You've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?

Ah ha ha ha ha! Who’s laughing now, eh? Eat my bulbs, would you? Dig up my seedlings? Crap in my flowerbeds? I don’t think so. Not any more, pal.

Ha ha! Success! After several nights of frustration and empty traps, victory! In the fight between a small, hairy, ugly mammal and a larger, dashingly handsome mammal there was only ever going to be one winner. And it’s not the one with buck teeth and a mangy tail.

That’s right, folks. My state-of-the-art squirrel trap has proved stunningly effective. There, bouncing round inside its metal cage this morning was a large vicious-looking squirrel. Lured inside by the popcorn bait, his greed overcame his natural suspicion and BANG! the trap snapped shut. The squirrel is mine!

So far, so good: evil rat-like fiend trapped. Job done.  But to be honest, I hadn’t really given the next stage much though. Namely, what do you do with the squirrel once caught?

As several correspondents have kindly pointed out, it turns out it is illegal to release a grey squirrel into the wild – they’re a non-native species, so doing so is apparently akin to releasing lions or tigers in your local park. Although quite frankly I’ve never heard of a lion digging up daffodil bulbs.

In fact now that I have caught my squirrel I am legally obliged to kill it.

As I say, I hadn’t thought through this stage in great detail.

How do you kill a squirrel? Several options spring to mind. As Amy helpfully mentioned last week, Hugh Fearnley W. releases them into a sack, bashes the sack with a big stick and swiftly dispatches the vermin. Now I reckon I could get the squirrel into the sack without too much trouble, but I’m not so sure I could locate the right bit of the squirrel to hit as it scrabbled around inside the bag. Not sure it would be a humane way to go – more akin to a gangland beating that leaves you fatally wounded.

I saw another TV programme in which the caged squirrel was finished off with a bullet between the eyes. Unfortunately Mrs Drooling has for some reason banned firearms from the Drooling residence so this option, manly and exciting as it would be, is a non-starter.

Anyway, as I say, it is illegal to release the squirrel into the wild, so obviously I didn’t do that. And as I am law-abiding and was required to kill it, I did. I won’t bore you with the details. Instead I will speculate as to how one might dispose of a squirrel should they be too squeamish to kill it.

You might decide to set it free in a park some way away from your house. First you’d have to get it into the car. Now, your neighbours might think you a bit odd if they saw you carrying a metal box with a squirrel in it, so you’d probably put the cage into a bin liner.

You’d have to walk briskly to your car otherwise you might bump into a neighbour who strikes up a conversation. They might wonder why the bin liner you are holding is rattling and making strange noises. You would have to feign ignorance and pretend nothing unusual is happening.

Once in the car you would need to find a discreet spot in which to free the squirrel – you would not want witnesses to your crime, after all. You might end up driving quite a distance – say, 10.4 miles – before finding a suitable field.

On taking the cage out of the boot you might make the discovery that squirrels look quite nasty and can also growl when angry. Taking care to open the cage, it is possible that the squirrel may decide not to leave. Should this happen you may consider banging the cage against a tree until the squirrel finally releases its grip and runs off.

The squirrel may or may not pause, look over its shoulder and shoot you a murderous look before disappearing into the bushes.

As I say, I killed it, But if I hadn’t then the above is my guess as to what might have happened.

 

On the ipod while not commiting a crime: Macy Gray / I’ve committed murder. I have officer, honest.

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It's lonely at the top

Beans are sociable things. It probably comes from all that nestling together in the pod when they’re first born. I guess if the formative moments of your life are spent check by jowl with your siblings then it’s no surprise that you grow up prefering to hang out in the company of your peers.

So spare a thought for the poor darlings currently dangling off my tattered-looking borlotti beans. I raised them in the greenhouse and then planted out the beans a little bit early, and they spent a few weeks looking a bit sorry for themselves. But they recovered and slowly climbed their way up their poles.

