Monday, 10 October 2011

Natural pest control

Don't tell me that I don't keep my promises - a little venture into the realms of pest control is the order for the day, but for those of a nervous disposition I have respected your delicacy and have chosen a picture of Mrs Speckledy to start with and have saved the gory details for a little later.

Mrs Speckledy is trying to hide
The first thing to tell you about natural pest control is that Mrs Speckledy and Mother Blackrock do not like the caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly - you can tell from their expressions and the way that Mrs Speckledy has gone to hide in amongst the raspberry canes in case the Head Chef tries to force one down her beak.

Mother Blackrock is just not interested

Mother Blackrock is more inclined to stand her ground and indicate her feelings by an expression of complete disgust at the sight of the nasty green creatures, before stalking off in a superior manner.

Rejected by hens and nowhere to hide

In fact, the most efficacious method of dealing with such creepy-crawlies is to send the Head Chef into the garden to pick them off by hand. We did try Enviromesh one year, but the combination of a windy site, and a certain racketiness about the installation meant that we watched the cabbage whites fluttering gaily about inside the enclosure all summer. Better to wait until the caterpillars are so large and virulent-looking that they are visible even to the middle-aged naked eye.

Nasty green slimy things

As to the small green caterpillars of the sort found in purple sprouting broccoli and calabrese, you need not bother with pest control if the consumers of the produce are ladies of a certain age whose near vision is not quite what it used to be. I had eaten copious quantities - a plateful, certainly - of broccoli, all the while thinking superfood, how nutritious, etc, before the younger members of the family, food inspectors all (in case someone has sneaked some chickpeas or lentils or other foreign or proscribed items into their supper) burst out in hysterical unison that the said superfood so eagerly consumed by their dear mother was teeming with small green caterpillars. So really, if you want to get rid of small green caterpillars, just feed them to a sensitive, long-sighted vegetarian.

Mrs Speckledy and Mrs Blackrock are, however, very partial to ants and the teeny tiny slugs to be found in the soil, so do make sure to get some of their ilk to rake over your earth come the winter - but remember to shut them out again in the spring because they do like scuffling up seeds and plants as well.

Soup in a basket

But all is not green and crawling in our little plot: we have delights both seasonal and unseasonal. On the latter front the Head Chef is still harvesting tomatoes to go with the salad leaves from the polytunnel. And we still have a few marigold flowers left to garnish a salad if the fancy takes you.

There are delicious juicy apples to be gathered - Gala, and Golden Delicious and Cox. Our B&B guests are still enjoying fresh apple juice for breakfast - one of the most popular things about the Head Chef's most excellent breakfasts.

There are quinces to be turned into paste and jelly, and generally admired for their beauty. Our trees tend to crop biennially which makes us appreciate them all the more in the copious years.

And walnuts cascading down from the enormous tree, which was pretty large when we arrived here, but certainly waxes fat on the, shall we say nitrogen-enriched, soil in the WET system.

We have been using the walnuts in a delicious recipe for stuffed peppers from Eat Well, Spend Less by Sarah Flower. (The Head Chef was quite sniffy about this book when I bought it on one of my late-night Amazon forays - you know, the 'we need to economize, let's buy things to help' idea; he prefers lots of big glossy pictures and let's not read a recipe, let's make it up as we go along.) And it's not often I say this about a cookery book, as they usually end up just sitting on the shelf, but it is definitely worth the grand sum of £6 or so which I spent on it. It is absolutely packed with really useful, everyday recipes and a complete antidote to the 'what on earth are we going to eat today' feeling, when your mind goes blank and inspiration seems a long way away. And unusually for this sort of thrifty cookbook, there are lots of interesting vegetarian recipes, rather than a token two or three old stalwarts that you have come across many a time before.

I actually prefer Sarah Flower's Eat Well, Spend Less to Gill Holcombe's How to feed your whole family a healthy balanced diet with very little money . . . I do have the latter, but I must admit that it only occasionally finds its way off the shelf as I find the recipes less inspiring, and there seem fewer of them, although plenty of people disagree with me on that one.

