August is here, and with the end of July came the beginning of the yurts. A week ago, I went out to the yurt site with a roll of mason line, string level, square, tape measure and an axe. Some time in the nearby woods yielded nine strong sections of tree branch I shaped into posts, and then it began — the laying out of the grid. It was no quick task, but after some time we had a 24′ by 24′ square, the platform to be.
A couple of days later, the shoveling began. The final week of the month went out in a hot-and-humid fashion. Excavation for the post holes went about as well as it could have. Seven of the nine, after getting through the first foot of sod and stone, were nothing but sand below. The other two argued some: Stones the size of soccer balls, possibly from the old boy scout camp foundation, filled the first. Out came the axe for the other as root after root got in the shovels way.
Bethany, meanwhile, spent the summer hours nearby collecting pint after pint of blueberries and raspberries. The two are peaking right now, and though blackberries are still two weeks out, we now have a freezer full of wild Adirondack fruit. After the final shovel full of sand came out, we reconvened and celebrated the groundbreaking over a handful of sweet berries.
On Thursday, we returned with some scrap plywood to cover up the holes before the coming rain. Bethany made her way back to the berry patches with a container in hand that wouldn’t be empty much longer while I hauled the wood over. I got to the first hole and looked down.
I chuckled at the little fella’s misfortune, reached in and hauled the creature out. It took off as soon as it hit the grass. I got back to work, and two holes later, another legless find. Only this time, it was a kind I had never seen before. Smaller than the garter snake, this one was dark gray with a bright orange belly and an orange ring around the neck. Skeptical about handling a mystery snake, I paused for a moment. Definitely not a rattler, but I grabbed my phone and did some quick investigating.
The mystery reptile was a Diadophis punctatus, or ringneck snake. Venomous, but hardly, and considered safe to handle by humans. After getting it out of the hole, I released it beside some nearby stones. It lingered there while I finished the task and called for Bethany to see the snake. By the time she arrived, it had disappeared. I looked back at one of the now plywood covered-holes, had an ‘ah-ha’ moment, and uncovered it. Sure enough, there it was, only this time it was joined by the same garter snake I had pulled from a different hole.
It’s no wonder that pit traps are one of humans’ earliest known methods of capturing prey.
The second time I took the snakes out, I brought them some distance away to a pile of old wood. Good cover and maybe far enough from the holes that I didn’t have to worry about checking them every day for creatures that found the holes to be without an exit.
Another handful of berries and we packed up. Soon the holes will be filled with something else: The posts bearing a platform and yurt.