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Thwarting rodents

April 7, 2010

My first seed starting efforts were impacted by mice this year.  It seems like it is always something with everything. A dry, warm winter saves the woodpile, and dries down the spring… if we have an easy winter, so does the wildlife.  Which means more  mouths to feed come spring.  It’s just I don’t like feeding rodents my seeds and seedlings.

I restarted many of my seeds, set traps and still had a few quirks.  I had to come up with a mouse-proof plan.  I had been using the chick hover for a starting table, but the mice quickly learned to climb it and dine to their hearts content.  My remedy?  I scrounged up some baler twine and a piece of scrap plywood and made a hanging bench.  It took all of 10  minutes and so far, so good.  The plants are in the small greenhouse, getting all the light and warmth they need – and the mice, if there are any, have moved on.  I haven’t seen any trap activity for several weeks.

Hillbilly hoophouse.

Outside, things are stirring to life too.  The dogs are hunting voles and gray diggers.  We have the California ground squirrel here in Western Oregon and they are voracious garden eaters.   The dogs are pretty good at controlling them near the gardens, but in the pastures they are fair game for wild predators.

Needless to say, Trace didn’t want dinner last night… .

28 Comments leave one →
  1. Rita permalink
    April 7, 2010 8:14 am

    Wish I could loan you my cat for the hoop house. He loves fresh mice!

  2. April 7, 2010 8:18 am

    Your plants look great. I get mice sometimes in the garden but Notshy is deadly when it comes to rodent control! I have much more grief with the bug population and they don’t breed a dog for that 😦

    • April 7, 2010 5:06 pm

      Linda, this mild winter has the place overrun – and our last cat got ate about a month ago. The dogs are vigilant but they don’t get them all – maybe too much sleeping on their beds when they should be working!

  3. April 7, 2010 8:29 am

    Good job Trace!

  4. April 7, 2010 8:40 am

    Rodents can sure be a problem when you’re trying to grow a garden or raise livestock…we’re finding that out pretty quickly around here. What a great idea for keeping your seedlings safe…I may just have to try that next year! I think our biggest problem with the garden this year will be grass and weeds as this is the first year for it and it was nothing but a grass filled field when we started. Oh well…we’ll just have lots of weeding to do for the next few years…or more. I hope you have a wonderful day…take care. Maura

    • April 7, 2010 5:09 pm

      Maura, necessity is the mother of invention 😉 It’s working so far, but as soon as I get chicks it may be in the way…

      Take heart, garden spots always get better 🙂

  5. April 7, 2010 10:05 am

    We’ve got a cat that keeps the voles, moles, and mice under control. Our dogs do pretty good with the other critters. Glad Trace is a good hunter! Your seedlings look great! My pepper starts look fabulous, but my tomatoes had a rough start and are reflecting that! I’m ready to get stuff in the ground, but it’s far to wet right now. We’ve had such wet springs the last three years that we’ve just had to mud stuff in and hope for the best. I’m hoping for a good planting window this year. How’s Della??

    • April 7, 2010 5:12 pm

      Sarah, I need to get more cats here pretty soon, hopefully they won’t become morsels before they can do some hunting.

      My starts are the opposite, my poor tiny little peppers are so little, and the tomatoes are doing great – oh well. It will be quite a while before I can plant them out anyway.

      Della is not changing too much, the calf has dropped, and she is sleeping a lot,but she still has 5 weeks to go. She doesn’t appear too worried – it’s just me that needs propping up. 😉

  6. michelle permalink
    April 7, 2010 2:17 pm

    i love the hanging table.. way to reuse random things.
    Question of curiosity- how long do you leave your tomato and pepper plants in the greenhouse?

    I LOVE the pics of Trace, Good Dog!

    • April 7, 2010 5:15 pm

      Michelle, I won’t be able to plant until mid or late May – so I will re-pot until then.

      We praised and praised Trace until his cohort Melvin looked too glum and sad. Poor baby!

  7. April 7, 2010 3:23 pm

    Goooooood dog!!!

