Creatures on the Farmlet: Live Ferments, Quail, Possum, Rattus Fattus

The batch of sauerkraut made from the first of our red cabbages turned out well, and I’ve now got a second batch ripening in the kitchen. It is fun to make lacto-fermented condiments from our own vegetables. This ancient and ingenious method of food preservation actually increases the nutritional value of the vegetables, and the red cabbage sauerkraut comes out a fabulous purple-pink colour. These days, our kitchen sports a lineup of live ferments on the bench. As well as the fermented cabbage, we are making kefir and Caspian Sea yoghurt out of fresh milk from our darling Coco, and water kefir using lemons from the garden. A kombucha “mushroom” grows happily in the dark of a cupboard, producing a delicious drink for us. We enjoy having all these creatures living in our kitchen and sharing our food with us. I like to call them my pets.

Purple cabbage pet

Just outside the kitchen window are some more creatures with whom we are less happy to share our food. For the last few weeks, varmints have been raiding our lemon tree, and eating the skin off a whole lot of lemons. We suspect possums, and Kevin has been lurking around at night with the rifle hoping to catch them in the act. So far, no luck. These creatures are mighty stealthy. Kevin also set the possum trap under the tree. To our annoyance, the critters have taken little interest in the trap — apart from using it as a step ladder for reaching more lemons. Finally, a couple of nights ago, Kevin went out and saw the dead body of what he thought was a small possum in the trap. On closer inspection, he found he’d caught no possum, but a very plump and healthy rat: Rattus Fattus. We hoped this might be the end of our problems with the lemons, but the raiding continues (whether by rats, possums, or both) despite the presence of traps and continued forays with the rifle. Very frustrating! We had no such trouble last year.

Other creature trouble involves our newly planted crops of spring peas. We looked out the window one day to see that the marrowfat peas had been almost totally defoliated. I suspected snails, and was out in the garden in the rain that very night, trying to hunt down the culprits. Our search yielded surprisingly few slugs and snails, and we retired for the night feeling rather perplexed. We didn’t have to wait long to gain a better understanding of the situations. Looking out the window yesterday morning, we saw a whole family of fat little brown quail flocking through the garden beds, pecking and nibbling at the tender leaves of our greenfeast peas. We love watching these round little birds playing in the garden, but they are not welcome to trash our whole pea crops. After scheming for a while about inviting my parents’ cat out here for a vacation, or making quail casserole, we resolved to make row covers out of some salvaged marix cloth that we have stashed away in the garage. That way, we hope to continue sharing the garden with our little quail friends while protecting the young pea seedlings from their ravages. The peas look very sad and pathetic, and we hope they will recover from the attack!

AS WE GO TO PRESS: Kevin here. A little while ago, Becky called out and said that she heard a possum. I grabbed the .22 rifle and went outside. Locked and loaded, I scanned the trees with my flashlight. Maybe 20 metres from our kitchen window, there he was: Possum, destroyer of worlds, in a tall eucalyptus tree. He let out his call/bark for good measure.

“Tonight, you die,” I replied.

He won’t be getting any more of our lemons.

11 Responses to “Creatures on the Farmlet: Live Ferments, Quail, Possum, Rattus Fattus”

  1. mims says:

    thanks to you I have my own pets in the kitchen too…..a scoby, sourdough starter and mkaing sauerkraut today. Thanks for the nudge.

    Hope you get rid of your critters, we are dealing with rats who love the chicken food! its always something, isn’t it?

  2. Dan says:

    Congratulations on the kill of the pest possum.
    Will you be using it as fertiliser?

  3. Michelle says:

    I hear they taste pretty good with sweet potatoes.

  4. Christopher says:

    My friend Matt has had exactly the same problems with his lemons – fruit on the tree with carefully eaten skins. Didn’t think possums liked lemons. How weird.

    Anyway, hope you can deal with them and get rid of LOTS.

  5. pebble says:

    “rattus fattus” lol. thanks for the laugh. Sounds like the word is out in the neighbourhood as to where the good kai is 😉

    Are you using a Timms trap for the possum? What are you using for bait? Apple with cinnamon is good, but aniseed oil is the gold. You mix it with flour and lay it round the entrance, plus some on the apple for good measure. Be mindful of hedgehogs though, as they will go in the trap too. I usually put the trap off the ground. It’s also nailed to a board – if timms traps aren’t secured the possum can take a long time to die 🙁

  6. Rebecca says:

    Hi All,

    @Mims: Hope we’ll all be able to sort out our rat problems soon. Good luck.

    @Dan: Possum and rat have both been buried at the bottom of the holed we’ve dug for the citrus trees we are planting in the food forest. So they are being put to very good use!

    @Michelle: Good with sweet potato? Do you mean rats, possums, lemons or something else?

    @Christopher: Yeah, apparently they only like the skins. One of our relatives had exactly the same problem — the opposite to his orange tree, where the possums ate the fruit and left the skins lying around!

    @Pebble: We’ve been trying various things in the Timms trap, but never aniseed oil. Thanks very much for the tip. We’re keen to try that. We’ll try to hunt out some aniseed oil next time we’re in town, and will keep you posted about the results.

    Thanks to all for the comments, and your interest in what is going on around here.

  7. Michelle says:

    possum and swwet potatoe

    lemon with iced tea

    woodchuck with potatoes and gravy

    cats eat all the rats at our house

  8. Kevin says:

    We know several people who have tried possum. None of them would try it again, under normal circumstances. Much nicer to put the possum in a hole and grow a fruit tree over it.

  9. ulrich schmid says:

    I catch the possums with a piece of apple with some ground up aniseed on it in a cage trap. They love it and gets them every time!
    Would not eat them tough as they might be poisoned too.

  10. Rebecca says:

    Hi Ulrich,
    Pebble also recommends aniseed in a previous comment. We can’t wait to try it! It’s on the shopping list for our next trip to town.
    Thanks for the idea.

  11. Tim says:

    I have quail in my garden causing damage to my cucumber crop how do I defend against them