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Thursday, July 26, 2012

The New Neighbor

My garden has been a constant source of  anxiety and struggle this year, maybe more so than any other year.  Recently the moles having been having their way with the garden.  I'm so at my very. wit's. end. that I finally broke down and bought mole traps, but it turns out that summer time is not really the best time to be trapping moles, as they've moved lower because the surface soil is too warm.  The best time to trap moles turns out to be during the the spring before they make more moles, and in the fall, after they've come up from the deep soil from summer, but before they go back to the deep soil in winter. Consequently, Steve hasn't trapped anything yet, and the moles continue to shove strawberries and onions aside.

I thought long and hard about how to get these guys- I even tried the hose-in-the-exhaust-pipe trick that I witnessed my dad use to good effect to kill the gopher that was tearing up the front yard when I was a kid, so I knew how to do it.  But Daddy was working with a fairly short hose, and both the truck and the gopher were in the front yard; I did not have any luck getting the fumes to come out the business end of the hose, possibly because we had three hoses linked together, or maybe there was water blocking it- who knows? So we finally gave up and bought the traps.  This dilemma with the moles has been going on awhile; I mentioned it to one of my salesmen last week and he told me about a molecat, but it sounded like something you don't want to point at yourself (or your kids, no matter how tempted you might be), so I didn't spring for them.  I'm beginning to wish I did- they might work better than an old-fashioned scissor trap.  I might run a test of both this autumn, but they are, no lie, ten times the cost of the trap, so we'll see.

Anyway, evidently, someone else besides the moles has moved in. This evening I was moving a running hose around the stone fruit trees at the back of the yard and discovered this:

Either we have a new neighbor or my yard has a new vagina.
My money's on a new neighbor. The bad kind.
And a brazilian is not going to make this look any better.

It's by the compost pile, and there's a variety of detritus that whatever it is has pulled into its den, but closer inspection indicates that the trash in the hole is not coming from my compost pile.  They appear to be empty bee combs, and the only varmints that I know of that raid bee hives besides bears are skunks, because skunks eat sleeping bees.  If ever there was an evening I wished I had Tamar Haspel's Varmintcam, this evening was it.  I toyed briefly with the idea of running the hose into the hole, but thought the better of it if it did turn out to be a skunk.  I mean, if it left its den and came out, then what would I do?  I've gone after raccoons with the spading fork, but raccoons don't have quite the brilliant defense mechanism that skunks do. And while I haven't been skunked personally, I've washed a dog who was, and that is the closest I want to get to a skunk again. Ever.

So instead of putting money into the chicken run this coming month which I really need and want to do, I'm going to have a Varmint Guy come out and take care of it.  I could probably live with the moles a little longer, and if it comes right down to it, I can probably wait long enough to get my money's worth out of the traps, which probably means sometime this fall.

But the new neighbor has got to go.


Paula said...

Anyone who knows a great Varmint Guy in the Portland OR area, please chime in!!

Rae said...

"Either we have a new neighbor or my yard has a new vagina". Lmao! I read that, and cackled so loudly that Henry jumped 3 feet. Lol.

Laughing at your writing skills aside, so sorry about the varmint problem. That sucks! :(

russell1200 said...

Moles are insectivores. They have never bothered my gardens. Voles on the other hand are very different story: plants falling over after they have eaten up all the roots from below.

Miriam said...

Oh, how frustrating! (And I agree with Rae, you have a real knack for making tear-out-your-hair events awfully funny!) I have nothing helpful to contribute, just sympathy. Rats! (Literally, almost...)

morgaineotm said...

Lets hope your garden has a new vagina! Last year my gopher problem got so bad that I had to get "gopher gasser" and just kill them. None of the other methods worked and my garden was getting destroyed - it was eating my veggies from the roots up, they would just disappear! Don't mind sharing, but obviously the critters did! Good luck!

Paula said...

Russell- I know they're insectivores, but they can still do a lot of damage looking for bugs (actually they really like grubs). And speaking of damage in the name of insect-eating, have you ever seen the damage a single armadillo can inflict in a single night? They tear plants up right and left in the quest for dinner. I guess I should be glad I no longer live in the south where they have both - armadillos and moles.

Anonymous said...

Paula, I got some gas cartridges at Home Depot or Lowes, I forget which. Anyway what you do is wait until night, light the cartridges, push them in the holes (I taped the cartridges onto the skinny bamboo sticks & shoved it way down)then block the hole openings. The gas is heavier than air and works its way down to the bottom of their den & kills them while they sleep. It works for groundhogs out here in Pa. I would think it would work there for your varmint. Elizabeth

Stephen Andrew said...

Hahaha. Maybe you should seek an OB/GYN who moonlights as a varmint guy... Just in case your lawn *did* grow a new vagina

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Varmints, varmints, and more varmints!

You should get a camera. They're not expensive, and they're worth it both for reconnaissance and entertainment.

Meantime, I wish you luck with your moles and skunks. I've had to deal with neither, so I have no constructive suggestions. My garden bugbears are hornworms and Japanese beetles, for which the only solution seems to be picking individuals off leaves.

Chin up! Carry on!

Anonymous said...

Paula, in may 2011 you said not to use the weed block cloth that is like fusible webbing for the potato bags. I have a huge roll of that kind. What is the reason for not using it? The only thing I could come up with was it might not drain the rain fast enough and rot the potatoes? Thanks for the great ideas. Elizabeth in Pa.

Jennifer Montero said...

I'm with Rae - that's a hilarious comment!

If it makes you feel any better, mole trapping is real artform. I have learned a few things that might be of some help:

- Look for the long straight run of tunnel, it's where they travel; set the trap in there. Ignore the mounds of soil, that's just a feeding spot, they won't return to it.

- Use a bit of hessian sack to cover the hole above the trap. Put soil on top of the hessian sack. Soil falls in, they push it into the trap and set it off= no dead mole.

We have a varmintcam now, and in our first night captured 2000(!) pictures of rats! I will swap you for your one skunk.

Paula said...

Anonymous- the only reason for not using the fusible type weed cloth is that you won't be able to move the sacks around. You could try it, but my experience is that it shreds when exposed to stress.

One thing you could use all that fusible type weed block for it shade cloth for your lettuces, though.

Paula said...

Well, there's good news and more good news.

Steve got one of the moles this weekend.

The other good news is that it turned out to be a new vagina. We still think it was a skunk, but that he moved on. Steve stuck a stick into it, discovered a back to it, so we filled it full of dirt (which we shoveled off the mole hills) and it hasn't come back.

My guess is that it was a skunk that found a ground bee nest and dug it up.

But no new neighbor, which means the hen yard is back on!

Carolyn said...

A new neighbor like that I wouldn't want either! Gotta say though, the vagina comment nearly made me spit chocolate milk at my screen!
Thanks for the laugh!!