There will come a time in your farmsteading adventure when you’ll encounter something you fear. For those of us with a natural dislike or even terror of snakes, this can put a real damper on the enthusiasm for farmsteading activities.
I was reminded of this today as I tried to close my front door to shut out farm sounds in advance of a conference call. When the door met resistance, I realized I’d inadvertently trapped a black snake. With the outer glass storm door closed, the snake had no place to go but inside if I released the main door. I had to dial into my call, so I anchored the door in place with an end table to keep the snake pinned while I came up with a plan.
Now if you’re not bothered by snakes, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. “Just reach in there, grab him by the head, and be done with it!” But if you’re someone whose heart stops when you see one of these creatures, you may totally understand where I’m coming from.
After my work call ended, I grabbed a broom, exited the house through a back door, and walked around to the front to get a glimpse of what I’d caught. I hoped the snake was dead and I’d only be dealing with corpse cleanup. Tentatively, standing as far back as my reach would allow, I slowly opened the storm door. A snake head rose up and eyed me. I eyed him back. He was on the small side as snakes go, but plenty big enough to disarm the small bit of courage I’d mustered. I poked at him gently with the broom handle. He hissed. I shut the storm door and retreated.
A half hour passed as I worked up my Rube Goldberg-esque plan to catch the snake. This was really a two-person operation, but I’d have to make do. My main criteria in capturing him was that he not backtrack into the house because then there’d be the inconvenience and expense of living in a hotel until a new house could be built. My second goal was to contain him in something so he could be relocated away from the house—black snakes are actually good for the farm because they eat both mice and poisonous copperheads. The plan also had to ensure there was no direct contact between snake and human as I was quite sure he’d be looking for retribution for shutting him in the door.
I gathered my snake wrangling equipment: a 6-foot section of downspout with elbow attached, a broom, a bucket and protective gloves. I didn’t feel safety glasses were needed for this endeavor, but I did wish I had some kind of full-body protective gear, maybe an astronaut suit, just in case it got ugly. I settled for muck boots and rubber gloves. Now I was ready to put the snake trap into action.
I wedged the storm door open with a cinder block and rested the 6-foot downspout section on top of it. This put the flat end into position over the snake’s head while the elbow at the other end turned a 90-degree angle into the open bucket. He was not happy about this and hissed some more. The theory behind this plan was that the snake would have only one way to go when I opened the door and released him—down the spout and into the bucket.
After eyeing the downspout and open bucket, I decided the snake, although likely injured, could probably get out of the bucket faster than I could slam on the lid. This called for duct tape and a plastic trash bag. I removed my rubber gloves, slid the bucket into the trash bag and pulled the plastic up around the downspout elbow. Three or four turns of the duct tape sealed the top of the bag. I was ready to release the kraken, er . . . snake.
With the downspout bucket trap in place, I grabbed the broom and went back inside. Slowly, I eased the door open allowing the snake just enough space to inch forward and continue down the tube. I gently prodded him with the broom to discourage him from turning around and coming into the house. As soon as the last bit of his tail disappeared into the downspout, I stood it on end until I heard the snake land with a loud thud in the bucket. I quickly covered the one open downspout end with duct tape. I’d caught him!
As I snapped a celebratory photo of the trapped snake, he began punching his way out of the plastic trash bag. Alarmed, I took a few steps backward, put the camera down, and grabbed the broom. First a head, then the body came up and out of the bag. We did battle for a few seconds, but I wasn’t quick enough to knock him back down. He slithered over the top of the trap, down the porch steps, and under the house.
In my “city girl” days, this would have been enough to send me packing. But farmsteading has a way of toughening more than your hands. You learn to face your fears head on, whatever they may be.