odiousgambit's Blog

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Snakes and SpidersSeptember 4th, 2017 at 3:23:24 am
I wonder sometimes about 'experts" and the stuff they tell people.

They always say snakes "are more scared of you than you of them" and not to worry about the cowards, just let them get away from you.

The other day I watched a program about a guy picking berries who got bit by a big timber rattler. He is an old timer with old attitudes and talks about how evil the snake was; he shot it and said he did a good thing, the monster won't bite anyone else. The man got lucky or would have died of course. Now, I can hear the experts saying the guy's feelings were ridiculous, the snake isn't evil, just struck because it was defending itself. But I did ask myself just why that creature had to resort to that? A rabbit, mouse, deer, squirrel, any bonafide prey animal would have been long gone merely at the guy's approach.

We have a spider I see on our deck once in a while that is mean looking, it actually has claws on it that look like a lobster's. Some kind of hunting spider; I've never seen a big one, though, just little small guys, which makes it a joke. But I notice if you chase it away, it readily turns around and threatens whatever object you are chasing it with. Too funny, but where does that come from?

These kinds of creatures have an instinct other animals don't have - they know they can make other animals back off. When I was a kid I always killed any snake or spider I saw ... I am more live-and-let-live now.

Yesterday I was hiking in the woods and came upon about a 2 foot long snake laying across the trail. It seemed to be some kind of garter snake, and I instantly knew it was not a poisonous snake. I stopped and looked at it, but it was not taking advantage of its opportunity to skedaddle. I took my walking stick and encouraged it to move on, and was quite surprised to see it still be reluctant to go; it then shocked me by biting the stick! I used the stick to sort of pick it up and get it off the trail, at which point it moved a few feet and curled up, agitated and saying in snake talk "you want a piece of me, huh, huh!!?" Remarkable. There are certainly predators who would want to eat that snake, I thought the behavior was strange. No, I didn't kill it.

So I checked out snakes of Virginia on the internet, and indeed it seems to be the Eastern Gartersnake. From the description I eliminated the other possibilities, as those candidates are said to never bite, but the Gartersnake will, it says, if "molested". "Juveniles especially will perform this behavior and will strike so forcefully that they may completely leave the ground."

Wouldn't the snake be better served by fleeing instantly? At least readily move off the trail even if it was ready to turn around and defend itself? Why would it have an instinct to fight, to seem aggressive even? I just say snakes and such potentially have that instinct that comes from "they can make other animals back off". Just from their looks; it is an instinct to have some caution about snakes and spiders and, remarkably, even non-poisonous varieties retain in some instances an instinct to defend themselves in a way that is similar to aggression, as this proves.


September 4th, 2017 at 4:58:10 am
I thought we settled this question with those Python v. Alligator videos and Python v. Farmer videos and Monitor Lizard v. Dozing Tourist incidents.

It costs energy to flee and to find new territory. A good defense is often a good offense.
September 4th, 2017 at 8:35:38 am
I wonder if the Gartersnake is evolved from a poisonous variety, and remembers that [so to speak]?

I have seen a fox eat a snake it caught, and we all know hawks go after them. That wouldn't be the entire list. Just seems to me the details of this encounter don't quite make sense from the 'best practices' point of view.
September 5th, 2017 at 12:26:18 am
The Road Runner has the best solution: it does not eat a sleeping rattlesnake; it merely surrounds it with cactus leaves, needle side up.
July 8th, 2018 at 1:47:41 pm
Spiders. Traveling miles by flying on electricity. see today's science section of google news.
sure spiders can flee but that doesn't mean they are inclined to. Their eyesight and hearing is excellent and they often can indeed fight.

Huckleberry MadnessJuly 29th, 2017 at 4:47:20 am
It is certainly fair to consider me eccentric in many regards; as tends to be the case with eccentrics, I can actually take some pride in that. My huckleberry picking "Jones" is a case in point. Now that I am retired, I really do have the time to try to learn as much as I possibly can about the plants. I'm confirming that you have to be nearly certifiable to try to pick them in the South - apologies to those pickers in, say, Montana and those states where I believe it makes a lot more sense. Nonetheless, I continue to take the plunge and go whole-hog for it here in Virginia.

