Humility and patience are painful lessons

Campanula UK Z8March 28, 2014

After a few days in the woods (where it actually snowed!), I am having one of my frequent crisis of confidence events. This is not just a steep learning curve - it is practically a vertical cliff-face of deadlines, anxieties and incipient fails. True, the narcissi clumps are looking lovely.......but the vast nettle and bramble infestations are now joined by dock, hogweed, chickweed, cleavers......amazingly, no bindweed or couch grass- the bane of my allotment life. And so, with a heavy heart, I donned my new turquoise knapsack sprayer, filled with lethal broadleaf weedkiller, in an attempt at clearance so we can do a quick grass-seeding before the summer drought (poplars are thirsty trees). A job made much, much harder because I am trying to avoid the foxgloves, campions, bluebells, anemones and so on, I have been planting since autumn. It pains me to admit, yet again, that I am wrong and everyone else (in my family) is right.......we need to be doing prep, prep and more prep before faffing about seed sowing and planting.
After a melodramatic sulk (the death of a dream blah blah)....which was, fortunately, cut short by the the urgent need to deal with a rat disaster(invasion!).......hope once again resurfaced with a new wheeze (I WILL grow plants). Calling a halt to any more bramble removal (nesting birds), it struck me that we really need more understorey (such as wild roses!)....and so, I will slack off some of the maniacal seed sowing....and embark on a cutting frenzy - buggered if I am spending money when new plants, literally grow on trees and can be had entirely for free. Dogwoods, viburnums, euonymous, cotoneasters, quickthorns, medlars, quince, prunus varieties......what am I waiting for? All that's required is a spade to make slit trenches in September and October.....and hey, a heap of berrying, blossoming, cover-producing plants. Am heading over to the shrub forum asap.

Ratty - nope, these are not some hideous sewer dwelling urban rats.....but are pretty fearsome, huge shaggy things, the size of cats (slight exagerration, obvs). Sitting in the horsebox, beer in hand, woodburner roaring....we were startled by a furious gnawing sound under one of the cupboards, Torch investigations showed a terrified crouching beastie trying to eat its way out. Further investigation, in daylight, revealed a chewed gearstick case and several inviting entrances to the land of Nutella and biscuits. A visit to the hardware store in town just confused us even more - feeling ambivalent about the ethics of trapping and hateful about the idea of poisons, we decided to borrow my daughters fierce cat, remove any food from the horsebox, block up all holes (with metal) and try to live in some sort of harmony. Keeping a woodpile outside the door was probably not one of our smarter ideas ( we actually sat and watched ninja rodents grooming their whiskers) and we are having a furious debate about youngest sons many bird feeders.
So yep, all-in-all, lots of lessons to be learned, problems to overcome and a careful path to weave between townie romanticism and rural pragmatism, environmental holistics, energy priorities, chemical use, soil restoration, land use and reclamation while treading lightly on our small patch of earth.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Camp, I only use weed killer as a last resort also, but when you're spraying up among things you don't want sprayed get a cardboard box, cut the bottom out, and spray inside it. It keeps the spray bounce from getting nearby desirables. I once used an old lampshade the same way.

We have issues with rats in our barn also, but surprisingly the squirrels are even bigger pests. We have to keep all our feed in metal garbage cans. They ate the plastic ones. They also learned how to get the lids off the metal ones, so we either bungee cord them or put something really heavy on them.

Mother Nature quickly takes over any man-made improvements if they're not regularly maintained. I fight a constant battle here on our acreage with cabbage palms and oaks, not to mention the weeds. I've been doing it for over 30 years, so I'm sure you can hang in there. I'm rooting for you.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seil zone 6b MI

Keep your chin up, Camp! You're doing a wonderful job in trying to make the place a home and still keep it as natural as possible. That's always a good thing!

Don't feel sorry for the rats. There are far too many of them and your taking out a few to protect your own isn't going to make a dent. Do what ever it takes to be rid of them! They're a disease riddled pest and should be treated as such.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 1:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)


I could probably write a short book on my life with rats. I know I evicted 100's from my parents place in the big multi year clean up, but the neighborhood still has a variety of people offering them food and shelter so I continue to deal with them.

Hundreds of dollars spent on the chicken coop rat proofing and I still have a pesky one....(at least I am telling myself it is only one)

Move that wood pile to a place you can bring in just the wood you need and the rest of the predators will catch the varmints as they run for your door.

Bird feeders should be named rat feeders, rethink how close you need to feed the rats to your home.

Beef sticks work well to catch them in traps.

Anything left on the ground can become a new home for them, like a board or a large pot.

