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Lots of snakes this year

Lots of snakes this year

So far this year we’ve seen three snakes, which is more than we’ve seen in 10 years of living in east Tennessee. One I noticed in the grass near the barn. After that I resolved to cut the grass weekly to make it easier to see what’s in the grass. That was nothing compared with the next sighting. One night while preparing to get in bed, I found a large (4-5 foot) rat snake trying to also get into our bed. We removed it and did an intense search for access points, sealing a few small but plausible entry points. Then this past weekend we noticed a copperhead in the road in front of the barn. This one we killed, which was especially good because she was carrying future copperheads. In speaking with friends and neighbors, it seems this is a big year for snakes in our area, not just around our place. Have you seen more snakes this year?

No picture, mostly because I don’t want to see a snake every time I come here and I figured that was true for you also.

Square Bale Hay Harvest Video

Square Bale Hay Harvest Video

Hay wagonI think I’ve finally recovered from last weekend. As predicted, they were the hottest days of the year so far, with humidity that felt too much like monsoon season in the desert southwest. For two days (Saturday and Monday) we sweated in a field, dodged barn swallows and wasps and worked on our tans and our muscles as we harvested the first cutting of hay this summer. We know it will all be worth it come winter. Heck, when we’re using this hay in the middle of a frigid cold night we’ll be thinking pleasantly back to the heat of these days. It’s all relative, isn’t it? Although we often speak of dreading the hay harvest, the truth is we have many good memories we wouldn’t trade. It’s a time when a group of people who like each other works together and accomplishes a goal. At the end, we cool off in air conditioning, cook some burgers and tell tall tales about harvest days of years past. We drive home in the cool of the evening with the windows down. We experience the pleasure of washing off all that dirt in a refreshing shower back at the house and slipping into a clean bed under cool sheets to ease our aching muscles when we finally go horizontal for the night. In the end, it’s all good.

Here’s a brand new short video of how we use machines to harvest these square hay bales. It’s about 2 minutes long, with text narration. This will either bring back memories or show you something maybe you’ve never seen before.

Oh and this year we found a live snake in a bale! I was about to grab a bale to send up the hay elevator in the barn when I noticed something wiggling. It was a small snake but the incident reminded me to always wear gloves.

Do you harvest hay this way, too?

Barn Snakes – Everyone Should Have One

Barn Snakes – Everyone Should Have One

Photo by Bradley Brister on Unsplash

Our chicken snake - WillyOn the EWWW! scale (ha ha), this one is way up there.

So, one of our sudden thunderstorms was brewing and since our horses think they will melt in the rain, I went up to the barn to let them in. By the time I got there, it was really coming down – a real gullywasher, as we call it in the desert, or as they call it here, a frog strangler. Since we had put off cleaning out the stalls until right before bedtime, as usual, it wasn’t done. I decided to let them in anyway, since it wasn’t too bad in there and I figured they’d rather be in a dirty stall than out in a downpour. So I opened the mare’s stall and the gate, and she came on in but veered off to the hay. Fine. I let him into his stall with no problem and turned my attention back to the mare. She would not go into her stall. Then I noticed a pile of poo right in the entryway. “How on earth did she get that there?” I wondered, peering at it closely. Then suddenly the pile of poo uncoiled and slithered across her stall, under the wall into the adjoining stall (not Valentine’s, thank goodness, or we’d still be repairing it). Ew, ew, ew!!! Of course, the mare agreed with me, and still wouldn’t go in there. I finally ended up cleaning out the stall and coaxing her in with food. She very reluctantly entered. Between the thunderstorm and the serpent, she was a bit twitchy.

Then I tried to find the snake. It was nowhere to be found. Well, out of sight, out of mind, right? It was still raining to beat the band, but the horses needed water too, so I ran out into the rain, around the side of the barn where their windows are and the buckets are hung…and stopped short. There, on the barn “veranda,” all stretched out watching the rainstorm, was our snake. Ew, ew, ew again!! He didn’t seem to notice me so I took a good look, so I could research the thing and find out what kind of snake he was. He was black and grey and knobby, very thin, and did not have a “viper” head. So I tapped his tail with my shoe and he slithered under a nearby woodpile. I then, very quickly and keeping a close eye on said woodpile, filled the buckets and ran back to the house.

That evening we had a church supper, so we asked our preacher and the gentleman he was talking to about our snake. We were assured that he is a harmless chicken snake and we should let him be because he’ll eat vermin. (I personally think he’s vermin too, but whatever.) We could have accepted this if Mr. Watson hadn’t gone on to tell us tales of 7-foot long chicken snakes, and snakes in beds, and other bone-tingling snake stories. When we got home, I did some internet research and discovered that what the people around here call a chicken snake is actually a rat snake, and can indeed reach the 7-foot mark. Here’s what our barn visitor looks like:

The Common Rat Snake

We call him Willy, because he gives us the willies. Bill thought a silly name would make the snake less scary.

A week after the first and only sighting, and with silly name dispensed, Bill can still barely set foot in the barn.