Observations on Country

By isak, July 4, 2010


Having just spent a couple hours pushing the lawn mower around the backyard on this 90-degree sunny, humid day, I have to offer my kudos as I always do to the ones who invented air conditioning and freezer pops. AC and freezer pops are the great equalizers when I walk into the house with a soaring core temperature and clothes completely soaked through with sweat. Nothing like hitting the cool air in the house, slipping into dry clothes and sucking down several freezer pops. Those inventors should surely be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

And Diego loves the freezer pop box.

We had a few soaking rains over the past days… spin offs from Hurricane Alex. The rainfall was enough that the little pond in the backyard spilled over it’s banks and I had fish swimming in new places. Not an unusual happening. Fish get so excited when the boundaries of their environment expand and they rush for the edges so they can see just how big it is. Actually we received so much rain in short amounts of time that we had some minor flooding that ran off and soaked in fairly quickly.

The fish I have in my ponds are gifts from the gods, I guess. They appear on their own and proliferate like rabbits. First time I saw them, I thought, “Great, more mouths to feed.”

They are mosquito fish. They eat mosquito larva, so they are a benefit to a pond. They keep the mosquito population in check as far as the pond goes. Of course, they attract frogs which attract snakes and the water in general attracts dragonflies and birds and squirrels. Keep that in mind if you ever decide you want a pond.

I discovered several fish in an area the dogs had dug beside the house. It was a fairly long hole and maybe 6-8 inches deep. I made a mental note to check the area today when the water level was down a bit and the fish would be easier to catch. I really wasn’t sure what I would do about the bazillion tadpoles that were also in this hole. I was rather wishing I had not even noticed the fish or the tadpoles. There is bliss in ignorance.

Last night, I noticed a large toad around the area. The frogs and the toads seem to be incredibly large this year. I mean big enough you could trip over them. What’s up with that?

I let Boogee out last night for his usual evening romp in the yard. This is a fairly new habit he has. He goes out after dark and explores the yard. Not far from the front porch and the light. A couple times, I had to rescue a crawdad from his frenzy. Once I put a bucket over a frog to protect him from Boogee only to later find that the frog had somehow crawled out from under. Last night, Boogee appeared at the door rather abruptly. It seemed a bit odd so I let him in. He limped in holding one paw up. Because of his odd mixture of lab and basset hound, he has slightly deformed front legs. His wrists are prone to getting tired if he runs too much. But I had not noticed him running and he was not panting. But he sure wanted my attention.

I got down on the floor and he crawled into my lap, but he was restless and would not settle. Several of the other dogs seemed to sniff at him as though there was a strange smell to him that I did not notice. He did not like this attention and really snapped pretty hard at them. I have never seen this behavior from him. Oddly, he did not snap at the cats when they did the same thing.

I looked his foot and leg all over with a flashlight — he’s so black, you can’t see anything without extra light. I still saw or felt nothing. Finally, I decided to just take him to bed to see if that would settle him. With computer in hand so I could watch a movie, we went to bed. About halfway through the movie, I checked his foot again… and finally the answer to his problem was surfacing. His foot was swelling up — snake bite. Probably a copperhead. I have coral snakes, but their mouths are so small that they would have to bit a toe to make an impact or so it seems. By the time the movie was over, his foot was so swollen it looked like a balloon. His toes were spaced widely apart with his nails sticking at in all directions. His wrist was regular sized, but the swelling started again above that point and was working it’s way up his leg.

It’s been my experience that the face is almost the best place for a dog to get snake bit. Maybe because there is less tissue to get involved. It’s different with each dog and the situation is a bit of a wait and see thing.

Boogee is doing much better today. Limping, but using his leg. The swelling in his foot has gone down, but the swelling in his leg is still evident. This can sometimes take a while to go away. He was a bit hesitant to go outside this morning and did not go far from the porch, so I have no idea where he encountered the snake. Hopefully not close by.

After breakfast, I went back to the area out back where the fish had moved to. The water was almost all gone. I cannot believe how dry the ground must have been to have absorbed all the water overnight. I found a couple pockets with very little water and bunches of tadpoles jockeying for space… and only two fish. I wonder if that frog I saw last night looked at those fish and thought, “DINNER.” I wonder if he just waited for the water level to go down and scooped up the fish as the floundered out of water. I have no idea. There were no little fish bodies.

I rescued everything moving and transferred them back to the big pond.

I left the city for the country 17 years ago — for the simplicity, for the peace and tranquility, but there is certainly a lot of activity among the various species that I could easily not notice. But once I see it, I realize the country is just as crazy busy as the city, but in a different way. The city is full of the sounds of cars and people and the noise associated with that. Stepping outside on a warm summer evening after a rain, the sounds of the frogs and cicada and such is practically deafening. Other nights, the quiet is so large it seems deafening if you can imagine.

But I so prefer the country and all the abundance it affords me. It never ceases to amaze me.

I found this caterpillar yesterday — a Spilosoma virginica, I think. It’s the first time I have ever seen one of these. Not hard to miss. And pretty cool looking, wouldn’t you say?

What do you think?

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