Wrangling the Snakes

NO Mr. Snake–you cannot eat my silkie babies!

Robbie–who really wishes to be called batman–holding the successfully captured reptile.
  • TRIGGER WARNING — snake pictures below.

So this morning was exciting!

I love wrangling the snakes away from our chicken pens. (Although I don’t like them being there.) This is our first snake this season which is pretty unusual. I thought I’d share the story, the video, and the pictures here for you!

We have three chicken pens and in one of the pens are our silkies.

This is Merlin, our lavender bantam silkie roo and Icy our white bantam silkie hen.

This morning Robbie (my S.O. for those of you who haven’t read about him yet — he’s kind of a superhero 🙂 went out to feed the silkies and discovered a 5–6 ft black rat snake in the pen. Snakes eat the eggs and any baby chicks they can get. They must be removed from the pens immediately.

We have a very strict “no kill” snake policy and only break it if there is no other alternative.

We’ve killed snakes only twice — once when a black snake (thicker-bodied and stronger than the black racers) had the head of one of my favorite silkie hens in its mouth. The silkie’s name was Prudence and she was one of the two first silkies we ever had. We were too late and Prudence’s life was lost. That was the only time we’ve killed a non-venomous snake.

The other kill was a copperhead snake that was inside of our “big girl” pen (the pen with our standard-sized laying hens) and since Robbie was out of town at the time, I was left to handle the snake alone. It was a small copperhead, orange-diamonded and beautiful.

I know it’s weird but copperheads are my favorite — they have the most colorful, beautiful pattern.

I hated that we killed this snake and to this day it does not sit well with me. (We do not have health insurance and I thought it simply too risky to try to relocate this venomous snake.) My son arrived home shortly after I discovered the coiled visitor and he was able to help me ‘take care” of the situation.

We have probably relocated in excess of 20 snakes on our journey as chicken parents and before Robbie came along and started “protecting” me a bit too much when the snakes come around — I was the family snake handler. They called me. I showed up. I have relocated many snakes!

It is always a huge shock to find a snake in the pens. No matter how snake-friendly you are, it is a blow to your nerves. This morning Robbie’s heart was racing as he ran into the house yelling basically for “all hands on deck” we have a large snake.

All four of us ran out the door.

This was the view as we all arrived, one with a rake (for pinning the head or pulling) and one with a laundry bag, and Robbie and I donning our gloves.

Yep, it was a big one! Icy will not be moved. Chicken mommas are VERY brave.

Meet Icy, our very brave momma hen. She is a white, bantam silkie, and she is my prized hen. She, as you can see is very brave, and will not be moved off of her clutch of hatch-ready eggs. This is an older snake, who has most likely weighed the risk-reward options and decided to wait her out. It would have been a very long stand-off.

Chicken mommas are very brave. They will die to protect their young — as the roosters will die to protect their hens.

I have seen roosters fight off things twice their size but for some reason they do not step in when it comes to snakes.

Icy sat firm.

Robbie refused my first offer to drag it out by the tail and let him get ahold of the head. He opted for the drag-and-toss method, slinging the huge thing through the air and into the grass.

This prompted a frenzy of activity.

The snake landed in the grass and immediately fled in my direction. I was grabbing at it. Robbie was grabbing at it. Abby was chasing it with the laundry bag.

Alex pinned the head with the rake (one of those retractible bendy rakes) and I began shoving the snake’s writhing body into the bag. The head broke free.

Robbie yells for me to back up and I am arguing that “I am fine baby, it can’t hurt me.”

The snake wriggles free and we chase it a few more times before Robbie got its head beneath his shoe. The snake wrapped its body around Robbie’s leg, all the way to his lower stomach! That thing was long!

Robbie is exclaiming “This is not cool. This is not cool!”

I get the bag and again I am wrangling the body off of Robbie’s leg and into the bag. Robbie stoops to pull the draw string and released the snake’s head. Luckily it withdrew putting its entire self now into the bag. Draw string pulled.

I tied the string tightly around the top of the bag while Robbie held the bag.

Victory!

Time for release!

Robbie and I took the snake to an area a few miles from our home where there are industrial buildings but no nearby homes that may have chickens. There is a large forested area there where we chose for the release.

Here’s the video of the release!

20190526_133611.mp4
Video of black rat snake relocation and release. drive.google.com

  • *Correction — I do believe now that it was a black rat snake and not a racer — the underbelly was black. It was just very shiny and that threw me off.

