Oh, our weather people down here. I really don’t know what they are thinking. Last Friday it was going to be Snow! Ice! Craziness!!! And then what did it do? Not a whole heck of a lot. It did rain and some bridges might have had some ice, but for the most part it was giant over reaction.
And then today? It was supposed to sleet over night and snow today. Snow! Ice! More Craziness! Schools and businesses were closed once again. Chris and I got up this morning to well, not much. It had rained, but there wasn’t even really any ice. The radar suggested ice in our location but there was nothing. Finally at around 9:30 this morning the sleet fell hard followed by snow flurries. I think the whole episode lasted 45 minutes or an hour. It was cool while it lasted, but now we’re already in the melting phase of Houston’s Giant Winter Freak Out.
While it has been a colder than average year for us, with longer periods of cold weather and deeper freezes, this snow and ice thing is new. All you northern folks can laugh at my videos, I give you permission. This stuff doesn’t happen often here, though.
By the way, it was in the 70s on Sunday and will return to the 70s by the weekend. No one knows what to do…wear flip flops and shorts or sand the roads.
For months and months we had a single bat holed up in one of our bat boxes. Then sometime in December a few friends joined in. Chris noted at one point that there may have been seven or so in there at one point. The numbers are fluctuating at the moment, down to a couple, up a few. I guess the bats are coming in when they migrate through.
This makes us hopeful for a good population of bats using the house this summer. Just the other day a juvenile woodpecker—we weren’t able to identify it yet—attempted to make the bat house its home too. Or maybe the wood looked inviting for a snack?
Today Chris had me come into his man-cave, currently the home of our seed starting set up, to check out a praying mantis that had made it inside.
I told Chris he should set it free but apparently the mantis was feasting on the fruit fries that were hatching from the moist soil. Sounds like a good set up for now!
There’s not a whole lot going on here at the moment. We basically finished renovating the laundry room last weekend and if all goes well this weekend weather-wise, we’ll put a big dent on finishing up the penny porch.
More soon, folks. In the meantime I wrote on Sprout Dispatch on Monday and you can check that post out.
It’s been a drizzly and rainy day here today. Grey, cloudy, dreary. At least the temperature was respectable, in the 60s. This after two nights of deep freezes, something we’re not used to getting often.
The rain is appreciated. It was nearing an inch at lunch and nearing two this evening when we got home. The depression in the front yard had ponded and the creeks we cross were swollen with muddy waters. ‘Our’ pond was rushing over the spillway and had inched up along the perimeter in some areas, though hadn’t come up much in our yard at all. It is within an inch or two of the new dock, which is nice to see so we can compare it for the future.
I walked out on our balcony, taking a break from hanging laundry up, and saw lots of debris moving downstream rapidly. From my vantage point it appeared to be a fishes, as you’d see salmon or trout bucking the current in a stream. Only it wasn’t fish, just dark, shadowy debris.
I debated if I was going to do a review of the year or not like I see other bloggers doing, but then I went back through my archives from January of last year and though ‘Awww, I remember that!’ and decided I was going to give a whirl. First, a short run-down of my ‘word’ from last year and then a post or three from each month that I enjoyed while reviewing my archives.
Action was my word for 2013 and beyond March I think I dropped it. In fact, I was thinking my word was prolific but apparently that was my word for 2012. Sooo…I think I’m going to take 2014 off with chosing a word. Out of all the items on my list for Action the first one had the most work. I’m guessing I’m 10-15K words away from the end of my Florida Trail book. When I last left off writing a week ago, we’d just arrived at the motel in Blountstown having just crossed the Apalachicola River and the eastern/central time zone, gaining an extra hour in the day. I think that was about a week and a half out from the end of the trail. Maybe less.
No words came up for this year, so I’m just focusing with finishing the bleeping book and peddling it to publishers.
A house….is full of projects. I mean, they are good projects and I love my house, but sometimes it seems never ending. The lists had been compiling in my head for long enough that today I sat down and wrote out everything we still needed to finish, such as the laundry room which is 90% completed.
I wrote the other day about Chris’ dock building adventure and he got a lot more accomplished today.
Now we can walk out over the pond!!
Looking north into the pond, towards the creek.
And south towards the dam and the entrance to our neighborhood.
It’s so cool! I went out and I told Chris I could envision a lot of napping going on out there. We wondered how long it would be before the ferals figured out they could walk out there and sun themselves. I’m guessing it won’t be too long!
