I have a 60 ac open space with some half beat soil and grasses, blackberries, etc. in the soil is a plethora of feild mice. the raptors in the area love it, but dont control the epidemic. I asked sepp holzer if he might have a way to use the mice as a functional element. they tractor, shred, aerate, create water drains and textures in soils, etc, as well as controlling weed seed. problem is that they will eat just about anything that you have a mind to plant, or tear its roots up. we know exceptions to this and can create some buffers, but my real question is: to what purpose and with what method cold one 'herd' feild mice/voles. Sepp replied that they make great rototillers- up to 4 feet deep. I said wow. He said that its possible because pigs will dig that far o eat thier nests. so, pig fodder as fuel source for pig tractoring is already covered. other ideas?
I read somewhere several years ago that a farmer installed some telephone poles in the open areas of his property, with crosspieces of the size comfortable for larger birds of prey. The birds found it a nice place to perch and watch for rodents, and he did notice a reduction in vermin.
Also, try contacting your local feral cat rescue operation. Feral cats are difficult to rehome because they're not friendly. Many rescue operations do a trap/neuter/release program. Their life spans are not extremely long, but it could be a solution to your problem.
If interested, you could talk to Jo at Feline Friends http://www.feline-friends.net (Olympia, WA)
Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon at http://www.feralcats.com/
I don't imagine the moles are much of a problem. The mice might be a problem for annuals if they're really hungry. It seems to me the biggest problem would be with voles. Voles burrow around in the thatch layer in grass or in loose mulchy areas (they love sheet mulches). Their love to nibble off the cambium of fruit trees and girdle them. This can be a pretty serious problem and makes sheet mulching around fruit trees risky.
At this point the best way to deal with them that we've found is to use vole guards. We buy 1/2" hardware cloth and put a loose 8" collar around the trunk of all our recently planted trees (especially if we plan to sheet mulch the area afterward). You have to be very careful to keep an eye on things when you do this, though. As the trees grow the vole guards will need to be removed or replaced with larger ones so they don't girdle the tree themselves.
I like Leah's idea of incorporating snakes into the scene. I would contact some of the local herpetology enthusiasts and find out which native snakes like to munch small rodents. Then see if you can a) create/improve habitat for those snakes, b) release more of those snakes, & c) make sure you avoid practices that eliminate snakes (e.g. burrowing snakes are often killed by deep tilling).
I focus in on snakes instead of cats because the cats are kind of a mixed blessing. They eat birds as well as snakes and can spread distemper to the local population of raccoons. However, that being said, good ones will munch voles like candy.
I wonder if you could somehow use the mice to spread seeds? Do mice eat any seeds whole (without chewing them)? If so you could use them to distribute seeds in their feces. Perhaps hard seeds would stand the best chance of surviving the trip through their digestive system. A couple species to consider would be lupine and black locust, although I'd do more research on mice first.
yes, they wll take birds..but you can take some precautions..we put flashing around the poles of our birdfeeders so that they can't climb them..and make sure that the bird houses are protected..they would rather catch a mouse than climb a tree after a bird..they do tend to be lazy that way..mice are under their feet..
my sister lost nearly every woody plant in her yard to mice this past winter..so they are a problem ..our snow got so deep they could climb up and over the guards and get the cambium layer of bark ABOVE the snow line..not good..i didn't lose any trees completely but did have a lot of pruning to do this year from damaged peaches.
Mice love to nest under our stored bales of oat hay. Several pallets with bales of some type of grain hay on top, covered by a tarp if you don't want it to get wet, should lure the mice wherever you want them. Can't think of a vole attractant, are they omnivorous? Moles seem to follow the watering pattern, so wherever you want them must be kept damp. Do moles hunt by smell or sound? Or do they just blunder into food like me at a smorgasbord? Birds tap on the ground imitating rain, bringing certain worms to the surface right? Or am I remembering a wives tale from my childhood?
Would worm sounds attract moles? Would a tea from worm compost attract moles? More questions than answers here!
The REAL problem you have is a deficiency of pigs!
Okay, onto other stuff ...
I think that the first solution is going to be a rich diversity of EVERYTHING! With lots of shrubs and trees you will be providing lots of predator habitat. And I wonder about what your little furry friends like so much now - I wonder if there is far more diversity, if they might not be so pleased, and there would then be less of them.
I like the idea for rat snakes, although about five years ago I explored bringing in a hundred extra garter snakes for the same reason. I never did do it.
Plus, maybe the real question to ask is: what is the precise problem? Is more than 10% of your crop being lost? What crop? What did it?