And if the rats are big enough, you are going to need a bigger cat.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 1:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
nikthegreek(9b/10a E of Athens, Greece)

Welcome to the real world Camps!

Lots of elbow grease is what you need but diesel powered help can do wonders..

There exist sprayers with a 'lamp shade' sort of cone over the tip to control spraying spread. Also you will need a herbicide injector tip not a pesticide one.

You can never eliminate field rats, you can just control their population and have them live a bit farther than you do. Spring is the best time to do a major control operation if you wish, using traps and poison. Rats are a part of life in the country. Gets LOTS of cats. Also, a terrier or three can do wonders. I have a particular affinity to Jack Russels but any will do. Make sure they're not of so called show lines.

This post was edited by nikthegreek on Fri, Mar 28, 14 at 15:45

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 3:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

Oh yes, rats. We have roof rats, really cute ones (like Ratty, who came up to me begging for food) who nevertheless can do a lot of damage. We park our cars by the studio, not near the main house because that ruins the look of the garden (always my first priority, of course). The rats think the engines are nifty, protected hiding places to live and raise their young. One day one of them went to work with me, stopped at the grocery store, and was still there under the hood when I came home. What we do now is leave the hood open (only to be recommended in our almost rainless climate) and plug in a device that gives off a constant buzzing noise and place it somewhere on the engine. They don't like the open hood or the buzzing and stay away. Near the house we use live traps (after not being able to stomach the other kind) and drive the little darlings into the wilderness about a mile away. You can never get rid of all of them, but at least we're not overrun. We have ground squirrels only, not the tree kind, and since we feed them they stay out of the garden, as do the bunnies for the same reason.

I suspect drought has been our friend since we've had no mice in the house for some time, whereas before we were live-trapping them on an almost daily basis. Now that we have a cat again that might help in case of future invasions. Call us crazy but one baby mouse that almost died in the trap overnight from lack of food and water was carefully nurtured back to health by my husband before being released. (Feel free to roll your eyes here). Having a rat terrier in the house hasn't helped one bit. He ignores them.

Camp, I truly feel for you since you seem beset with problems and frustrations at the moment, but I must say those are the times when your writing is at its most superb. Your eloquent powers of description are beyond compare. I feel myself suffering right along with you, which is not the best thing for my easily demoralized psyche, but you make it all seem so real that I feel as though you live next door (although magically with a vastly different climate and situation). If I were you I would have had a heart attack or ruptured aneurysm by now (I'm still stewing about the lady with the dog at the allotment), but you just keep soldiering on. True grit.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 3:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


When I first started to whack our tiny "woods" into shape and there were vastly more weeds than good plants, I covered the good plants with buckets (and old plastic bed pans...don't go there) and sprayed everything. This was easier than spot spraying. Having a limited number of the aforementioned protective devices, I would put all the protections in place, spray, reposition the devices and repeat until done.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This sounds familiar. I remember that feeling of being overwhelmed and wondering how on earth we were ever going to make a dent in the scrubby, brushy acres we had just purchased. Somehow, though, we made headway, and have some areas now that are worthy of the name of garden, and of woods.
You know a lot more than I did when DH and I got started, though on the other hand we haven't had to spend time earning a living, a good thing as maintenance and gardening seem to keep us busy full time. Anyway, and the point is, you'll figure it out and sooner or later are going to have a beautiful piece of land, healthy and full of wonderful plants.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 9:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Mendocino_Rose(z8 N CA.)

I know how hard it can be and I have often had crisis of confidence, like maybe all winter every winter. What I heard though was your bravery. Here you are trying to make this horse box project work, slogging through the woods making a garden. Nothing is ever accomplished without trying. There are bound to be failures, but there are also bound to be successes. I think this is the essence of being a gardener.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 9:59AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Glad you have an idea to work on. Problems give despair and then solutions come. As soon as you have an idea for a solution, hope will give you energy to go forward. Don't regret the seeds, they will grow fine and be making more seeds and plants soon enough. They can get going while you work at the weeds. It's always hard when you have weeding to do around little plants but if you wait and wait until the weeds are gone, you still have weeds and no little plants so I think you did it right.