    My sprouts look absolutely pitiful, compared to yours. Well, no; they’re just pitiful.

    • April 7, 2010 5:16 pm

      Paula, that’s what we told him! Sorry about your starts – maybe they will pickup if it ever decides to get warm again! It didn’t get 60 today like they predicted – I wore my down vest all day while walking fence!

  8. Chris Barrett permalink
    April 7, 2010 3:30 pm

    Your tomatos look great. Ours are half the size, but I am starting to plant transplant to 4″ pots. Just wondering when do tomatos ripen in your part of the world? Here on SaltspringIsland BC we are lucky to have them by the end of July. Love your site, hope you have a productive spring season.


    • April 7, 2010 5:21 pm

      Chris, we’re south of you, between the 45th and 46th parallel – we’re lucky to get ripe tomatoes at the end of July – usually the end of August is more like it. Stupice and Bellstar ripen the earliest here. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. April 7, 2010 3:31 pm

    The plants look great! I’m impressed with our mouse-proof starting table. Bob, my cat, practically lives in the garden and has my mole problem under control out there.

    • April 7, 2010 5:23 pm

      Teresa, thanks, we have so many predators that eat cats around here, it has been hard for us to keep cats year-round. Since our last cat disappeared the mice have really taken off – he must have been doing a good job. We miss him.

  10. April 7, 2010 5:40 pm

    Love your dogs. Like your invention too!

  11. April 7, 2010 7:57 pm

    Very clever! Our dogs are catching moles and voles also. This is the first year that we have had such a problem with them. All are veggies are in containers on the porch so don’t have to worry about them getting the veggies.

  12. April 7, 2010 8:37 pm

    Eight or nine years ago I tried some of the Victor “permanent” bait mouse traps, the ones with the yellow tab.

    I figured to leave the tabs intact, so I carefully opened the package without touching the tab. By turning the trap to dangle the tab, I set the things. I have several from that first four-pack still catching mice – in heavy season, one or two a day. They work, here in Oklahoma.

    My so-called “barn cat” will often beg at the door for me to dump a trap for him. If he isn’t there at the unloading moment – he can walk over the mouse more than a day, if I don’t kick the carcass, before he notices it. Maybe I shouldn’t have called him “Spot”. Grey, Lady, Morris, and Scamp – I seldom see them with a mouse, though there were feathers in the barn one day last month.

    • April 7, 2010 10:01 pm

      A couple of years ago I came across a some-times gun nut, Billll’s Idle Mind.

      Billll build a squirrel gun, and unattended device using compressed air and a lawn sprinkler head to capture and dispatch a squirre, and reset itself for the next squirrel.

      He about got it to work, but found a simpler variation that was amazingly effective (he was defending his oft-raided fruit tree, peaches, I think).

      The squirrel trap is described here:

  13. April 7, 2010 9:06 pm

    I can’t tell you how often my partner and I (new to the rural life and in the middle of a very step learning curve) have a question or a problem and within a day or two you write a blog about that very thing! We have been wrestling with mice in the garden and the greenhouse the last couple of weeks, and couldn’t figure out why it is such a problem this year compared to last year. Question answered – a warm winter! We are setting traps in the pea bed outside (after replanting TWICE) and in the greenhouse, where the mice seem to go for the chard and pepper seedlings. Little buggers! So for the first time in my life I am setting traps and dealing with dead mice with crushed heads every morning. Not pleasant, but rooted in reality.

  14. April 7, 2010 9:58 pm

    You know I’m a fan of hillbilly ingenuity. I’ll have to send you one of my almost famous hillbilly ball caps.

  15. April 9, 2010 3:22 am

    Love it. Looks like it would be a good use for an old door, too, if I see any idling around a rummage sale.

  16. April 14, 2010 11:16 am

    I keep looking for the right rescue Aussie out there, glad to know that can solve my vole problem, my Heeler is older and spoiled and wants to hang out inside with us. I’ve heard that cats go potty in the garden etc.., so I’m trying to avoid cats but that might be my default position. The gadgets I’ve tried haven’t worked well


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