Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day of Snakes

First I was at the barn. When I wheeled the big double wheeler wheelbarrow into the sawdust bin, I thought there were mushrooms or something growing what with all the recent rains. A closer look, however, revealed they were not puffballs or some other fungus but snake eggs. With snakes partway out of some, all the way out of others, and lots of them. The sight made me jump a bit first, and look way more closely. I hollered to my friend who was riding in the arena asking if she’d seen them earlier. No, she hadn’t. They were dead . . . but how had they gotten there? I tried to remember my snake physiology -- I was sure that copperheads were viviparous (born alive) and so fairly sure these were not poisonous dead snakes, which are not as dangerous as poisonous live snakes but still. Personally, I think all snakes are worthy to be handled with caution. And respect.

And so it was that a trip to the sawdust bin turned into a science class with the other people who were at the barn at the time. We looked and talked and poked and finally threw them over into the neighbor’s field to finish rotting. It turned out that they had been found buried down in the old sawdust the day before and left out for me to find. There was also a squished toad frog in the driveway entering into its maggot phase which by afternoon had entered into its dried up phase.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, err, farm . . . well, how I found out about it was when I got home and younger son ran to the vehicle to greet me as he always does, he said, “Nakes! Nakes! Cat’s killed a nakes and the chickens ate it!” He is very funny in that if you try to get him to say “Snakes” he will, but then he will say it like this: “The Scats Skilled a Snakes and the Schickens sate it!” But he’s also the kid who will turn to you and say, totally on his own and plain as day, “You know, my English is not so exact.” Anyway, what happened was that younger daughter found a baby copperhead and after she found it, the cats found it. They surrounded it and as fast as the snake was, the cats were faster. Then when the cats found it, the chickens found it too, and it went back and forth a few times. The snake did not manage to bite a cat but did get at least one chicken:
Looks like she's got a chaw of 'backer, don't it? Luckily, snake bites, even poisonous ones, don’t generally affect animals as severely as humans. You might remember the dog getting bit a couple years ago.

So that was our day of snakes.

On other fronts, well, we had a very decent spring garden, and the fall salad garden seems to be coming along, but in most respects the summer garden was wimpy. The hard corn was puny to begin with and then we’ve had to trap raccoons out of it or we wouldn’t have had any left. On the good side though, we’ve got plenty of good hard corn still from last year, and I think we still have some from the year before too. And we’ll probably get a years worth anyway out of this crop. So that ain’t shabby by the sufficiency standard. We also seem to have a more than decent potato crop, and a husband who has sworn that this year we’ll dig and cache it so that we can plow the rectangle garden in the winter and have it better prepared when planting time comes. A new crop for us this year that seems to have done well is Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, so now the challenge will be learning to incorporate them into our regular diet.

We still haven’t gotten a new cow and the management plan is always a bit flexible. Like we could get a new cow and put the old one in the freezer. Or we could get a new cow and find a bull for the old cow to run with to see if she’d get pregnant if exposed more although that would almost certainly be a beef bull rather than a milking bull so we wouldn’t be passing her most excellent genes on to the next generation of homestead milk cows. Right now we’re still getting by on her production and, well, it just hasn’t gotten on the front burner. We’ve also had goat milk until this week. The girls milked her this year and did a fine management job and now she's obviously pregnant again. We’re putting the babies up at night still but mostly to protect them from the bear potential. How we’ll manage that probably depends mostly on how many nanny goats the mamma has in her next batch. Right now we’re thinking we'll keep the girls and may look toward a new billy come next year. I really like our current billy though. But I’d rather have nannies we’ve raised ourselves.

This year has been a very good year of independent to the farm exploration. Our interests, individual and collective, have born sweet fruit. And the farm and a basic subsistence lifestyle has allowed us to be able to do that -- and sustained us in the doing.


annetteinalaska said...

Ooohhh, I didn't know your youngest spoke poetry! I love how people like your son make the rest of us think about how our minds work.

Madcap said...

My boy is like that too, some peculiarities, but if you hear them right, it's poetry. And sometimes what he's saying makes me wonder where he is, and what he's seeing, that leads him to interpret the world so differently than I do in so many ways. I'm glad. Clones were never on my to-do list.

It was a bad year for the garden, but we got a decent crop of potatoes and a freezer full of chicken. Better than nothing!


CG said...

What I find about gardens and even raising animals for the most part, is that there is always "better than nothing". There is never nothing, and rarely real loss. Unless there was, hmmm, how should I put this, speculative investment.

About kids, and our own brains, I never worried about delayed language or delayed reading in the kids -- in so many ways language imprisons our thought processes. Cultural assumptions can too which is another reason it is so important to try to see the invisible and examine it. When those who haven't been constantly berated into "correct" usage speak, it can certainly be breathtaking. And enlightening.