Eastern Mole

moon phase Week of 04/12/2009 Best days to harvest.

I can always tell when the frost has left the ground, without having to dig a hole. There are a couple of events that lead me to that conclusion. When those little mounds of dirt that run through the yard begin to appear just under the ground's surface, I know that the earthworms have come back up to dine from the nutrient rich topsoil. Eastern Mole Eastern Mole Ah, but who dines on the earthworms?

The mole has spent the winter quite active, below the frost line, where he survives on earthworms. When the frost retreats in the spring, the mole follows the worms up to the topsoil. Life is much easier now for the always-hungry mole. All he has to do is dig a narrow tunnel that snakes around the yard. He then patrols his tunnels to search for earthworms that have fallen in. His strategy is quite ingenious, actually, but angry gardeners don't usually see it that way. It's kind of ironic, because it's the landowners who encourage the moles to come into their yards. The worms will accumulate where the soil is rich and fertile. Spring amid the black locusts Spring amid the black locusts The soil is always being fed by layers of grass clippings left behind by countless mowings over the years. If the lawn is mowed about 15 times every summer for 60 years, it means the yard has been fertilized about 900 times. No wonder the worms like it there—and where the worms are is where the moles will take up residence.

I've learned to let go of my obsession for eradication of the moles, which means I've let go of my obsession to have a perfect, grassy lawn. The mole has taught me a valuable lesson. Once I learned it was me who created his habitat, I quickly gained respect for his space.

Crow's nests Crow's nests Before mowing, I walk through the yard, one foot just ahead of the other, until I have padded down all the places the mole has pushed too high for the mower. It really doesn't take too long, and the mole doesn't seem to mind. He has no trouble reopening his tunnels—or he may just dig another one. It's what a mole does. Do I ever step on a mole while walking down the tunnels? Maybe.

"First it rained, then it blew, then it frizzed and then it snooed." Handed down from a Norwegian ancestor referring to the March weather in these parts. Willow buds Willow buds I'm so often reminded of that old saying this March, because it holds so true. Yesterday was sunny and 50 degrees. A light breeze dried a section of the grassy meadow that I was able to burn off just before dark. It was a perfect Spring day. There's an old yarn about the smiling crescent of the moon, how it's the bowl that holds the water and it won't rain soon. Well, so much for that old yarn: It started raining in the night and changed to sleet before morning. Once again March has the last word.

All of the signs of spring are brought to us by the weather changes and the wildlife is simply and naturally adjusting to these changes. It's how they best provide for themselves and their future, and it keeps the earth in harmony, healthy as a whole. Their lives are lives to assure a healthy planet.

Pasque flowers peaking thru the mulch Pasque flowers peaking thru the mulch It's time to ask ourselves an undeniable question: "Where do I fit into the age old natural cycle of life?" How can we people once again be a benefit to the planet, not just another invasive species? It's time to confront ourselves and put focus on the most urgent crises facing us today—mother earth.

I ask you to do more than just observe spring from a distance. Please give yourself the opportunity to go outside and be a part of it. It's your first step to clear thinking and better understanding.

Addendum from Dan:

This is the time of year when I begin to get overwhelmed by all the new signs of spring. Even without any green starting to show yet, there are lots of bird and animal sightings to report.

Pasque flowers Pasque flowers I've always enjoyed keeping track of what I see, noting the dates and comparing it with notes from past years. It's fun to put up a running list so you can write down when and what you saw on any given day. Encourage the kids and anyone who wants to add something new to the list.

The only green is in the yard, a little bit. It may not be very green yet, but I saw the old woodchuck grazing. He was nibbling the fresh new dandelion leaves one of his favorite treats and so good for him.

I was kinda surprised when a good friend told me she had Orioles coming to the sliced oranges she puts out for the birds. That's about the earliest I've ever heard of them returning. They usually show up when it's a little warm, say around the second or third week of April. Is it just a coincidence that these April Fools show up this year on the first of April?

There are a couple of medium-sized stick nests, high in the leafless trees, which I see from the road that takes me to Organic Valley headquarters. They are crows' nests, and I always slow down for a better look as I pass by. On April first (Wednesday), I could plainly see long, black tail feathers sticking out over the nest. Mother crow has settled down over her eggs. These nests, by the way, are not in the same tree. It's a couple of weeks early to see black tail feathers in a crow's nest, but they wouldn't be there if the timing wasn't right for them.

Another good friend told me she has seen a Brown creeper. These little, brown, nuthatch-like birds, which search the tree bark for spiders and insects and insect larvae, are not a common sight. I told her I hadn't seen one all winter, but I saw one at my place the next day. I like swapping stories with other birders.

From Brown creepers to spring peepers! I first heard just a few on the evening of March 30th, but it's gotten colder, and I haven't heard them since. Their springtime appearance varies from year to ear. The earliest I've heard them here was the 17th of March, and the latest date was the 12th of April. The timing for these tiny tree frogs has to be just right. They don't sing until it's time.

The woodpeckers take turns at the suet feeder just outside the window. There's a definite pecking order here, for sure. The robin-sized Red-bellied woodpeckers usually eat first, or whenever they want to. The similar-sized Hairy woodpeckers are second in line, followed by the smaller Downy woodpeckers. Of course, the nuthatches dart in and out whenever they can. It seems that any two different kinds of woodpeckers, no matter which two, won't tolerate each other's close presence. It makes for a lot of activity. A new woodpecker appeared for the first time today. He's about the same size as a Downy woodpecker with similar black and white plumage. He circled the tree trunk near where the wire basket of suet is hung, but he couldn't seem to find the courage to challenge the other woodpeckers for a spot, so he left.

These were just a few of the many new happenings the past 2 days. So much to see and hear. So much to enjoy and learn. Go ahead, let Mother Nature teach you a thing or two—no charge!

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Comments

Jeanne from from Halfway between Orlando & DB .. FLorida on April 20, 2009 at 09:08:22 AM
I just wanted to thank you, again, for your wonderful reports & photos & sketches from the land my soul belongs to ... HOping some day to be able to return. NOt all of us in the south are glad to be out from under winter!
Fay from from Louisiana on April 17, 2009 at 09:03:18 PM
Hi Dan from your friend in La.
Fantastic newsletter this week with great pictures. Fascinating story about moles. We don't have any here for me to observe. Glad you added your addendum about your bird observations. I will have to forward a few of my photos from the deep south.
Georgette from from Staten Island, NY on April 17, 2009 at 07:26:31 AM
Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your stories and pictures and sketches. I look forward to each new unfolding of nature as it comes. I then forward them to my family and friends who enjoy them as much as I do. Thank you.
Joyce from from Southeast Missouri on April 16, 2009 at 11:06:03 PM
more and more hummers coming toy feeder...more rabbits coming to eat..i toss out my scrap celery,lettuce,etc for them and they are right at my back door...the wild violest are thick in my yard.....Ahhh how i love spring...
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