Wildlife

Sleeping dogs

I’m back in the doghouse, comrades. “Oh no!” I hear you say. “Not again.” Sadly so. It’s the barking up the nearest (and probably the wrong) tree that does it. The charge? “Insulting and unprofessional” behaviour. And the plea? Well, somewhat guilty to the first bit, I s’pose, but “unprofessional”? I am a volunteer, not a professional, and I’ve never heard of a professional site secretary before. So not guilty to that bit.

 

This little scuffle is, I hope, the final bone to be picked in a spat that is now several months old – the subject of a post back in September in which we Hillbillies found ourselves on the wrong end of certain anonymous and equally spurious allegations concerning the ill-treatment of Mr and Mrs Nutkin (i.e grey squirrels). Aficionados may recall a visit from the police and the RSPCA, followed by several emails from the head honcho at the People’s Republic.

Barking mad

Barking mad

The latest development was an email last week from said head honcho who, having covered his arse nicely, dismissed the complaint but in doing so, let slip who was behind it. A somewhat rash thing to do, some would say, but in my view, and unless I am much mistaken, if someone wishes to level a charge at you, surely it is only fair and just that one should know who the complainant is. I do not believe that it is OK for anyone to be able to make accusations without putting their heads above the parapet. That way lies the refuge of many a vexatious scoundrel/malicious litigant.

And who would this complainant be, I hear you ask? The head honcho let slip that it was an organisation called Animal Aid. Righto, I thought. Let’s take a look at this lot and then fire off a somewhat snotty (emailed) broadside in their general direction (the subject line was “will you kindly go away now?” That was the polite bit. They didn’t take at all kindly, for example, to be called a bunch of spineless bunny-huggers).

Uh huh. “Was that wise?” my dear wife inquired. Probably not. But we won’t be hearing from them again, will we? I responded.
All went quiet for a few days but then, blow me down, a reply landed in which our friends at Animal Aid denied that they were the source of the initial complaint at all, claiming that all they were doing was following up a complaint that was made to them, and all they did was to make an innocuous enquiry of the head honcho at the republic.

And what else did they do? They only copied the reply, accompanied by my earlier blast, to the head honcho himself, presumably with a view to getting me disciplined or sacked.

There is one small snag here, my friends. As you know, I have no boss. I do not do “bosses”. The republic didn’t appoint me, and they don’t sack me either. The head honcho may well be holding his head in his hands, wondering what the Dangerous Dogs Act has to say about this sort of thing – and the answer is, laugh or weep. Preferably the former.

And as to the true source of last September’s campaign. Surprisingly, she is continuing to lie doggo.

Winalot, anyone?

Grrrr.

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Categories: Allotment blog, Allotments, animal rights, Gardening, Wildlife | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Seasonal adjustment

It’s that time of the year folks – the one where my former fellows in the meeja reap the rewards of 1,001 dodgy cuttings jobs, cobbled together several weeks ago and passed off as a “review of the year”. And if that’s not enough, they then pad this baloney out further still with a load of naff “predictions for 2013” – most of them of the flying pig variety.

This seasonal load of tripe has at least five major benefits:

a. it enables aforementioned fellows to take at least a fortnight off as these “reviews” can be assembled any time after the middle of November;

b. there’s sod all happening at this time of year anyway as everyone is too busy stuffing themselves and getting pissed to do anything;

c. even if there was anything happening, no one would be interested in reading about it because they’re all too busy etc etc.

d. the chances of anyone actually being held to their “predictions” (i.e. made to look deeply foolish when said predictions fail to transpire) are somewhere between zero and minus two because no one was paying any attention in the first place;

e. and even if they were, how does that stuff differ from any one of a veritable tsunami of kite-flying tales throughout the year in which such giveaway phrases as “may face” and “is poised to”, when inserted into an intro, tell you everything you need to know.

Undaunted, however, brunosallotmentblog has cobbled together a small handful of highlights and lowlights of 2012 but I am going to leave it to you, dear reader, to toss in a few predictions of what will/will not happen in 2013 (in keeping with the tone of this blog, extra points will be awarded for facetiousness).

Unless I am much mistaken, 2012 was a very bad year for:

1. Weather

Yup, apart from a warm week in March and another one in May, it was completely crap, going from drought to absolutely belting down. Only August acquitted itself rather better than usual (it is, after all, we are drearily reminded as the campsite gets washed down the hillside, traditionally the second wettest month).

2. Slugs

2012 was a truly crap year for slugs, unless your name happens to be Mr or Mrs Slug, or you are a badger or a hedgehog. This may have something to do with point 1 as the slimy bastards like it wet.

3. Whitefly

For some reason, the clouds of these pesky little critters that billowed out of my brassicas throughout 2011 seem to have found 2012 tough going. I have no idea why this is but I’m certainly not moaning.

4. Squirrels

Our grey furry friends have apparently been feeling even more peckish than usual in 2012, given the paucity of seeds, nuts and other things that they occasionally tuck in to before they come and trash all our broad beans, sweetcorn, plums, sunflowers, etc etc – again related to point 1. Sadly for Mr and Mrs Nutkin, not all of our fellows have taken this lying down (see posts passim), and I don’t think the grey furry ones have come out on top.

5. One could go on (and on and on) – but I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to chip in the odd comment should you wish.

