Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bug Week, European Hornet

I swear that I did a blog post on my encounter with the most fearsome looking hornets I've ever encountered, but apparently I didn't.  Which is strange because I freaked out about this bug for about three days:
Yes, that freaking thing is an inch long, curled up!!
Around the end of May, I  noticed two or three of these buggers buzzing by me while working in the yard.  Then I noticed at least two of them checking out the front porch.  At first, I though that maybe it was a Cicada Killer (you'll learn about that one tomorrow), but it wasn't colored the same.

Of course, I made a bee-line (ha!) away from wherever this behemoth bug was, but it kept hanging out on the front porch.  So I pulled on my big girl panties and grabbed a flyswatter and waited for it's return.  Which it did, right in my face.  Not like an aggressive kind'a fly-by, but more like a "Oh, it's just you" kind of investigations.  But I didn't care.  This thing was going to die.

After several minutes of fly-bys and me flailing my swatter around like a crazed woman, swearing the entire time, I managed to hit it.  And it felt like I hit a golf ball.  Whoo-hoo!  Score one for the human.

Except now I didn't know where it was.  I know it went someplace near the front steps, but I couldn't find it.  Normally I would chalk it up to "It will die eventually" like I do with the smaller insects, but there was no way I was going to leave a possibly-only-half-dead gargantuan hornet walking around where both my child and I walk around (usually in bare feet) for it fully recover and seek it's revenge.

After a solid five minutes of frantically searching I found it.  Only half dead.  So I scooped it up into a canning jar and we studied it.  And found out that it was a European Hornet, on of the largest hornets in the United States.  They claim (whoever it is "they" are) that European Hornets will generally avoid conflict and are not as aggressive as other hornets (like the eff'n Bald Faced Hornets we have here), but that doesn't make me feel that much better.  Especially knowing that somewhere out in the woods, probably in close proximity to the house, is a nest the size of a basketball with anywhere from 500 - 700 of them inside.

When I found out that they are also known to destroy honeybee nests, that was the final tidbit of information I needed to personally decide that they would not be one of the welcome insects on our land.  Now I just have to find the nest.  If I do, I suspect my eradication efforts will look something very similar to this:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bug Week, Plum Curculio

It seems as if I'm constantly racing against plant, insect or animal in order to get some of the bounty from the garden into our maws, plates or jars.  This year is no exception.

Unlike our pear and nectarine trees which had their fruits wiped out by blight, the peaches did pretty well.  But even though they survived the blight, we still had to deal with another enemy.  Enter the Plum Curculio.

She's a very unassuming little weevil that lays eggs in the flesh of the peach and then it's little baby grub makes itself at home in the flesh and chows down.  I just now learned the name of the bugger and found out it also accounts for the premature falling of the fruit.  Which is exactly what has been happening.  The peaches aren't quite ripe so we have to wait a few days to eat or process them, and also have to cut away at the mess the grub makes inside.  If it's not a particularly hungry little bastard, there's still a lot of unspoiled peach left once you remove him and his trail of fruit destruction so it's not a totally wasted peach, although it's best it you cut it up first instead of just taking a bite as you may end up with a mouth full of grub.  But heck, extra protein, right?

I think we're going to have to seriously consider spraying the peaches with something next year.  The waste that this little pest does probably constitutes at least half of our peach harvest.  And seeing as peaches are the only tree fruits we got this year, it's a significant loss.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bug Week, Wheel Bug

Do you have an assassin in your garden?  I do.

No, Paul isn't sitting out in my patch of overgrown tomatoes.  This little snout-sniper is of the insect variety and if you've got him in your yard, you should be grateful:

Isn't that one of the freakiest bugs you've ever seen?

(BTW, on an entirely different note, there's a cow somewhere in the local listening area that is very, very unhappy and has been vocalizing it's discontent since 5:20 this morning.  Just thought I'd let ya all know.)

