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Monday, July 22, 2024
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HomeNewsNotes from the Sticks: The return of Mr Mole

Notes from the Sticks: The return of Mr Mole

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I SAW these fresh molehills the other day, which reminded me that I wrote about moles nearly two years ago. There is stuff in the article I had forgotten, so I thought I would repeat it. (There are new Sheep and Wheels of the Week.)

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WALKING along the road to the next village, I came upon an unusual and not very pleasant sight: a dozen or so mole carcases hanging on a barbed wire fence. I have found a picture of a similar scene but it will not be to everyone’s taste so it is behind this link.

At the time I imagined the idea of displaying the corpses was pour encourager les autres, and thought this was a pretty poor idea since moles spend almost every minute underground and are nearly blind anyway. However on reading up about it I discovered that it is a tradition for mole catchers to show the bodies so that the farmer can see how many have been caught and pay up accordingly.

I have tried to find out the going rate for catching moles and it varies enormously, mainly depending on whether you are a gardener or a farmer. This website quotes a pricing structure for farmers which claims to work out at as little as £4 per mole [2022 edit – now £3 per mole] with a normal catch rate of 50 or 55 a day.

Gardeners are typically charged much more – one catcher quotes £80 for the first mole and £60 each for subsequent one, and another charges £40 and £10 respectively. Both are on a ‘no mole, no fee’ basis.

Until 2006 moles could be killed with the powerful poison strychnine, with which catchers would lace earthworms, the main prey of moles. It was banned by the EU on the grounds of danger to humans and the environment so now traps are used. Unfortunately these may not kill at once so unless they are frequently checked the mole could suffer a lingering death.

Why kill them anyway? I have no patience with gardeners who get rid of them because they make a mess of the lawn. I would be thrilled to have molehills as this would mean the chance of meeting a mole – I have seen one only once, in the 1950s in the sand dunes at Beadnell in Northumberland (apparently dunes are an unusual habitat for moles). The tunnels that moles dig with their powerful front feet are useful at aerating the soil and improving drainage. How much trouble is it to spread out the soil and leave the moles alone? Moles are not endangered, but killing creatures for cosmetic reasons is not acceptable in my opinion.

It may be a different matter for farmers since it seems that the soil that the moles dig up and leave on the surface can carry the bacterium listeria which could kill livestock. Molehills also encourage weeds and the tunnels can damage drainage systems and water courses. Obviously I am not an expert so I will take the farmers’ word that moles are a nuisance to be got rid of.

I thought it would be interesting to finish with a film of a mole at work. It wasn’t so easy to find a decent one on YouTube – most are about trapping and killing them.

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It’s been perishing here in Lancashire for most of the week, barely rising above freezing during the day and well below at night. It is snowing heavily as I write (the BBC forecast claims it will be dry all day.) I love it – it is the one time the climate cultists shut up. I wonder how they explain it to themselves?

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Sheep of the Week

These are Devon and Cornwall Longwools.

Until 1977 there were two named breeds in the West Country which had been in existence for centuries. The bigger South Devon was found mainly in south Devon, east and south Cornwall, and the smaller Devon Longwool was mainly in north Cornwall, north Devon and south Somerset. The breeds were becoming more similar and in 1977 they were officially merged into one, under the name Devon and Cornwall Longwool.

It is a large, hardy sheep with a reputation for being placid and easy to manage. It does not have horns.

It produces a very heavy fleece of curly wool of coarse, hard-wearing quality, which is used to make carpets and by hand-spinners to make rugs. It is reputed to be the heaviest fleece of all British sheep, with a ram’s weighing up to 44lb (20kg). The meat is also in demand.

You can read more at the Devon and Cornwall Longwool Association website. 

The breed is mainly found in the West Country in Britain but they are evidently reared abroad too, and here is a video of a few arriving on their summer pasture, I’m guessing in Austria or Germany. They clearly find the grass delicious.

I couldn’t choose between these two videos of lambs, so here are both:

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Wheels of the Week

FROM the ridiculous (the Sinclair C5 last week) to the sublime.

This magnificent machine is a 1941 Cadillac, with a 5600cc V8 engine.

Cadillac was founded in Detroit in 1902 after the implosion of the Henry Ford Company. Ford had fallen out with his investors and walked out, with several of his partners. Ford’s financial backers William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen called in engineer Henry M Leland of Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing Company to appraise the plant at Cass Street and Amsterdam Avenue in preparation for liquidating the company’s assets. Instead, Leland persuaded the pair to continue manufacturing automobiles at the plant using Leland’s proven single-cylinder engine. The Cadillac Automobile Company was named after French explorer Antoine de La Mothe, sieur (sire or lord) de Cadillac, who had founded Detroit in 1701. Born Antoine Laumet in France, he invented his title when he arrived in America, naming himself after a small town in south west France. He is said to have been a scoundrel.

The first two Cadillac models, the Runabout and the Tonneau, were produced in October 1902. The firm soon acquired a reputation for quality and reliability. It went through a bad patch in the 1930s with the Great Depression, which damaged all car manufacturers, but also because it had a policy of not selling to African Americans. After this policy was thrown out in 1934, sales zoomed.

This model is a Series 62 Convertible Coupe introduced in 1940. It sold for $1,685 ($32,591 in 2021 dollars) which seems like a bargain. Annoyingly I cannot find any performance figures – I especially wanted to know fuel consumption. From reading a few forums I am guessing that it was about 14mpg. Still no wiser on speed or acceleration though.

Last time I wrote about a Cadillac (a 1956 Sixty Special). I mentioned Elvis Presley’s penchant for the brand: ‘He bought a second-hand pink and white model in March 1955 – it lasted three months before it caught fire in June. Elvis bought a new one in July. It was blue but he had it repainted in pink. That one was badly damaged two months later when back-up musician Scotty Moore drove it into a ditch. These were the first of the King’s 30-plus Cadillacs. You can read all the details here.’ I was reprimanded by ‘Aaron’ who wrote: ‘*gasp* *splutter* Scotty Moore was a legendary guitar pioneer, not a “back-up musician”! (IMHO, of course…)’

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FINALLY, Notes from the Sticks is going into hibernation until the New Year. We will run a few repeats in the meantime.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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