Monday, 14 April 2014

Killed out rescuing bloody rabbits

Lucky baby rabbit no 3; rescued this evening...soooo cute
One of the more unfortunate side effects of having cats is the indiscriminate murder of fluffy cute animals that we would consider TOO CUTE to die (especially too cute to find pieces of after the event, like a gall bladder or fluffy tail end!). While Ginger might consider himself too old, at the grand old age of 5, to go around chasing rabbits, he is not above helping to corral them into tight spaces for the other two cats to catch. Maybe he gets his bit of fresh rabbit for his trouble, I don't know. Meanwhile Dutch and Sooty are just getting to their prime at 9 months of age. Young, fit and carrying no excess weight they couldn't been keener hunters and it's prime hunting season with nearby fields literally awash with baby rabbits. So rabbit is on the menu, every bloody day!

Bunny no 2 had a little injury but ran off home no bother
In the last three days Seamus has managed to rescue no fewer than three baby rabbits and return all of them to the field from which they came. You can be sure for the three that were rescued many, many more have died, but it's hard to watch it happen in front of you and hard in particular to listen to the horrible squealing of the little rabbit in the cats mouth.So if we can we distract or put the cats in and capture the rabbits ourselves. Once across the road and in the field they recover from the ordeal that left them trembling and still in our hands and spring back to life; maybe the very smell of the field gives them the urge to run home. Really their mothers take shocking care of them, they should never get into the clutches of our well fed cats in the first place.

Back at home tonight all three cats are thrown down and exhausted. Dutch in particular who was missing for most of the day has obviously overindulged, he is flat out on one side of me with Ginger crashed out on the other. Every now and again his paws twitch as he dreams of chasing more rabbits! Sooty meanwhile has a whole couch to himself to nap on. There isn't a gug out of any of them.It's like Easter Sunday after the last Easter egg has been demolished!!

Rabbit no1 biggest of the three rescues
There is a funny side to all of this. This evening I met my neighbour at my gate and we stood up chatting in the sun for a few minutes.Sooty was waiting inside the gate for me and Geraldine spotted him. "O" she said "he is a great cat, I see himself and the grey one (Dutch) in my garden all the time, do you know I have completely cut back on rat poison since they arrived?"
"No" I said, in the calmest tone I could muster all the while feeling quite faint at the thought of rat poison and my precious cats.
" O yes" she said "its brilliant, if they could manage to kill the rabbits now that would be great, the bloody place is over-run with the bastards!!"

Sooty and rabbit no3
And on that note I will say goodnight to you all and leave you with the last photo of the day Sooty with poor rabbit no 3 before the rescue in his mouth.

For those of you that may be wondering, no I didn't tell my neighbour we are rescuing the rabbits!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Earthing up spuds in the glasshouse

let there be spuds
Just a quick post to let you know that I have earthed up my spuds in pots. I'm experimenting with "Rocket" and "Swift" that are renowned for giving a fast crop (in two months!) under cover. Mine were sown in February (in pots of cow manure and put in the glasshouse under fleece) and despite my standing over them they showed no sign of life up to two weeks ago when shoots suddenly appeared. These have amazed me since at their speed of growth, I know they are called Rocket and Swift but I'm still amazed!! Will I be eating them by the end of April though? Watch this space....God I'm getting hungry now just thinking about it..

Overwintered sweet peas V spring sown ones

Ah sweet peas and roses...summer bottled
For a long time I have been reading how Autumn sown overwintered sweet peas in a cold frame are THE WAY to grow sweet peas, bringing you stronger multi-branched plants that bloom earlier and produce huge crops of flowers......The only problem is that by October I'm not inclined to sow anything. I am long retired from sowing as far as I'm concerned. I finish sowing around June and concentrate all my efforts on EATING from there on out. It's the whole point surely of growing all that veg in the first place?! And as much as I love sweet peas I could never summon up the motivation to want to look after them through the winter. So for years it never happened. Until finally last year I read Monty Don giving advise on sweet peas and happened to see the man in the UK with the national sweet pea collection on the A to Z of TV gardening and there were both espousing the merits of an Autumn sown plant. I gave up the fight, dragged myself out one fine day in October and grumbling to myself begrudgingly set one root trainers worth of seeds.

February transplanting; un-eaten on the right, eaten on the left
After that not much happened. I was disappointed to see that germination was quite erratic and more disappointed when I missed a slug getting in who managed to graze several seedlings to the ground.That's the problem with winter weather. A lot can happen outside while you are inside wrapped up on the couch watching The Tunnel, eating for Ireland and piling the fire high. The survivors apparently shocked into hibernation by the death of their brothers looked a bit forlorn and miserable while I stared into the cold frame pulling my eyebrows together and fretted about them. By Christmas I gave up fretting, forgot all about sweet peas and concentrated on seed catalogues and new types of tomatoes. They were still alive but not looking like they would amount to much.I was ready to write them off as a failed experiment and send a tweet to Monty to ask him what I was missing.

Sweet peas looking good this April

Around February much to my surprise I realised they were starting to grow, with roots beginning to poke out the bottom of the root trainers. I re-potted them all and once I opened the root trainers I was surprised again to find that almost all of them had in fact germinated and those I thought had failed or had been grazed by slugs were sending up second growth, so I ended up transplanting far more than I had expected to. Over the last two months they have steadily grown taller and bushed out, while in the last few weeks they have been fully hardened off outside. It was really only last week when I put the spring sown sweet pea seedlings beside them that I could see the value of the overwintering plants. They are three times the size, climbing well and looking extremely promising.

Spring sown sweet peas

The final test will be the flower crop outdoors this summer of course. Tomorrow we have a willow weaving workshop planned in Kilmallock for the FETAC 5's where we will all make and bring home willow garden obelisks for climbing plants like our sweet peas. Now all that's left to do is to prepare the ground with horse manure, compost and chicken pellets!

The secret life of slugs

Slug Cartography; A slug maps out Spain and Portugal in the veg he looking to fly Ryanair?
I was going to title this "the sex life of slugs" but as ever, the thought of my mother somehow one day learning to use the Internet and actually reading my blog(longest odds in the world by a country mile) managed to discourage me. Last week I held the funniest class I have ever had as I tried to explain to my Science laden FETAC 5's, (without getting embarrassed myself which is harder than you might think!), how slugs mate. As you might imagine as we got into it (forgive the pun)chronic giggling broke out, followed by accidental (and not so accidental) innuendo, uproar followed, (it really went to shit at this point, even I was having trouble keeping a straight face)and cold showers were threatened until finally I got some type of order on the chaos, finished the lesson and survived the day. O Lord. I have a new found respect for teachers explaining the "facts of life" as we once quaintly called them to 11 year old's.These were adults! And worst of all it was all about the un-sexiest creature on the planet-the slug! Thank God I'm not explaining human reproduction to them.

For those of you who may not know it every slug (and snail)carry the bits for both male and female inside them, making them hermaphrodites. When they meet they push out their bits and swap sperm leading to both parties laying their own clutch of eggs after parting ways.This might begin to explain to you why slugs seem to be everywhere, as literally hundreds of eggs are produced by each slug each year. I'm not going near explaining Apophallation, thank God I didn't get into it in class , I'd have to be stretchered out! Needless to say if you are curious click on this link here to take you to the Wikipedia page that explains it all (its under the Reproduction heading). If you are male you might be better off not reading it at all-you have been warned!

Gosh that was really easy; there is a lot to be said for delivering this kind of information over the Internet from the comfort of the couch, no danger of blushing or getting embarrassed and no smart ass innuendo either!