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Eastern Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum)

Eastern Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum)

Thanks to a milk snake, I now have a beautiful new set of cookware!  I know that sounds like a Russian fable or something that happened on a sadistic Japanese game show, but it is true.  For years my mother has kept an extra set of hard-anodized nonstick cookware along with a full surplus set of spatulas, whisks, tongs, etc…  The other day one of her spatulas broke and she went out to the garage to find a replacement.  She reached her hand into a dark dusty drawer of dark red kitchen implements and pulled out a dark red eastern milk snake!  Eek!  Apparently the little reptile had been living in the spare utensil drawer and subsisting on field mice which sometimes seek shelter in the garage.

Red Spatula

Red Spatula

After this unfortunate encounter, Mom decided that she had too many pots and pans lying around–so actually the snake was just a catalyst and, as with most of the good things in my life, I have my parents to thank for my new dishes.  I don’t need to join a snake cult just yet (although it is always in the back of my mind).

The eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum) does not merely startle parents and dispense fancy pots, pans, and spatulas.  The snakes, which range from Ontario down to Alabama are a species of kingsnake.  Milk snakes often live on farms where they prey on the local rodent populations (although the snakes can also be found in meadows, fields, and forests).  Since milk snakes have always been frequently spotted in dairy barns, our credulous forbears believed they milked livestock.  This is obviously a myth since, even if serpents did enjoy dairy, they would hardly wish to venture among they heavy sharp hooves of sheep, cows, and goats, however it has provided the milk snake with a colorful name.

Eastern-Milk-Snake-Lampropeltis-triangulum-triangulum-700x527

Like the mighty giants of the snake world, milk snakes are constrictors, which wrap up their prey within a suffocating coiled embrace.  Milk snakes, however, are little: adults range in size from 60 to 91 centimetres (24 to 36 in) in length.  The baby snakes are only a few inches long and they are insanely colorful (although the beautiful bright red fades to maroon, rust, or brown as they grow older.

The milk snake in the garage was escorted out to the field.  The snakes live up to 12 years in the wild and it’s good to have them around since they eat pests.

And what is the review of my new pots?  Of course I was extremely excited to use my lovely new cookware which can be used in the oven as well as on top of the stove.  I turned the oven on and waited eagerly for the little beeper to let me know when the temperature was hot enough to cook…and then I waited and waited and waited.  I guess the wild electrical surges that have been hitting the grid must have knocked out the little electronic lighter/valve in the oven—so no more baking for me until we get that fixed (or convince the landlady to buy a new range).  It also seems like a Russian fable that I have wonderful new pots but no oven…

Is this snake laughing?

Is this snake laughing?

Wild Turkey Poults

During February and March, tom turkeys beguile hens with their magnificent gobbles and vivid visual displays. Shortly thereafter the hens begin nesting. Not only are turkey eggs larger than chicken eggs, they are covered with delicate brown speckles and tend to have a more acute taper on one end than chicken eggs do.  The turkey hen constantly broods her eggs leaving only briefly to eat.  When she is sitting on her nest, the hen is extremely vulnerable to predators.

Turkey Eggs

A month later, turkey poults emerge from the eggs.  The tiny poults punch open the egg with egg teeth (sharpened ridges on the beak which quickly vanish as the young turkeys begin to grow). Wild turkey poults leave the nest about a day after they hatch.

Bourbon Red Turkey Poults on a farm

Wild turkeys face a terrifying host of predators including bobcats, raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes, coyotes, armadillos, weasels, crows, owls, hawks, bald eagles, and a variety of snakes. To cope with this list wild poults quickly develop limited flight capability and begin roosting in trees two weeks after they hatch.  Domestic turkey poults need substantial warmth to thrive and must be kept under a hot lamp and never given cold water.  They need medicine supplements to prevent infection from chicken diseases and special calcium supplements to make up for the minerals which their wild cousins get from the bugs and arthropods which make up the bulk of their diet.

Day old Narragansett Turkey poults (photo by Cackle Hatchery)

One of the most endearing traits of poults is the way in which they imprint on their mother and then follow her around.  This trait is identical in domestic turkeys: when we ordered poults during my childhood, the little fluffy birds imprinted on me.  Thereafter they would follow me around the barnyard peeping–which was very cute but made me worry about their well-being (imprinting being a two-way street).  The young turkeys were affectionate and endlessly amusing.  Indeed the Aztec trickster god Tezcatlipoca was strongly associated with turkeys because of their playful tricks and the deity was said to sometimes manifest as a turkey.  In the picture below, Tezcatlipoca even looks a bit like a strutting Tom.

A Turkey and Tezcatlipoca. Do you see the ressemblance?

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