Sorry if the video is sideways…I am SO not the tech wizard. But you can see a successful release. (I did not show myself in any pictures or in the video because I am having this crazy dental issue — you can tell in my talking that my mouth is swollen. But at the time of this video the pain wasn’t too bad, thank goodness. Adrenaline is also a factor there. See here and here for more info on that.)

And when we returned home to check on Icy…we found she IS at hatch time!

Congratulations Icy on your hard work and bravery paying off!

So Icy has one baby and there are a pile of eggs there waiting to hatch. I’ll add more pictures of the babies to this post as they hatch out and begin their explorations of the world.

Now if you will excuse me…I need to go and ice my back. I am getting too old for this.

At Home Amongst These

a poem

https://www.pexels.com/photo/nature-grass-mushrooms-amanita-33695/

The squishy-cool green beneath my feet
meandering before me, a path between trees.
The bright arms of the sun reaching down,
fingers of light, bringing growth to the ground.
 
I can no longer get lost this way.
 
I have come again. I wander again
through the moss-strewn aisle
in gripping fear and anxiety-laden… 
I know they’ll be lost if I wander awhile.

I have been here too often.

The moss knows each tentative step
each catch in my breath, I gift my tears
falling softly from my chin, a tender
sprinkling of salt drains away my fears.

The trees creak with the breeze,
interrupting me, reminding me
of the cellular world, uptake of nutrient
the vascular world outside of me.

I stoop and take note of basidiophytes,
all dome-topped and mysterious,
the feathery gills underneath
each whisper-soft and musty fungus.
 
Worry melts from me as I picture
beneath them the faeries and gnomes 
in secret they watch my bare feet pad by
giggles on breezes drift up from their homes.

They remember my name. I am sure of it.

I find a cool spot to stretch and to lay
my back in the moss, a bryophyte bliss
works its way through my bones, my skin
prickles and settles, I’ve so missed this.
 
This tender release. 

If I lie here for a moment
in sweet rest, in soft sphagnum hug, 
with the sun shining warmly… 
with whispering friends, meandering bugs.
 
I’ll rest and release, breathe in, out…
the world will make sense to me again.

Oh, sing to me.


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Hunger

a poem

https://www.rawpixel.com/image/426941/grizzly-bear-roaming-through-yellowstone-national-park-united-states

I had a vision.
A pole; horizontal, unmoving.
Suspended from it — carrion
in varying stages of 
decomposition;

One, freshly hung
drips its life blood free
drip…drip…drip…
 
Another, rotting
begun, its surface writhes
with maggots and flies.

The third is rot-worn
black, a carcass shell
or its former self.

The three hanging there 
just out of reach, as are most
things when you are hungry.
 
A bear, standing on two legs
angrily reaching one sharp-clawed
swipe after another roaring swipe
menacing arcs cutting the sky
just out of reach,
just out of reach.

I don’t want to be this bear.
 
Sad thing.
Always reaching 
for the depleting,
the constantly wearing, 
disintegrating, withering
dreams cut short
just hanging there…
dreams dripping in the sun.
No, that is not for me.

I do not want to be this bear,
pathetic hungry beast
reaching for the despaired,
decaying and wormed away by 
the negative and the bleak,
gnawing, stealing, tearing
dreams disappearing,
eaten away in the sun.

I do not want to be
this hungry animal reaching
for the rotten, the black
the ghosts of dreams
the illusion of dreams
the dreams that used to exist.

I want to be a different beast.
A noble, beast of wanderlust
and curiosity, broad-shouldered
thick-backed and wiry
and feasting on berries
plump with juice and seed
paws-full gathered in the 
bliss of the sun and breeze.
The work is of no mind.
A belly can be filled with 
the small, if there are many.

want to chase after the living,
the sprinting and darting deer, eyes
frozen wide with fury and fear…
devouring the fresh
flesh-dream full of muscle
and blood pumping full
of organic desire, of 
opportunity racing, raging into
life, unabashed.

I had a vision, or perhaps
a vision has me. A sharp-clawed 
roar impels me.


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Ladybug Journeys

a poem of a quiet afternoon

https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-ladybug-on-leaf-during-daytime-121472/

A ladybug journeys
 up Hawkweed stem
 searching for another

Dark-spotted red bug
 with which to fly high
 the ladybug labors on…

A squirrel scampers
 through leaf litter and soil
 searching for another

Nut she had buried 
 some time ago Spring
 the squirrel labors on…

Chickadee and titmouse
 nuthatch and goldfinch
 searching for another

Black sunflower seed
 or millet or worm
 the birds labor on…

I absorb the sun 
 I notice their sounds
 each searching for another

While creatures toil and fret
 and summer besets
 I, thankful, rest on…


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The Waters Run Clean Through Me

a poem about the North Carolina Mountains

https://www.pexels.com/photo/bench-cascade-creek-environment-355321/

Deep in the North Carolina wood
 nestled between steep mountainous 
 rises, a gorge, through which run
 waters, crisp and cool and clean.

