What is this? It’s a shot I didn’t mean to take in my work storage. You know there’s this thing my camera does of taking a photo if I touch the screen? I often forget that exists, and so we get great fuzzy shots like this one…
What am I doing? It’s a sad story. I have rats in my shop storage area. I have way too many little nooks and corners and stacks of work and boxes of paint and jugs of brushes. Bottles of solutions and glazing and painting medium…and then there are the books.
So it’s like the perfect protected abode of rats. Apartments, rent free. No predators. Maybe a draft or two, but all a rat needs to do is chew up a little canvas or some of those handy books and make a nest. I don’t know how familiar you may or may not be with rats, but the fellows who live here in Southern California and inhabit places like my studio are not the invasive European breeds, but a local, Neotoma macrotis, the big-eared woodrat, Trade Rat, Roof Rat, or Pack Rat.
Why, you ask, “Trade Rat“? This is a rat that collects things. She likes bright and shiny, or odd and glittery, unusual items. One time I cleaned out a nest that contained a cheap gold-colored wrist watch, a handful of plastic beads, some pebbles and over forty clear plastic headed push pins. Made me wince to think about how the rat must have carried them in her mouth with faithful fascination for this delightful new gem. I’ve heard stories about how a Trade Rat will drop one desirable item for another, like a shopper running out of hands. This has led to people feeling that the rat is trying to trade one thing for another– and you should hear the Gold Rush tales of Trade Rats who left gold nuggets in exchange for some trinket or even a coin.
He’s handsome, personable, diurnal when it suits his plans, vegetarian– in fact frugivorous. You think of a rat as a heavy headed, mean-eyed sneak, but our Trade Rat is often light brown or deep blonde with soft thick fur, often has some fur on his long tail, possesses huge meltingly dark eyes and big ears. This makes him look like a magnified slightly plump mouse, rather than a rat. Plus he’s curious. See below for a fast sketch:
So I have a fondness for this creature, but it doesn’t extend to what she does to my garden. Oranges, feijoas, apples, persimmons, kumquats, even oh horrors, my beloved tomatoes– Neotoma eats them all. You who have followed this blog over the years, will have seen my posts on how these rats have decimated my Concord grapes and all my peculiar efforts to keep their depredations in check.
As for the storage– well, I have torn everything out of place, disinfected and deodorized (I swear by SCOE 10X as a deodorant of real use that truly disassembles these odors,) washed, dried out and washed and dried again, and established a factory grade electronic squealer on a timer that makes the air hideous in the room from about nine thirty PM to six AM. I also tossed a huge number of items, because, alas, Neotoma cements his nest with feces and urine. You may ask, did I seal up all points of ingress, and to that my answer is are you kidding? This place used to be a greenhouse before it got moved to be part of our house in years long before our residence here, and there are more entries than exits…! At the end of these ten days of labor, I have a refreshed storage– almost a new room. Not only that but I set to and photographed every painting with its master RMG number to enter images in my computer files. I already keep an Excel file of all the paintings I deem worthy to be in my permanent records. Now I have the numbers properly tied to images.
In good time I shall report on that squealer to you all, and let you know if I think it works. But now it’s time to make paintings. I have a one-woman show coming up in March under my painting name of Robin Gowen, at Sullivan Goss in downtown Santa Barbara. See you there?