Holey Moley!

Apparently there's over 31 million moles in the UK, and a good number of those seem to be living in our fields and garden. In the past two weeks there seems to have been an eruption of mole hills. We're not sure why and no amount of reading seems to be giving any pointers. But a good few of them are in the middle of the new apple orchard area and we fear that the moles may not give the young Bloody Ploughman trees the best start in life. So with mixed feelings I purchased some, fairly lethal-looking, scissor mole traps and with enthusiastic assistants, on Sunday we set two traps.

Enthusiastic mole catchers

From then on the only chat from Oscar has been "when will we check the mole traps?" On Sunday I received a call from friends in the France and moles came up, not literally thankfully. By then end of it I was feeling extremely guilty about setting the traps having learnt that the sweet little moles lead solitary lives, work incredibly hard and - here's the gold nugget - actually improve and aerate the ground. "Is that not blindingly obvious?", I hear you say. The tilth at each mole hill is wonderful. So we are going to collect the mounds of fine crumbly earth, take them to the veg garden and after a bit of mixing with compost use them for starting seeds and bringing on young plants. But unlike the hedgehog, moles seem to have a bit of a bad press that we learn from a young age. That's my excuse anyway. So this morning, fearing the worst, we went out to the traps and removed them. For now, we shall see if man and mole can live in harmony here at West Bastlebog. Please also let me assure all readers, no moles were hurt in the making of this blog.

The hen pheasant wasn't so lucky. At the risk of giving the impression this blog is all about dead animals, Alexa and I enjoyed pheasant last night. It was road kill that an overtaking van hit as it passed me ten days ago. I quickly did a three point turn and after putting the bird out it's misery, took it home, hung it and then prepared it last night with the kids.

Why did the pheasant cross the road?

I wouldn't get any marks for neatness or presentation. Nor, as you can see in the above photo, any marks for fully cleaning out the bird's insides; the stomach was still full of grain. But it was very tasty and even more satisfying to eat something wild(ish) that would have gone to waste.

We also received an exceptionally kind and generous donation of stainless steel catering tables from the National Galleries of Scotland. They were surplus to requirements and the Galleries were keen to recycle them. They will go to very good use in our vegetable garden kitchen where they will be set up to wash down and roughly prepare vegetables before they come up to the house or go out but also an area to prep for storage and hopefully pickle and preserve. Although at the moment the utopian vision of easy September and October days of bottling and preserving seem, well just that, utopian. Dystopia is a bit more where we are at just now!

That said, there are some small successes. We started chipping all our tree and hedge prunings and are putting them back into the ground by using them for paths around the place - 'closed loop systems' as we keep hearing organic producers and the permaculture world talking of. The polytunnel is almost back in the game and much of the rubbish around the place is now gone. There's even snowdrops, daffodils and tulips coming through. A timely reminder that the growing season is fast approaching. Although with a van temperature reading of -11 degrees C a couple of weeks ago, spring is still a wee bit away and digging the ground is a bit of a challenge.

The past fortnight hasn't just been about moles. It has also been about holes. 114 of them to be precise. One of the main tasks has been preparation for the apple tree planting and BBQ on Saturday 23rd February. Thankfully we are lucky enough to have mustered a good number of kind and willing volunteers to help out.

Even still, 114 trees is by no means a small task so the four us, to varying degrees of helpfulness, have been preparing all the holes; marking out, mattocking the sods and loosening the soil. I have been amazed at the number of worms in the soil. I can't recall seeing such levels since I was a child. It feels a bit like a slaughter every time we put the spade in. But a great indicator of soil fertility. No wonder we are riddled with moles.

For now i shall leave with some more out and about photos; birds, bullrushes and sunrises. Until next time, thanks for reading.


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