In the area here where I have lived for the last 4 years I have now reached the point where I know where to find nearby prime huckleberry patches that cover several acres altogether. Acres! I'd define a prime patch as one where the forest understory is completely covered with the plants to the near exclusion of any other plant; thick patches, in other words. I'm pretty proud of that, but it hasn't changed my mind as far as whether I think you have to be cuckoo or not. You have to realize that in the South, pickers are going to have to be out there in the hottest, nastiest time of the summer, fighting heat, humidity, ticks, mosquitoes, gnats, and even bears - the latter not really being a worry, they are hunted where I am talking about and fear humans along the lines of about 99.9%, but, "just saying." I suppose there's that one bear in a thousand to think about.

And furthermore, I am now able to confirm what I've suspected for a long time: they are stingy producers. Spending more time on research too, I recently learned that the plants do not rely on seeds to reproduce, they spread by extending their root network, depending on this to large extent. So if the berries get scattered far and wide, that's got to be the best thing for that method of dispersal. If a species wants the seeds to fall to the ground and *not* be eaten, as has got to be the case with acorns, then the plant is best served by overwhelming the possible consumers by ripening and falling close to all at once. On the other hand, if relying on being consumed and dispersed elsewhere, surviving the digestive track, then it is better to ripen in sequence slowly so that the birds and other creatures are not overwhelmed by numbers but instead waste no berries. There's plenty of evidence this is in fact exactly what is going on. A picker is constantly confronted with green berries, which nothing will eat, only to find when he returns that there are less berries but still few ripe ones on any plant. A plant with a dozen ripe berries on it can seem like the Motherload. Bear in mind I am talking about my experience in Virginia, someone else's mileage may vary.

Additionally, large sections of the patch can simply have no berries, green or otherwise. In fact, even where plants are producing, never do you see every plant with berries. One in five can be impressive. I used to be mystified by this, but now that I understand there is no imperative to produce berries, it makes more sense. The conditions in winter and spring I believe have a lot to do with whether plants fail as far as the berries. This spring did not have a late frost, which was good, but December had a warm spell that is said to have caused early blossoming with some other plants. My feeling this year was that this may have affected the large areas of the patches that just had no berries.

Another thing I learned this year is that the green berries stay green for a very long time, certainly every bit of 6 weeks green is possible. In the past I concluded you can't pick them green; once I even tried taking a bush home and seeing if I could simulate leaving them "vine on", so to speak, to ripen, but this failed. I realize now that I know it can be so many weeks before ripening that I possibly didn't give it enough time. This year I am trying again, giving them plenty of time. It sure would solve a problem if they can be picked green.

I'm still waiting for a patch of tall bushes to turn green; more on that later.

July 29th, 2017 at 3:27:22 pm
If the seed-containing berries are not for reproduction what is its purpose? Perhaps the fruit attracts certain birds that act as "protectors" of the plant against insect pests that might otherwise be present. Or perhaps the avian pruning is what stimulates the roots to extend further?
August 1st, 2017 at 4:06:41 am
>If the seed-containing berries are not for reproduction what is its purpose? .......................................
My thought is that they are for reproduction in far and wide dispersal, where the root network is not established.
August 3rd, 2017 at 8:21:59 am
certain animals require an undisturbed environment. Loons need an unimproved, untrafficked shoreline. Some birds require dense thickets of blackberries unpicked by passersby. It might be that some added creature is needed in your area for huckleberries to thrive.
August 3rd, 2017 at 10:25:23 am
>some added creature is needed in your area for huckleberries to thrive?

the plants are thriving, but I can testify that I have seen better berry production elsewhere. All places vary year to year and I have known of these spots for a short time only. As far as missing creatures, wild bees may have been knocked back, but it also would be due to weather [I have to believe]

Oh, one thing I picked up is that the plants need cross-breeding with other species of hucks to sexually reproduce - they are considered 'self-sterile'. However, this would not be the problem in the patches I know of, they are quite remarkably diverse.

