Gardening inevitably means displacing. The order which we are little by little, two-forward-one back, achieving, the battle against weeds and pests in which we seem of late to be making some gains, will always push something out, though one hope it also creates space and opportunity for something else.
The black polythene which we use fairly freely to tame unruly bits of ground we can't cope with at a given time, never seems to me to be very friendly towards wildlife, yet when I cleared one length of it away in order to green the soil it had covered, along with the stone holding it down which had evidently served as a thrush's anvil, bejewelled with fragments of russet and yellow stones, the enormous fat shiny millipede that wriggled off, and the large greenish black toad which glared at me with its coppery eyes before shuffling backwards into a hole in the ground, there were these remains of someone's larder, a vole or field mouse. The shells all seemed to be holed and empty.
I'm afraid they rather put me in mind of ossuaries!
Stinging nettles are good for butterflies, of course, and I too, find it hard to see a patch of their tender, juicy, formic acid bearing spring tops without fancying a bowlful of nettle soup. Fortunately, though it is much reduced, there is still a healthy little stand of them in one corner.
I love nettle soup, collecting the nettles, making it, eating it, the whole matter of getting one over on something that wants to get one over on me, dodging the stings, wearing rubber gloves to pick them, washing them at arm's length, then plunging them into boiling water and neutralising their mischief.
I used also to enjoy the shock factor of telling people I ate stinging nettles, but I gather nettle soup, (and foraged wild food in general, which used to confer a pleasing impression of eccentricity and boldness upon those of us who enjoyed it) has now become quite trendy. My youngest brother, who betimes indulges in a bit of fashionable restaurant eating in the UK, went last year to a much vaunted eatery somewhere in the West Country, where he was served (along with deep fried sand eels, which it seems to me would be robbing the puffins...) nettle soup with snails in. Whether this was intentional or simply because they omitted to wash the snails off before preparing it I don't know.
David Wall 1946 – 2013
49 minutes ago