Enjoying Our Off-Grid Homestead

Exploring the beautiful front acres of our homestead

This summer has been challenging here on the little homestead God has given us. We knew this path would not always be easy, and this summer has been no exception. Last week we spent a few dinner times praying and fasting as a family, seeking direction and relief from some of the stresses we have felt. The Lord answered in some special ways, and I feel more positive about the future again, even though some hardships are not yet lifted. But God has promised to help us through our difficulties, not necessarily out of them.

One Sunday recently we had a very special time together. Our church’s worship service was switched to the evening before, so Sunday we had an entire day of rest as a family. It was a day to remember!

A few of the girls got up early with Silver Oak and went fishing at the pond. With all the recent rain the pond level has risen dramatically! They caught three little fish, throwing one back because it was too tiny. It was fun even if it wasn’t overly productive. As soon as we can we’d like to stock that little pond with Talapia. Sound good?

The peaceful pond

The solar electric fencer on the new electric fence. It’s hot!

After chores and a good breakfast we took a hike through the front seven acres of the property. We wanted to see the pond that is running over, walk through the beautiful woods, and see the lush green grass growing up there. We admired the new solar-powered electric fence Silver Oak just completed on the north side. The grassiest part of our property has been unavailable to our horses and Buttercup (the Jersey cow) until now because there was no north fence to keep them out of our neighbor’s yard.

The weather was absolutely beautiful! Since the first of September we have seemed to turn a corner. It’s been noticeably cooler at night and the mornings stay cool longer. Sometimes it’s not getting really hot till closer to noon. Lovely!

On our hike we met a gopher tortoise. We also found all kinds of tracks…about three sizes of deer tracks, plus coon tracks, large squirrel-type tracks (fox-squirrel?), and some kind of three-toed tracks. We found various plants and herbs, like horsetail (we think), prickly pear cactus, blackberry vines, blooming lantana (which we sadly chopped up because they are poisonous for cows), wax myrtles, and elephants foot (with properties similar to plantain). There is an old falling apart mobile home we got a closer look at, and took pictures of a bee colony living in one of the walls.

The tortoise didn’t seem too bothered by our presence if we held still and just watched him go by.

Plenty of prickly pear cactus…edible and medicinal if the needles are removed

The falling-apart mobile home that waits for us to dismantle it…some day

Blossom poses behind a waist-high shoot of elephants foot which Silver Oak protected when mowing the front pasture because of its size

When we reached the grassy area near the front of the property the younger children got carried away doing summersaults. It felt luxurious to play in grass, since everything around our house is still sand. We look forward to progressing enough to put some sod down. I didn’t realize how wonderful grass is until living about 10 months without. Sand is better than the palmettos that were here first, but we are all ready for grass!

As the day got hot the children (and Silver Oak) got this crazy idea to swim in the pond. I didn’t grow up swimming in pond water like Silver Oak did, and it took some convincing to get me to go. I worry about snakes, for some reason! But I gave in and off we went to try it. It ended up being a blast! I took pictures until they convinced me to get in near the end.

One bank of the pond rises sharply out of the water, providing a platform to jump from. Most of us are good swimmers, but Silver Oak and Evensong were the only brave ones to swim across the pond and back. Though the water was quite warm, they felt cold water from below in the middle. We are not sure how deep it is.

Some going for a swim, others resting (reading) in the shade on the “beach”

The brave ones swim back from the other side

Jumping off the high bank

The high water level made visibility very clear around the edge where we entered, but lots of grass grew around some edges and extended out into the water, although not very tall or thick. There was so much splashing and thrashing by the children that if any snakes were lurking I’m sure they hastily made their escape. It still made me nervous. We’ve learned that water moccasins swim with their bodies on top of the water and their heads up, making them easy to spot unless there are hiding places, like tall, thick grass. Other water snakes are harmless.

We started pulling on grass growing in the water, and discovered it pulled up easily. Some was rooted near the edge but had runners going into the water about 12 feet long. We stood at one place and pulled out lots of grass. In a little time we easily cleared quite a bit.

Pulling the long grass out of the water

Removing a little grass made a big difference

Back home we showered and the children kept commenting on how much fun they’d had. It is neat that we have our own swimming hole; another alternative for cooling off when air conditioning may not be available. Everyone wants to go again, but it must be with adult supervision so it may have to wait for another family time.

To the children’s delight Silver Oak hung a discarded semi tire from a tree in front of our tiny house. Our pineapple tops are planted all around the same tree, so a few of them have suffered a bit from the extra activity. We’ll just relocate them or plant more next time we get pineapple tops.

It’s a hit!

The rest of the day was spent relaxing on the deck in the breezeway, or taking naps. It was a time to reflect on the many blessings God has given us as our dream of a sustainable homestead unfolds.

I Shot a Rattlesnake!Blessings,

I Shot a Rattlesnake!

