Friday, 30 May 2014

Pottagers and Squirrels

Today Nancy is coming to lunch. Nancy and Marcia have been friends for rather longer than either of them care to remember: they both married naval officers who elected to enter the submarine service. They are, in the parlance, old naval oppos.

One day – oh, three or four years ago, I suppose – Nancy (who is a member of the Royal Horticultural Society) took Marcia to Rosemoor, an RHS garden in mid-Devon near Great Torrington. This, as you can see from the photograph, is a really serious garden but the important thing is that is has a pottager. As always with a good novelist, nothing is wasted. During the writing of Postcards From the Past, Marcia remembered that visit and, as those of you who have already read the book will remember, Dom has one in his cottage garden.

A really serious garden. (Photo from RHS webwsite)
Since moving here, I have created a couple of raised beds (save a lot of bending, keep things away from rabbits and means the soil can be carefully prepared for each season) but, unfortunately, really a bit late in the season. Anyway, in there are broad beans, nasturtiums, tomatoes, sweet peas and so on. An elevated pottager in miniature. We shall have to see how it progresses. By the way, the paperback of Postcards will be available from September 25.

To say that my life has been dominated in recent days by grey squirrels would be an exaggeration. But only just. If you are a long-term follower of this blog you will remember the fun and games we had with them when we were at The Hermitage. Adjoining our garden was a small broadleaf plantation which was perfect squirrel country and they would pop over the hedge to raid our bird feeders on an ongoing basis. We tried everything we could to stop them whilst at the same time keeping viable feeding stations for birds such as the Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Three youngsters in the garden at The Hermitage
That is not at all easy. Woodpecker bodies and squirrel bodies are about the same size: food in a cage that would keep the squirrels out would keep the woodpeckers out as well. However, woodpeckers can fly which squirrels can't so we tried using unprotected nut feeders in places the squirrels couldn't reach. That turned out to be a big ask. No, that's wrong. That turned out to be an impossible ask. Squirrels are consummate athletes and extremely intelligent. The score when we left was in the order of four hundred and twenty-seven to the squirrel and three to me.

Then we arrived here. Yes, big trees but no sign of squirrels to begin with. It didn't take long before they discovered that once again the Willett's were providing free board (but NOT lodging) to any passing bird or mammal other than the meat eaters (including cats and sparrow hawks) who would have to rely on their usual hunting abilities which might or might not be helped by us upping the prey population. And they are proving just as bad as the ones we had at The Hermitage and, in one case, worse.

A woodpecker and a nuthatch (I think, but it is not easy to be sure) arrive at a nut feeder at the same time. 
Worse because one fellow is slim enough and bright enough to have got himself into one of our caged bird feeders. I took a video of this guy which you can see if you click on the link below.
Male on a nut feeder.
So battle has commenced but I intend to stretch this chap and see what he is made of. New assault courses for him to overcome. New problems for him to solve. I will keep you posted.

You will remember that Roger and I were out on the River Dart a couple of weeks ago. When we go out to take photographs we are allowed to borrow the workboat of the marine engineers, Stephenson Marine of Noss. This is Poppy who is obviously a puppy (look at those paws) and is also a poppet. She belongs to Rob Hingston who owns Stephensons. 
To see the video of the squirrels, CLICK HERE.