The Adventures of Mr. Vole and the Merry Band of Wasps

(Don’t be scared, it’s just a harmless little children’s book followed by a discussion on the creative muse – based on a true life story).Vole cartoon

Mr. Vole was on a mission to dig up every bulb in the Home Owner’s garden.  He didn’t eat the bulbs although once in a while he had one for dessert, but took them back to his home under the deck.   Mr. Vole was a vegan and there was lots of other food to eat in the garden, although he was sad the lettuce was done.  He had watched the squirrels storing them up for winter and thought it was a great idea.  He pictured himself with a big fat tulip bulb and a cup of hot cocoa, in his cozy den while the snow piled up on the deck above. 

Although he was a vole, he had a lot in common with moles, as he loved to dig.   He was fast at it too.  He was big and fat like a mole too.   Sometimes he would dig up a bulb just for the sheer joy of spreading all that dirt on the sidewalk and annoying the Home Owner.   She would get the broom out and sweep up, and a couple of hours later he would dig it all up again.   He could tell she was annoyed, but that was part of the fun.    The Home Owner was retired, so she had lots of time to sweep.   She lived on Easy Street and fancied herself quite a gardener so there were lots of bulbs around too. 

swarm of bees wasps

Mr. Vole wasn’t the only one annoying the Home Owner as one day a Merry Band of Wasps moved in above the deck.   They were busy building their hive which was tucked up under the siding in a hidden spot.   Their constant droning and swarming was annoying sometimes, and he could see why the Home Owner came out and sprayed them with something smelly.   While a few fell suddenly to the ground, the net effect was just to increase the sound of the construction noise – as then they were angry and the buzzing grew louder.   Things quieted down at night when they were all tucked up safe in their nest above deck, and he was able to sleep soundly below deck in his.   

Some summer nights there were loud parties in the neighborhood, with bonfires and hotdogs, and he liked to stay out late on the deck and listen to the music.  He was a big Bruce Springsteen fan.    The wasps would join him, as they were always up for a “jam” session.  With their constant buzzing, they learned to harmonize quite well and made good backup singers, but he was more the lead singer type.    Sometimes the wasps had too much “hard cider” from the fallen crabapples and couldn’t keep their dance moves straight and what’s a boy band without dance moves, but they still had fun.      

One day the Home Owner boarded up all his nicely dug holes and he had to build new ones, which didn’t take long.   It was a big deck, with lots of sides to dig under. 

Boarded Up Deck

Sometimes she had company over to show off her new kitchen, and the wasps ended up spoiling the party.    She made desserts and they loved anything sweet, so they hovered around making a pest of themselves and waiting for the crumbs.   

Party on the Deck

One night, she came out very late in her PJ’s and tried to duct tape the opening of the wasp nest.   Big. Mistake. Lady.   The next night she came out and ripped it all off, as those sneaky wasps had found an inside venue to play in.   

Things continued on in this manner for several weeks.   One day a man showed up wearing a spacesuit with a huge hat with netting over his face.   He meant business.   Mr. Vole had noticed the car with the Pest-Bee-Gone decal on the side and quickly ran around the corner to warn the others.   He climbed up on the railing and shouted as loud as he could –  MayDay MayDay!  (It was August, but they knew what he meant).   One of the worker wasps darted inside and soon the whole swarm had exited and flown away, with the Queen B (not Beyonce) in their midst, protected on all sides by her entourage.    He saw the man in the suit spray some not-exactly-fairy-dust inside the hole but they were already safely away. 

BeeKeeper Guy Pest Control 

Mr. Vole decided he had better move on too.   Although he hated life on the road and would miss his cozy home under the deck, it was too dangerous to stay any longer.   The Merry Band of Wasps were so grateful he had warned them that they told him about a mansion nearby, and he quickly found “new digs” under the deck of a larger house, one with younger owners and an in-ground swimming pool.    He was now into rap music, like everyone else.  The young owners worked long hours to pay for the big mortgage and were never home so he could cool off in the pool, a cold beverage in hand.

pool chair

 Soon he was the one hosting parties on the deck every night.   The wasps were keen on anything Drake, but the Queen B had departed for a solo gig.  They played together so much they got better and better, and the very next spring he decided to take the show on the road.   The wasps were excited about a world tour, but he wanted to stay closer to home.    He could see the marquee now – his name in flashing neon lights.  (When you’re famous you only need a first name).   Onward to Fame and Fortune (and only pink tulip bulbs in the backstage rider please).  

