Monday, 6 February 2012
But not quite gone. The snow is going quite quickly here in the Yorkshire Dales. Where the sun catches the grass it has already gone, but it is hanging about in the shadow of the hedges and walls. The farmhouse basks in the sunshine and the temperature is five degrees. Were it not for the snow lying here and there on the ground you could be forgiven for thinking that Spring was on its way. Then you turn on the news and hear of massive pile ups in the ice on the A1 road, with enormous tail-backs for miles.
Now the the sun has melted the snow in the fields it has revealed a plethora of mole hills. What a fascinating little creature the mole is, with his fur like dark brown velvet, his enormous front feet, fashioned for some serious digging and his tiny eyes, which make him almost blind.
Loved by some and hated by others, he is always going to have a struggle to survive. There was a time when moles, along with carrion crows, rats and stoats and weasels were killed by gamekeepers and their deaths advertised by being strung together on wire fencing in a most macabre way. This practice seems to have died out mostly now, thank goodness, but most farmers hate the mole. For a start he digs up vast quantities of grassland and if the tractor drives over the molehills they are flattened and stop the grass growing; if the molehills are gathered up in the silage then the soil causes the grass to go mouldy.
Moles are loved by all who search the fields for artefacts from a bygone age. It is said that things are often found in this soil which of course comes up for the depths. Gardeners too treasure the fine loam which makes marvellous potting compost.
What a pity we can't all live in harmony together. I love the mole. We often find one dead but rarely a live one above ground. In a few weeks time the farmer will set his mole traps in an effort to keep the population down somewhat. Luckily, he never catches them all and before long those tell-tale heaps will begin to appear again.
On our afternoon walk it amused me to find that, walking down our neighbours lane, I found he had dug little runnels from the enormous potholes full of water, so that the water drained off onto the grass verges. I did wonder whether it would have been better to fill the pot holes with stone chippings before the snow came, so that he didn't have to do this. But there again, maybe that is too easy for a canny farmer.