The snow has caught me out – I blame the snow but really it’s the winter and why my surprise? It catches me out every year. My reluctance to accept that in reality seasons begin when they wish, not when I think they ought too, fools me time and time. Ah well! I look from my window at the awful whiteness, me? I don’t like snow, never have, never will. For a second only it is beautiful after that it is cold, wet, disruptive and a lurking menace for the wary and unwary alike. However, I sip my coffee and hide my thoughts of birds perishing with thoughts of the pests that may die under that blanket.
I take stock. Have I done more good than harm? Ethics and some philosophies in life can be difficult to accomadate. I admire those who can, who do. Myself? Well. I try and live with my garden kindly. I declare all life is as important as another! Difficult. Difficult especially as rising costs and decreasing income (pensions that will never keep up with inflation) and more time to devote has led me to try and grow our basics out there beyond my window.
Now I have entered the amphitheatre, human versus the rest of life. Over the past few years other commitments and ill health has prevented this. This year I viewed the slugs and snails with a more jaundiced eye, why can’t the frogs and birds eat more? Ladybirds sunning themselves high on the foliage – shouldn’t they be eating aphids? I scan the skies in the evening have my bat boxes attracted enough of them to decimate flying menaces. Should I, could I resort to ‘chemicals’!
Counting losses on both sides, have I abandoned too many of my ideals? I netted ruthlessly, but left a blackberry, and one blueberry for the birds, was it enough? I covered roots and checked high growing beans nightly for those slow moving, quick munching, beautiful snail foes, relocating so many. Do we know if they suffer when they are relocated? Are they then intruders in a snail eat snail world? No, curb the imagination! You are growing food for yourself, be sensible. I would have had more pumpkins without them but they are totally fascinating. To watch a snail climb up and up, leaf by leaf, to the top of a runner bean which has aspirations to be the tallest bean in the world, keeps me quiet on sunlit days for a long restful while.
I had reasonable harvests but would have starved if there had not been the village shops to take up the short fall. I do not aim to be self sufficient which is just as well as I do not have the stomach for warfare. But I have killed this year. The year of the wasp. I am not keen on them but they are so useful in the garden and they work so hard. They however have a different agenda to me. I want to share the garden space they, most emphatically, do not. Most years we make it to the winter, me dodging their angry threats, they munching the garden pests. This year they colonised the shed. My shed like so much of my life is packed to the rafters with ‘stuff’. How to find the nest, almost defeated the expert, who collected a few stings before he managed to isolate and destroy. Even seeing the evidence of the hundreds of young, energetic and aggressive wasps which would have soon been launched on the world couldn’t take away the sadness I had at the destruction. I felt bad about that nest. Anyone who has the chance to study one, will know the exquisite workmanship that creates a home for thousands, just out of wood, and which is almost as light as air. They fight to the death to defend home. If only they would share.
I have also killed ants, another species who work too hard. They have permission to build those vast underground nests if they keep away from paving. I have a lot of paving, to accommodate disabilities and aging footsteps. They do not have my leave to loosen them! Two lots of chemicals then in a year of growing, yards of netting - does preventing count as harm? and restful walks in the evening, have I killed in my relocations?
On the plus side I have allowed as much of the wildlife, content to browse other parts of the garden, to do pretty much what they like. I have created soil comfortable for worms and other myriad wildlife, some too small to be gazed upon, to live well. The ‘Oh damn I have left it too late to trim again’ hedges provide nesting and insulated homes for feather and fur. The piles of weeds and wood trimmings laid along the edges of the garden provide, in their rotting, extra homes for all kinds of creatures as does the compost heaps. I know, I know, don’t tell me, the slugs like these homes also, but they help break down matter, I do need some.
I grow wild flowers and it was a bumper year for the moths and butterflies that drink themselves drunk on the nectar. The bees and hoverflies were wonderful to behold. I have water and frogs and newts and dragonflies.
Adding good - subtracting bad, my mathematical skills have always been bad and are not improving with age. I have pride that I brought in a harvest of sorts, pride in the busy buzzing sound of that space outside my window but guilt and unease over the ants, wasps and forcible relocated slugs and snails. I do not know how I measured up this year. Thumbs up or down?
I love my garden but. . .