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.
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.
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.
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:
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.