Sunday, 29 June 2014

Woken Up At Midnight and It's CT 2, Wood Mouse 1

Three nights ago, some neighbours (and I use that word in the loosest possible sense of the term) decided the best idea they could come up with was to throw open the gates of their field at midnight and invite a bunch of drunk teenagers in to have a party.

We live in a quiet place so a whole caravan of cars going up the lane after dark (or, to be frank at any time) is usually indicative of an emergency. When it happens at midnight and is accompanied by screams, horns tooting and the distant but distinct 'duf, duf, duf' of music - the sort where you can't hear the tune or melody, only the dull thud of base that gets inside your skull in a way that could drive you to insanity very quickly- it means no sleep and the sort of anger whose embers are still glowing several days later.

I do not cope with broken nights. L (bless him) woke me on the hour, every hour, from the minute he was born until he turned four. You do not catch up on that kind of lost sleep, and as a result I am extremely tetchy if I get woken in the night now.

By one am, it had got louder. By 1.02 I was out of bed, dressed and grim-faced and heading for the car with the intention of discovering where the bloody noise was coming from. M, knowing I am not at my most sane or reasonable when wrenched from sleep by Other People's Noise, and perhaps therefore fearing what I would do to the person who was responsible if I found them, beat me to it and rushed off down the lane on foot with torch in hand. By the time I caught up with him he was standing beside the aforementioned neighbour who was calmly seeing cars into their field with his torch as if it was a Perfectly Normal Thing To Be Doing At Midnight. It was probably a good thing M was standing next to him because if he hadn't been I would have been tempted to run him over.

Standing in the lane was his second mistake (the first being allowing the party in the first place). His third was to start the conversation thusly: 'and who are we?'

'We,' said M grimly, 'are two of your extremely pissed off neighbours. It's a Thursday night, it's 1am, you have woken our entire household, some of whom have to go to work and school tomorrow. IT IS JUST NOT ACCEPTABLE!!!!!!!'

He feigned a look of surprise (mistake number four) because, apparently it is Quite Acceptable in his world to blast loud music and the screams of inebriated teenagers for several miles out across the fields at 1am.

'Oh,' he shouted over the sound of the music, 'I didn't realise it was that loud.'

It was probably a good thing I was still in the car and not standing within swinging distance of him. Also that the music was so loud he couldn't hear what I saying in reply. M, who knows me well, cast me a Worried Look.

'Oh well,' he said, in a hurt and not-understanding-at-all-voice, 'if you give me ten minutes I'll ask them to turn it down. It's my son's birthday,' he added, as if that made it alright.

They didn't turn it down and I lay in bed being forced to listen to duf, duf, duf, duf for the next two hours before anger finally gave way to sleep. I drifted off dreaming of the sort of revenge that entailed getting up at 7am and driving round the field blasting the horn of the car wherever there were sleeping bodies. Unfortunately, I was so knackered the next morning (having had four hours sleep, which is about half what I need if I'm not going to turn into a pumpkin) that it was 7.30 before I struggled out of bed, and by the time I got down to the field all the buggers had gone.

The other thing that annoyed me this week was receiving a string of texts asking 'how much for a full body massage?x' from a complete stranger who never bothered to leave his name. I don't do massage, for exactly this reason. Idiots see it as a euphemism. I replied politely that I didn't do massage and then had a text saying 'can you see me tomorrow?' I felt like writing back 'exactly which bit of 'I don't do massage' did you not understand? I repeated that I didn't do massage and then the next morning I had another text from the same number again asking 'how much for a full body massage?x' I ignored it.

So my equilibrium has been sorely tested this week and I have been struggling to get it back ever since. That sense of being out of sorts was compounded today by the pitched battle I fought with the several thousand feet of bindweed which is threatening to take over the top of our garden. It has strangled my buddleia and when I tried to free it it severed several of the branches in half so now there aren't as many buds for the flutters as there would otherwise have been :-(

Never has the image of a flame thrower been more appealing..... I would get good value for money out of it too, because I could also use it on inconsiderate neighbours and idiots who think healing is a smoke-screen for something less wholesome.

