GARDEN PHILOSOPHY: The Garden versus Nature (and phoney nature-lovers)

For those who might have been worrying about the mouse in the garden shed and my attempts to catch it, you can rest easy for now. So far, if anything, that mouse has been making a fool out of me. While there likely may be more than one mouse, I shall think of them as just the one, and call it Jerry, in honour of the fact it is making me look like a right Tom.

To catch Jerry I bought some mouse traps of the killing kind, from a reputable company who shall remain nameless as their product, it turns out, is rather mediocre. These mouse traps are supposedly ready-baited with pieces of yellow plastic that apparently look like cheese to the mice. I was suspicious of this wonder gimmick, as setting a piece of bread on a mouse trap is not exactly rocket science, but I couldn’t find more basic traps anywhere. If anything, I figured the pathetic cartoon-looking piece of cheese on the traps might make Jerry die of laughter.

Unsurprisingly, the plastic cheese attracted nothing. I then began setting food on top of the plastic cheese, such as pieces of flapjack or pork pie. I would return the following day to find the food gone, but the traps otherwise undisturbed. Clearly Jerry is one agile little mouse! This has failed several times, even after securing the food tightly on the trap. Hence so far, all I have succeeded in doing is to feed Jerry.

Some may wonder, why be so cruel? Why not use humane mouse traps and release it someplace else? At the risk of offending some readers, humane mouse traps only suit people who are either in denial, own a pet snake, or are willing to make the mouse someone else’s problem.

Leaving aside the snake owners, some seem to think that upon being released in a forest or park, a mouse will rejoice at being given the opportunity to live a long and contended life in the heart of nature with its animal friends, when in fact the mouse will probably get devoured by one of its bigger ‘friends’, unless it rapidly manages to find another house to move into, at which point it becomes someone else’s problem. Mice live in human habitats for the same reasons humans do, namely shelter, safety, warmth and relative comfort. Just like you won’t find many humans willing to move out of their house to go live in the forest, most mice would also be a little pissed off at having it forced upon them.

Many urban-based nature-lovers have a somewhat Disney-fied idea of what nature is. They imagine an enchanted forest with golden rays of sunlight shinning through the branches, birds singing in tune as they whirl in the air, squirrels play acting like happy children, funny little ants busily working away in rhythm, while the trees all sway in unison as they join in the magical dance of nature. This misconception can easily be remedied by spending two or three days camping out in a forest in the rainy season, but the above mentioned nature-lovers would probably never do such a thing, as forests lack certain basic essentials, such as a roof, four walls, fitted kitchen, power sockets, central heating, wifi…

Don’t get me wrong, I do love nature, and I have spent quite a few rainy nights sleeping out in a forest with nothing but a tarp for shelter (cold and miserable yet strangely contented), but I have to somewhat leave those thoughts aside when I’m in the garden. Organic gardening still requires turning over soil, ripping up weeds, chasing off pigeons and squirrels, disposing of slugs and greenflies and other pests. Those who disagree with me are usually the same who don’t do any gardening but are still willing to eat what gardeners produce. This year I have easily killed thousands of greenflies, squashing them with my thumb, and I won’t lose sleep over them. I kill slugs by stepping on them or feeding them to the birds; some people may find this cruel, but I find it preferable to blanket spraying the garden with pesticides to kill everything, pest or not. Gardening, even organic, is not an exercise in nature loving; it requires some degree of ruthlessness as the gardener firmly dictates what can and cannot grow in a particular patch, and punishes little trespassers of the rodent or bug kind. I’m trying to discuss this idea without going down the path of mentioning extreme (and anthropomorphistic) animal rights, but the ideas are relatively similar. I certainly won’t torture the slug to get information from it (“Who sent you? Who do you work for?! We have ways of making you talk!”), but neither will I ponder over its rights to live, start a family, have access to free education and a pension for when it retires. It’s a slug.

Similarly, while I have been growing fond of Jerry’s antics, I’m not going to let him poo in the shed, or dig holes into our pumpkins, and neither am I willing to do the cowardly thing by moving him to become someone else’s problem. I’ll be a big boy about it, get my hands dirty and deal with him myself. That’s the real way of nature, it’s not an overly-friendly place, feel free to disagree.

Then again, for the time being, Jerry is winning this particular battle. I expect him anytime soon to drop an anvil on my head and set my foot on fire, before setting Spike the bulldog after me to run me out of the garden.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sally-ann Rhodes
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 10:26:47

    This made me chuckle!

    have a wonderful Christmas!

    Sal x


  2. CG Gardener
    Dec 24, 2011 @ 16:58:27

    Glad you like it. I’ll pass the word to Jerry. Merry Christmas to you too, and have a great New Year!


  3. Josephine
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 22:17:41

    I’ve used those silly traps from time to time. Peanut butter – just a little – on the yellow thingy worked at our house. Good hunting. 😉


  4. CG Gardener
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 03:00:27

    Good point, I keep meaning to put something sticky on the traps. Peanut butter sounds like just the ticket! I’m also glad you agree about the silliness of those traps (yes, with the yellow thingy that is supposed to look like cheese). Thanks for your advice. 🙂


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