Snake in the Grass

Brown phase black rat snake?

In eighteen summers on Goose Creek, this is the first rat snake (of scores) that was not black. Most have no hint of a pattern on the dorsal surface; this one does.

We’ve transported four snakes to other parts after catching them eating our eggs (well, our hens’ eggs) and then spotted another thirty feet of rat snake at various places about the farm.

We saw fewer brown water snakes this year, right many queen snakes near the creek, and not a single corn snake. And no copperheads–which thankfully have been rare: four in 18 summers.

And now the day of the snake is almost passed again for another year. And I’m pleased to have spotted this one next to the barn rock foundation–in the grass, except that the day before, I’d taken away his usual hiding cover with the string trimmer.

Two to Tango

Got that nice motion blur as I walk briskly along behind and snap the shutter on the iPhone.

They have their moments, even though mostly on our round-abouts we’re either keeping Dingo at some distance from Gandy or, when they are at a distance, watching Gandy dominate the confrontations by soundly boxing his ears or sending him tumbling. He finally gets the message.

And when they have come to terms, it’s gratifying to see them walking happily side by side–a token of what might lie ahead for these two dogs. Gandy turns 7 in mid-October, so can still keep up and hopefully, will be able to teach some good manners and household etiquette.

Back at the house, Dingo is feeling the urge again, but in the end, can only bark in frustration. If he could write a love song with more words than what he’s come up with so far.

Tutoring is scheduled for next Wednesday morning, after which maybe he’ll sing an octave higher?

Doglemma

We don’t know what we want. We don’t know what’s best. We don’t know what’s possible. Other than that, our future of dog ownership is perfectly clear.

We have been fated to cross paths with a fully worthy young stray (dropoff?) dog who has entered our lives unbidden, perhaps at random, perhaps ordained by the powers that both torment and reward. The rain—and feral dogs—fall on the godly and the ungodly alike.

And so we face another full week until we can take Dingo to Christiansburg to be tutored. (Remember the Gary Larsen cartoon?) And yes, I know the perils of giving up a dog you’ve named or eating a chicken named Rosy. But there you have it.

If you do Facebook and find me there, you know the story, but for both blog readers, a bit of background (and foreground, unseen and unseeable this morning.)

This dog first showed up in a burst of chicken terror, though the racket was not so much that he was after them as that they wanted no part of him. And Ann, mistaking him at first glance for a small bear, panicked; and I reflexively burst out the door in my underwear waving my arms and hollering, as Gandy chased the not-a-bear down the road at high speed.

Said gray-black but otherwise vaguely-observed dog reappeared a few days later on the edge of the pasture, and then a few days after that. Each time I protected the free-range hens by firing the .22 into the ground. And yet the dog persisted, returning a day or two later.

And cutting out all the in-between, last Thursday, when we concluded that we could get him to the animal shelter if we could pen him. We used Gandy as bait inside the chain-link enclosure under the shed roof. Within a few hours, the year-old blue heeler was himself inside the pen. So we called Animal Control to come fetch him to town, problem solved. What a relief!

But no. We learned, to our dismay, that the facility is closed for repairs until at least Sept 11. No, there are no other places that will take him. And we do not need another dog. We can barely tolerate this temporary dog whose Little Brain so dominates his behavior any time our six year old (spayed) female is outdoors or visible inside the house. She keeps telling him in no uncertain terms that she is NOT that kind of girl!

So we will try to endure this dysfunctional sorting of dog, chicken and people needs until Sept 4 when Dingo can get a shuttle from Floyd to Christiansburg to the Spay-Neuter clinic for de-balling. That SHOULD do wonders for his ability to concentrate on people and their instructions. He, however, will still be a puppy. This morning he carried both my Timberland boots out into the rain.

He is a bright dog and wants to please, though he probably has had no training and little human affection, if any. He will “sit” for a puppy treat. He is faithful, staying very close in our walks around the pasture and sleeping on the back porch for five nights now. He has shown no aggression towards us or Gandy, though he was not sold on the large FedEx van yesterday, but gave the driver a pass when he tossed out a dog biscuit.

