Naughty as it is to dig – vandalising the earthworms’ underground cities and all that – I decided to take to the spade today.  The youngsters did a pretty good job in their weeks under the chook dome of clearing that patch of its weeds but excavating the couch grass was beyond them.  And I wanted to work in the chicken manure they left behind: black-and-white gold it might hypothetically be called by some chicken-obsessive. And, let’s face it, I just felt like digging.

And now I have more garden buddies to help out.  The young chickens returned with some enthusiasm to their old stomping ground.  Tragically perhaps, there are few moments when I’m more content than gardening with an inquisitive chook scratching away beside me, perilously close to being whacked by a spade in its eagerness to dart in for grubs.  Today I almost decided that the psychodrama of raising day-old chicks was worth it.  Shyla, raised in the brooder, hung out with me, approaching periodically to inquire, with a dinkum Aussie rising inflection, when I was going to find her something delicious to eat.  Absolutely charming.

Allegedly Einstein said “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  This aphorism seems appropriate to ANZAC Day somehow.  It also quite accurately describes my approach to planting broad beans.  I’ve had two goes at getting my broadies going with minimal success, but now the human and chicken digging is done, I’m trying again.  The humane traps are in the post, and in the mean time I’m hoping a well secured vege net will keep critters at bay.  With luck aromatherapy will be my ace in the hole.  The beans planted right by the lavender hedge seemed to germinate unmolested – benefiting, I suspect, from distracting smell of the companion plants.  This particular net was draped right over my “Frenchette” lavandula dentata for the last three months.  It’s as delightfully scented as your granny’s hankie: hopefully rats don’t favour potpourri.

If that doesn’t work, perhaps I should leave out some of the unexpected harvest that appeared underfoot today. One scraggy looking stem of jerusalem artichoke, sprouted from peelings I chucked to the chooks, produced two double handfuls of dangerously more-ish tubers.  Blow on winds of winter, the artichokes have arrived!  This bounty was greeted with groans in the kitchen.  I love the taste and try to sneak them into to soups and bakes and stirfries, just one or two, cut up small so no-one will notice.  But the post-prandial flatulence that inevitably ensues is a dead give-away.  If they have a similar effect on rats, this could be our secret weapon in organic pest control.  Maybe if we leave them scattered around the garden-robbers will gorge themselves on that toothsome but indigestible inulin and simply explode.  If the decorous aroma of lavender  doesn’t work, perhaps the more prosaic accumulation of gas in the alimentary canal is the way to go.

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