Peas, Louise and her vole relatives

Six years ago, before we had given up growing snap peas for sale, vole activity (read eating of pea seeds) triggered the creation of one of our favorite farm Limericks by Liva Coe.

 There once was a vole named Louise

Who had quite a penchant for peas

I planted them thrice

Louise said, “How nice!”

As she gobbled them up with great ease

Louise gobbling up peas - art by Liva Coe

Louise gobbling up peas – art by Liva Coe

Well after a few years of no peas, Mari and Darienne decided perhaps we could try a small batch of early season peas in our hoophouse….

Yep, there is a good story here. (Full disclosure, some plants and rodents meet their end in this story)

One early March day Darienne planted some rows of peas and fava beans where spinach had just come out.  In just days, we suspected those seeds weren’t turning into pea plants, at least not in that location for us as there were holes matching the planting location.  Mari wondered if it was from Darienne’s seeding, but no, it became clear when only a few sprouts came up that indeed some vole or a whole pack of them had come in and taken all the seeds.

Liva, in her limerick, had assumed the voles gobbled them right up.  But last fall when we were harvesting sweet potatoes, we found a huge stash of pea and oat seeds in the hoophouse.  The voles had been taking seeds from the pea cover crop that we let go to seed behind the hoophouse and they carved out an underground bunker for more than a gallon’s worth of pea seeds…storing for a winter market? sprouting and fermenting them? preparing for armegeddon? who knows.

pea and oat seeds stashed underground by voles seed and bunker













We suspect this Spring’s seeds are similarly stashed in some bunker, we just don’t know where.

Knowing peas aren’t that easy for us, especially in the transition season, Darienne also seeded several trays in the greenhouse. They’d get transplanted into the hoophouse and get to even provide a bit of cover when we plant the sweet potatoes.  And then, there’d be no seeds for the voles to steal…right?

Apparently in Maslow’s hierarchy of vole needs, Peas…the seeds and the plants, top the list.

2nd pile of peas harvested by voles B pea tendrils harvested and stacked by voles









One morning as Mari was checking on things, she found two fairly tidy piles of 8-10 inch pea tendrils.  And then looking down the row where the pea seedlings had been growing, they were gone.  Systematically clearcut from the base, every plant for about a 1/3 of the way down the row.

clearcut pea shoots by voles









Apparently either the perpetrator was overly zealous in the cutting and didn’t have the time or energy left to transport all the plants to the bunker, vole market, nest or wherever they were headed or perhaps the harvest team showed up for work that Saturday night, but not the hauling team.

row of peas growing and harvested by voles

Ok, seeds are one thing, but the plants too?  Didn’t they want some of the abundant lettuce?  Nope.

We have always been diligent about keeping on top of our little rodent population/pests around the farm and hoophouse zone in particular.  But clearly we needed to up our game.  Darienne had tried to lure and trap with pea seeds.  Seeds kept disappearing with none of the traps tripped. We even employed a game camera, but couldn’t get the action on film.  After the clear cut, we tried lights, camera and a mass of traps around the remaining plants.  1st night nothing, except some of the pea tendrils that had already been harvested were taken.

But now it seems we may have caught the ringleader.  A big, fat vole mysteriously dead next to a nicely chewed to the ground pea vine, some traps tripped but not a mark on the vole.  And so far, no others seem to have taken over the mission, but I suspect it is just a matter of time.

Farming is a humbling affair.  And we have learned not to underestimate the persistence, cleverness, and abilities of the various plants and animals in our orbit.

We may get some peas yet, but safe to say, seems they won’t be a crop we add back to our main list.  So pea lovers, message is the same as six years ago, “enjoy when you have them and plan to plant some at home as well because we may not be able to fulfill your desire.  That, and have a chat with Louise.”

vole caught taking peas