Last summer, Mr Mole was that unwelcome guest at a party who refuses to leave. We tried everything – organic repellent, castor oil spray, coffee grains, stomping and wailing too – all to nought. Mr Mole simply moved home to a different corner of our small plot. In desperation, we invested in an industrial strength sonic spike to drive the little bugger out. Despite plenty of hard evidence to the contrary, it worked. Rather than buy a pair of ear plugs, Mr Mole upped sticks to greener, less noisy pastures.
Chances are it’s a lost cause. We’re surrounded by fields and thickets littered with molehills. Flat, wet and fertile, the land serves up a juicy banquet of bugs and grubs – enough to fatten an unholy legion of the pesky pests. Our weekly constitutional takes us across Chedgrave Common, a boggy meadow punctured by muddy mountains of stone and soil, an obvious sign of the city of moles that lies beneath.
This is their party and we are the unwelcome guests.
When I put food out for the birds, I don’t expect a big fat pheasant to waddle along and scoff the lot. Bold as brass it was. Where’s the pheasant plucker when you need him? I feel a tongue twister coming on.
I'm not the pheasant plucker,
I'm the pheasant plucker's mate,
And I'm only plucking pheasants
'Cause the pheasant plucker's late.
I'm not the pheasant plucker,
I'm the pheasant plucker's son,
And I'm only plucking pheasants,
Till the pheasant pluckers come.
He might be cock of the walk right now scaring off all the little birdies but, if he’s not careful, he’ll soon find himself hanging in a shed ripening for the pot.
Weather in these isles is notoriously unpredictable at the best of times but, all things considered, summer this year has been good. Just as well with all this lockdown business. June was warm and dry, July was wetter and August has been a scorcher so far. Whenever the mercury rises, out comes the BBQ, bangers and burgers. On the hottest day of the year, we popped to the shops for grill grub and, after getting home, threw open the stable door to our little porch. The heat rushed in and the fire alarm went off. We had to unscrew it from the ceiling to get it to stop.
Later that day, as I was flipping the burgers, I stepped on a wasp with my bare foot. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t go down too well with the wasp and the angry little bugger stung me. It was my first time. Until that painful moment, this city boy had never been stung – bitten many times, yes, but stung, no. I didn’t know how I’d react, physically. Thankfully, I didn’t go into anaphylactic shock and have to be rushed to hospital. I did, though, hop around the lawn screaming ‘ouch, ouch, ouch.’
‘Don’t be such a drama queen,’
Liam said before pouring me a large glass of medicinal white.
Country life brings with it many rewards but one of them isn’t the common or garden mole. Our small rural patch was under sustained excavation from one (or maybe more) of these pesky pests burrowing beneath our feet to mine for juicy worms. The BBQ was in serious danger of dropping down a sink hole, and whole sections of the lawn began to resemble a toy-town Peak District as the industrious mouldywarp (as moles were called in Shakespeare’s day) built little hillocks from the tunnel spoil.
Mole hills are all too common in these parts. The local graveyard is full of ’em. The dearly departed may not mind, but the alive and kicking certainly do. I’ve had dreams of Mr Mole sunning himself on a little deckchair, cocktail in one hand, worm burger in the other; the party guest who never leaves. It’s the stuff of my nightmares – Wind in the Willows it ain’t. So I counter-attacked with organic repellent and coffee grains in the hope he’d get the message and move on to greener pastures. So far so good. I may have won the battle but the war is not over.
I hear bees are becoming an endangered species and if we don’t do something about it, we’re stuffed too – that is if Mother Nature doesn’t wipe us out with a nasty virus first. And who could blame her? To do my bit to placate the gods I bought a bee bomb – a collection of wildflower seeds which, when in bloom, attract bees and a host of other pollinators. I scattered the seeds over a raised bed, watered them in and forgot about it. Come June, to my delight and astonishment, the bomb had exploded into a riot of daisies, cornflowers, poppies, marigolds and many others this city boy has never heard of and couldn’t pick out in a line up. The tangled bouquet is strafed daily by squadrons of flying bugs while ants and ladybirds harvest the abundance of juicy aphids from the forest of matted stems.
Elsewhere on the farm, a curious mole poked his head above ground before thankfully moving on to greener pastures and a hedgehog emerged from the undergrowth next door to feed, oblivious to the pair of wood pigeons shagging on a gate. The love birds enjoyed it so much they came back the following afternoon for seconds. Meanwhile, larger fauna basked in the warm sunshine feeding on pink gin.