KN, p. 151 “About the snakes…again..”



In “Is that a body under the deck?” I mentioned the snake issue. We’ve had snakes on the property for a long time, a fact that I am not happy about. Yup, I know that they serve a purpose in the grand scheme of planet health and balance, eating unwanted mice and assorted other small pesky critters that seem to want to take over the world. There are snakes at the golf courses that keep the rodent population down and away from the fairways. Okay, that’s all good.


BUT, now the snakes are out to get me. They seem determined to take over my backyard. I was in the middle of bleaching the back fence and a rattler appeared at my feet. Sheila was weeding the side garden and a brown snake (not a garden snake) fell off a railroad tie in front of her. Lots of screaming and jumping up and down and running happening – me louder than Sheila, I have to admit.



After we discovered a few two-foot long snake skins in the Spring near the deck, we called a snake handler. Yes, there are people that ‘handle’ snakes for a living. Let’s all say a collective “Ewwwwww!!!” for that career choice.


The snake handler told us that he would be happy to come out (for $300) to take a look, but could not guarantee results. The problems:

  1. Snakes like being near a water source. There is a large pond 50 feet away from the back fence and that pond is not going to go away. Before the phone call, there had been a mini-pond underneath the deck, supplying a ready food source of toads and other wildlife. Our mini-pond is gone, but the big one is within slithering distance.
  1. Snakes like wooded areas. Our house has more than 75 pine and other trees inside and outside the fence, with loads of pine straw on the ground.
  1. More than one variety of snake in the yard means more than two snake holes (one entrance and one exit for each snake family) The handler could not guarantee that he could catch all (or any) of the snakes.
  1. If he put down snake poison around the perimeter of the property, it was possible that he might trap any snakes still inside the perimeter, waiting in their sneaky snake holes to glide out when the coast was clear. He promised that we would not like the smell of the poison if he applied it close to the house.




Solutions available to us:

  1. Shoot any and all of the poisonous snakes we see. Except that we live inside the city limits – so drop that idea.
  1. Buy mothballs and spread them around the foundation of the house. Snakes hate the smell of mothballs.
  1. Borrow somebody’s hawk for a couple of weeks and let it watch and wait. And have dinner on us.
  1. Pour bleach into every hole in the yard. Not exactly healthy for the grass/plants.
  1. Cut down the trees and clear away the straw. Not gonna happen, trust me.
  1. Borrow my cousin’s six foot black snake from North Carolina. Sheila doesn’t like that idea. “ANOTHER SNAKE?” she shrieked… Besides, the snake might get out during the delivery car ride.
  1. Sell the house and move to a condo in Texas near Bridget. Thing is, she’s got really big, nasty spiders in her area. Not a great tradeoff.  


We’ve taken care of the food source under the deck, and the rattlers have moved outward, but apparently there are enough geckos and skinks underneath the ramp that keep the brown snake happy. He has expressed no interest in us and other than to startle Sheila in the Spring, he has not made any aggressive moves. But, he is now three feet long and an inch and a half through the middle. We think he’s poisonous, but can’t get a definite ID. The rattlers and the brown snake never seem to overlap their territories, so I’m willing to let him alone for a bit longer while I take care of the known threat.


Anybody have a hawk for hire? Email me.

Fast forward a couple of years.
We needed to replace the ramp and when the old boards were torn up in August, a skink and a few tiny baby black snakes scurried away from the sudden light cast upon their scaly selves. I was happy to see the black snake babies, because the mom/dad (who mysteriously appeared a couple years ago) have been busy keeping the rattlers away. Yay for the slithery team!


BUT, I found a new snake skin…not big enough to be mom or pop and too big, too soon, to belong to any of the babies. And, not big enough to belong to the elusive brown snake. Hmmm… Do we have a new invader, or merely a teenager we never noticed before?

