May 15, 2011

Today was the village plant sale – one of the red letter days in the Nearest Village calendar – and I was determined this year to bring more than just empty seed trays to the party. For the last few weeks I’ve been carefully pricking out and tending my surplus veg seedlings and so had three trays full to take down to add as my offering before the plague of locusts, sorry, keen gardeners descended.

The problem was getting them there. One would have been easy, two I might have managed to squeeze side-by-side onto my back rack, but three required a bit of lateral thinking. They didn’t weigh much but seedlings are quite delicate and it was hard to think of a way to avoid crushing them, let alone solve the problem of how to fix them to the bike. In the end, a plastic basket made an improvised container and egg boxes provided a suitable stacking mechanism. After all, you don’t get much more delicate than an egg, do you?

It all felt a bit precarious and I haven’t cycled that gingerly since I last had to get to work with a bottle of champagne in my backpack, but I made it down there with the seedlings uncrushed and I think they enjoyed the outing. The main problem was actually getting myself on and off the bike – without a step-through frame, and with it being a good 30 years since my last ballet lesson, I had to tip the bike over at a precarious angle before I could get my leg over. When I arrived at the village hall I had to ask the organisers to unload my bike before I attempted to dismount. Ladylike it wasn’t.

Still, at least it gave me plenty of room to haul my own booty back. Now all we need is some sunshine…

In Which My Life, Momentarily, Resembles an Episode of Glee

May 13, 2011

Our choir sessions have been somewhat irregular of late because we’ve been rehearsing for an unexpected appearance at Intervening Village’s Summer Soiree and it’s been hard to arrange times when everyone can make it and the hall is free. So as we were finishing up last night we had the following exchange

Choirmistress: Right, well that’s it, see you next week – oh no, we have to arrange when we’ll meet again

Choir: *spontaneously and simultaneously bursts into full-throated rendition of We’ll Meet Again*

Choirmistress: *speechless*

The Bunny Wars Continue

May 12, 2011

I came back to a satisfyingly large number of dead slugs in my traps (no photographs, by special request) but a distressingly small number of surviving carrot seedlings, the forces against carrots having evaded most of my elaborate defences to date. But that’s all by the by for we have larger problems on our plate in the garden.

For I also returned to news that the landlord’s son, digging in their part of the walled garden, found his fork suddenly sinking into a large hole which began squeaking frantically. Further excavations revealed a rabbit burrow complete with litter of baby rabbits (Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, presumably). Obviously this could have spelled disaster for the garden (as it is, I’m afraid it rather spelled disaster for F,M & C who probably should have emulated their brother Peter and ventured a little further from the burrow*) but the problem is that despite careful searching there’s still no sign of Mrs Rabbit (or indeed Mr. Rabbit). Which means either she’s still at large somewhere or has a way in and out of the garden. Given the way bunnies multiply, the depredations of the chap who cuts the grass (who got five the other night, by the way) could very quickly be overwhelmed.

I think it might be time to get the dog in again. Or kick the neighbour’s cat off the shed windowsill where she spends all the time watching Swallow TV and get her to work hunting Wabbits.

* The landlord, showing unusual soft-heartedness, only actually evicted them rather than turning them into bunny veal, but I suspect that meant a long lingering death rather than a quick violent one. Still, it was probably a better fate than a previous litter of rabbits which made the mistake of emerging out into the chicken run where the chickens promptly caught and ate every single one.

Slug’s Breakfast

May 8, 2011

It’s amazing what a difference two weeks – and three days of rain – can make

Plot at the end of April

Two weeks (well, 12 days) later...

The rain is making my garden (and the weeds) grow but it’s also bringing out the slugs in vast numbers. I should have got my slug defences going long before but it hadn’t seemed necessary in the bright sunshine and I kept puttingit off. But I’m off down to London this afternoon for a couple of days and I thought I’d better make sure that there were some plants left for me when I got back.

There are many defences against slugs – nematodes, eggshells, copper strips, coffee grounds, slug pellets – and the real answer is probably to do all of them (except maybe the slug pellets – however bird-friendly they supposedly are these days, I just don’t believe they’re worth it). I choose to use slug beer traps mainly because I like the satisfaction of seeing just how many ex-slugs I’ve created, and it gives the chickens a thrill. And no, I don’t waste good beer on the slimy things. A bit of yeast, sugar, flour and warm water is apparently indistiguishable from the real thing, if you’re a slug. I’ve not actually tasted it myself

slug trap in situ

Don't forget a stick so the good guys can escape

I’ll be back from London in a few days to tell you how I scored.

Double Standards

May 6, 2011

Cycling back from the shop this morning I nearly ran over a leveret,* which had decided to sit on the road and nibble at the grass of the verge. I only spotted it at the very last minute as my wheels passed inches away from its tail. Given that a hare’s instinct when threatened is to sit tight and that its greyish-brown coat made it blend very nicely with the muddy tarmac, I could see this wasn’t going to end well. Which was how I found myself taking part in the world’s slowest chase scene, as I tried to persuade the youngster to seek safety away from the road and it kept returning to the tarmac. I didn’t want to chase it too far as its mother would no doubt be coming back for it but finally we compromised on it going up and sitting on a stone by the wall and me leaving it alone. Undoubtedly the minute the scary bicycle monster was gone it went straight back to the road but I had at least done what I could.

