Today was another rainy day which I am definitely not complaining about. If it is going to rain, it is much better that there are a lot of showers and downpours over a succession of days, because then there is a chance that the soil is getting wet to a greater depth. Even after a heavy session of rain, if it is a solitary cloud burst in an otherwise hot spell of weather, if you then put a trowel into the soil you will see only the top centimetre of soil is wet. This is why I know my watering efforts with my annoying hosepipes can only be partially successful at the job of irrigation, no one can replace Nature!
We are also due another visit from Emma the hairdresser today to perform her magic on Diane and myself, therefore, the combination of rain, hair and general tiredness on my part mean the garden is having a day off. I do go outside to pick a big bowl of raspberries for my belated breakfast. The raspberries are getting into their stride now, producing lots of big, tasty fruit. These raspberries are my original canes that I adopted from a friend who was otherwise going to dump them. On arrival, they looked very unpromising, a bunch of dry sticks. We do not know what variety they are and they have been dug up and moved three times since their initial arrival, but they have always been brilliant, producing delicious raspberries for months!
Later in the day, I go out to pick courgettes – if this is not done frequently, courgettes become marrows, practically overnight and there is a limit to how many marrows you can cope with in the kitchen! I pick about seven, one of which already resembles a small marrow, if we can’t eat them all, I will give them to friends. It is whilst I’m in the courgette bed that I find it…evidence of badger invasion!!!
Next to a courgette plant is a reasonably big, freshly dug hole with a sloppy poo at the bottom. I can’t quite believe what I’m seeing because I thought we had finally succeeded in ‘badger proofing’ the kitchen garden. After a quick check of the sweetcorn, which luckily, are not ready yet…sweetcorn are the usual destination of marauding badgers, I start a frantic check of the garden boundaries. First the fence at the bottom of the garden, in keeping with many older kitchen gardens, we only have three walls, the fourth side would have been a bank or a hedge to let wind and frost pass through. We have a fence with a block work foundation going into the soil to keep out the badgers. The active part of their set is on the other side and they pile up heaps of sandy earth against the long-suffering fence and break holes through it if they can! I check all the patches, peering through the sodden yew hedge, the wooden patches are all intact. The gate is shut and there are no renewed excavations behind the Tudor play house. We now finally have a gate between the orchard and kitchen garden which is wedged shut with a post. Finally, I visit the wrought iron gate that has been fixed on the opening between the kitchen garden and front field. This is our weak spot and I know it has previously been used by badgers, because you can see the scratch marks left by their claws on the wooden steps descending into the kitchen garden – you would think steps would put a badger off!
This gate is temporary and not a brilliant barrier so I have put a grill across the bottom of the gate which is held in place by a heavy metal chair. I suspect the badgers inspect this potential entry point regularly because they have dug deeply on both sides of the bed, beside the gate, attempting to get under the entry slab on several occasions and I have given up planting anything in those spots as a result. Sure enough, the gate is ajar! An enterprising (one word for it!) badger has managed to pull away the chair, pull back the grill and open the gate and then stumble down the steps! We try to live amicably alongside our badger neighbours after all we have no choice, they are not moving, they were here first after all and we don’t intend to move either! It is natural that the kitchen garden must be a massive temptation to them, badgers LOVE sweetcorn, also the soil is soft and because it is regularly cultivated and watered (and organic) it is full of earth worms, their main source of food. However, this is the one part of the garden that needs to remain badger free. On a later trip to the kitchen garden, I find another badger poo on the path, this is a different type of poo, dry, visibly containing pips and seeds of various berries. Badgers seem to have very particular toileting habits, wet poos are always in holes (but not covered), dry poos can be anywhere…how do they know?
Anyway, however fascinating their poo habits might be, tonight I must attempt to secure the gate more effectively!