I’ve caught Florence jumping for pears – almost as bad as the wild boars.
Here she’s contemplating the Royal Gala apples which I hope are a bit too high for her.
3 a.m. Taylor barking and a loud noise of crunching in the orchard.
I dash out with a torch in my night attire and see dark shadows melting into the greater darkness.
In the morning: a broken pear branch and on the ground, lots of green pears with decisive bites in them.
I haven’t been outside much lately owing to back problems, but I couldn’t bear to disappoint Joules any more.
He loves it when I venture forth, whether it’s to garden or just look round; he positively skips with excitement.
I found that the wild boars (probably, although it could be a particularly energetic porcupine) have dug an enormous hole in the bank where the garden slopes down, undermining a lavender bush.
Just above this excavation, I noticed that the rosemary, despite other flowers turning brown due to the frost, is producing pretty pale blue flowers.
If old wives’ tales are to be believed, that means my ascendancy over Clive (ha, ha) is still going strong.
I neither saw nor heard anything of this boar hunt.
The only way I knew it was happening was that I had a phonecall this morning saying they were about to come on our land, and another one a bit later confirming (at my request) that they’d cleared off.
I asked the hunt organizer if they’d caught any.
“Four,” he said.
Wow, I thought. “Big ones?”
That’s still quite a lot of meat, which will be distributed among the hunters.
Although I once saw a mature boar, exhausted after being chased for miles by dogs, the ones I’ve seen round the house look like the one in the photo – young, long-legged and agile.
They give the impression of playfulness. In fact our neighbour told us that he’d seen one playing with their dog. I don’t know if I’d interpret it quite like that – I’d want our dog in the house, quick.
Having said that, I believe the main danger during a hunt is from the guns. Apparently there are a lot of accidents.
You could hardly call Kepler a boar hound but he did try very hard this evening to protect us from an invasion of wild boars.
We were having supper outside when all three dogs starting barking madly at something.
I grabbed the torch and shone it down the slope. There was a wild boar, looking as if it couldn’t make up its mind whether to come up to the house or not.
I think the torch must have tipped the balance because after a moment of hesitation it headed down into the valley, chased by Taylor.
I managed to scoop Joules and Taylor into the house but Kepler continued to vent spleen from the top of the slope. He even went round to the other side of the house and barked from there.
Once I’d got him indoors as well, I went outside to listen.
There was rustling from different places at the foot of the slope but although I shone the torch, I never saw anything.
It really felt like looking down from the ramparts of a castle listening to a hidden enemy.
On a walk with the dogs today to an area of steep hillside near the house where I rarely go, I came across a hole.
It didn’t immediately strike me as being an animal’s den because its main thrust, so to speak, was vertically down rather than horizontally into the bank.
I had a walking stick with me and I prodded into the dead leaves at the bottom: it didn’t seem to go anywhere.
The strange thing was that, just before finding the hole, I’d noticed, as if marking out its location, 4 saplings snapped off near the top with the broken part left dangling. This was no coincidence and definitely the work of a human.
So what was some surreptitious hunter signposting, either for his own purposes or those of someone else?
Did it mean that the hole itself was the work of a human and if so, what could it possibly be for? Hiding-place for contraband? Wine cooler?
Alternatively, it might have been made by an animal, and the hunter had left signs so he could find it again.
It could have been dug by a wild boar. The pits they scraped in the vegetable garden looking for truffles were deep and neat. But their visit was characterised by multiple holes: in fact they fair honeycombed the ground. This was just one hole.
Porcupines dig burrows, but they would have gone deeper. They also sleep during daylight hours in tunnels of bent grasses, but this was far too laboured to be a casual resting-place.
I’m mighty puzzled.
It rained today which is probably good news from the hunting point of view – there’s unlikely to be any.
There was in the week though. The guy who managed a quick hunt before donning his tuxedo to attend a wedding was back again. And he did actually phone the night before, for which I was effusively grateful.
He told me that he’d be coming onto our land between 9.00 and 9.30 am. I planned to let the dogs out at 8.15 so I’d have plenty of time to get them in again.
I hadn’t let them out, therefore, by 7.15 am, which was when he turned up. He’s another one like the surveyors who can’t tell the time.
He also told us he’d be hunting wild boar, which would have meant he was quickly through and off our land.
Instead, he stuck around for 2 hours, sending his dogs through the woods and stomping all over the field.
I guess he was after hares, and I would also guess that he killed one because I heard 2 shots, one of which was followed by a scream. Hares scream when they’re caught.
I managed to get a photo of one of his dogs as it made a last pass through the orchard. Having rounded them up, he drove away.