The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Snake-friendly mulch


The last time I thought we had a copperhead in the yard, it turned out to be a water snake.  And this time, once again, I'm ashamed to say I stole half an hour of Mark's morning and tied up our free-range dog for what I was positive was a copperhead.  Only to discover, upon closer Snake under cardboardexamination of the photos, that our reptile turns out to be...a water snake.

The snake in question was hiding under some cardboard that I'd used to mulch between our blueberry bushes.  I ran out of tree leaves this spring and opted to just weigh the cardboard down with branches, which did a pretty good job keeping weeds down to a dull roar, but which seems to have mimicked a snake's preferred napping spot --- a cavity under a rock.  In hopes of growing some of my own mulch, I was out in the morning cool Thursday moving cardboard closer around the bases of the blueberries and sprinkling oat seeds in between, and I nearly patted this guy on the back before I knew he was present.

Moving a snake

Luckily for me, snakes are slow in cool weather, and this snake was the least aggressive water snake I've ever met.  Despite quite a bit of wiggling the hoe around, trying to get the snake to slither into a bucket for relocation, the snake only (finally) tried to strike when Mark took over the tool and got more aggressive at the snake-capturing campaign.  In the end, our visitor slithered away into the weeds and disappeared from view without seriously trying to bite anyone.

In retrospect, I'm not sure there's really much point in trying to capture and move a snake, even if it really is poisonous.  As Mark pointed out, we could have half a dozen around the yard without knowing it due to how skittish most snakes seem to be.  I just need to remember the basic farm rule --- when lifting something like that piece of cardboard, always lift away from you rather than toward you and assume there's a poisonous snake underneath.  (But do check the snake book one last time before calling in reinforcements since 67% of our copperhead sightings seem to turn into water snakes in the light of day....)

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I too would have though that was a copperhead.
Comment by Rys Waller Fri Aug 15 09:13:31 2014

Sad to say but if it looks like a copperhead in my garden it is. I have found a couple chicken snakes and sent them to a "better place." As you may guess, l don't like snakes of any kind although I will allow green garden snakes to slither away. I know most are harmless, even good at ridding area of pests.

I have never met a cookie I didn't like nor a snake I did.

Comment by Tom Sat Aug 16 07:57:06 2014

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