We have a visitor in our garden.
These are through the kitchen window with maximum zoom. However, he has been spotted within a few yards of the house investigating the pots of herbs on the terrace (we refer to it as he, as one does). We don't quite know where he's getting in, but then rabbits can squeeze through very small spaces.
Now my dears,' said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, 'you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.
Poor Peter, child of a single mother, lacking male role models,his sisters all higher achievers than he, turning to delinquency...
There's a funny and clever critique of Beatrix Potter and her ambivalent morality by Stuart Jeffries here, from when the film Miss Potter came out. Jeffries is a terrible snarky smart-arse but I do often enjoy his pieces. In truth, he comes out rather positively about her. He also mentions that the reason so many Japanese tourists make the pilgrimage to Beatrix Potter's house in the Lake District is that Japanese children often learned English from her books. This was interesting to me because many years ago I assisted in home-schooling a couple of very bright Anglo-Japanese children of about 5 and 7 or so, who now have Cambridge doctorates and heaven knows what under their belts (nothing to do with me, both their parents were exceptionally clever, they went on to international schools in France and spent all their summers in Japan, they were, and are, just very gifted), and we worked our way through much of the Beatrix Potter canon, from a big volume they'd been given. I assumed this gift had come from the English side of the family, but perhaps not. I was struck by how the books really provided a remarkably complete and well-differentiated reading scheme. Jeffries sneers a bit at the idea of 'delightfully outré Edwardian syntax' and 'bizarre Potterian ideas about our dress codes and ethical views' but I can't say they caused us any problems.
And for my French visitors, here's the Francophone version.
I do like the art nouveau/ belle époque font for the title, which is slightly subverted by the blockish 1970s majuscules for the author's name (I expect someone with greater design and typography knowledge than I have can better inform me about these). A perusal of Google seems to show that Peter and friends are well appreciated here, though Benjamin Bunny becomes Jeannot Lapin. I mean, what's going on there?
Anyway, whatever our visitor's resemblance to said anthropomorphised lagomorph, we didn't find him so cute when he chewed all the tops off our newly planted pinks. There didn't seem to be much else he fancied in the flower beds, and he could eat all the dandelions he wanted, plenty more where they came from. For a while it didn't seem as if he had made it to the veg garden, since he seemed to be entering at the other end of the plot, but then my new sweetcorn shoots were chewed, then the better established peas...
Unable to resort to the McGregors' pie option, we have to employ other methods to protect our vegetables:
Apologies for the flare, I was stricken by an urge, rare these days, to get me up and go out in the garden with the camera sometime around 6.30 am as the sun was rising. Old willow hurdles and bird netting we had lying around have been commissioned as an anti-bunny measure. So far so good. The white trapezoid shape mid right is the old cold frame, falling apart but still useful, the tuft behind it the broad bean plantation, of which I am quite proud. The variety is Karmazyn, they are pink beans and the plant stems are slightly pinkish. Despite the continual presence of prospecting black ants, the tops haven't fallen prey to blackfly, and the flowers are incredibly abundant, I hope the beans will be too.
The other rather larger animal who has been frequenting our patch is a red squirrel. If there were no other reason to be glad to live here, that the only squirrels are red ones would be enough. They're somewhat elusive round here, but they are about. For a long time now, I've wondered why the excellent if rather small nuts on the purple filbert bush always disappeared before I could get to them, and assumed that the middens of hazel, walnut and occasionally snail shells in the same area were to do with mice or voles. Then the other day a movement of something running across the veg garden caught my eye. 'Bloody rabbit again,' I thought, but a second look revealed it was a squirrel. Since then, I've seen it twice: once early in the morning, outside on the terrace - I reached for the camera but wasn't quick enough, and again when I was turning the corner in the car, and it was scampering down the verge towards the house, it quickly ran across the road and ran down Ludovic's drive. Both sightings confirm that it has a circuit; the large hazelnuts we find come from Marcelle's garden up the road, the walnuts probably from Ludovic's.
We had a basket of hazelnuts on the table, left over from Christmas in fact, too much bother to get into and often not worthwhile when you do. Tom started taking them down and leaving them under the purple filbert. First of all they were taken away, one by one. It amused us to think of the squirrel bringing Marcelle's hazels down to ours, then taking ours back to hers and stashing them there.
Now though, he (there we go again) mostly eats them sur place.
We wondered if perhaps squirrels buried nuts because they were easier to get into after they'd been exposed to soil and moisture for a time. This was confirmed by Michael Pollan on BBC Radio 4's Food Programme the other week who noted that, since cooking is not only the application of heat but also of natural cultures and microbial actions, so that in that way, squirrels can be seen as the only other cooking animal.
Obviously, Cyril, as we have called him, can't wait.