Here was a small project Chris finished in November. I’d been wanting a picnic table to eat and sit at, and it was placed under the mulberry tree. The table is reminiscent of tables we saw on the AT and FT, hence the carvings.
Yes, I am still working on that corner cabinet. It took for-ev-er but I’m finally painting it. What you see pink is going to be pink and the rest will be white. I’m ready for it to be done and in my studio as I have items lingering around the room that need to be stored on it. Plus, Chris is tired of it being on our porch!
The bags of leaves came from my parents, Chris’ mom, and someone in her neighborhood. We drove home from DFW with about 15 bags of leaves in the back of Chris’ truck, all destinated for the compost bin. I spied another four or five bags in our neighborhood, something of a rarity because folks don’t really bag their leaves on large lots here, but we’ll probably scout out other neighborhoods towards ‘town’ to stock up for spring. We’ll be emptying one side of the bin in March and will need to replenish it with leaves for fall.
One of the smaller projects on hand was hanging a chandelier from a tree down by the dock. Old, rustic chandeliers are shabby-chic and we have a plant nursery we like to go with several hanging from her trees on the property. Chris expressed interest in getting one and so we’ve been looking out at antique stores. The only problem is those all seem to be quite overpriced and/or not the style we needed. Cue, Ebay. This one was slightly damaged (bent) but otherwise perfect for our needs and Chris got it for really cheap. Now, it’s hanging by the dock!
We will be able to pull it down to put actual candles on it when we want some ambience down by the dock this summer.
Lots of projects around here, but they are just making the place even more cozy!
Oh yeah…Sprout Dispatch is emerging from hibernation tomorrow! Come and see what we’ve been up to!
+I pulled out the first daikon radish yesterday. When we planted the seeds Chris kept calling them Diagon radishes, a nod to Harry Potter. And thus, forevermore they will be Diagon radishes whenever we plant them. It was milder than a typical radish, we’ll have to cook it up in a stir-fry this week.
Life has been full of doing other things besides hiking or outdoor adventuring lately. Mostly we’ve been working on projects around the house. Recently we started working on renovating the laundry room. I hated the floor, the walls were crap, and there was no hot water running to the washing machine. Now there’s hot water, 3/4 of a new floor, the wall painted with touchups needed, and a few other items to do such as install cabinets. We’re waiting on the cabinets to come into the store we ordered them from so that we can finish the painting and the flooring. But, the whole room already looks much better.
After almost a year of having compost on the left side of the compost bin, we finished it up yesterday.
The bin is empty, the last bits going into the vegetable bed to ammend for late fall and winter vegetables. We’ll be eating greens until our skin is the shade of chard, kale, spinach, kohlrabi, and bok choi! I guess we will get to counter balance that with sweet potatoes we’ll dig up here in a few weeks, so maybe we won’t be a weird shade of green. Hah!
I started working on redoing this corner shelf that I’ll eventually put in my studio. The shelf had been at my grandmothers until my mom took it sometime in the 90s and painted it blue. It was then relegated to my parent’s garage until they asked if I wanted it. Ever the hoarder and memory keeper, I said yes. Taking the blue paint off is a real pain. I’m mostly now chipping it off with my fingernails and pulling it off in sheaths if I can. I’m bought a small can of ‘Sixteen Candles’ or maybe it was ‘Sweet Sixteen’ pink—it is girly girl pink, you get the picture—to paint the shelves and the doors and the rest will be white. I haven’t decided whether to put new door knobs on or just paint the old ones. Hobby Lobby had a bunch of sweet looking dresser knobs and I bought several to replace on another storage dresser I have in my studio that was missing some handles, so that is always an option if I decide to replace them on the cabinet too.
Speaking of my studio, I rearranged it a bit again. I wasn’t feeling the writing jive where I was sitting so I moved the sewing machine from beneath the window and replaced it with my computer and writing desk. I also finally got around to hooking up my second screen and it is now so much easier to toggle back and forth from looking at the Florida Trail online map, my Flickr photos, and other internet resources, and then look at my Word document on the other screen. No, I’m not a new-school writer with a fancy writing application like Scrivener or some such thing.
Eventually the corner shelf will go where the hanging fish is and I will have to relocate the fish elsewhere in the studio.
As for writing, it is coming along. I managed about 5,000 words last week and am inching closer to be done. Currently I’m at the point where we have just entered St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. My interest in writing has gone up some, mostly because the next bit of the trail was so interesting and different from the previous miles. I love that after an hour or two when I look back and see how much I’ve written or how many days I’ve written about, that the feeling is good. I can pat myself on the back for at least coming this far.