But life is clearly hard for beans, at least on my allotment. Many of the leaves bear the tell-tale slime trails and jagged edges of slug attacks, and they don’t look as bushy as they should. That may be unfair on my beans, as this is the first time I’ve grown borlotti, but they don’t seem quite as healthy-looking as they did in my head when I ordered the seeds.

Aesthetics aside though, the most telling sign that the beans aren’t happy is the depressing lack of flowers, let alone pods like the one above. My seven plants have barely mustered the same number of pods between them, with not that many more flowers to report. That doesn’t feel like a great return.

Slugs apart, I may have found another possible cause of this scarcity.

I haven't the faintest idea what this is

While poking around the plants looking for beans I came across this little bug and about five of his mates. They were just sitting there nonchalantly, not doing anything offensive but certainly looking suspicious. It was a bit like coming round the corner and seeing a bunch of teenagers clutching spray cans next to a still-wet graffito. I didn’t actually see them doing anything wrong, but they look bloody shifty, don’t you think?

Now, being a bleeding heart liberal organic gardening type I didn’t feel I could administer summary justice with the ball of my thumb without having any concrete evidence. And short of checking their teeth for flecks of borlotti bean I couldn’t see anything conclusive.

So I felt obliged to leave them be, unharmed. A bit like the grizzled cop who knows a judge would have him for dinner if he actually arrested those pesky kids, I felt I should wait until they did something wrong before squishing them. After all, they might be good bugs simply protecting my beans from evil blackfly.

So my internet search to identify these mysterious bugs continues. All suggestions gratefully welcome. And then judgement day shall come. Will it be a quick and painless squishing or will I be laying out the welcome mat and telling them to bring their friends to the party?

On the ipod while practising a pincer motion with thumb and forefinger: The Clash / Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Snails: know your enemy

45, 46, 47…..48. Not bad for a night’s haul. Just returned from a moonlit sortie in the garden, protecting my poor helpless vegetables from the slimy bogeymen that would otherwise have them for dinner.

Slugs and snails are the biggest problem I have outdoors. Don’t be fooled by the pretty patterns on his shell or the twinkle in his eye, this little bugger and all his ilk are nothing but trouble.

Ever since I started veggie gardening slugs and snails have caused havoc, munching their way through tender seedlings and generally destroying everything. Not only that, but for the committed organic gardener the options for tackling them are pretty poor.

I’ve tried most things, all with minimal success. Beer traps? Messy and not too practical when you’ve got three small boys thundering round the garden. Eggshells? Pointless. Copper tape? Haven’t noticed any effect. Everyone seems to rave about nematodes, little microbes that attack slugs from the inside. Apparently they are staggeringly effective, but unfortunately I’m just too lazy and disorganised to apply them in just the right quantities at just the right times.

My raised beds have made a bit of a difference – perhaps the local slugs are just too lazy to crawl up and have a look at what’s growing. I surrounded them with woodchip, on the basis that it would be unpleasant to slither over. Thought it was working nicely until I found a whole family of slugs sleeping soundly just under the surface.

So that leaves the only thing that works: hunting them down with a torch at night. Catch them unawares, chase them down and…ahem…dispose of them. I won’t go into the details – hey, you might be eating – but trust me, it’s quick and painless.  It’s a bit gross sometimes, I admit, but it gets easier when you realise it’s them or you. Well, your salad leaves.

Damp nights are best, and if you pop out for a few nights in a row then you’ll soon notice the number of slugs and snails decreasing. Victory shall be ours!

Of course, it can get a bit messy, and it’s not for the squeamish. I was returning from a mission at the bottom of the garden last night when I heard a squishy crunch underfoot. Mixed feelings about that, I must confess: on the one hand I could consider another foe vanquished. On the other hand I was barefoot at the time.

On the ipod while cleaning between my toes: Squeeze / Pulling mussels from the shell. Sounds a bit hardcore but it might just work.