Thursday, April 03, 2008

Training My Compost Rat



Last night when I went out to feed my rat (as in add kitchen scraps to the compost bin) I discovered that he (and I really hope it's not a she) has been trained. Of course we all know rats are smart in theory but now I have proof. First off, let me say that I have never put any meat or dairy or other scraps that supposedly might attract rats into my compost pile. Be that as it may I have more than once heard a thump as I opened the bin and also have had the pleasure of seeing the little guy run off down the fence. So I've gotten into the habit of kicking the side of the bin before I open it in hopes of scaring him away. However, it turns out that if you kick the bin on 20 or 30 occasions before dumping in some prime kitchen scraps (our ex-CSA box always had way too many bitter greens) the smart rat will learn that it is feeding time and pop up through the leaves to see what's on tonight's menu. He looked at me, twitching his nose, as if to say "What took so long?" And even though I told him in no uncertain terms that he had no business hanging around he stayed there, half buried, waiting to be served. So I dumped the bucket on the pile and covered it with leaves from my holding bin that were collected last fall. This weekend I will think about ways to discourage his presence although at the moment I have no idea what might work. My bin is black plastic with doors on all four sides at the bottom for easy removal of completed compost and last night, besides the rat encounter, I had one other moment of excitement. I've been piling kitchen scraps, leaves and garden trimmings in the bin for over half a year. I'd begun to think it would never fill up...no matter how overflowing I left it after doing some pruning or deadheading it always settled down to a foot or so below the top. Last night I thought I'd peek in the door to see what the stuff at the bottom looked like...and amazingly enough it actually looks like compost! I've never been a good composter...things here seem to dry out but not compost easily. But I've been trying to get better at it and it looks like maybe I have! So this weekend I'll remove some of the completed compost and see who or what I find. Hey, it might not be Spring Fling, but it could be fun anyway. And I'm saving up my Southwest points so maybe next year I'll get to spend the weekend with a more compatible group of gardeners.

13 comments:

Amy said...

Your description of the rat being "trained" by your banging made me laugh out loud :) I have the same trouble with my compost being too dry all the time to decompose quickly. I've got to get out there with my hose soon and give it a good soak.

Karen @ Wiggly Wigglers said...

LOL - the Wiggly team thought this was very funny - great post. I have pet rats too, although, judging by the tracks made between the compost heap and my wood shed I have a whole herd.

Katarina i Kullavik said...

Your post today really made me laugh - I think I've got one or two lodgers in my compost too - so maybe I can get them trained as well!
Have a nice weekend! /Katarina

Katarina i Kullavik said...

PS. There's an award for you at my place... /Katarina

gintoino said...

I just found your blog via Roses and stuff, and I sure am glad I did. I loved the compost rat story. Maybe you need to borough a cat from some one that can help you compost the rat. ;-)

garden girl said...

Rats are smart animals! My daughter had a pet rat when she was a kid, and my brother had one when we were kids too. They were about as smart, and as trainable as a dog!

weeder1 said...

My dog is always trying to find our compost rat. I have two compost bins, side by side...guess I'd better post about them since a picture is worth a few words. :>)

Robin said...

I think you should name him Templeton (Charlotte's Web).

Leslie said...

Amy...I'm terrible about the soaking...but I'm trying to get better!
Karen...I am a little worried he'll invite friends!
Katarina...I hope they're as easy to train as mine seemed to be!
Gintoino...I have at least 4 neighborhood cats that pass through...none of them seem to be helping :(
Garden Girl...my husband used to have pet rats in his classroom and they sometimes came to visit...I think I prefer the compost version!
Weeder1...I'm wondering if the rat moved in because my sweet dog left us in November and the coast is fairly clear.
Robin...Templeton is probably my favorite rat...although Ratatouille is a close second!

SuzyQ said...

A rat in your compost bin?! OMG, I would freak and would even consider switching to a more contained and concealed worm bin. Do you have a cat to let outside to help scare him away? I have a compost bin but thankfully the most exciting thing I have seen inside that is alive is worms.

tina said...

Are you sure it is not a vole? We have them here. And whether you put in meat or not doesn't matter-you said it well "Dinnertime", they like all table scraps!

Kristine G said...

Ha ha ha! I just did a search on "rats compost," and your post was in the top 5. What a coincidence, since we live in Davis, CA too. I think we need to get a cat or three, which will make my 2-year-old happy. Is the rat going to mess with our new garden, or will it stick to garbage??

Auntiebee said...

LOVE IT!