A bench waits there for my soul.

The waters run clear, cross rock
 and moss, with dribbling sounds
 and meandering thoughts of the
 distant seas. The canopy hangs over.
 
 Shady oasis of quietude waits
 for me to climb into its folds.
 A genteel hug whispered through green
 to wrap me up in wonder once again.

A hike for a day, I must go.

I’ll climb on the rock, spread 
 my wings to gather the sun
 rub my toes in sphagnum
 hear the cool-water melody flow…

Oh, Carolina, you are good to my soul.

Let the breeze sway and creak in the pines!
 May the babbling waters find their gentle way
 and the mockingbirds ramble song to song,
 let your nature carry its secrets on.


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Nectar Dreams

a poem about the tiny creatures we often miss


Honey Bee (Unsplash.com)

Nectar Dreams

Walking sticks, June bugs,
Bumble bee, Wooly Bears
all came out to play
and when the streetlights 
at last were lit
the fireflies lit the way.
The June bugs, in droves,
in whispering swarms
slapped against our chests
emerald green-backed and shining,
the airborne jewels in summer vests.

Where have all the June bugs gone?
 
Wooly Bears sauntered by one-by-one
we didn’t touch them as they rolled
laborious slow and steady, with hiding
faces, these solitary mysteries unfold.

Oh Wooly Bear, please come 
out to play once more.

Walking sticks, box turtle, sage-shaded mantis
and the creepy-singing “whooo whooo whooo
that rose from the woods behind us
telling secrets that sailed out over the garden
plump with cucumber, tomato, corn stalks, melon.

Daddy Long legs often skittered by
climbing on spindly silent legs,
with tiny black dot bulbous eyes 
they crept on silent dregs.
Now, sadly gathered elsewhere
on distant dream, searching 
for more of their kind.

Perhaps the June-bugs hide there too
in this grassy hidden plane
where creatures gather 
to speak of when their numbers
had not yet begun to wane.
They worry over summers 
that no longer look the same,
of the children no longer twirling
in grass with magical dreams.
 
Bumble bee, I beg you, do not go away.
I plant my flowers one-by-one
enticing you to stay.
Our earth is not the same for you
but your plump colors light our way
I miss you singing nectar-dreams., oh please
Forgive us, we have lost our way.

Wooly Bear Caterpillar (https://cottagelife.com/outdoors/wild-profile-meet-the-woolly-bear-caterpillar/)



Walking Stick bug ( https://www.spirit-animals.com/stick-bug-symbolism/)

June Bug ( https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2016/jun/28/outdoors-summer-heat-magnolias-and-june-bugs/)

Thank you for reading Nectar Dreams, a poem inspired by my love for the tiny creatures and the joy they brought to my childhood. I hope you will read more of my poetry!

On Dappling Pond

a poem about the beautiful Mandarin duck and the not-so-beautiful Muscovy duck

Mandarin duck, Pexels.com

On Dappling Pond

White, crisp half-moon,
  the blue crested melt
  to ruddy hind swoop.
Tawny wings tucked under,
  belted by royal blue.
Sleek chest, brazen
  blue as ocean-deep.
Neck ringed in
  maple majesty lace.
     Enlightened, resplendent,
         spectacular.

All nature’s paintbrushes!
Were they hog hair
or badger?
Were they
rinsed clean in muddy
waters encircled by sawgrass;
sandy-fawn stippled?

The Mandarin navigates,
whisper-smooth and waggle,
the Carolina grasswort; rising
variegated greens
wind-bent and skyward.

Mucsovy regards the
radiant fowl,
disturbed at such
     reckless abuse of color…
for one dappling duck?
Pinkish beak dipped under,
up with a snail? Asnail!
Vexed, perturbed,
Muscovy waddles, plops
with a splash and a glide,
     nature’s sculptor’s pride,
     its gnarly head held high.


I hope you enjoyed On Dappling Pond (I am quite fond of this one) and will stick around to read some more of my poetry. I have made it easy to find ones you may like and you can find links to poems on the poetry tab, or use the navigation menu and search features on the homepage. Thank you again…what did you think of On Dappling Pond?

