Attention aux courges butternut

Beware of butternut squash, Mesdames et Messieurs. No, not marauding street ones wearing hockey masks and carrying chain saws, but the innocent-looking seeds that you unsuspectingly toss into the compost heap.

Thanks to the amazing richness of the soil around our compost heap, Cat Daddy and I have managed to grow a butternut squash without even trying. This is good, right? Well, the bonus dinner ingredient is quite a result, but the plant is an absolute beast, sprawling everywhere like a flesh-eating triffid and suffocating everything in its path. And nobody seems to tell you this, but both the stems and the leaves expel tiny, invisible barbs.

I should have guessed that it was a nasty plant when, instead of stepping over it or brushing past it, Louis Catorze would clear it with a massive leap (which won’t be helping his knee one bit). I thought at the time that he was just being dramatic but, if an idiot like Catorze is prepared to take such pains to avoid this plant, there is obviously a reason. Even a cautious cat absentmindedly brushing past could find itself speared but, should your cat have a more gung-ho temperament and be inclined to frolic around in your vegetable patch, this could spell very bad news indeed.

Given all the health issues we already have with Catorze, we really didn’t want to be picking painful barbs out of his skin, too. So Cat Daddy got to work destroying the evil plant and sweeping the barbs off the path (which was quite some feat given that they are invisible), whilst I chopped up the monster tendrils into more manageable pieces for the garden waste bag. All that is left now is the main stem bearing the single fruit.

And Le Roi sat and slow-blinked at us throughout these measures intended for his protection, watching us get painfully skewered and disembowelled. It would appear that he is not as stupid as we thought.

Here he is, snuggling up to the butternut squash and continuing, inexplicably, to remain a barb-free zone. I’m prepared to bet Le Château on the fact that he won’t sit this nicely with the pumpkin I have bought for his official Halloween portrait.

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Le petit coin, partie deux: cette fois-ci c’est personnel

The vegetable patch is fighting back. Or, rather, Cat Daddy is, after catching Louis Catorze digging around yet again. The sweetcorn plants were eventually salvaged – you can spot the dug-up, flung-around ones straight away as they are much smaller than the other ones – but, this time, one of the passion flower vines has gone. And by “gone” I don’t simply mean “been uprooted”: I mean utterly vapourised without a trace, as if the plant never existed.

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As you can see, Cat Daddy has taken his role of Defence Minister very seriously indeed. And, yes, those are plastic forks. One of Le Blog’s lovely followers recommended them as a protective measure, so I passed the tip onto Cat Daddy; and whilst I had somehow imagined them being placed the other way up in the earth, handles pointing upwards, I can understand why Cat Daddy chose this way, for maximum pointy surface area to threaten la derrière royale.

Will it work? It’s not looking promising, I must say. Even during the impaling process Louis Catorze was ever-present, slaloming between the sticks and forks like a prize-winning Border Collie at one of those sheepdog competitions, not even deterred when Cat Daddy tried to jab him in the arse with a stick of bamboo. So his chances of staying away now that the sticks are static, are slim-to-zéro.

So now Cat Daddy and I need to agree on our next steps should the bamboo and forks not work. My idea: citrus peel and netting. Cat Daddy’s idea: inhumane bear traps and poison-tipped barbed wire.

Le petit coin

Thanks to Cat Daddy, Le Château now has a vegetable patch. Or, as Louis Catorze calls it, “les toilettes”.

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Now, I am not one of those people who panics at the thought of the slightest germ, but I have a particular aversion to the rear ends of cats. So, the less I have to do with them, the better. The thought of excretory solids, liquids or gases is grim enough, but the prospect of such substances coming into contact with FOOD is absolutely the worst thing in the world.

“Relax! It’s fine! Animals poo and wee on crops all the time,” said a friend of mine. Maybe. But there’s a huge difference between an incidental bit of bird plop or horse manure in an arable field, and a demonic little beast repeatedly using your vegetable patch as his outdoor latrine just to annoy you. The sweetcorn plants that my mum gave us lasted less than 12 hours in the soil before they were decimated. Cat Daddy didn’t mince his words in his text to me that morning: “Little shitty boy has dug up one of the sweetcorn plants to shit. He’s a shitting pest.”

“At least his poo will put other cats off using the place as a toilet,” said another friend. “Your own cat’s poo is far better than the poo of a thousand random cats, isn’t it?” Erm, not really. Poo is poo, irrespective of which cat arse expelled it. Unless we’re talking quantity, of course, because a thousand cats would obviously produce rather more than one.

Anyway, the sweetcorn problem is now halved because Catorze has dug up 3 out of 7 plants and reburied them so deeply/far away that we don’t even know where they are anymore. I think we need an electric fence for Catorze. And maybe Valium for ourselves.