These things never happen when you’ve got your camera with you, do they? Still it’s one more reason why I avoid driving: in a car, the first thing I’d have known about it would be when I scraped it off my wheel.

*I’m fully aware that I’m completely inconsistent on the subject of hares vs rabbits, but at least I am consistent in that even when the hares are eating my garden, I’d still rather have them than not. Call me speciesist, but that’s the way it is…

Whatever Happened to the Stiff Upper Lip?

May 5, 2011

It appears to have fallen victim to the War Against Terror, at least on the Parisian Front (I’m sorry, this is way off topic but just too good to be ignored). In a consequence of the killing of Bin Laden, unnoticed except for a paragraph tucked away in the NYT (scroll down to paragraph 8), parents at the British school in Paris have been sent a letter saying the children are to stop wearing their uniforms for the time being so they can’t be identified while travelling to school (although they still have to wear ‘smart plain clothes, conducive to effective learning’ because lord knows nobody ever learned anything while scruffily dressed). Not only that, but to further ensure that they blend into the background, they are to try not to appear too British in public.

Just what this should mean is not spelled out in any detail in the letter. Clearly, speaking Loudly And Clearly to the Johnny Foreigners around them should be curtailed while shrugging, smoking (‘Aw Miss, do I have to?’ ‘It’s for your own safety Bobby…’) and surrendering at the first sign of danger will be encouraged – and it’s nice to see the school taking the lead in the last case. Perhaps they’ll all have to sew maple leaves onto their (purple) backpacks like Americans pretending to be Canadian. Or, better yet, they could eliminate all possible clues (because surely if nothing else, their pasty skins will give them away as  les Rosbifs) by covering themselves completely from head to foot. Yes, that should do it.

oh no wait, hang on

Whatever the Weather…

May 4, 2011

For the last few days, wherever gardeners have been gathered together (and it seems everyone’s a gardener in these parts), the talk has been of when it is going to rain. We have not had rain now for an unprecedented 11 days and things are beginning to look a little parched. Last night, I even dreamt it was raining and as I stood in the doorway preparing to go out in it, my dream self thought ‘well, at least it’s doing the garden good’, although I hasten to add that my waking self was still pleased to wake up to another day of bright and glorious sunshine.

Anyway, the word in the pub last night – and who am I to doubt them, for they proved better at warning me of a near frost that the Met Office did – is that it will rain tomorrow. And the day after, and the day after that. That’s the problem with the rain, you see, once it starts up here, it’s like a child with an immensely unfunny poo joke and it just doesn’t know how to stop. So I shan’t be rejoicing, I promise. And whatever anyone else may be doing, I am STILL not, repeat not, praying for rain.

I hope that’s clear, W****** G***

Lessons Learned

May 3, 2011

Passing through Nearest Village this morning on my way to get the paper, I noticed that the older kids from the primary school were getting some on-road cycling training. Well, I say noticed, but I could hardly have missed it – not only were they wearing the obligatory hi-vis vests, but there were signs out at either end warning drivers, and no fewer than four adults standing out along the road (also in hi vis and, bizarrely, helmets – maybe the pedestrian helmet has taken off after all?).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cycle training, and I think it’s great that the local schoolkids are getting it. I’m sure it’s fantastic and necessary training too – I actually know one of the instructors & he’s pretty good. And part of me knows that on the roads today (even if not, actually, the roads around us) you do need to be pretty alert and skillful to keep safe. But I do wonder what lesson it is that we’re actually teaching our children here. Don’t ride, unless you’ve got warning signs and four adults watching out for cars? Fan as I am of decent cycling infrastructure, even I don’t think that’s going to be sustainable on a daily basis. I like to think that as I passed them (as I do most days) bareheaded and un-yellow-jacketed, I was setting just a tiny bit of a bad example to the youth…

Quick, Like a Bunny

May 2, 2011

Knock knock – we open our door to find a heavily-armed gunman with a belt of shotgun cartridges around his waist, Libyan rebel style. Closer inspection reveals it’s the chap who cuts the grass come to warn us against taking any twilight walks this evening as he will be out there laying waste to the rabbit population in the grounds both inside and outside the walled garden. Having suggested he not shoot any grey looking rabbits with long tails we retired indoors to take refuge from the resulting carnage.

I’m kind of torn on the rabbit hunting front. On the one hand they lay waste to the garden, have half destroyed some of the banks and breed like, well, rabbits. On the other hand they are rather cute and at least they got here more or less under their own steam (well, since the Romans Normans introduced them, anyway) unlike the idiot pheasants which are basically fancy battery-reared chickens. But then that’s probably just me being sentimental.

Anyway, the point may be moot because so far all evening we’ve heard just three bangs. Given the state of the roads around here, he may be more effective if he just waits until dark and then drives around in his car with the headlights on full beam. Or even in the ride-on mower although in that case there may not be much rabbit left for the pot.


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