Hold My Snake and Pullet

One of our projects on the road to self sufficiency was a chicken house. Fresh eggs and fresh chicken without all of the ick in commercially-raised eggs and poultry sounded awesome. We turned an old shed into a freakin’ sturdy chicken fortress. We could almost use it as a guesthouse for extra company. … Hmmm.

After pouring concrete, adding plywood and siding, we were ready to shop for chicks. Pullets, to be exact. Little girly chickens.

20130730-143800.jpg

Working concrete is HARD! It’s so uneven, the girls get dizzy running across the room.

A trip to the local farm store later, we had 20 feathery little crap factories. They stayed in a big wooden box under a heat lamp. In my sunroom. Off the kitchen. I never knew such cute little things could be so disgusting. They pooped in their food, water, and on each other.

Cute and smelly

Cute and smelly

And they were terrified of us. It makes sense. They were infants in their most formative time being chased around store cages by grabby little-kid hands. Big featherless monsters daily squeezed them half to death with love.

The temperature warmed up outside and the girls were old enough to forgo the heat lamp, so they moved to their castle. Okay, they could have stayed inside for a while longer, but they were stinking up my house!

My husband was out of town for work. (Attention creepy stalker types:  I’m well armed with a dog who strongly dislikes strangers. The vet cringes when we show up.) I carried the chicks in a plastic container to the coop.

“Here ya go, girls! Your new home. What do you think?”

“Cheep, cheep.”

“I know, right?! It’s awesome.” I was pretty excited for them.

A chick's home is her castle

Queen Buffy and the Rhode Island Reds. Sounds like a band.

As I left them to explore and fight over who gets what bedroom, I looked at the gap in the peak of the roof. I had told my husband we should cover it before he left. A snake could slither down from the shade tree overhead. He didn’t think snakes were that smart. I’ve seen enough nature shows to know better.

The next morning, I opened the coop door and walked in. “Good morning, my chicky babies! … NOOOOOOO!” One of my girls was lying on the floor, unmoving. I looked around and found five more. My heart was breaking; I nearly burst into tears.

I gathered them up for a proper burial and hung them in a Lowe’s bag in the shade tree. Then I searched for the culprit. Nothing. There was no trace of the perpetrator. There was no crack big enough for the fox family, or any other critter, to have entered through. (Oh, yes. We built a KFC near a fox den. But our neighbor’s chickens were feeding them well. I figured ours were safe.)

I called the game warden and she came out. After examining everything just like I did, she too was stumped. The odd thing was that there were no teeth marks on the bodies, and two chickens had slobbered-up heads. We figured mammalian. We figured wrong.

A couple of hours later, I came to check on the survivors. Everyone looked content. Then I saw movement in one of the high nesting boxes. That’s when I saw the jerk who killed my babies. A very big rat snake.

I sprinted to the house to get my gun. Praying. “Don’t let it get ‘em. Please, God, don’t let it get ‘em!”

Normally, I favor relocation of pests. I moved an entire scorpion colony, for goodness sake. But I knew I couldn’t wrestle that 6-foot son of a b1t@h by myself.

Gun pulled from the safe, I sprinted back, hopped up on adrenaline and the need to save my defenseless chicks. I stopped outside the door. Cocked the gun. Jerked open the door.

Amazingly, he was still a few inches from the floor. (I must be faster than I thought!) He was slithering down in stealth mode to sneak up on my girls. Bastard.

I stepped inside. The girls ran to the corner after I barged in.

BANG!

Direct hit, a few inches from his head. That didn’t stop him from moving. He swung his head from side to side, mouth open, silently screaming at me for ruining his meal. And his day.

He had snaked his was through the chicken wire part of the door to ease himself to the floor. (See what I did there? Snaked his way to….never mind.) The bullet hole swelled his wound enough that he was stuck.

STUCK!

STUCK!

My boys ran outside. “Mom! What did you shoot?!”

“Huh?”

TV programs show people shooting indoors, but they do a serious disservice by not showing the inhabitants of the room going deaf. I instantly lost half of my hearing. Except for the ringing. It was like wearing earplugs and plunging my ringing head underwater.

I pointed to the snake. “Stay here,” I probably yelled at them. “Don’t go in. I have to get my earplugs and finish the job.”

I’m not a long-distance runner, definitely more of a sprinter. If ever chased by zombies, I’d have to sprint from cover to cover to stay alive. A former-marathon-running walker would get me in a quarter mile. Or less.

Ears plugged, I ran back. “Cover your ears, boys!”

I stepped in the coop and delivered a head shot. My baby girls were saved! Now to remove the body.

It's still moving!

It’s still moving!

I grabbed the creep by the tail, its muscles still moving under my hand. I pulled. He really was stuck. I pulled harder, ripping scales. My dad later told me the old saying that you don’t handle a dead snake until the sun goes down. That’s because their reflexes remain for about 12 hours. They can still bite when they’re dead. Creeps.

I threw the snake into the yard for the buzzards and called the game warden. Here’s the theory: The snake entered through the ceiling and hid in the nesting shelf until I found it. He was probably inches from our heads when we investigated. *shudder*

But its behavior doesn’t make sense. We still can’t figure out why the snake would kill six without eating them. Snakes normally just catch one and eat it, right? Then get another if it’s still hungry? I’ve been told snakes this size can eat a full-grown chicken. Everyone I ask is baffled.

The boys and I had a nice little ceremony in our new pet cemetery.

