In the countryside about us the brown rat has few admirers. Nevertheless it has to be admitted that this rodent is a great survivor. Probably its ingenuity accounts for that. Recently a farmer friend of mine was watching the birds feeding from his bird table. Suddenly a rat appeared at the base of a nearby tree, the branches of which overhung the bird table. Without hesitation the rat clambered up the tree trunk, along the branch and on to the bird table! It quickly collected in its mouth a piece of bread, returned along the route it had come, and vanished from sight. Obviously that was not the first time a meal had, unwittingly, been provided for this unwelcome visitor.
A year ago I mentioned in these notes how another winter had almost passed with no inconvenience from snow. I will now tempt providence again by the same observation! However, a covering to protect oil seed rape plants from the ravages of pigeons would be very welcome in some quarters. Bad weather would, of course, delay much work to be done on the farm and in the garden. Broad acres await the spring drilled beans, peas, barley and sugar beet. Loads of nitrogenous fertilizer, many in bags weighing half a tonne are shipped to our East Coast ports such as Wivenhoe, Mistley and Ipswich from East Europe. Collected by articulated lorries that seem a trifle large for our narrow Suffolk lanes, somehow they manage to manoeuvre their loads into farmyards that until a few decades ago witnessed nothing larger than a horse drawn wagon,
In the vegetable garden decisions and techniques must be considered on how to improve on last year’s efforts. This year I am trying to get my early potatoes off to a “flying start” by covering the ground allocated to them, with black polythene. This should, I am told, warm up the soil before planting. New potatoes in mid May? I’ll let you know!