Snakes do more good than many re­al­ize

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake

The weather this sum­mer has been nearly per­fect. If we could just get rid of the mos­qui­toes, it truly would be an idyl­lic sum­mer.

This past hol­i­day week­end was a great time for a cook­out, so we headed over to Calvert County to see some friends on Satur­day. They re­cently bought a house and had a baby, and we wanted to see the new digs and young fel­low.

Their house backs up to Kings Land­ing and there is quite a swath of wilder­ness be­hind it. The grand­fa­ther, who doesn’t speak English, was in the back­yard when we ar­rived. Later he came in­side and apol­o­gized that he needed to get cleaned up be­fore join­ing us for lunch. As it turns out, he had been out back killing snakes. My friend trans­lated his Span­ish, but the gist of his snake pol­icy was to “kill first, ask ques­tions later.”

Folks, that is not a good pol­icy. Snakes are a unique part of our wildlife and do so much more good than many peo­ple re­al­ize, but they have a bad rep­u­ta­tion from folk­lore and old wives’ tales, and many peo­ple are scared of them. But the need­less killing of snakes is just that, need­less.

Corn snakes, black rat snakes and king snakes all do us an im­por­tant ser­vice by help­ing con­trol the ro­dent pop­u­la­tion. Farm­ers know this, and I bet there are lots of homeowners who’d like to see a de­crease in the amount of rats, mice, moles and voles that are un­wel­come vis­i­tors to their yards and houses.

There are over 20 dif­fer­ent species of snakes that live in Mary­land. Only one kind of ven­omous snake in­hab­its South­ern Mary­land. The cop­per­head is pretty com­mon in ru­ral and sub­ur­ban ar­eas. A few have even been sighted in my neigh­bor­hood this sum­mer.

Most snakes are go­ing to re­treat when ap­proached by hu­mans, but cop­per­heads can be ag­gres­sive and will strike when threat­ened. And a lot of bites are the re­sult of peo­ple try­ing to kill them.

The best snake pol­icy is to leave them alone. And in case you didn’t know, it’s against the law to kill any species of na­tive snake in Mary­land, from garter snakes to the tim­ber rat­tlesnake, which only in­hab­its the moun­tain­ous parts of our state.

So the next time you are gar­den­ing and are sur­prised by a harm­less worm snake, or you are driv­ing a coun­try road and a black snake slith­ers across the pave­ment, give them a lit­tle space, try to avoid them and let them be. They are a nec­es­sary part of the ecosys­tem and do im­por­tant work.

Nal­gene bot­tles have many uses

It’s no se­cret the Wild Birds Un­lim­ited store in Lex­ing­ton Park is one of my fa­vorite shops.

They were hav­ing a sale a cou­ple weeks ago and I popped in with my girls to pick up some sup­plies. Any­one with kids knows you can’t just pop in to the store with them. My dad used to joke that a 60cent cup of cof­fee at 7-Eleven ac­tu­ally cost five dol­lars when you fac­tored in the Slurpees and Slim Jims my sis­ter and I would get.

While we were check­ing out at the reg­is­ter, a red wa­ter bot­tle on the hum­ming­bird dis­play caught my eye. The idea be­hind the bot­tle is you can eas­ily make 32 ounces of nec­tar by mix­ing warm wa­ter and sugar di­rectly in the con­tainer and then keep it in the fridge to have on hand when you fill your feed­ers. Over the years I’ve ac­tu­ally tried sev­eral meth­ods of keep­ing nec­tar on hand in the in fridge, none of which have worked very well as I’ll ex­plain in a bit.

The Nal­gene la­bel on the bot­tle sealed the deal. My kids all drink from Nal­gene wa­ter bot­tles. They each have an as­signed color and a cou­ple each so they al­ways have a clean one. I’d give them a 10 star rat­ing. They are BPA free and made in the USA. All the parts in­clud­ing the stop­pers and the lids are top rack dish­washer safe, which a lot of reusable con­tain­ers just aren’t.

My old­est daugh­ter has taken a Nal­gene wa­ter bot­tle to school every day for five years. The kids have dropped theirs on con­crete and as­phalt time and time again and never once has one cracked. They must be prac­ti­cally shat­ter-proof. Sure the ex­te­rior gets a lit­tle scuffed up from all the use, but these wa­ter bot­tles are built to last.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years mix­ing sugar and wa­ter on the stove­top or in the mi­crowave and then stor­ing it var­i­ous ways in the re­frig­er­a­tor. And over the years I’ve cleaned up a lot of sticky wa­ter that has spilled or leaked. The screw-tight lid on this bot­tle isn’t go­ing to let a drop out.

And the bot­tle is bright red and says “Nec­tar Bot­tle” clearly on the side. This is im­por­tant in our fam­ily be­cause my hus­band has no fear of try­ing new things. For ex­am­ple, when I started us­ing vine­gar mixed with wa­ter in a spray bot­tle to clean, within 12 hours he had al­ready —much to his dis­may — used the so­lu­tion while iron­ing his work clothes.

Vine­gar and a hot iron is not a good com­bi­na­tion, and need­less to say, he was not able to wear those pants to work that day. Of course, he claims that just 24 hours ear­lier that spray bot­tle was full of plain wa­ter. He has also ac­ci­den­tally taken a swig of sugar wa­ter I was stor­ing in the re­frig­er­a­tor in an empty wa­ter bot­tle. So as you can see, this wa­ter bot­tle is al­most a ne­ces­sity in our house.

It costs $12.99 and I’m fairly con­fi­dent it will last a life­time. I’ve al­ready been us­ing mine a few weeks and, so far, no one has mis­tak­enly sam­pled the hum­ming­birds’ wa­ter.

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