Muscovy ducks are widely varied in blacks and whites–but the red bumpy face is usual. This is a snippet from a picture on All About Birds website.

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Thoughts at 2:04 A.M. on Easter Morning (It’s called Grace.)

https://www.pexels.com/photo/autumn-back-light-clouds-dawn-416738/

I wanted to write something truly beautiful to wish you a happy Easter, and to honor the rising of my Savior, but nothing, nothing I could ever write could touch the magnificence of Easter morning. I feel humble.

Small. Inadequate. Undeserving.

GRATEFUL. LOVED.

Easter Morning

Oh Jesus, my knees are quite clean
this while I think on you in Gethsemane
praying hard on what you knew you must do
I know how oft I’ve forgotten to pray to you

I can’t bear to think of the violence of the cross
the thorns in your flesh, the blood that was lost
In the Philippines today, nails in bloody penance
Whipping their backs with bamboo, disturbing images

How can people rip the flesh of other human beings
and hail the God that created the whales in the sea?
Great grays that swoon and scoop plankton and sing?
Creator of eagles that laugh, carry wind on their wing?

How can a God love humans who behead, bring war?
Humans stoop to such evil, then lower still more?
Yet, Christ kneeled in Gethsemane, for all humanity
Knees in the dirt, heart to the sky, and pleaded for me?

To Creator of the worm of the earth, the soil and sky
for all races and tongues, for all things that fly
for all genders and generations, for mother earth
for every living thing to have in Him a New Birth.

God doesn’t ask that we bloody our backs or pierce our limbs
only that we remember to pray and accept and honor Him.
The cross still stands on a hill, blood-free.
Jesus was there, but he rose for me.

This Easter, I hope you know it too. From Christina here at Fiddleheads & Floss, Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate this Christian holiday. If you are not a Christian, please disregard respectfully and have a wonderful day. I appreciate all of you!

The Calf Song — a poem

The Calf Song

From the backside of a smile
I rise, discontented.


Inside my eyelids
a dream sleeps
between measures
keeping the beat,
each a credulous mark
upon my heart song.


The calf lies waiting,
wobbly legs unable
to bear its load upon its
hoof and foot.


It stands, behind my eyes
rising in ignorant content.


It cannot sing my song
or read my notes
or match my steps through
crescendo,
staccato,
and pause.


The calf accepts
warm milk waiting,
without thought
of the rain.

by: Christina Ward

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy:

https://fiddleheadsnfloss.com/2019/02/16/cornucopian-dream-a-poem-for-my-fellow-earth-lovers/

A Stunning Prose piece, Recurring Dreams Of a Happy Child

Of Water and other Dreamy Things

I  had the BIGGEST IMAGINATION when I was a child. One recurring dream I had was that our house was full of water and I could swim all around in it like a big aquarium. Now, I am sure there are all kinds of interpretations of this, but for me…it sparked this lovely piece of prose. Enjoy!

Water Bubbles Under the Sea

Of Water and Other Dreamy Things

 

          I used to dream of water. Not the kind of water that winds down hills, shifting itself, a great endless slinky stepping across land to a vast and hungry sea, but a strange, floating, weightless water that filled our tiny house from wall to wall, window to door, toy box to floor. Iridescent blue, glowing, breathing, holding great bouncing bubbles in its belly, it welcomed me. Moonlight crept in the windows, wrapped its arms around each bubble, and danced a quiet waltz down my arms, across my back, and into my floating brunette spirals.

          I swam from room to room. From my bedroom I swam, down the quiet hall past my brother’s room with the great clown walls, past my parents ’room with the drawers of pencils and paper and the gray flat table where Daddy drew lines that made buildings grow up, to our white-flushed simple bathroom. There I’d float before the mirror, a tiny princess. I’d brush my teeth and get ready for school; my jeans legs pulling on easily without the usual tug and jerk. Jeans weren’t heavy in liquid dream. Mom didn’t have to shove her arm up the pant legs to tuck in the extra length., knuckles scraping knobby bone. My sleeves hung like moss, a velvet hug on cool skin.

          I used to dream a lot of things and not always in my sleep. I used to hear monkeys in the woods. They sang to me as I sailed on wooden swing, feet stretched toward sky, waiting for the night to bring its firefly dreams. A crimson sky would yield once more while toads tucked themselves safely under stone.

          I used to dream. I was a magical child.

If you enjoyed this, please like and comment, and check out these prose pieces as well:

“Clarity,” Winner of the Arrowhead Awards Best Prose Work, 2004

Today~

Horizons