Welcome and unwelcome visitors

Victoria and Albert have some unwelcome visitors – they heard something run up their outside wall during the night – rats have got into their loft πŸ™€ Apparently they are particularly drawn to warm, cosy lofts during cold weather – they’re very intelligent creatures, so that shouldn’t be a surprise really. A few days after the discovery, I accompanied Lily into the garden first thing and noticed she was sniffing at something. From what I could get into focus, with no specs to hand, I suspected it may be a dead bird, but venturing closer I discovered it was a rat. It had found its way to the middle of my lawn and that was where it had departed this life. Where was Grumbling Rose when I needed him – no use to me on a ski slope in Bulgaria. I gave myself a strict talking to – ‘don’t be so pathetic, you’re a grown woman, this is a dead rat, it can’t do anything to scare you etc etc’. I fetched a garden spade from the garage and still sporting my fluffy pink dressing gown, I scooped the little body up (on the spade, not in my arms) and attempted to catapult it over the back fence into the undergrowth of the woods beyond. Unfortunately my lob was what can only be described as pathetic, meaning the deceased landed only a few inches the other side of the fence. I tried to find something long enough so I could lean over to pick it up again and improve on my performance, but it was too much of a drop – so there it has stayed. I haven’t dared to investigate what stage of decomposition it has now reached, but Lily is still drawn like a magnet to that corner of the garden and has to be bribed to come away – luckily I can’t smell a rat.

On a more pleasant note, I have some welcome visitors to the garden, in the form of blue tits checking out our Tit Box. One keeps landing on the opening, its head rapidly swivelling 360o (how do they do that?) – presumably checking there are no competitors or predators nearby. Eventually it disappears inside for a quick tour before emerging and flying off. Apparently in late Feb and March they shop around for the most desirable location they can find to raise their brood. Victoria’s got a couple of nest boxes so I’m hoping they don’t opt for one of those instead of mine. Of course there are a lot of blue tits around, so I can’t be sure the pair I observe periodically during the day are always the same couple – there could be many prospective tenants – I hope so – as long as there’s no fighting. I will only know for sure that we are the chosen ones if nest building commences – this could be any time in the next 3 months – I hope mine can’t wait and get on with it quickly. Hopefully in not too long I will see evidence of moss and other snugly materials being taken into the box by her. I say ‘her’ because the female is the one to build the nest – her mate just hangs around nearby, probably getting in the way, making sure no other tit gets an opportunity to mate with her. Studies have revealed that there is a high incidence of at least one chick in a blue tit nest not being the child of the male that ends up rearing them – presumably he never finds out – although there could be a blue tit equivalent of the Mallen Streak?

I don’t spend all day spying on the Tit Box – I have been doing some gardening too. I’ve been using some of last year’s compost from my numerous garden pots to mulch the borders and I’ve been planting more seeds. The first set of temporary shelving has found its way into the conservatory and the other will need to follow very soon.

The dahlia tubers I stored in the dark in the garage in the autumn were all furry when I unwrapped them, so I had to bin them. I’ve bought some replacements though. I spied a packet of the ‘Cafe au Lait’ variety when Victoria and I were on one of our many garden centre visits recently. I was smitten and hope mine will end up looking as magnificent as the one in the photo below. I’ve planted them in pots in accordance with an article in Amateur Gardening which says if you start them off like this indoors now, when they sprout you can take cuttings from them and get even more plants for free – I’m not quite sure how you take the cuttings so I’ll need to do some Googling. My Choisya cuttings still look green after over a month so I’m keeping everything crossed they are rooting – I still haven’t bought any new rooting powder …

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