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Dinah


Latest posts by Dinah

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CATS

Posted: Today at 02:53

No, I don't think I'm getting you wrong really, it's just a matter of fields within fields. I'm not up for controlling rodents in the whole countryside, obviously - I love mice and rats, and save them whenever I can from the cats, but more importantly they are an important part of the food chain. I find it very handy to have the house and garden free of them, what with the Leptospirosis and all that,  and believe me, the house and garden are free of them! but I don't see mice and rats as a sinister plague about to "steal the food from the cook's own ladles" so to speak. Not that I think you were implying that I thought that at all! but I like to keep things realistic.

I admit it, you have me there with the nesting, while others are feverishly "attracting wildlife to their gardens" I really don't think I'd like to encourage wild birds to nest anywhere near my house - it seems just silly out here in the wilds. They are far better nesting in the Bern or in the woods, or the hedgerow where the cats don't go! I do have quite a big garden with food put out every day at the feeding station, and birds adorn the nearby trees, but they really don't seem to be interested in nesting in the shrubs - or at least, I very much hope not! Any bird that did so would certainly be near the end of it's genetic line - the numbers just don't add up, and I can only hope they are frightened away by the rich predatory presence because of instinct!

Odd things that are not so obvious in towns play into the picture here though too. People don't often take account of whether they live on the Adret or Ubac side of a valley in towns. In more rugged parts of the country, those who's hillsides face south get lots of rabbits, birds etc. Those who live on the Ubac don't get rabbits anywhere near so much, and a lot fewer birds nesting - it's too cold and windy compared to the other side of the valley. Humans don't take much notice of such things (with the possible exception of gardeners) nor do mice and rats who prefer to live near human habitations and food stocks, livestock are fenced here, and pets, well their houses are heated and the lazy things spend most of there time snoozing, doing a spot of ratting, but generally waiting to be fed out of the desperately unethical, industrially produced meat-industry-surplus filled cans.

Yes I agree with your implication that the problem is, by and large, innovative humans and there many utterly wastefully made environments, than a problem with cats doing there catty thing. When we mess things up we get knock on effects. I've noticed the difference between rabbits, and too many rabbits, and how it affects the vegetation on the other side of the valley. I've also noticed the fox factor (and others have brought it to my notice) keeping the rabbit population lower than critical mass - a good year for rabbits means more foxes, but alas, more foxes take more lambs and "they are worth money you know!" And the critical mass thing is very scientific, the relatively recent introduction here of rabbit plague as an unstoppable alternative to predatory control works like this: when the concentration goes above a certain number of rabbits per acre, a new epidemic erupts, and you see them all dyeing in misery by the side of the road. The eagles and buzzards have a great time until the rabbits run out, or a shepherd starts sneaking out a few poison carcasses, in case the now more apparent buzzards and eagles take the lambs. It's all so much more complicated where we people are involved.

In the towns it's even more messed up, but I quietly hope that the ability of nature to eventually adapt will prevail "look at urban foxes and badgers" I think - "they are now making a good living in the town thanks to unfinished bags of chips". I suppose you could compare them to the domestic cat in that regard? And I think of the rise in Bee populations where urban gardens provide a variety of flowers at different times of the year - pat on the head time I hope, but it's a small hope.

The awful thing is that there is always a new threat looming on the horizon. We have a terribly cosseted and relatively trivial culture here, in other places people's priorities are the eradication of drought, storms, floods and major epidemics. Someone was asking me recently what measures were in place to stop rabies coming through the Channel Tunnel carried by rats. I have no idea. I just hope and hope like everyone else that it won't happen, because I am not in a position to stop it. Sometimes I even fall into thinking "at least it won't happen to us" same as the droughts, storms and flooding. It's still hard to keep a clear head to focus upon these things, we are still learning, but it doesn’t hurt to be truthful about your feelings now and then. So thanks for the chance to do so folks.

CATS

Posted: Yesterday at 00:54

Mmm, they are all interesting points. I would very much like to see people neutering and spaying their cats. I have never actually gone out to get a cat. Mine turn up at the house starving after people from the town come and dump them, expecting them to be able to survive in the wild. The house I live in used to be rented by nuns, who didn't neuter the cats, and when they moved away most of them starved to death. Nasty situation.

