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IMG_1428Today my uncle Frank and I are going to tackle the molehills in one of his top fields next to the moor.

Moles can wreak havoc with farmers’ fields, not to mention churchyards, cricket pitches, and other places where land needs to be flat.

Frank is about to start silaging (basically, cutting long grass, putting it in a dry place, and covering it with sheets of plastic).  He will use it to feed cattle over the winter.  If the tops of the molehills aren’t removed, they will be sucked up with the silage and contaminate it. Even cattle don’t like to eat dirt.

There are easier ways to deal with this using machinery, but Frank doesn’t have that particular capability with the machines he has, so here we are in a field that was drenched by last night’s torrential rain, taking the tops off the molehills by hand.

The tools of our trade:  a shovel, a short hoe, and a wheelbarrow.

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The best time to deal with molehills is when the grass is short and the activity of the moles is easy to observe, like this:IMG_1657 (1)

But with all the other demands of farming, it’s not always possible to find the time to deal with molehills earlier in the year. Now in late July, the grass has grown tall and completely obscures the molehills.IMG_1423

Courtesy, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Organization.

Courtesy, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Org.

Frank and I are basically walking around the field as blind as moles, because we can’t see the molehills under the long grass.  But then we’ll feel a slight rise under our boots, and we’ll part the grass and often find what we’re looking for.IMG_1429

And most likely we discover a whole series of molehills, all of which need their tops taking off.IMG_1440

Using the hoe, we scoop the rich black dirt onto a shovel, then put it into a wheelbarrow which we then wheel to the edge of the field to dump it out, or put it in bags to use elsewhere.IMG_1438Notice the small hole below that moles use to get oxygen into their molehills.IMG_1446

It’s such rich, black dirt that I commandeer three bags for my project planting wildflowers.  The dirt isn’t appropriate for use in gardens, because it’s filled with grass seeds, but it’s perfect for me because I want to have native plants, including grasses, growing in my area set aside for wildflowers. The rest of the dirt Frank uses to fill in large ruts in a field made by tractors during the wintertime.

This is one of the many things I love about farming; almost everything can be put to use, even molehills!

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