We’re not screaming yet, so I think we’re safe for now.  😉

*Photos taken by Patti Phillips




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KN, p. 289 “On the Road to Portugal”

Sheila and I just returned from a trip to Portugal. (We helped a family member move across the ocean and get settled into an apartment.) When this opportunity came up, we jumped at the chance to help out one of our favorite people on the planet and to get on the international road again. Let’s be honest – we enjoyed quite a bit of sightseeing in between hanging curtains and shopping for dishes.


This overseas trip had its quirky (but solvable) challenges, generally not faced in the USA. Lucky for you, we did the research, so you don’t have to. (with no bodies found anywhere) Take a look:


A washcloth (called facecloths in some areas) seems to be a USA item, since no European hotels or B&Bs have ever provided them for us and the staff always look at me like I’m nutso bonkers when I explain what Sheila is looking for. Very few stores seem to carry them either, including some home furnishing shops we checked out. Pack one (or two) in your suitcase.


Universal adapter: we in the USA have different shaped electrical outlets than people in most of the rest of the world. SO, when we travel we need to have outlet adapters. They don’t convert the electricity, but when we insert the correct adapter into the European outlet, we can then plug our electrical items into it and charge our laptops and hairdryers. Some places require a converter for the electricity flow as well. Check with the destination residence to see what is required. This adapter worked well for us in Portugal. They are sold online thru Walmart and in Europe in FNAC stores, among others.








Jet lag: It takes time for the body to adjust when changing several time zones during a flight, because our sleep patterns/circadian rhythms are interrupted. For each time zone crossed, experience tells us that it takes a day to return to feeling normal. So…five time zones crossed in a flight (in general) translates to five days of recovery. So what are the symptoms most people complain about?

  • Insomnia
  • Inability to concentrate (brain fog)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Stomach upset
  • Headaches

Yes, it’s real. I got into the car two days after our return and sat in the driver’s seat, intending to drive us to the grocery store. And stared at the dashboard. I couldn’t figure out what all those icons were for. Seriously. Sheila took over the wheel and I didn’t drive until a couple of days later, when my brain had returned to normal function. Sheila’s symptoms were sleep and headache related and she never did experience the brain fog that so clearly affected me.


The money: Traveling to Europe? Most countries there use the Euro for legal tender.

The Caribbean has its own variety of currencies. Canada and Mexico each have their own as well. Take the time to learn the exchange rate in the country you’ll be visiting and plan your travel budget accordingly. For the most part, it’s better to use a multibank ATM to take out your needed cash for purchases. The rate at a multibank ATM is better since the banks in that network agree on an exchange rate. A regular ATM will charge more. Exchanging your home country physical cash for the local cash inside a brick & mortar bank will generally get you the worst rate of exchange. The differences are not huge, but if every dime counts, there’s an app on your phone that will reveal the rate of exchange for any given purchase. Be aware that it often changes daily as a result of global conditions.


The Chocolate: Dad used to say that you could tell about the quality of a country’s food by their desserts. If you go by that rule alone, Portugal has terrific food. Well, it does, in addition to the desserts in the multiple cafes that seem to be on every corner in the cities. The chocolateries compete with each other for the fabulous bars and barks and truffle-type offerings. Most also serve hot chocolate that is perpetually ready for the eager customers in line.

Our favorite chocolate spot in both Porto and Braga is Chocolataria Equador, where the delightful shopkeeper (shown here in Braga) expertly used her phone translator app to navigate our conversation and sales. The cocoa beans are imported from Ecuador and the chocolate is then handcrafted in Portugal. Oh, my, yum! Not only is the chocolate superb, but the fillings in the bars are inventively added to create exceptional concoctions. Worthy of multiple trips to the shops…you know…for just one more bar.


Any questions? Ask away in the comments below. Travel the world and enjoy!



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KN, p. 276 “About the bats…”

Last October, the pest control guy arrived for his once-every-three-months inspection/treatment of the outside of the house (a must in our buggy neighborhood). Our goal is to keep the mice and insects outside where they belong, and since we have a crawl space that runs the length of the house, that’s not always easy in wooded areas. The critters like to hide there, safely out of sight of predators like hawks and snakes.


