Friday, June 29, 2007

Rite of Passage

All young men must mow the lawn for the first time, and Farmer Boy's mom was on a snake-free-zone mission today. After I mowed a large portion of the yard, I picked a flat rectangular area for FB to try:

I made him go slowly, and thanks to the rain the grass was really tall, so I don't think he had much fun. But he obviously had it way better than most kids do. I didn't even see a riding lawn mower until I was an adult.

The continuing saga

So this morning Farmer Boy comes to me and says, "I think the snake is back in the brooder because the chicks are making strange noises." No surprise; I put on my boots and head out.

After checking to make sure there was not a snake right where I was going to lift the lid, I opened the top, and sure enough, there was a snake in the house. But it wasn't the same snake! It was considerably smaller, 3 feet I'd guess. And it had a suspicious lump in its middle.

I lifted it out of the brooder with the shovel, thinking I'd just take it to the barn and put it inside to have its fill of rats. But it slid off the shovel part way there, into some very tall grass. I had called the dogs, and Molly (about whom I had spoken so disdainfully yesterday) was on high alert and barking and snapping at the snake. I encouraged her with all my heart, but it became clear she was not going to succeed.

Farmer Boy offered to try using a rock again as he had seen his dad do this. I took him up on it. The grass was too long for there to be any decent impact. In the end, I got it back on the shovel, moved it to a patch of dirt and between a brick I threw, a rock Farmer Boy threw and Molly, we killed it. Molly has redeemed herself.

If you are interested in grossness and gory detail, view the photos below. If not, please abstain.

The dogs got the snake open at the bulge... definitely a chick:

Here is Zeke, pulling out a tasty treat (ick ick ick again!). For those who can't figure out what they are seeing (ahem, Stephen) this is a dog pulling a dead chick (head in his mouth) out of the middle of a snake:

Final note; I'd read that rat snakes stink. Instead our dogs stink. Their breath smells DISGUSTING. I mean even more than usual. Ick.


We have new baby chicks that are about 3 weeks old. Last night as part of my animal rounds I opened up the brooder to check on them, and this is what I saw:

Notice something amiss? Here's a closeup of that thing in the back:

It's a Texas rat snake, and I'd say it was about 5 feet long. Funny thing was I had been in the barn just before that and had been thinking about snakes. I am reading My Antonia by Willa Cather, and had just read the part where 10 year old Jim kills a rattler with a shovel. So when I saw the snake I didn't freak out, I just thought, "Ugh, I have to kill a snake."

I had seen this snake before (at least I think it was this snake). One night when the babies were just a few days old I realized we'd forgotten to turn on the brooder lamp, so I went outside with a flashlight. Oddly enough I had snakes on my mind then too (do you think God is with me out here or what?). I reached the brooder, saw a huge snake coiled under it, and turned right around to fetch my big brave husband. He relocated the snake down by the workshop in the hopes it would eat rats (of which we unfortunately have plenty).

My big brave husband wasn't home this time, so big brave me went to find a shovel (a la Jim in My Antonia). I grabbed the camera too. When I got back the snake was still there, and I counted chicks. We were definitely missing chicks, so I knew I had to kill it.

In a brilliant flash (do not even THINK the word cowardly) I called the five dogs over (yes, five... that's another blog post begging to be written). I tried to coax the snake down and out the back. It stuck its head out, saw the dogs, and went right back in. The dogs completely missed it. They are not the brightest bulbs sometimes.

I went back to the front and saw it taking a different approach:

It headed onto the roof of the brooder porch. I finally got the dogs to notice it. Molly barked and was clearly nervous. I should have realized that this was not an indication of a fierce snake hunter. Alas, I knocked the snake down right in front of her, hoping she'd finish it off, and she jumped back and quivered (while barking) as it slithered off to hide under the brooder again.

Now, let me be honest with you. I had been brave and matter of fact at the beginning. I'm not, generally speaking, afraid of snakes. But when I had to start touching the thing with the shovel as I tried to get it to go where I wanted, I started to lose my nerve. I wasn't 100% sure it was a rat snake (which are non-venomous). I knew it wasn't a rattler, but wasn't positive about what it WAS. And, well, it was a BIG snake! I got all shaky and weird feeling; I must have had a major adrenalin rush or something, but it wasn't like the rush I feel when I have to deal with, say, a goat emergency. It was a spooked out kind of feeling. I totally get why Satan was a serpent in the Garden of Eden. Ugh.

So there I am, looking at the ground under the brooder for the snake, holding a shovel, and wondering what I am going to do next, when I see a head. But not under the brooder...

That's the telephone pole behind the brooder. I can assure you that at this point the spooky factor was at its height. I could barely catch my breath. And that was the end of my snake hunting, although Farmer Boy tried to throw rocks at it unsuccessfully.

Ick ick ick!!!!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Well, not yet summer date-wise, but wow, it sure feels like summer to us. We are getting temperatures in the 90's during the day, the kids are out of school (which for homeschoolers means no official schoolwork; of course LEARNING is impossible to quell), and blackberries are ripening. I am SO happy!

I love seasons. The thing I missed most about New England when we moved here (not counting family and friends of course) was the seasons. I've posted about this before. Here in Texas we have basically two seasons, hot and not-so-hot. We can garden year round.

We've even tried schooling year round. Some homeschooling families like this approach... it allows them to keep the same schedule throughout the year and they usually do things like take all Fridays off or take a week off every two months. For me, I need the long break. I look forward to the change, and then in August I am revved up and enthusiastic about a new school year. In an informal poll of our school's students (all 2 of them), a hearty "No way!" was the recent response to the idea of schooling year round. So it works for all of us.

Little Guy is almost one and is enjoying the first summer that he can actually appreciate (last summer the main thing he enjoyed outside was lying in the sling watching the leaves blow). I took the kids to a water playground in Austin on Saturday and I think Little Guy had the most fun of all. He crawled through the sprinklers fearlessly, and only complained when he inadvertently stopped right next to one that was off, which shortly came on and hit him right in the face. He still isn't walking because crawling is faster, but he is into everything. In the course of writing this blog entry, I have had to remove a silver tray with a tea set and a plant from the room in which we are working. I baby proof rooms and he quickly shows me what I have missed.

The blackberries are ripening slowly but surely. I ate five or six last night; we'll have lots starting to turn black in the next few weeks. Our neighbors up the road have a blueberry farm and are opening this weekend for picking. The tomatoes are green and the peppers are green so not too long until we have a small garden harvest (we have a tiny garden this season). I am getting close to a quart of milk each day from our goat, which is just right for our family. There is more demand for our eggs than we can supply, so we have 50 more chicks arriving this Friday. And we are about to take some bull calves in for slaughter. The farm is keeping us busy!