The noisy end of a visitor on our homestead
Last week we sold Melody and Harmony, our newest mama goat and her little kid. Right now milking three goats every morning and evening is more than we wish for while setting up this new homestead. We sold them, along with sweet little Evenstar (the tiny one of Jody’s triplets) to a young family. This happened the same day Misty died, so there was more than one sad farewell. Things on the homestead are not always happy.
The big push right now is building fence. Before we switched campers Silver Oak had finished the fence for the runway from the paddocks to the barn to move the goats, chickens and horse into so we could remove fence around our living area. It has been wonderful not stepping in undesirables going out to the vehicles. But for over a week the animals have been cooped up in that small area, consuming a lot of hay. Not healthy for the pocketbook.
The runway to the barn
Last week Silver Oak started new fence along the northern perimeter of the property between the two cross fences where our living area is. The boundary dispute is now settled (PTL!), and we can work freely without irritating our neighbor. We’ve had a few friendlier encounters with him this week, which is an answer to prayer!
The former fence wound around palmettos in the path of least resistance, but was far from the perimeter and did not prevent our dogs from making visits away from home. The new fence is just six inches or so on our side of the line, and will have barbed wire for cows and horses as well as 2 x 4 wire to keep smaller animals like dogs, goats, and guinea fowl in.
Palmettos and brush had to be cleared along the fence row to install the new fence. By lining up the surveyor’s stakes Silver Oak made a straight path between the two cross fences by clearing with his machete. It was about 200 yards (183 meters) long, and took about 1/2 day to clear. The next day he strung a line from one end to the other and used his fence post auger to drill the holes and set all the posts in place. The auger was purchased last fall at half price from someone who had fenced their property. I was amazed how quickly a hole could be drilled: in 15 seconds. Then the manual fence post digger removed excess dirt before dropping the post in.
After the post is placed in the hole the dirt gets packed around it...this is a big job requiring little helpers...ha! In the background is one of the neighbor's fences.
Barbed wire is added
The posts were left over from a bundle we purchased years ago when fencing on our old property. They were much cheaper by the bundle, and they’re a blessing now. We have barbed wire and 2 x 4 wire from previous purchases as well, although not enough.
Next, Silver Oak got right at it clearing the path for fence from the second cross fence to the back corner of our property. That is around 400 yards (366 meters) through untouched wilderness and lots of thick palmetto patches. He admittedly had dreaded the job, but our animals can’t be released into their paddocks until that fence is in. The patches were so thick and high it was impossible to see over or through them, and he continually referred back to the surveyor’s stakes to stay lined up.
The back corner was behind two big trees, so I hiked back there to help hold up a marker till he could break through the brush and get it cleared enough to string his line. It was warm, and I kept praying the Lord would protect him (us) from snakes. And He did! The entire fence row was cleared and about 365 yards (334 meters) of posts in before we saw our first rattlesnake on this new homestead!
Monday morning Silver Oak went out after breakfast to remove staples from the former winding fence to transfer the barbed wire to the newly placed fence posts. He was removing the first staple less than 100 yards (91 meters) from the house when from the brush three yards away came the sound of a nervous rattlesnake!
Our mini horse Hunter who was killed by a rattlesnake four years ago
This is a familiar sound because at our old house nearly four years ago a diamondback rattler killed our mini-horse named Hunter. That was a sad day! Several days later its mate showed up. Fortunately Silver Oak was able to kill them both.
Monday he ran back to the house for a pitch fork and his machete, calling for the children to stay put and me to help! Groan! I wanted to make sure he didn’t get hurt, but help? I grabbed my camera and boots and headed out. He had me hold a very long stick to distract the snake while he stuck in into the ground with the pitchfork…he thought. Unfortunately the coiled snake somehow wriggled out and slipped down a nearby tortoise burrow. Bummer!
The snake got away, but it was a blessed visit, because it got us moving on our rattlesnake emergency plan. Even if we’d killed it, there are constant opportunities for meeting rattlesnakes around here. In fact, the old-timers call this area “Rattlesnake Crossing!” And now is one time of year they are on the move.
