For some reason, I thought voles were something found in another part of the country. I think they merged in my mind with the boll weevil, an entirely different cause for increased aspirin sales. Well, this year, I found out I was quite wrong.
This spring, before the grass really grew back, I noticed surface trails through part of our lawn, two-inch wide tracks that looked like long, narrow cave-ins. "Moles," pronounced Mom. "Well, what do I do?" "Let the grass grow in." Fair enough. That did seem to do the trick, for the most part, and only a true student of turf would notice the difference.
Until I dug up this year's potatoes.
Yes, look closely, my children and you will see, the midnight noshing of voles hungry. True, that was not ideal, but the point stands. E came home in the midst of my sad potato retrieval mission, took one look, and said only, "voles." "Not moles?" "Nope, voles." Apparently, D, vanquisher of Roses of Sharon, just had similar problems in her own garden. I did a little reading and found out not only was she right, but that we had done this to ourselves. While heaven only knows what made them move into the front garden – and it was definitely voles in the lawn, as I found they are surface diggers – we invited them into the vegetable garden by planting the super-enthusiastic sweet potatoes, which grew so much that they acted like ground cover around the potatoes. Voles love ground cover. I noticed this as I pulled away enough of the vines to dig up each potato plant – holes and disturbed earth aplenty. So, due to both poor sprouting of my potatoes to begin with, and the subsequent in-vole-sion, this is the sum total of my potato crop this year:
Live, learn, get stronger, cliche of choice. Basically, the sweet potatoes are going to have to get their own digs next year. And if the voles got to them this year, we may not bother at all come 2014. We'll have to wait until after the first frost to find out.