Milk Snake

The other day, after days of releasing baby mice outside of the house, I saw a big snake moving in from the front planting bed towards the front deck. I called for the boys to come take a look. We had no idea what kind of snake it was. So I googled it and found this keen article on Cleveland.com about the 25 types of snakes that live in Ohio. The wife and I narrowed it down to milk, rat and fox snakes. I sent a message off to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park asking them to help me identify it. Turns out it’s a milk snake. The milk snake is a constrictor, meaning it squeezes it’s prey and swallows it whole, and their primary food is mice. So it is a very friendly animal to have in our yard. I’m hoping this two foot long snake eats up all the mice it can find around the perimeter of my house.

One note on the mice: number 12 and 13 baby mouse were caught and released last night. Ugh.

milk-snake

2′ long milk snake

 

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Milk Snake by front deck.

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Winter 2015 Photo Tour

It was such a beautiful morning I had to take 15 minutes and sneak outside to snap a few photos. The combination of snow, rain, and snow (and no wind) means that all the trees are retaining their white snow covered branches.

The landscape around the house truly is a winter wonderland.

Autumn Scenes & Honey Bottle Label

Autumn is in full swing.

Today we labeled our honey bottles. The labels look okay. There are some design changes I’ll make but those can wait until the next batch. We needed to get them labeled for tomorrow’s community yard sale.

Here are a few photos, including one of a frog that jumped out in front of the Rabbit the other day. It’s a northern green frog (Rana clamitans melanomawhich is can be found throughout Ohio. It’s fun discovering a “new to us” species on our land. Especially this large of an amphibian. One of these days I should do a book on all the animals we have on our land.

So many ideas, so little time.

Bee Wildflower Honey

Had to share my impromptu design for our honey jar labels.  I want to get them labeled for this weekend. There’s a village peddler’s day this weekend and I’m going to whore my wares in the center of town; selling honey alongside my old lawn mower and any trash to treasure stuff I can find in the basement or garage.

“bee” is our brand 🙂 I don’t know if anyone else is using that, but I’ll keep using it until someone tries to stop me (I generally always get what I want).

I drew the wildflowers using a photo I took earlier this year of flowers on our land. I don’t know what they are but they are yellow with red centers. There’s a photo on the blog somewhere.

The copy font is avant grade which is one of my all-time favorite fonts. The font choice, along with my black and white trace drawing kind of gives the label a retro 70’s vibe which I like a lot as a child of that decade (and the one after). We grew up in a classic 70’s house and they type of architecture is prevalent throughout the valley in which we live if you know where to look.

You know what’s really cool? Just like wine I’ve labeled the honey with the season, year, type and even which hive it came from. Honey never spoils, which makes it even better than wine. (We’re having a honey tasting later this fall, as a random side note – just like wine tasting!)

Available in 8oz and 4oz glass bottles, 100% of the proceeds from our honey sales go towards educating our kids, paying for our eco-friendly house, buying wildflowers and trees, and supporting our bees.

Seems legit, right?

Label for "bee" brand honey - includes hive, season and type information.

Label for our “bee” brand honey – includes hive, season and type information.

Dogwood Sawfly Larvae

The wife came into the house and informed me that some sort of white caterpillar was eating our red twig dogwoods by the driveway. What is with all these insects and caterpillars out here? I’m turning into an entomologist against my will.

So I went outside and this is what I saw:

It looked like only one branch of one red twig dogwood was affected so I snipped off the branch and dropped it in a pile of old dead leaves on the other side of the driveway. I went back inside and researched “white caterpillars of Ohio” and came up with ‘Dogwood Sawfly Larvae’ which makes sense since they are on my dogwood bushes. I’ll spare you all the details but they’re essentially harmless – the plant won’t die from them. They do damage but not enough to kill the plant, especially our large bushes. If I wanted to I could spray them with insecticidal soap or pick them off.

As I said, I chose just to cut off the offending branch they were living on.

