It was a snake! In my last Journal I puzzled over what had made Bubba so sick for two days and caused his front leg to swell up. Now I'm pretty sure that it was a cottonmouth snake. The evidence is circumstantial but true and was collected over the course of one of the worst days I've ever had.
The day was off to a bad start when I took the dogs out and was hit by a harsh blast of Japanese ligustrum (Ligustrum japonicum) perfume and pollen that burned my allergic eyes and filled me with a sense of crappiness. I take care of a family member who suffers from arthritis and needs help getting around. When I came back inside, one look at him and I knew that he was feeling beyond crappy. I rushed him to the Urgent Care Center where they determined he had pneumonia! They gave him IV's and treatments and after several hours they said he could go. Home at last, I helped him into bed and then took Bubba and Sue the Great Danes out for a walk and relaxing naps up on The Hill.
Just as I was settling into the lawn chair I noticed that both dogs were sniffing around something in the bushes. I guessed it was probably one of the really stupid baby armadillos that have been running around the place.. Since I didn't want them chasing creatures through the flower beds I went over and snapped on their leashes. As I stepped back something spongy squished under my heal with a wheezy gasp. Already off balance, I jumped up and away and landed semi-safely by rolling onto my side into a tangle of dog leashes and legs that helped cushion my fall.
Looking up I saw a huge snake coiled just a few feet away! "Huge" might not be the right word as it was actually only about two feet long but it was patterned in earth-tones that made it very difficult to see even when you know it is there. Even though it wasn't too huge, this was a very aggressive and ill-tempered snake - especially now since I stepped on it..
I scrambled to my feet, untangled the leashes and hustled the dogs back into the house. It took a few seconds to spot the snake when I returned but there it was - still coiled, hissing away and ready to strike. I noticed that it had a diamond shaped head and wondered if it was poisonous. It didn't go away but continued to hiss at me which is incredibly annoying after spending a long day at the Urgent Care Center so I inverted a flower pot over him and went inside to take a nap away from Nature.
I quickly fell asleep but was awakened a short time later by a sensation of something staring at me. I opened my eyes and, without the benefit of corrective lenses, saw what appeared to be Sue but with a huge round head. She felt squishy when I petted her and, when I got my glasses on, was alarmed to see that she actually did have a huge, badly swollen head. "SNAKE!" Apparently Sue had gotten too close and the snake bit her - probably on the lip or neck.
"OK, don't panic" I thought to myself as I started to panic. I called the veterinarian and then I called another because there's only one vet in town that has snake antivenom. It cost $500 per dose and another $90 for the clinic visit. "OK, don't panic" I told myself again as I looked for the car key that I couldn't find. "Where are the keys? WHERE ARE THE KEYS???" I yelled softly because I didn't want to wake up the very ill man trying to recuperate in the bedroom.
Then came the insight that "Even if I find the car keys, I can't I leave a sick man alone by himself while I spend hours at the Animal Urgent Care getting antivenom shots." Although this seemed like an excellent time to panic, the mood had passed. Instead of panic I was surprised to find that I was just really pissed off and decided the first thing I needed to do was stomp the hell out of that damn snake. Oh yeah and (more rationally) to determine just what kind of snake it was.
I walk outside and by the time I locate the snake I'm really furious because I deduced that this was the same snake that bit Bubba last month. The symptoms suffered by both dogs were exactly the same. The good news of course was that Bubba survived the bite. So there it was, still coiled and hissing. I suppressed my desire to stomp the creature to death because although that probably would have been emotionally invigorating, the thought of possible Karmic repercussions and potential of venomous bites caused common sense to kick in. I was still angry but the temper tantrum cleared my head and I formulated a plan. Armed with a shovel I march back up to The Hill where I find the snake still hissing. I guess I look fearsome because he begins to uncoil and slither away dragging a trail of innards that apparently had burst out when I stepped on it. My bad. Using the shovel I lightly killed him and buried the remains beneath a gardenia shrub after first taking photographs. I promptly email these to Steve who is a herpetologists for identification
Steve quickly identified it as a cottonmouth snake which, though venomous, rarely delivers lethal bites. An hour after returning home from Urgent Care and 50 minutes after the snake bite, I still haven't found the car keys but Sue seems to be OK and is sipping milk through her snake-swollen lips while the rest of us are, or are about to be, napping restfully. Two days later Sue's head was almost back to normal, I located the extra set of key and everyone is breathing easier thanks to antibiotics and a fine assortment of allergy and asthma medicines with evocative names, high-tech packaging and luxurious prices.
