wood miceHeaps Better

Wild West Yorkshire, Monday 22 November 2010

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wood micetoadTHIS MORNING at breakfast-time, two wood mice scuttle and hop about near the bird bath on the patio. Like little kangaroos, they're the kind of rodent that I never mind seeing in the garden, although I'm not so keen on them raiding the supply of bird-seed at the back of the garage, which we've now put into a plastic, mouse-proof container.

As Paul and I clear away the old compost bins to make way for the new improved version, we have to relocate no fewer than five toads, three large, two small. Amazingly none of them are injured as Paul cuts into the bank of debris behind the old bin. He's not keen on handling frogs or toads, so I'm in charge of removing them to a quiet corner.

If I remember rightly, when I constructed the original compost bins twenty years ago, the ground below was mainly clay with stones. As Paul uses a heavy steel pole as an auger to make holes for each of the uprights, we can see that humus-rich soil goes down for 24 inches. Paul suggests that I grow potatoes here - they'd love it, he says. A week later there are two mole hills of black crumbly soil in the newly erected bin. Like the toads, I'm sure that the mole has found plenty of earthworms and other invertebrates. Moles are also excavating under some of the local roadside verges.


walnutwalnutThese walnuts are from a garden in western France. Jim and Diana, a couple who moved out there a few years ago, have a walnut tree. The walnuts grow within a green fleshy fruit but when they're ripe the nuts naturally shed this fleshy husk.

Richard Bell, illustrator


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