Sunday, 5 August 2018

The blackbird, the fox, the snake.......


A while ago I mentioned that we were not going to plant a full crop of vegetables in Veg Gardens One, Two, and Three this year, the reason being that I was still recovering from the hospital experience of September 2017, Lester was working full time so did not have the time to prep the soil for planting, and the weather was abysmal with did not allow for much outside work to be done for quite a few weeks.

At first I enjoyed the slowness of my life, with no seeds to sow and look after, I had time to catch up with myself. After ten years of building the smallholding, and renovating our house, then being ill, I needed the space in which to dawdle through my days, which I did.

But me being me, I started getting itchy footed about getting out into the garden. Meanwhile the weather had calmed down, but was now producing very high temperatures which made working outside after ten in the morning impossible to do. 
This cancelled out work in the veg gardens, but I did keep the weeds cut so the gardens stayed tidy,
and I did find a small weed free space in which to plant a few courgette seeds. Although late in the season, I did think they might produce a few courgettes before the cooler weather hit them. 
Alack and alas, they did not survive. It was not the weather which saw them unto death, but Lester with his tractor.
I took this as a sign from Heaven that I really was not supposed to expend my energies in the veg gardens this year. 
Looking on the good side, having a rest from the work of veg growing and harvesting is  renewing my energies for the 2019 season. I am already missing seeing the larder full of homegrown produce. It would seem that I am addicted to DIY food.

But then there was the raised beds in the courtyard, and these I tended. Although they needed refilling with compost, I was able to get lettuce, beetroot, beans, onions and tomatoes planted. 
I felt quite proud of myself, feeling that my small effort would encourage me to not entirely give up on growing our own veg. 
And then the blackbird came. 
And I started having to replant the plants already planted because it would scratch around, and dig holes here and there. Some plants could be replanted, but then be dug up again, then replanted again, and then dug up again. The blackbird was persistent. 
I tried numerous methods to deter it, but did not resort to using a plastic eagle because I did not want to scare off all the birds, especially those using the tall barn as a nursery to raise their young, their chattering giving a happy air to the place. 

In the end I used cardboard, covering the soil where I could, but leaving the onions to their fate. 
I tried to think good thoughts about the blackbird. 
I am still trying to do so.......

We shall think up an anti blackbird strategy for next year.........

Looking on the good side, at least we have birds here now. When we came here there were not many, the feral cats and the commercial farming, with its use of chemical sprays, having decimated the bird population. Now the air is full of their chirrups and chatter.


We had a good number of chickens in the flock, now we don't after the fox came to play with them, choosing to chase and kill the younger chickens who were just coming into maturity, the ones we had hand raised. At least we still have the mature hens left, so I think the fox must have been disturbed before it could carry on with doing its mischief. 

We have two cockerels left. Both have stopped crowing. We think they must have been silenced by the trauma of being attacked by a being which was far larger than themselves. 

We are thinking up a strategy to prevent this from happening again. 
The chickens are in a fenced paddock, but we need to build a smaller enclosure within it. 

The flock is back to normal now. It has taken six days for them to recover. Bless them, but it was not nice to see them so shocked, or for Lester to have to pick up the dead bodies and carry them down in the woods. 

Looking on the good side, at least we still have chickens. 


And so it came to be a very hot afternoon, with sleep falling heavily upon me as I sat at my computer trying to work, such that I felt myself tipping forward on to the computer keyboard. Time to have a lie down on the settee. Just drifting off, when a thought bounced into my head that perhaps I ought to check the mail box to see if a package had been delivered. I was expecting a small parcel from America, which contained the cultures to make cheese and yoghurt with, and it would not do those live cultures any good at all to be left to roast in the sun when they should be kept inside the coldness of a freezer. 
Up I got, still half asleep, and wow, but that sun was sooooo hot as I walked through the front door, and, 'What was that which just tumbled down on me, .........oh a snake' I thought as I watched it wriggling away from my feet, and 'I must get in from this heat'  my thoughts continued as I hurried across the courtyard with,  ' .....was that a snake which just fell on my head.......' mixing in with the need to get back inside the coolness of the house, and the blissfulness of sleep. 

I think it was a good thing that I was sleep drugged when the snake and I momentarily engaged with each other, because the actual reality of such a thing happening would have ordinarily had me going into a wonderfully rampant state of panic if I all my mental faculties had been at their usual optimum level. What I mean is, that the combination of heat and my sleep filled state of being saved me from having a major scare sit itself in my brain as a memory to be revisited when occasion permits of those sneaky memories which pop up to the surface of one's consciousness when one least expects, reawakening the initial force of fright. 

Looking on the good side, which I must do if I am not to get  a phobia about snakes, especially falling down on me, it was only about twenty inches long, and quite thin, very energetic but then it was probably frightened, ......... but what the hell it was doing on top of the door remains an unanswered question!  ..... And I was only half awake, which was also good, and neither of us was harmed. 

