Thursday 2 February 2012

heart stopping moment

I opened a door into a hayshed and my heart nearly stopped. NO! nowt jumped out at me, there wasn't even anything unduly sinister in there, there was just this view
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I need to take you back in time, to the first little spell of snow we had which was in November I think. I went into the self same hayshed to get hay for the sheep and this sight did not confront me, the shed looked quite normal.

However, when I pulled a bale of hay down there were some none hay like objects to be found on top of the bale, the sort of objects which make the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. Great big mouse droppings - aargh!! The only thing I know of that leaves behind great big mouse droppings is a great big mouse, or ought I say rat - shudder!

Past postings will confirm my absolute dislike for rats, not just a dislike but a loathing..... urgh!!!

I closely inspected the droppings on the bale and convinced myself these were quite dessicated, dried out, old, probably been there for ever and a day as this was year over hay, it had been put in the hayshed last winter, the rats were bound to have been and gone by now. There was nothing for them to eat anyhow, other than hay that is. Yup, I stiffened my back, lifted my chin and convinced myself they were indeed history.

A while later I was once again in the hayshed and this time greeted with the above sight, holes dug out on the floor of the hay shed, urgh..... I made a lot of noise, banging and clattering as much as I could find to bang and clatter and finally plucked up the courage to retrieve a bale of hay (how brave is that??!!)
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I tried to turn a blind eye to this run in the hay (okay! I failed to turn a blind eye, I photographed it - from a safe distance I may add!) Now hay bales often have gaps between them, the gaps aren't however usually well worn with the trafficking of feet as this one was, also, there aren't usually well worn tracks beneath the hay shed door leading to the holes in the loose, old hay on the floor. There was no doubt that there were more than just hay bales living in this particular shed, the hairs on the back of my neck were indeed prickling.

Eventually I plucked up courage and returned, armed with rat poison no less. Again much clattering and banging before entering the shed. Just in case you understand.... wouldn't want to frighten the little blighters... I'd feel much happier if they had time to go and hide and pretend they're not there, far kinder approach I thought!
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On this occasion I noticed there was fur lying near one of the holes, difficult to see here as there is also shards of black plastic but fur there was, rabbit fur at that. I'm not aware that rats drag there prey back to their nests but I could be wrong, or mebbes a rabbit had inadvertently found itself in the shed, had a good scratch and left a pile of fur behind before returning to the great outdoors, mebbes they were rabbit holes I was viewing and not what I thought to be rat holes....... mebbes a miracle might happen and the rats were going to be a figment of my imagination, mebbes I'd confused rabbit dottles for rat shit (god help us all if I'm getting that confused!)

A closer inspection of the area had Shep finding more trophies
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A feeling of exhilaration was beginning to overpower the feeling of dismay. Could this be what I think it is? Could I really be that lucky? I refused to believe my luck until I was able to get home and check my bible My poo book. (not winnie and pooh bear but a book of spraints, faeces and droppings of all sorts of creatures)

Sure enough, my initial thoughts were soon confirmed, "sausage like, twisted and drawn out" describes spraint from the polecat family - yipee! A stoat probably, now that'll sort out them scaley tailed creatures. I feel ecstatic at the thought. My poison wont be needed after all.

Has to be said tho' that I'll probably remain extremely nervous as more hay finds itself removed from the shed but I'd like to think that Mr Stoat will have done his job.

I have been told that years ago farmers would put ferrets in the shed where corn was stored to keep the rats at bay, ferrets in a hutch no less. It is believed that rats will not go where ferrets are. Ferrets have a distinctive musky odour and rats will be able to smell them quite easily. It is of interest that we keep a couple of ferrets, for rabbiting, and when ever there has been an infestation of rats on the farm where we live they have never bothered to visit our cottage. Is that because we have ferrets? They are fearless hunters, as are stoats and even a rat who can be equally fearless will probably meet it's match faced with a member of the polecat family. Let's hope so.