An infestation of unwanted visitors: 25th-31st August

posted Sep 3, 2012, 11:56 AM by Dinner Lady   [ updated Sep 3, 2012, 11:56 AM ]
Regular readers amongst you will recall reading in June about our attempts at creating our own urban kitchen garden (Our English country garden). Despite the mysterious overnight disappearance of two courgette plants I talked about the promising looking runner beans, potatoes, spinach and strawberries and thanked ethereal beings for the rain that was keeping the soil so moist.  All the while dreaming about an endless stream of freshly grown produce to keep us well fed and satisfied, just like last summer.  We were particularly excited by the number of strawberry flowers - many many more than last year - each one a prelude to a round, ripe, red ball of summer sweetness.  

And sure enough by mid July those round, ripe, red balls arrived, sometimes seemingly turning from an unappetising green to a ready-to-eat red overnight. But however early we woke up, however quickly we got the strawberry once it had ripened, we were always pipped to the post by a plague of woodlice and numerous fat slugs and snails.  All we could do was watch on mournfully as the woodlice squirmed their hungry way through - from afar it looked as if the strawberries themselves were wriggling and alive.  The boys concocted several plans, such as leaving a "No woodlice allowed" sign for our uninvited visitors.  Or creating a woodlice trap using a large fake strawberry, reminiscent of 'The Giant Jam Sandwich'.  Despite our plotting and planning the woodlice took no notice and we gave up, heading out to a local farm to pick our own instead.   Once the strawberries were done in, the pests turned their attention to the potato leaves. And then the runner beans. And finally the spinach.  Our potato crop was delicious, but meagre; the spinach enough to pad out a few small meals; the beans a total stringy flop.  All down to the unsatiable appetites of these slimy pests.  
At about the same time, we received a letter from the farm that supplies our weekly vegetable box. Because of the very wet summer, an army of slugs, snails and other pests had wreaked havoc with their and other suppliers' crops meaning that seasonal produce was in short supply and therefore prices were having to rise slightly.  This letter and discussions with countless friends who have had similar flops made me feel like less of a gardening disaster, realising that our misfortune was being shared by many.  But my heart went out to the farm, knowing that this could have a severe impact on their livelihood.  

As the summer holidays draw to a close, I look out of my kitchen window and survey the damage. Our once so lush and beautiful patio garden resembles something from some apocalyptic Hollywood movie.   I count the losses - 8 lupins, 10 marigolds, countless spinach leaves, 2 courgette plants, numerous strawberries, and an untold number of potential runner beans.  Wasted money, time and precious seeds. And I mourn what could have been a summer of plenty.  I stand, raging and cursing these slithery pests, interrupted by Maths Geek who irritatingly reminds me that the slugs and snails "are God's creatures" and I shouldn't get cross with them. Quite where he has picked up this holier than thou religious approach to life, I am not sure.  

Waste not want not

Rotten or gone off - nearly one whole carton of double cream, left over from the frivolous summer period; a few ends of rhubarb that had gone slightly mushy having been left in a bag on the side of the kitchen; 1 slice of bread

left on our plates - far too much - a couple of spoonfuls from each child's plate most meals, as we have got into terrible habits while on holiday

left overs I have forgotten to use up - none 

Receipt

Local supermarkets         £ 2.36 on 2 pints milk
Supermarket                £ 100.76 
Vegetable box & 12 eggs    £ 22.50
Local corner shop          £ 1.89 for a small slab of butter! It does not pay to run out of staples - must be better planned.
Takeaway                    £16.50
Total week                £ 104.01

This is £34 over the weekly budget, but most of the vegetables and eggs will be eaten next week.  
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