Guest Blogger: Are You Ever Safe from Snakes? No.

by Mandi Shuffield
Sarge, 9 years old. He will let his boys do anything they want to him. They seem to love putting things on his head…

The weather is finally cooling off here in Central Texas! I see a lot of folks are catching up on yard work and home improvements. I know the contractors I ‘ve talked to are sure happy about not sweating to death just from stepping out of their houses! But does this mean that we should be lured into believing that the venomous snakes are not active right now? It does not!

I have seen people share a post that gives the seasons that snakes are not out at this time of year. In my experience of almost 38 years, I’d say ignore that and pretend that even when there is ice on the ground, you could find a snake.

Just be vigilant, and then you won’t have to retrain yourself this spring. Don’t get lulled into security because some zoologist somewhere says they are “less likely” to be active. That’s the key phrase there, “less likely.” That doesn’t mean there is a 0% chance of finding them. That’s especially true if you’re moving leaves, debris, or climbing under a house where it is probably sort of warm.

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We Invade the Plantation

Yesterday was a bit more of the same vacation stuff as the rest of the week. We have a routine where Anita works all morning (that’s why I have time to blog; otherwise I’d be doing activities) and then off we go. I made a lunch with our eggs and turkey and cheese all scrambled together, making me glad we got the grocery delivery package when we got here. That way, most days we don’t have to eat out but once.

We See Sea Pines

One of the negative things about Hilton Head Island is that lots of it is not easily accessible unless you live there. It’s divided into “plantations” (which were actual plantations with all the sadness that went with them), and they are gated, so only the well-do-do who live there can get in without a pass.

Entrance to the preserve we visited.

Luckily, for $8 they will let you into Sea Pines, so we made the most of it and drove all over the place yesterday. There’s a large forest preserve in the middle, which the developer of the property kindly deeded to the residents. We trundled through there and really enjoyed the boardwalk area with lots of labeled plants and interesting terrain.

Anita in her Halloween shirt enjoying the boardwalk.

The land was reclaimed from being a rice plantation and now actually provides drinking water. That’s a great story. We saw a couple of alligators and lots of birds, plus some huge trees that survived Hurricane Matthew.

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From Exploring the Woods to Peering into a Microscope

Happy day. I am enjoying my second Texas Master Naturalist conference very much. It’s so nice to just enjoy learning with no pressure at all.

The prairie area

This morning I went on a field trip to the Spring Creek Forest Preserve. Wow, the people presenting me so much about the area. My head is full of little tidbits about prairies, forests, and riparian areas.

I also saw so many beautiful seed pods and fall plants. Lots of photos were taken by everyone.

Dew and webs.
iNaturalist says this is liatris.
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Deer Watching Retreat

Our real estate mini-business has to have a board meeting every year. So we decided to do a weekend retreat somewhere we could concentrate. So Lee and I used our condo points to book literally the only available 2-bedroom condo in Texas.

At least the lake is not totally dry.

It’s in Lago Vista, an oddly endearing resort village on the north shore of Lake Travis. Well, it’s a condo all right. I think it’s the least charming one I’ve ever been in. It appears to be the same age as the Bobcat house, only with very few upgrades. (Bathrooms have been done, on a budget.)

The arrow shows the nice condos and the sliver of lake we can see from our deck. Check the lower right for a photo bomber.

It appears it once had a lake view and lots of green space. But someone sold that land and put fancy condos on it. Now there is a sliver of lake and some rich people you can glimpse between units.

Oh well. It’s almost free. And it has deer.

White-tail Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Majestic buck.
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Family Stuff and Coping

Tell you what, it’s been a whirlwind around here the past couple of days. Lots of it’s been fun, but there has also been challenging stuff.

Me looking tired, but proud of my pink glass decanter to go with my orange glass.

Kathleen, Lee, and I have made a kind of unspoken pact to just go with the flow as our plans constantly shift due to weird circumstances. We’ve just been trying to start a business, deal with an elder care challenge, and remodel a building.

You can’t be sad if you have cherry pie with a paw print on it.

But all sorts of paperwork issues, legal surprises, scallywaggery (I made that up), illnesses, and twists and turns have meant schedules and priorities change at a moment’s notice. I’m proud of how patient we’ve been, though I think I could do better.

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Dangerous Territory

There’s always a surprise lurking around the Hermits’ Rest. Some of them are dangerous. I came home from checking the chickens and snakes yesterday evening to see Alfred with “something” between his legs. He sure looked happy.

Look! I have a thing!

Upon closer inspection it appeared to be, um, skin. Huh? He was loving it. If Carlton or Vlassic approached, he roared like a lion. It seemed to be skin from a deer.

I’m not sharing.

Lee said Carlton found it by the arroyo. But Alfred took it over. Okay.

The light turned this grass pink.

Later, I needed some exercise, so Lee and everyone except Alfred went for another walk. The light led to many stunning photo ops. I turned around after taking a picture, I saw Vlassic emerge triumphantly from the tall grass, with something as big as himself in his mouth, with Carlton trailing behind.

I got something, too!

Oh my. I think it’s the other side of the deer. Yep. Where’s the inside? Where did it come from? Our guess is that someone had the hide on the back of their truck after dressing a kill, and it blew off. Well, it isn’t deer season. Hmm.

This thing is great! (The hair is on the other side.)

Any ideas? Who or what did this?

And watch your toes! And your nose!

As Lee and I were heading back to the house, we saw what looked like yet another hunk of skin. Oh no.

I am NOT a lump of hide.

But I quickly recognized the shape. It was Snappy, our resident snapping turtle. Or maybe Son of Snappy (or daughter). I was glad the dogs were off rolling in poop, because I could do without them losing a toe or nose.

Hey. I bite.

Luckily only Vlassic spotted Snappy, and he listened when we told him no. We got the dogs in safely.

I later looked out the window and saw Snappy ambling on toward the pond behind the house. I guess it was pond switching time.

Let’s go inside. It looks like there are two suns.

I’ve had enough weird and dangerous things for a little while.

The Year of the Snake?

You’ve heard all about our snake and chicken issues. Today I was happy to see the hens in the chicken yard, so I could give them some new food. But as I walked toward the yard with the food, I saw a funny-looking garden hose. That was yet another snake. It was heading under Tyler’s bedroom, where I’m thinking the eggs now are. Sigh.

I’m pretty sure this is a garden hose, says Rosie.

The chickens didn’t care. They just wandered by it and went out to eat bugs. Sigh again.

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