never been to summer camp, head to Youtube for the meaning of this reference.)

  15. Binky says:

    Never heard of Dunderbeck, but now that I have he’s definitely on the naughty, do-not-invite list!

  16. Alyson says:

    What do the corgis make of her? Jemma Jack Russell becomes quite psychotic ’round rodents…corgis have ratting blood too, yes?

  17. lavenderbay says:

    That is correct, Alyson! It was one of many farmer-friendly traits bred into Cardigans. Hmmm…I started answering you at length, but I think I’ll turn it into a short post instead. Suffice to say for now, though, that Josephine is safe.

  18. […] recent post about Josephine the compost rat  having generated a goodly number of comments from you, dear readers, I’ve decided to write a […]

  19. Hey, thanks for the birthday shoutout, LB. I’m glad my prediction for last year’s rat proved true and hope that Josephine will retain her wild status too. Now, a dishcloth-ends lined burrow, that must be a beautiful sight.

  20. lavenderbay says:

    I’ve heard of bird cams, Barefootheart. We’re probably too far from the house, though, to set up a rat cam. 🙂

  21. Seabrooke says:

    What a great story – I’m glad to hear you’ve not only let her stay, but have embraced her presence in your composter. The yarn ends are too cute. 🙂

  22. lavenderbay says:

    Thanks, Seabrooke! I was hoping you’d have time to see this one. Maybe I’ll add it to my “Turtle’s Tales” page.

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