The Wheel Bug is one of several types of "Assassin Bugs", so-called for their knack of ambushing and killing of other bugs with it's long, pointy, scary-looking, stab-you-through-the-exoskeleton mouthpart.  They spear their prey by thrusting out their rostrum (the sharp, pointy, scary-looking thing) and pierce the bodies of their lunch, usually caterpillars, beetle larva/adults, and other soft bodied insects that you'd rather not have munching on your garden plants.  After injecting a concoction of tissue melting spit into it's victim, the wheel bug sucks it all back up through the rostrum, tips the waitress, and moves on to find another meal.
Close-up of the Wheel Bug rostrum.
Watch where you're pointing that thing, buddy!!
The ferociousness of this bug doesn't stop with it's prey either.  The nymphs are know to be cannibalistic (Oh, howdy there brother!  Just hatched and I'm starving.  Don't mind if I eat you, do ya?) and the females aren't beyond stabbing you through the exoskeleton and sucking out your insides after you take her out on a date.  Scientists haven't been able to determine if the females who eat their mates are just generally ill-tempered or the guy took her out to a cheap Chinese (beetle) restaurant and didn't even bother to pick up the check.

Think that's as gross as it gets?  If only.

When a wheel bug is threatened, and it doesn't manage to jab you with it's mouth-bayonet, then it will push out two bright orange, stinky scent sacks from it's anus.  I've seen this before.  I almost gagged.  Not from the stench (as I didn't really smell anything), but just the surprise of something so freakish looking doing yet another freakish thing with it's bunghole.

After all this being said, I do have to say that under normal circumstances, the Wheel Bug is pretty non-confrontational.  They can fly, although not very well (as if all that wasn't bad enough, now you have to worry about it flying at you) and I have yet to be attacked / buzzed at / speared by or otherwise molested by one of these bugs, so they are welcome here.

Can you find a place in your heart to let this Garden Assassin live in your back yard?  I hope so :)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bug Week, Blister Beetle

This is a fairly new invader to our garden:

I do recall seeing them in a patch of wild amaranth (pigweed) about five or six years ago and remember them having a strange habit of dropping off the plant as soon as you even tapped it, trying to make their escape.  I also recall seeing so many of them that I started to collect them for the chickens.  Which they turned their noses up at.  And I yelled them for being ungrateful bastards at not accepting my offering of a free bug smorgasbord.  Only now did I realize that they did so for a reason.

There are many varieties of blister beetles and apparently we have the black variety.  I didn't think much of them since they didn't seem to be eating anything but the wild amaranth.  Then a few days ago while trying to find the hornworms that were eating all the leaves off my tomatoes, I found a bunch of the blister beetles congregating on the tomato plants.  And non-hornworm black poop underneath them.  They were the ones defoliating my tomato plants!  Bastards!

So I donned my rubber gloves and started removing them from the area.  Normally I'd just start crushing them between my fingers like I've been doing with the squash bugs, but luckily for me, I hadn't done that yet.  Because as it's name implies, I would have a mess of blisters on my hands.  Blister beetles have a nasty little goo in their body called cantharadin and when it gets on your skin you get a blister.  Even when they are dead and pulverized they still pack a nasty punch, especially to livestock.  If you're a horsey person, you've probably heard of the potentially deadly effects of having your beloved Mr. Ed eat blister beetle infested alfalfa.

And I'm sure most people have heard of the aphrodisiac "Spanish Fly".  Guess what's in it?  Dead, dried and crunched up blister beetle.  A little bit and you're drooling over the guy/girl next to you and a little bit too much and it's your mouth that's on fire instead of your groin and you're dead in a few hours.

So needless to say, I have a new found respect for the little tomato plant munching bug.  Still don't like him.  Still going to kill every single stinking one I find.  But I will be much more careful next time I run into an unknown bug before I start squishing them with my bare hands.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Heat must be frying my brain

It seems as if there is a direct correlation between 100-degree temperatures outside and the desire for me to make soup.  I mean, I have cravings for soups in the winter when it's more "normal" to be wanting hot bowl of soup, but what neurological short-circuit causes me to want to make the kitchen even hotter than it is already?  So yesterday afternoon, when it was 101, I made split pea soup.

But what's even more peculiar is that when I went to search for the recipe on my blog (yes, one day I will write it down and put it in my recipe box), I noticed that the date was almost two years ago (two years and two days to be exact) that I had the same exact urge, on a 102-degree day.

Had I not been such a sloth, I would have collected firewood and started a fire in the grill and cooked the soup over that, but instead I just put the pot o' split pea soup fixings on the stove in the kitchen.  I can't wait until we get the outside kitchen finished and I can use the wood cookstove when these wacky urges come up.

