A mystery and a puzzle

The last few mornings while checking on my Phyllostachys bissetii bamboo that's next to the driveway outside the garage and doing quite well:

I've noticed this on the driveway and in the bamboo:


It's little branches off my neighbor's Elm that's above the bamboo:

We haven't had any storms, and there are some birds up in the tree, but birds wouldn't be breaking twigs off, would they? So why are all these little branches breaking? There are a lot of them around. Are there insects eating the twigs and weakening them? I just didn't know.

Well this morning I got the answer. See all of the little seeds on those branches? Apparently something likes to eat those seeds. Something likes to climb way up in the trees where there are so many seeds it just doesn't matter if you drop some. Something like this:

Mystery solved! I do wonder if the branches are being snapped on purpose, or if the squirrel is just bending them to get the seeds but then they snap on accident. I don't know. Perhaps I'll need to observe more closely tomorrow morning.

By the way, here's an interesting branch that I spotted in that tree:

All of the smaller branches are directly in line with each other, like espalier (except this is way up in a tree and growing naturally).

Now here's a puzzle for you. Can you tell me what this is? Take a close look. Think about it for a minute -- don't just scroll down to see the answer.

Here are some clues. Start with a small mound of soil:

Add quite a bit of water... enough to flood the area:

After about 30 seconds or more you end up with this -- the answer to the puzzle:

One very wet and aggravated mole! Moles are a big problem in my neighborhood. Let me clarify that: they're really not a problem at all, until they're a problem. What I mean is, if you don't have a mole or two (or more) in your yard, then everything is fine (and it's probably in your neighbor's yard instead). Once it gets into your yard though, it can really rip up a large section of lawn or garden bed looking for earthworms or grubs.

Remember this little raised bed?

It's got mole tunnels in it. I've known this for a couple of years, but I just never realized how BIG the tunnel was. Here's what it looks like after I ran some water into it to collapse it:

Well I just can't let it stay like that, so I dumped some soil in and washed it down with water until the hole was filled. Then a little extra mulch to top it off. I wonder how long it will be until the mole tunnels back up?

I catch probably 5-6 moles every year -- possibly more. I've got a pretty reliable technique now, but the supply of moles never runs out. They just keep coming. I'll probably post more about moles throughout the summer. For now, we'll just start up the official MoleMeter:

MoleMeter 2010 mole capture count:  01

I should point out that I don't kill or harm the moles I catch. I certainly do annoy and aggravate them though (or so I assume), but that's fair because they annoyed and aggravated me first, and I don't like being annoyed in the garden.

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