I’m a celebrity – get me out of here!

Today I discovered something rather unsettling about myself. Always being the one called upon to retrieve massive spiders from the school showers (and to my shame sometimes waving them in the faces of the arachnophobes in the class complete with a ‘woooo‘ noise); and having the ability to fell a slug with one swift jab of a trowel, I thought I was rather fearless. But now I know for certain that I’d be rubbish on ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here‘. I’d be fine with the insects and crawly things – no problem at all – but rodents might prove a tad more challenging.

Feeding time for the chickens turned into rather an adventure today. On opening the lid of the food container, I was surprised startled bloody terrified to discover a mouse running amok in there, having a right old party for one. To my utter shame, I screeched like a complete girl and made an extremely sharp exit out of the shed.

But the food pot was empty, and the girls were prancing around in the run making noises that translated to, “Oi, Mush! We’re staaaaarving!”, so there was no option: I was just going to have to man up about the whole thing.

Pulling the container complete with mouse out into the open, I tipped it on its side and rattled it around a bit. Nothing came out: Mr Mouse was obviously more than comfortable in there. With my heart in my throat, and my legs all a-quiver, I peered inside to find I’d actually managed to trap him underneath the pellet scoop. Marvellous!

Using the longest stick I could find, and standing the furthest possible distance away, I poked the scoop over, and out scampered the mouse, happily making his dash for freedom, while I pranced around making sure he didn’t dash up my trouser leg.

Feeding time over, I made a mental note that if Ant and Dec ever called me up for a trip to the jungle, I’d have to politely decline…

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Give peas a chance

A couple of weeks ago I planted some broad beans to grow through the winter. While I was at it, a couple of rows of first early peas (Douce Provence) went in, and these I covered with one of those portable cloche tunnels.

This weekend I dashed down to see how they were all coming along, and am delighted to report that the beans have already begun popping through the soil, and are looking healthy and strong.

Broad beans

Uncovering the peas, I was greeted with a different story. That patch was empty. On closer inspection, I discovered that the plants had, in fact, come up, but had strangely been chopped off at about an inch long. There was a row of teeny tiny shoots, but not one of them was in the ground.

Consulting my gardening friends, the most probable explanation offered was that mice were digging them up, and eating the seeds.

“Marvellous!” I thought. After whipping my plants out of the hungry mouths of slugs, birds and caterpillars all year, we now seem to be providing an ‘eat all you can’ buffet for the local mouse population. A quick search of the shed produced a couple of traps, which I baited up with ham and set under the cloche.

The next morning, I rushed off down the garden to see what I’d caught, and would you believe, there was only a blooming slug in the mouse trap! I reset the trap, and refilled the slug pubs around the garden, as we obviously had both slugs and mice sneaking into the veg plot.

My friend informed me that apart from the beer traps, another great way rid your garden of slugs was to actually go out there at night with a torch, and hand pick the little blighters. Deciding to give that one a go, I’ve been doing nightly garden patrols, creeping up on them, and chucking them into a container with some salt in it. This has been mightily effective, if a little addictive, and over the course of a week I’ve caught 45 whoppers.

Resigning myself to the fact that the pea crop may not make the winter, I’ve deployed a back up plan. I’ve chopped the top off one of the used grow bags in the greenhouse, and have planted some peas in it. I’m hoping that they can over winter in there, and be safely out of reach of both our mouse and slug population. In spring, I’ll simply transfer them to the garden. Well, that’s the plan…

The Hinckley Times 1 November 2012