Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Moles vs. Voles

On the Farm

We noticed right away lots of little mounds of dirt and holes in the ground all over the property.

Holes in ground

Mounds on ground

Holes and mounds!

The question was...are these moles or voles making these mounds and holes?

Moles and voles both cause damage to yards. Because of their similarities, they are often confused for one another. One main difference between these animals is their diet.

Voles are herbivores. They feed on seeds, grass, plants, and the bark of trees. A vole looks like a mouse with a shorter tail. They are often called “field mice”.  Voles create tunnels through grass as they search for food. These appear as lines of dead grass in the soil that lead to a baseball-sized hole in the ground. There may be small pyramid-shaped cones near these holes. Voles reproduce rapidly, and live in colonies. They are often seen outside of their holes in search of food. Voles are rodents, and may gnaw on trees, structures, and other materials.

Moles are carnivorous, and eat grubs, earthworms, and other insects. Moles are larger than mice, and have paddle-like feet that allow them to swim through soil. They also have long pink noses.  Moles dig tunnels called “surface tunnels” directly beneath ground level. These tunnels are used for looking for worms and other grubs. From above, these tunnels resemble raised ridges in the ground, and are squishy if stepped on. Moles are solitary creatures that prefer to stay underground. It is unusual for multiple moles to inhabit a single yard.

We have seen several voles scurrying around while we eat dinner on our deck.  For that reason, we are thinking the culprits are voles.  However, that really does not explain the mounds.  So, maybe we have both!  I don't really see any of the "surface tunnels" that the moles are known for and there are like NO worms here.  The ground is hard and dead...we have a lot of soil building to do here on the farm but I have some thoughts about that and will talk about that in a future blog post.

At least I can understand why there are so many hawks and owls...there is a never ending supply of rodents to eat.  I can hear voles running around when I go out into the pasture area.  It would be great to have some farm cats to help out with the voles but the neighbor said that the coyotes always get the cats.  I wonder if the chickens will like to get the voles as a treat!

I am kind of hoping to keep the pasture mowed down next spring/summer...this might make it harder for the voles to hide and easier for the birds of prey to get them.  We will see...that would be a LOT of mowing...

I guess we will have to get the fencing completed.  Then, we will get a livestock guardian dog.  Then, we could get the cats about the same time we get the chickens...most everything revolves around fencing in the property so that will be our next big farm project (but that probably won't happen until spring 2019).  We are fortunate that the longest side of our property already borders the U of I Dairy and so there is a great fence there already.  The back of the property has a fence and it is good enough.  The areas that need fenced is the far side (which is relatively short) and then the "front yard".  The front yard area, when you first drive in and where the chickens will be, is the biggest area that needs fencing.  We should be able to literally fence in our entire farm.  We just need to save the money to get it done.

No worries...we have lots of gardening projects to keep us busy until then...


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Staycation in Idaho and Washington

Visitors to the Farm...

Denise's parents flew out for a visit.  First time in 11 years that both of them made it out!  So, we did some sight seeing and work on the farm.

Day 1: Trip to Hell's Gate State Park in Lewiston.  There are 2 museums at the park.  The Lewis and Clark Discovery Center (with displays, movies about Corp of Discovery and Nez Perce Tribe) and the Jack O'Connor Hunting Heritage Education Center.  My parents went to check out the museum's while the kids swam in the Snake River.  They have a very nice sandy beach area in the park.
Hells Gate lies on river bottom left over from the great ice age floods about 15,000 years ago. At the south end of the park are basaltic columns from the Pomona flows 14 million years ago. Hells Gate State Park was once the site of a Nez Perce Village. Little is left of the village, but depressions south of the campground are the remnants of pit houses used for years by the Nez Perce as they fished for lamprey near Astoin Creek.

Day 2: We met Henry out at some of his wheat plots.  Denise's dad, Dennis, is a wheat farmer in Kansas and he really wanted to see some wheat up close on the Palouse.  We were in luck, the cooperator/farmer that lets Henry put his test plots out was cutting on an adjacent field and he took my dad for a ride in his combine.  They could just not believe all the rolling hills of wheat.  
Henry, Dennis, and Terry checking out his little plot combine.
 Then, we were told that the grain was going to the Almota Elevator and it would be loaded onto barges and sent up/down the river (probably down the river...not sure).  This is not something you are going to see in Kansas.  So, we headed out to Almota.
Aerial view of the Almota Elevator showing the barges that are on the river, waiting to be loaded with wheat.
We also drove over to Lower Granite Lock and Dam but it was about 5:00PM and they were getting ready to close for the day.  Maybe an adventure for next time...

Day 3:  A 2-part trip today.  First, we were off to hunt for star garnets at the Emerald Creek Garnet Area.  We all mined for garnets and then took them to the Gem State Crystal store in Moscow.  A couple of ours had weak 4 ray stars.  I have written about star garnets in the April 9, 2017 blog and you can revisit that by clicking HERE.
There are only two places in the world you can find Star Garnets - India and right here on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests! The garnets found here are called "star garnets" because of a unique property that causes some of them to display a reflection like a four or six pointed star.

 The second part of our day was hiking to the Elk Creek Falls.  We only made it to the Upper Falls but that one is the most fun because you can walk right into it.  There were some people swimming and fishing there.

Dennis and Terry at Upper Fall of Elk Creek Falls

Day 4: A trip to the Moscow's Farmer's Market.  Joshua was selling huckleberry lemonade and he had his best day of sales ever!

Moscow Farmer's Market

Day 6: Huckleberry picking in the St. Joe National Forrest.  We also picked some elderberries!
Terry and Joshua picking huckleberries.

Dennis picking huckleberries.

We also drove up to the top of Bald Mountain.  There have been wildfires in Montana and Canada so we are having lots of smoke so the view was a little smokey.
Dennis at the top of Bald Mountain.
 Day 7: Started doing some firewood collection on the property.

Dennis using chain saw to cut up dead tree on the farm.

 My dad went to visit the cows next to us at the University of Idaho dairy.  This cow (#16), loved to come and get a pet from him.
#16 dairy cow at U of I Dairy

Mom and dad worked on a lot of projects in between all the sightseeing.  They dragged this old tub out of one of the barns and cleaned it up and filled with water.  Then, we put some rocks there for Mark.  One of his favorite things is to throw rocks into water and now he can go out back and do that whenever he wants!

Mark with new "rock tub"

Mark is loving his private little patio with his new rock tub.

A big THANK YOU to Dennis and Terry for all their hard work while they were here!  

They put a new bottom on my trailer that goes behind the Polaris (you can see the trailer in the pic of dad cutting the wood).  That was a huge project and I am so glad to have it done!  (There were holes in the previous floor).  I am excited to paint it and I will take a pic when it is all pretty.  I wish I would have taken a "before" pic.

We also started to renovate a water feature out in front of the house.  It was literally buried behind a shrub that had taken over.  I just need to get a few more rocks for it and I should have a picture of that completed project soon...