Given we are closing in on the “thankful season,” I uttered my appreciation out loud this week for the particular benefit of working in a garden. When in need of a stretch, or untangling a thought, all I need do is walk out the office door. I wander among the lushness of the plantings, look at the colored leaves, wink at the sun’s rays through the firs, and the world looks level again.
In my most recent sortie around the Dunn, I noticed piles of dirt sitting atop the grass, a sure signal we have moles as neighbors. They have been much in evidence this year, particularly on the Great Lawn. Zsolt, our groundsman, tells me the critters have appreciated the efficient irrigation system he set up on said lawn. “We have softened up the area for them and eased their digging.” He appeared more relaxed than I could have been in his shoes about the issue.
I wondered, with admittedly a prejudicial air, what life would be like for a mole. Not so bad I had to admit if you were built, as they are, for a subterranean life: cylindrical bodies, velvet fur, inconspicuous ears and eyes, and powerful forelimbs with paws adapted for digging. (The extra thumb helps!) Moles can also tolerate low oxygen levels and have an ability to paralyze their main food supply, worms, with a toxin in their saliva. They can move faster than the proverbial speeding bullet when they smell a worm close by. (Who knew!)
The language around moles amused me. In Middle English, the creatures were known as “moldwarp,” an expression that evolved in Early Modern English to “mouldywarp.” The latter loosely translates to “one who throws soil.” That they do. Both sexes. Males are boars, the females are sows and the collective noun for a mole is a “labor.” That they do. As noted we have seen the fruits of their working all year.
Perhaps I gave moles more than their due after my recent walk because our trust manager, Carolyn, showed me an article in The Wall Street Journal about feuding in the UK among three different organizations that deal with mole control. The stakes are high. The representative of the ascendant organization can claim to be the heir to a long tradition, give the after-dinner mole talks, appear on TV and train aspiring mole catchers.
The article probably wasn’t meant to be funny, but Carolyn and I chortled over it as an example of the eccentricities of the English. We did wonder if the UK mole catchers were not making “a mountain out of a mole hill.”
Mountain or not, the fact is, one of the organizations in the UK dedicated to managing moles has a name with a whiff of the centuries: the Guild of Traditional Mole Catchers. The need to have such a group over time means that moles are a sturdy bunch, resistant to being eliminated. For that we owe the creatures some respect. Perhaps, I wondered, could we also be a little thankful for their habits. They do not eat vegetation, but do eat insects, pose no threat to humans and aerate the lawn. Until May, when the pups will be ready to tunnel, we are thankful for those attributes. When they rip up the lawns once more we may have to revisit our benign view.
In the meantime it is time for us to enjoy the annual thankful season. At the Dunn Gardens we are most thankful for the support and goodwill we have received over the year. It certainly adds to our thankful season.
Happy Turkey Day from our house to yours.