Thunderstorms, huge garter snake, magnolias

right outside my writing window, perfuming the yard

5/28/11

We had heavy thunderstorms for about three hours today, gradually waning for another hour, and about 3-5 inches of rain! The garden loved that! I had Emily, the Great Pyr’s, food ready to bring to her between storms, but it just never let up! Becky, our Aussie, was under my feet every step I took. I wish she could tell me about her previous two years of life before we welcomed her from Australian Shepherd Rescue. She’s terrified of storms, yet she, in her younger years, could move a flock of sheep without blinking–not a twinge of apprehension in the face of a lot of huge, determined and beavy animals. Finally the thunder seemed distant, so I put on the huge yellow slicker Dirk uses outside, and my old beat-up garden Birkinstocks to wade in, and slushed off to the barn, splashing in the running water like I  had done when I was a child. One positive thing about living in NC is that you can get wet and not get cold!

When Emily saw me coming, she started barking her protective bark, the hair raising along her back, even though she was dripping. When I spoke to her, she recognized me, wagged her tail and all was well. She slowly and carefully walked down the hill, which is not her usual style, but she knew she’d spook the sheep if she ran down to the barn for shelter. What amazing genetic selection, thousands of years ago, produced these guardian dogs. I’d no more leave my Aussie in the pasture with my sheep than I’d play in traffic!

When I got to the barn gate, lo and behold there was the largest garter snake I’ve ever seen stretched out in a lazy “S” there, just above water level in the trickling gutter we carefully maintain to keep the water out of the barn. The big yellow hood partly covered my face, so I didn’t see him until I was one step from his tail! He perceived me at the same time I saw him, and took off in a flash under the large black water tub. “Go and be well,” I called after him. “Any garter snake your size has been feasting on mice and rats in the barn, and I hope you continue to enjoy your meals here!”  I didn’t know they got to be four feet long–but this one was! Fat, too! Amazing!

Before I stepped inside the barn for a pat of hay, I looked for the copperhead that hang out there last year. I never could connect a shovel to it.  That’s the only snake on the place that’s not welcome. Anything that can put us or one of our animals in physical danger has no place here.

Entering the barn, I put Emily’s food down at the side where she won’t be in the way of the sheep milling around grazing on the huge bucket of greens I’d trimmed from alongside the various gardens before the storm. No sense wasting the good graze–I can’t very well let them graze in the garden! Well, they’d enjoy that…  I didn’t need to bring down an ice block today for their water bucket–the storm cooled things down nicely. I left the fan going, though, to circulate the damp air. I love to see them standing in front of it, with the breeze blowing on their faces, and the ice just below the fan, cooling the air a bit. Even sheep like cool water on a hot day. OK–I spoil my sheep. You already knew that, right?  🙂

I tucked Emily’s chicken chew, which I usually give her as I leave the pasture at the top gate, sticking out the front of the dog feeder for her to find it, and remind her there’s more food in there if she wants it. It’s a relief not to have the aggressive Border Leicesters here now to eat the dog food out of that feeder. I can’t imagine they liked it–I think it was a dominance thing–I can, so I will take this!

By the time I had filled their inside water bucket, the thunder was rolling again, and I walked up the slippery hill as quickly as I dared to,  my heart thudding as I hurried up toward the gate. We’ve had lots of lightening strikes out here, and it frightens me to be outside in a thunder storm. I also know that a fall after a hip replacement can be dangerous, so I have to watch out in mud and wet grass. Besides–I had just realized I’d left my cell phone in the house, so would have had no way to call for help, which is exactly what had happened to Dirk last year when he broke his hip out there. (Don’t tell Dirk–I’m after him all the time about this!) I can blame my forgetfulness on the thunder storm…  As I looped the chain over the top of the gate, I smelled the perfume from the magnolia tree, which is loaded with blooms now. One of those blooms perfumes my kitchen.

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Filed under dogs, gardening, sheep, Uncategorized, wildlife

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