Friday, June 17, 2011

Moles! Voles! and Gophers! Oh my!

This post is dedicated to our kitty, Iris, who has been missing all week and we suspect was killed by a coyote.  Wherever she is, we hope she knows how much we love and miss her.

I've always known bugs and pests are just a part of organic gardening and that's okay.  I know I need to wash my arugula extra well and sort of close my eyes while I eat it, hiding all those missed aphids with fresh ground pepper.  Seriously.  I'd rather eat aphids than pesticide one hundred times over.  I do a lot of companion planing, planting borage, marigolds and onions among my tomatoes and strawberries and chives with my carrots, carrots and parsley with my tomatoes, etc.  All this is great, until bugs are the least of your worries.

Our cinder block planter as it looks today

I knew we had gophers when we started making our beds this spring.  I have never had gophers before but there were the tell-tale gopher mounds and holes all over the yard and we were told there were gophers when we moved in.  There was already one of those beeping gopher thingies in the yard, with a gopher mound right next to it.  Clearly that wasn't doing the trick.  I asked a friend what she did about gophers and she said she put a double layer of chicken wire, off-set so it make the holes smaller, under her planters.  Since we were doing mostly raised beds that sounded easy enough.

We made our first bed with cinder blocks (the one you've seen loads of pictures of) and put the chicken wire in the bottom.  We put all our layers of yummy goodness down and I planted.  We also let the cats roam the yard to hopefully catch something other than mice.  We made a few other beds doing the same thing.

A couple months ago Iris, caught what I thought was a mouse.  We were watching her play with it and I suddenly realized it wasn't a mouse, but a gopher.  Then I realized just how small those suckers could be.  It bared it's teeth at us and hissed at us.  It nipped at Iris' heels.  Iris, not the best hunter, seemed shocked and offended by the fact that, unlike the mice, this gopher was actually fighting back.  We quickly went to find Lily, the hard-core hunter, only to find her already busy with a mouse.  So Iris was stuck dealing with her feisty gopher all on her own.  At one point I checked on the status of the gopher only to find that Iris had let it dig its way to freedom!  Had I any idea she would have let it go I would have grabbed the shovel and given it a good whack myself.

I've always been a peaceful person.  Then I started gardening.  I went from living in harmony with all the bugs and animals to having some seriously strong feelings toward caterpillars, birds and gophers, etc.

Despite the large amount of gopher activity my yard continued to see, my planters remained untouched.  One day I went out and noticed my original cinder block planter suddenly looked like a rolling sea.  At first I instantly thought it was a gopher who'd been running around in the dirt.  Then I started noticing little dirt tunnels leading to my other planters and they too started being torn up.  I realized this was no gopher, as they don't make the raised tunnels, but either a vole (vegetarian, looks like a field mouse and can have sex, gestate and pop out a litter of babies in 21 days!!!!!!! ) or a mole (insectivorous, you know those ugly guys like the one in G force...I blame the babysitter for putting that on for the boys one night when we were out).  I had my fingers crossed for it to be a mole so at least it wouldn't be eating all my plants.

Tunnel under one of my planters

I sent the husband off to the nursery to buy some gopher purge and a mole trap.  I planted most of the gopher purge, which sadly the mole/vole doesn't seem to mind in the slightest.  I set the trap but haven't caught squat.

I have decided it is likely a mole since my original cinder block bed continues to be ravaged, but though it's unearthed an entire row of baby carrots and loads of beets and onions and such, it hasn't actually eaten any of them.

Some baby carrots uprooted by my garden mole

Yesterday I was standing by my planter and I saw the dirt move.  I started freaking out, yelling at my sister to get me a stick or something to stab the sucker with, the dirt continued to move, she was too slow so I ran a few yards away and grabbed the shovel.  I ran to the planter and mercilessly hacked and stabbed at my poor little row of baby golden beets where I'd seen the dirt move.  Sadly my sister didn't catch what must have been a ridiculous sight on video.  I completely failed to stab anything but my beets.  I was repaid in the night by the mole doing the most damage to my planter than he ever has in the past.  I set the trap today and I sincerely hope to get the little turd.  At least then I can confirm my suspicion.  I don't know how much damage a single mole can do, but my yard appears to have like 100 of them, if I'm lucky it's just one little guy doing a lot of damage.

Come on baby, catch that mole!

I loved reading this little tidbit from, "Well, luckily for you there are a number of very effective mole killing traps on the market today. You have a choice between whether you want to chop the mole in half, choke the mole to death, or impale the mole like a little mole-kebab. Victor® and Nash® are perhaps two of the most popular brands of mole traps on the market. There is quite the selection of mole traps online these days." Is it bad that that made me laugh?

I will keep you updated on my mole endeavors.  For now I will continue to try the trap, but at the end of summer I will take all the dirt out of the cinder block planter and put down a layer of 1/2" galvanized wiring and the stick the dirt back in.  I'll have to do each planter, one by one and replace the straw bales bed with a cinder block bed.

Had to leave you with some tasty food porn!  Caprese salad with some fried teeny baby scallions my helpful garden mole tossed up for me.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaack!

It's been way too long for me without a proper computer.  I've been dying over here.  An iphone just doesn't cut it.  Despite my lack of access to a computer, life has continued on.  The garden has continued growing and looks nothing like the last picture I posted.  The kids have grown and are ever changing.  We've harvested carrots, beets, strawberries and have blooms on the squash, tomatillos and tomatoes.

I've been cooking as usual and thanks to my ever-inspiring fellow blogger at a Cook Blog I finally tried my hand at making sausage.  I made it with my sister and though we botched it a million ways and didn't find casings in time, it came out fabulously.  We made some spicy Italian sausage and I can't wait to make more!

So, in celebration of my return to the blogging world, I leave you with several months worth of pictures and food porn!

Fried eggs, fresh bread, thinning and baby green salad, beet chips and asparagus with parm!

English peas!


Caprese salad, grass fed beef from the farmer's market, baby scallions, roasted potatoes


Strawberry waffles!

Smoked chicken!

Mmmmmmm!  Bean soup, prosciutto and baby onions from the garden

Just like Daddy

Our first wild flower!

Playing with the smoker making mouth watering pork

Sizzling fat!  Yum!

Garden greens, roasted scallions and smoked pork

Garden greens, roasted beets, and feta salad, sauteed fava beans and artichoke and cauliflower  frittata

Butter fried sage chips!

This little mama hummingbird nests right above my car

Baby birds in a nest right above the bean's window

Our first tomatillo blossom

Serious thinking going on 

Squash blossom


So much more still left to plant!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Computer is STILL broken...thus no posts for ages.  I have a bazillion pictures, I've been cooking up a storm and my garden is out of control and I'm sad I haven't been able to post about it.  This weekend I hope to get one of my computers going so I can finally do a post!