Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vote for 2010 Estate Walnut Label

Every year, we harvest English walnuts from the two grand trees behind the barn.  I give many of the walnuts away under the label of Happy Snake Ranch Walnuts.  Last year, we made a party out of it with guests, sunsetting, an appearance by the Deer Whisperer, and I boldly claimed that these are Estate Walnuts.

With the arrival of the 2010 storms, the walnuts are dropping and it is time to decide on the snake to be featured on this year's label.

The 2010 candidates are:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Warrior Celebrates End of Thistle Season

Impalement - another hazard of thistles.
I found this honey bee speared on a yellow starthistle spine while weeding in August 2009.
Hooray, it's the end of the thistle season.  I welcome the brief respite from digging, pulling and scowling at thistles.  Usually the first few rains of the wet season are modest, but today's storm was big enough to pound into the ground any seedheads still clinging to the brown thistle stems.  That's when I concede the battle for another year.  At least until the thistle seedlings start germinating in about six weeks.

It was a long and unusually cool summer and those thistles just kept blooming.  Long after the cattle left the Dipper Ranch and travelled on to the brussel sprout fields, the stockyard, or wherever their bovine destiny took them, the yellow starthistle plants kept putting out more dang-blasted, spiny blooms.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Travels with Nightsnake

California nightsnake.  Ranger E has a calm way with snakes.  She's observed that individual snakes often have uniquely shaped spots.  With careful photodocumentation of their spots, I may be able to tell the difference between future nightsnakes.
This is the third fall season I have found a nightsnake on the Dipper Ranch.  In October 2007, I had just moved onto the ranch and didn't know what a nightsnake was. Fortunately, something seemed odd about the small, brown-spotted snake in the springbox in those first few weeks, so we walked the dripping net back to the house to take photos.  With frequent reference to our burgeoning natural history library, I eventually learned to tell the difference between the 4 local brown-spotted snakes:  gopher snake, rattlesnake, nightsnake and juvenile yellow-bellied racer.