In town and country, the animals are on the wild side
We don’t know any ferret catchers here, but the new neighbours were very distressed yesterday when their little dog ate a hedgehog. I echoed their disapproval while the dog in question, Bella, sat on my lap and gently chewed my ear. I don’t think this was preparatory to eating me. Maybe my hair reminded her of the hedgehog. Anyway, I failed her taste test and we remain friends.
To make up for the feral behaviour of their dog, the new neighbours took me to the back of their cottage to show me a huge stick insect on the weatherboards. They call it Bill and regard it as another pet. They are training it to stay out of Bella’s reach. Neither they nor I have any traps at all.
In fact, yesterday I had to warn visitors not to kick the blackbirds because the overfed and very tame birds don’t get out of the way when you walk down the path.
Re the Indian Root Pills, I’d love to dig in the garden and find a “cure for biliousness, constipation, sallow complexion, boils, pimples, blotches”. But why would people have had such problems in an age of organic food and no takeaways? You are very fortunate to have found this elixir. Let me know if your biliousness has passed.
When I dug deep in my garden today I found a different sort of treasure – young carrots and beetroot, which I’m making into a salad. I’ll grate the beetroot and peel the carrots into ribbons, then coat the lot with a lemony dressing. And I’ll toast coriander and mustard seeds for some crunch. Coriander is going to seed everywhere in the garden.
Beetroot is reputed to be liver cleansing – very necessary after one too many summer barbecues. I’m sure this salad will be a more effective cure for the dreaded biliousness than anything from an ancient bottle. And trapping a beetroot is less damaging to mental health than ferret trapping too. I don’t think it makes me think like a beetroot. I’m sure my friends would tell me if it did. Wouldn’t they?
Did you know that a female ferret is sometimes called a slut? I didn’t – not until I read Fiona Farrell’s book Mr Allbones’ Ferrets. I should have known because for the last 10 years I have set traps for ferrets in February. I was taught the art of ferret trapping by George, a demon animal trapper. He taught me that to trap a ferret it is essential to think like a ferret. In the ferret trapping season I spend a lot of time thinking like a ferret. This is a dangerous thing to do because I’ve heard it said that those who think like small furry animals are in danger of becoming like them. In the ferret season I make regular visits to the city for a bit of culture, just to ensure I don’t start twitching my nose in a ferrety sort of way.
Another thing I didn’t know anything about was Morse’s Indian Root Pills. Do you? Last week when I was weeding onions that I’m growing in a new garden behind the woodshed, I dug up a bottle. “Behind the woodshed” must once have been a rubbish dump because I have discovered lots of old bottles. Last week’s was a small, square brown glass bottle with the words “Morse’s Indian Root Pills” embossed on the front, “WH Comstock” on one side and “Dose ˝ to 4” on the other. What were Indian Root Pills, I wondered. And what do you do when you wonder about something?
You Google it.
What did we do before Google? I suppose we remained ignorant of many useless facts, such as the complete history of Mr Morse’s famous pills. Most of my other bottle finds haven’t needed a Google search. They’ve been Baxter’s Lung Preserver and Teacher’s whisky bottles. When I first began taming the garden I found several full bottles of whisky buried in the shrubbery. During his tenure here, my father-in-law had a habit of hiding the odd bottle in the garden for emergencies. I’ve often wondered whether I should bury a few bottles of good red wine before I leave – treasure for the next gardener to find.
|Story: Janice Marriott; Virginia Pawsey|