December 26, 2006

Bury not the Coffee Can

Filed under: homeowning — Brian @ 4:00 pm

…when rain is in your future…

I’m impatient, and this whole mole-catching thing is not a scientific research project. I’m OK with trying several methods at once, and don’t really care which one works, so long as one (or more!) of them does.

The University of Florida suggests burying a coffee can in your yard as a way to catch a mole. See, you dig a hole across a mole path, and put a coffee can in it such that the top of the can is level with the bottom of the tunnel. When the mole comes along, he falls into the can. And, presumably, raises a white flag to let you know you’ve won. They don’t mention the flag part, but it seems as likely to happen as the first part.

I buried a paint can. Couldn’t find a coffee can. It still had paint in it, which I thought would either smell enough that the mole would avoid it, or would hasten its demise, should it fail to heed the olfactorical warning. I was sure I couldn’t clean it well enough to not stink, and like I said, this is not science, here.

A significant portion of my backyard is squishy with mole paths – it is getting dangerous to walk around out there – so I’ll try whatever seems even remotely likely to work. Like a buried paint can.

I buried it on Christmas Eve, and checked it just today. It rained a little yesterday. Our “soil” is mostly clay. So, yes, you’ve guessed it. The hole with the paint can was a swimming pool. Not a mole swimming pool, of course. That would be too much to hope for. Just a hole full of water.

So, I pulled the can out and refilled the hole. Splash, splash. Mud, mud. It’s cold out there.

On the upside, I brewed some beer this morning. India Pale Ale. Should be ready for bottling a week from Sunday.
beer hose

December 23, 2006

Carl Spackler, Take One

Filed under: homeowning, humor — Brian @ 11:48 am

Comments here and at Jennifer’s place have netted two suggestions for mole “control”: a fine looking spring-loaded spike system (ignore the domain name in that link) and powdered fox pee urine.

mole trap Positives on the spikes:
1 – evil-looking
2 – retains evidence of effectiveness …
Negatives on the spikes:
1 – might impale other stuff
2 – gotta mail-order it
powdered-cat-pee Positives on the feral cat pee urine:
1 – It’s a powdered liquid, which is always good for a brain-teaser.
2 – While we’re brain-teasing, how do they collect this stuff? I want to support whoever’s job that is, just out of sympathy and the hope that they might invite me to come observe the process some day.
3 – It’s called “rodent powder” – as though reconstituting it would result in rodents, and not sewage.
Negatives on the evaporated feline excretions:
1 – gotta mail-order it.
2 – no direct evidence of effictiveness. Gotta wait and see.

All of which leads, clearly, to chewing gum:

I read on the Internet that if you poke Juicy Fruit gum (not just any gum) into the trails of the moles, the moles go away. I have been unable to gain clarity on exactly how this works, but it offers the following advantages:

1 – Inexpensive.
2 – This is not gum’s intended purpose.
3 – Wrigley’s is from Chicago, and therefore deserves my support.
4 – This will be funnier than the other options if it works.

These outweigh the fact that this method comes with the same downside as the cat drippings: no body.

Ten pieces poked into the tunnels (which are more extensive than I last checked. My whole backyard is squishy.)

Here we go, mole.


December 21, 2006

From Such as This are Mountains Made

Filed under: homeowning — Brian @ 7:02 am

A few weeks ago, I awoke to find in the backyard a trail. A small raised trail. A ridge. A burrow. A tunnel. From the side of the house, all the way to the end of the yard, where it abruptly stopped.

We have shrews in the yard now and then, and they make tunnels through the grass, but not like these. Those tunnels are actually in the grass – sometimes hard to see, but definitely little tubes above the dirt. And this was not that. This was underground. The earth was pushed up below the grass. Cracked in some places, but mostly just raised up.

My first thought was to lay mousetraps. We use those to catch the shrews when they get out of hand (which is to say when we notice the tunnels). Shrews eat the roots out from under the plants, killing them. And moles are bigger, so they must be a bigger problem. But, since they’re bigger animals, mousetraps might be too small.

Somewhere, I’d heard that moles eat grubs, and the way to get rid of moles is to get rid of the grubs. But I hadn’t noticed a grub problem, and I’d rather not poison the entire backyard just to get rid of one mole. And besides, the grub killer kills grubs. And there aren’t any grubs this time of year in Ohio. So, it’s not grubs.

