The Good Snake

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The Good Snake

I am not a fan of snakes. But even I have to admit there are good snakes, and I am working on overcoming the fear of snakes. A few weeks ago we spotted one on the farm that was a very good snake. Then, last week my dad spotted it again. He wanted me to share what he wrote about the snake. Here is his article on the good snake.

Last weekend we were cutting up a downed tree in our yard. It was more than an all day job. After taking a lunch break, I went back outside and my heart sank as I observed this snake in the grass. No, I wasn’t at all upset at seeing a speckled king snake. They’re very beneficial and not at all dangerous. But at first glance, I thought someone had cut off its head! The body was moving, yet, try as I might, I couldn’t locate the head!

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I got right down close and poked it. The snake’s body moved as if sentient. Then, suddenly the head popped up and he/she glared at me in a “snakey sort of a way.”

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It turns out that this little beauty was busy hunting moles! Within a few moments it stuck its head back down in the mole hole and started looking again! I had never before observed this activity. I was, however, confirmed in my pleasure at finding a live king snake on my place!

Most people who like king snakes say that they eat venomous snakes. They might eat some of the babies. I believe they’d starve to death if that was all they ate. It’s even better news to know that they eat rodents!

Under certain light conditions, the speckled king snake looks almost blue, due to the yellow spots. It is, indeed, a beautiful animal; and, impossible to confuse with any other snake in the wild. Since it is both harmless and beneficial, we should always welcome it in our yards and gardens!

From the Homestead,

George”

Escargo Without A Shell

One of our homesteaders from Homesteading Edu wrote an article recently that he told me he would like me to share. So, here is Escargo Without A Shell, written by George McLaughlin.

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Escargo Without A Shell

Okay, I admit I came up with the title for this article, simply because it tickles my funny bone! I have never tried eating slugs, and have no plans to try. Though, I suspect… they wouldn’t be all that bad. If you have ever gardened where slugs are a problem, you know just how frustrating they can be. Where there are appropriate damp conditions, slugs can become a huge problem, devouring plants in the garden faster than one can replant!
Slugs are most often a problem in climates with prolonged periods of wet weather. Hence, we rarely have to deal with them in Oklahoma. However, in other areas slugs can be a really big problem.
Here are a couple of remedies for slugs:

1) For minor infestations one can go out at night and drop a pinch of salt on the offending slugs. This kills them.
2) Hand picking and dropping them into a soap or ammonia solution will kill slugs. No, slugs don’t bite. They can’t hurt you. So hand pick to your heart’s content.
3) Diatomaceous earth, which can be purchased in garden centers will sometimes help. One simply lays it down around affected plants. Supposedly, its microscopic serrations will lacerate a slug. I have not personally seen this to work.
4) There are a number of snail/slug baits available, commercially. Most contain iron sulfate. The slugs eat it and die. In my experience, these baits are indeed effective. The most commonly available slug bait is called Sluggo. Apparently these baits do not harm other critters in the garden.
5) Beer! Yes, slugs are natural born alcoholics. If you pour beer into little dishes, even bottle caps, and place them in your garden at night, the slugs will flock to them, drink and… die! Bahwahaha! I did this when we lived and gardened in Indiana. My impression was that beer and iron sulfate were tied for effectiveness.
6) If your garden is fenced, and your situation allows it, it doesn’t hurt to free range some ducks in the yard. They’ll clean up on slugs, cutting down on those who make it to your garden. DON’T believe glowing reports about allowing ducks to scavenge inside the garden. I tried that a couple of times, using runner ducks, which are small. In every case the ducks had a party in the garden, destroying valued crops! I’ll never forget, checking on the “duck patrol” and seeing a duck nonchalantly pull up a young onion plant and swallow the whole thing, moving on to the next…. “Slugs? Who wants to hunt slugs when I can visit the salad bar?!” However, if your garden is surrounded by a lot of slug habitat, and it’s fenced, some ducks might indeed help.
7) Encourage toads in your garden. Leave a hiding place for toads, such as a weedy corner with some shade. Set out a shallow tray, flush with the ground, with water in it as well as some rocks, so a toad can get in, soak and get out. Toads eat a lot of pests.
6) Finally, it helps to eliminate weeds which conserve moisture near your young plants. So, while it’s sunny out, weed in and around your plantings. ”

 

Photo from: https://pixabay.com/en/snail-black-dirt-environment-grass-1836103/

 

 

 

Out With The Ants!!!

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Every year around April or May, our homestead gets invaders. They are small invaders but can be very damaging to the house, and our wallets. 

After years of trying different things to get rid of our yearly ant invasion that seems to show up no matter how neat one is with the home, dad came up with a solution.

It only uses items we normally have in our home anyway, and ants seem to be incapable of resisting it. The downside is that until the ants are gone, it is an eyesore.