Non-creatively I spent about three weeks getting through seasons 1-5 of Breaking Bad on Netflix. It took a few episodes to get used to all the murdering, but after awhile I started enjoying the show. Though, let me tell you, in season 5 I wanted someone to off Walt for his sheer idiocy. Now I’m just patiently waiting for the final season to come out on Netflix so I can figure out how it all ends.
And that’s really about it. Aside from work, home improvement, gardening, and some creative endeavors, that’s what’s going on right now. We’re hoping for some long distance backpacking over Thanksgiving so I’m looking forward to that!
This is Sally. (Chris actually took this photo, I forgot that when I put the watermark on here.) Sally showed up on our pond about six weeks ago or so. Muscovy ducks aren’t normally on our pond, in fact I’ve never seen one here before Sally showed up. Which makes me wonder where she even came from. Was she someone’s pet that got loose? A lone duck that lost her way? She floats around the pond all alone, sometimes perching on downed tree branches along the shoreline, or waddling along the roadway-dam at the end of the pond. I’m worried someone will hit her one day. Some jerk had the gall to hit a turtle at a stop sign this year, so I wouldn’t put it past them to hit a duck waddling across the road.
I love Sally, but I’m normally not fond of muscovies. In Florida they seemed to be on every pond at one of the places we lived in Miami, so they got a little annoying with their constant begging for food which was of course aided by the people fishing along the ponds.
Around here in the animal universe we’re all a little mixed up. First, Chris saw a bald eagle on one of the trees near the pond *in our yard*. We had guessed that perhaps one day we might see one around here but I had pretty much given up. This was at lunch time one day and so I asked him if it really was a bald eagle, because you know osprey look similar. Not that he wouldn’t know the difference, but asking is habit because many people mistake them. I got a sarcastic “Yeah, it was an eagle” answer back, and then we went on a search to get a photograph which ended up in no photograph since we never saw it again.
Sometime over the weekend the feral cat Callie stopped showing up. She has a sister, Little Callie (yeah, I know, I’m not original), that has been around but Callie hasn’t been here. I’m sad about this since she was one of the cats I would have made an inside cat. She always hovered at the door in the mornings, so close that she would come inside if I let her.
And then Fred got sick for a few days. He refused to eat food and huddled under the carport and looked generally distressed. We began to worry an illness was going through the group but a call to our vet friend told us not to freak out and of course soon after Fred seemed to recover from whatever he was sick with. We try not to get too attached to the ferals, knowing that cats who live outdoors have a lower life expectancy. But, I can’t help it, they are sweet and lovable in their own ways.
I’ve got a lot to write about, but I’m planning on spending a lot of time writing on my Florida Trail book before the end of the year. With the evenings beginning earlier it will be easier to spend time hiding out in my studio for a few hours every evening. I hope, at least.
Over the weekend a friend of mine had a snake in her yard which she ended up killing due to its being near where her dogs were located. She didn’t know if it was venomous or not at the time and later posted a photo of it which her friend identified as potentially a rat snake, to which I conconcurred it likely was. Now, I’m not writing this to pick on my friend, but it really was a bit of a tipping point for this post to be written as I’ve read several different items from other people in the last year about snakes being killed by people who felt that ‘A good snake is a dead snake’, or perhaps the perceived threat is not nearly as great as they believed it was.
So, this is my rant…snakes aren’t the foes we’ve been taught to think them to be.
Coral snake found in my yard last year. No, we didn’t kill it and haven’t seen it since, though I did see a small coral snake on a road in my neighborhood that had been run over.
Part of the human freak-out factor about snakes is how we’re raised and taught about snakes. They are the villain in Disney movies and snakes are almost unequivocally symbolized as evil, part of this going back to the Garden of Eden if you are raised in any of the Christian denominations (I’m not sure about other religions, anyone of another religion care to pitch in about snake portrayals in your religion?). There’s even potentially an evolutionary explanation, but then again maybe it’s just something we’re taught.
Now, outside of the U.S. and in the tropics there are definitely a few more snakes to be more wary off, but here in the United States there’s only a handful of the 100+ species to be concerned about (unless you are in south Florida, and well then, you’ve got your own problems. Pythons I’m talking about you. And Green Mambas. And Anacondas. But I digress. Yes, Miami you are your own little world.). And even then most states maybe only have one or two venomous snakes to worry about.