 Voley (in big letters) and the E-Street Wasp Band (in smaller letters).   

Coming soon……to a neighborhood near you! 

The End

(If you want to know the real ending, see the postscript below.  Warning – not for the faint of heart).

Discussion on the Creative Muse:   

It’s a curious thing what can spark the creative process.   I find it interesting to read biographies of famous writers, to see where they got their ideas from.  Did they spring fully formed from thin air, or was it a gradual process, a thought here and there scribbled on a napkin in a coffee shop and laboriously reworked for years, or maybe a combination of both.  The whole creative process is a fascinating subject.  

And what a wonderful thing it must be to be able to create a whole world out of nothing but your imagination – like J.K. Rowling did, not just once but seven times.    Do writers have a more vivid imagination than other people?   Are worry-worts more likely to be creative, having spent so much time dwelling in the world of “what if.”   What makes one person more creative than others.  Genetics?  Practice?  Or are we all creative beings, in one way or another?  Can creativity be learned, or even analyzed or is it something that just is?

My children’s story was inspired by a number of things.  Firstly, my frustrating “critter woes” this past August, and secondly by fellow blogger Linda’s tales of Parker, the squirrel in her neighborhood park, and our subsequent discussions of children’s books and the children’s television shows we had watched as kids.  (see Walkin’,Writing’,Wit and Whimsy for Parker’s guest post). 

Squirrel - AMc

The Famous Parker as painted by my mother…

 In the eyes of a child, all animals are God’s creatures, great and small.   It’s only adults who consider some of them vermin – a nuisance to be disposed of, of which I admit I am guilty as charged.       

Sometimes a visual aid can spark an idea.   While I was searching the basement for my old Seventeen magazines for the Woodstock blog, I came across a children’s book I used to read to my young niece when she visited the farm in the summers.     

The Adventures of Mr. Toad (3)

It was a Walt Disney abbreviated version of the children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows, and in the manner of small children everywhere who find a particular book fascinating, we would have to read it over and over again, night after night, until I’m sure I had the whole thing memorized.   I don’t know what was so appealing to her – perhaps it was the gypsy-cart, or the motor car or the general reckless behavior of Mr. Toad who was always being rescued by his friends.   Certainly as a city child, those rodent-type characters were not anything she would have encountered in real life.   They weren’t even anything I ever encountered on the farm, as we had dogs and barn cats whose job it was to “take care of things like that”.

I’ve never read the full version of Wind in the Willows so don’t know how it compares, but there were more chapters and adventures in the original, as the Walt Disney book is a very condensed thirty or so pages.   The copyright having expired, I suppose I’ve taken the liberty of adding another chapter, although the main characters in the book were Mole, Rat, Toad and McBadger, plus the Weasel Gang.    It was written in 1908 by Kenneth Grahame (link), initially as a series of bedtime stories for his young son, and was inspired by his childhood spent along the river banks in England.    

The Adventures of Mr. Toad

Flipping through the book that day, it was this fireside scene which helped me imagine my visitors, the vole below deck and the wasps above, all cozy in their respective nests.  While I was entertaining on the deck I was also thinking about how my guests were unaware of all that unwanted company down below. 

Perhaps Ally of The Spectacled Bean’s catchy title, It’s a Party in the Parsley about caterpillars, inspired the deck party?   Definitely I was thinking about music, and my subconscious mind must have recalled reading Daisy Jones and the Six earlier this summer, and their struggle over whose name came first on the billing.   But perhaps the true spark came from lying awake listening to the music from a street festival one holiday weekend, so loud I could hear the words of the songs from blocks away, long past midnight.   I’m sure there was some Bruce Springsteen involved, and doesn’t that rap music often sound like a whole lot of droning going on! 

