Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Devil's Coach Horse

Devil's Coach Horse Beetle
There's nothing better to capture the imagination of a young boy than a name like Devil's Coach Horse Beetle and that's what happened to me many years ago. Although not rare, I think I've only seen a couple in my life. That is until this year, when I've been encountering about one a day.

What an amazing beetle it is with its long, thin body, large jaws (adults) and scorpion-like defence posture. I did get to see this action the other day when I disturbed one in the strawberry patch. Apparently they are capable of emitting a foul smell from special glands too.

The DCHB is a predator, eating just about anything that moves, and according to at least one website this includes slugs. Finally! I have an ally in my battle.

But it would need a small army of DCHBs to impact on the slug population at the present. As we enter our fourth wet month, those slimy little critters are having a field day. Sue read the other day that there are two and a half times the usual number of slugs this year. I think the whole nation's population must have decamped to my veg patches!
Monday 9th July 2012
A most featureless sky.

Tuesday 10th July
What's there to say?

Sorry to go on about them, but yesterday morning I actually got quite depressed when my tired body dragged itself up to find the most featureless sky imagineable. I took a snap, let the chickens out and headed back for bed. That wasn't the depressing bit. That was just a disappointing sunrise and a tired body. No. The depressing bit was the hordes of slugs devouring my squashes (the hairier varieties seem most resistant) and, worse still, the lovingly nurtured bean plants which I had transplanted just the previous evening to replace those which I'd lost.

Instead of back to bed, it was two hours of slug destruction and the same again this morning to get back on top of the problem.

Pragmatic organic??
I seriously felt like abandoning my principles and driving straight to the shop to invest in bucket loads of slug pellets (despite my previous utterances on this subject). I have resisted for now, but I have always said that I would be pragmatic organic. By this I mean I will garden according to organic principles except in exceptional circumstances where whole crops are faced with destruction.

Nature's balance has clearly been thrown out of kilter and my efforts to fit in with it have been seriously derailed. For now at least I have held back on such a big decision.
But it clearly won't be a bumper crop of beans this year, any variety. I'll be happy if we get a few to eat and enough to save for next year's seed. Considering how many I've planted this year, that's some scaling back of my expectations!

To take my mind off my gardening woes, I returned to the house and spent the whole day cleaning. Although not my natural inclination, we had a builder coming round late afternoon and I knew that Sue would want to present a visitor with a house that was spick-and-span. When I took breaks, it was to check on the chickens or transport carts of manure down to the muck heaps. What a glamorous life I lead!
Typically it stayed dry all day. The forecast for tomorrow...

Peas and Harmony
Not all is negative. It's been a great year so far for peas and potatoes. As I dug Charlottes from the ground for dinner last evening, a strange call overhead was an unexpected barn owl quite high up. Then, as I plucked cascading pea pods and purple mangetout, fourteen lapwings passed by. It's been a bad year for breeding birds and these could well have given up and be thinking about where to spend winter!

The spuds and the peas, by the way, tasted wonderful. The sugar snaps were like small packages of perfect freshness and sweetness.

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