Before I go further, let’s talk venomous vs. poisonous. Snakes, if they are, they are venomous NOT poisonous. Venom is injected into your skin through a bite; if you eat something and it makes you sick that is poisonous (ie: that shady mushroom you misidentified while foraging).
Chris holding a rough green snake while on a hike.
First, it is good to know what species of snakes are here in North America. This site is a good place to start. This site lists venomous species by state and includes subspecies of rattlers, cottonmouths and other species. Next, learn what you might see in the habitat by you. If you live in suburbia you are less likely to be running into a rattlesnake than you would a garter snake. If you live near water, even a pond in suburbia, you could run into a cottonmouth or a non-venomous water snake (Nerodia sp.). If you plan on walking near a pond, watch where you walk near tall grass and poke a stick in the grass to make your presence known before entering to go fishing or any recreational activities near water. If you see a snake, move on somewhere else down the shore, don’t kill it.
There’s a great chance that if you see a snake once, you will probably not see it again unless it is nesting somewhere in your yard or if you have a healthy population of food for it to feast on (rats, mice, other rodents), and in that case maybe you do want it around. If it is a non-venomous snake and not posing a threat, leave it alone. If it is venomous consider trapping it yourself if you are comfortable and confident with it (but let it be known, this is when a lot of bites occur) or having someone else trap it and humanely release it. Of course having piles of wood or overgrown grass and shrubs can attract snakes, and wood piles especially provide a desirable shelter for them. Removing the piles or being cautious when working around these areas can reduce unwanted snake interactions.
Living in a rural area of course provides the greatest opportunity for having a snake encounter. This is where a mind-shift has to take place and understanding that you are sharing habitat with other animals, even if they are a little close for comfort. Definitely consider keeping a trap on hand if you know you are likely to see a venomous snake instead of going for the immediate reaction of killing it—unless of course its a life threatening situation—but if it isn’t, assess the ability safely to move it to another area if possible. You should also keep in mind that there are both venomous and non-venomous snake species that are protected either by state or federal laws, so if killing it isn’t necessary to protect someone (human or otherwise) you love, think twice before doing it.
A Google search has shown me multiple snake trapping methods, none of which I can really vouch for as I’ve not used them, but you can check them out for yourself to determine which might work best for you. The only time I have seen some kind of trap used was using one of the snake poles and putting it in a cloth bag to release elsewhere. And if you are squeamish about trapping one yourself, go ahead and see if there are any snake removal experts in your area and keep the number on hand, especially if you’ve seen snakes in your area before.
I don’t expect people to go running to snakes and wanting to hold them, I’m certainly not, but I do want people to start thinking twice about encounters with snakes and start removing the initial reaction of killing a snake because it is a snake. I’ve taken to doing this myself with spiders that I find in the house, attempting to capture them and put them outside instead of instantly squashing them. I’m just like most people, not overly fond of snakes and spiders on me, but I can certainly appreciate them for what they are and leave them be in instances in which they are not causing harm to me or anyone else.
With declining populations of snakes worldwide, its time to start educating ourselves on how not-so-scary snakes actually are, at least in the United States. Of the approximately 2500-3500 (I’m also seeing the numbers 7,000 to 8,000 on other sites, so I’m not sure what is correct) snake bites annually in the US, only about six people die every year from a venomous snake bite. Of course if you look at the first link in this paragraph you’ll see that the statistics do go up for those living in the rural tropics where access to antevenom is not available.
So, with all of this in mind, be aware of your where you live, where you are hiking or exploring, and learn to identify snakes in case you encounter venomous species. If the snake is not venomous and causing no harm, leave it alone. If it is identified to be venomous and you are uncomfortable with removing it, please attempt to have it removed professionally before killing it. The timber rattlesnake has potentially been extirpated from several northeastern states and is protected in others. The eastern diamondback is being considered as a potential candidate species for the USFWS endangered species list, and the eastern massasauga rattlesnake is also a federal candidate species.
I’ll leave you with the video of an eastern diamondback that I walked up on while on the Florida Trail in January of 2011 in Big Cypress National Preserve. Thankfully it let me know it was there and we stepped back and of course shot a video with zoom. I tried to find the video of another large diamondback we encountered in another area of Big Cypress but couldn’t find it. It was on a buggy trail then and a little more troublesome to get around, the first diamondback I’d ever seen. I remember it as being quite giant.