Festive magic

You never know what you might find when you’re out for a walk…

I think they may all be new records for Denmark Farm!

And so, I wish you festive magic in the coming days!

Cat chat

We used to have a cat… she was the most unlucky cat you can imagine . She got her tail damaged and had to have it amputated; she developed pyometra after a bungled spay at the rescue centre we got her from; she disappeared for weeks and came back like a skeleton; she got entangled with her collar and ended up with a huge wound under her front leg (twice), which got infected; she had all the skin scraped off one side of her legs (goodness only knows how – strimmer?), she got an abscess on her neck… the list could go on. We finally lost her when she (at the age of about 12) got hit by a car. She was very expensive to run and when she died we made a conscious decision not to replace her.

Muffin the cat – taking a rest from rodent control and warming the soil up

But I do miss her – I don’t miss her bad temper, nor the fact that we didn’t dare feed the birds or put up a nest box in the garden for fear of the carnage that might ensue. I don’t miss the vets’ bills or the fur balls expelled noisily in the night. But I do miss her ability to keep the shed and greenhouse free of mice. We now keep the chicken feed in a metal bin and the bird seed in the house so that we are not feeding the local rodent population, but this season I have had a variety of seeds and seedlings excavated, eaten and simply chewed up. The first evidence was the jumping bean incident, but more recently I started finding holes dug into the large pots in which I had planted mangetout and the newly emerged shoots chewed to pieces but not consumed; in addition several sweetcorn seedlings were uprooted and chewed and then several more had disappeared completely over the next night and there were holes dug in the compost. Some plants seem to be ignored – melons, squashes, tomatoes and sweet or hot peppers – but how long they will be ignored I don’t know. The mangetout have now been moved to the no-longer-waste-of-space, the sweetcorn are on the ladder allotment and the beans are happily climbing their poles in their place in the raised beds so perhaps other things will have to serve as mouse food.

You would have thought that owning two terriers would keep the rodent population down, but I think that a mouse could walk over Max and he’d probably ignore it and, whilst Sam is great at alerting us to the presence of other animals, catching them seems to be beyond her. SIGH. So, surely the neighbourhood moggies should do the job? Perhaps the presence of the dogs and chickens puts them off (chickens give them a severe talking to if they come in the garden), but whatever the reason they have not caught our mice.

Another cat is definitely not something I want, so I guess that from now on I will have to start looking for mouse-proof covers for my seeds… some sort of fine metal mesh seems like the best option. Or perhaps there’s something that repels mice… pepper perhaps or chilli…?

Jumping bean

Today I have a mystery…

I did not visit my greenhouse yesterday because I was away attending a tutorial (more about that in later posts), so when I got up to let the chickens out this morning I thought that I would just go and say hello to the seedlings. All is well with chillies, peppers, courgettes, squashes, leeks, tomatoes and melons, but what about the beans? There are some signs of life from the runner beans, a couple of green shoots appearing and the tops of some seeds emerging at the surface, pushed up by the roots that must be growing below.

And then there are the French pea beans (a gift from Mr Snail’s eldest brother), which are so full of energy they have started jumping out of the soil! They are planted in root trainers to give them a chance to develop lovely long roots before I plant them outside. So, why was one of the beans lying on the surface of the potting compost? Not only that, but on the top of a module three spaces away from where it was planted; I know this because there is a hole in the compost of the module from which it originated. It hadn’t germinated, so we can’t blame an extra-exuberant root. It was hydrated, but I don’t think swelling is likely to have happened so rapidly that it forced it out of the soil and into the air. I can only think to blame a mouse… but why didn’t it eat the bean? There is a slight bit of damage, which could be a tiny nibble. Do pea beans taste disgusting to mice? And if they do why didn’t it move on and sample the runner beans or graze on the tender leek shoots? Either I have very pernickerty mice or the seed packet is wrong and they are actually jumping beans. I will report on further developments…

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