Although neither are fragrant, two of my favorite easy-growing shrubs are blooming now. Our area's native oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) produces huge clusters of white flowers that age to cream and then to rosy-green and finally to brown as they dry - they always look pretty whatever the color. It's more popular relative is the cousin the French of bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). This is the famous pH indicator shrub - its flowers are pink in alkaline soils, white in neutral (pH 7) soils and blue where its acid (they're blue in my garden), Both are very easy to propagate by simply rooting pieces of stem which I did last year. I have six new oakleaf hydrangeas that I planted around the place in April. A couple of them are already blooming!
In my Last Journal entry I was bummed out by late freezes we suffered again this year. One cold snap in April froze the flowers on the pomegranate tree (Punica granatum) which would mean another year with no fruit. Last week I noticed that the tree had produced another flush of flowers and I can see at least a few baby pomegranates! Planted near the pomegranate are some feijoa bushes that are also blooming which is not as pretty as you might think. The orange pomegranate blossoms do not color coordinate at all well with the pink and maroon feijoa (Feijoa sellowiana) flowers. The waxy feijoa flowers are edible being sweet and crunchy so bright red cardinal birds often visit to eat quantities of them which creates an even more incredible clash of color.
Up on The Hill the four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) are back and blooming and I'm very happy that many of the gladiolus (Gladiolus spp.) have survived for the second year. The garden lilies (Lilium hybrids) are just beginning to bloom now at the end of May (the first to open is a 'Sorbonne'). Most of the bearded iris (Iris germanica) are just finishing up now although I have some new varieties that have yet to bloom. Maybe they are late season bloomers so I'm hoping to see some spectacular orange, rose and white bearded iris in the next few weeks..
Actually I did make one exception and dragged the shivering frangipani (Plumeria spp.) into the living room so maybe I wasn't in a totally evil mood - mostly just lazy. Fortunately nothing actually died but several of the more tender plants did get messed up. The pineapple (Ananas comosus) plant that I grew from the top of a delicious organic piece of fruit sustained leaf damage as did new growth on the Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla). The potted papaya (Carica papaya) was totally killed except for a 2 foot chunk of the lower trunk that has recovered to sprout a tuft of new leaves. By May my attitude improved so I made up to them by treating all to a "topping off" of fresh potting soil washed down with long draughts of liquid fertilizer.
Most of the beds still need mulching and many of the trees and bushes need trimming. I'll get around to them eventually but I figure with the costs of gas and everything soaring the most effective and delicious use of my time would be to grow vegetables. I planted a few tomato plants up on The Hill and one in a container on the patio as insurance in case the others are trashed by deer or other vermin. I did the same with peppers - some up in the garden and several in containers. I have hot Hungarians, jalapeno and bell peppers in pots along with a big ahi pepper that Steve gave me. They're beautiful and I'm looking forward to enjoying fried peppers with tomatoes and eggs in the next few weeks.
I like eating salsa and chips for a healthy snack and this year I want to make my own (salsa, not chips). In addition to the tomato plants I'm growing garlic (Allium sativum), onions (Allium cepa Cepa Group) and cilantro (Coriandrum sativum). I had some roasted garlic salsa once that was good and I 'd like to make that too. A friend gave me some elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum, Ampeloprasum Group) that were growing well until an armadillo came and dug them up. I replanted them and it looks like they're going to survive so I have high hopes that they'll make it to maturity and into some salsa. I was surprised to learn from our Plant Profiles that elephant garlic is not the same species as regular garlic (Allium sativum) but rather is the same species as leeks (Allium ampeloprasum Porrum Group) which I also love (they're a cool weather crop, I plan to plant some of these this winter)
If you're having problems with the site or have suggestions for the new version of Floridata, FloriDazl or any of our new Member applications please Write Us and send them to me. I've saved dozens of ideas from our visitors and will incorporate them into the newest versions that I hope you'll begin seeing by mid-summer (if the snakes stay away).
Thanks for reading my Journal, visit Floridata often, tell your friends about us and be good and grow.
Click here for the archive of links to Jack's old Journals from 2001 - 2005