What about glass jars for your food? Those critters can smell anything! It's like having bear boxes in Yosemite Park to store the food in. Over in Housekeeping camp, the bears wait until your back is turned and help themselves off the table while you are getting your bear box locked up. Mice hate mint so you can use mint leaf sachets to keep them away but I don't know if it would help with rats. We had a rat hanging around and I put used kitty litter in a paper bag where he used to travel and he left right away. Also you can use hot chili pepper powder. They have very sensitive noses.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 1:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Right now, it's just that your love of beauty is having to take a short back seat ride to the practicalities of rats and weeds and learning to live in the wilds of your forest. Soon, your very capable family will have figured out where to hang the feeders, how to discourage or decapitate the rats (was that too graphic?) and how to clear the the ground to make it yours. It's not so much humility you're having to learn (my small opinion, you know) as it is just learning temporary priorities. Grit your teeth in or out of the glass, and do what you have to do. Your time is coming. I know it will be glorious, a little more every year, as the work of your hands become more and more obvious in your patch of forest. I'm rooting for you and yours too. Gean

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 2:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

By the way, as I've mentioned before I've found that trees have a great repressive power with weeds and brush. Once you cut the brush, the shade and root competition from the trees make it harder for the brush to return. It will grow back if you don't uproot or poison, but the second time you clear the work will be about a tenth of what it was the first round. The last two years we've been clearing the extremely brushy woods below the shade garden, and this has been my experience.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 2:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bart_2010(8/9 Italy)

As you all know, I 'm not an assiduous forum follower,but seeing as Campanula, like me, seems to be trying to do a very big project on a very small budget, I though I'll throw in my 2 cents.
I think the sooner you manage to swallow the Reality Pill, the better it'll be for your wallet. I've wasted an awful lot of money (and worse yet, time and energy) in the 16 or so years that I've been working on transforming a part of my land into a garden. First, it took a while to realize that gardening in the wilds just is too different from gardening in "garden soil"! I'm beginning to think that , for example, direct sowing of seeds may well be impossible for me, at least for several more years,just because there's too much competition from weeds (not to mention brambles and broom and vitalba...)One of the reasons I got so into roses in the first place was that they can hold thier own in some pretty rough terrain. In fact, I'm still at the stage where my focus will remain on woody plants,shrubs and trees.
I myself never used herbicide; I always figured that that it was as bad as it's brother "cides",insecti and fungi. I tamed areas of deep bramble jungle by chopping the plants down, and covering them with thick black plastic sheet for a year or so. This year, I'm FINALLY focusing on doing a real mulch job on as much of the cultivated area as I can,using cardboard covered with organic stuff. I'm hoping that over the summer this will tame the weeds enough so that next fall, I'll be able to plant out some perennials among the roses. Eventually I'd love to underplant with perennials as a living mulch...
I hope this doesn't sound discouraging; I don't mean it to be so. I think you'll definitely be able to do this, Campanula. I don't follow your threads that much (so please forgive any impertinence), but I gather that your DH and son do help you,and probably in England I imagine that you don't have to worry as much about drought and watering young plants as I do here in Tuscany,so you have several advantages going for you! I guess if I were you, I'd just focus on one small area for my first years' garden,cultivating that, whilst surrounding areas that I was plannig to incorporate into the garden in future I'd begin taming with the chopping/black plastic technique (or whatever other thick screening material you canfind or buy cheaply). Tru, it's not pretty to look at,but you can avoid poisons that way. For the first year or so, you get your Gardening Jollies working on the small cultivated plot, and planning what you'll do with the part that's "cooking" under the plastic. Then, next year or the following, you pull up the covering and can go to it on a larger scale, recycling the covering to do a subsequent area, etc. Good luck,and try not to get too discouraged. "Rome wasn't built in a day" to coin a phrase, lol...bart

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 6:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Mendocino_Rose(z8 N CA.)

Well said Bart. I'm in a similar situation a large garden in a wild place. It's been bed by bed for 19 years.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 9:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Campanula UK Z8

ah yes, the 'reality checkpoint' - sorely absent in my initial enthusiasm. Still, whatever other failings I have, pessimism isn't amongst them. Even a day of moping is too much and as is clear, there is always another wheeze, plan or madcap thought along in a second or two.

One of the intense difficulties is working in a new garden when the old garden, in its mature loveliness, is there to mock and lend itself to vicious comparisons. Obsessively working a quarter acre for a decade is going to mean a rich, deep friable soil filled with bountiful perennials and, so unlike the scrappy, weedy and vast woodland. I am making almost daily adjustments while attempting to maintain a degree of perspective (I could have bears to worry about!). Little triumphs, tiny steps, new seedlings (all it takes to send me into feverish delight again).

Hoe in hand, off we go.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 10:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

High hoe, high hoe, it's off to work we go....

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 1:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This is my garden every year! LOL Learn to embrace it and if possible, mow paths. It does wonders and gives you a break (and some control) over the weeds.

Where we live, if you mow it, it will look like lawn...maybe not up close, but it will keep things under control. As for the beds...weed, weed, weed. I can't do it all by myself, so I'm becoming very good at finding ways to get help. My mom is amazing and we're thinking about forming 'weeding parties' with pizza, etc.