Expanding on an Edible LawnMarch 9th, 2017 at 4:01:05 am
My lawn seems to be a naturally good choice for picking wild edibles. I don't use any poisons on the lawn and don't go after weeds, concern about perfect golf green condition being a monumental waste of time in my book. I probably want to tick off anybody who wants their lawn to look perfect anyway, hopefully they will go away and realize we can't possibly be friends. Turns out a lot of these 'weeds' are edible, the wild onion, poke, and dandelion already seen on my plate, witness other blog posts, so I am expanding the menu this year.

Identified and ate what I think is "curly dock" yesterday and will also investigate "mallow". The words "I think" may alarm you, but I have the book Wild Edible Plants by Kallas, which has alleviated my fears for the most part. Basically, what grows naturally and looks anything like dandelions is not likely to harm you and is likely quite edible. The main concern is unpalatable result if the wrong thing is picked, and that you determine yourself. Additionally, eating a small amount the first time is just common sense. The book, extensive and with excellent color photos, mentions for low plants only 'scarlet pimpernel' as something to avoid. This plant is mostly a problem for livestock, being unpalatable to us, and is fairly easy to identify; looks nothing like the dandelions etc. I seem to have it in places, although it could be a false version; nonetheless it will be avoided.

If I was finding wild spinach - the author is nuts about it - I'd also have to look out for 'hairy nightshade', which also is a tall plant and a look-alike to be avoided. I seem to have the nightshade in places, but no wild spinach.

So I will keep you posted.

March 9th, 2017 at 1:03:24 pm
Dude, what? Nightshade? The assassin's plant?

Either I need to read better or you need to check your book. You'll be dead before the appetizers come.
March 9th, 2017 at 5:09:53 pm
what I mean by "have to look out for" is to find it to avoid it. Sorry it's not clear. If the forager thinks he has found wild spinach, the book says to make sure it isn't nightshade, you see.

I'll edit that I guess, thanks. Perhaps as a better writer, you still can relate to how hard it is to write something and avoid misunderstandings.
March 9th, 2017 at 5:11:43 pm
oh, upon editing, I see I really f-d it up. It should read better now.
March 10th, 2017 at 4:26:34 am
Love it! I agree the "golf course lawn" is silly for many reasons. I had a few wild strawberries until I made my entire back yard garden. I have no front yard.

Are you going to do some planting or just keep up the gathering?
March 10th, 2017 at 6:00:16 am
so far so good, as far as harvesting something and deciding I misidentified it btw.

>Are you going to do some planting or just keep up the gathering?

the author isn't keen on planting if you have good foraging, so I agree. If I found wild spinach somewhere else I might try to plant that
March 11th, 2017 at 5:43:27 am
Its not just what plant but also what time of year. Stinging Nettles make great soups and teas but at certain times of the year are quite toxic.

There is still some dispute as to what it was that "Into The Wild" guy was eating in his abandoned bus in Alaska and how it killed him.

Plants often have several names in different areas and often the names overlap. Even Jimson, the "loco weed" in Westerns can be mis-identified.
March 11th, 2017 at 6:06:36 am
>also what time of year

as it gets into summer, the stuff is just not as tender and will be stronger tasting. Even dandelions get dubious.
March 11th, 2017 at 1:46:26 pm
Many flowers used to be candied. Candied violets, roses, borage, etc. Snacks, add color to dishes, toppings.
Don't forget tree leaves: candied willow and cottonwood tree leaves with white-fir ice cream is great stuff. The candying process removes the bitter tasting tannins.
Of course today's headlines feature some hospitalizations in San Francisco due to acconite poisoning. You can see the many names for the same item and you can understand how even commercial suppliers have to deal with mistakes in their supply chain.
Have you tried making beer from ants then using the beer to ferment quail eggs?
March 11th, 2017 at 1:59:37 pm
>Have you tried making beer from ants then using the beer to ferment quail eggs?

you may have found the cap for me on my adventurous foraging spirit
August 1st, 2017 at 6:01:49 am
An electronic friend of mine just used fruit flies to innoculate his elderberry wine.

