The voles are killing me - or to be more accurate they are killing my garden. The ground looks like a war zone and the planted (or formerly planted) areas actually look like I deep-tilled them - I have a 'no till' garden.
My mustard greens, garlic and onions are safe (so far) but all root crops are vole food. For the past couple of years I have been reluctantly sharing a portion of my potatoes and carrots with them but now they are past sharing and are taking EVERYTHING. Newly seeded areas, any kind of seed, is turned over and tossed about with my little seedlings laying on top of the ground drying up.
I'm not in a club by myself here, if that is any comfort - it's not - all of the people I know in my county and the next county over are having this problem to varying degrees. So, what to do?
POISON is out. Not only do I not want my chickens and turkeys to get ahold of a poisoned vole carcass but snakes, owls and hawks would be poisoned by a vole carcass as well.
TRAPS are out. Sorry, the idea of trapping - one - vole - at - a - time - just seems dumb to me. Besides then I would have to lock up my birds which is what I am trying to avoid by raising my own meat at home; I want them to enjoy roaming around the farmlet.
DEEP TILLING is out. I wouldn't call what I do here at the farmlet 'permaculture' but I would say that we incorporate permaculture practices and deep tilling everything would just undo all of the good work that has gone into building our soil and the perennial food garden that we are trying to establish.
I heard TOBY HEMENWAY, author of Gaia's Garden, say that the solution to an animal problem is another animal. We used to have plenty of rat snakes around here when we first moved to the property but they are gone. A couple of Hawks nested and had babies here this year but they have moved on when the babies matured. So I'm thinking I'm going to have to provide my own animal. It's not going to be me because I don't see myself hanging out in the back yard looking for rodents all night. It appears that it is going to be cats - 'big sigh...'.
Years ago I had a riding stable and the place was over run with mice. When the mice started coming in the house and greeting me for breakfast in the morning I decided enough was enough and brought home a calico cat. We let her have two litters, all barn cats, my sinuses will not allow for a house cat, and the mouse problem disappeared. Actually I heard that my neighbor, who also had horses, suddenly developed a severe mouse problem. Oops! Sorry 'bout that. Our little predators were quite entertaining and they were the animal that solved the animal problem. However.......
The cats do require attention. They need to be kept current on RABIES vaccines. I know there is a lot of controversy about vaccines and I understand it but in this area, where we have at least a couple of cases of rabies every year it is imperative to be responsible to your family, your neighbors and other animals by keeping animals that you are responsible for vaccinated for rabies.
SPAY and NEUTER: If you are going to allow for a little procreation to accommodate the area that you need their help with, such as a barn, grain bins, etc., that makes sense to me but you need to manage the population. We introduce these animals into the environment, just like we introduce any of our pets or other domesticated animals and we need to manage the population responsibly. Personally I prefer to only have spayed and neutered cats to start with.
SKIN CARE: Huh? I know - you probably weren't expecting that. Here in the south we do not have prolonged freezes that kill off fleas, ticks, mites etc. That leaves animals exposed to parasites year round. A regular dusting of diatomaceous earth is an environmentally friendly way to keep kitty free of irritating fleas and ticks and a bit added to food helps with internal parasites as well.
By writing this little ditty I am actually trying to get myself geared up to have cats again. I was perfectly happy when it was just me and the chickens, so to speak. But it looks like I have two choices; 1. I get to keep the voles and give up planting a food garden, or 2. Get happy with the cats again.
BTW, I do have friends who do not have this problem because thier pigs, chickens and dogs are handling it. Thier fenced garden is doing well. But I don't have the space, or ability to care for, that many animals at this time so - cats it is.