Tuesday, May 20, 2008


There's way too much life out here. We're infested with critters. I guess we can be blamed for the goldfish, because we brought them in. But then there's these guys, who show up in the kitchen some mornings:

One Saturday morning in April, we returned from grocery shopping to find a very small snake lying on our front steps, tucked right into the place where the tread meets the riser. I carried up the grocery bags and didn't even see it until I was stepping over it. It must have been only two feet long and about the diameter of a fine-point Sharpie. I came back out of the house to get more bags, and watched it slither down the steps and then sidewind its way across the driveway into the brush.

These guys like to sun in the garden, and run away when you come near:

This year the big thing in birds is Mourning Doves. They're all over the place.

Just now, I missed the chance to take a photo of a couple of doves doing....er, something - two males fighting, or a couple in the act of love? - on the top step of our deck. As I came to the window with the camera, another dove flew out of the jacaranda tree. "We're like Dove Central here," sez [The Man I Love].

Last year we had a surplus of Acorn Woodpeckers. These birds cackle like demented cartoon characters and as a special bonus, they peck holes in your redwood siding right down to the insulation!

The year before that? Well, that was the year this guy started hanging around the neighborhood:

Do you know what it sounds like when a full-grown peacock lands on your house? It sounds like someone threw a canned ham on the roof.

Even the dog took him seriously:

But it's more than just fish, reptiles, and birds. We bought some devices from Home Depot that you put 4 D-cell batteries into and pound into the ground. They're supposed to emit supersonic noises to keep the gophers from doing this:

As you can see, it doesn't really work.

As dog owners, we often find it convenient to let the dog out and leave the door open for him to come back in on his own. Back when our Malamute was alive, he would sometimes wake us up in the middle of the night to "go outside." On one of these occasions, [The Man I Love] thought the dog had come back in the open door - and realized there was a raccoon in the kitchen, eating the dog food out of the dish on the kitchen table!!!

Why was the dog food dish on the kitchen table, you might ask? Why, to keep it away from the rats!

Yes, the rats that are attracted to our place during the summer months when the fruit ripens on our plum and apricot trees. We do our best with snap traps, but I heartily endorse this product

for all your rodent-management needs! It quickly electrocutes rats that wander into it in search of tasty nuggets of dry dog food, and you can easily dispose of them by tipping them into the trash can, with no muss, no fuss!

Beware the glue traps, which I've used once, but never again. Do NOT try the glue traps, I'm here to tell you. Here's what you get when you place a glue trap near the dog food area at bedtime: At 6:00 a.m. you discover an extremely pissed-off live rat, adhered to a plastic raft, paddling about the slick kitchen floor like some hideous fanged boatman with his un-stuck paw, gnawing on whatever object he manages to propel himself against, hoping it will free him - including my sandals! (into the trash they went!) - No, my heart cannot take this more than once in my life.

Dispensing of said rat is not for the squeamish. It involves a plastic trash bag and a sturdy cast-iron implement.

You may think I am unkind to poor defenseless animals, but consider this: we just had to write a check for $1200 to repair the electrical wiring on one of our cars - an ancient 2001 station wagon - because the insulation had been chewed by rats that decided that the engine area of our car was the perfect place to raise a family. Our mechanic has started to use the phrase "Mickey Mouse" in reference to our car.

It's not easy co-existing with critters, but that's the way it is in Topanga. It sure is romantic living close to nature.


KathyR said...

I'll keep the rat zapper in mind, although I hope I never need it. We've been lucky on that score in both Stepford and Faux Town.

Which is not to say that we haven't had our share of critters eating our yards, our houses, etc. Just no rats. Although those possums just look like giant grinning rats.

JCK said...

Yes, you are a virtual Wild Kingdom up there in lovely Topanga! We have some creatures, too. Rats. Ugh.