This affectionate name, coined by apprentice Kevin, is our resident black rat snake, Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta. Bert and his mate Ernie, who is only five feet long, show up in the strangest places.
They set up housekeeping in the dead sugar maple behind the honeybee hive a month ago. There they were spotted stretched out on a limb collecting solar rays for a few days. Following that rendezvous, they snuggled into a big black ball nestled high in a large knot hole of the same tree.
Bert made her acting debut during theatre camp by climbing twenty feet straight up a hemlock tree while twenty-five youngsters played underneath her on the tire swing. An adult observer was amazed and pleased that these children showed no fear of the climbing serpent.
Ryan admits he’ll squeal like a pig, if he is surprised by a snake; Rusty agrees. The entire crew, with our boys at the forefront, help educate visitors on the benefits of our big black buddies and their smaller slithering allies.
Bert and Ernie have cleaned out the chipmunks inhabiting the rock wall and a nest of starlings in our family tree. They left their skins on the stone ledge in the basement no doubtedly taking care of any unwanted rodents.
The garter snake, a much smaller cousin found in the worm bin, is a great insect eater as well as a consumer of slugs and worms. Milk snakes, a bit larger than the harmless garters, are the true constrictors that help keep down the mouse and vole population in the compost piles.
To mimic snakes, Stephen our summer student worker, hung black pipe in and around the blueberry bushes in hopes that the hungry robins will give the “snakes” a wide berth, just as Ryan and Rusty do.
In speaking for the majority of the Quiet Creek crew, we welcome all slithering reptiles to the farm and will continue to encourage the uncomfortable with fascinating sightings.