Monday, October 20, 2008

One of rural life’s real challenges

The urban dwellers be they in Sri Lanka or elsewhere, look at my life with starry lenses wishing they could enjoy these experiences. In rural farming I have problems with bats, squirrels, peacocks, monkeys and flocks of parrots and other birds. Reality is not as romantic as it seems, especially in the homes and their perimeter. My home is invaded by polecats who run around the ceiling causing a lot of noise and damage. They find a way in no matter what I do. Swallows come into the house at night and always place their calling card at the same spot. Cats that come in through the windows to steal anything they can get their paws on. The ever-present rats that roam the fields find the most unlikely places; to make a safe home inside a sofa.

Just this week, even the dog that is not a pet but lives around, got into the house and killed a hen that was in a box helping to hatch some eggs so I can increase my number of ‘gam kukulu’ or village fowl. Outside even the free-range fowl have to be protected from all sorts of predators, such as dogs even during the day, though they are brought into their coop for the night.

Houses are constructed with open orifices meant to circulate fresh air but which bring in primarily rats, mice, swallows and bats into the homes. I am surprised that meshes like those used in other countries are not used to prevent all sorts or insects and animals to get into the homes. I have had my clothes eaten by rats, as well as electrical wiring, and even phone chargers. I actually like the geckos that eat the insects and are not too much of a nuisance. Interestingly I rarely see spiders in the house, though the ones I occasionally come across are very big.

Of all the creatures rats are the most harmful, and in a rural setting, there is no possibility of getting rid of them. All one can do is prevent them getting into the home. Rats gnaw at coconuts on the trees, and king coconuts even when left overnight for sale. Killing rats is no solution as they are always replaced, and nothing seems to be a permanent deterrent, even a cat, which I resorted to. I have had to deal with it daily, when I discover a new surprise that I have lost. They come down from the trees onto the roof and into the house and have surprising entry and exit points. Only steel is something they cannot gnaw, and I don’t have steel cabinets to put everything into.

This is something I had no idea would be a major source of irritation when I embarked on this journey, so others be warned it is serious stuff.

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