Garden and chicken problems

Some issues in my garden – advice please!

For starters, something else is living in the chicken run apart from the chickens.

There’s this huge great tunnel:

Tunnel in chicken run

Easily big enough to get two fists in. Some other critter is coming in and presumably stealing the chicken food.

Whatever it is it has not harmed the chickens and doesn’t take the eggs.

Both P and I think we have seen it, but only ever fleetingly before it backs away. I’ve been out on evenings when someone else’s cat is sitting on the outside of the chicken pen staring intently down the hole. But I just missed whatever it was. My impression of what I saw the one time I caught sight of it, was that it was cute, and red faced and looked almost like a teddy bear. All I saw was its head poking out of the hole before it vanished. P’s abiding impression was more grey in colour, but again he thought cute.

Obviously the most likely culprit is a rat. But neither of us thought we saw that. And it is a huge great hole for a rat!

Our thoughts after that turned to stoaty, weaselly, minky things. But how likely are they in an urban garden? And wouldn’t they have gone for the chickens.

Could the squirrels – which are very interested in chicken feed – be able to tunnel underground like that?

Obviously I should dig the hole over and probably I should put some chicken wire down on the ground too. But thus far I have just not got around to it.

The other problem is a strange discolouration on the leaves of a big variety of different plants.

Plant discolouration

Plant discolouration

Plant discolouration

Plant discolouration

It’s on a shrub in a pot on the decking.

It’s on the elder.

It’s on a sweet smelling yellow leaved shrub I feared that careless gardeners had killed by hacking to the ground despite being told not to, but which has behaved as if we had pollarded it and sprung back.

I am concerned that the same thing is happening to so many plants. Is it a bug? Is it a disease? If I leave it will it go away!?

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Parkrun #3

A personal best today at Forest Rec where I shaved 8 seconds off my previous PB!

I can’t get my head around how I achieved what I did the first time I did this.

My personal achievement this time was about the amount of time I spent running vs walking. It’s always my target to keep running without a break for ten minutes, and that is usually a significant challenge. I think it’s much more a mental problem than a physical one. My breathing is fine these days, the asthma is no longer a problem at this stage (I even forgot my inhaler this morning), I’m not cramping, my legs don’t hurt. I just can’t keep running.

This morning I managed a wopping twenty minutes of running before first breaking to a walk. Never done that before.

Looking at the splits afterwards I was pretty chuffed too – three of the KMs were roughly the same at 7mins, the final amazingly under 6mins (half of it is downhill, which helps). I deliberately start really slow and end up at the very back of the pack – but I am pacing myself well and keeping reasonably steady. My earliest 5k had wildly different times for each different split. Is this what you are supposed to do?

My second parkrun

In May 2013, I found out about Parkrun, in April 2014, I did my first timed 5k at the Forest Rec. So now it’s clearly time for my annual three mile run!

Last week I planned to go to Colwick, which somehow technically is my home run, even though the Forest is closer. I got my running clothes ready so I could grab them quickly and get out of the house; I made sure I didn’t drink too much, I got an early night, and I set an alarm for the only day of the week I can usually get a lie-in. I then spent the whole night tossing and turning and being woken by cats and at about 6am I felt so miserable I turned the alarm off and resolved to sleep through the morning.

This week I was still watching TV at midnight, I had had at least two large gins, but felt properly tired after an extremely busy week and as soon as I hit the sack I was in deep sleep. Which meant I woke without an alarm just before 8am feeling refreshed and able to bound out of bed, find the clothes I had not set out and head off to Colwick with plenty of time to spare.

I have once recce’d Colwick to try and work out the parking and start line arrangements as it is much less clear than the Forest Rec and might involve paying for parking. But although I vaguely knew where I was going the free car park I was trying for had a locked barrier on it and I had to park in the street by the racecourse. Walking around the park I got completely disoriented and ended up walking past the 2km marker with 15 minutes till the start time – in other words, I was halfway around the course and had to turn back. I ended up having to run a bit to get to the start in time. The whole point of Colwick is that you run around a lake – so the only short cut back to the start is a little bit damp!

The event is huge – well over 200 runners. Lots of very thin, very well equipped people. I’m not sure if I was grumpier by the time I got to the start, but it didn’t quite feel as nice as the Forest. The team and officials were welcoming and professional but no other runner spoke to me. At the Forest, there were lots of chats at the start line, and I had a nice talk to a lovely lady in the later part of life who told me about her continuing battle to get under 30mins, even though she ran every week.

My reason for trying Colwick as well as the Forest, even though the Forest is closer, cheaper and easier, is that the Forest has a very hilly section you have to run twice! Colwick is definitely flat. This week it was windy and dry and the paths were compact. It is apparently famously muddy.

My focus in the 5k is running further at the start – keeping going for longer before I break into a walk. I can now routinely run a whole mile on the treadmill, sometimes in around 8mins. I can run a 10-minute mile without really losing my breath. But yesterday in the field I didn’t quite get back to the 2km marker without stopping for a bit of a walk, mainly because I had already run a bit in the other direction!

I did complete, in 37’21”. Despite the lack of hills, my time increased slightly, but I definitely comfortably beat my awful Spooky Sprint time. I can’t possibly see myself ready to do a 10k if the Parkinsons event happens again.

Parkrun has lots of interesting ways to crunch the data, so I know: I came 209th out of 229. Only four men were slower than me, most of the people who finished at the same time as me were older women. There was one nice moment when I overtook a walking woman close to the end and called out “only 400m to go!” (which I knew because I also had the RunKeeper app running, the curve of the course means you can’t see the finish from the last KM) she replied “Oh really? is that all?” and managed a sprint finish. 373 men my age have run that course, and only four of them have EVER run it slower than me.

Now my knees are giving me grief and I’m not sure if this amount of knee pain means a) I have just used them a bit and it will be fine or b) I am on track for a sports injury and should stop running. I don’t meet the threshold for seeing my GP about it, according to the NHS website.

I will definitely run Parkrun again. I can’t guarantee it will be next week and I can’t promise it won’t be a year till I get around to it again!

One piece of interesting news the team passed on: yesterday was the day Park Run ran in France for the first time.