Snakes alive and caterpillars too! With the heat of summer all the cold blooded critters are coming out. I recently had my share of snake medicine from the many slithering friends who have crossed my path. I’m a big fan of snakes, lizards, turtles… I dig all animals but I especially like reptiles. I have a feeling I was a marine iguana in another life. You know, swimming in the ocean, eating seaweed, blowing salt out of your nose. Anyway, here are some pictures of the wild life I’ve captured on camera and in my hand.
Yellow Rat Snake – A common snake in the South, non-venomous constrictor that eats small rodents. They’re very docile as you can see which makes them an ideal choice as a pet, similar to the red rat snake/corn snake. This fellow was crossing a dirt parking lot when I snapped these pictures. It just kept coming towards me with out a care. I had to come back and rescue it from a police officer that was trying to pick it up using a long pole. Not having any luck I told him to let me try. I just picked up the snake. It was so mellow that it let me snap a couple pictures before I put it down in the bushes. I found it surprising that the police officers had no idea what kind of snake it was or if it was poisonous. Just goes to show what seems like common knowledge most common people don’t know.
Black Racer – Common in the East and their range extends as far north as Wisconsin and Michigan. These guys are fast as the name implies. I didn’t bother trying to pick this one up though I have caught them by hand in the past. They will bite and they release a stinky musk from their anal gland. No fun at all, it takes days to wash the smell off.
Painted Turtle or Cooter – Super common. They live in ditches, ponds and lakes. Folks fishing with dead bait often think they’ve caught a cinder block but it’s usually a turtle. Cooters and Painted Turtles look very similar and they can be distinguished by the coloration on their face and shell. This guys shell was covered in algae so I’m not sure which kind it was.
Gopher Tortoise – These guys are super cool burrow digging vegetarians. One thing that is unique about them is that they dig a huge burrow unlike most other tortoises. The burrow not only houses the tortoise but it is home to dozens of other creatures… not at the same time of course. Snakes will often share a den with gopher tortoises and critters like opossums and armadillos will move into abandoned dens. They live in wooded areas and in coastal sand dunes. They also love eating prickly pear cactus fruits just like me. Gopher tortoises were consumed during the depression era. They are now a protected species in Florida.
Giant Swallow Tail Caterpillar – This guy caught me by surprise and though I only have pictures of one of them, there were 3 in this little citrus tree when I first saw them. They look like little snakes. I snapped some pictures and then did a quick google search for “snake caterpillar”. It took some time to find the perfect match and when I found a site that referenced it as an “orange dog” because of their love of citrus, I knew I had found the one. Man do they love citrus. The leaves of my little tree had been shredded from their feeding. Another thing I came across and had to test out is that if you poke them they’ll emit an odor which I found more familiar than unpleasant. I still can’t figure out where I know the smell from, it’s kinda like a bitter perfume. Also when you poke them they shoot out 2 bright red antennae. It’s super cool, kinda like a snakes tongue, but not really. Nature is amazing. Unfortunately after 2 days on the citrus tree the caterpillars all went MIA. I’m guessing they ran off to become butterflies.
Here’s a fun summer recipe that uses raw corn on the cob. It’s an homage to treat I used to get from Mexican food vendors on the street up in Chicago. It’s called elotes but I call it corn in a cup.
2 ears of corn – cut from cob and place in a bowl
1/2 C cashews – soaked
1/2 C sunflower seeds – soaked
2 T nutritional yeast
2 T water
1 t chili powder
1/4 C lemon juice
1/2 C olive oil
1 t tamari
1 t salt – salt to taste
Place all the above ingredients in the blend or food processor and blend smooth to make a cheese. Adjust flavor to suit taste. Add water if necessary to thin. Mix in with the corn. Sprinkle paprika on top and decorate with fresh cilantro.
Enjoy and Keep it Live!