Ants: Secret WeaponSeptember 17th, 2016 at 4:31:49 am
I was replying to a brother about how I have been killing ants and decided to post it here too.

Regarding the water, yes, an exterminator told us that too. Water has to be nearby, so if they are coming in at the ceiling area, you probably have a roof leak, and indeed we found one. Oddly, the exterminator did not seem to want to check back with us, but they went away that time when a little tiny hole in the roof was fixed. We got them later coming in along the walls, and I finally settled on the original secret weapon LOL. I think I just saw it on the shelf at the store.

I found another secret weapon for the ants ...

The old weapon: it still works, but relies on contact, diatomaceous earth. A place that sells a lot of insect killing stuff should have it. I can get pretty big bags at the local Farmer's Coop, not so big bags at Tractor Supply. I don't know if you want to do this? but I actually drilled holes in the wall, pushed back the insulation, and ladled it in for hotspots. They hate coming in contact with that stuff, and it is non-poisonous. Dries them out I guess. Don't get it in your eyes. In spots I had to fix the walls, and it doesnt look that great there. Behind the cabinets I just taped over the holes.

This year they were figuring out how to come in and I was afraid I didn't know exactly the right spot to try the d.earth. I happened to be dealing with yellow jacket nests in the yard at the time and had some of that stuff that you spray in the hole in the ground and it is a foam. See link. It uses a little straw on the nozzle and I noticed a spot that I could slip the straw in over the sink where also the drill holing thing would be a pain in the ass. So I stuck the straw in and sprayed it good. That has been the end of those very persistent ants! Next time I might be quick to use this again, a very small hole is all that is needed. It is a poison of course, and it says nothing on the label about using it for ants or for indoors at all, so there is that to think about.

This new weapon:


September 17th, 2016 at 8:47:24 am
diatomaceous earth is a dessicant... it dries the ants out from the inside. Don't inhale it or get it into your air conditioning vents though.

black acorns should not be eaten since they require several soakings but its well known that the first or second rinse water from boiling black acorns will discourage ants. Contains tannins and lerps that make the ants sweat.
September 19th, 2016 at 7:54:51 am
Do you plant Pennyroyal around the perimeter of your house as an insect repellant? And wild grape leaves as an early warning system at the far edge of the yard followed by an inner perimeter of marigold? The wide broad grape leaves give you an opportunity to view all new insect arrivals.
October 8th, 2016 at 8:05:40 am
my wife does stuff with the flowers to help against insects - I don't keep up with it

but my favorite insect spray for the garden is derived entirely from chrysanthemum juice!

Wild Edibles off to Slow StartJuly 4th, 2016 at 1:36:23 pm
My wild edibles exploration has been pretty lame so far this year. I bought a good book for finding wild more salad-type greens, and should have been able to expand on the dandelion and onion. But honestly it has rained so much once spring started that any time I'm willing to give to 'the yard' this year has been taken up by the garden and mowing. Because of the rain, mowing has been quite a challenge this time around; of course I am up to it physically, but finding the motivation to keep up, not so much. As a result I have identified some of the things in the book and done nothing with them.

One discovery on my own though is that the wild onions early on hide a very tender and tasty part in the upper part of the shoot that cannot be found in the store variety of scullions. I've come to consider it quite a real secret delicacy.

I'm growing and canning a lot of collards and kale from the garden. As far as the wild edibles for that, I continue to add a smal portion of the poke I have encouraged to grow. Notorious as something poor people eat, you have to know what to do with it or you can poison yourself. We ate it when I was a kid, our family having poor people in the ancestral chain, but always mixed in with the other greens. I have actually come to think of it as an adulteration - something to mix in to stretch the quantity; probably such is the only proper use of it, and I do it as a nod to the past.

