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Sunday, September 12, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Ask the Expert / Darrell Hay
Got moles? Dig these entertaining remedies


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Q: I have moles thrashing my yard. What are some things I could do to eliminate them? I don't want to trap, but I want them out!

A: Traps are the most effective method by far — but Initiative 173, approved in 2000, banned the use of body-gripping traps in Washington. The state attorney general's opinion is that this law applies to moles.

That's the opinion of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, too, according to Steve Dauma of Ephrata, enforcement captain for Region 2.

"It's not our highest priority," Dauma says, "but if we receive a complaint, it is our obligation to investigate."

Dauma says that happens roughly half-a-dozen times a year.

"We don't drive around looking for plastic buckets turned upside down in the yard. Our officers have a tremendous number of laws to enforce."

Still, you might have noticed that traps are sold in retail stores, and mole companies generally do not use positive reinforcement to encourage moles to leave.

Of course, mole-fishing is legal. Enjoy a good book with a pitchfork by your side. Moles move 15 to 18 feet per hour. Be patient and watch for movement in a tunnel. That is so brutal, it makes my skin crawl, but it is so visceral and so very effective!

Early fall traditionally is the best time for mole control, when they are still relatively high in the soil. As the weather turns cooler, moles move downward to avoid freezing.
 
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Here are some of the home remedies I am aware of. (Be aware that these remedies are not advocated at all for safety or effectiveness, and should be considered for their entertainment value only. I am sure readers would be willing to chip in additional suggestions.)

• A garden hose down the holes in an effort to drown them. (This one I have tried myself with mixed results.)

• Road flares stuck down the holes.

• Smoke bombs sold specifically for this purpose.

• Human urine! The direct application method could be somewhat simple for about half of us.

• Clumps of human hair. Finally, male-pattern baldness is an asset!

• Lye.

• Garlic. Maybe something will grow next year if they are not scared off by the smell.

• Glass bottles stuck in the ground that emit a whistling noise when the wind blows.

• Cats.

• Car exhaust piped into the tunnels.

• Gasoline. What genius thought this one up? This could be illegal for several reasons.

• Razor blades. Make sure you pick all of them up afterwards. Yikes.

• Mothballs.

• Red pepper.

• Broken glass. This might work if you are from the same gene pool as the gasoline guys.

• Castor oil sprayed on the yard.

• Commercial poisons.

• Bleach. If you want a blond mole, presumably.

• Any variety of bubble gum.

• And finally, my personal favorite (drum roll, please), courtesy of my mother-in-law, Norma Myers: Chocolate Ex-Lax. In the name of science I tried this one not too long ago.

Trying to keep from taking a bite out of one (man, they smelled good, but I knew what the result would be!), I stuffed several down the holes.

The results are pending.

Rather than being murderous, the Ex-Lax method is all about revenge, and getting them to foul their own nest, as it were. Chocolate Ex-Lax seems to be the duct tape of the food world; you must appreciate its versatility.

Q: My city was blowing high-pressure air (presumably) through the sewer system. This caused my toilets to percolate air and splash water everywhere. The worker guessed that my air-vent pipe was blocked, but my drains seem normal.

Should I rod out the vent pipe? Why don't I see mesh caps on these pipes to keep out debris? Could the pressurized air have loosened any pipe fittings or bowl rings?

A: You may indeed have a blocked vent pipe or, even more likely, inadequate or improperly installed venting. Cleaning the vent(s) out with a snake, a hose or chocolate Ex-Lax might be a good thing, indeed.

Screens aren't used over roof-mounted vents.

It is doubtful that you blew out any drain fittings or seals; the water that blew out is testament to that. If you don't find an obstruction, you may want to have a plumber quickly check the venting system. A whole house vent or other method may have been used when it was built, which could allow this to occur.

Q: I live in an older mobile home (approximately 22 years). I didn't have a job, and pulled money out of savings to purchase this dump. I think the previous owners just slapped down carpeting and vinyl over floors that are rotting, either dry or wet rot, and it's starting to become very obvious. There are lots of soft spots throughout the house. I'm now working again, and hoping to purchase a new manufactured home.

I'm going to have to do something about this place in order to sell it, unlike the previous owners. What would be the most expedient way to deal with the situation? I was thinking of putting half-inch plywood over the existing floors, then new carpet and vinyl. I don't want to spend a lot on it, nor do I have a lot to spend. I figure this would probably make the place livable for another 10 to 20 years. Help?

A: Yeah, physically, it may be "livable" for 10 to 20 years, but covering rot without removing the rot or determining the cause of the initial problem could be a very serious issue for you (not even getting to the issue of floor height).

Further rot, wood-eating pests and other issues are only the tip of the iceberg. This is what lack-of-disclosure lawsuits are made of.

Sell it as is, disclose the problems fully and accept less money, or remove the rot and repair it correctly.

To do otherwise is unethical, illegal and opens you up to massive liability.

Q: I purchased a new home December 2003. I was just informed by a builder next door that after having his property surveyed, my propane tank and water-retention system are about 6 feet over on his property. The contractor who built my house has promised to move both onto my property.

I am still very unhappy. Now there is no longer enough room for me to build a dog run. I would not have purchased this property as the new property line is drawn.

Do I have any recourse? Who is at fault? My contractor's own survey and house plans were correctly measured; he just didn't follow the plans or survey measurements.

A: If your builder built beyond where he should have, it appears it would be his fault, right? The best remedy may be a boundary- line adjustment negotiated between the builder and your neighbor.

Do you have recourse? You always have recourse — even threatened recourse works sometimes.

And if that fails, there's always chocolate Ex-Lax to get the builder really moving on your problem.

Calling all readers: There's no such thing as a dumb question around here! I am looking for the most basic, the most obvious, the question you always were afraid to ask.

Send in your dumb questions now, anonymously of course, for an upcoming dumb questions column.

Darrell Hay answers readers' questions. Call 206-464-8514 to record your question, or e-mail dhay@seattletimes.com. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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