It looks like a jungle at the bottom of the garden :-(

I tore as much of the bindweed away as I could and set about tidying up the rest of the beds which have also become festooned with things growing where I would rather they didn't. The recent torrential rain has flattened my cornflowers and the cosmos, with the result that sections of the garden look like someone who's been sleeping rough for several weeks with no access to a hairbrush or a fresh change of clothes.

This morning I discovered that my voles have been at work at the corn poppies which I have been assiduously nurturing these past few weeks. All that remains of them is a pile of neatly incised tidily stacked stalks cut at tell-tale 45 degree angles....

Vole Larder

By way of an apology from nature, we did get two new species of flutter in the garden today: Meadow Brown (I didn't get a pic) and this Ringlet.

A Ringlet
Along with a freshly hatched Comma....

I've moved the Nasturtiums into the back veg patch where they look colourful and cheerful....

And in so-doing managed to upset an entire colony of ants whose pre-children fell out the bottom of the pot, prompting much frantic scurrying about and furious waving of tiny fists in my direction as the ants attempted to relocate the eggs.... They look more papery than I'd realised close up.

While this was going on I also found a Cellar Snail. I am Becoming Very Interested In Snails. Cellar Snails are flatter and smaller than Common Snails, and as such are probably food for Glow Worms, which M and I went out hunting for the other night (but more on that in a later post).... I am Getting Very Interested In Glow Worms too....

Cellar Snail Cutey Pie

Some areas of the garden are looking better than others. The Calendula sown from seed this year are beginning to flower....

And the Spirea is looking Pink and Fluffy (unlike me)....

The Poached Egg plants are cheerful and the Star Jasmine smells divine....

And a new kind of Dragon flew over for a chat as well- I think this is a Common Darter, but feel free to offer corrections if I'm wrong...

M has been out since 5am (so less sleep for me again. It is Just As Well we have next week off and are planning on visiting some Nice National Trust Properties, which is confirmation of my having reached Middle Age in a way nothing else is). He and his friend Tall Paul (whose thirteen year-old daughter changed his username on some cycling-related website to Baldy Gonzalez quite a long time before he noticed) are cycling 140 miles round the South. They have various strategic cream-tea stops booked in along the way (very hard-core) and are not due back till 6pm, which doubtless means M will manage to stay awake just long enough to consume supper and a pint of home brew before he's snoring through the final episode of Game Of Thrones....Which I suppose will balance last night, when I fell asleep after a particularly large gin and had to be woken up for supper at 8, and then had no idea where I was, who I was, what time it was and what generally was going on..... :-)

The mouse (in case you were wondering) went back into the Longworth again on Fri night and has been set free in the Vineyard, a reasonable distance away from the house. I was careful to blindfold him, spin round a few times and talk in a foreign language while we walked up to the vineyard to make Absolutely Certain he was thoroughly confused about where he was. And I kept all sleeves tucked well out of the way too when I opened the trap so we didn't suffer any mouse tickles upon release. We are now waiting to see whether he finds his way back (I won't be surprised if he does).

I'll leave you with a pic of Pop who has been helping me garden, which translated means she has been chewing up the various sticks I've chucked on the ground in a small fit of fury over the bindweed problem....

Until next time, I hope you all have Equilibrium-Filled Weeks....

CT :-)

Saturday, 28 June 2014

A Petition To Stop Neonicotinoid Use In The UK

Hi All,

A quick one from me today to give you a link to a petition calling on David Cameron, the PM of the UK, NOT to overturn a ban on pesticide use that has been strongly linked to bee deaths.

The Govt are meeting this Tues to consider a plea from pesticide manufactures that they be allowed to use these pesticides on UK fields this year, and we really need to impress on the Govt of the UK that it just isn't safe to do this. There is plenty of scientific evidence that these pesticides are harming our pollinators- certainly enough to make their use questionable at best and down-right irresponsible at worst.

Please help if you can by clicking the link below which will take you to the e-petition.

CT :-) 


Friday, 27 June 2014

Countryside Tales 1, Wood Mouse 1

He's back.

That didn't take long, did it?

Here's what I found on the utility room floor this morning, beside the bag of bird seed that has had another hole nibbled through it....


After removing the various bags of bird seed and dog food and sweeping up the pile of seed, I put the Longworth (baited once more with cheese) back in situ behind the waching machine....

....And now we play a waiting game to see who breaks first......