At the home improvement store, I searched the pest eradication aisle for an answer. I found poison baits to leave around. No good. We have dogs.

I found poison smoke bombs. (Are normal smoke bombs healthy?) No good. The trails are extensive, and I’ve learned by now that moles are fast and smart – they’ll sense the smoke and plug up the tunnel, or dig away from the smoke.

I read about noisemakers, where you plug one end into a wall outlet, and the other into the ground, where it plays Snoop Dogg or whatever to scare the moles away. I read that those don’t work either.

I read that, in places where it’s illegal to kill moles, the mole eradication companies will not guarantee results.

I found a mole trap. If you’ve not seen a mole trap, think “bear leg-hold trap” but smaller. It’s two forged steel horseshoe-ish pieces, held together with a spring so powerful you need a tool (free, inside!) to force them open so you can set it. This sounded like what I needed, until I remembered the dogs. Certainly, this thing would break a dog’s leg (or a child’s hand .. we have those, too). Again, no good.

So, I’d resolved to let it go. A few tunnles in the backyard are nothing terrible, and, so long as it’s not damaging anything or killing expensive plants, what’s the harm? The yard could use a little aeration, and isn’t there a better answer than just killing things you don’t like? I was all set to live and let live.

Then, it goes and does this:


Molehills. Notice how dark the dirt is. If you dig more than an inch or two down in my yard, the topsoil gives way to brown clay. That dirt isn’t from down low, it’s from around the roots of my grass. And these are popping up all over now. And the trails are getting more extensive.

Back to my options:

Poison? No. Too likely to harm something else.

Trap to kill? No. Too likely to harm something else.

Trap to catch? No. Unlikely to work, not sure it’s legal to relocate wildlife around here.

That leaves few options. I’m torn between standing all day next to the trail with a pitchfork in hand, and standing all day next to the trail with a shotgun in hand.

But the tines in my pitchfork are pretty far apart, so I’m likely to miss the guy, even if I do see the tunnel move. And I don’t own a shotgun.

So, what do you do about moles? How do I get rid of it without becoming Carl Spackler, the groundskeeper from Caddyshack along the way?

December 16, 2006

Forest Floor in October

Filed under: photos — Brian @ 9:46 pm

Forest Floor in October
From a walk in the woods nearby, in October.

December 15, 2006

Things You Don’t Think About

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brian @ 8:15 pm

OK – things, I don’t think about. Maybe you’re more aware than I am.

Our water’s out. It was fine for tooth-brushing, but gone for drink-before-bed for the boys.

The power goes out now and then, but the water? I don’t think I’ve ever been without running water in my house.

How often to you use your fresh, clean running water without thinking about it?

About those Driving Habits

Filed under: whatever — Brian @ 8:06 pm

I’ve got a post in me about the difference between driving “politely” and driving “correctly.” This is not it.

The Rules of the Road are there so that people know what to expect of each other. If you have to make eye contact with another driver in order to make a safe turn or merge, then you’re not making a safe turn or merge. You’re agreeing to break the rules, and put yourselves and those around you at risk.

I see this most often in the “kind” people who “let” someone turn left in front of them – either across a lane of traffic that should be moving, or out of a sidestreet onto a main one. The problem I anticipated is that people coming out of that sidestreet will come to expect this “kindness” and turn out in front of someone who’s going to follow the rules and not stop.

That exact thing happened at my old neighborhood.

It turns out that that’s not the only reason not to make up the rules by silent nod, nod, wink, wink consensus at every corner. Laura Young has a few of them (including not setting up kids on bikes to get run over!)

(Found via the “Carnival of Family Life“, which I just discovered today through the place where I look for the “Carnival of Homeschool.”

December 14, 2006


Filed under: fatherhood — Brian @ 4:31 pm

Scene: Suburban home, late afternoon. The faint sound of airplane passing overhead is heard…

Son the younger (age 3)(running to the window): “I hear a plane!”

Son the elder (age 6)(chasing behind): “What kind?”

Son the younger (taken aback): “An AIR plane!”

An aside…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brian @ 1:24 pm

I’ll stop passing on the right when you stop driving slow on the left.

