As a vicar takes the text for his sermon from one of the Lessons, so I take my text from a less authoritative source, the Andover Advertiser.
“Rat Control hindered by Bad Bird Feeding”
At first sight, responsibility for the local rodent epidemic appears to rest with a bad bird; but a re-reading of the headline shows that the fault rests with those who feed birds badly. We feed birds and believe we do so responsibly. The problem is that some of our feathered guests are highly selective, and discard the seeds at the mouth of the dispenser to reach what they hope is more appetising fare behind. But before the rats can feed on the rejects, the pigeons
are there, along with our neighbour’s doves.
Nonetheless, we do have rats; we found them squatting in the compost heap in the garden, which explained the provenance of a round hole in the side of the wooden rim. This posed an environmental dilemma. We don’t want to bring the plague to Penton Mewsey, but we do take our recycling seriously as part of our commitment to save the planet, in the hope that our grandchildren will neither drown, scorch nor starve.
Without being apocalyptic, we subscribe to the precautionary principle, and the old Boy Scout maxim, Be Prepared. We have joined Friends of the Earth, along with other friendly, earthly people. (I was re-admitted, having been expelled for building the Newbury Bypass. After ten years that was regarded as a spent conviction.) The Youngs are to be seen at the Charlton Recycling Centre with aluminium foil, bottles, shoes and clothes; and we have bought two more bicycles on e-Bay.
To replace the rat-infested compost heap, we have bought a large plastic cylinder for composting, which had excellent eco-credentials (although it came all the way from New Zealand). Inside it are three chambers, one on top of the other. Through a combination of gravity and an antipodean plastic shovel, the compost makes its way through the cylinder’s digestive system, expelling high quality compost when the metabolic process is complete, and without providing accommodation for the rats.
We started filling it in January, with a balanced diet of tea-leaves, banana skins and vegetable peelings, and some extra roughage from shredded bank statements. After a month, we peered inside the top chamber and found everything in mint condition. The refrigerator doesn’t keep stuff that fresh. We went to the old compost heap, and exhumed a large quantity of worms and lobbed them into the top chamber to accelerate the process.
A week later, we had another look and at last there was evidence of decay. All the worms were dead.