We hear from friends and family all the time that we are “living the dream”! Well, although we love what we are doing, the reality is that the dream is a lot of really hard work. We are quite often exhausted – either hot, cold, muddy, wet or sometimes all of the above – at the same time. The weather doesn’t always cooperate but we like to be prepared.
Sometimes we are just overwhelmed by what is on our plate each day but we tend to be ‘doers’ so this is working for us. We are not hiring people to do the work here since that would be about as enjoyable as having someone else chew our food for us. There is nothing as satisfying as growing the food you eat and eating food you’ve grown. There is a slight difference in these two concepts which I’ll explain later.
So yesterday was one example of living the dream. I rushed off to my day job, hit all my job sites, made all of my phone calls/e-mails before landing back at the farm just in time to get some blueberry picking done before the heat index rose above tolerable limits. Actually, the heat index can rise above in-tolerable limits too, but this was not one of those days – although it was too hot out to let Farley join us. After all, he is the KING of Seven Oaks!
So I headed out with Dave, who was going to weed while I picked berries since it was too wet to do much else in the fields.
I started picking in my favorite row which has an abundant amount of very large fruit on every bush. Besides the pushy bird population that wants some action in the blueberries, we have an active black snake population (can you see where this is going?) that has been seen slithering thru the patch as well as other areas of the farm. We have regular sitings of them everywhere and so have been reminded to be aware of our surroundings and wear boots rather than flip flops! Here is a black snake checking out the patch earlier this spring.
So, as I got to the end of the row I noticed a lot of flies and a distinct rotting odor. Phew! Upon further investigation, I found a black snake had gotten caught up (impossibly so as it turned out) in our bird netting. It had died and was rapidly decomposing in the heat. This type of situation demands instant attention. This is what he looked liked, poor fellow.
I say, ‘poor fellow’ since these snakes are known for their appetite for small rodents and most farmers like us have no issue with their presence and exist peacefully with them. Seven Oaks has a long history of black snakes since one of our carpenters found the skin of one wrapped around a can light in the attic when we were doing the initial work on the house. I proudly kept the skin in a box for proof of our bravery after learning that we had snakes in the attic but this is old news by now since I’ve photographed the snakes a bunch over the last couple of years.
So, what started out as a lovely blueberry picking session ended with a gruesome adventure of ridding the net of the decomposing snake. Not to be too explicit, but I gathered an arsenal of disposable rubber gloves, a sharp serrated knife (think snake skin) and a long handled pliers as well as a shovel. Dave and I did the necessary surgery to cut the carcass free of the net (preserving the net at all costs!) and disposed of the parts in the woods, hoping that the flies would follow him there. We had this same issue last year with a black snake in the netting so it was a rather familiar experience but not for the faint of heart since the flies were buzzing around us all the while. Unfortunately, after dumping him in the woods, Dave was stung by a bee on the arm and had swelling, etc. to deal with. Luckily, no reaction besides redness and swelling that was addressed with ice. Just in case, tho, I was ready to go into emergency surgery mode with an improvised trach using a gift (with instructions!) from an undisclosed friend after my swarming episode last fall with Yellow Jackets.
So the blueberry picking was successful despite the snake and bee trauma. I also installed another deterrent to the bird population which we hope doesn’t look too low brow. It is a known fact that birds do not like to be around shiny material so I hung some tin foil plates to waffle in the wind.
It wasn’t the largest harvest we have had so far this year but I did manage to freeze 5 one pound packages of berries and had plenty for eating.
My other best news is that the barn swallow chicks are getting ready to leave the nest! At one point I spotted one missing and then now see they are all accounted for again. According to the books, the fledgelings will return for a week or so and still be fed by their parents. I also read that the third adult we saw in the vicinity of the nest yesterday could be a relative of the family and is just helping out. They are so cute! Here is a pic!
The last part of my report on ‘living the dream’ was an episode of deer chasing in the middle of the night. Picture me, in my nightie and boots, running around first the front and then the back at 3-ish a.m. with our trusty Cyclops flashlight trying to keep the deer from our precious crops! It should make for a good story for tomorrow’s blog!