I may have been thinking about children’s books, because I had been hearing lots of buzz recently about Tom Hanks playing Mr. Rogers (movie trailer below).   What wonderful children’s programs we had back then.   As a Canadian child I grew up watching Romper Room (Do Bee and Don’t Bees), Captain Kangaroo and a show called The Friendly Giant, who always placed miniature chairs around the fire for story time – here’s a chair for someone to curl up in and another rocking chair, before he asked you to look up, way up, and see the Friendly Giant.    How calm and measured their voices were – so soothingly and reassuring to a small child.   It looks like an interesting movie, but now the song “It’s A Beautiful  Day in the Neighborhood” is stuck in my brain!    

Creativity is a strange and wonderful thing.   Who knows what goes into any creative idea – it’s a mishmash of things we’ve heard or seen or remembered all jumbled up in our minds, and hopefully something beautiful or at least somewhat entertaining comes out of it all.   The most important thing is to pay attention, write it down and have some fun. 

PS   I had such fun with this, I’m now working on a fairy tale, Once Upon a Kitchen Reno…

 

The Real Ending: 

(not for the squeamish, but useful information if you ever have to deal with a wasp nest in your siding).

I’ll spare you the details of the vole’s demise as I could not watch.  (My grasscutter whacked it over the head with a shovel).   I have not seen any of his brethren lurking about, although the Pest Control man warned me there might be more as they reproduce like rabbits, but his company did not deal in voles.   The bulb digging has stopped, but I’m hoping for a Polar Vortex Winter in case there are more.     Should you have voles, HappyHauteHome has an informative post on How To Get Rid of Voles in Your Yard or Garden. 

If you have a wasp nest in your siding call the exterminator right away.   Do not tape up the entry hole as they will just find another way out and into your house.   Wasps can chew through drywall and crawl up small spaces beside radiators and hot water heating pipes.   Do not waste time buying useless sprays from the hardware store which will not reach the area involved and only have contact but no residual action.   As the wasp nest cost $170 to spray with pesticide powder, I delayed until after Labor Day weekend thinking I could save money and do it myself, but it had grown so large over a mere three week period, that I have been stuck with the smell of decaying wasp larvae in my bedroom for weeks.   The smell is so bad I’m still sleeping in the spare bedroom.   Apparently this putrid odor is normal, especially if it’s a big nest.   As the guys cleaning the mildew off the siding alerted me to the problem on Aug 16, I was surprised it got that big so quickly.  (By the time they got to Woodstock they were half a million strong.)   It smelt like dead rodents, to the extent that I wondered if the Vole Brothers had somehow managed to crawl into the space between the wall and the floorboards to party with their Waspy friends, although that would be impossible, wouldn’t it?  (I’m in need of some reassurance here).   I’m at a loss for what to do now as the exterminator advised me to just wait, as tearing up the floorboards or drilling into the wall trying to find the nest would be an expensive proposition requiring a contractor and most would not be interested in such a small job.   Nor is it covered by insurance, although it would be if the nest has pushed the insulation aside and the pipes freeze.   I can only hope that the weeks of unseasonably hot and humid weather we have been having will help accelerate the decaying process and it will be over before I have to turn my hot water furnace rads on. 

The strangest thing was a few nights after I had quarantined the bedroom trying to air it out, there was a Hoot Owl outside the window – who, who, who. 

Owl

I’m going to a Hootenanny…

If it hadn’t been 2 am I would have gone out and tried to get a picture of it, but the sound was enough to identify it.   The Wikipedia people say Hoot owls prey on small animals so maybe they wanted a midnight vole snack (or maybe The Who was attracted by the foul stench and just dropped into Woodstock Revisited)!    It’s certainly not a pleasant way to end the summer, and I hope never to have a repeat performance so I’m going to caulk silicon all around the house as an ounce of prevention.    Has anyone else had problems with wasps or voles this year? 

