Archive for July 5, 2011

Excuse me, I was just leaving

I snapped a picture of this large fox snake a few minutes after I stepped over him on my way into the garage.

Even though (or maybe largely because) I’ve spent much of my life working outdoors in areas where poisonous snakes were fairly common, I like snakes. And the wooded bluffs of our property are ideal fox snake habitat (they’re also ideal habitat for ratsnakes and the rare massasauga rattler). So my reaction to unexpectedly stepping over a largish snake was to reach for a camera, not a shovel.

The fox snake is one of Minnesota’s largest snakes.  They eat small animals, birds, eggs, frogs, and lizards. Fox snakes belong to the rat snake group and kill their prey by constriction.

When fox snakes are harassed, they vibrate their tails and strike. Because of this and their superficial resemblance to rattlesnakes, they’re commonly killed by humans who don’t realize their importance in controlling rodent populations.

The largest fox snake on record was observed in the county where we live.

Because this snake is big enough to eat the chicks that should hatch out here in about a week, if I keep seeing him around I’ll catch him and relocate him to a chicken free coulee in the area.

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July 5, 2011 at 11:42 pm 16 comments

Chuck’s day off

Yesterday was Meet Your Meat  day.

Chucky, Mark and I visited the farm where most of the meat we’ll eat next year is being raised. When your food is raised by close friends on a small farm, socializing with the creatures that will go into your freezer is considered proper etiquette.

The chickens were only vaguely interesting to the boys. Chuck runs loose with our little flock every day and after two years of living with chickens in his back yard my husband takes them for granted now too. Chuck did get a small chance to show off his chicken herding skills because it was time to move the tractor the rangers were in and considering the fact that these chickens had never seen a dog before, he did a pretty good job.

The pigs were a much more interesting experience. Chuck’s initial reaction to them was a very practical and deliberate cautiousness. The boy’s come a long way from the dog who went bug-eyed and pancaked himself into the ground every time he encountered something new. Because these Berkshire hogs are omnivores who are at least eight times his size, I thought that his reaction to them demonstrated an excellent degree of common sense.

Chuck at left, is sitting quietly and politely avoiding direct eye contact. The pig, on the other hand, was whoring for attention. (Pet me! Brush me! Feed me! MAKE MORE MUD FOR ME TO WALLOW IN!) And really, since there is a one in three chance that I will eat this specific pig, I kinda felt obliged to give it up for him.

After pigs and chickens we went on to meet the steers. Chip and Dale are British White cattle, a beautiful, docile, ancient breed that fattens up well on pasture. The boys stood calmly and politely as we walked up to greet them.

I kept Chuck on a leash at first, he’d never met any cattle and I wasn’t sure how the steers would react.

As you can see, the first meeting went well.

And so did the second. Still on leash, but with his handler at a distance. Note the relaxed, happy smile.

It wasn’t long ’till we progressed to dropping the leash and letting everybody hang out together.

From the cow pasture we moved on to the creek. Chuck’s never been swimming. He loves playing in a spray of water and he’s been very good about baths, but between his orthopedic problems and mine, I haven’t had a chance to take the boy to a swimming hole.

Deep water can be intimidating to a dog, but as it turned it, Chuck didn’t need much encouragement to go in. I walked across the creek and called him. After a bit of hesitation the boy launched himself across. And once he figured out that it was wonderfully wet and it wasn’t going to kill him — the boy absolutely adored being in the water.

Chuck’s first foray into the creek. Note the panicked leap and wild eyes.

Shortly after, a relaxed, happy boy calmly and repeatedly swims out to fetch sticks.  And then just swims around on his own for the hell of it.

He had an excellent day off.

July 5, 2011 at 1:29 pm 4 comments


Because A Dog’s Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

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