I spent this cold, rainy afternoon engaged in a most enjoyable building project with a friend who shares many of my passions including gardening, self-sufficiency and pretty much anything that makes me say, ‘Yeah, that’s cool, I think we should do that’. Today’s cool thing – bat houses.
Yes, bat houses. And its going right in the middle of my garden. Bats are really, really cool animals. Last summer, as I spent many an evening picking rocks in the falling dusk I caught glimpses of the occasional bat winging apparently haphazardly above me as I straightened to stretch my aching back muscles. It’s surprising how the site of a hunting bat can wash away weariness.
According the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website, the bats I’m most likely seeing around my house and garden are Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus). I’ve already seen one flying around this year and it was like finding a pot of gold at the end of a long winter rainbow. If you think that’s not a very good metaphor you obviously haven’t tried weeding and picking rocks at twilight. The air is a lot cooler at night but the bugs are merciless. Enter the bat.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m the first person to admit to my own self-centered nature. If you were expecting to find some philanthropic reason for me to build a bat house I hope you aren’t too disappointed. Yes, bats are suffering from White-nose Fungus Disease and dying at incredible rates. Yes bats are susceptible to pesticides and habitat destruction. Yes, I want to combat all those horrors and provide a home for bats. But, when I’m honest, I just love that nature has provided me with so many answers to my pest problems.
Have you ever gone out to the garden in the falling darkness only to find yourself running back to the house or truck, flailing your arms about your head and barely slamming the door in time to prevent death from mosquitoes? I have. Lots of times. I hate it. I hate feeling like I’m being threatened by a swarm of insects. I feel like I’m in some sort of Hitchcock movie or King novel. They can’t possibly get the better of me right? Their tiny little things. They’ve got numbers!
But bats can eat their body weight in insects each night. This is also why I just put up several Swallow houses around the garden. Swallows eat tons of bugs too but during the day. I want twenty four-seven coverage! Here is the message I’m trying to put into the world: If you eat insects, you’re welcome at Parker Family Farm!
We discovered that the bat houses are really simple to build even with modifications. My friend Michael found instructions and a video from the Organization for Bat Conservation. We followed the instructions provided by Rob Mies in the video but made some executive decisions about our own bat houses. First, we don’t like plywood. It contains all sorts of nasty stuff. Plus, plywood is from away. I have several piles of lumber here at our farm that came from trees I cut and twitched out myself and had a local sawyer mill out for me. I decided our bat houses were going to be made of cedar (and a piece or two of pine).
This holds several advantages, not the least of which is the internal feeling of well-being that comes from creating something from scratch. Plus, its extra wood working. I love planing lumber. I can’t explain it, I just really enjoy planing lumber. There are less ethereal, more concrete benefits though. Nesting material for one.
It was getting dark when I got home from the bat house building session, plus it was raining and cold. Therefore, I had neither the time, nor inclination, to get my bat house mounted. Rest assured it will be high on the list of priorities the next sunny day. I want that thing flying high in the sky where the next few bats to come upon it will find a welcome peg upon which to hang their hats. I figure, if I scratch their backs, they’ll help keep me from scratching mine. Get it? Because of the mosquitoes…It really is challenging to harvest lettuce, weed, pick rocks or really do much of anything when you can’t hear your iPod over the buzz of mosquitoes. Come on bats. The more the merrier. Local food. Eat well – be well.