Bank voles and parsnips

Snow on the path

Chipping Norton January 2010

I’m aware we’ve been very neglectful of both our allotment and our allotment blog for the past few months.  Both time and the weather have not been on our side.

November saw heavy rain every weekend, with more of the same in December.  Sub-zero temperatures and snow meant we had to do without our home-grown leeks on Christmas day.  Short of using a pickaxe, there was no way of prising them out of the frozen ground.

We did venture up to the plot during the January snows.  As our allotment is very exposed and Chipping Norton is renowned for snow, it was a difficult trek.  The lane serving the allotment was a sight to behold … with snowdrifts more than 4ft deep in places.  It was a fruitless journey on a bitterly cold day.  I’m pleased to say nothing green was showing, which meant even the pigeons were staying away.

Copywriters allotment in the snow

Not a green shoot to be seen

The snow and torrential rain has taken its toll this year.  Most of cauliflowers, which had looked so promising, were ruined and the purple sprouting hasn’t produced a single head to date.  Not being an expert, I don’t know if the broccoli will recover, or if we’ve missed the boat for this year.

Amongst our failures were once more, our Brussel Sprouts.  While everyone around us had a wonderful crop, our puny little plants have produced next to nothing.  On the plus side though, we have had another successful crop of parsnips.

Hollow parsnip on copywriter's allotment

Bank vole meal or motel?

This season’s parsnips and carrots were planted in the end beds, where the soil is very light.  Unfortunately, there is also a lot of stone which we hadn’t taken into account, so we had several ‘interesting’ specimens, looking more like squid than vegetables!

As well as stones in these beds, we also have what we think are bank voles in residence.  The ground is like Swiss cheese below the surface and tell-tale little burrow entrances are everywhere.  We did some research, having also seen a couple in the compost bin, and the verdict was certainly voles!   We also found out we humans seem to be fascinated with burrows, and will go to great lengths to find out who or what has created them!

That aside, I have no problem with voles.  They are quite endearing little critters, but I do wish they weren’t so partial to parsnips.  The effects of their burrowing became apparent when we started to dig up the parsnips.  From seeds which had been planted quite close to the surface, our parsnips were in some cases, up to 8 inches below the ground.  One can only assume  the subsidence caused the seedlings to fall through, although they didn’t seem to be any the worse for the experience.

Parsnips from the copywriter's allotment

Bumper crop of parsnips

But parsnips are clearly a tasty treat for our little furry friends.  Imagine our surprise when we dug up the most perfect parsnip, only to find it was completely hollow.  Nor was it alone … quite a few of our parsnips suffered the same fate.  If anyone is an authority on bank voles, we would like to know if they think these have been eaten or simply hollowed out to make little vole motels.

Despite the weather and the voles, we are taking comfort in our parsnip crop.  We might not have had any sprouts, precious little kale or any purple sprouting, but over 32 kg of parsnips wasn’t a bad haul for one season.

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One Response to “Bank voles and parsnips”

  1. Onions and spring fever on the allotment « The Oxfordshire Copywriters' Allotment Says:

    […] There is no sign yet of the first peas and I’m just hoping they haven’t provided dinner for our resident bank voles.  We have previously grown peas back at allotment central in half pop bottles, but the mission […]

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