Isn’t that so normal…waiting till something bad or nearly bad happens to get us moving in making preparations? We meant to have everything in place, but…other things kept us busy. Now we’re again reviewing with the children how to avoid rattlesnake encounters, such as always wearing boots outside of our immediate living area, never entering or touching a bush or stack of wood or boxes without first kicking it or stomping around a bit (they don’t have good ears but feel vibrations), and taking a dog along into the bush or woods.
If a rattlesnake is encountered remember they can only strike 2/3 their body length. They may or may not rattle in warning before striking. They are afraid of humans and will generally strike only if they feel threatened, more likely retreating when possible. If it’s too close, freeze and call for help, moving slowly away only when the snake is distracted.
What is our plan in the event someone gets bitten? It is 45 minutes to a medical facility unless we break the speed limit which we probably would. We’ve learned much since Hunter died, but are still learning all we can. Getting the facts and a plan makes it not nearly so scary. That’s true preparing for any emergency. Fear is greater when no plan is in place.
Silver Oak attempts to "fork" the snake hiding under the bush
First, we tell our children a person who is bitten must hold still to keep the poison from spreading. Excitement speeds up the destruction. The bite should be kept below their heart level. If a limb is bitten something can be wrapped around it above the bite, but loosely enough that two fingers can be placed underneath. A cool wet cloth can be placed on the bite.
We are looking into methods used by missionary doctors in other countries where poisonous snakes are prevalent and antivenin is not readily accessible. Antivenin has its drawbacks too. In each vehicle we have sting suction kits we’ve often used to extract the venom of wasps, and they are useful for snake bites as well. But that’s not enough. Missionary doctors have saved many lives by using DC shock treatment even after swelling and tissue damage had begun. You can read more for yourself here.
We previously planned to purchase the battery-run venom neutralizers used by JAARS missionaries till we found instructions for doing it with a small engine. We still need to learn a lot more before we’d be ready to try it, and we’re trying to communicate with those that are experienced. The idea is to treat bites with shock and get medical help as quickly as possible.
The rattlesnake story is not over. Silver Oak had not grabbed his gun Monday because it was locked and he was afraid by the time he got the key and ammo the snake would disappear. He opted for a pitchfork but later learned a good shovel is the best when a gun is not available. Now he keeps his .22 nearby when working in the bush.
Yesterday after a lunch break Silver Oak headed back out to work on fence. Soon Hershey, our black lab mix, started barking her serious bark with hair standing up on end. When she barks like that we listen. Our encounter with the rattlesnakes four years ago seemed to give her a severe hatred of snakes. She is too nice to strangers to be a good guard dog in that way, and doesn’t have a clue about herding the animals like Laddie, our Australian Shepherd, but she makes up for it by being a good snake watchdog.
Silver Oak dropped everything and ran for his gun. There in the palmettos was the snake (or another like it). He shot it and cut off its head (dangerous even when dead). It was a five foot Eastern Diamondback. I’m against killing animals without good reason, but with a family this is too dangerous. Yeah Silver Oak! And yeah Hershey!
Silver Oak shoots the rattler
He slid a board under its head before cutting it off
Hershey is congratulated for her faithfulness. Even when the snake was dead she hated it.
After the head was buried we had an instant biology lesson. The bigger girls cut the snake open and found six eggs. We killed not one snake, but seven! They found the heart still beating, and various other internal organs. Gross! I would have buried the thing, but if our children want to learn I don’t want to squelch it. My dad was a biology teacher, so I guess they inherited his interest (he taught me how to dissect frogs when I was little…yuck!).
Again we thank the Lord for His protection. Monday the snake was right beside a “fort” the two youngest children made the other day while Silver Oak was doing fence nearby. They had left a clipper and holster in their fort and had run back out the next morning to get them. Shiver! And yesterday it was only 15 yards from our house! I feel protected.
If you have any advice about rattlesnakes or snake-bites, please pass it on. We need all we can get!
Linked w/Frugally Sustainable , Barn Hop, Growing Home, Live Renewed, Our Simple Farm, A Rural Journal, Simple Lives Thursday, My Simple Country Living, Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.
PS. Those girls of ours skinned that snake and cooked it for dog food. Disgusting! But I am proud of their resourcefulness. And the dogs love it!