mumsnetBack along, my family and I swapped a house for a three-acre field in Devon and a leaky caravan where we lived off-grid for two years. Sadly, we failed to get the planning permission we needed to stay. We are now back within four walls, with a proper loo and everything in a cottage in Dartmoor. So this is now a blog about living ethically amid a fabulous landscape with our home educated kids while we adjust to being 'normal' - for a while... and what we plan to do with our land next

Sunday, 10 June 2012

If looks could kill

Our sleeping quarters were once again overtaken by the Stench of Death last week.

We have become inured to finding carcasses in various stages of consumption. My morning routine is usually punctuated by me stepping on a large colon: the late owner of which had been digested at some point during the night while we slept oblivious to the carnage being wrought around us.

But there are some rodents the cats won't eat. Shrews, for instance. Shrews secrete a substance that makes them smell unpleasant and taste nasty. This is clearly no defence, since the poor tiny wee things get slaughtered anyway. Owls don't seem to mind the olfactory issue – and cats just like killing to alleviate the tedium of days spent languishing around on top of warm duvets.

We live in a field teeming with small rodent life and the cats pack a lot of killing into the few hours they manage to stay awake each day. Thus it follows that a fair percentage of their cull is unpalatable, and therefore tossed dead into an inaccessible corner of the trailer, or chased there to die at its leisure.

So it is that on occasion I am only alerted to the fact that something has died by my nostrils. In this case, the level of alert was high in every sense. I systematically stripped the trailer starting from the top left corner and working my way to the door. The last corner I tackled revealed the source of the stench – there he was, hidden by a flip-flop, a poor dead little mole.

Moles are implicated in a range of agricultural misdemeanours – including crop damage and the contamination of silage with Clostridium or Listeria, which occurs when bacteria from molehill soil are gathered up with grass. They are loathed by gardeners, farmers, golf-course owners and caretakers of sports fields. A mole was even rumoured to have brought about the death of William III in 1702, who is alleged to have died of complications arising from a broken collarbone after his horse stumbled on a molehill and threw him off.

So moles are basically a pest and certainly not something we want on our land. This year we will be planting young trees, for instance, which we do not want damaged by mole activity.

But for all that, I took no comfort in finding one dead. Few people have seen a mole in real life, but I can testify that they are astoundingly cute. They have the most beautiful dark brown velvet coats and hugely disproportionate chimpanzee hands and absurd little snouts. In fact, they look like a creature fashioned by a committee. And they are blind and can't run properly on a smooth surface because of their silly big hands.

I felt very sad at how helpless he had been and gave the cat a very nasty look indeed, which he, of course, returned with knobs on from the comfort of my pillow.

It's very hard to intimidate a cat.

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