There was a frost again this morning, not deep but enough for a treacherous layer of ice to have formed on the pond. I pressed experimentally against it, and after a moment's resistance a triangular section broke away under my fingers. Mr Fidget came bustling over to investigate, and we hurriedly smashed the ice before he could try walking on it, the Systems Administrator's preferred method being to hit it with a tree stake while I went for lifting the edge up with a garden fork until it snapped. I don't trust cats to understand ice. The grey tabby used to take great pleasure in walking out to the middle of the frozen pond where she would sit, looking superior and ferocious, and if there is an accident waiting to happen I don't trust it not to happen to Mr Fidget. He came in from the garden yesterday evening after dark with a lump scratched out of his nose.
The frost meant another truncated gardening day. I was just getting ready by mid morning to make a start on the next stage of the compost project when one of our neighbours appeared on his bicycle, carrying a small parcel. It was from Amazon, addressed to the SA, and our neighbour had found it in his house. It was jolly good of him to bring it round. I do wish people whose job it is to deliver things wouldn't do that. The SA got sufficiently nervous about the Amazon delivery service a month or two back to experiment with having things delivered to the post office instead, but became discouraged after getting stuck in a lengthy queue a couple of times.
I busied myself while the garden thawed out sorting out more of the mess on my desk, and am becoming increasingly suspicious that the December issue of one of the garden magazines I subscribe to is not anywhere in the muddle, raising the dark possibility that it got shoved through somebody else's letter box. This has happened in the past. Mind you, I was convinced that one of my RHS magazines was missing and then found that with super efficiency I'd already filed it in the box with the others.
I did not find any rats in the final compost bin. There was evidence of past digging and tunnelling, as I suspected from the fact that some compost had been dug out of the bin, but the rats themselves were long gone. No nest, no obvious droppings. I have been lining the bottoms of the bins with chicken wire as I've gone along, so that they won't be able to dig in from underneath, and I might buy another roll with a fairly fine grade mesh and staple it to the outside of the bins so that rats can't chew their way in through the sides. The problem is that the lowest planks tend to rot, and once there is the beginning of a way in rats will enlarge it. Fortunately Mr Cool and Mr Fidget are both now patrolling the compost area, Mr Cool passing today and inspecting me with a calm and level glance before continuing on his way.
I did find seven bags' worth of usable compost in the bottom of the final bin, fully rotted, dark and crumbly. Mindful of the fact that it has had rats in it I will not be handling it with bare fingers, but I don't do that anyway. Once it is spread on the borders I daresay exposure to the frost, rain and sun will kill any germs fairly quickly, and I won't put it anywhere near anything we are proposing to eat. Once again the romantic view of home made compost as exemplified by the two hundred and fifty pound bin doesn't match up to the grubby reality. What are you supposed to do with your compost if you think rats have been in it?
I also found a cyclamen corm buried deep in the bin, plump and alive with a tuft of roots on one face and two small and optimistic shoots on the other. It must have been one of the slightly tender potted ones from a previous year, that I must have thrown out because it looked dead after its summer rest. I potted it up in the greenhouse and will wait to see what it does next. It's not the first thing I've found nursed back to life by the moist, dark warmth of the compost heap. Some old sections of ginger lily root I discarded when I was repotting the original plants, because they didn't have any visible buds and I had plenty of other sections of root to choose from, emerged from their slumbers and sent out new shoots once consigned to the bin.