They really do go after the rodents. We had one bird death last year (food spilt on the way to the 7 foot high, fortified bird table). All my cats are very well fed, so they stack the rodent corpses on the mat, that helps me a lot in checking if the bird fortifications are doing there job. That is another thing that I get cross about. Silly fools who have cats and then have a titchy, icky, bitty little bird table with no fortifications. But that is all country stuff, not stuff that would make much sense in the town as every one should have fortified bird tables - to expensive for most people to bother with I suppose.

Cats and cars don't mix either, so the getting squashed factor would probably keep the population in check in towns if neutering was more popular. The Cats Protection League have a neutering/spaying scheme for people on benefits, such great people! Interestingly, a study was done in Scotland to see what was the best way of controlling the numbers of domestic and feral cats. There reason for doing it was that the Scottish Wild Cat (the real McCoy) was about to become extinct because of interbreeding with domestic cats. They found that if you cull the domesticated cats in an area, it doesn’t just upset people, the cats from outside the areas moved into the territory, and being owner-less they’re not neutered and quickly multiplied. I think they tried it out in Australia, where cats are not at all native. So, neutering was the answer! Hurray for the Cats Protection League! you guys are the mustard!

CATS

Posted: 19/12/2014 at 02:13

OK, I am very lucky because I live in a remote area, and cats are the only way to stop lots of rodents pouring out of the barns and into my house. So I have 11 of the furry little darlings at the moment. I am a very keen gardener, and love having the cats around when I am digging, potting up, putting things in trays and so on. I have two solutions to the problem that you might be able to put into operation, but it all depends if you have access to the countryside.

Cats in towns are not so easy to deal with. First, they need a big area of rough soil that you regularly agitate. Under a shrubbery, a nearby hedge or a coppice is absolutely great. Under shrubs and hedges is the best if you lift the crown of the shrub  or hedge - i.e. lift or prune off the lower branches so that the cats can get under them easily without having to crouch down at all. Then, each week you give the earth around the shrubs a good rummage with a long (as long as possible) handled hoe, or possibly a rake if that's what you have. Add leaf mould if you find the roots are too near the surface to get a good litter. The cats go "oh wow, a proper toilet" and compete with each other to use the designated area. This is the carrot method.Second (the stick) method is best used with the above carrot. You need plenty of old, rusty stock fencing, so you must were gloves when handling it. If you go out on forays into the country, especially rugged sheep country, you will find that shepherds and farmers regularly replace their fences. When they do this they often leave the rusty old rolls in ditches or on road sidings until they can get round to picking them up. Choose a sheep area if possible, because shepherds are very, very busy people, and it is a chore to collect and dispose of rusty fencing rolls. Stock fencing consists of wire rectangles, so you will think at first "well the cats will get through that". It's a bit more complicated than that. 1) they don't like the rusty texture at all, 2) it will be crinkly and not geometrician by the time you pick it up, so will have lots of raised and lowered areas, adding to the complexity with which a cat can find a good gap, while still being able to make a quick exit if anyone sees him/her. 3) rusty stock fencing is damn near invisible when it is put down on soil with plants dotted about in it. This is good for you (you won't notice the stuff once it has settled in) and it is great for confounding the cats. Cats have notoriously good eyesight, but only if the obstacle is over a foot from their faces. That means that if they are rummaging around, and there sensitive little whiskers keep brushing rough hard only slightly visible stuff,  they won't want to be messing about in the area for too long.

Kittens are worst to deter, because everything is a big adventure, but they are easier to shoo off, don't make such big messes and soon grow up. Someone mentioned that only bold cats do it on the surface, this is true. Unfortunately you get the odd cat that seems to think that major earthworks are needed for each visit. This is worse for young plants, but once your stock fencing has buried bits, and protruding bits it will help stop even the most fastidious cat. If you are lucky, you may find enough rusty old fencing to put a double layer down, and that is a brilliant deterrent. The problem with chicken wire and similar is that if it is not suspended and crinkly above the ground it is quite comfortable and easy to walk on. A-symmetry  and unpredictability, along with a rough texture is much better. You can put the same stuff over groups of pots, and seed trays - I have no problems with either now that I employ the carrot and the stick, and believe me - my garden is always full of cats who only poop in the proper places!

One very important warning! Because the stock fencing is so well camouflaged you may trip over it, so mark the edges and make sure they don't overhand paths.

Wild Flower Identification Needed.

