Autumn Jobs in the Garden are not What you Think

Don’t bother looking for garden jobs now. Let everything die back, and trust the worms and insects to mulch it all down. They are better gardeners than you will ever be. Go for a walk, admire the colours and, when you get back, get busy with lost chickens, wild rats and too many pumpkins.

Count Chickens

Do this before somebody knocks on your door and says ‘have you lost a chicken?’ If you say ‘I don’t know.’ it looks like you don’t care.

And then they watch you discover that you definitely have lost a chicken, so you have to look shocked, to prove that this has never happened before.

Chickens digging

Nobody knows why one chicken chose to leave the digging work and cross the road, again, to try and live with somebody else. But she got there safely.

I collected her from a garden full of puppies and children, she had her own cage and a slice of bread. The children said she had made their day, and I got to meet the puppies, who were more fun than any chicken will ever be.

The chicken rescuers got eggs as a reward, and I carried the runaway back through the village and immediately found another thing to deal with.

Getting the Pumpkins in

Pumpkins at the door

Somebody here spent all summer growing pumpkins and my allocated amount arrived at the door, a week before Halloween. They came in to rot quietly in the back room.

Tidy room

The back room was exquisitely tidy.

The pumpkins sat quietly on the side for an hour. This invoked the new rule of ‘it is fine to leave things here.’

Messy room

So everybody in the house suddenly just left stuff and, in a few days, the joys of shared living were presented in this beautiful tableaux.

Get the Pumpkins Out

It is a fact that demons from hell will turn up throughout winter unless you put a pumpkin out, to lure small children to your house on All Hallows Eve. 

Out they went, with a marrow for luck and a few scattered leaves to cover up the slime and mould. I lurked hopefully by the door with a huge box of sweets, but forgot to dress up.

Light up the pumpkins

Next year I will. Children arrived as batmen, spider men, fairies, witches, bears, cats and lastly a group of vampires, who looked at me expectantly, like an old friend, and started asking about the chickens.

‘Aha’ I said ‘You are the chicken rescuers’ and invited them back to visit the chickens any time they liked. They came the next day and I taught them about chicken racing. In this sport you have to run across the garden with corn in your hand screaming ‘here chicky chicky.’ It sends the chickens into a chasing frenzy and everybody gets exercise. It should be on the national curriculum.

Get the Pumpkins in the Bin

Winter always starts with a full compost bin with no room for demons. Time to move indoors and do home improvements.

Pumpkins in the compost

Paint the Fireplace

The cat looks so sweet in front of the fireplace but the photo is ruined because of the state of the dusty chipped tiles and the ugly fireplace surround. It was time to paint the fireproof board.  Funny how you notice things. That board went up over 10 years ago and I only spotted it last week.

Sweet cat by the fire

On winter days, when gardens are going to sleep, have fun painting fireplace surrounds in gentle terracotta shades.  Got no terracotta paint?  Simple.  Just make some.

Autumn Berries

If you are too lazy to trek to a DIY shop, just gather everything orange in the garden.

Autumn leaves and berries

Boil it, sieve it, and open the windows to release the stinking steam. Making paint is not like cooking, it is an industrial process and the berries smell foul when hot.

Boiling up leaves and berries from the garden

Try the paint on the fireplace surround and then go to the DIY shop to get real paint.

Terracotta paint and home made paint

Real paint on the left. A bad colour choice of colour but it is paint. Home-made paint on the right. Excellent colour but paint is not supposed to be see through. Making paint is not as simple as you would think.

Deal with Wildlife in the House

It is getting colder and visitors are arriving. The hedgehog came first, a sweet little prickly ball wandering timidly up the steps, along the hall, and into the sitting room.

Hedgehog in the house

There was a scramble to take this amazing photo to prove that he was there. Then we carried him tenderly to a safe bush in the garden and left him with a pile of dried cat food and fresh water.

An hour later he was gone, but the cat was there, finishing off the cat food and looking at me with a face on, to point out that I had left her dinner in the wrong place.

The next visitor was a rat.

The rat didn’t wander in timidly, the cat dragged it in and dumped it on the stairs. It started to scurry, up two steps, down two steps and straight towards the cat, who immediately declared a rat phobia and ran away.

With no help from the frightened cat, it was down to me.

I threw a towel over its head, which is a tried and tested method for birds, voles, mice or anything small. They freeze when this happens. It shot out the other side of the towel, twice round the house and out of the door, leaving four humans, and two cats, shaking with shock.

That wasn’t the end of it. Suddenly they were arriving every day. Were they living in the shed? Could there be thousands? Somebody bought a trap, immediately caught two, and had to trek down the road to release them humanely into other people’s gardens. But then he went away for a few days, and it was down to me again.

I pledged to continue the evacuation procedure, baited the trap with sausage and within hours there was an angry rat in the trap.

If you have met pet rats, you will know what a happy rat looks like. This one did not have that kind of look, he was frantic and I will never trap a rat again. I put him on the back of the bike and cycled fast to the release point. It was not nice trying to get an furious rat out of a cage, I could not find the door and had to use a stick to break it open. He set off like a rocket, in the direction of home, and probably got back here before I did.

It was not a good plan, and the man from pest control, who turned up a few days ago, said it is illegal to let rats out anywhere. Who would have known that? He also pointed out that brown rats are harmless in the wild and only bother people who leave bowls of chicken food, and overflowing compost bins all over the place.

If you get hedgehogs, put out food and water, and if you get rats, hide all the food and water, call the council and hope they go somewhere else (the rats not the council).

I smashed down the pumpkins and closed the compost bin, made a new rule that chickens must starve overnight, because they only get supervised food, and the rats moved on.

And the hedgehogs? Hopefully they are asleep under these sticks.

Pile of sticks for a hedgehog
We will see them again in the spring. Not long now, only five weeks until the days start getting longer.

2 thoughts on “Autumn Jobs in the Garden are not What you Think”

  1. Your posts always resonate with me Jo. Our lives seem to be going in tandem-we’re dealing with rats at the moment too. We’ve been using humane traps and removing them to the moors near us but had no idea that was illegal. We’ll have to rely on the cats again – but they bring them into the house for us- so that is a whole other problem. Dead rats in the kitchen when you come in for breakfast is not what you want to deal with. (Even worse is half dead rats)

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