[WARNING: This post contains both supremely cute and kinda icky imagery. But it’s all real; nothing has been Photochopped folks. Understanding more each day that what it takes to get food to our tables isn’t always pretty, whether we’re talking about industrial pesticides or mousetraps. But I promise we’ll start on a positive note.
Shout outs to Melissa F. for pushing me to write about this here, and to Courtney at Milking Chickens who wrote so openly about her recent encounter with some stillborn goats.]
Meet Thompson. We’re told he’s some kind of terrier/hound mix so we’re counting on him to be our new vole (and rabbit and mole and squirrel and …) patrolman. He’s four months old, super sweet, and a lot nicer to have around than our previous rodent trapper… I caught this little rascal and his partner a few days after we learned about integrated pest management at farm school. I was out looking at the cold frame, checking on some seeds and seedlings I’d set out when I discovered tunnels running through the soil with a few big holes on the sides. I knew immediately that we had a problem and unlike in the past, I wasn’t willing to live with it. It was us against them. I ran to the hardware store, picked up some mousetraps, and set them out with a bit of peanut butter bait. Within 12 hours I’d caught my first furball. I immediately reset the trap and within 2 hours caught another. We haven’t had any problems since then.
I have never killed a mammal before. Caterpillars, ants, beetles, stinkbugs for sure, but nothing with ears, and eyes, and claws. Nothing with body parts that resembled my own. My initial reaction was a combination of nausea and elation. But the more I read about voles, the less guilty I felt.
See, for example, this from Wikipedia:
“[Voles] can have five to 10 litters per year. Gestation lasts for three weeks and the young voles reach sexual maturity in a month. As a result of this biological exponential growth, vole populations can grow very large within a very short period of time. Since litters average five to 10 young, a single vole can birth a hundred more voles in a year.”
I figure catching these two saved me, and Thompson, from having to catch another 98. I’m sure he’ll find someone else to chase down.
March 29, 2014 at 11:51 am
We’ve had a mouse problem in our basement this winter. Downside of not having cats in the house, I guess, and a really harsh winter driving animals inside anywhere they can get. The first few traps we set sort of icked me out, but I think it’s one of those things you have to get used to, especially out in the country.
There really is something different about mammals – it’s a mindset I really had to change when we started to raise chicks. Joel Salatin writes to expect a 10% loss over the course of a year when it comes to chicks. There’s a biological reason hens lay and hatch so many eggs. Chicks aren’t raised nearly as long by their mothers as most mammals are. Even though many goat kids wean by 6-10 weeks, there’s still a strong mother-child bond that does not go away. That’s no so with chickens. But, when you start to hand-raise chicks, it’s easy to apply a human mindset to how many from a hatch should survive. It’s relatively easy to hand-raise 6 or 8 chicks, but it’s a different ballgame to brood 50 or 100 or 250 at a time. This last brood was our most successful, with no loss of any of the chicks. Turkeys, however, are a totally different matter.
I absolutely believe that the single hardest thing to deal with when you start farming is how we view life. Every life is precious, but sometimes there’s absolutely nothing you can do. To go from a more suburban mindset of something like paying out the nose for cancer treatments for the family dog, to having to make hard decisions when it comes to pest control, sick large animals, spring hatchlings that aren’t thriving, etc… As a society, we’ve lost the appreciation of what it really takes to get food on the table, for sure, and with that, I think we’ve lost a more honest view of the circle of life. It’s like the idea that somehow being an organic vegetarian results in no loss of animal life. The trapping of voles is a perfectly good example of how there is loss of life, regardless of what you’re producing. There’s probably not much you can do in the grand scheme of things to prevent ALL loss of life in food production, but there definitely is a way to have respect for it.
Sorry for the long diatribe. 😉 I appreciate this post very much – any time anyone shows the messier sides of honest food production, I hope that more people can see it. Maybe if people get icked out by something as simple as trapping voles to protect greens in a coldframe, they’ll REALLY get icked out by commercial hog raising, or CAFOs, or Tyson chicken houses.
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