Saturday, November 05, 2005

Rats and Vegetables

Today I'd like to talk about rats and vegetables.

First of all, if you've been following the news about my little mouse problem, I've decided that I don't have problem with mice at all. I have a problem with rats. Big huge rats. They aren't the gigantic radioactive mutant rats of 1950s-era science fiction movies, but they're too big to fit in a mouse trap, as I have come to learn. Furthermore, they seem fairly intelligent as well. For example, they know how to eat the peanut butter from a trap without actually getting caught in the trap when it snaps.

So I decided to buy some glue traps, which are made with what is very likely the stickiest substance on Planet Earth. Rodents are supposed to be attracted to them for some reason, but I don't know what the attraction could possibly be. A friend of mine bought some glue traps years ago, and they were scented with a peanut butter flavor. The ones I bought don't smell like anything, but maybe they're baited with a scent that only rodents can smell. In any case, just to be safe, I decided to put a little dab of peanut butter in the middle of each one.

I thought that would do the trick, but the rats thought otherwise. To my great disappointment, somehow a rat managed to eat the peanut butter without actually getting stuck in the trap. And I couldn't tell for sure, but I thought I saw the faint impression of rat paws on the surface of the glue. Discouraged but not undaunted, I added more peanut butter and moved the traps to a different location.

A couple of days later, I noticed that one of the traps had been moved to the other end of the kitchen, presumably by a rat. When I examined the trap, I saw that a rat body had made a deep indentation in the surface of the glue. And by the looks of things, it was pretty obvious that there'd been a struggle. The rat must have gotten caught in the glue but it somehow managed to free itself and escape.

So my experience with the glue traps so far is that they're a lot less effective than advertised, and it looks like I wasted my money. Fortunately, the rats seem to be content to confine themselves to my kitchen -- I haven't seen any evidence of them in any of the other rooms. So it's not as big a problem as it could be. I don't have to worry about them jumping into my bed when I'm asleep and nibbling on my toes, for example.

Nonetheless, I'm eager to rid myself of them, so I put some fancy rodent electrocution device on my kitchen floor, and a huge spring-loaded rat trap on the counter. They've been sitting there patiently, calmly biding their time, waiting silently for their prey.

The traps were out for about a week, and I saw no evidence of any rat in all that time. I have no idea why. A friend of mine says she thinks the rat must have decided, "I'm not going back to that house again. Every time I go there, the guy tries to kill me." Maybe that's it. Or maybe the rat was eaten by one of the neighborhood cats I often see in my backyard. Or maybe the rat simply found a house it likes better. In any case, it looked like I was free of rodents at last, which was a relief, although I did sort of want to see how well the electrocution device worked.

I was all set to declare the my battle with the rodents over and to proclaim myself the victor -- as a matter of fact, just yesterday I told a few people that I thought the rats were gone for good -- but today, just a couple of hours ago, I checked the traps and saw that even though the spring-loaded trap was still set, the peanut butter had been eaten completely off. I assume that was done by a rat, so I guess the battle isn't over yet. I may get to see how well the electrocution device works after all.

If it doesn't work, I've still got a few options left. I saw some ultrasonic rat repellent devices at the hardware store, for example, and I may experiment with those. They may do the trick, but I have to admit that I don't have very high hopes. All the anti-rodent technology I've used so far has been ineffective, so maybe I'm approaching this whole problem the wrong way. Maybe in order to catch the rat, I must first learn to think like a rat, but I don't even know if that's possible.

I'm not sure what caused this rat problem in the first place, although I suspect it might have something to do with the new garage that I had built in front of my house. Maybe the rats used to live in the plants and weeds where the garage now stands, and when the plants were torn up the rats had to find a new home. Or maybe it has nothing to do with the garage -- maybe a plague of rats will soon be visited upon us all, and this is only the beginning.

Anyway, if you're one of the few people who actually reads this blog, you're probably as tired of hearing about rodents as I am of writing about them. So let's move on to my next topic.

Now that summer's long gone, the weather is a little cooler and fruit and vegetables don't ripen as quickly. That's not a problem if you're patient -- or if you enjoy eating fruit before it's ripe -- but for everyone else, I'll pass along the following.

If you've read one of my earlier posts on avocados, you know how much I like them. I was at the grocery store a while ago, and there was a little pamphlet by the avocado pile. It didn't contain much information -- just the standard stuff about how an avocado isn't ripe until the skin is black, and the hint about making avocados ripen quicker by putting them in a paper bag. I never actually tried that myself, but people say it works and I will take their word for it.

By the way, there are probably still a few people who think the avocado is a vegetable. That's probably because, although technically a fruit, the avocado is functionally a vegetable -- not only because it can be used where other vegetables are used, but also because for its entire life, it remains in a persistent vegetative state. It shows no brainwave activity and it has a limited sense of its immediate surroundings. The same thing applies to the tomato, of course, but you probably already knew that.

When I was a kid, we used to buy vegetables and fruits at the supermarket and fool them into thinking they were ripe when they really weren't. By manipulating climatic conditions or controlling the amount of light they receive, it's really easy to trick them. Sometimes, by picking the stem off of an apple or pear or avocado, you can make them believe that they've just fallen off the tree, which causes them to ripen quickly.

Of course, most people today have abandoned those outdated methods in favor of more predictable techniques using chemicals or hypnosis.

I remember hypnotizing a cantaloupe one time when I was in college. It made the cantaloupe ripen more quickly, but I don't think it tasted very good.