Going to war against an army of rats

Rat traps, cozy games, Unwinding Anxiety and Protect Pūtiki

Kia ora,

We have a rat problem. Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. A few weeks ago we first started hearing scratching in the walls. Overnight we noticed the cat biscuits completely gone, which is unusual when Ivy snarkily leaves a few biscuits behind, deemed unworthy to the seemingly identical shapes she had already devoured.

And of course, the rat poop.

We probably left it longer than we should have but I finally set up a Better Rodent Trap in the laundry, dabbing a smear of peanut butter as bait. The first night, nothing. The next morning the trap was sprung. The enormous creature ensnared in its jaws with a shoelace for a tail. The next night we set the trap up again, just in case, and we soon had another victim.

I felt a little guilty at first, but that feeling soon subsided when I went under the house to find the rat poop EVERYWHERE, and most importantly, the entry point. I had suspected they were getting in via the laundry and my suspicions were confirmed. In the weeks before we moved into our house, the owners at the time ripped out the hot water system and replaced it with an Infinity. There were two perfect rat-sized holes where the piping used to be. Whatever they tried to seal it with, some kind of cardboard I believe, the rats tore into it and made their way inside.

This brings me to today where we now have a trap-laden wooden box in our backyard kindly given to us (with donation) by Pest Free Upper Hutt. Throughout New Zealand, coordinators and volunteers log their kills through TrapNZ. Forest and Bird also use this data to gauge how well we are doing in our aim to make Aotearoa predator-free by 2050.

While it may have taken rats getting into our house to take this step, in the long run, it will help protect our native birds. Having a cat probably hasn’t been the best alignment to these aims but she hasn’t caught anything in a good long while and was of absolutely no use with our rat invaders.

If you want to get involved, contact Pest Free Upper Hutt or your local community group.

As of writing, we caught a further 2 rats under our house last night. For now, we have blocked the holes from the underfloor to the laundry but there’s further work to be done on the outside of the house. Rats, welcome to my escape room.

What I’m playing

Last time I wrote about the Backbone One controller and Valve has only just gone and announced the Steam Deck, essentially a basic but portable gaming PC. And not too long after the new Nintendo Switch OLED at that. The Deck is not available in New Zealand yet and the preorder demand has already been exceeded through to 2022 but as it is I’m quite happy to continue streaming with my Backbone thank you very much.

I’ve also had a realisation. I am addicted to cozy games. You may have heard of cozy mystery novels, like the kind my author friend, CB Landy writes. Well, cozy games usually trade in conflict for collecting and building. They favour bright colours and exaggerated designs over realism. In many, there is no way to die and often farming plays a big part. I think there is a clear psychological link. I love to write to-do lists and these games often have their own to-do lists with objectives of what you need to collect or build next. It’s a salve for my anxiety (more on that later).

Cozy games have been around a long time, with the likes of Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing. But it’s really in these modern incarnations I’ve found the joy.

Stardew Valley is probably the most well-known of these (it’s made by one dude and sold over 10 million copies) and it’s a wonderful farming simulation Role Playing Game. When I got my Backbone I decided to start again with the mobile version which doesn’t yet have the big 1.5 update or multiplayer.

It’s not quite the same playing again, often it feels a little slow to unlock everything when I know what it’s like to have quality upgrades, like automatic sprinklers, instead of using a watering can. But slow is supposed to be the point. Now this one does have dungeons with creatures that do want to kill you but it’s pretty forgiving and you might only lose a few items before waking up in hospital.

On its surface, Spiritfarer doesn’t seem like it would be a cozy game. Primarily because it’s about grief as you take over the job of Charon, the mythological ferryman, in shepherding spirits before they pass on. But this really adds an emotional pull throughout the whole game. Spiritfarer is a 2D sidescroller that at first seems a little constrained when most games of its ilk have more 3D movement, but it works surprisingly well.

Your home base is a ship that travels between islands and Spiritfarer shows the brain-tickling beauty of these games, in that you need to find enough of that one resource, to be able to construct a building, in order to produce that one certain thing, to make the ghost friend of yours happy and help them come to terms with their death. You know, video games.

Literally today, the Escapist just put out a documentary about the inspirations behind the game and how the characters are based on amalgamations of loved ones known to the developers since passed.