So plenty of handy hints there - how to feed extra protein to vegetarians and chickens, and how to feed a family on a budget, too. Thrift personified, that's me!


Nicky said...

Biennial bearing is often caused by too much fruit one year - can sometimes be corrected by thinning out the young fruits before they grow too big - gives you less but larger fruits and hopefully every year!

Or it may just be too much effort in the lazy days of summer - ahhh!

millefeuilles said...

Are there any caterpillars starring in those recipe books, I wonder? Or could this be the start of a new venture for you?

My cat is fighting an infection and we are all battling to stay positive. Wail of self-indulgence can be heard from across the Channel.

Thanks for making me chuckle though!

**Anne** said...

Those creepy crawlies look very colourful, such a lovely addition to steamed broccoli. :)
Beautiful produce from your garden, I'm most envious.
Anne xx

Mrs. Micawber said...

Our marigolds are exploding with blossom right now - I think they liked last week's brush with frost. I'll have to put some in a salad (thanks for the reminder).

Gala apples! My favourite. (Covet, covet covet.)

Over here the broccoli caterpillars exactly match the colour of the broccoli and you can't see them until after cooking, when they fall to the bottom of the pan. I TRY to think of them as extra protein, but...there are limits.

Angela said...

Thanks for the book review- I had the Holcombe book from the library - and wasn't sure I'd want to 'own' it- but v interested in your comments on thew Flowers one.
Just been writing a review of a super book which YOU recommended to me inJune at the V&A, will post it tomorrow!


Katy Cameron said...

Sorry, I had a whole cottage giggling at the caterpillers in the broccoli (and 2 of them taking a rather closer look at their own veggies, in a certain nearing middle-aged myopia ;o) )

andamento said...

Loved the caterpillar munching story, just glad it wasn't me eating them!

Secret Sheep said...

I shall take heed of your advice on chicken placement, thankyou. A walnut tree? How lovely.

Shocking Hocking said...

lol - i stopped growing broccoli for that very reason - simply couldn't stomach the thought

GardenofDaisies said...

LOL! I'm so glad I'm near-sighted!

Poshyarns said...

I have to say that the title "Eat Well, Spend Less" is a great deal snappier and more inspiring than the title of the other book.

What a fabulous feast of Autumn produce you have, caterpillars and all.

elflyn said...

I can't wait to get some 'girls' of my own.... they are useful in so many ways!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Looks a wonderfully prolific garden Pomona - super produce. I am afraid we have stopped growing brassicas as I just cannot cope with the cabbage white influx.

Our garden centre manager once told me that the very best slug control for hostas was to let your hens into the garden. He said, 'They are wonderful for keeping the hostas clear of slugs - mind you there is nothing else in the garden - they have pecked it all away

Cottage Garden said...

Ooh fresh apple juice straight from the orchard. Wonderful!

I won't be growing brassicas again next next for the very same reason - way too many flying and crawly critters.


Frances said...

Well Pomona, while I was reading about those munching caterpillars, I was doing my own munching of a perfectly ripe and sweet Gala apple bought at the farmers market last week.


I think that any of us can find lots of imaginative ways to economize, though it might just require us to take an informed step or two away from current trends.

I am already doing that back pedal and loving it. xo

Crafty Green Poet said...

Wonderful harvest you have there! It's funny that the hens don't like the caterpillars...

Tabiboo said...

I love this post Pomona - creepy crawlies in the variety of caterpillars and all.

Nina x

Ruth said...

What a bumper harvest - I really admire your sustainable living and grow your own approach - unfortunately lack of space prevents me from doing the same. I will just have to live the lifestyle vicariously through your blog! Following!

Cheryl said...

My chickens turn their beaks up at caterpillars as well. After I've spent time picking out the biggest fattest ones from the brassicas, I have to watch the wriggly lot wriggle out of the chicken run.

Last year we had a nest of European wasps by the brussel sprouts and they cleared the plants of caterpillars. Not something you read in pest control books though. Probably for a good reason!

Barbara said...

Glad to see you are still harvesting well but won't mention the caterpillar infestation.
Now we should have been with you for the Cox's.
Nothing better than Cox apple juice.


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