I don't spray the gardens and I'll let it go back to weeds, before I do. That being said, everyone has different approaches. One thing I have found...beneficial bugs love native plants (weeds) and they are wonderful! No aphids on my roses, with a few weeds in the back of the border. The trick is to keep up on it's just a few :)

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 1:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Campanula UK Z8

When I first took on an allotment, I never sprayed it, just hand-weeded (continually). When I graduated to the second one, I did a spring spray of glyphosate to get on top of the stoloniferous weeds which had penetrated every inch of soil.
10 years down the line, the second allotment has always been easier to maintain, pulling weeds while small and weak...... while every year, I fight the same battle against couch grass and bindweed which has never been defeated in our first plot. I have never had need to spray the second plot, nor could I do so now that both plots are filled with perennials and shrubs. I figure that 1 spray, at the right time of year, gives a massive headstart enabling future years to be spray-free. So yep, am biting the bullet here, to at least give myself some weedfree area as 60 years of utter neglect has left a nightmare of massively intertwined weeds and roots which are not going to be tamed by plastic or mulches (this I know, having marvelled at the triumph of bindweed after many years under metal and concrete.....and, moreoever, the dominant weed is nettle - not pleasant for grandchildren (or anyone else) to play amongst.

I will agree, Bart - this is nothing like gardening at home. All of my previous ideas and plans have been ripped up to start again, as a rank amateur and know-nothing. Fond ideas are unworkable and I can sniff failure on the wind.....but who cares - we intend to have some fun finding out while having one last adventure now the children are grown and all our duties have been discharged.
Whaddya mean, 'not a forum follower' - do you mean to say you are not hanging eagerly on my every word, awaiting enlightenment? Pffftt!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 3:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

I thought about you today Camp.

Mom called last night, there was a rat in the chicken run.

She forgot she had called me, thought it was a dream, but called me again this morning there is a rat in the chicken run.

I donned by rat eviction outfit, cropped pants and rubber boots so they don't run up my pant leg and a few garden tools.

I ended up tearing up the back side of the chicken run because it looked like here was a nest under the block and hardware cloth (located conveniently 24" and less under the raised chicken house.)

I now have more block, more hardware cloth in a fan shape at 90-180-270 degrees in the dirt below the run and more of my beer cap washers holding the whole mess together.

The rat, I think he was probably sitting under a bush having a beer and wondering what I was up too.

Not sure there is an inch of me that does not hurt or have a scratch from crawling around under there all day. Other than one small hole not connected to the nest or in the run. I have determined.....

The rats came in the open chicken door. Like all of the rest of the neighborhood birds, they probably know when mom is putting out the fresh grain and about to close/open that front door.

I did find amusing all the wild birds confusion at me being in the run and not them. Towhees, sparrows, finches, blue jays etc all came to take a look at me on my elbows under there.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 9:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)


This post was edited by Kippy-the-Hippy on Sat, Apr 5, 14 at 11:59

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 9:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jerijen(Zone 10)

Camp -- I feel for you with rats. We never had them, until the disappearance of old surrounding avocado orchards robbed them of their old homes. Now, we fight a continuous battle.

We won't use poison, because of danger to predators. So traps it is. We have had the best luck with battery-powered "Rat-Zappers."

We know we'll never get rid of all of them. We just fight to keep the population down, and keep them out of the house. (We have had them in the walls of the house!) And yes, the woodpile is aparently a ratty maternity ward. Yet, we can't do without a woodpile -- so we keep it at a distance.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 11:00PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Pink multiflora ?
A local rose member (9b Vegas) gave me a “PINK MULTIFLORA...
Missing friends
I notice that Father Jerome doesn't post here anymore,...
Where are they now? (Francis Dubreuil & other MIA roses)
The previous threads on this topic (and a few others)...
looking for McGredy's Yellow
Any one out there know of a source for McGredy's yellow,...
Id this rose please
Hi guys, is there anyone here that can identify this...
Ethan Bradley
Sponsored Products
Felco 30 in. Bypass Lopper - P95G F22
$199.99 | Hayneedle
Alfresco Home Standing Angel Garden Statue - 61-7216
$198.00 | Hayneedle
Padre Pio Garden Statue - R-047-GS
$194.99 | Hayneedle
Felco 8 in. Leather Pruner Belt Holster - P95G 910
$24.99 | Hayneedle
Felco 5 in. Bypass Pruner - P95G F11
$69.99 | Hayneedle
Madonna Garden Statue - R-042-GS
$159.99 | Hayneedle
Felco 7 in. Bypass Pruner - P95G F13
$75.99 | Hayneedle
Mary Magdalene Garden Statue - F9053MARYMAGDALE
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™