After our last report, we are sorry to report that further damage has been sustained to the veg patch. Well – mainly to the Old Man’s patch. We noticed that most of our brussels, broccoli and purple sprouting had taken direct hits from an unidentified assailant. It was not initially clear what had done the damage: I thought that maybe a smart pigeon had somehow managed to fly in under the radar and the netting to peck the succulent leaves off. Claire was of the opinion that slugs – which have been numerous in this sodden summer – but The Old Man was suspicious of rodent mammalian infiltration. Either small rabbits who had dodged his air rifle pellets and got through the large gauge netting or perhaps mice.
So, smaller netting was put in place and fresh brussels plants were put in. Over the path in our patch we already had tighter fencing in place, but we gave a liberal sprinkling of the slug equivalent of liquorice allsorts to turn them to mush.
The next day we had got one slug, but the new brussels in the small allotment were nibbled again. This time TOM brought out the ultimate weapon against rodents – his mouse traps. I had never seen these before: they look like plastic castanets or even sets of dentures lying around the veg patch. But the next day they had done their job. Lying there with castanets on their heads were two mice. Well, that is not strictly accurate. One small grey mouse was truly dead with a set of dentures round its neck. The other was larger, browner, and had the castanets over its nose. And it was still alive. I put it out of its misery.
I’ve never been very relaxed about putting animals into the afterlife. I recall meeting our local female doctor out as she was walking her dog one time when it caught and failed to wholly despatch a rabbit. Without breaking off our conversation Judith put her foot on the neck of the failed extra from Watership Down, and twisted its head through 360 degrees, tossed the body into the hedge, and continued the walk. While I stood in aghast in awe at her dispassionate approach to the rabbit’s demise. She was simply annoyed that her dog had failed to complete the job it started.
But my father was right: it was mice that were destroying his sprouts. Or rather I thought the larger one looked more like a small rat. I left the corpses for him to dispose of. Although one has to be quick around here: the other day he shot a rabbit then went for lunch (such is the casual nature with which we take away life these days) and when he came back, a couple of magpies were already picking at the choice cuts themselves. Reminded me of the scene from film Excalibur when the knights are searching through the famished land for the grail, and there is a scene in which a crow picks the eye from a corpse. Yummmmm.
I was later informed that my “small rat” was actually a “large field mouse”. That made me feel a little guilty. Field mouse conjures images of fluffy rodents (and their young) nibbling gently at golden ears of wheat under azure skies. Admittedly, just prior to combine harvesters mashing them, but I guess they are fairly numerous and anyway they should just “get off my land!
Well, I am glad to say that there have been no more gnashers on mice and all the brussels, broccs and purps are beginning to recover from the rodent blitzkrieg.
At the weekend Claire was concerned that the garden was getting overgrown with weeds. She was not wrong: it has been so wet and I have been busy with end of term at school and other coaching work, so the veg lines were looking shaggy. I set to, weeding three rows of broad beans, two rows of runners and climbing french and our brussels, brocs and purps. Like I always say, if a job is worth doing. it is worth doing quickly. Unfortunately, in my haste, I did the unthinkable, taking off a borlotti bean and two pea plants at ground level with the Holy Blade of the Super Hoe. Oops. That upset me more than killing field mice, but the garden is looking better tended now albeit rather more denuded.
Survival of the fittest around here.