Osage Copperhead

Although I don’t have a photo to prove it, we saw an Osage Copperhead on June 22, 2015 in the growing area south of the house. This is the only definite sighting on the farm since we’ve been here, though I briefly saw a snake with copperhead-like patterning in the same general area near dusk on a summer evening in 2014.

Brown Recluse

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The Brown Recluse is a common venomous spider that we encounter almost exclusively in the house, though they are reported to live outdoors as well. We tend to find them in corners of rooms and other locations that get little disturbance. The one in the photo was hanging out in the guest bedroom shower (shortly before I cleaned the shower in anticipation of the arrival of a guest). Brown Recluse are good motivation for keeping piles of clutter to a minimum and piles of clothing off of the floor, since these locations provide them with habitat and hiding places.

In spite of the commonness of these spiders, neither of us has ever (to our knowledge) been bitten, although we have jumped on more than one occasion as a result of a close encounter.

American Dog Tick

The adult American Dog Tick is one of the larger tick species at Chert Hollow Farm. Most of the time, we feel these crawling across the skin and pluck them off before they attach, because their size gives away their location. Even so, an occasional embedded tick happens. This is cause for concern, as ticks can carry a variety of disease-causing pathogens.

Populations vary greatly from year to year. Tick populations (in general) were very high in spring of 2013, when this photo was taken.

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Black Widow Spider

Black Widow females have a very distinctive look: a black, shiny body with bold red spots. The web appears tangled & unstructured.

The female Black Widow in the photo was hanging out on the inside of an infrequently used rusty bucket that had been turned upside down to prevent it from collecting water that would provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Instead, we apparently provided good habitat for a venomous spider.

The upperside has some red spotting:

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Ventral view with the classic red hourglass:

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The males look very different than the females (and are also smaller):

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2013 seems to have been a banner year for Black Widows here. Previously, we saw one maybe every year or two, but in 2013 we observed numerous specimens. We pretty quickly learned that chaotic-looking webs were a warning sign that one might be around. The chaotic web (see left part of the photo below) was what drew my attention to this egg sack on a ladder rung. There was a female behind the egg sack (out of view in this photo). The ladder had recently been brought into our bedroom, but it didn’t stay there long! Photo was taken outdoors.

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Andover Parsnip

Andover

Andover is usually our choice variety of parsnip, largely because organic seed is (sometimes) available for this variety. (Sourcing organic parsnip seed can be challenging.) We haven’t noticed major quality or yield differences between this variety and a couple others we’ve tried, though we haven’t done side-by-side trials. Perfect parsnips are usually accompanied by a high percentage of small/split/oddly shaped ones, but that just seems to be the reality of growing parsnips in our soil. We think they are delicious enough to be worth the hassle.

We’ve learned the hard way to avoid weeding parsnips in the morning, especially on sunny days. Contact with the leaves, seemingly in conjunction with sun exposure, can cause a skin reaction in the form of blister-like bumps. Based on a small sample size, we’ve concluded that a high percentage of people exposed to parsnip leaves and sun will develop this rash. However, we wonder if the growing conditions matter; we’ve been growing parsnips for years, but had hardly encountered this problem until the severe drought year of 2012.

More on parsnips in the kitchen here.

Organic seed source: Fedco.

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