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September 3, 2013

As you remember, a few weeks ago I declared my intent to annihilate the voles trespassing into my yard. Each year, they set up camp under my deck and shed and, by the following Spring, destroy swaths of my grass. It’s annoying. So, after spying their tell-tale holes along the shed, and after seeing one scurry along the fence, I decided to be proactive and amassed a glut of new traps — more than enough to cover each of their entry points and to snag any that were already living in my back yard.

One by one, I armed the traps and carefully laid them throughout the yard. I’ve gotten good at setting traps without also hurting myself (too much) in the process — I only snapped my fingers a couple times. (For what it’s worth, it hurts like a…. I have to remind myself that war is Hell and that freedom from vole tyranny comes at a cost.)

Then, like a kid at Christmas, I waited.

Nothing. This was odd since there had been several holes beneath the shed and another along the deck. I knew they were there; I figured I’d have caught at least one. Just an off night, I assumed. The next morning, I hopped from bed and scurried to my bedroom window for a birds-eye-view of the yard.

Constantly looking for dead or dying voles is an odd routine one develops. While you kind of hope you snag a lot of them, you also kind of hope you don’t. It’s a weird dichotomy. Either way, there’s a morbid fascination with seeing “how you did” each morning. It creeps Megan out. Nonetheless, were you to peer towards our bedroom around six-thirty or seven each morning, you’d be witness to a half-asleep Wormald, still in his pajamas, pressed firmly against the window looking anxiously for mangled voles. And, if that isn’t enough, when I think I’ve got one, I dart to the backyard, still in my jammies, to get a closer look and dispose of the bodies.

You know your life has entered a new phase when you can say, with a straight face, that you’ve waved at a neighbor whilst hoisting a heavy patio stone, in your pajamas, to finish off a crippled vole.

Yep, life’s a bit different here in The Vaughan.

Still, it never hurts to be polite when you’re vole hunting first thing in the morning. It has been suggested that the ungainly sight of me in both my jammies and heavy work gloves, tossing a dead vole into a plastic bag, might have sent the woman a couple doors over into therapy. Pfft… hippie.

Nonetheless, the traps were empty again. They were armed, but no voles. After nearly three weeks of horrifying the neighbours, I hadn’t a dead vole to my credit. Clearly, my attempts at annihilation were going slower than anticipated.

Typically, I’d fortify any of the vole’s entry points I’d discover along the fence — I’d fill in the holes with dirt and then toss stone or discarded concrete bits over top. Rocks inhibit their ability to just re-dig their tunnels. This is a bit time consuming, though, and it’s been difficult to find the time this past year.

Caring for a toddler is a lot of work. Owen, it seems, is always up to something. (For example, he fell on the slide at the park the other day and gave himself a bit of a black eye; it was kinda cute, what with it being my little thug’s first black eye… Try not to say, “awww.”) Chasing after the boy is nearly a full-time job in itself. Factor in the daily grind of our day jobs with our plans for the basement renovation and you aren’t left with much time to track and kill voles. It’s a sad day when you need to spend parts of your long weekend clearing the basement of clutter instead of killing vermin, but such is life in The Vaughan.

None of this seemed to be much of problem, though, as I hadn’t seen a vole in nearly a month. There weren’t any new holes along the deck or shed and it seemed my encounter with that lone vole was nothing more than a blip. Had peace returned? I wondered if I shouldn’t demilitarize the yard and disarm my traps. Sadly, it was a utopia that lasted a good ten or twenty minutes. I woke the other morning and, instead of running to the window, I meandered downstairs for a coffee. There was no need to check the traps, I thought, so I decided to sit back and instead enjoy the morning.

Life in The Vaughan was good.

It had rained the previous night so, after enjoying my cup of Joe (blessed be the sweet, sweet bean), I checked on Owen’s toys in the yard. Storms kick up some nasty wind in my area, so we periodically have to make sure his toys haven’t blown away. I slipped onto the deck and took in the crisp morning air. It was still early and the neighbourhood was blissfully quiet. I did a quick scan of his toys; everything was good.

Well, almost.

There was a hole along the bottom of the back fence. A BIG hole. No vole could have made that entry tunnel. It was at least six inches in diameter — a vole’s would be no more than an inch or two, at best. And, based on the amount of dead and matted grass along the hole, this wasn’t new.

Something big was either in the yard or using it as a thoroughfare. Suddenly, voles weren’t my biggest problem. Raccoons? Rabbits? The Vietcong? It was hard to say really as they are all known to tunnel their surroundings. I looked along the sides of the deck and shed and couldn’t find another hole big enough to house such a large animal. Clearly it had been popping in for visits on more than one occasion and, considering the damage is did around the fence, it was clearly capable of obliterating my grass were it to set up permanent residence.

@%&# !!! Things are different now. I wasn’t very happy that I had to deal with another colony of voles, but I had prepped the traps and was ready to do away with them. Earlier this summer, I had to minimize the damage caused by a herd of rabbits and a litter of cats. And now, just when I think I’ve got that under control, I’m presented with something even bigger. Frankly, after dealing with both Garfield and Hoppy, I’m now bracing for what will probably turn out to be a family of bloody badgers. Ok, maybe not badgers, but seeing as Owen thinks anything with fur is a cute bunny, it's incumbent on me to make sure whatever it is doesn’t stick around.

Nature is becoming such a pain.

Hostilities have escalated and the war is entering a new phase. I’m going to need bigger traps and, for the foreseeable future, the neighbours are well advised to avert their eyes from my window each morning.