Here is the recipe that dad found that kills whole nests of ants:

Roughly:

1 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon borax

Bring water to a boil and add the sugar. 

Stir until the sugar is dissolved. 

Let cool until just warm. Add borax and stir.

We then set it out in cups or jars for the ants to find. They die in the cup or jar and the whole nest ends up dead in the containers. After a few weeks of this, we don’t find a single ant in the house.

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The Frankenstein Bug

In 2011, I started working a night shift job. One night, I was cleaning as usual, when I encountered a bug that looked like it had been through a nuclear attack.
This sucker had legs built like a grasshopper, but it’s body looked like a centipede! Beastie looked something fierce! My knee jerk reaction was probably what most of you would have to this elusive creature. I killed it!
Later, I became curious and looked up what on earth it was that I had found. It turned out to be a house centipede. They come out primarily at night, and they are shy though in a state of confusion and fear may rush at a person. It’s ok though. They aren’t aggressive. No more than a regular honey bee. They only bite if you give them reason to think they are about to die.

Despite their ferocious looks, the house centipede is a great bug to have around. They take out one of the few creatures that really might survive a nuclear attack.
Their favorite snack? The cockroach. So, moral of the story, if you see one of these hideous looking creatures, just leave it alone and know that one more of them means several less cockroaches.

Why a barn cat?

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Cats are admittedly adorable, and entertaining to watch. However, most people prefer to keep a cat inside. So why keep a barn cat? After all, there’s rat poison or rat traps that can be used to control rat and mouse populations on farms right? And if not those, maybe a dog like the rat terrier?

Well, yes and no. My family tried that route and we found that at least on our homestead, traps don’t keep up with the amount of mice.  As for the poison. That would work except for the fact that the mice eat stuff in our garden too, and we have dogs. We also live near a road, so for us personally, turning the rat terrier out wasn’t really an option.

Putting poison out in the garden meant a few things. First, there was a chance of a dog finding it and eating it before we could stop them. We have had a few emergency vet visits because of that. Our dogs are dearly loved and the most painful death I ever witnessed in a dog was from rat poison that we found out that the dog had eaten and it was already too late for the dog to be saved.

Secondly, there is the fact that when it rains, if there is rat poison out in the garden, protecting the plants, the rat poison is being dissolved into the ground. The plants will then suck up some of what made up that poison.

Thirdly, if mice ate the poison outside and we didn’t find them, another animal could find the dying or dead mouse and accidentally poison itself by eating that mouse. So, we decided to get a cat. This has been working out splendidly. The only thing that I question, is if one cat will be enough to get rid of as many mice as seem to be in the sheds and gardens.

Taffy caught grass
Taffy caught himself a swift and ferocious clump of grass while he was learning to stalk and hunt. Look at that goofy tongue sticking out!

Since getting Taffy, and since he learned to hunt, we have been seeing a drastic decline in the mice and sparrows on our homestead.

If you have a barn cat, what led you to decide to get one? Let us know in the comments below.

Turkey Season On The Homestead

HenTurkey Season On The Homestead

It’s turkey season on the homestead. Not in the way that most of you would assume I mean when I say it’s turkey season, although if I remember correctly it is also turkey hunting season. No, the reason why it’s turkey season on the farm right now is because we have oodles and caboodles of baby turkeys called poults hatching.poults

Just about a week ago, as a matter of fact, we had a clutch hatch. Unfortunately for them, since they were being hatched in an incubator,and they had already incubated in the egg for a while, we incorrectly guessed how fresh their eggs were.

So, our poor poults hatched out a few days ahead of when we expected, and went splat on the floor of the incubator. Don’t worry, they weren’t hurt. However, the floor of the incubator is slick. So, these poor babies were unable to get their legs under them to learn how to walk and ended up splay legged.

In the past, we always used to have to destroy splay legged babies. But then we learned a trick. Hobbling! Yup! Very similarly to how you would hobble a horse only there are two hobbles per poult rather than just one. We will be sharing in our turkey course exactly how we put them on. Actually, these youngsters are featured in a video showing exactly what we do to fix splay legs in very young turkeys. They are all looking great a week later and no longer have their hobbles on.

This Is Why This Year Will Be The Year Of Chicks

IMG_0848This year, we are revamping our buckeye flock. The flock that we have been keeping has learned to roost in the trees and has been brought up sleeping outside their coop. We decided that the easier way to transition birds to sleeping inside would be to sell the older birds and hatch babies.

Right now is hatching time.  We’ve had our new flock hatch out.

When they are full grown these babies will be wonderful meat and layer birds. The reason why we chose to raise chicks instead of training the older birds is because with the babies, we will spent less time working on their training. Our older girls are more set in their ways. When they went to new homes, the new homes could create new habits because they were now in a different environment, not like what they were used to.

Buckeye hens and rooster