In the meantime, I'm going to eat my way though the split pea soup and hope that I can contain my desire for making a creamy wild rice soup.  Or at least wait until the weather is in the lower 90's.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Now is the Summer of Our Discontent

If my neighbors didn't personally know us, I'm sure they would have called the humane society on me by sounds like I'm torturing animals down here.  The goats are being very, very vocal lately.  I mean, Pickles still takes the cake, but it seems as if the three doelings (all of whom are still nursing, so there's no excuse) feel as if they should be screaming as frequently as their older and audibly annoying herdmate.  Nobody is hurt.  Nobody is lacking in food, water, minerals, company, etc., and nobody is in heat.

The fact that there seems to be absolutely no reason for it other than to tick me off is what is so completely infuriating.  They yell first thing in the morning when they see me, even though only two of them (the two I'm milking) are actually getting fed.  I assume the kids are vocalizing their malcontent in not being fed both morning, mid-morning, pre-lunch, lunch, dinner, supper and a snack.  Or, again, it's just to pisss me off.

Lira, Penny's doeling, is especially annoying.  Annette's kids, Pyewacket and Elemanzer will start yelling when someone else does so they are more tolerable, but Lira just does it whenever a gnat flies by and it's one of those really, really annoying yells, like a spoiled-brat kind of noise.  

I just started weaning Studly DoRight three days ago, and if anybody had a legitimate reason to yell, it would be him.  Ironically, he is the only one out of the four kids that can seem to keep his howling screaming zipped.  He'll still come running up to the fence, waggly-tailed and anticipating a bottle, but he keeps his mouth shut.  I can only hope that he passes these quiet jeans on to his progeny.

Once we get our Boer herd a little bigger, Pickles is out of here as is any other goat that has a tendency to scream.  It's bad enough that I have seven roosters running around, crowing their little bird-brains out all day starting at 3 in the morning, but the noise of screaming-brat goats I cannot stand.  I had actually thought (and still may) about putting Charlie's shock collar on Pickles and zapping her each time she yelled.  I doubt it would work, but heck, it might give me a little bit of satisfaction seeing her crap her pants (figuratively speaking of course....I don't put my goats in underpants.  Only the chickens.) mid-yell and wonder what the hell attacked her.

It would so be worth a visit from PETA.  Maybe they would even "rescue" her from me.

If only.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Fun Day of Firsts

We were invited to go river fishing this weekend and it was a perfect day for it; temps in the lower 80's with a sporadic cover of clouds and the occasional breeze.

Morning barn chores were done in a rush, an impromptu lunch was thrown into the cooler, and we were off!

This was Rhiannon's first time on a river boat, or as a matter of fact, in any type of the water.  Rhiannon gets lots of  boating "practice" as we do have a small fishing boat, but alas, it sits in the side yard instead of the water.  She is also very proficient at casting out a line as she practices with her fishing pole in the front yard by throwing out a plastic weight and catches "cat" fish (i.e. Outside Kitty chases it around the yard).   Rhiannon wasn't apprehensive at all about going on the water, which was a relief because unlike her, up until just recently, I was anxious about getting into one.

We spent over four hours on the river.

We fished.  We ate chips.  We marveled at the clear, cool water and how you could see the fish just a foot down.  We ran the boat up and down the river.  We caught some fish (and played with them in the live well).  We took a break and pulled up to shore and walked around.  We fished some more.  And when Rhiannon (and I) were getting too hot (and maybe even a little bit cranky), our fishing guide took us back to the boat launch and we brought our catch home.

Rhiannon was out like a light five minutes into the car ride home.  And then was somehow magically refreshed and renewed and ready to take on the world after a five minute powernap.  I, however, was exhausted beyond belief and collapsed into a coma like it was nobody's business for a full two hours.  How does one get so tired from sitting on one's behind the entire time?  I don't know, but I'm telling you, it took all of my remaining strength (and a little help from Paul yanking me) to get out of bed for evening barn chores.

We live a stone's throw away from the river (and the lake as a matter of fact), but as many of you can attest to, it seems the closer you are to something fantastic like this, the less likely you are to take advantage of it.  Why is that?  Is it because it's taken for granted?  Because we say "Oh, we can get out there any time" or "There's stuff that needs to be done today, we'll go tomorrow"?  Not that I'm advocating throwing all reason and responsibilities to the wind and just screwing off every day.  But maybe there would be more time for it if we made an effort to make more time for it.

I hope that we'll make more time for river and lake fun from now on.

Is there anything that you need to make more time for?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another fruit loss

Just a few weeks ago there were nectarines a' plenty on the trees.  This was the first year they fruited and I was anxious to taste them.  And then while yanking random weeds in the yard, I passed my full-o-fruit nectarine tree and saw something that made me do a double-take.

