When even the paddock gets fleas

This November has been one out of the box: hail, bad hair and now, fleas.

The hail I didn’t photograph. The hair? I’ll let Alex show you:


The fleas? Today, I was out crawling around in the paddock (as you do on a sunny Saturday afternoon), when I discovered someone had been out to lunch on the juicy new rape salad I’ve been growing for summer.

Yikes, there are fleas in my salad!

Yikes, there are fleas in my salad!

This little fella is tiny (see those wriggly twig things on the top right? They’re rye grass roots) but he and all his lucerne flea mates are marauders with super powers. Think I’m drawing a long bow? Watch the video.

We’ll have to do something about these microscopic pole vaulters in the next few days or be left with a lot of explaining to do when the cows are looking for their New Year’s Day dinner.

Fleas are not the only pests on the extermination list this November. To my shame, we’ve been harbouring three minibus-sized box thorns since I took over the farm. A member of the nightshade family, African box thorns are classified noxious weeds and are really nasty. This year, I decided these taloned monsters had to go.

You'd measure these thorns in inches

You’d measure these thorns in inches

The box thorns were so big and brutal, the only way to get rid of them was with a 12-tonne excavator. It only took Michael the Man in the Machine a few hours to uproot and squash all three. All I had to do was light a match so Alex and I sallied forth, armed with three plump copies of The Weekly Times (one for each of the crumpled behemoths) and a box of redheads.

Little Man against the mountain

Little Man against the mountain

Oh, what a pathetic figure I’d cut as a smoker. All three editions of The Weekly Times were waged against the first monster before it finally roared into oblivion.

Ablaze at last

Ablaze at last

The ridding of another fearsomely armoured yet fleshy menace was less flashy but no less spectacular.

We got more help in, this time to face a battalion of variegated thistles. Newly renovated pastures had stirred seed banks and the wet paddocks had made early access impossible. The result was chest-high walls of thistles up to 100 metres long.

Within days of spraying, they began to take on glorious, tremendously satisfying tortured shapes. Revenge is best served cold indeed.