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Chris Wyatt's Patterdale Hall, as seen from above.

The Patterdale Hall Diaries | What lies beneath

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By Chris Wyatt

March 6, 2024

Spring is springing, the daffodils are flowering, and another bloody critter has dug a hole under the kitchen of Patterdale Hall.

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I only discovered the earthworks yesterday, and so at this point I have no idea what species is digging. The hole seems too small for a fox or coyote, but it could easily be rabbits or groundhogs. My immediate reaction was to fill the hole back in and urinate on it just to annoy whatever dug it, then I put NPR on the radio very loud. This technique worked with the coyotes a couple of years ago, but I don’t think it will with rabbits or groundhogs. Groundhogs are undoubtedly big fans of “The Splendid Table,” and I can see rabbits rather enjoying “The Dear Green Place.” What else do I have in my arsenal? Well, I can buy animal repellent, soak rags in it and stuff them down the hole, repeatedly. I can change the radio station and continue “marking” my ownership of the property; cayenne pepper will discourage the ‘hogs as well.

It’s spring and as cute and useful as they are, I really don’t want a nest of skunks under the kitchen. I also don’t want to kill them. Step one is identification; watch this space.

First, as ever: work. Then I need to go shopping for beast repellent; I imagine Rural King will have it, but I’ll check the hardware store in Yellow Springs first. We have large concrete blocks that I can seal the entrance with, but I will probably invest in a roll of chicken wire as well just to try and secure the perimeter a little better. I’m pretty certain determined critters can get around chicken wire, but I can barely lift the concrete blocks, and they thwarted a den of coyotes, so they are definitely being used.

March 7, 2024

No activity yet. I filled the hole in, and nothing dug it out, so we are in limbo. Are the critters happily birthing under the house with no need to leave just yet, or have I thwarted them? I know only too well that I have not thwarted a critter. (God, I love the word “thwart.”) I think a period of daily observation is absolutely required and so I’ll be out there before or after class all through March.

Sorry, I thwarted. Honestly, it’s often difficult to believe I have a Ph.D.

It is, however, interesting for me to look back on my writing from two years ago, to assess what may have changed. It’s my children.

My children have grown up in two years. It’s that fast. Amazing. My dad allowed me to grow up and thrive and leave. My mother did too, but I don’t think she enjoyed it. My mum still misses me, and my little family and I need to try and save to return to see her.

Bah! I have Patterdale Hall to assuage my furies. I do need to get back to see my parents though and will save to do that, while doing everything else in this stupid world. Everything did change with COVID-19 — things got weird and stayed that way. Not good-weird, but awful-, expensive- and terrible-weird.

I think it’s time to cuddle a little dog. Fragmented entries annoy me, but I knew it would happen. I can only write so much about the little house in the country before it bleeds into my personal life, and I’m happy to bear my soul to this little newspaper in Southwest Ohio. Really, what folk want to read is amusing, life-affirming stories, and for the most part that’s what I aim to give people. I will try to minimize the frustrations and pain, but I’m not cutting them out entirely. That isn’t human. I guess you get to share my pain, then. Thanks, Yellow Springs News. Brace yourself.

I have killed eight mice since this last paragraph.


March 9, 2024

Still no digging activity, so they must be happy down there, or they have gone, whatever they are. Maybe NPR is working, time will tell.

Recently, fatigue has been crushing me, and I don’t know where it is coming from. I am in bed at 8 p.m. and asleep by 8:05 p.m. I wake at 1 a.m., 3 a.m. and 5.30 a.m., but always go straight back to sleep. I am fully awake by 6.30 a.m. Maybe this is normal for a 55-year-old, but I don’t know. I’ve never been 55 before.

March 10, 2024

Morris had planned to put the new “melon launcher” of an exhaust on his car today, but it is 33˚ F, and there is snow in the air.

Bob stayed over last night and ate some of the cake that Morris had saved in the fridge, so Mo has forced him to take them to Waffle House for breakfast. At least Mo will have some calories in him when he is bolting on the header/catalytic converter/resonator.

The work will be done at my friend Travis’ house, as he has an epic black-top parking space, and we only have a thin strip of gravel. It really is cold though, so I hope they can at least get the header on.

The clocks sprang forward last night, and Karen is still asleep. I’m predicting she will sleep until noon.

Staccato updates; the prose isn’t flowing.

However, Morris and Travis succeeded in getting a new exhaust on the 33-year-old Mazda Miata, and now the car sounds good rather than hideous. The old exhaust was ruined, and this one is as lovely as a stainless-steel exhaust can be.

*Originally from Manchester, England, Chris Wyatt is an associate professor of neuroscience, cell biology and physiology at Wright State University. He has lived in Yellow Springs for 17 years, is married and has two children and two insane Patterdale terriers.

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