Friday, February 20, 2015

Nothin mousey about him!!

Every spring I rustle around in my seed collection to plan the summer vegetable patch.  In the cupboard I came across an envelope that Lyn, an avid seed saver, had given me last autumn."Mouse Melon" said the label. Visions of a melon, just perfect for one or two serves, that didn't need a lot of space to grow, swam into my imagination.

The tiny little plants that came up looked very much like baby Black Eyed Susan and soon sent out tendrils to grasp the trellis. When it reached a metre high, no flowers in sight and began  rampaging through a neighbouring rosebush I thought it was time to find out more.

Dear little thing turned out to be a cucumber designed as a watermelon. Native to Mexico and Central America,its Latin name is Melothria scabra. Iwas reassured to find they were'slow to start'

then read on that they can 'often reach ten feet. In the UK they grow them indoors.
They are waterwise and drought tolerant. I can vouch for that as the old barrels are notorious for drying out. Now, at the end of summer, it is looking a bit raggedy but still producing and doing no harm to the Rose it is hanging over. It really is a darling little plant, its 'cucmelons' hang like lanterns and totally foil the parrots, who have never seen anything like it before.

The skin is slightly lemony and gets a bit tough if left unpicked for too long. They are wonderful in salads and as a garnish and apparently pickle as well as their larger cousins. I haven't managed to keep enough to pickle yet, too busy playing 'show and tell' everywhere I visit.

It really is a darling little plant. I will be saving seed if you folks in Western Australia would like some, send a stamped, self addressed envelope to me at PO Box 353, Margaret River and I will send you some.

Happy Gardening,


Wednesday, February 11, 2015


This summer every vegetable eating creature on gods' earth has descended upon my garden, with the rats taking the prize as biggest pest from the 28 parrots, whose little ringed necks I would happily strangle if I could catch them.
The rats have always been around, each year when the thumping and squeaking in the ceiling get too much, we trap and bait until life quietens down again.  Not this year.

The cost and the damage

Through the jarrah
In the last two months we have had to run new phone cables and rewired the whole meter box. two weeks ago a nest of baby rats died in the air conditioning ducts in my car during a heat wave, costing me many hundreds of dollars to remove them and the stench. Every day, another precious cucumber is chewed to nothing. I did have one win thanks to the cucumbers when I found one dragged up to the hot water system. When I removed the cover I found a lovely nest ready for babies. The cover remains off for now and the dog keeps a close nose on that spot.

I entertain dinner guests with the sight of rats chasing each other along the dining room window sill -it can be a bit off putting for our city friends! Never mind the crowds in the fig tree at sunset throwing figs and the race track around the verandah which operates day and night.

The strategy

Two sorts of traps and three different baits later and we have more rats than ever.
Making sure the chickens were fed only in the morning feeders were kept empty overnight.
Making sure the dog bowls were not left out.
Block all possible entry points with either scrunched up bird wire or timber.
Check wood and compost heaps and hay for nest sites.
Feed baby rats to your protein!
Throw things at them. (I use this with the parrots too, I am not allowed to shoot a gun in town, doesn't work for them either but I feel better)
I am strongly considering posting a  Jack Russell up into the ceiling for a nights hunting while I sleep elsewhere!

And the smell...

The past few nights have been quiet although the dead smells that ooze from the ceiling have chased me from room to room.
If you can get a volunteer to go into the roof and pick up bodies, this is the best remedy but they seem to die under the insulation or in hard to get areas so this is not always a solution.
A small ceramic or glass bowl with a square of folded kitchen paper topped up regularly with eucalyptus oil is cheap and effective. I am also burning incense while home.
Open all doors and windows and run all extractor fans as long as possible during the day.
The hotter the weather, the sooner the smell will fade, go to the beach is my best advice,

If you have any ideas to share, I would love to hear them but right now, I'm off to the beach.

Blocking the superhighway-they just ran in the gutters instead