On the plus side, 2012 was a very good year for:

1. Hedgehogs

This is related to points 2 and 4 above. For some reason, we Hillbillies have seen a huge spike in the numbers of these spiky little fellows. In years gone by, they were a very rare bird indeed – but not any more. And how do I know this? I refer you to the small but equally clandestine handful of activists who comprise the grey squirrel regulator OFFSHAGS (Office For the Flagellation of Shepherds Hill Allotments Grey Squirrels) who have seen rather a lot of Mr or Mrs Tiggywinkle, all of whom, when caught, are left to snooze it out until the following morning when they are set free unharmed.

2. Badgers

We don’t have any badgers, or moles, both of which feast on point 2 (above), but given that the badger cull has been suspended, I guess we can call this a good year for badgers. Perhaps Mr and Mrs Brock would like to follow in the footsteps of our foxy friends and colonise the city for a change. After all, we’re much more friendly than Farmer Giles.

3. Bindweed

No let-up here. Has there ever been a bad year for bindweed?

4. One could go on. And on. And on. But haven’t we all seen enough of churnalism this year? Your comments would be welcome – emailed if you prefer (my address can be found on the Muswell Hill Gardeners website. I’m not going to post it here as I have enough spam already).

In the meantime, in the spirit of off-the-wall, “sideways looking” takes, I have decided to remove the allotment snowscape scene from the top of this page and replace it with something much more cheerful. After all, it won’t be long before we’re up to our necks in the beastly white stuff again – and that’s not a prediction. It’s a racing certainty.

Categories: Allotment blog, Allotments, Gardening, Horticulture, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Why the birdbrains shall inherit the Earth

We are all tenants of this planet, aren’t we? You may well own your £1.5 million house on the leafy Crouch End/Highgate border, but when you shuffle off this mortal coil, you ain’t going to take it with you, are you? Yes, you may well leave it to your beloved offspring, and they may well blow the lot on gambling and very fast drugs (and waste the rest). And then it will be handed over to someone else, won’t it?

By the same token, we are all tenants of our allotment site – but we’re not the only ones. When you see that robin hanging out impatiently, waiting for you to get on with the digging and unearth some more juicy worms, what you have to bear in mind that although you may well think it’s your plot, in fact, he has other ideas. To him, it is his plot. So just get on with the digging and then clear orf out the way for him to tuck in.

Shift your arse then. It’s worm-time

Which in a roundabout way brings us back to the somewhat tiresome but perpetual subject of rules and regulations, in this particular instance, trees. The rules and regulations state that we are not allowed “weed trees” – oak, ash, sycamore, etc. In fact we are not allowed any trees at all except fruit trees, and these should be no more than three metres in height, maximum. And why is that? Because they take up a large amount of space, they drink a large amount of water, they generate a large amount of shade, and if we let those fellas proliferate, then we might as well rename our site Shepherds Hill woods and forget about the gardening altogether (we have, in the past 30 years or so, lost at least half a dozen plots to the encroaching woods, but I’m not sure we are about to surrender any more).

And why has this troubled little issue raised its head again, and what has it got to do with the wildlife? Well, because one of our fellows touched on it with a comment to a recent blog concerning site inspections. In fairness, she has a point. The trees of which she speaks are most certainly “illegal”, and they are certainly impacting on her plot. Knowing her plot as I do, she has a case, and if we were to implement the rules to the letter, said trees would have to come down. We’re back to the old debate – boot camp or anarchy?

Not many trees here then

Yup, we’ve got a few trees on our site

I regret to say that in this instance, what remains of my liberal instincts have got the better of me. While I may rant and rage at those tenants who can and should meet their obligations under the tenancy agreement, I also have an eye out for those tenants who have no voice, bar the chirping and cheeping that is a constant feature of the allotment site. We need to cut some slack here on behalf of our feathered friends.

Woodpeckers like woods, actually. And they’re green

So what if we were to raise the site, to take out each and every tree that does not fit entirely within the rules? Bar saplings, there are very few, if any, oak, ash and sycamore on the site itself (just within the boundaries, yes, but not where they are causing any particular problems), and I am pretty pro-active when it comes to dissuading tenants from allowing these things to proliferate wherever they raise their heads. But the victims of such a cull on the site proper would include at least two fir and pine trees, which, I believe, are favourite nesting territory for various species of wild birds. Do I want to trash those? Answer: a very firm no.

The birdies on our site are doing fine thank you, courtesy in no small part to people like me. I’ve got about two dozen nesting boxes dotted around the site – all built and sited according to RSPB specifications. I spend about £30 a month on nuts and seeds and always make sure they have fresh water for drinking and bathing, especially in the summer. I do my best to ensure that our tenants are careful in their use of netting (either make sure that the little blighters can’t get in at all, or make sure that if they do, they have an escape route). And I’m not the only one. And I am also conscious of the fact that certain other predators are not suffered either.

Maybe we should take the long view here. The existence of birdies (and trees for that matter) pre-dates that of humanity on this planet, and there is a fair bet that when we homo sapiens have finally blown it, there will still be a few birdies around to pick away at the corpse. Should we (inadvertently) continue to drive them out for the sake of the odd allotment rule or regulation, for the sake of the odd shady bit that conspires to trash our attempts at human endeavour? I think not.

Tweet! Tweet! Who’s the biggest twitter here then?

Categories: Allotment blog, Allotments, Conservation, Garden birds, Gardening, Horticulture, Wildlife | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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