PS.  I went to a country musical theatre production this past weekend – lots of square dancing and fiddle music, which got me thinking – there could be a book sequel at that hootenanny…

 

 

 

                                                 We’re with the band…..

 

 

 

40 thoughts on “The Adventures of Mr. Vole and the Merry Band of Wasps

  1. Jo Shafer says:

    Well, now I’m chuckling! (I don’t dare laugh out loud. My darling cleaning lady would think me nuts.) You brought out the child in me as well as brought forth some valuable information about what and what not to do about voles and wasps.

    Voles I know little about, only moles, so now I have a little research project on today’s list. Perhaps I’ll write a garden blog about them. Moles we had plenty of where I grew up in the South. In summer they’d burrow underneath the lawns at night and leave trails of mounds by morning. I used to stomp on them in my bare feet. I thought it was fun. Mother didn’t. “You’ll smother them.”

    Wasps are quite another matter. They buzzed and feasted on Daddy’s scuppernong grapes, especially the fallen ones. One my little sister (age about two or three) stepped on one, barefoot, not realizing the danger, and the bee stung the bottom of her little foot. To this day, she still shudders from the memory.

    One year at my house here, wasps became so plentiful that they developed beyond a nuisance into quite a menacing threat. The nest was in the eaves above the sliding doors to the courtyard. Every morning I’d stand there and zap ’em with a can of “bee bomber” spray. One by one, wasps fell with a click to the tile floor. One by one, wasps up and few away.

    Later I wrote a poem about the invasion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jo Shafer says:

    BEE BOMBERS

    No one thinks to open the front gate and wander down the lane
    to inquire around the rhododendron corner as to my possible presence there.
    I’m safe for now, I think. No street noises. No disturbances. Until
    loud buzzing invades the stillness.
    A small plane overhead?
    No, wasps.

    Not the innocent little honey bees
    among white alyssum exuding a sharp fragrance
    of sweet honey on a hot June day.
    Not the fat bumble bees drunk
    with nectar from late peonies.
    Not cinch-waists, not yellow jackets,
    but wasps
    searching for a chink left open in the kitchen window frames
    or the patio door jams, frantic in their persistence.

    I find them every morning
    when I come out to the kitchen
    and put the kettle on and let the cats out.
    They don’t mind the cats nor the cats them.
    I do.
    I don’t know why.
    None has ever stung me.
    They merely threaten me
    with bomber dives under my hat
    when I carry my tea into the garden.

    Do they remember last summer
    when I zapped ’em with a zips
    from a spray can? One fell,
    hit the brick floor—thwack—
    lay there in a puddle,
    only to zip up and away.
    He returned with reinforcements.

    Today only one or two come to check out things.
    Yep, that’s her down there.
    Hiding under the straw hat.
    Her with the bee zapper.
    Best to leave her alone.
    We’ll just give’er a scare now and then.
    Let’er know who’s boss around here.

    ~ Jo Shafer

    Liked by 1 person

    • annieasksyou says:

      Moles, voles! Imagination is a wonderful thing, as you say, and it was fun to read your explication of your story following your story.

      Hope you keep pursuing your whimsy—wherever it takes you.

      I know the vole’s ending was preordained, but once you individualized him, I felt sad. We once had to trap raccoons that were ganging up on us. We used Have a Heart traps that don’t kill. The problem is you take the caged animals far away and let them out. And guess where they wind up!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        Yes, that’s true. One of my friends had the same reaction, she thinks all animals are cute and even feeds those ugly long snout nosed possums on her front porch. She said, how could you? I only wrote this (ie individualized him) AFTER his death, so try and think of this as a tribute to his memory!