One interesting note, their mid-life larval phase is when they are white – the whiteness makes them look like bird dropping, which camouflages them from predators.

Nature is cool.

P.S. Congrats to me, this is my 400th post! Somewhat befitting it’s a post talking about mother nature hating me.

Weasel

Saturday morning I was reading on the screen porch while we waited for a friend to call; we were going blueberry picking later. It was nice to be just sitting on the porch doing nothing for once. Life gets so busy and daunting we forget to just say “forget it” sometimes.

At some point though I looked up because there was a great commotion in the yard, over by the old dead cherry tree. Beneath the tree is a tuft of wild bushes, an island in the sea of our freshly mown yard. I heard a rabbit bleat out then saw one or two rabbits sprinting along the boxwoods. A baby rabbit circled all the way around and sprinted under the screen porch where I stood.

I looked out at the boxwoods and saw a weasel!

I didn’t even know we had weasels in Ohio. At first I thought is was a squirrel. But it was too low to the ground, and tail was too small, to be a squirrel. Plus it was super aggressive. I suppose it could have been someone’s escaped ferret. But I looked it up and there are a few species of weasels that are native to Ohio.

As the weasel retreated back to its island in the grass, all hell broke loose. At least six blue jays and even a cardinal all flocked to the dead cherry and started screaming out, letting everyone know a predator was afoot in the area. I don’t know if the weasel did get a rabbit or not but the birds worked hard to chase him off into the south meadow.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to snap a photo but here’s some Ohio weasel information from the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources. I would guess it was a short-tailed weasel, but I really don’t know. I’m going to sit down and make a list of all the animals we’ve seen on the land here. It’s really cool and unlike anything else.

All this information is from the Ohio DNR website: http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/species-guide-index

Long Tailed Weasel

Long-tailed weasels may be small, but they are very aggressive. They will even threaten animals much larger than themselves.

This weasel is very adaptable and can be found in all land habitats near water. Like most weasels, it is chiefly nocturnal, but can also be active by day. They can climb trees and swim, but most of their time is spent on the ground. They typically eat rodents, rabbits and birds, but in the summer they may also eat fruits and berries.

The long-tailed weasel is distinguished by its yellowish-white underparts and the black tip on the end of its long, bushy tail. The tail is about 50 percent of its total body length.

Long-tailed weasels exhibit delayed implantation. Copulation occurs in the summer, but the egg does not begin to develop until March, making the gestation period between 205 and 337 days. Litters of four to eight are born in April or early May.

photo from Ohio DNR website

photo from Ohio DNR website – keith and kasia moore

Short Tailed Weasel

This small furbearer is known as the short-tailed weasel, the ermine, or the stoat. It lives in open woodlands, brushy areas, grasslands, wetlands, and farmlands.

Ohio Status: Species of Concern

Like other weasels, the short-tailed weasel has a brown coat in the summer and white coat in the winter. They are small, measuring 7-13 inches in length.

This small furbearer inhabits open woodlands, brushy areas, grasslands, wetlands, and farmlands. They typically eat small mammals, including rabbits, chipmunks, voles, shrews, and mice.

Short-tailed weasels mate in the spring and early summer. A litter of four to eight young are born between April and May after a gestation period of about 280 days due to delayed implantation.

Short tailed weasel - photo from ohio DNR website

Short tailed weasel – photo from ohio DNR website – USFWS

Least Weasel

The least weasel is the smallest member of the weasel family and the smallest living carnivore.

Like other weasels, the least weasel has a brown coat in the summer and white coat in the winter. A distinguishing characteristic is that it does not have a black tip on the end of its short tail.

This weasel inhabits open areas such as meadows, marshes, brushy areas and agricultural fields. They typically eat mice and other rodents.

Most breeding occurs in the spring and late summer, although they may reproduce any month of the year, with more than one litter per year. Litters usually have four to five young.

photo from Ohio DNR website - Kevin Law

photo from Ohio DNR website – Kevin Law