But what are we going to do here? What is the best way forward for all?

The cost (of shots, boarding, health issues); the hassle (of going through maybe another year of puppy-hood and training from scratch a year old dog; the inconvenience (of two dogs inside all winter long, wet feet and dog aroma for six months)—taking on any of this makes no sense.

But then, dog ownership is not necessarily a rational choice. And we have not made a final choice yet, mind you. But I can read the writing on the wall. And I would be very surprised if Gandy doesn’t have a new best friend—if he can just keep his paws to himself.

When the Rains Come

Slimy Salamander, so-called for the copious sticky mucus secreted by its skin–an adaptation to retain moisture, but also to make it less tasty to a would-be predator. I’m certainly not tempted!

I suppose technically we are not in a drought. Parts of the county have gotten more from recent storms than we have gotten on Goose Creek.

So I’m glad the creek still flows, even if just barely enough to keep the “minnows” alive. There frantic rushing from ripples to calm waters and back again has more to do, I think, with mating hormones than fear of drying up.

And the woods are so dry that even the usually-terrestrial salamanders, like this “slimey” variety, are taking to the beaches.

It’s rare to spot a salamander fully exposed in full daylight. This one was cooperative enough I could get pretty close with the iPhone.

But I’m hoping that one of these days soon–now that the garden has taken it on the chin and only the greens can be saved–that the creeks will rise again and the amphibians can stay wet without venturing out into the dangerous open spaces.

Pattern and Purpose

Click to Enlarge

Somehow, the silent working of this spider, relentlessly, tirelessly doing the next thing, spinning the threads of another day of waiting, not knowing…

Somehow, the regular, expert lines of concentric effort with a plan, not so much in mind as in the whole of its body…

Somehow the simple black and white of this vision this morning on an ordinary walk in an ordinary place, of an ordinary and simple creature going about its day…

Was a comfort to me. Perhaps it can be to you.

 

Parkway Whites

Our cars carry us along the Blue Ridge Parkway rather often,  that 400-mile-long national park being the eastern-southern border of Floyd County.

But our cars also require us, from time to time, to visit the parkway because that is where our auto-mechanic has his palatial garage not far from Tuggle’s Gap.

And it was on just such a “car trip” a few days ago that, stopping at Rake’s Mill Pond overlook, these summer whites beckoned a closer look.

First is the tall spires of Culver’s Root.


Like so many Appalachian Mountain plants (though this one seems to be a prairie native) it has a history of medicinal uses that you can read about at wikipedia.

And the second white…


This plant is—well, I thought I knew but turns out I was wrong. And I did not pay attention to the leaves, since this level of detail would have had me down in the much at the edge of the mill pond.

So for now, this is “tall white unknown lily from Rake’s Mill Pond.” This is driving me sorta crazy to not know. Not sure when the next parkway road trip will be, but hoping it does not require ordering more Subaru parts.

And that I finally become reacquainted with this once-familiar plant that is not, after all, fly poison.

Boys and Behemoth Bubbles

We usually don’t drive the whole way to Columbia MO in one day anymore, so make a regular stop in Ferdinand, Indiana.

This year, at our favorite pub in “downtown” Ferdinand, we saw signs announcing HeimaFest that day, in a park a few blocks away.

Say what? Apparently, it’s a “home” festival in this German Catholic mid-western town.

It was a low-key Floyd kind of thing, with lots of kids, with free admission. We did not stay for the cornhole contest or the beer keg toss.

But this engagement pictured below, by even the kids typically a little too old to be cool blowing bubbles, shows them very much into SuperBubbles.

I don’t know any of the details other than what you can see here–five gallon buckets of thick “bubble-stuff” (maybe a bulk-volume dishwashing soap?) and dowels with a loop of light-weight chain. Dip the loop into the bucket, and swirl!

I thought this might be something that would work at Lineberry Park or the Harvest Festival later in the summer here. So share this with those who might be looking for a kid’s activity. Maybe this already happens, but I never saw it before. Did you?