Every. Single. Nectarine was covered in some icky fungus stuff and some of the branches look as if they are blighted.  I didn't even know that nectarines got blight.

The pears suffered from blight this Spring, the apples trees only had a few fruitlets on them (even though there were plenty of flowers) and now the nectarine trees have suffered this new ailment.  It seems that the peach trees are our last hope for any fruit this year.  We have four pathetic blueberry bushes which yielded zip blueberries and I never made it out to the Pick-your-own so we'll be blueberry-less as well.

The strawberry beds did well this spring, but those are long gone and I didn't even freeze or jam any of them.  Which is actually ok since I vowed it would be a Jam-Free 2014 in order to use some of the jam already in the pantry.

Last year I was able to can some pears and apples, but we're down to one quart of apples and six quarts of pears.  So unless I find someone with a bumper crop of pears and apples, there will be no glistening jars of home-canned fruits this year.  Just another reason to stock up for more than one year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Flurry on the Homestead!

This Summer Polar Vortex thing totally rocks!  Although we didn't get any snow flurries, I was in a flurry of activity as I spent all morning outside and I didn't melt into a pool of rendered fat.

I spent hours out in the jungle garden this morning yanking weeds and swearing at the tenacity of the prickly sida which even at less than 12" tall requires a backhoe to yank out from the earth.  I don't know what, if any, useful purpose they serve in the circle of life, but if I had the power to wish any weed away it would be prickly sida and morning glory, neither of which have any food or medicinal use so I say to hell with 'em.

While weeding out an area where I have volunteer tomato, squash and melon plants, I discovered these little beauties:

And immediately cut up the ripe one, went outside to pick a few leaves of fresh basil (yet another volunteer plant), a little S&P and voila:

I'm telling you, I just love Slothwoman Gardening.  Granted, I'm not exactly sure what I'll get or how much of any particular item I'll harvest, but I'm really looking forward to having Paul tear up another section and just toss any and all of my old garden seeds, rotted veggies & fruits in there and just let it go.  Of course, I'll have to continue with "normal" gardening if I ever want to have a real vegetable harvest, but the Sloth Gardening is kind of fun with not much work involved.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Getting Big

No, not my arse (total lie), but the baby Phoebes.  There are still four of them in the nest and it looks like they're about to pop out of there any minute.  They seem pretty miserable.  But I suppose anyone would be smooshed together with three other bodies in 90+ degree heat with 114% humidity:

We've had deer come browse on the new grass in the soon-to-be-fenced-in pasture area.  There are two bucks:

And two does, each with a doeling of their own:

As long as they don't start munching on my squash garden and young apple trees all will be well.  Although I suppose it won't be too bad as it will make them fatter for Fall........

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Poo on you

I spent some time sweating my arse off and wanting to just die in the garden during the week.  A little bit of weeding, a little bit of mulching, a lot of watering and a little bit of flinging poo.

Yes, I'm immature.  So sue me.

But my plants don't care what I call the black gold.  Manure.  Compost.  Dung.  Muck.  Excrement.

The "I Wonder What These Are" squash plants that survived the deluge last month are doing ok, but looked like they could use a little pick-me-up.  So I got out the shovel and a bucket and proceeded to amend the rocks and sticks earth they were popping out from with some of the old mule manure and gave them a good watering.

Then the next day, I noticed that some of the smaller plants were basically dead:
Yup.  Killed 'em.
The older plants are just fine.  I'm not sure if the manure wasn't composted enough or if the two days of 90+ degree days did the smaller ones in, or both.

I was going to add some to the sweet potato trenches, but wasn't sure if that was a good idea or not.  I still need to hill them as the slips are really starting to take off so later today I'll be forking wasted goat hay into the wheelbarrow and wheel it down to the 'taters.  I've already got major swampass going so what's another sopping wet handkerchief, right?

I heard rumors of a Summer Polar Vortex.  Is it true?  Really?!  I could go for a flurry right about now.  Maybe I'll spare my garden the cold and just blend me up a Pina Colada instead.  Although I am three days late for National Pina Colada Day.  You won't rat me out and call the F.P.A.B. P. (Fancy Pants Alcoholic Beverage Police) on me, will ya?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Payoff of Sausage Making

Several weeks ago Paul and I started mixing up the ground pork in to various sausage mixtures.  And then his brother came in for a visit so I had them stuff the sausage mixes into casings so we could actually eat them like "proper" sausages.  We sampled some that day, of course, but the rest went into the freezer for future meals.