Working hard to get the positive uppermost in my mind, I shall now close the subject!

Bye for now,



tilly said...

Lots of trials and tribulations sorry for the loss of your chickens,still very warm in Manchester as well

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

Wow, what kind of snake was it? It is surprising enough to have a snake slither past oneself, but to have it drop on your head is something else altogether! I'm sorry you lost so many chickens to that fox. It is just behaving normally, not knowing how you raised them yourself. Still, very upsetting. I got tired of my seedlings being eaten by bunnies and birds and husband made frames with wire tops that I set on top of the ground after planting and they stay over the seedlings until they are big enough. I've had much better results this year because of them. -Jenn

DUTA said...

Looking on the good side, these things happen in any rural environment, and one eventually learns to cope with the occasional visits of blackbirds, foxes, and snakes.
I'm sure you and Lester will find the right strategy to deal with the above harmful intruders.

Rhodesia said...

So sorry about the fox, not the thing you need to happen to the chicken. If they just killed one and eat it I suppose it would be OK but to kill them all Grrrrrrr.

Re the blackbird, we have the same problem. I cut pieces of smallish wire netting to cover the bed until the plants a big enough to survive, or sometimes it gets left depending on what kind of plant it is. It is the only way I found without chasing all the other birds away.

As for the snake, I have no problems with snakes, but I think if one fell on me and I did not know what it was I would have shrieked and ran!!!

Take care and keep out of the blazing hot sun, wow it is quite warm at present!!!

Cheers Diane

Mama Pea said...

Ya know, there are times when all seems to conspire against us and seems to be sending a message for us to stop fighting those urges to "do what should be done" and simply take care of ourselves and to heck with that devil mind that tells us to get up off our tushes and be productive! (Whadda sentence, eh?) This must be one of those times for you. Rest, recoup, plan and be strong for next year.

P.S. I do have a phobia regarding snakes and worms. Even slugs make me shudder. If that snake had fallen on me (totally awake OR half asleep), it could likely have been the end of me!

Vera said...

TILLY, we are in the middle of a heatwave, not complaining, just coping!

JENN, We think we might do similar on our raised beds next year (wire frames over the seedlings), but rabbits? Fortunately they are a pest that we do not have here!

Foxes are foxes, and we had escaped a visit for a long time. At least it only killed part of the flock! As for the snake, I think it was a slow worm, which is not actually a snake but a legless lizard, which makes me feel better!

DUTA, there is a lot of wildlife here, and we feel blessed that it is so!

DIANE, I agree with foxes, is the playful killing of the chickens which was most irritating.

As for the blackbird, your solution sounds good. We are thinking of putting frames over the raised beds next year which could also be used for frost and shade cover, and bird protection.

Snakes........I, too, would have done shrieked and run, but I was too fugged by tiredness to do so!

I am not complaining about the heat, but it is getting a bit much even for Lester now, and he is used to the heat of Africa, as you are!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Wow Vera! Sounds like a lot of excitment!

I have thought about mesh here as well for the garden - The Ravishing Mrs TB likes her bird feeder full so she can watch the birds, which is right by my garden so when the bird feeder is empty and the grain heads are ripe....sigh. All that time gone to waste.

I do not know about foxes, but have had to deal with coyotes. Besides fencing, the next best thing is a shelter where the chickens can go at night which is somewhat predator proof.

I never think about snakes being in France, but I suppose you have them there too.

Vera said...

MAMA PEA, I am amazed that I was not more fazed by the snake episode, or perhaps the memory is parked up in a sideline in my head, and will re-emerge at some future date, maybe in a nightmare or somesuch! And you are right......I think everything is conspiring to keep me in a time of rest and recuperation because there are other things going on suggesting this is so but which I do not mention in my blog!

TOIRDHEALBHEACH BEUCAIL, the chickens are locked away for the night in their own hut, but the fox came before they had gone in there, so what we are going to do is build an enclosure around that hut and in this the chickens will be fed so that they do not linger in the bigger enclosure and risk the same thing happening again. And yes, we do have snakes. Fortunately this was one of the smaller ones which fell on me, there are bigger ones about!

Coco said...

And people think country life is boring!


northsider dave said...

Cabbage whites and slugs and snails have been our enemies in the veg plot this year.

Theresa Young said...

Wow...a snake dropping down on you? I don't mind them on the ground, then I can run in the opposite direction. But I'm wondering too what the heck he was doing above you. I probably would have hurt myself really bad trying to get it off of me. Good thing you were a bit on the sleepy side. Never a dull moment in the garden....

Vera said...

COCO, country life is never boring....there is always something happening, or about to happen!

N.DAVE, no problems with any pests this year because we haven't grown anything on which the pests can feed!

THERESA, fortunately the snake drop down the front of me rather than actually on my head! But my fuggy head did prevent me from having one megga great shock!