Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Damp Night in the Desert: the Rat Saga Continues

It is 75 degrees and moist this morning when I step out the back door onto the patio. A shelf of clouds obscures the morning sunrise, a remnant of yesterday’s afternoon thundershower. It is only 6 a.m. and I decide to take a walk and clear my head from the events that transpired late last night. But the story really started on Sunday Morning and yesterday’s rain only exacerbated the problem.

Late in the afternoon on Tuesday another thunderstorm rolled in from the southeast. It started with the rush of wind like a train sandblasting the house. The rain soon followed in a downpour that turned the road into a river. Lightning flashed and thunder cracked as water poured out the downspouts of the roof the covers the patio. The water drained into the corners where the drainpipes caught it and carried it away. The birds in my backyard often take refuge from the storms here and I saw this little goldfinch hiding in this piece of driftwood upended against the block wall behind the mesquite tree. I’m sure it didn’t care to know that this piece of driftwood came from Wilson Pond near Moosehead Lake in Maine. He only cared that he had found a refuge from the storm.

As evening fell and the storm tapered off the sun set behind a bank of storm clouds. It became a golden orb sinking into a sea of watermelon and blue. Soon the dark night settled upon us and just before bedtime, around 10 p.m., I decided to turn the patio lights on and water my plants and fill the saucer with water for the birds who would arrive early in the morning before I awoke. I wandered beneath a star studded sky enjoying the damp desert night. The scent of creosote bush, so prominent after the rains, wafted in the cool night air. As I drew near the corner where the sitting wall and the stone wall meet, to fill the saucer I use as a bird bath and waterer, I was surprised by the sudden stench that assaulted my nostrils. My first thought was that there couldn’t be that many bird dropping to raise such a stink. Then another whiff permeated my brain and I knew what I was smelling.

It was the smell of decay. I didn’t want to believe what I my brain was telling me was true. Here in the corner where I am attempting to fill the bird bath and water my Lily of the Nile plant is also the corner where the drain is: the drain that leads to the drain pipe the rat was living in. We disposed of the rat on Sunday and thought our trial was over, but now I knew what I dreaded was true, she must have had a nest inside and the stench of dead rat offspring is rising with a vengeance!

I dropped the hose and hurried inside to find Gus, who was busy empting the weekly trash. When he was finished with that task he came outside and we pondered how to solve this newest problem. With the help of a hose, a flashlight and a shovel, we spent the next hour or so in the dark under the star studded skies of the desert flushing a rat’s nest from the drain pipe in our patio. Eventually all the debris floated from the end of the pipe. I could not bear to see it, so I manned the hose while Gus used the shovel to get the dirty stinking water to drain away from the house. We even dumped a box of baking soda down the hole to freshen it up. It was after 11 when we finally came inside. This morning the only sign that we had done anything last night is the newly dug trench that leads from the exit hole towards the decorative drainage block in the block wall that encompasses our yard.

The birds, of course, are oblivious to all of this. On the north side of the house where the water drains out the feeders are full of birds. The juvenile quail have almost attained adult plumage as they clamber on the walls and fences vying for the best feeding spots.

Out the back door the house finches alight on the block wall contemplating which feeder to attack fist. Their bedraggled feathers suggest a wet night or a molting process, I’m not sure which.

In the corner the mesquite tree is sprouting new growth. The new lime green leaves stand out like neon from the dark and dull older foliage. On the tips of some branches I can still see the damage down by the blister beetle invasion of 2 weeks ago. Soon the evidence of that day will be gone. The mesquite is flourishing once again.

As for the Arizona wildfires, I can see the smoke from a new fire burning in Saguaro National Park from my house. Started by lightening over the weekend, it is called the Chimenea Fire and it has only burned about 92 acres, much less than the larger Distillery Fire that scorched almost 8,000. For more information on the fires, click on the highlighted links.

As for my back yard, it is now officially rodent and odor free and I am enjoying my newly blossomed Lily of the Nile.

Photographer's Note: All of today's photography is by Kathie taken with the Nikon D80 within the last 24 hours. The 18-70 mm lens was used for the scenery and sunset shots and the 70-300mm lens was used for the birds, tree, and flowers. I used various settings from the Landscape button to Sports mode. Most photos have been sharpened but the sunset and sunrise are unaltered. Bird photos have been automatically enhanced on the computer. The quail shot was taken through shutters and a rain and dust covered window this morning. The goldfinch in the driftwood has been cropped and enlarged.


Beth said...

oh my goodness--that sounds like quite an evening. I'm sorry that you had to go through that, but it sounds like you and Gus are good homeowners--I think that I would have just put a for sale sign out front.

Pappy said...

Oh Rats! That should take care of the problem for a while. I've cornered a few little beasties in the dark and had them charge. There's not much time to make a plan. Glad it's over. Pappy

Kathie Brown said...

Beth, is was heart breaking to think about those poor babies so I've blocked it from my mind. They couldn't live here. The monsoon would have washed them away soorer or later anyway. And if we didn't discover them? Oh my goodness, I can't bear to think of what my backyard would be like!

Pappy, let's just hope so!

Anonymous said...

Fantasic post. The photos are excellent! Have a great 4th.

Travis said...

Great set of photos, that first one is very nice. I love the color.

Shimmy Mom said...

What a great post. You describe it in such vivid detail I can see the whole thing unfolding. I'm sorry that you had to deal with more rats, but hopefully you are totally finished now. Your photos are lovely.

Kathie Brown said...

Forthepeople, thanks! Happy 4th to you also.

Travis, glad you liked it. Thanks for stopping by!

Shimmymom, I hope I'm done with rats also. I've had my fill of them!

Marvin said...

The determination of the rat makes more sense now. (I'm reading these posts late, but I'm reading them in order.)

Your Lily of the Nile is beautiful.