Linked w/Morris Tribe, White Wolf Summit Farmgirl, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Frugally Sustainable, Natural Living Link-up, Homemaking Link-up, Live Renewed, A Rural Journal, Simple Lives Thursday, Farmgirl Friday, Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday

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I Shot a Rattlesnake!

My victim

Yesterday it happened. Silver Oak was gone and a big rattlesnake showed up. We had practiced just in case, especially since killing one this spring, but I was sure hoping it would never happen.

It was naptime and the younger children were snoozing before our traditional Friday night date in town while the children spend time with Grandma and Grandpa and the cousins. My peaceful afternoon was about to be disrupted. Around 4:30pm Blossom, our 13 year old, came breathlessly sliding across the deck (literally). “Mommy, Mommy, there’s a rattlesnake out here!” I had a headache and was quite tired after a tough night and shoveling rabbit manure earlier that morning. Somehow the word “rattlesnake” transformed me instantly.

I yanked on my leather cowboy boots, hollering instructions to the girls to stay behind me unless given permission otherwise. I grabbed Silver Oak’s .22 rifle and took off, then wheeled around and went back for the key to unlock it. I may have practiced these moves, but somehow in the excitement of the moment my memory failed.

Blossom said our two dogs and the two surviving bachelor guineas were raising a fit in front of the barn, and upon investigation discovered they had a big eastern diamondback rattlesnake cornered. Now that is a blessing! Wish I could have gotten a picture of them, but I wasn’t in photographer mode at the moment. Those faithful guard animals may have saved someone’s life! One reason we got guineas was because of their reputation as snake-watchers. Now we’ve witnessed it first hand.

As I rounded the corner, sure enough, there were the guineas up on a mound of uprooted palmettos, fussing at something. The dogs were barking furiously, but as soon as he saw me, our gun-shy Australian shepherd disappeared into the woods. I couldn’t see the snake because it had crawled up over the pile and was trying to gather its wits on the other side. I cautiously followed the ominous rattling sound and found its large body coiled up under a palmetto at the base of the mound.

I am not a good shot, especially when nervous, so I got as close as safety allowed. It helps to know that a snake cannot strike more than 2/3 its length, so initially I stayed six feet away, standing on the mound above it. At the first shot the rattling stopped, and the snake appeared dazed. I unloaded the gun on it, trying in vain to hit the head, getting closer as it became clear that it was quite disoriented. When I ran out of ammo I laid down the gun and hollered at Blossom to get the long handled square shovel I had used that morning for scraping up rabbit manure.

With the shovel (and a prayer for help) I lunged at the snake from my perch above it on the mound, pinning it down about eight inches behind its head. Silver Oak told me later that may not have been the safest thing: if the shovel would have broken or slipped I could have ended up right on top of the snake! Shudder!! But the Lord helped me and with my weight leaning on that shovel I held that snake down. It was NOT getting away! Then the snake did a strange thing. It reached its head around and bit itself! I guess it bit the first thing it came to, which was its own body. I saw the side of its fangs and a big white balloon (the sac of venom?) in its jaw, as well as a bit of blood oozing out. Shudder again!!

With me pinning the snake down, I instructed Blossom to take the pitchfork and stick its head to the ground, keeping her boot-clad feet and legs at a safe distance. When that was secure, she chopped its head off with the ax. Only when its head was off did I feel safe releasing my weight from the shovel. I know that was probably overkill. But I would rather kill it three times than take the risk of it escaping and possibly harming one of the children or animals, or myself.

We dragged out the snake and measured it at six feet long! I took pictures, then dug a hole and buried the head. By that time I was dripping with sweat once again, so headed in for a second shower.

The dead snake with all the weapons of warfare and three of the faithful guardians

The guineas cautiously approach to get a better look

The mound where the snake was first cornered is in the background. Hershey, our black lab mix, has alerted us to several rattlesnakes over the years. She’s earned her keep.

The younger children stand on top of the mound looking down at the spot where we killed the snake

I asked Blossom if she feels like a hero, because she is the one who actually killed the snake by stabbing it in the head, then chopping it off. I don’t know what I would have done without her quickly and bravely following instructions. Our oldest daughter, Evensong, was gone with Silver Oak in town.

We’re thankful for the Lord’s protection once again, for faithful guard dogs and guineas who alerted us and kept the snake at bay, and for cooperative children willing to step out of their comfort zone in a crisis. And I now have a tiny bit more confidence to face a scary creature like that again if necessary, but hope I never have to!

Blessings,

Id Die Without Air Conditioning!

Linked w/Morris Tribe, White Wolf Summit Farmgirl, Growing Home, Frugally Sustainable, Natural Living Link-up, Homemaking Link-up, Live Renewed, A Rural Journal, Simple Lives Thursday, Farmgirl Friday, Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday