Saturday, 8 May 2010

We're Monsters.

It's true.

We're a couple of murderers.

Those of you who read my blog semi-regularly might remember that we've had an uninvited guest living in and off of our compost bin for the past couple of months. It had been digging tunnels between the bin and the greenhouse, shifting phenomenal amounts of partially-decomposed veggie scraps and lawn clippings and eating its way through discarded old potatoes and apples.

We've been going back and forth about what we thought it might be for weeks. Logic says 'rat' but the copious amounts of poo he/they left behind were much bigger and rounder than my pet rats' used to be. To be honest, I didn't WANT it to be a rat, because I knew what Drew would insist on doing with it and I didn't want to hurt him. I had visuals of him laying on his back in the dark, on top of banana peels and tea bags, rubbing his swollen belly in a blissful euphoria. That thought made me smile.

It was a rat.

Drew flushed him out of the little hole he'd dug at the base of the bin by giving the compost a really good poke with a bamboo cane. He shot out the back and raced around the corner, behind the greenhouse and down another little hole he'd dug under the fence into our neighbour's garden. I wasn't there to witness this, but apparently, he was "THIS BIG!!" (about 12").
Despite my protests, Drew went off to Homebase and purchased two very angry-looking black plastic and steel traps. Ugh.

Two days later, while weeding the asparagus, I noticed that one of the traps in the gauntlet Drew had set up at the corner of the greenhouse was no longer visible.

Ohsweetbabyjesus, shall I look?

And there he was. A pretty little grey-brown fluffkin, eyes still open, looking at me as if to say "You let him do this to me! I wasn't doing you any harm, I was just after your old apples and potatoes! This is my family's summer home and now the kids wont have any vacations anymore because you killed their Dad and they'll have to go to a little rat orphanage! Murderer!"

I felt like Myra Hindley.

Drew SWEARS that the rat he flushed out was HUGE and that this rat is not him (Which makes it even WORSE!)
Drew is convinced that if we don't catch him, one of the dogs will and will catch some nasty disease that will end up on my lap on the sofa, then he'll put his head in my lap to watch TV, catch the disease and then will give it to me when he kisses me.

So if the little fella we murdered ISN'T Aubrey (the rat's name), then the one buried in the garden is basically the victim of a roadside bomb. OMG, maybe he was one of Aubrey's kids??

Drew says that the alternative is poison scattered in the compost, but I use that compost to fertilize our veggies. I think that we should use live traps and release him into the wild (or another neighbour's garden? That old lady who last Christmas told me I was "naughty" for picking a few branches of holly from the MASSIVE woods behind our house, that I (thankyouverymuch) keep clean and tidy with regular litter pickings! Old bat.)

So I have decommissioned the traps. I can't go through another burial. I can't handle the guilt. I wonder if I can put them in a tree to catch a couple of wood pigeons? They're tasty!

So really, the reason for the hyper-vigilance on our part with regard to the compost is because of the vegetable garden. It stayed cold for a long time this spring and we were too broke to buy seeds for a while, so we're a little behind.  If you like, have a look at some of the fun stuff we have coming up outside.
There are a lot of seeds coming up in the greenhouse, which will be transplanted to the bare spots in the veg patch and I'm trying to do it all organically again this year, which means I'm cutting back on my brassicas, because one person can only pick so many cabbage white caterpillars off leaves in a day.

French breakfast radishes


THREE different kinds of courgette!


A few varieties of potato and some Jerusalem artichokes in bags

A crab apple tree we inherited with the house and some rhubarb I planted last year.

See that teeny tiny green spot on the ground to the right of the tree, about three feet away? That's a lavender bush I just planted. I buried Mr. Rat right next to it. sigh

There is a big ol' patch of empty in front of that tree and I'm going to try a 'three sisters' planting like the South Americans do. The idea is that you grow corn (my seedlings are TEENY!) in a grid and then you plant beans at the base of the stalks so they climb up them. You then plant squash on the ground in between because the big leaves shade the soil and keep the ground moist. Beans are a brilliant companion for a lot of veggies because they pump all kinds of nitrogen into the soil.

I'll be interested to see how it all comes along and will be sure to update you! 
I bought a book of veggie growing three years ago and it's just about the smartest thing I could have done. If you only buy one book about growing veggies at home, make it this one. It could almost be called "for dummies" and takes you all the way from sowing, through feeding and care and then harvesting and storage of your crops. Useful tips about companion planting are great for organic growers too.

Here's our modest little asparagus patch.

We've had two good harvests already, so I'm letting them grow into ferns now so that we can have a bumper crop next year. It's incredibly hard to restrain myself, but I discovered last week that the little shoots that grow off each spear are exactly like mini, super-tender asparagus spears, so I think I'll steal a couple off of each plant to have with dinner later.

As for the rest of the attempts at veggie self-sufficiency, we have garlic, carrots, turnips, salsify and parsnips already poking out in the dirt outside and in the greenhouse we have chillis, peppers, tomatoes, herbs and lettuces.
The one and only flower bed we have has land cress, rosemary, thyme, garlic, rocket and MORE lettuces, because they look so pretty.

The goal is to buy as little veg as we have to, and if the past two years are anything to go by, we should be pretty successful. Last year I went a bit nuts and planted 62 different varieties of veg and herbs, which was retarded because we live on a small plot in suburban Bracknell, not Southfork Ranch.
I was just thinking I would go out and play in the dirt for a bit, maybe have a word with the strawberries, but it's started raining. 
That's the great thing about greenhouses:-)


  1. Awesomeness, I really need to move, so I can stop pretending my Mom's garden is mine. Need yard!
    Too bad about the little rat-live traps are a great idea...

  2. I keep meaning to ask where your subtropical hollow is! I lived in Arizona for ten years, where it's all but impossible to grow anything more than oleander and date palm. I think that's why we've gone so nuts since we've been here, we're like "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!" every Spring! While fun, veggie growing is challenging enough, without adverse weather conditions!

  3. You are precious! Love this post. And I'm insanely jealous of your beautiful veggies! My husband and I don't have a yard, but as soon as we do...we're going to get planting!

  4. Monet, do you have deep window sills or a little balcony? It's amazing what you can grow in pots!

  5. What a great post....sorry to hear about your rat....sigh....I know I even feel bad when we catch seems like everything deserves to live, but when they invade kitchen space you have no alternative.
    On the brighter note..your greenhouse and garden look wonderful!!

  6. Yeah, Dennis, if there was a rat in our HOUSE, that would be a different matter, but he wasn't, he was at the end of the garden, just chillin and eating scraps.
    I feel like I should go to church (for the first time in a decade) and light a candle....

  7. I really admire people who understands gardening. Whatever I tried planting, they all ended up in the dead bed.....your garden makes me feel so good!

    Happy Sunday!

  8. RIP Mr. Rat.

    Thank goodness it wasn't a Were-Rabbit.

  9. Your garden looks fantastic!! I'm hopeful to get things in the ground this weekend here. Love companion planting, I'll have to look into the book you recommended. You have a great blog :)