Although things are slowly easing, we still have some Lockdown Moments to share.
This week we were delighted to hear from Mary Robb with an update on how she and Mairi are faring in Aberfeldy. Mary writes:
“Mairi and I, at our advanced ages, have taken to mountaineering.
As I write, Mairi is out scaling Scafell Pike. On Sunday I reached the summit of Schiehallion and am now tackling Mount Snowdon. It is all a lot of fun and certainly relieves the monotony of Lockdown.”
Perhaps we should explain that to make their daily exercise routine (walking in a fairly confined space) a little more interesting they are doing the Virtual Mountain Challenge. The challenge sets out the number of steps or flights of stairs that equate to each mountain, so Scarfell Pike is 6,180 steps or 412 flights of stairs, and Everest would be 58,070 steps or 3,871 flights of stairs.
Good luck with the rest of the challenge! We look forward to hearing news of other famous mountains you have conquored.
It looks like Guy is also scaling the heights. He is seen here during a big decorating project on their house in Perth during Lockdown.
“We are looking forward to quieter times when we are released from lockdown in Perth.
We are longing to escape from the chores of decorating, inside and out, and are missing our friends in Fearnan.”
(Great cherry-picker, Guy, and likely to be the source of a fair bit of machine-envy from some of the Blog readers!)
Whilst it may have been a frequent topic of conversation during the last few months, so far, we have only had one mention of Lockdown haircuts. We are making up for that now with an exclusive video from Clach an Tuirc. (You will notice that Jenny and Amelia seem to be enjoying this a bit more than Trevor!)
Looking good, Trevor!
Living (and Gardening) with Wildlife
We are not alone, it seems, and over recent weeks several households have been reporting the patter of tiny paws behind the skirting boards and other evidence of mice on the move. Where traps have been laid, the numbers caught have sounded more like cricket scores than tallies from traps.
Back in May we heard that some mice had taken ‘Stay at Home’ a little too literally and moved into Joe and Elaine’s house.
The mice were tracked down and expelled from the house – only to re-appear in the garden where, probably in the company of some voles, they have been very busy chomping through various seedlings in the greenhouse and garden.
A hare has also arrived on the scene.
“It’s a constant battle trying to protect our veggies,” said Elaine. “Any tips on how to manage mice/voles in the garden would be very welcome! I lost 6 tomato plants, all my coriander and some salad plants in the greenhouse. I’ve also lost all my cabbages and cauliflower plants to something that’s chomped them. Very frustrating.”
Julia has had a similar experience:
“Luckily the mice have only concentrated on the garden in front of the living room – decimating 22 cabbages and 5 French beans. They’ve also taken the lower leaves from two passion flowers that I’ve got training up a wigwam! No pics, but you can imagine the stumps they have left.
I had another 5 cabbages in the patch next to where I park and up until yesterday they were growing nicely. Today they also are mere stumps! Luckily everything in the poly tunnel seems to be untouched and the lettuces, beetroot, cucumbers and squashes are growing well.”
Jenny had a problem with voles earlier in the year, as reported in a previous Blog. They had overwintered in the tubes round the trees in their new wood, and also badly damaged the ‘baby’ trees in the tree nursery. Since then, Jenny says they have learned to put up better barricades around the things and plants that are important. The voles are providing a food source for the stoats (better than baby birds) and, having erected some tree stumps to attract owls, a plentiful supply of voles will encourage them even more.
The final word, along with a view of gardening with the enemy, comes from Sue:
“Fearnan, as far as I’m aware, has always been bad for mice, or so I was told when I first came. (It is obviously not in an Estate Agent’s remit to tell their clients what vermin they may encounter!) They are field mice not the common house mouse although they can do untold damage in a house.
One of my neighbours had to have their whole kitchen replaced because mice had got behind the units. At that point I bought an electronic rodent repeller – they plug into the house mains and emit an ultrasound frequency that rodents can’t stand. I have a couple in the garage as well. I have never had a problem with rodents in the house and damage in the garage has been much reduced. Outside, now that’s different!
Mice live behind a retaining wall but have never done any serious damage in the flower bed it supports, but they love the poly tunnel all year round. They are addicted to peas, both the seeds and the newly germinated plants. However, once the plants get to about three inches high, they are fairly safe for the rest of the season. Gardeners in days gone by used to rinse their pea seed in paraffin before planting as a mouse deterrent but paraffin was a common commodity then and I’ve never tried it.
They sometimes have a go at the strawberries, and they will steal the very small ones to cache for food later. Interestingly, the ones I have found that have obviously been ‘picked’ are all the same size. It must be the optimum size a mouse can carry/tow.
Voles are different! My first encounter with them was one summer when I found part-eaten figs high up on the bush. I did a bit of research and discovered that bank voles are good climbers and like fruit. The voles had arrived! Now they are everywhere in the garden, including the poly tunnel.
If they stuck to eating grass and the occasional fig there wouldn’t be a problem, but they eat roots including bulbs or they eat the bulb shoots underground. I had some lovely Pasque Flowers that were just about to flower when, one morning, the buds were gone. The next morning the stems were half the size, and so it went on. By the time the leaves were beginning to look moth-eaten I dug them up to save their lives.
One day I saw a blade of grass quiver. Then the stem dropped vertically about an inch and then another, and another, until there was only the actual blade of grass. It, too, steadily disappeared. I never saw the muncher, but it was, for sure, a vole.
Last spring, I was getting the poly tunnel ready and found a heap of dried grass stalks buried about two inches beneath the soil. A vole’s emergency rations! The amazing thing was that the stalks were all about a centimetre long and exactly the same size as if cut on a machine!
It may be possible to protect peas from mice until they are too big to be of interest, but it doesn’t work with voles. Last year I put in a row of peas. Went to the house for a cuppa and when I went back there were the familiar craters dotted along the row. Voles will eat the plants even when they are quite big or nip them off and try and take them away. Mice and voles together are just too much for this pea-grower!
The snag with both mice and voles is that they are so cute! It makes any serious persecution of them very difficult. One year the mice knocked over a box of bait and ate the lot – the peas were safe that year!
Snap traps offer a bit of protection when there aren’t many around but now the populations are too big for them to be effective. There used to be several cats around which helped, but not now, and we’ve even lost our mouse-catching hen!
However, as is the way of Nature, when populations explode the predators move in. Two Winters in a row I have seen a weasel on the wall bed but last week I saw one sniffing round the conservatory steps – a common haunt for voles. The next day a big hebe on the wall bed was shaking and twitching and then a pair of weasels played ‘chase’ round the bottom. I suspect the voles had a den under the bush and I’m hoping the weasels have evicted them and set up shop there.”
So, there we have it – electronic repellents, traps, barriers, stoats, owls, weasels, hens, cats………….. does anyone have any other proven methods of managing small rodent populations, or protecting growing plants and veggies?