Posted: 18/12/2014 at 19:36

It isn't a very nicely dried sow-thistle is it? I recognise it as something that I see regularly when I'm walking the dog, it grows all along the mountain lanes, but I've never seen it in transition from fresh to dry.

azalea wind damage

Posted: 29/06/2014 at 01:23

Just to thank everyone who helped with this - Two of the cuttings have rooted! I am delighted, delighted and triply delighted as I now have 3 lovely plants to treasure, and a whole lot more faith in things turning out for the best after a storm.

Hierochloe odorata v/s leather jackets

Posted: 07/06/2014 at 16:03

Strange. I am wondering if Hierochloe odorata (buffalo, vanilla, holy) grass is resistant to cutworms/leather jackets? Practically everything else left in trays in the yard was affected this spring, but not a shallow tray of this grass/herb, despite it being moved around to get the best of the weather. I would have thought (being a grass) it would have been one of the first to go. I know the taste of vanilla comes from a chemical called Coumarin that is also present in Cinnamon, but I can't find any references to insecticidal properties online. Does anyone happen to know this? I ask because I was thinking of using it as a companion plant if it is resistant or repellant.

Keeping wind off a windy allotment

Posted: 11/05/2014 at 02:30

For a low hedge try Sea buck-thorn. It is the plant with orange berries that you sometimes see growing on dunes. The Prunus Spinosa (sloe) is another tough little tree to make a wind shelter belt, and you get the fruits which can be used in wine. It is most useful for areas with poor anchorage due to a lot of sand in the soil (it's often used to support crumbling cliff-side pathways and roads).

A space saving alternative would be a willow hedge. You can weave in the willow branches to keep them back in place, they are very supple so make good wind protection, and you can cut them right back. You will get far better results if you do keep pruning them to size, since you will also get straight, supple stems that will look attractive too, and they come in several bright colors. You will need to choose one of the more compact varieties - of course, since some would grow too big too quickly.  If you use the cut stems among the vegetables as supports (they are excellent for this purpose) they may well take root; but you can then pull them out and hand the rooted whips on to other allotment users for wind breaks.

Human irrigation system

Posted: 11/05/2014 at 02:08

Never good news that Mike, but yes, I know people who have gotten better quite quickly after the treatment. Make sure they do everything they can, it's a world where the assertive get what they need, so don't be afraid to make a fuss if you think any aspect of your treatment is substandard. Also, live for the moment. Worrying never helped anyone recover, so get stuck in there and enjoy all the sights of spring! Good luck and a speedy recovery.

morrisions and a kwiw

Posted: 01/05/2014 at 23:58

I know about Kiwi because I grew about 10 of them from seed. They are cut back almost completely by frost, but each spring they sprout up and grow very quickly into very attractive vines. Mine have wonderful red stems and the leaves and stems are covered with soft, red spines. They have yellow flowers. Mine are growing outdoors, but I do live on the coast and have a moderated climate due to the gulf-stream. They don't seem to mind the searing north wind, or the salt that the winds bring now that they are well established, but I provide a bit of shelter each spring when they sprout up by putting a large potted grass plant on the northerly, seaward side.

You will think this is a bit daft, but seriously, you will need to watch that any local cats don't get at them while they are young and supple. Cats love Kiwi plants even more than they love cat-mint, and will roll all over the plant ecstatically pulling off leaves and biting through stems. I've made a wire-netting frame for the lower part of the plants so they are protected where they can easily be reached. Once established there seem to be few problems with the plants and they are very easy to grow - you can sprout the seed easily in a tray covered with a plastic bag. You can use the seed of a fruit from the supermarket if you are looking for a few extra plants for fertilization. It doesn't seem to matter which specific variety you use. Great plants! I've had lots of fun growing them.

Whats eating my seeds

Posted: 01/05/2014 at 23:43

Oh! I just thought, if you do put the cat/cats in the poly-tunnel, don't forget that cats seem to be very interested in eating slug pellets. I have to dig out little pits in the soil and cover them with half coconut shells pinned down firmly with tent pegs if I ever put the pellets down. Most of the time it isn't worth my using slug pellets because it is such a big operation making them cat proof - better using saucers of beer or citrous fruit skins to collect them.

Also, you'll probably find this obvious but others may not know, don't use mouse or rat poison anywhere if you do have cats. Cats have even be poisoned by eating a mouse that was dying of poison, and they sometimes eat rat poison despite it's blue and cereal based nature - horrible thought, but worth keeping in mind. Sorry to go on and on when your question was so straightforward - one thing always seems to lead to another in my garden!

1 to 10 of 50

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