Robert, my neighbor to the south, called me over to the fence as I was closing up the barn after milking yesterday. The goats and I walked over (we go as a troop whenever I'm in the pen). Robert is in the middle of the grape crush and he asked if it would be okay to toss some of the stems over to the girls. They are crushing the zinfandels now, and stems have a high sugar content that the girls love. I appreciate his asking, because too many at one time or if they'd gone mouldy would make the girls sick. We stood talking under the oak where Tree Guy and Sons have been working and there were stumps and chips all over. Robert looked down by my feet and said, "Is that just a snakeskin or is it the whole snake?" Standing stock still, I peeked over the nearby log to see twelve inches or so of what certainly looked like a dark, striped snake. I could tell it wasn't a rattler, but could see neither head nor tail. Gingerly poking it with one finger, the thing didn't move so I picked it up. Robert and I laughed when we found it was a length of heavy wiring from some type of vehicle, covered in a type of insulation I've never seen before.
I should have known it was a false alarm because I know how goats react to snakes. On my way back to the house the day before, I'd noted the opening to a nest of ground wasps right by my path. Being swarmed by these evil little insects as a child had made Steve absolutely phobic for the rest of his life. Loaded with milk buckets as I was then, the decision was to take care of it yesterday. I made a tactical error. The wasps weren't active as I went to the barn and I wasn't sure which was the right opening. Running late, I milked first and then stopped on the way back. There they were, and there I was, spray can in hand. I'd forgotten that the girls had followed me to the fence, curious about everything I do. I sprayed the nest heavily and sent the goats into a panic. I should have known better than to spray anything in their vicinity. It's the hissing. No amount of reassurance will convince them that they aren't in snake danger. Clustered together, they snorted and stared at the place from where the hissing had come. I had to go on with my chores and had to leave them to get over it. Talk about ruining someone's day. Going down at bedtime, I found the herd still in a clump, still staring at the ground outside the pen. Getting them into their rooms was a battle. I hope they'll have forgotten about it by this morning. They take snakes very seriously, even when it's a false alarm.