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Vole castings... kinda like worm castings but... different.

 
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Posts: 2414
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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So I'm trying to see the solution of the problem of my vole epidemic.  

Well the snow cleared off my meadow super fast in the last few days and what a mess of vole evidence.  There's all these little holes and the mounds in front of them, and sometimes the mounds extend like miniature berms for a foot or more as they brought up material from a tunnel under the earth up and into a tunnel under the snow.  I've noticed this before but I never really got down and inspected them before.

They are not everywhere, but there are some places that they are super abundant... I guess these are wintering colony locations.   One of these locations is my raised bed garden.  Holy Crap, there's lots.

These castings seem to be brought up in the mouths of the voles, as they often look a lot like worm castings with some sort of mucus coating.  The mounds are full of beautiful worked soil, and seem to also be sort of waste middens, and everything is processed in little self contained mucus coated balls, that has great structure and pore space.  Sometimes in these mounds there are also little outhouse piles of droppings. These seem like too good of a resource to pass up.  

In the garden paths, where the snow lasted the longest, there are ridiculous quantities of the stuff.  I'm going to take the mulch off the top of the beds and put these castings on the bed, and then return the mulch to the bed.

So I did so far rake an area, and scooped up a 5 gal pail full and added it as a layer on top of a 5gal pail of food scraps in the winter compost.  

I know the voles are doing all kinds of good in the field and garden, but... they decimated a few crops last year... and it's been hard to have a friendly vibe with the little beasts.

Anybody else mining this resource to get some benefit from the voles?
 
Roberto pokachinni
gardener
Posts: 2414
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
345
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I'm heading to add some of these goodies to my garden beds right now.
 
Posts: 51
Location: Flathead, Montana
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Please be careful with that! While relatively rare, rodent droppings can carry hantavirus. I do not even handle the nests without protection (gloves and a mask) and I would never purposely use the droppings in my garden. The risk is just too high.
 
Roberto pokachinni
gardener
Posts: 2414
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
345
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I appreciate the warning, Marrisa. Yeah, I'm aware of hanta virus.  But this would be impossible to avoid in my world.  My garden is riddled with vole tunnels, vole castings, and vole droppings.
 
Roberto pokachinni
gardener
Posts: 2414
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
345
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The vole epidemic was solved this past winter by the arrival of a mysterious predator.  Today as I was turning my massive compost heap, I was visited by the likely culprit, a tiny extremely fast moving weasel.  He spent about ten minutes darting around me, stopping occasionally to have a long look at me in a head tilting manner that seemed to say that he was curious about me. I kept stopping and talking to him, and then he would dive into a tunnel in my equally massive hay stack that is right beside where I was working and then pop up out of another hole and then run so fast in my peripheral vision that I thought it was a bird in flight.  Pretty freakin cool.  And very welcome.  
 
That's my roommate. He's kinda weird, but he always pays his half of the rent. And he gave me this tiny ad:
Switching from electric heat to a rocket mass heater reduces your carbon footprint as much as parking 7 cars
http://woodheat.net
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