Monday, 22 January 2018

Rats can fly!

Well, perhaps not fly but jump much further than I thought.  They can even climb trees! I really didn't know that rats could climb trees until to my astonishment I saw one in our cherry tree, trying to figure out which branch would take it to the prized peanuts, hanging tantalisingly just out of paw's reach (do rats have paws?). In fact, I wouldn't put it past them to fly if it meant reaching their next meal.

And so begins the latest chapter in my mission to keep bird food for the birds that need it (see my first ever blog post Angry. Birds).

I lost the man vs pigeon battle of Bristol, but having impulsively bought this gorgeous ceramic bird feeder, I thought no hefty beast with wings could balance delicately on the narrow edge, leaving the goodies for the flocks of sparrows, finches, great, blue and long-tailed tits to gorge on after the long flight up the Slad Valley.

But no, the pigeons continue their graceless flaps knocking feisty robins out of their orbit, throwing seeds left right, up and down and then feasting on the morsels they've unceremoniously dumped on the grass. 

So at Christmas my feeder frustration was dissipated with this spherical beauty. Ha, nothing but a fleet footed finch could land on this and secure its peanut prize... my pigeon rage relented and there was enough food for all!

Until I saw a rat, 'perched' with its heavy a*** drooping over the side of the ceramic feeder. Now, I know that rats are possibly misunderstood, make good pets and cook a damn good French meal but the only misunderstanding here is on the rats part! 

And so began the fun and games. I tried moving the feeder away from anything that gave it a leg up, but turns out a rat can even balance on and climb lavender, and crawl up the slender stick! I lathered the stick in vaseline to thwart its greasy paws only to see the rat launch itself at least 20 feet (well, maybe a tad less than that), land perfectly on the swaying feeder, and with the core strength of a gymnast, hold steady whilst it tucked in.

The only solution has been to take the feeder out of action, causing the desperate fiend to engage its astonishing tree climbing skills. So far, it's not made it to the hanging feeder but this story isn't over yet...grrrr

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Vampire weekend


Love the stuff, and the few times I've successfully grown a bulb or two I've been chuffed to bits. No matter that the bulbs were tiny and lacked a bit of punch they still felt like a triumph!

So it's with excitement that I've got me some bulbs to plant this winter. I'd totally forgotten you can plant at this time of year, but on over-hearing a competitive conversation between some keen growers in a cafe ("I've got my garlic in" "Mine have germinated" "Mine germinated before Christmas last year"...) I thought it about time to get my gloves on too.

Having moved away from Bristol into the Gloucestershire countryside (well, Stroud with views of the countryside!), I miss my favourite garden centre down at Riverside. Thankfully, rowing takes me back to town on a Sunday morning and I've made it my mission to head to Riverside after every row to pick up something, anything, just to get my hit and stop me becoming an armchair gardener (that would be taking hapless to the extreme!)

The great thing about doing that is it reminds you what you should be preparing for. A good garden shop hits you between the eyes with a 'must have / you know you want it' goody before you've had time to think 'basket or compost trolley', knowing full well you really actually shouldn't have either because your week's wages will be gone before you've even reached the seed packet bit.

True to form, my arms were laden with first earlies potatoes and no basket before my eyes had even set on the onions... Conscious that I've not started preparing any ground for potatoes I think I'm going to be very late for my earlies!

That's for another day though. This weekend I'm all about the garlic, and will soon have this beauty broken up and staked into the ground, with Dracula quaking in his cloak!

I think I've got enough to keep the Count at bay for another year, and probably enough onions to keep plenty of other people at bay too...

Sunday, 7 January 2018

From Concrete Courtyard to the Hanging Gardens of Stroud...

Windowsill herbs have been a 'must have' for home cooks ever since Jamie Oliver bish-bash-boshed his way onto our screens nearly 20 years ago (yep, we're / I'm that old). 

Having spent that long trying to get my own herbs to grow there's no chance Oliver had the time or patience for his perfect bouquet week after week! Even a decent sized window-sill isn't enough to give you that basil hit more than a handful of times and sorry but that's just not enough to satisfy any self-respecting 30-something foodie addict's pesto consumption (not that I make pesto, or have much long to call myself 30-something!)

Pointless growing them at the allotment, herbs are a spontaneous thing. Even growing herbs out in planters in the back garden hasn't been  much good either, fumbling around in the dark to snip my rosemary, tripping up / down the outside steps just so my roast potatoes can be overpowered.  

I realised I needed something new...

Last summer I hit upon the idea of a trellis in the courtyard to cover the unsightly concrete breeze-blocks keeping us from our neighbours  on which to hang my herbs (PS for history buffs, the courtyard used to run the full length of the terrace of 6 old weavers cottages so that they could stretch out the cloth!). 

Coupled with some cheap metal containers, wire and a drill, I managed to create a hanging collection of herbs in easy reach. All I needed to do was nip out to satisfy my dill craving and all would be well in the world. Except the dill and the rest of them had a little difficulty growing, mostly due to under / over watering, gathering moss or drying out. Still I can't get the knack.

Not to be put off, 2018 is the year of the courtyard collection and today I'm back on it, potting up a new selection. Watch this space to see if they flourish or flounder...

It may be a bit cold out for now, but come spring I hope my fledgling herb garden will come to life, but naturally any advice on keeping the herbs alive gratefully received!

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

My photo
I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.