Saturday, July 2, 2011

Spearmint Tea and Carpenter Bees

Carpenter Bee on Salvia, Indigo Spires

Carpenter Bee on Salvia, Indigo Spires

The snake tragedy described in the previous entry left me discomfited and a little headachy.  I need some mint tea. Happily, despite the parching weather, my garden is verdant with spearmint.  

According to my herbal, besides being delicious, mint is useful for alleviating disturbed feelings and headaches, and in restoring strength -  an excellent remedy!  There is also a bit about mint’s relieving flatulence and aiding the flow of bile, but let’s move on.

We just had the hottest June on record and this drought, also a record-breaker, shows no sign of ending.  There have been no butterflies visiting.  Only a black and red milkweed bug crawls over the tall milkweed.  The activity this morning is among the salvias where carpenter bees are nuzzling the purple blossoms. 

I’m walking to the opposite side of the garden where we have a 3 ft x 7ft raised vegetable bed.  The golden cherry tomatoes have been a delight all month.  I can’t resist popping a few of those jewels in my mouth.  Here is the mint, growing in subterranean pots, untroubled by the heat.  I gather a basketful.

Back in the cool, shady house,  I stuff leaves into a pot, add boiling water, and let it steep for a while.  The fragrance of mint fills the house. The resulting brew is a lovely greenish-gold.  In this hot weather, iced tea is the way to go.  I decant my concoction over crushed ice and crunch in a straw.  Refreshing!  
Spearmint Tea steeping.

After posing for this picture, the mint tea was served over ice!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Snake Killed by Air Conditioner

Side of body and top of head:  Rat Snake killed by Air Conditioner

This is distressing.  I was working in the yard before it got dark.  Evening sounds included birds, cars, chirping frogs, barking dogs and the ubiquitous drone of air conditioners.  Suddenly there was a sharp clanging of rattling metal coming from my air conditioner.  Did my AC unit have a tin can trapped inside with the fan blade?   I was horrified to see that there was an ANIMAL inside the unit.  A snake was being tossed like a pizza by the whirling fan.  Each time the snake’s body slammed against the top of the housing, a flurry of scales and skin would blow out  before he fell back, banging among the spinning blades.  

Aaaaaaa!!!   Panicking, I ran into the house to turn off the electricity, then I raced back outside.  When I returned to the air conditioner, I saw that the poor, broken snake had somehow managed to climb to a metal lip above the blades.  He was curled up, dead.  Seeing his injuries, I cannot imagine how he achieved that final, excruciating climb.  With a coat hanger, I extricated him - like pulling a sad thread through a needle.

Why had he gone in there?  Was he looking for shade, moisture, food, or a rough place to shed skin?   A green anole ( Anolis carolinensis) hangs out in that AC unit.  Maybe the snake was after the anole.  I called our air conditioning service company and asked how this tragedy could be prevented in the future.   I was told that it could not be avoided.   I hate that answer.  The AC technician said that insects, bugs, lizards and shed snake skins are not unusual to find when they perform service on these units.  

I have looked my copy of A Field Guide to Texas Snakes, by Alan Tennant and I think this may be a rat snake, Elaphe spp.   Dear Readers, some of you are experts on Texas snakes.  Please look at the grim photos and identify this unfortunate young ‘un.  Post your identification in the comments for all to see. Thanks!
Dorsal view of his markings:  Rat Snake killed by the Air Conditioner
Ventral view of head and tail:  Rat Snake killed by the Air Conditioner
If his back had not been broken in two places, he might be about 29" long. Poor Snake:  killed by the Air Conditioner Fan.