Living en pleine campagne, the animal kingdom is in daily evidence. Some animals are more welcome than others. The baby hedgehogs living under a bush by our kitchen door, the red squirrels and the hares are delightful. I love to see the deer leaping like creatures from a medieval book of hours but I’m not so keen when they eat my shrubs. The wild boar are a pest and dig up everything. Now it’s time to wage war on another vexation – moles.
Previously, they have been satisfyingly discreet, keeping their burrowing to the edge of our lawn. The odd molehill was easily flattened. The finely-sifted earth also supplemented the very poor soil around the garden. We congratulated ourselves on our moles’ good behaviour compared to those that plagued our friends.
This year, the moles (taupes) have changed comportment. They are advancing rapidly towards the centre of the lawn – coming perilously close to some shrubs that I have been nurturing against the depredations of deer. They had already done for some peach trees near the field border, presumably by destroying their roots. Those trees were in the wrong place and never gave decent fruit anyway. But now I am starting to gear up for a declaration of war.
Before I cut the grass last week I had to spend an hour dealing with the molehills (taupinières). Not only were there dozens of heaps of soil – some quite large – but also the moles’ underground tunnels threatened to undermine a whole area of the lawn. The only bright spot was that I filled a wheelbarrow with useful soil.
But how do you stop moles making a mockery of your lawn – already far from resembling a bowling green? Take a trip to Pôle Vert, the chain of garden and agricultural equipment suppliers, and you’ll find all kinds of remedies. They range from poison to explosives. I don’t want to kill them, just make them go away. If you have a foolproof anti-mole remedy that doesn’t involve massacre, please share it with us.
The life of a mole
The surrounding pastures must be full of moles. According to my Guide de la faune et de la flore (a useful book for identifying and naming animals and plants in French) moles dig a complex network of tunnels with a central chamber at the hub. They are solitary and very territorial creatures and fierce in protecting their domains. They live mostly on earthworms, insects, larvae and snails (the latter prey being a point in their favour).
You rarely see live moles. They spend their lives mostly underground. The nearest I have come here is seeing a molehill pulsating – like a mini volcano erupting – as the mole pushed up the soil. In England once, I found a dead mole in a wood. The cause of death was not obvious, since it appeared to be unharmed. Its coat was glossy grey-black. In French, taupe is also a colour.
Moles in history
The Jacobites used to drink a secret toast to ‘the little gentleman in black velvet’. William III’s horse stumbled on a molehill and William died in 1702 of complications following a broken collar bone. My researches on Google to find similar stories in France turned up only tales about spies or beauty spots (graines de beauté). I’d appreciate hearing any anecdotes to do with France.
By the way, don’t call anyone une vieille taupe in French, unless you want to insult them. It means ‘old bag’.
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