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Kitchen Safari Episode 1….. 22, August 2006

Posted by babychaos in General Wittering, Play.
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Wildlife is embarrassingly rife in my kitchen. Not because I want it to be nor, I hope, because my kitchen is a midden of unspeakable squalor but because my house is old and once under the cupboards the floor is earth rather than concrete. I haven’t tried to investigate it too closely in case the unexpected influx of light causes something to grow or worse, evolve. These are my excuses and I will stick to them through all interrogation – and possibly torture – no matter how flimsy and unsubstantiated my supporting argument may be. I thought I’d tell you about three of the more obscure kitchen visitors over the next few days in the slim hope that there might be somebody out there with a similarly fauna-filled kitchen who will contact me to compare notes and make us both feel less guilty…

What wildlife do I have?

In at number one we have slugs.

I hate the little bleeders. We have two types of slugs in the kitchen, those yellow ones, you know, like you find behind the pots in the greenhouse, the ones which look like a big bogey, the kind of bogey a 50ft man would leave behind, that big. We also have those grey-brown textured stubby ones with an orange rim round their… er.. is “foot” the right word, which look like a big toe? Both have one aim, to climb in through some as yet unidentified entrance behind the cooker and eat our cat’s food. They eat their fill, leave disgusting slime all over the rest of it and repair back to wherever they’ve come from to digest it all day. Our cat feels the same way as I do about slugs, when one hoves into view we run, together, wailing feebly for aid from Mr Babychaos. He – the cat obviously, not Mr B – is about as enamoured with the idea of eating his post slugged food as I am with clearing it up – rubber gloves, arm’s length. That’s inconvenient when you have a cat which eats at least four times the proscribed daily dose of very expensive cat food every day – not to mention the tasty titbits from half the neighbourhood’s bins with which he supplements his diet – yes he’s wormed regularly but it makes no difference, he’s not even fat, he’s just a gut bucket. Putting aside the economic implications for a moment, it’s not good to come down in the dark and find the slugs especially when stepping on them barefoot is the usual manner of discovery. Ugh.

That said, they’re usually pretty easy to catch unless, like me, you have a phobia about them…. my mother picks them up with her bare hands, just watching it makes me come over all queer and need to go and have a lie down… but I digress. Catching them goes like this. Slugs are nocturnal so I just go downstairs before bed at about 12.00 to look. If there’s one there I call Mr Babychaos down in my most helpless and weedy voice, pointing and whimpering pathetically when he arrives. Kitchen roll in hand he scoops them up, cuts them in half with a manky old pair of secateurs and we chuck them down the bog. An ignominious end – I don’t like killing things – but quick and the tidiest available…. bear in mind that chucking them out into the garden may only provide a temporary reprieve while they find their way back again. I confess I haven’t been able to verify the slug angle on this story but I read that snails have a keen sense of geography. Picking them off your cabbages and lobbing them over the wall into next door is not the answer. They establish a home and will return to it from up to two miles away. Slugs also establish a regular sleeping spot so I work on the assumption that they have similarly impressive geographical skills. Hoist, by their own intelligence then. Sorry animal lovers – and especially slugs – but that’s life.

This has been the form until this latest one turned up. This one was leaving lots of evidence but could we catch it? Could we heck? We’d check at all hours of the day and night but it cunningly eluded us….

I began to think about things that would get rid of it in our absence…. the standard bright blue slug pellets are the easiest but since that would involve leaving something highly poisonous at our cat’s food station I couldn’t see that working… not without killing him, too so I’ve been testing the alternatives. Let me share the results so you don’t have to….

So far I have tried a slug pub – cat knocked it over anyway it’s really vile to sort out although on the upside, they die very happy. I also tried coffee grounds – this does kill snails but not, alas, slugs although it is a great deterrent so, as I drink a pot of filter coffee each morning, I now use my used grounds to repel molluscs from my favourite garden plants.

I’ve also tried garlic salt, expensive, not much of a deterrent, gets everywhere, salt sans garlic, ditto and anyway, salt is not great for your soil long term. Finally, I tried porridge oats. Porridge oats are the best but in the cat bowl fiasco they have to be regularly replaced – less of the case outside on plants. The slugs don’t, as the wives’ tale states, eat the porridge oats, blow up and die. In my kitchen, they merely crawl up the wall until they get to the point where they would be high enough to drop into the cat bowl if they fell off and then, somehow, slime aside, they let go. Spread enough oats about the place though and you can at lest make it difficult slug terrain. For almost a week I thought I’d done enough oatmeal to make them give up cat food as a bad job but there is oatmeal all over the floor, in some places trodden on and mushed into a kind of muddy porridge by soggy paws (our cat LIKES water, when it rains he goes out) and I keep hoovering it up by mistake. We had people coming so I had to clear it all up on Friday and by Saturday the slug was back. A partial success then….

I didn’t get round to replacing the oatmeal so the slug has been busier and busier as the days have progressed. Last night, though, after going out to a meeting, I returned at 9.30 to my first sighting! There it was making its way happily towards the cat’s bowl. So this slug was also nocturnal, then, but not as nocturnal as others. I’m afraid I donned the marigolds (if you’re in the US you won’t know what those are, rubber gloves) and despatched it the way of all flesh. I feel bad and guilty and sorry but also, very happy it’s gone. Our cat meanwhile is undoubtedly over the moon….

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