Thursday, 16 July 2015

Prickly subjects

The rabbits are back. Not many (yet), but one is in the soft fruit patch and one is making the occasional scraping in the flower borders. I'm sure there are in reality a lot more than two, or there will be soon.
As I let Boris out for his early morning constitutional this morning, a faint mist masked the rising sun and hung low over the fields. A barn owl flew from the hollow ash tree and a bunny hopped across the lawn. Boris watched it, but was more interested in facing out the guinea fowl. He did evenutally go bounding through the long grass in the general direction of rabbit. Gerry, on the other hand, went straight into stalking mode.

Anyway, those cute little bunnies are in fact pesky little blighters which cause untold damage. So the rabbit traps have come back out. I've only ever caught one baby rabbit in a rabbit trap, but I live in hope. So you can imagine my surprise yesterday morning (Boris got me up at 4:10am!) when I noticed that something had caused the rabbit trap door to close. With my eyes still bleary and the early morning light dim, I went over to investigate and there was indeed a creature inside the trap.

But it wasn't what I expected. Rather too prickly. For I had caught a hedgehog! The first ever hedgehog for our garden. Fantastic news!


Now onto the second prickly matter. Gooseberries.

This year the gooseberry bushes are raining gooseberries
I got to wondering who put the goose into gooseberry, but Wikipedia gave no good reason. I did however find two interesting facts.
The French for gooseberry, groseille a maquereau, translates as mackerel berry, which seems even more off the wall than gooseberry. Though come to think of it, aren't gooseberries supposed to be good with oily fish? Perhaps, once upon a time, they were considered a good accompaniment to goose.

The second fact?
"Gooseberry bush" was 19th-century slang for pubic hair and from this comes the saying that babies are "Born under a gooseberry bush."

That thought will make the task of gooseberry picking even more toilsome than it already is. For gooseberry bushes are armed with vicious thorns. However well they are pruned into the traditional open goblet shape, the berries themselves do a very good job of hiding and are often best located by feel, which requires a very gentle and tactile approach. One false move and your fingertip is impaled.

But the annual task of picking the berries is still a joy. For gooseberries remain something of a luxury in this country and are not widely available. Presumably they are not mechanically harvestable. So to be able to go into our garden and harvest a plentiful supply is something to be celebrated. Our nine bushes are now in their fourth year and are producing very well, especially now that I have learned to prune them properly. On top of this, I took cuttings last year to multiply them and the new bushes have produced a few berries already. So here's to a prickly future!

Boris relaxes under a gooseberry bush

1 comment:

  1. Cuttings? There is that other tried and tested method of propagating gooseberry bushes.


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