Yesterday morning I took out a five pack hank of Italian sausage to defrost and last night I broiled them and then cut up some fresh green peppers (thanks, Ma!), onions, garlic, opened a can of diced tomatoes (yes, I know I should have fresh but mine aren't putt'n out yet and I'm not buying grocery store ones), grabbed some fresh oregano, chives and basil from my herb garden and sauteed everything together.  Plopped the cooked sausages into the vegetable mixture to warm it up and Ta Da!

It would have gone great with some fresh Italian bread with olive oil, but alas, I was forgot until it was too late.  Next time.

Anyways, it really was a simple, but great supper.  And if I weren't such a lazy sloth of a woman, all those fixings could have come right from the garden.  But still, everything but the onions (Georgia Vidalia....yum!!), the garlic (not sure from where) and the salt were local.

Are you eating out of your garden yet?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Baby Bird Bonanza

Since about the time we moved to our homestead, we've had a pair of Phoebes nest under the front or back porch.  They've had sporadic luck with hatching out their brood.  One year I found a rat snake in the process of devouring the last of four chicks in the nest.  Another year they had a cowbird lay it's egg in the nest (although I took it out).  And last year, they didn't even bother to hatch out any eggs in the nest as Outside Kitty had started taking up residence and his constant presence on the porch scared them away.

But this year, they had come back:

Because Outside Kitty, after becoming part of the family and getting fixed, is no longer the wild little hunting panther that he used to be and I'm assuming the Phoebes realize that his legs can no longer propel his rotund body up onto the beam where they have their nest.
A much heavier Outside Kitty.  Inside.  With Kitty Manboobs.
One year they were able to hatch out two broods and I'm hoping they can get this clutch to fledge and then start on a second.

We've been noticing two wild turkey hens right around the house the past month.  I was a bit disappointed though because I didn't see any poults with them.  But then just yesterday Rhiannon & I saw a hen in the soon-to-be pasture area with seven little ones!  They scattered as soon as we started towards them, but it was nice to see that she had hatched out so many.  This morning they were in the soon-to-be (why is it seems everything around here is "soon-to-be" or "eventually-gonna-be"??) permaculture garden, picking through the weed seeds and hopefully eating bugs.  
Hard to get a non-blurred shot as they were scooting all over the place.
I haven't seen the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers at Charlie's food dish lately, so I can only assume that their offspring have fledged already and the constant nasally-sounding cawing from the hungry fledgling crows has finally subsided.  The crow family is still hanging around and although I don't mind it now, I'm sure I will be curing them when they are pecking my squash and melon plants to bits next month.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Saga of the Speckled Kingsnake, Part 2

I just know that Kelly & MamaPea have been anxiously anticipating another episode of "Make My Skin Crawl", so I'll do just that.

If you recall, we didn't lose the Speckled Kingsnake in the house (or the truck), it was simply a case of mistaken coffee containers.  So I put the snake in the temporary plastic tub (with tight-fitting lid, of course) and put a bowl of water in there along with a few night crawlers.  Which it did not eat.  Which I was a bit surprised as that is supposed to be what they'd eat in the wild.  But really, would you be hungry after making a mad dash away from the whirling blades of death (the brush hog) and then being manhandled womanhandled, shoved into a small plastic container that smelled like stale coffee grounds and then put into yet a different plastic tub with some weeds and a fake "pond"?  Me neither.  Well, who am I kidding?  I'd eat just about anything, anytime.

Anyways, I was a bit worried that Snakey wasn't going for the night crawlers after two days.  Then on the evening of the third day of captivity, I opened the lid to check on Snakey and to my surprise, I found these:
Snake Eggs!!
And there was one more "bun in the oven".  So in total, SHE laid five eggs.

To say that Rhiannon, and I, were pretty excited would be an understatement.  I immediately went to internetting on how to care for snake eggs and put them in their own little homemade incubator:

And thanks to our friend Adrian, we also have a more proper abode for Snakey:

We'll continue to do our homeschooling science on "Reptiles" for a few more days, then let Snakey go in the woods behind the house.  Her eggs, however, will be another lesson.  Hopefully in 50-60 days from now.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Dependence Day

No, that is not a typo, I'm just going to start one of my rants.  It's been a while since I've had an online outburst.  Probably because I've been too darned hot to even think straight.  And really, I guess this really doesn't count as an outburst, more like a depressing reality check.