CT :-)

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Longworth Small Mammal Trap 1, Wood Mouse 0

The literature that accompanies the Longworth Trap suggests that you bait the trap and leave it open in situ for a few days so the small mammal gets used to being able to go in, feed, and come back out again, and you therefore have a better chance of catching it.
But I was in no mood to play silly buggers with our mouse after nearly two weeks of him popping in to the old trap like it was a super market, removing all the food I'd placed there and hiding it under the washing machine, while closing the trap door behind him on his way out much as we lock our front door. I stuffed some cheese in the Longworth, set the door and left it.

Three hours later when I went back to check the door was very firmly closed.

Ha! (I thought), if you've managed to remove that cheese and spring the door behind you on your way out, you are the cleverest mouse that ever lived and I will award you a medal and leave you alone forever more.

I cautiously picked up the trap, which has a small hole drilled in one end to allow shrews to escape (shrews are fully protected under UK law, making it an offence to trap and handle them without a license- clearly no one ever told Cleo this as she used to catch lots of them- and they also need to consume the equivalent of their own body weight on a daily basis and therefore have to eat every three to four hours, so trapping them is not a good idea, hence the escape hole). I turned the box round so the hole was pointing towards me and a second later a small whiskery nose stuck itself out and sniffed at me.


I called L and M over in Great Excitement and we all traipsed up the garden to release Our Mouse (M grumbling that that wasn't far enough away and the our guest would soon be back in the utility room enjoying his pile of contraband beneath the washing machine, only this time doubly aware of the trap which he would never voluntarily step paw in again).

I removed the tunnel part of the trap and peered in.......

Yes. I can see you.

The only problem was, we couldn't work out how to get him out. 

L discovered (by accident) that if you lift the top of the box it opens on a hinge, and, quick as a flash, Mr Mouse seized his opportunity to break for freedom and ran straight towards the next safe tunnel he could see, which was directly in front of him and just happened to be L's shirt sleeve.

He shot up L's sleeve, scurried under his armpit, ran down across his tummy and then sideways round his back, before finally making good his escape under L's shirt tails and out into the long grass that surrounds our pond.

Who knew mice could move so fast? Or nearly-teenagers. All our eyes saw was a dart of brown fur and then L wiggling and jiggling like mad as if he'd sat on an ants' nest.

All credit to him, he didn't squeak or complain or panic. Once the mouse had gone we looked at one another and burst into laughter. He is so used to wildlife sharing his home that I suspect he just considers these kinds of events perfectly normal. When he was very small, only about two, we had a blackbird who used to hop through the patio door and peck at the carpet while we were watching tele. Years ago, we raised ducklings in our spare room and they learnt to swim in the bath. L would go to see them before school and they would all rush over and nibble his toes, or climb up on his lap and snuggle down and go to sleep. He often finds moths in his school bag and we occasionally have to remove birds from the house who've found their way in to the kitchen or the hall. Sometimes the dogs bring small things in that run about like mad until we have caught them and returned them to the garden. When L was 9, the baby blackbird I was raising used to ride everywhere on his head. She would go with me to wake him up for school in the morning and sit on his bed and sing to him and he would come back from school put her on his lap and feed her meal worms. I used to tell him he was likely the only boy in England who had a wild songbird as his personal alarm clock. The summer he was 10 he got very used to carrying swallow chicks who had fallen out of the nest and been abandoned back from the yard in the car; they too would go to sleep cuddled up to him while he watched tele. When he was 11 it was a baby sparrow just hatched and found on the road who came home in his hands, and only a couple of weeks back we came back from Granny's with a baby blue tit who was on L's lap for the journey. He grumbles about having been born to a mother who loves nature, but I think that is for my benefit- when I pointed out the water vole who was paddling across the river at the weekend he oohed and ahhed over it for ages. Animals love him, they come to him and they trust him, which is why, I guess, the little mouse made a bee-line for him.

Anyway, we are now Mouse Free and the Longworth has proved itself :-)

CT x

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Walled Rose Garden Of Mottisfont Abbey

It's Rose Time of the year again, which means yesterday was the Annual Pilgrimage to Mottisfont.

