Saturday, May 8, 2010

Just Another Day in Critter Country

A bobcat walked by the door at dawn and trotted down the hill and off the property as I reached for a camera. Nice way to begin a day. Frank came over to spray the vines and as we discussed sharpshooter activity (making an executive decision to do the treatment next week to keep the bugs away) two daredevil hummingbirds split the three feet of space between us traveling so fast we couldn't see them, their sonic buzz and chirps the only evidence of their stunt. (Had the birds grown up watching movies of the pilot who flew under the Arch de Triomphe in Paris? Were these the same birds that starred in the movie Pocahontas?) We looked at each other and said, "Whoa."

The crazy lady managed to persuade the gophers on her side of the fence to infiltrate our side so I set traps as Bluey snorted among the rocks foraging for dried leaves (he thinks they're truffles). "Get over here," I called as it's warm now and they're out there. I thinned some of the strong Aglianico vines near the gopher holes and moved some 3ft. long wayward shoots inside the catch wires of the trellis system and spotted a full grown glassy wing sharpshooter and clamped fingers around it but he got away, the first one of the season. (These bugs are vectors for a disease that will kill your vines.)

I gathered up the shovel and extra gopher traps and making jingling noises as metal hit metal walked onto the path to head down the hill as Bluey led the way which he always does and I wished he'd stay behind me. Inside the squirrel hole by the path a black mass the size of large dog's turd was partially in the sun revealing a diamond pattern. I told Bluey to stay and I could only see the coiled girth of the vulnerable serpent without view of head or tail and unsure of his size. I brought Bluey back to the house and picked a weapon of choice (a metal spear) which I could thrust into the hole but the Queen was there and after explaining to her why I was putting Bluey inside she said "Don't kill it. It didn't bite you. I will go and tell it to leave."

It's her birthday and I'm trying to be nice and respectful and listen to her and tomorrow's Mother's Day and so why start a fight? I marched up to the shed to get a 32-gallon trash container which we call wine fermenters in September and a long stick to scoop up the snake and release it in the wilderness and when I got to the spot the Queen was there telling the snake not to come back. I inserted the long handle of a shovel into the hole and the reptile woke from its slumber and moved into the tunnel out of reach. Though that network of underground passageways the snake could show up anywhere. (Yes Lera, Brian, Ginny, Steve, Katie and the Earthy Woman Under The Yellow Tennis Ball this is exactly where you were walking the other week and now you see why I usually carry a shovel in the vineyard this time of year and it isn't just to cut down weeds.) Personally I don't mind snakes and we share mutual feelings towards ground squirrels and gophers but snakes and dogs don't mix.

We started working the 3rd block of 30 "sad vines" which had put out more green shoots and with the warm, longer days and cool nights everything in the vineyard is growing rapidly. To work in a vineyard is entering a time machine and two hours passed before we snapped out of our trance and noticed we were hungry so the Queen went back to the house and I went back to the squirrel hole and Mr. Snake was back again. It's the Queen's birthday and I let him be and we'll keep Bluey on a short leash.


Vinogirl said...

Happy birthday Queenie!

Princess said...

AHAHAHAHAHAH I can see Mama telling you not to kill the snake and telling it to leave AHAHAHAHAH