TWO WEEKS ago one or two small mounds of earth appeared near the bird table. I tried to persuade myself that they might be molehills but I realised that it was more likely that they were the work of brown rats attracted to the quantities of sunflower hearts spilt by the birds that use the feeders.
We’ve stopped feeding which is a shame as it’s been such a pleasure to see the regular goldfinches, greenfinches, blue tits, great tits, house sparrows and siskins, up to 20 of the latter at a time.
Am I making a mountain of a problem out of molehill? A hole has also appeared beneath the compost bin and that must be the work of a rodent. Our neighbours report that the rats have actually nibbled holes to get into their compost bins. They’ve put a couple of baiting boxes down.
I’m going to move our compost bin to a more open position. Hope they’ll get the message and move on.
More bad wildlife gardening news; our neighbours have filled in the pond in the corner by the hedge as their garden has to accomodate a growing number of young children. When our previous neighbours originally put in this pond almost 30 years ago I was convinced that this was too shady a site for a healthy pond. I was wrong because the pond was always more popular with the frogs than ours was, despite all my efforts to create the perfect habitat.
I’m really hoping that all the local frogs weren’t hibernating in the pond when it was removed. It’s the first day of spring today and I’m hoping that any returning frogs will hop along to my pond when they find their favourite spot has been destroyed.
WOOD PIGEONS have been gathering in the treetops – about a hundred of them fly up over the wood on this cold and misty morning. Their regular foraging in the fields has been first snow-covered then frozen solid this week. We’ve got a book delivery to make today and we feel glad that we didn’t have to set out yesterday when we pass a car, which must have skidded on the ice, being towed out of a hedge. Casualty departments were 40 to 50% busier after the freezing rain.
After feeding on sunflower hearts around our bird feeders, the Pheasants often pause to nibble the leaves of broccoli in our cabbage patch as they walk down the garden path back towards the meadow and the wood.
A Heron, looking rather fed up, sits hunched on a perch for an hour or more on a branch of one of the Crack Willows by the stream. It appears to be undisturbed by any dog walkers who may be passing by below.
Voles, Moles and Unwelcome Guests
There are vole holes in the lawn and mole-hills in the flower border near the bird table but the burrow that I’m not so keen to see is one that leads from under a paving slab straight under the plastic compost bin. I can see that the chopped end of an onion has been dragged down from the bin. I want to recycle all our vegetable peelings but we can’t control which creatures are attracted to nibble them. I think that the answer is to re-think the way we compost anything that is potentially edible and relocate our plastic compost bins, currently behind the shed, to the main wooden compost bins at the end of the garden beyond the greenhouse. We never put any cooked food on the compost heap but then, being brought up in the Yorkshire tradition of thrift, we contribute virtually nothing to the estimated 7.2 million tons of food thrown out each year by households in the United Kingdom. It has been estimated that the average family with children throws out about £680 of food each year.
This evening two Wood Pigeons fly down to eat berries on the mass of Ivy that grows over our neighbour’s fence. A male Blackbird also tucks into this seasonal supply.
The main component in this compost bin isn’t the timber or the nails; it’s the sheer intellectual effort involved!
Working with recycled timber means that you’re improvising all the time, planning which piece to use where. The only materials we bought at the local builders’ yard were two packets of galvanised nails and one sheet of outdoor plywood for the lids and one of the ‘doors’.
So is it really worth all this effort for a compost bin?! Of course! The compost bin is at the heart of the garden, turning plant waste into valuable humus (another bonus is that at last we’ve whittled down the stack of timber that I salvaged ‘because it would be useful’ but which has been leaning against the shed for several years!)
This double bin holds 2.5 cubic yards of compost (almost 2 cubic metres) which would weigh about 1 ton (or somewhere in the region of 1000 kilograms) depending on how wet or dry it was. Imagine bringing that lot home from the garden centre! And, for that matter, think of the cost of transport if we sent our garden waste away with the local authority collection. We told them we didn’t require a bin when the scheme started but we did take them up on an offer for a recycled plastic compost bin which sits in another corner of the garden, by the shed.
I had to manhandle my mum’s compost wheelie bin down her driveway this morning so I’m well aware how heavy bulky organic matter can be.
What I don’t like about this design of compost bin:
- it’s so large now that it shades one end of the greenhouse
- with the lid on, the birds can’t get at it – although I’m sure the Toads will find their way to it
Covering the compost and insulating it from the weather helps speed up the composting process. This bin is double-walled with cardboard cartons acting as insulation in the cavity. When the cardboard starts to rot down, that can go into the compost too (if I can find a way of lifting it out of the narrow cavity, that is).
It’s unfortunate that the compost will be out of bounds to birds in future but at least the Robin got a chance to hop around the disturbed ground as we worked today, almost under our feet.
We’re going to have some amazing crops of vegetables from the compost this bin will produce!