December 12, 2006

Item 1: Personal Responsibility

Filed under: beanquest — Brian @ 6:55 am

A couple weeks back, Jennifer and I finished two classes at church. One was a 12-week marriage class, which spent the first six weeks on the individual, and the last six on the relationship. The other was “Living Your Strengths,” which was focused entirely on the individual. I learned a lot about myself (and made some significant progress on the BeanQuest) in both classes. That’s part of why I’ve been so quiet here, lately. Each class had daily homework, which ate up pretty much all of my free time.

I’ll break this up into several posts to save myself the effort of making one long coherent one (and to save you the effort of trying to read one long incoherent one).

Item One: Personal Responsibility

I. You are responsible for You and nobody else is.

In the marriage class, we discussed the idea that each person is responsible for their own happiness. This idea is part of the foundation on which to build a solid marriage. If you’re looking to your wife to solve (or accomodate) all of your problems, you’re going to be disappointed, and she’s going to be annoyed. If you want a change, you must be the one to make it happen. If you’re unhappy where you are, you must be the one to find a better way. Nobody can do it for you. (Of course, this is nothing we haven’t all heard before. But there’s a difference between hearing it and really believing it.)

I haven’t always believed in this level of responsibility. Times were, I thought the world owed me something. I thought it should refrain from doing things that I didn’t like, and (I realized long after I’d stopped thinking this way) I thought it should recognize in me the things I’m good at, and provide me opportunities in those areas. I thought that if other people were just a little bit smarter, or better-educated, or less selfish or more open-minded or had a little more empathy, things would be better.

I realized, somewhere in my twenties, that this boiled down to “If everyone would just have the same values I do, we’d all get along just fine. Now why won’t everyone else spontaneously become more like me?” …which didn’t sound like much of a philosophy.

II. That is good.

It’s been some years since I felt that way, but I’m still working to accept the implications of the truth that I’m the only one responsible for me. Much of the time for me, it’s a conscious choice, not a habit. It’s so easy to find external causes when things don’t go well. When a group has ignored my warnings and now finds itself in trouble, it’s easy to say, “if they’d listened to me then, we wouldn’t be in this mess now.” It’s hard to see the same thing and accept that the problem wasn’t that they didn’t listen – the problem was that I didn’t make a compelling case. But only the second of those two offers any hope for improvement. I can’t change other people, but I can change myself.

It is hard to accept the burden of fixing the problems that bother me. But, apart from choosing to accept things as they are (which is a mighty fine option, when it works) I believe that’s really the only choice I have. It’s tempting, sometimes, to revert to a “waiting for the world to see things my way” attitude, but it’s completely unsatisfying, it focuses on the negative, and it prevents me from improving myself.

III. That makes everything else possible.

Once I really, finally, deeply accepted the idea that if I want a change, I have to make it happen, the world opened up. When I look at problems in terms of how I contribute to the problem, I quickly see things I can to do help solve it. And there’s always something.

I was going to write about some examples here, but I want to keep the point general, and not get distracted with specifics. It’s not about an occasional big decision, it’s about frequent minor ones. It’s about a way of looking at the world that gives me a chance to improve my little corner of it. It’s about the space we humans are fortunate to have between stimulus and response. It’s in this space that I believe I have found my bean.

More to come. Next week, probably.

December 8, 2006

It’s not that easy..

Filed under: whatever — Brian @ 8:11 pm

…being green.

OK, so I’m among the last to do this, but when my wife did it, I figured I should go along.

This will surprise no one who knows me:

What Color is Your Brain?


At work or in school: I work best by myself. I like to focus on my ideas until my desire for understanding is satisfied. I am easily bored if the subject holds no interest to me. Sometimes, it is hard for me to set priorities because so many things are of interest.
With friends: I may seem reserved. Although my thoughts and feelings run deep, I am uneasy with frequent displays of emotion. I enjoy people who are interesting and of high integrity.
With family: I am probably seen as a loner because I like a lot of private time to think. Sometimes, I find family activities boring and have difficulty following family rules that don’t make sense to me. I show love by spending time with my family and sharing ideas and interests.
Take this quiz!

Let me clarify that the “family” stuff was much more accurate as a kid. Now, I like hanging out with my family.

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