Monday, May 31, 2010

Me vs. Nature

Mother Nature and I have been in battle lately. She generally kicks my butt then laughs at me, but sometimes I get to laugh back.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed some mounds of dirt appearing in my back yard. I examined a couple and couldn't see any holes nearby, so I spread the dirt out and ignored them. A few days later there were half a dozen new mounds. After a bit of internetting, I concluded that we had a gopher. No big deal. I came across the best method of ridding my yard. The Macabee Gopher trap! Mia and I watch a video on youtube about how to set it. You have to stick a long screwdriver down in the ground near a mound until you find a hollow - this is the main tunnel. Then you dig a hole down to the tunnel and place 2 traps - one facing each direction - inside. Next you push an irrigation flag into the ground to mark the location and secure the trap - just in case. Lastly you cover the hole back up and wait.

A Macabee Gopher trap is a nasty device. Imagine those jaw-like bear traps you see in cartoons. Th ones where you pry the jaws open and then when you sniff around on the ground trying to find Bugs Bunny, the jaw slams shut on your nose. Well this is like that - but miniature. Instead of jaws of teeth, you have a couple of sharpened spikes that pierce the chest cavity of the gopher.

The morning after I set the trap. I went out to check it. To my surprise, I found one tripped trap four feet from the hole on the surface of the ground with the irrigation flag still connected to it. The hole where it had been set was now completely packed closed by the gopher. I had thoughts of the Cadyshack gopher laughing at me as I pondered the need of C-4 to finish this guy off.

All I could do was wait for a new mound to appear and try the process all over again.

Nature: win Me: lose

But more than 2 weeks has passed and no new mounds. On closer inspection of the trap, I found some fur on the spikes, so the trap must have got him to some degree. i figure either he died back in his hole, or I scared him off.

Nature: lose Me: win (revised)

The next thing is birds. I like birds. Not as pets, but I like pretty birds flying around my yard. I like it when there is a nest in my tree. The kids like that too. I thought it would be fun if we encouraged the birds, so we built a birdhouse and put it on our tree in the back yard. We also bought a hummingbird feeder.

Months have gone by and no bird is interested in our birdhouse or bird feeder.

I walked out the front door this week to go to work, and noticed a dozen beautiful birds flitting around near our entrance. They were chirping pretty songs as they flew up under the eaves then out again. I could tell they were building a nest. How exciting! The kids will love this!

Nature: win Me: win

I told Val about it a few days later (the birds were there every time I went outside), because she uses the garage rather than the front door. I took her out to see the birds and the nests. To my surprise, the nest wasn't your regular, round, made-out-of-grass, nest. It was made of mud.

No big deal. It is hidden up under the eaves, so you can't see it. And the birds are really neat to watch and listen too. We left for our camping trip for a couple of days. When we came home, we were greeted by not one nest, but six. And the beginnings of new nests all along the eaves in front of the garage.

Nature: win Me: lose (revised)

I did some internetting again to find that the birds are cliff swallows. Some more digging turned up that they are migratory birds and therefore, protected. It is illegal to knock down their nests once they are built - until they fly south for the winter. The best we can doo is be vigilant about instantly cleaning off the first bits of mud to prevent new nests from forming.

Nature: win x 2 Me: lose (revised again)

Most recently we went camping. What a trip. You can read more about the trip at our family blog, but I want to highlight a couple of things.


It's easy to light a fire. Accidental fires happen all the time. We were planning on having a camp fire, so when we had our tree removed (a fruitless mulberry), we asked to keep a couple of logs for firewood. He left us 3 half-logs that were about a foot in radius and 18" tall. I had to cut into firewood sized pieces. I let the logs dry for about a month and then I used my tiny electric chainsaw - meant for cutting limbs no larger than 4" diameter. After an hour I cut most of it apart - and completely dulled my blade.

We packed the firewood (and a couple of scrap 2x4s for kindling) and headed off on our trip. At camp, I struggled for a hour to light the fire. The newspaper burned, the 2x4s burned, I burned my hand, but the firewood wouldn't burn.

Nature: win Me: lose

Good thing we also brought some charcoal and a charcoal chimney. I set that up and within minutes had some nice coals going. I dumped them into the fire and and the persistent heat finally caught the firewood on fire - kind of. It really just smoldered without flames, but the shape made for a great oven and we were able to cook our foil dinners.

Nature: lose Me: win (revised)

The next night. I tried to start the fire again. After some struggle, I gave up.

Nature: win Me: forfeit (revised again)

The last thing is a hammock. Joe gave me a hammock when he came home from his mission. I take it camping every time I go. At our site, I just needed to find 2 suitable trees.

Nature: win Me: lose

This wouldn't do. If only I could find some bigger trees.

Hah! I got it!

Next time I camp in a redwood forest, i need to remember to bring a lot more rope!

Nature: lose Me: win (revised)

Final Score:
Nature: 3 Me: 2

But it ain't over yet!