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Hugelkultur and rats?

 
anne hoff
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I'm sourcing wood to do hugelkultur beds in my Seattle yard, and one person told me that she tried it and had a rat problem with the bed so she is having to redo them with solid sides and lined (at the bottom?) with hardware cloth... Her friend had the same issue... I don't know how the rats got into hers, but I can imagine the wood at the bottom provided nice little hidey holes. I'm going to dig down about 6" for mine, then go up about 2' above ground... Any advice? I want to do it right the first time as rebuilding sound like plenty of work.
 
Harmony Hunden
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Bump. I am wondering the same thing but I am in a rural area with an abundance of gopher like squirrel things.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Folks,

I will come back to this to answer specific questions. In general...its a fallacy...and not really one to concern yourself with.


Now, with that said, if your local biome is out of whack before you build, and you have "too many" (this mean for the environment not what you think should be there) then you could have issues. This is a much larger contextual problem to homeostasis in the local ecosystem between predator and prey imbalance...that needs to get fixed first.

Anyone that has specific questions, post them here, but after you have done a permies search for things like gophers, and such, as I have covered this issue several times. Eventually I would like to get all the, "Hugelkultur Infestation" info condensed and posted as a "Info Report," here at permies. So do ask questions if you have them.

Regards,

j
 
Michael Vormwald
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Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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I'd think moles and/or voles were more likely. Maybe invest in one of those solar powered gizmos that send a periodic vibration critters don't like?
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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Michael Vormwald wrote:I'd think moles and/or voles were more likely. Maybe invest in one of those solar powered gizmos that send a periodic vibration critters don't like?


Has anyone ever found one of those to be effective? I know they did nothing for me.

 
Charles Tarnard
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Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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Get some aggressive outdoor cats, or convince your neighbor to do it. I'm allergic to cats so I am very thankful for my neighbor's hunters.

In my neighborhood, without cats we have had rodent problems; now there are a bunch of outdoor cats running around near my home and we don't. No additional rodent problem presented itself after we put in our hugel.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Moles are related to Bats, and Shrews...Voles are a small rodent, similar to Rats and Mice...

Electronic devices are pointless, usually a gimmick with no value, and what research on sonic repulsion there is none is conclusive or reliable in the "real world" applications.

The augmentation of restoring balance to a "predator - prey" facet of an biome is a sound one. However, I have written in some length about the use of cats being highly inappropriate to the permaculture concept.

Cats further damages the biome, and are not at all an effective solution...Sorry, I am rather adamant about this, as I have spent too much time trapping and euthanizing them...which is not enjoyable and a "human made" issue that the cats must pay for.

If you want to add a "great" predator to the macro ecosystem, take a local snake species that preys on rodents and introduce (or have them by a professional) intro duced to the garden area. I grew up with "toad houses" and "snake hides" and the effect was most notable. This to I have written on and can be found here.

I will expand or answer any questions a reader may have.

Regards,

j
 
Michael Vormwald
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Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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Jay - I'd rather have moles than snakes....as Indiana Jones Said 'Why'd it have to be snakes....I hate snakes!" lol
 
Charles Tarnard
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What is a specific reason cats are so bad? The only reason I can come up with is they destroy small predators like birds, snakes and lizards. It's this it? It's there more? Because without more all I have to go on is 'With cats, no rodents. Without cats, rodents.'
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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It is a simple fallacy and falsehood that cats have very much of an impact on a local rodent populations alone, often they revert to what they hunt when they are truly "wild cats," as you find in Africa, and Europe. Cats are avian hunters and only take rodents as an "opportunistic prey species"...not a primary, looking for larger and feathered game. They are often the victims to other wild animals, often contracting and spreading rabies and other pathogen.

I love cats, cats are great, and cats that are truly domesticated and part of a family following you into a garden (under your control and watchful eye) is just fine. Thinking that letting them out to do as they will is good practice, in their best interest as domestic animals, or good for an environment is a self delusion, and silly. Sorry again, this is not subject, this is decades of field research, observation, and learned discussion with professionals. I would add, considering the site we are on...it is also not a permaculture practice, and just as bad as using poisons in the garden.
 
Charles Tarnard
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I want to be clear that I wasn't trying to be combative, but I was just trying to understand your position. To be sure I understand your position:

Cats are great pets.