While there are a lot of similarities between Stardew Valley and Spiritfarer, these next two games are more contained. Instead of collecting resources in order to make upgrades, in A Short Hike, it’s more about collecting golden feathers in a wildlife park in order to increase your own flying and climbing endurance. As the name hints, A Short Hike isn’t a long game, and the game ends when your bird gets to the top of the mountain to receive an important phone call. It’s adorable.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is the most recent one of these I’ve played and while it’s probably more kid-focused, I still got a lot out of it. Most of what you’re collecting are photographs of the local wildlife in order to gain enough signatures on your petition to save a wildlife preserve from money-hungry monopolists putting up a hotel. More on that later, much closer to home.

What I’m reading

I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), general counselling and medication, and still, anxiety basically runs my life. I know it’s something that will always be with me but I’ve started to look into other ways to manage it better.

I stumbled upon a podcast featuring Dr Judson Brewer, which lead me to his new book, Unwinding Anxiety. The book is basically about recognizing the habit loops we’ve set up for ourselves that help to reinforce our anxiety. I first delved into the science behind habits with Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, recommended by my counsellor. More on that when I finish the audiobook.

The general gist is habits are comprised of a Trigger, a Behaviour and a Result. Rather than interrogating yourself about why you acted the way you did, it’s more about getting curious about how your body feels and opting for curiosity over anxiety. I know as with most self-help books it sounds a little wishy-washy, but there are some actual meditation-type exercises in here.

I’ve now completely read through Unwinding Anxiety and written some of the techniques into my phone. I can’t say for sure if it has helped me yet as I will need to experiment some more. I’ve also been working with The Book Of Angst by New Zealand psychologist and author, Gwendoline Smith, which is more an introduction to anxiety and the traditional approach of CBT. I’ll have more to say about this in the future. Oh god, the future. Here I am spiralling again.

What you can do right now

“On Thursday 15th of July, the NZ Police came into Pūtiki Bay in full force just after dawn. We awoke to a police chopper, 6 police boats and estimated 90+ on land police. This was all to remove 4 kaitiaki from a peaceful moana occupation.” Source: Protect Pūtiki

There is a campaign on Waiheke Island (Te Motu Arai Roa) to Protect Pūtiki (Kennedy Point) from a 7.3-hectare marina complete with floating car park. Kaitiaki have been peacefully occupying the space for over 115 days to protect Pūtiki for future generations. Emily Māia Weiss (Ngāti Pāoa) is an organiser from the Protect Pūtiki group that brings together Ngāti Pāoa, tangata whenua and Waiheke locals.

The protesters are calling for an immediate and complete stop for works on-site at Pūtiki Bay, and to review the resource consent granted for a marina at Kennedy Point in 2017.

Marae interviewed the occupiers, a group led by wāhine, and shows what the occupation looks like on the ground. Recently the security hired for the construction of the marina has physically assaulted protestors including ramming them with a boat. The Spinoff has a useful explainer about the history of this controversial development.

The State of Our Gulf 2017 report states that the marine environment of Tīkapa Moana is suffering continual environmental degradation. The marina will impact many species including sharks, dolphins, whales and especially endangered little blue penguins (kororā). Both Pūtiki Bay and Tīkapa Moana (Hauraki Gulf) are taonga for many hapu and iwi including Ngāti Pāoa who whakapapa to the space.

Consent was granted by Auckland Council without Māori having a voice in the process when under Te Tiriti we should be in partnership with Māori. The Ngāti Paoa Trust Board is the authority for Resource Management Act (RMA) and Local Government Act (LGA) matters for Ngāti Paoa but they were not consulted about the marina development or involved in the council or Environment Court hearings.

“Pūtiki is a taonga, a cultural repository, a wāhi tapu, a bay lined with pā sites on headlands, 500+ year old pohutakawa trees, a traditional kai moana gathering space. It is a landing site of Te Arawa and Tainui waka, therefore the ancestral waters of every Māori who whakapapa back to these waka.” Source: Protect Pūtiki petition

Below is an editorial by Liz Waters, editor of The Gulf News. It outlines how Auckland as a Supercity has removed local input resulting in Auckland Council giving away an entire bay.

Sign the petition

Sign the open letter

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If you enjoyed this newsletter, use it as bait in your backyard pest trap.

Michael.