It's nearly a year to the day since Ma and I last went (abandoning our husbands- much to their relief), and to be really honest, the roses are now past their best, but it is such a spectacular garden stuffed full of so many beautiful plants all within the most fantastic old walled garden setting that it didn't really matter.

The walled rose garden at Mottisfont is (to put it Quite Simply) a Mind Blowing Experience, and if you haven't been before, you must go (but next year now, before they start to go past their best). It houses the National Collection of old fashioned roses designed and planted by horticulturalist Graham Stuart Thomas. When Thomas was looking to retire in 1971 he wanted a place to put his roses, a collection he had drawn from all round the world. The tenant at Mottisfont was leaving and the walled kitchen garden became available. It is a perfect place for them. Roses that only bloom once had fallen out of fashion at that period, but Thomas reinvigorated a nation's love for them, as is evident in the number of visitors who come to see them here every June.

Mottisfont (which is only open March through to October) gets a little under 220,000 visitors a year and many of these come at Rose Time. Being local, Ma and I were there at the opening of the doors at ten and made good our escape a little after twelve and so avoided the crush. At some points it felt like we almost had the gardens to ourselves......bliss.

I'll let the pictures do the talking......there are Quite A Lot because it is impossible to whittle them down to a handful, so if you enjoy gardens, flowers and roses I expect you will be oohing and ahhing over them every bit as much as we were.

This year, with all of you lovely people in mind, I remembered to get names for most of the roses featured. Some of them date back to the 1880s.

Baron Girod De Lain
Petit De Holland
Honorine De Brabant
Shaliers White
Lady Stuart
These beautiful yellow roses decorate the forecourt and I couldn't find a label with their name on. They had a very delicate perfume and a profusion of flowers
These were in the courtyard and also didn't appear to have a label. They look like a very traditional English rose to me.


Ernst Calvat
It isn't just roses in the garden; Thomas planted them among herbaceous plants which really show the whole thing off to perfection. There are two main gardens connected by a door through the brick wall and the inner one has a timeless quality about it that makes it feel different to the outer one. I could wander in the inner garden all day. It feels special, removed from the everyday world. A place of magic. 

In both gardens, mature trees sweep majestically over the walls in various places, lending areas of shade and coolness on a boiling hot day, and there are pergolas and trellises dripping with climbing roses and pretty archways, fountains and brick pathways among the lawns and walkways.......

Archway to the Inner Garden

The Inner Garden

It's like a secret waiting to be discovered.....

More from the inner garden

Mature horse chestnut in the back ground

This shot was taken in the outer garden

Lavender edging the inner courtyard garden

Rose arbor walk in the outer garden

Flowers, flowers everywhere....

Salvia tumbling up through the roses. I love the vibrancy of the purple against the delicate wash of pink.

The Outer Garden. Imagine the scents that waft over that house on the other side of the wall at night....

Wheelbarrow...good to see even the smartest, most graceful and elegant gardens are happy to show evidence of the level of hard work that goes in to maintaining them :-)

The Peonies at Mottisfont are just incredible. I remember them from last year, all huge and light and fluffy, and they were the same this year too. I love peonies.....

Well named
More evidence of labour....

Some kind of lily? The name escapes me...
*thanks to Jessica at Rusty Duck: this is Lilium martagon var. album.  

Papaver. There were several in the garden, some of the darkest purple and some these beautiful washed lilac.

After a while you feel a little over-loaded in the sensory department, and then it's good to be able to wander down along the cool, gurgling river where the spotty trout weave against the current. I looked for voles (of course) but the edges here have been improved and the water flows too fast so there were none. However, earlier in the day while walking the doggy people I did see my sixth vole nibbling some grasses by the bank of the Test further upstream.

A sign down by the river which I heartily approve of....

A shot of the Abbey from the River Test

Front View.
I found a Rose for all of you while we were there, so here it is- a rose from me to you. My way of saying a Big and Sincere Thank You to everyone who reads the blog/ enjoys it/ comments kindly on it. I appreciate YOU ALL.... 

Hope you enjoyed the roses and the gardens, albeit second-hand. And hello to the lovely lady from America who left me a comment on last year's Mottisfont Roses post on Friday, because she was travelling over to the garden to visit it on Monday, the same day Ma and I went. I hope you enjoyed the roses and will come and see them again. Maybe we walked past one another without knowing!

CT x