Much to our surprise, he discovered that we had bats in the attic. Yup, I hear you: ‘bats in the belfry?’ LOL   I asked how he knew, since he had not entered the house. Waaay up at the peaked roof line, he had seen what appeared to be bat droppings next to an attic vent. He climbed up the staircase to the attic (which is used only for storage) and found four bats hanging upside down, asleep, next to that vent. EEEEEKKKKK!!!!


I had heard noises in the attic, but thought a lost bird had flown in and out again, an occasional occurrence over the years. Nope. Bats. That explained Hammett’s unusual curiosity and odd woofing at the attic entrance overhead.


The pest control guy called a buddy of his who could remove the unwelcome guests and relocate them elsewhere. Anywhere outside would have been fine, but he had an interested customer lined up. We have plenty of bats in the neighborhood, so we weren’t worried about an exploding mosquito population if these particular bats moved away.


The bat guy (henceforth known as B.G.) would take care of everything on…wait for it…Halloween. Lots of eye-rolling and laughter over the timing.


The day arrived, and we got a ‘can’t come’ call. B.G. couldn’t make it for another few days.
So, I posted this on social media:

The jokes started pouring in from fans of our critter sagas, as the bats flew past my office window with an enthusiastic display of swooping.


From animal enthusiast, M:

“Let’s see, it’s Halloween and there’s a pandemic. There’s a full moon that hasn’t occurred on Halloween since the 1940’s, and it’s on a weekend. The time changes at midnight on Halloween, for an additional hour of 2020…AND you actually have bats, for Halloween. Gee, what could possibly go wrong??” 


From former colleague, J C:

“100 mosquitoes flying around the attic, 100 flying mosquitoes, slurp one down and fly around, 99 still flying in the attic…” 


Well, one thing led to another, and B.G. never made it back to the house. It’s been seven quiet months, with no noise from the attic. We had some electrical work done in April, requiring access at the opposite end of the house, but there were no bat sightings. Nobody whooshing or shrieking overhead while the electrician worked. All was silent.


HA! The pest control guy arrived for the latest quarterly visit and we chatted about the bats (or lack of same). He shot some chemicals toward the house at the ‘bat end’ and one of the invaders flew out. He must have been sleeping while the electrician worked, or else he had been visiting with friends.


Soooo…we made another call to B.G. He was surprised that a bat was still hanging around after all that time, and since I hadn’t heard anything, I was as well. B.G. arrived and went to investigate.


He took a quick look and descended from the attic, a bit wild-eyed. Instead of telling me that he had been freaked out by dead bodies, he kept one hand on the step railing, as if needing the support. “You have a dozen bats up there, hanging from the rafters in the center of the attic.”


“A dozen?” Good grief. I could barely get the words out. “Can you catch them?”


“Yes, but my bag isn’t big enough. I only expected the original four.”


Gulp. I found a couple of old pillowcases and handed them over. The helper, a nice young lady acting as the ‘go-fer’, stayed outside in the front yard, and was charged with counting any that flew out of the vents, so the boss could keep track of how many he still had to catch.


B.G. got to work.


Four flew out, then another six. Then another four. Okay, not twelve, but maybe the extras had been hiding in the rafters. I relaxed and turned to chat with the helper. Alas, too soon. We weren’t done yet. A couple more flew out and when B.G. left the attic this time, he shook his head. He and the helper compared notes. 23 bats. My jaw dropped. Lots of head shaking all around. Those original four were VERY happy up there.


While the liberated bats waited in nearby trees, B.G. sealed off re-entry with screen cloth and promised to return in two weeks to complete cleanup and any additional work needed.


On the appointed day, B.G. discovered another bat in the belfry and collected him. An even two dozen.


We are bat-free at this writing, and quite happy about it. The guano customer (bat poop) is happy as well, along with the new bat owner that needed an elite mosquito attack group.


I saw a squadron of bats swoop past the office window late last night, probably looking for another entrance to their former abode, but at least we know the remaining bat family members are still on guard outside.





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