Next thing will be huckleberries again, my intention this year being to try and get the timing right for the best time to pick them. Early indications do not point to a bumper crop, but stay tuned.

PS: the blog the picture comes from tells an amusing story, but the author is wrong that the mere issue is the laxative effect if the poke is not thoroughly boiled and then drained and rinsed [I do it twice but some recommend 3 times]. There really is a poison involved, you can google that, and you can die eating untreated poke. Even proper treatment of the product doesn't yield something you can eat all the time. Poor people would sometimes get "poke-mouth" from eating too much and I swear I think I can remember people who had that - kind of a pale look around the mouth, along with cankers.

July 5th, 2016 at 12:25:23 pm
Yes, time of year and method of preparation can be vital. Just look at the ancient poetry regarding stinging nettles for instructions as to the time of year to harvest as food and for a tea.
Eating poor can be very healthy. Think of all the vitamins you get in a foraged green that you don't get from something that has been harvested and processed to death and shipped in warehouses for six months.
A can of mushroom soup can increase your intake of hormone disrupter Bisphenol A by 240 percent.
July 5th, 2016 at 12:27:57 pm
YOU never want a bumper crop of huckleberries... you want the birds, bees and passing hikers to enjoy them and leave the rest of your garden alone.
July 6th, 2016 at 11:05:28 am
Fleastiff, 'ain't nobody picking huckleberries' in VA that I know of - maybe just a handful of people these days, somewhere, that I never hear of. Maybe not even a handful. Now, elsewhere, they have huckleberry festivals - Montana comes to mind - presumably, a lot of pickers there.

In VA, too hot and muggy and buggy when they come in for modern folks. Plus, I'm getting convinced there are bad years, this is shaping up as that or as a delayed year. Evidence for the latter is not strong, so probably a bad year.

We had some huckleberry pickers in my grandparents day, a great uncle for sure would get them, and huckleberry pie was a favorite treat when visiting grandma. So, I do it as a result of buying wild edible books, and as a nod to the past, and because I don't know anyone else who does it. That latter part is probably kind of weird.
July 6th, 2016 at 4:46:46 pm
What about the Hucleberry Trail ? What about Huckleberry Ridge in Blackstone? What about the Punga Strawberry festival? What about the several Trailblazer Hiking groups in the state that hike trails and eat edible encounters, what about the raw foods groups in VA?
July 7th, 2016 at 3:10:07 am
Ain't talking about strawberries here, or blackberries etc., all of which have pickers in VA. The other things that come up in a google search for 'huckleberries virginia' just seem to be old names from the past attached to hiking or whatever. I don't have anyway of knowing how many huckleberry pickers there actually are, just that I have never met anyone who said they pick huckleberries. I checked blogs for a while, there are people who pick them in other states. Conditions are better, I think.

BTW I have plenty of wild strawberries around me. I resolved to pick them and slowly realized it would take forever to get as much as a bowlful, bent over the whole time. They just don't quite get thick enough, so to speak, to seem to be worth it. I have eaten them randomly plenty, when spotting a nice looking one. Oddly, they tend to have not too much flavor, kind of watery sometimes. So there's that too.

I actually have a wild peach tree nearby in the woods. I think it is a descendant, many generations, of a domestic variety. Each generation allowed to do this generates a wilder, more original, un-bred non-hybrid version [you see this happen with sunflowers too]. In this case it is a tasty but very small fruit. I tried to grow seedlings from the seeds but that failed for me, not sure why.
July 7th, 2016 at 5:36:37 am
What about making huckleberry wine salt? Or just huckleberry wine?

Strawberries do better either vertically or in a French Trellis (45degree angle).

Treat the peach as nature would and you can grow a new peach tree. In other words, score it with a knife as if some squirrels chompers had at it, let moisture and bacteria have at it for awhile and transport it well away from the existing tree... then plant it.
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