Sunday, February 7, 2016

Vote for the 2015 Walnut Label

2015 Snake #1 The Golden-Eyed Rattlesnake - third of four rattlesnakes moved from the farmyard in two days in March and an especially dark one showing off its rattle at the release site (A Pile of Rattlesnakes). 
Here are photos of snakes we saw on the Dipper Ranch in 2015. Vote for your favorite below. The snake with the most votes will be featured on the label for the 2015 Dipper Ranch walnuts. I will randomly select one of the voters to get a prize -  a bag of delicious shelled walnuts.

What kind of crazy idea is this - snakes on a walnut label? You'll just have to go to past walnut label contests to get an explanation and see the snakes featured on prior labels:

Friday, February 5, 2016

Last Call for Rattlesnakes 2015

An unusual sight in an unusually dry summer - six bucks drinking out of the house trough in the day time.
If you look closely at the antlers of the third buck from the left, you can see they are red-tinged from blood vessels under the velvet the buck had just rubbed off.
Finally on August 22, we had our last snake adventure of 2015. The menfolk were repairing a window on the house and I was tending to other chores in the yard. I turned a valve on to fill a water trough on the other side of the barbwire fence near the house. The cattle were gone for the season and the trough had a crack with a slow leak, so I filled it halfway every few weeks to provide water for wildlife in the very dry summer.

About a half hour later, Papa Bear asked if I wanted him to turn the water off.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Prickly Situation

Coiled under the prickly leaves of a milk thistle, a small rattlesnake blends in with the brown leaves and dirt.   
On May 30, I was digging up milk thistles in the holding pen. I pushed the shovel into the soil around a tall plant and reached down to pull the last weed stem in my target zone for the day when I noticed a small rattlesnake hiding under the prickly leaves. I decided to leave the plant standing for another day. There was a jumble of rocks fortifying a nearby drainage, and surely that was where the rattlesnake must live most of the time.

I returned the next day and still the little rattlesnake was under the same thistle plant.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In and Out of Harm's Way

How I prefer to see western yellow-bellied racers in the Dipper farmyard - out of harm's way.
June 2, 2009   
On May 25, I was mowing the orchard with a big walk-behind mower. The coyote brush was starting to take over and this mower is powerful enough to cut down young shrubs as tall as 3 feet. On a return path of my back-and-forth mowing pattern, I found an injured western yellow-bellied racer on the edge of the tall grass. Sadly, I realized I had probably hit it with the mower despite looking ahead and mowing in a way that gives wildlife the best chance to flee from the noisy machine. I set the injured snake in an area that was far away from my mowing duties. It was probably going to be dinner for a coyote or fox that night.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

It Was A Brown Snake

Round pupils, large scales between the eyes, black line through the eye, brown rectangular blotches arranged longways across the body, often shiny, head usually only slightly wider then neck = Pacific gopher snake.   
On April 20, I was happy to see the round pupils of a long gopher snake sunning on the gravel in front of the barn. Almost every year I see a long gopher snake in the Dipper farmyard and often it has a reddish color. Same one? I don't know but I just leave these shiny harmless beauties alone and call it/them Stellarosa after a former admired co-worker. Now, years later, I see billboards of a wine called Stella Rosa and it's confusing to me as I drive down the highway and see my fabulous snake name on a wine bottle in the city. I guess if I can put photos of a snake on the annual walnut label then they can . . . no, this is just too disturbing that they can ruin a perfectly good snake name like that.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Counting Triads

A California mountain kingsnake checks out a ranger's duty belt.   
On April 15, I found a California mountain kingsnake that had cleverly positioned itself above the water level in the spring box. It had accordian-wedged itself in a vertical crack in the concrete lining. While leaning into the vault to capture the brightly banded red-black-white kingsnake, I spotted a pointed and dull brown tail sticking out from underneath a ledge at the deep side of the springbox. It was a western yellow-bellied racer and it was out of my reach.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Pile of Rattlesnakes

A pile of rattlesnakes warming up in the sun under the barn door on an early March day.  
We saw 18 snakes on the Dipper Ranch in 2015 despite the fourth year of drought compared to just 9 snakes in 2014. Rather than slam all the 2015 snake photos and stories into one post, I'll split them into shorter posts over the next week. At the end, you'll get to vote for your favorite snake which will go on the Dipper Ranch 2015 walnut label.

We've carefully moved Northern Pacific rattlesnakes away from the farmyard for many years, but we still have a lot to learn from them. The 2015 snake sightings began and ended with rattlesnakes, but 8 total rattlers isn't out of the range of prior years. The days and nights turned consistently warm early in 2015, and I knew the snake season was also starting early when I saw four rattlesnakes around the barn in early March. Did I mention that I think the abandoned barn is a winter den for rattlesnakes?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Climate Change Made Me Do It

A sapsucker stretches after its winter arrival at the Dipper Ranch orchard.
This one looks like a cross between the red-naped sapsucker and the red-breasted sapsucker.  
Me in October:
Hardly any walnuts have fallen on the ground at the Dipper Ranch and they're all pecked open by birds. There will be no walnut harvest party this year.  It must be the four-year drought. The walnut trees leafed out in June this year - two months late. It must be climate change.
 The Dipper Ranch walnut trees in December:
Here's a few thousand walnuts on the ground for you. Sorry, dropped them in their husks this year. And it's going to rain soon so you better pick them up before they mold. Isn't climate always changing?