"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

Long live the Spring!

Spring has officially arrived here in upstate NY. We had a very dicey April, with some nagging snowfalls and sagging temperatures. Until about one week ago, the trees were bare. However, since we lost nearly two full months from the '06-'07 ski season back around the New Year, we had to expect winter to hang on longer than usual.
Now, suddenly, our trees are filled with verdant leaves and all sorts of fabulous blossoms in shades from white to blood-red. All the flowers are blooming at once, racing to beat the freshly-sprouted weeds (which are growing faster than I can yank them out).

We have visitors now, unfortunately. When the snow finally melted I grabbed my leaf-rake and set out to rid our garden of last fall's crop of leaves, which I'd left throughout the garden as cover. As I swept the leaves out from among the plants, one of my three miserable rose bushes came along, too! You could have fit what was left of the rootball into a trial-size spice cannister. The culprit? Voles! I learned this by running a Google® search, of course. These voracious critters love all sorts of plant roots and bulbs, but especially favor tulips and roses. Though they are called garden voles, they seem to be a mouse of one sort or another. And there are a lot of them! They burrow into the ground via holes the size of golf balls, and leave ugly furrows just beneath the surface--easily spotted since the ground collapses into them.

How does one rid one's garden of these pernicious beasts? I haven't answered that question yet, but not for lack of effort. Being the sort who likes easy solutions, I tried "smoke bombs" first: they seemed the simplest and most devastating method. They also seemed to work, at first. I was easily deceived, and didn't hear the little monsters laughing at me there in their secret underground lairs. Oh, I'm sure a few of their valiant soldiers died in the struggle. Their funerals were well-attended, no doubt. The survivors have vowed to plow up every inch of my assorted gardens, to gobble every remaining bulb and root, and to colonize any previously unmolested sanctuary. They trip my silly mousetraps, and shun my delectable poison bait-packs. They do, however, very much approve of the lovely mulch I spread for them; they shuffle it all around to suit their needs each day. If I had a gun, and it was legal to use it here in the suburbs, I'd give it a shot. I've never actually seen one of these animals doing their dirty-work, so I can't imagine how I'd ever get a chance to snipe at them. If my cat was brave enough to go outdoors, and if she had any front claws, perhaps she could help in the war. I haven't thought of anything else that might work.

I'll continue the battle, but I won't utter any further complaint about the arrival of Spring. We had a long and odd winter, with only a single ski outing and just a few trips to our nearby sledding hill. Now the chill is gone from the air, and the threat of post-season snowfalls has passed. Spring here in western New York is notoriously short, and has to be savored whole-heartedly. The symphony of dozens of lawn-mowers fills the air, while gorgeous blossoming trees brighten every street. Nearly all the good TV shows have fired their final salvoes: it's time to get outside and enjoy our world. Summer will be here soon enough, with another dreary winter only moments behind it. What's not to love?

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