Cats are amazing predators.

Cats are such amazing predators that they reduce other predator numbers by either killing them or denying them food.

By removing other predators there is very little left to eat insects, slugs and other tiny pests.

Cats get hurt or diseased because of being forced to compete with raccoons or other cats.

Please correct whatever is wrong with this summary.

FWIW, I am all for snakes and lizards, but I haven't seen a snake or lizard in my town since I was about 10. I'm sure they're around, but they aren't easy to find.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Charles,

No worries, I didn't take your query as challenging, only pure honest...and most important...open question.

Cats are great pets, I even hunted with my cats as I had true "hunting breeds, (Serval, and Caracal.) They are some of the most amazing animals there are... and a family clan "name sake."

Cats are beyond amazing predators, my Egyptian Mau could jump strait up 10 feet and the other two almost twice that, at the same time taking a dove out of the air in flight.

Cats are such amazing predators that they reduce other predator numbers by either killing them or denying them food. By removing other predators there is very little left to eat insects, slugs and other tiny pests.


Perfectly put, and they will kill for the shear fun of it, snakes, lizards, frogs, any thing that will present a moving target to pounce on.

Cats get hurt or diseased because of being forced to compete with raccoons or other cats, and many other predictors. None of this is fair to the animals on either side of the house door.

Please correct whatever is wrong with this summary.


You got nothing wrong and stated you points most excellently!

FWIW, I am all for snakes and lizards, but I haven't seen a snake or lizard in my town since I was about 10. I'm sure they're around, but they aren't easy to find.


Try reaching out to a local Herpetology club. You can even have them contact me if you would like. I have rebuilt hibernaculum, breed and released local species, and helped re establish healthy breeding populations of snakes, weasel-stoat, and even birds of prey. Rehab centers are always looking for a safe place to release injured birds of prey. I had several owls and hawks with limited to no flight skills left after their injury. They learned I was "safe" and that I had "treats" so sitting on a fence watching me, and taking a wayward mouse as it would scurry in the grass was most enjoyable to have around...CATS (unless trained and well watched...as mine had been) could NOT be in this environment.

Thank you for your questions and the wonderful points you made!

Regards,

j
 
Matu Collins
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Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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A woodchuck moved in under my biggest hugel last uear. I was grumpy at the time, especially when my squash looked like this


I decided, after some thought, to put the hose on (we've got plenty plenty of water here in a good well) in the burrow hole and then fill it up with rocks. The woodchuck moved out. The pile of sandy soil and pebbles at the doorway was impressive. I am sure that this burrow changed the air flow and structure of the hugel and I am not sure the change was for the worse. Have you seen the video in this thread where a fellow sacrifices the best squash plants in his hugel for the sake of knowledge? You might find it interesting.

 
Harmony Hunden
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Let me see if I have interpreted this correctly. Since ground squirrels are a natural part of the ecosystem wher I live I should not worry about them and set up a hugelkulture without building a pseudo fort Knox out of hardware cloth and boards to keep them away?!?
I have spent the past week working to the point of pulling my dreads out trying to find a frugal of not free way to set up a hugelkulture yet keep them varmints out. I say no worries at least a dozen times a day but am having trouble putting it into practice.
 
Michael Vormwald
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At the risk of thread robbery I had a big problem last year with woodchucks and/or rabbits in my vegetable garden. 'They' decimated the squash, peppers and broccoli and something was even eating the leaves of the potato plants (something I'd never seen before!) I invested in a Havahart electric fence (a single strand of wire 6" off the ground) and the damage completely stopped. I realize this isn't an answer for many, but it gives me encouragement for my large country vegetable garden (without resorting to shooting all the wildlife).
 
Matu Collins
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I would not build fort Knox. I would build it, observe it carefully, and make adjustments as needed. I wouldn't want rats in my garden, it's true! But there is usually a way.

It takes careful observation to see where animals are coming and going from unless they are waking on snow or mud. I will leave the cat discussion for another thread, but I will say used kitty litter made from natural materials put into burrow door holes has helped me discourage rodents of various sizes.
 
paul wheaton
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bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I remember when sepp holzer talked about having a pest problem eating his foods in his root cellars. He would put his stinkiest compostables near the door. Not only does it ring the dinner bell for the animals that are the problem - but it also rings the dinner bell for their predators.