Here lie the bodies of our six chicks. That evil snake has crossed the river Styx.

Here lie the bodies of our six chicks. That evil snake has crossed the river Styx.

And I fixed the roof.

Me on a hot tin roof

Me on a hot tin roof

But don’t get me started on the copperhead stories. Those will come later.

Zombies and Red Hill

Why did I move from the relative safety of a small town to the slithering-est patch of land we could find? Zombies. That’s right. Zombies.

We all know it’s going to happen sooner or later. Right? … Anybody?

Worrie? They'll be safe for sure.

Worrie? They’ll be safe for sure.

While I’m not one of those doomsday preppers, I would like to be ready for anything. Self-sufficiency is the goal.

When the end of normal, rational civilization ends, I plan to be ready. It could be a governmental smack-down for whatever reason (I’m not political, so whatever), a foreign invasion, or good ol’ flesh-eating, walking corpses.

Attention neighbors (yes, we have relatively close neighbors in the country): I will shoot you in the noggin if you try to eat us. I’m a darn good shot with a hand-gun and rifle. The compound bow is waiting in the garage for me to be Katniss. I’ve got a crossbow like Chewbacca or Daryl Dixon (with his overly-styled hair for a redneck). And my son has an awesome sling-shot. We WILL be creative with projectiles. WE are NOT on the menu!

ImageImageImage

As for feeding my family, I have a hen-house full of egg-laying sweetie pies. I would hate to have to eat any of my girls. But sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. I can just imagine my conversation with a non-producing chicken. “Come on, Buffy. Try a little harder…PUSH! … Or I’ll be forced to cook you.” (She’s a Buff Worthington and very brave. So I named her after Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

Image

My garden is full of very tall things. Some of them are even producing vegetables. (How did people eat every day before grocery stores?!)

We planted 5 fruit trees. One is still alive and another is alive-ish.

We live close to a creek and river full of catfish and gar. (If we catch another gar, I’m going to COOK IT! If it’s nasty, I’ll blog about it. I’m sure the story will be ridiculous, so it’ll be here anyhow.)

My first catch of the season. And it was delicious!

My first catch of the season. And it was delicious!

Once we get the pipe fence built, we’ll have a few head of cattle. (Wait a minute. If there are only four of us, what are we going to do with an entire cow and no freezer? Okay. Bad idea. We’ll just have the cattle for non-apocalyptical meals.)

And if all else fails, I’ll eat the friggin’ copperhead snakes that keep hiding in my chicken house!

My latest trespasser.

My latest trespasser.

I know I’m not the only one to fantasize about what to do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. For instance, I know Jamie McGuire does the same thing. She even wrote a book about it. Her zombie book, Red Hill, is scheduled to be released in October. The cover reveal is today! I totally recommend it. (Yeah, I scored an advanced copy! YEEHAW!)

Seriously, when this book comes out, y’all better go get it. During the Walking Dead’s vacation, I NEEDED my zombie fix! I was engrossed in Red Hill, stumbling around like the undead with my nose in the book. (“Mom, what’s for dinner?” “Uuuuurrrrhhhhhmmmmmm.” <— That’s my distracted, sounds-like-a-zombie reply.)

My Kindle got steamed while I cooked, toted in my purse wherever I went, and sunburned while I was outside. The story’s totally realistic…you know, besides the zombie part. The main character did a lot of things that I would do. Of course, I would be a total bad ass tough momma like Scarlet in Red Hill.

In conclusion, I may be a little paranoid, but who’s gonna survive longer? Hmm? Blame it on my overactive imagination. That’s why I’m a writer, after all. I recommend that you be ready for anything, too, and READ RED HILL!

Settings and Scorpions

I grew up on a 5-acre plot on the edge of town. Behind were wheat fields, in front was town. I had the best of both worlds. Vegetable garden, horses, rabbits, the occasional bottle-fed calf and soon-to-be-supper steer. (Stanley burgers were the best! Yes, I’m a carnivore!)

After getting married, we lived inside city limits in a nearby town. Blech. I wanted out. I wanted our kids out. We finally found the perfect place outside our very small hometown. Like 50 kids in my graduating class small…one stoplight small…one good place for dinner small–and it’s only open 3 days a week! And it’s barbecue. (Best BBQ anywhere!) Behind our property is the Corps of Engineers wildlife refuge. A hike through a forest of poison everything (ivy, oak, sumac) leads to a wide creek then the river.

 Boys Forest
Little did I know, we had moved into the wild kingdom. Our first discovery was a scorpion colony. My eight-year-old found it when moving some bricks.

Striped Bark Scorpion - Centruroides vittatus

Striped Bark Scorpion – Centruroides vittatus

Who did he yell for? Mom. That’s right. Mom to the rescue, work gloves and long tweezers in hand. While Dad and the boys watched, I picked up each brick, plucked a scorpion from it, and put it in the jar. There were 10! Right outside my back door!

We relocated them far from the house on corps land. In a nice, shady, rocky place. We dumped them and ran!

Live long and prosper, creeps.

Then I found a dead scorpion in the laundry room. I hoped and prayed that it came in on the bottom of my boot. For weeks, I opened that door like I was special ops surveying the room for hostiles. That must have scared any others away. Never saw one again.

Contemplatin’

What am I contemplating, you ask? I must be crazy for moving into the critter-infested country with two curious little boys. It is my mission to turn these town kids into country boys AND keep them alive…while not making them inside kids. I hear they sell anti-venom kits at Walmart.