Independence Day was the day that the Second Continental Congress adopted the legal separation between Great Britain and the original thirteen colonies.  It was actually finalized by Congress on July 2nd 1776, but made public on July 4th and the 4th is what everyone stuck with.

Why is it "Happy Forth of July" instead of "Happy Independence Day"?  Very few people or places say it or write it as the latter.  And how many political hacks and news venues say "Independence Day" any more?  Is it because we're lazy (or too ignorant to know how to spell that big "I" word), or is it because we've forgotten what the word Independence means?  I suppose it's a little bit of both.  No one remembers or even celebrates Constitution Day (September 17th, btw), and it probably does have something to do with the fact that we don't say "Happy September 17th!" and blow shit up and eat barbecued chicken and drink beer.

So what did original thirteen colonies find so horrible about Great Britain that they felt they would rather go it alone, without the backing of good ol' King George the Third?  There are twenty-eight indictments against the king in the Declaration of Independence and I challenge anyone to find that those same atrocities are not being committed by our own government today.  Instead of being outraged by the "liberties" our own government has been taking with our freedoms, we continue asking the government for more intrusion into our private lives.  Instead of cherishing our freedom, we just want free stuff.  Free food, free education, free housing, free cell phones, free health care.  Instead of wanting the government to stay out of our private lives, we have a country filled with mealy minded, irresponsible crybabies that demand more laws be written so somebody doesn't get offended or feel inferior or get a fingernail broken.

We depend on the government to take care of us from cradle to grave - and they would like nothing better.  We depend on the government to keep us healthy - and they poison us with "approved" foods laden with pesticides and outlaw raw milk.  We depend on the government to take care of our children from the moment of conception - and they gladly scoop them up, whisper sweet lies to them and turn them against us.  We depend on the government to keep us safe from terrorists; and they gladly label us as the terrorists.

We are no longer The Land of The Free.  We are The Land of Freebies.

We are no longer The Home of The Brave.  We are The Home of the Beaten.

But maybe it's just me.  Maybe this is what "The People" want.  Maybe it's time to move on, to move towards a more "progressive" way of thinking (excuse me a second while I vomit).  What's the point of The Constitutuion & The Bill of Rights when they have been stripped and watered down to be more "politically correct" or out and out ignored by those sworn to uphold them?  Maybe we will just scrap all those documents our country was founded upon, and come up with new ones.  It inevitably happens to all great empires. If a new constitution is implemented, do you think you will have more or less freedoms?  Who do you think it will be protecting?  Are we still going to pretend that we, the people, are living in The Land of The Free?  If we're going to be a society of irresponsible, irrational and immoral people, can we at least be truthful about it?

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
Samuel Adams

How far we have fallen.

Happy 4th of July.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Saga of the Speckled Kingsnake, Part 1

Paul was brush hogging his Mom's place up the road and Rhiannon and I went to make sure he wasn't injured or died in some horrific tractor accident that I always am afraid of when he's working alone visit him.  All the tractor commotion caused not only Ms. Melman & Nugget (the mule & mini-horse) to run around like crazy animals, but it also brought out a small speckled king snake.

Being the lover of snakes that I am, I picked it up and put it into a small, empty, plastic coffee container.  Rhiannon was thrilled.  Heck, I was thrilled.  Speckled King Snakes eat venomous snakes, and we have plenty of copperheads around here and supposedly an occasional timber rattler.  So I had Rhiannon hold on to the coffee container and we drove back home.  I was going to release it by the house, but then I thought "Homeschooling Project"!  I told Rhiannon to put the container on the kitchen counter top while I sought out a more suitable enclosure for the snake.  When I found an old plastic bin, I told Rhiannon to bring the container to me so we could release it into it's temporary home.  Rhiannon hands me the container and I open find nothing.  As in, empty.  As in, no freaking snake.  As in, Shit, Paul's gonna throw a fit 'cause there's a snake loose either in the truck or in the house.

I'm obviously a bit anxious now.  How did it get out?!  I asked Rhiannon if she opened the lid.  She looks at me and says "No, Mama".  I asked her if she dropped it on accident.  "No, Mama."  I tell her I won't be mad at her if she did, but if she did, she needed to tell me where and when so we could find the snake.  "No, Mama, I just put it on the kitchen counter like you said."

So I go back into the kitchen and what do I see?  An identical, empty coffee container.  On the kitchen counter top.  With a snake inside of it.

To say that I was immensely relieved would be an understatement.

To Be Continued........