Maybe another idea is to put out stuff that will work as predator habitat (I'm thinking for snakes). Or even something for the raptors to perch on.
extrapolating from my experience, putting your very favorite young fruit tree in front of the wheel might keep the critters running and generating.
there you have it. the perfect solution. they are little energy generators. a small portion of your crops dedicated to them and they can provide enough electricity to power the farm. ha ha ha ha
I've heard of rodents being used to harvest wild rice. started out as finding their stockpiles and raiding them. the modern version involves building little caches for them to remove the searching step. that might be adaptable. voles, though... hamster wheel dynamo? extrapolating from my experience, putting your very favorite young fruit tree in front of the wheel might keep the critters running and generating.
I've heard about similar techniques being used for squirrels that steal walnuts. I think they put some sort of cache (like a disguised 5 gallon bucket) in a tree with a hinged door on the bottom. You let the squirrels fill it up and do your harvesting for you. Problem = solution.
Unfortunately, I have been completely able to find any reference or diagram to such a system on the web. It would be awesome if someone built some prototypes and tried it out.
I want to say that Aldo Leopold was the one who mentioned using mice to harvest wild rice, but I'm not sure.
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to do both of these?
"...trouble with a diesel engine. We looked at the manifold and it was full of clean wild rice seeds at ideal ripeness. And there musta been about a hundred pounds of wild rice stuck in the engine manifold. And we found a pack rat sittin out in front of it." ... "There's your harvesting system: just put up manifolds in the field [laughs]... and uh, he just keeps harvestin... only sound seed, only ripe seed, and he husks it and puts it away..."
It's hard to find seeders for this lecture on bittorrent, but to purchase:
Holzer has mentioned that moles and voles are useful in soil structuring, insect control, and plant propagation. There is a short diagram by him attached to this post as a GIF.
Snakes - we used to have snakes when we first moved here about 7 years ago but they have moved on. We didn't have voles then! I don't really know what happened to cause the snakes to leave. We used to have at least one large black snake living in a pile of magnolia leaves next to a fence and another that would hang out near a compost bin.
I would like to get the snakes back - we are surrounded by woods/wild areas so I know they are around - they are just not coming here for dinner.
Amed Mesa wrote:Brenda, how many acres do your cats cover? In your experience, do you think they will reduce the population enough in 60 acres? How many cats would you keep for that much land?
Yes, what you do, is get (tabby) American Shorthair, or close hybrid, they are considered the best mousers,
if it is very wet or humid where you are, also get some Turkish Van as they are waterproof.
Get several (2-3) males and females of different stock, make sure they have burrows/nests to reproduce,
their population will naturally fluctuate based on the rodent population.
That is assuming that you don't feed them,
and instead let them live on wild-food.
It is best to get parent-cats that are already avid-mousers, otherwise may have to feed the initial parents,
since some indoor domestic cats have never had practice with anything larger than a fly or spider,
Though the kittens of those which aren't will most likely "play" with mice and naturally become mousers.
For a healthy all-round diet, cats also eat birds, baby rabbits and other small animals.
They will also keep out raccoons and other medium sized animals from their territory.
Cats are also great at catching insects, such as cockroaches and ants,
so can keep inside of the house, food-storage, and places clean.
If I were you, I'd get portable fencing, a tractor+coop, a crapload of layers and a market for the incredibly delicious and nutritious eggs.
Dogs of the terrier group have in common the proclivity to kill rodents and vermin, often by digging or going to ground after them. The word terrier, in fact, refers to earth, or terra.
If you know anyone with a terrier, maybe you should dog sit for a week. Not sure if it'll be worth the digging damage.
My voles, I might as well take ownership of them, have a very diverse diet. They eat all the potatoes, all of the horseradish, most of the carrots, but so far they let me have the radishes, turnips, mustard, onions and garlic. We'll see if they share the strawberries this year and if they are going to let me keep the old rose that I rescued.
We have the semi-feral cats (2), we have 200 acres behind us that supplies various raptors that occasionally nest in the yard, trapping would be like going out to a wheat field and harvesting it one grain at a time. And it's not just the various food beds - now the remaining yard (about an acre) looks like cluster bombs were dropped on it.
So..... this year I'll try Castor Beans. I used to grow them as a decorative plant before I ever heard about permaculture and I didn't bother keeping up with the seed when I switched to growing food crops. I didn't have voles then either. Is there a connection? I don't know but I ordered seed and today started a few in pots and will direct seed some more. We'll see what happens.