Spring has been slow come to Big Turtle Creek. Now it’s almost summer and with summer comes the creepy-crawlies that are inherent to life on the land. We had a family cookout over the weekend and my niece who is an enthusiastic new gardener and hungry for knowledge of anything gardening asked me about the ants around our place. We have three colonies of harvester ants that we co-exist with.
They aerate the soil actually improving soil fertility and provide food for the lizards which in turn help us with pest control in the garden. Our hope is that one day the Horned Lizards will return. The ants don’t bite unless provoked so we agree to leave each other to our respective labors unmolested. My niece asked me about the relationship between ants and aphids. She had read, correctly, that some ants actually “farm” or tend the aphids, protecting them and in return harvesting the sweet honeydew that the aphids secrete. The next day I found a great example of this on the grapevines.
She mentioned that one suggestion for aphid control is to kill the ants. These are a different species than our harvester ants, but I think I’ll leave them be just the same. A good soap water spray will knock the aphids down and Lord willing the ladybugs and other bug predators will take care of the rest.
We’ve been blessed with ample rain this spring but with it comes the mosquitos. We have two tanks of standing water near the cabin just to keep a little extra garden water stored and grow a few water lilies. We keep the mosquito larvae in them in check with native Western Mosquitofish that we caught in a nearby pond. These are neat little minnow-looking guys that do a great job living up to their name. Still, though we don’t have as many mosquitos as we would without the Mosquitofish, we still have some. It was time to put up a mosquito net.
David brought this one home from his trip to Sierra Leone with Oklahoma State University. I think it makes things look kind of tropical and it definitely makes for nicer sleeping. Next on the project list is to build window screens for the cabin so all the windows can be thrown open and we can test our cabin design for off-grid ventilation – 14 windows in 600 square feet plus soffit vents on the tall side.
And then the snakes. It started innocently enough with a Black Rat Snake that found a way under the house into the root cellar. I know he only meant to help us with the mice, but he should have stayed out by the sheds. Then another rat snake hanging out, literally, about head high in the outhouse. David scolded him, gave him a reprieve, carried him up the trail and turned him loose.
Next was a Timber Rattlesnake that David saw while mowing out by the tractors. He went politely back into the woods, then made the mistake the next day of thinking he might cross the drive and check out what’s going on around the cabin. When the dogs found him I heard the rattle loud and clear from 60 feet away in the cabin. He should have kept to the woods. God bless good farm dogs. The next day there was a Texas Rat Snake right in front of the door preparing to dine on one of the banty chicks. He should have never crossed the Red River. And sadly, yesterday afternoon the dogs alerted once again and we discovered yet another Timber Rattler under the rabbit cages. The doe and 4 of her 7 babies were dead the the buck was bitten. There’s just no excuse for that kind of rude behavior.
Though it doesn’t sound that way, we hate to kill any snake. The Timber Rattlers are generally reclusive and we rarely see them. They’re considered some of the most docile of rattlesnakes and we don’t begrudge them their habitat, we just don’t want to share our small stock and our living space with them. Now, I wonder where the Copperheads are hiding???