It doesn't get any better than this. Warm days, sunshine, cool nights, no mosquitoes, no horse and deer flies. Like most Minnesotans, I'm soaking up the wonderful weather before Mother Nature changes her mind. It's a delight to work outdoors on days like we've had recently. Last minute painting and repairing jobs are being checked off the "To Do" list and the mild weather has made yard work and washing windows almost a pleasure.
While I was cleaning out the garage I noticed the pontoon cover had been bunched and rolled up rather than folded flat. Not a good thing. I lifted the mass of bulky blue canvas and carried it to the cement in front of the garage. As I pulled at one of the folds, several fuzzy little bodies scurried into the darker crevices of the canvas. I discovered the critters were small red-backed voles.
As I continued to lay out the cover I saw that the mother of the brood had made a nest in the protective confines of the fabric. Chuckles turned to expletives as holes in the canvas came into view. Definitely not a good thing.
Mariah meandered over and inquired about the cause of my choice comment. She spotted the nest material of paper, fabric and fiber and asked about the inhabitants.
"Please go get one of those plastic plant pots," I requested with a sigh.
"What for?" Mariah asked.
"Just get it," I said. "And my camera too."
Mariah complied with my requests, probably figuring I wasn't going to beat the red-backed voles with a lightweight container. With white pot in hand, I scooped the loose nesting material into it. I then stationed Mariah and instructed her to gently and slowly lift the edge of the fabric. As she did so, with the lightening speed of a much younger woman, I grabbed one of the baby voles and plopped it into the plastic pot.
"Wow Mom! That was great," Mariah giggled.
I continued snatching the little bodies until I had a half dozen in the pot. With that accomplished I placed the pot on its side near the edge of the garage, an arrangement that would give the diminutive rodents a chance to mentally and physically regroup from the trauma and yet allow them the freedom to leave their improvised abode.
"What do you think they will do?" Mariah asked.
"Well, voles are born naked and blind, so these are fully furred and well able to adjust to leaving the nest. They may stay in it for awhile, but who knows. Honey, they'll be okay."
Returning to my work, I continued to lay out the canvas. We made the gruesome discovery of another five dead voles. It was either the first litter of the mother of the live brood or a litter from a different mother who either died or abandoned the young.
The damage to the pontoon cover was significant. Quite a number of holes were found in numerous places. Now I'd have to add canvas repair to my list of chores.
Mariah kept an eye on the pot of voles and squealed that one was making a getaway. The vole headed back into the garage. "Oh no you don't," I said as I headed it off. Fleet of foot, the furry creature ran into a corner. "Gotcha," I said confidently. But the vole slipped through an unbelievably narrow crack and disappeared. I tried to slip a dull blade into the wall spaces space to no avail. Mariah stifled her laughter.
Back to work. A few minutes later another litter mate exited the pot. This time I saw it before it had a chance to enter the garage and stepped toward the vole. The vole froze in terror as I focused my camera. Click. The critter darted back into the pot as I continued to snap pictures. Going.....going.....almost gone.....gone.
By day's end, the voles no longer resided in the pot. Whether they continued to seek shelter in it I don't know. While I wish them well, I'm glad they're gone and only hope they don't have the mental recall to return as adults and nest in the garage. Next year, we'll be sure to fold the pontoon cover flat.
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