Don’t panic! The words bounce around inside my cerebral void – we tenors have resonance where our brains ought to be, don’t you know?
The greenhouse is full – I have to get stuff out from the floor before I can get in with the watering can. The cold frame is full. The plant houses are all full. The car, doing a pretty good impersonation of a greenhouse, is full. The three window sills in the house which are deep enough to put anything on (total capacity 4 seed trays) are full.
And we may still get a frost. If the Daily Express is to be believed, we’re about to have 25 feet of snow.
Which means I still daren’t plant things out just yet.
So why did growers from whom I’d ordered a total of 132 garden-ready plug plants for delivery in the second half of May decide to deliver in the last week of April? I had to pot those plants on though they have been consigned to smaller pots than I would have liked. Well actually cell trays – 18 plants to the equivalent of a seed tray. That’s the best I can do.
If I had a gun with a bayonet on the end and the growers were within striking distance, I’d certainly stick it up ’em!
But now I can’t sleep at night because two other growers are (I hope!) sitting on my final batch of orders totalling 260 garden ready plug plants. If these come before mid May, the screams are likely to be audible from Lands End to John O’Groats. They may even shatter windows!
So maybe, just this once, 25 feet of snow would be a blessing as the postman won’t get through!
Meanwhile, I was chatting to a friend the other day about wildlife. The chat in question resulted from a bit of unexpected badger barrier building. Now if you live near a badger sett, you’re quite likely to get a family of badgers visiting and it’s worth putting out some food for them. Families are comparatively well-behaved and if they get their tummies filled (pet food’s good) they won’t mess up your lawn nosing around for worms.
But there’s no known sett within miles of my place. A few years ago, a grumpy old male came a-visiting. The local badger group worked things out – he’d got a bit past it and could no longer “assert his dominance” over the ladies (which is a nice way of saying he didn’t have access to a stock of Viagra). So a young upstart had taken his place and he’d wandered off into the night on his own, understandably grumpy as he was no longer able to while away the hours in the company of his former harem. He found my garden. And he did this:
That was in one night! 25 square feet of it! (I’m having an imperial moment!)
Now three years later, it seems there’s been another revolution. And migrating new grumpy has, it also seems, picked up the scent of migrating old grumpy. And he’s found his way in just beside the end of the fencing I put in last time. But he gave himself away before he could do anything more than a quick recce. My wallet took another hit but the badger barrier has been extended. It’ll be Fort Knox 2 soon! Though I do wonder if new grumpy is the pain in the butt that threw old grumpy out a few years ago.
But, aside from badger, we got talking about the range of wildlife that visits. This is the list for my garden over the last year(ish):
- Robin (that I often have several hopping around me puts paid to the notion that they’re fiercely territorial)
- Blue tit
- Great tit
- Long tailed tit
- Lesser spotted woodpecker
- Collared dove
- Wood pigeon
- Blue jay
- Sparrow hawk
- House sparrow
- Seagull (knicked toast and crapped on corn flakes)
- Barn Owl
There’s an almost constant bird cacophony here! Around bedtime, owl starts a’hootin. And he’ll carry on a’hootin loudly until around 4am. Which is when the dawn chorus starts. There’s a chirping and a twittering, interrupted by a bird that’s learnt to impersonate my mobile phone’s ringtone, brought to a conclusion by the rattle-like racket of magpies around 7am. But this doesn’t mean a period of silence. Oh no! The restaurant queue now forms at the bird feeders and there’s a constant chattering. Why can’t birds learn to be quiet in line? This chat ends just before owl wakes up and off we go again.
I worry about the greenfinches sometimes. Mum and dad seem to bring the kids for their early feeding sessions, something I don’t notice much with other birds. And the youngsters haven’t learned what to fear. I’ve had them landing on me more than once and eating out of my hand while their parents scream away at them from the relative safety of the bird table. They hop around resident cat who’s sunbathing on the lawn; fortunately he just half-opens an eye and, maybe, hisses at them gently if they use his stomach as a walkway.
I’m surprised at all the advice about needing to put out the correct variety of food to attract different birds. The only feeds here are peanuts and sunflower hearts (in squirrel-proof feeders) and a mix of sunflower hearts, dried mealworms and berry-flavoured suet “drops” on the bird table. Well I’m told the pink ones are berry-flavoured; I’ve never tasted one.
- Bat (a pair of fellas roost in the cavity wall and fly to females in local church tower when they want “it”)
- Grey squirrel (squirrels have a bird proof squirrel feeder so birds cannot choke on nuts)
- Fox (semi-tame; once got into lounge and curled up behind sofa. Phew!)
- Badger (singular – one does enough damage)
- Frog (I call a group of frogs an “orgy” cos that’s what they do)
- Newt (they have a mass-suicidal migration to the road once a year and we all pick them up and put them back in the pond)
- Grass snake
- Adder (always wear wellies when working in the shrubbery)
- Slow worm (the local population is tail-less thanks to resident cat, except for the colony living in the compost dalek that I’ll really have to empty this year)
- Mole (despatched by resident cat)
- Woodmouse (generally brought into house live and then eaten when I show no interest in playing)
- Shrew (cute; often rescued from resident cat)
- Brown rat (generally despatched by resident cat)
- Rabbit (occasionally despatched by resident cat)
I have to be honest, though, that apart from the stench that time foxy got into the lounge, the time a seagull got into the breakfast room and that bloody badger, I don’t get any wildlife “damage” these days. Moles designed the garden as I carved out the beds, borders, pond and paths around their hills but that was 20 years ago. Now, if the odd one ventures in, resident cat appears from nowhere and somehow knows just where the nose will break the surface. And he despatches the little creature with a single nip. Then carries the body to the place outside the conservatory where he always lines up his “kills” for inspection (excluding birds which he doesn’t kill and mice which he eats). Squirrels eat their nuts, rabbits get despatched quickly like moles. Things don’t get dug up.
There used to be a dog fox here that spent a lot of time sunbathing on the shed roof and scaring the crap out of me as I walked past, continually forgetful of his possible presence. He’d poke his head over the edge of the roof and give me a quick “yap” and, often, a swipe of the paw. Oddly, though, I’ve never seen a female fox nor any cubs; only a solitary male.
I suppose the worst bit is the magpies who I’ve seen killing little birds that dare to invade the bird table when they’re gorging themselves silly.
I don’t like magpies!
How do you do for wildlife?