"You don't have an excess of slugs. You have a deficiency of ducks."

I think hugelkultur could be a habitat for all sorts of critters. Although every time i get to a site where a problem is reported, either we could not find the problem, or the problem turned out to be possibly something else. So, I would never try to bury any sort of wire into hugelkultur.

 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Folks, (Hello Paul, thanks for that quick note!)

I will first address Paul's comment...I could not agree more, and I actually know how to build "rodent proof gardens,"...it just is not worth the effort. If you do things correctly and get the biome around your property in some reasonable state of homeostasis...you will have little issue or need for many of the "drastic measures" so many think they need to take (cats being one of them!)

Paul's comment about slugs is the perfect metaphor to think about and follow...in your efforts to reach balance...

A woodchuck in my garden means grand things to come! I get so excited to see a family of Marmota move in!! New banjo heads for all my "musical friends" (note: best banjo heads -and related instruments- are made from Marmota ssp. skins) and the toughest leather you can find. Plus, pound for pound these critters probably are equal to (or as good as Rabbits) for tuning "greens" into delicious protein (if you are flesh eater like I and the wee beasties I live around are.) So be it a slung, Marmota, or any other rodentia, it is all in how you look at it....with the eyes of a permaculturist...or some other less balanced way....your choice.

Now for specifics, if you have a direct..."what do I do?" question...I will do the best I can to address it.

Regards,

j
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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....big problem last year with woodchucks and/or rabbits in my vegetable garden. 'They' decimated the squash, peppers and broccoli and something was even eating the leaves of the potato plants (something I'd never seen before!) I invested in a Havahart electric fence (a single strand of wire 6" off the ground) and the damage completely stopped.

I realize this isn't an answer for many, but it gives me encouragement for my large country vegetable garden (without resorting to shooting all the wildlife)


Hi Michael V.

Your advice is sound, perhaps not for everyone, but if you have the energy and skill sets to use an "electric grid" that is fine. I have use solar run fences on deep cell 12 volts just to do a "quick fix" just as you described. The new fencing type (we designed and made our own) is the best! It gets them, as they are low to the ground and travel by touch and scent. As soon as they hit that fence...oh boy!. I had to be careful because of the snakes and other critters I had around, yet for a "quick fix," this approach can work.

Drift fencing, if you wish to bother with such things is another approach for the smaller rodentia clan. Now though, if I am going to go that far, I myswell just put up hoop houses and grow inside a full structure. I like this too for some approaches and solutions to challenges for an area. These structures can also serve other purposes of value other than gardening, and spill over into aquaponics, animal husbandry, and really nice places to cut timber frames.

I would state that I do not condone shooting wild life, yet I do when I must and nothing goes to waste....nothing!

Regards,

j
 
Harmony Hunden
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paul wheaton wrote:I remember when Sepp Holzer talked about having a pest problem eating his foods in his root cellars. He would put his stinkiest compostables near the door. Not only does it ring the dinner bell for the animals that are the problem - but it also rings the dinner bell for their predators.

"You don't have an excess of slugs. You have a deficiency of ducks."

I think hugelkultur could be a habitat for all sorts of critters. Although every time i get to a site where a problem is reported, either we could not find the problem, or the problem turned out to be possibly something else. So, I would never try to bury any sort of wire into hugelkultur.



This is giving me the idea that humanure or sawdust with dog or cat pee would be useful to put in the bottom of the hugel.... without fully composting it first so the odor would drive away. I have gardened with fully composted three year old humanure last spring in a regular row garden. I am assuming it would be safe to use deep inside a hugel. But now how can I get away with a composting toilet in my rental....
 
Josh Wells
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Had the same issue with rodents making burrows in my hugelkultur mound and nibbling on watermelon rind. Little squirrel dog catches them if she has a chance.
 
gene gapsis
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I live on Vancouver Island.  Yesterday I tore apart my 4 year old hugelkultur bed, about 30 feet in length.  It had become the perfect home for rats, who were eating my tomatoes off the vine.  I detest rats, and found at least 8 adults and a nest of new borns in my unearthing process.  I liked the concept for a dry part of my garden, but not when it creates the perfect home for these pests.  I will return to standard gardening practices which have worked for 35 years, and install drip irrigation come spring.  I'm glad to hear others have had this problem.
 
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