Wednesday, 20 August 2014

No need for the Pied Piper.


This was the view from the bedroom window when we woke up on Tuesday morning. For on Monday they came to harvest the wheat field next door. Fortunately the wind was coming from the north-west (very rare here) which meant that the dust cloud kicked up by the combine harvester swept away from the house and over the fields.
Dare I say it, but it's beginning to feel a bit like autumn! I've heard more chiffchaffs and willow warblers calling on the farm than ever, They are obviously heading south through the country on their autumn migration. Most of the local fields have been harvested and our efforts here on the smallholding are dedicated to gathering in the crops. But the fields being harvested has another consequence for us. Last week I began catching field mice in the polytunnel traps. It's usually voles. This may sound cruel, but otherwise I'd lose half my crops in there. They love to climb the corn stems and nibble on the cobs and have even been known to clamber up the tomato vines and eat those. But it's their bigger cousins who are less savoury, for the combines drive the rats out of the fields. For the last couple of days, you can't drive a country road without seeing them squashed on the tarmac or scurrying along the verges. A couple of buzzards have been unusually vocal, perching atop our ash trees waiting to take advantage of the chaos created in the rodent world below.
Inevitably signs of the rats' presence will appear on the farm, tunnels under fences, runs through the grass. But I am countryfolk now. They are firmly under control and I know to bait heavily at this time of year. It's far better to hit them hard at the critical time. By doing this, in the long term I use the minimum amount of poison that I can get away with.

In fact, although I make it sound as if we live in a vermin-ridden landscape, we now very rarely see rats on the farm and even at this time of year there will only be a tiny number. Probably far fewer than scurry secretively around your average urban garden.

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