Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Hibernaculum

I’ll have to stretch my mind to figure out how this subject relates to blacksmithing, but here goes.  Northeast of my shop the terrain drops off abruptly and approaches the Neosho River.  About 100 feet from the shop is a hibernaculum.  I know, most people don’t know the word.  It is a snake den.  Apparently, about 4’ below ground level there is some sort of cavern  in which snakes can overwinter.  For many years, I’ve observed the appearance of an opening about the size of a golf ball in March or April.  For most of that time it has been a casual and irregular observation.  The only snakes I have seen coming and going are garter snakes.

I wouldn’t call myself a snake lover but I am a nature lover and generally believe in “live and let live.”  I’ll admit that I jump when startled by the sudden movement, or sighting, of a snake, particularly when it is a face-to-face encounter with a big blacksnake coiled up in the eye-level crotch of a tree I am mowing around.

The squeamish should avoid this link.  It shows several garter snakes emerging from a hibernaculum.

I’ve grown to like garter snakes and be protective of their habitat.  In the years we had cats they would capture them and proudly bring them into the kitchen for our inspection.  I would have to remove them to great outdoors.

There aren’t many images of hibernaculum openings on the web.  Here is that ids one almost identical to mine.
I think in other areas of the country the landforms are rocky and not soil matrix so the openings would look different.

In the recent years I recorded the exact coordinate at  which the snakes emerge.  It is the same in the past two years and I suspect it has been in the same spot for eons.

So, how does this connect with blacksmithing?  Well, it’s like this.  From time to time on beautiful weather days I like to step out of the shop and stretch and savor Nature’s wonder.  It is the subject of what I like to forge.  I didn’t create the objects of my interest - I just admire them and try to imitate them in my work. Each living thing is beautiful to it’s kind and has a history complicated beyond imagination.  It’s another stretch to try to capture that.

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