Friday, April 3, 2009


When I walk in my backyard at Sewanee, I feel as though I’m promenading on the deck of a ship navigating a rocky sea – the bumpy terrain causes most visitors to exclaim, “You have moles!” Yes indeed, I have many moles, members of the family Talpidae – ugly, fur-bodied critters with beady eyes that live underground and nose through intricate tunnels beneath the surface of my yard, raising molehills and destroying as much lawn as they can.

I watch for them, remembering that during her childhood my oldest daughter, Stephanie, was fascinated with Beatrix Potter’s poem and illustration about Diggory Delvet:

“Diggory, Diggory Delvet,
A little old man in black velvet;
He digs and he delves –
You can see for yourselves
The mounds dug by Diggory Delvet.”

Moles love earthworms, and I’ve read that they often catch mice at the entrance to their lairs, so I endure the unsightly lawn because mice from the nearby woodland constantly attempt to penetrate steel wool barriers we’ve erected at possible entry ways into the house. They often eat the peanut butter spread on a trap and scamper off unscathed. However, Death by Mole is as horrifying for the mice as rodent bait because the mole’s saliva has a toxin that paralyzes its prey, such as the mice, and the moles store the paralyzed victims in underground larders for a sumptuous (?) feast later.

I’ve been told to sprinkle cat litter everywhere or to try watching for the molehill to move and then plunge a knife into it. No way! I’ll just walk unevenly on my humped-up lawn and pray that Diggory Delvet decimates the mice population. If Stephanie were here, she’d be on alert, watching for Diggory and daring me to disturb this burrowing critter’s lifestyle. When she comes to visit in June and gets bored with Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, I’ll station her in my yard and commission her to mole watch.

I’m told that the damage done to lawns by Diggory Delvet is primarily visual, so if I had a mind to, I could spade off the earth of the molehills as they popped up on my terrain, and the moles would simply continue to live in their subterranean tunnels.

Critters aren’t confined to The Mountain at Sewanee, however – a Louisiana invasion of lawns would most likely be from crawfish who build ornate mud huts aboveground. So…much ado about mounding, and the old adage comes to mind: “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill!”
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