        Like

  3. HappyHauteHome "Home and Lifestyle Inspiration" says:

    What an adorable story Joni! I was smiling the whole way through 🙂 I know you weren’t smiling, voles and wasps are no laughing matter. I’m glad you can make light of it now and I hope the vole issue has moved on. I too have a vole issue and it’s a huge pain. They have already killed 4 holly shrubs. I also had a pest guy out and hopefully he took care of it. Check out my post tomorrow for more details on how to get rid of these rodents. Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lindasschaub says:

    This was such a funny story Joni – you had me almost in tears the whole way through – and who is telling who to write children’s books? You should take that first step and not I. And that you for the mention of Parker and his guest post – I will tell him tomorrow when I see him that he will be even more famous now – it will surely go to his head! Not only was this cute and funny, but clever too and maybe you were thinking about ol’ Bruce as he turned 70 earlier this week. I heard it on the “birthday list” on the radio. I liked that you tied your Mom’s paintings in here as well – perfect. And I don’t just say that because Parker was features! I am sorry I was late reading this post – I popped on earlier as you said you were doing the post Wednesday, but I was troubleshooting computer issues with Ron until almost 10:00 p.m. – sigh. I might be dreaming of critters when I slip on my pajamas too and I, too, will stay inside and try to guess the sounds of the night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Linda I laboured long and hard on this children’s story but I think it comes naturally to you, so I will nag you until you get yours published. Besides I did promise to help make Parker famous – I hope he is happy with his portrait. I did not know Bruce was 70, hard to believe, but I was thinking of his E-Street band, which is why I had the Home Owner living on Easy Street, although it is hardly easy living with all these smelly dead critters around!

      Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Well thank you Joni, but you sure were creative from the first paragraph to the last paragraph … and using your mom’s artwork just made it even better … you made Parker famous and the Who … the other famous Who(s). I couldn’t believe how old Bruce Springsteen was either – I listen to the celebrity and historical birthdays list for the day that they rattle off and half the time I only know the anniversaries of deaths of famous people, not always the artist – especially when they are young celebrities, especially since I don’t watch TV or movies … I am a dinosaur!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        I’ve lost touch with the current celebrity list too – when the Emmy’s aired the other night I didn’t even know who half the people were or what shows they were on.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I didn’t watch the Emmys or any of the awards shows since I don’t have TV or go to the movies so I am really clueless who is who anymore, but I pop on websites like ET or People after awards shows and I am amazed I don’t know anyone – this is why I listen to the Mitch Albom Show every day as they debut some albums (often by older artists … the cast of the show are the same age as we are) plus they talk about current movies and TV shows (just the ones they watch unfortunately and much attention is paid to Game of Thrones). I can keep cuirrent on pop culture by listening to that show and following Twitter, but even the “Twitterverse” is beyond me to be honest.
        We had a subscription to “People” magazine for years and about the only thing that we liked were the human interest stories and book reviews. We had our favorite authors and bought their books when they went to paperback (Danielle Steele, Janet Dailey, Dorothy Garlock, Nora Roberts to name a few) and other authoris, we’d read a book review and put in a request at the library for the book when it arrived there … we put our names in back-to-back so I think for new releases we got 10 days apiece … my mom would read during the day and finish up quickly and I’d take the balance of the 20 days altogether, but I had to return the book and take it out in my name around the 10th name – their rules and regs.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        We’re allowed 3 weeks for library books…thank god as I always have so many out it’s a struggle to get them read and returned. Sometimes I have to put my name back on the list as I don’t get to them.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Ally Bean says:

    I love your story complete with photos. HOWEVER, while I know about wasps in general I didn’t know that wasps could do so much damage inside your house. I know about moles, having had to hire someone to trap them out in our garden, but voles are a new thing to me. Thanks for making me aware of what could be happening right under my nose, so to speak.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Prior... says:

    Wow – quite the adventure – and headache to start the least!
    so much to ponder after this listen
    And one thought that comes to mind is that I think creativity is a result of being nurtured and fed more Than genetics –
    Enjoyed this post

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Debbie says:

    LOL…I’m glad I missed the wasp tea parties! Our time on the deck was so pleasant.
    You really should think about writing a children’s story…your mom could illustrate it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. J P says:

    A fun read! You dredge up memories of squirrels, chipmunks, wasps and moles that have made themselves at home on my .3 acre estate. Not all of those memories are pleasant ones, better suited to military tales than childrens’ stories. And the protagonist does not always win.

    Like

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