Monday, May 17, 2010

The Victory Garden- Serpentine Serendipity or "Fake Snakes and Belly Aches"

In the beginning, The Victory Garden was bestowed with 6 plastic snakes; two in each bed. There were 2 bright yellow, red and black ones- I assume they were meant to look like Coral Snakes- but they didn't. I hoped they would look enough like Copperheads to suffice. Two were cobras, which I thought was hysterical since we live in Kansas. There was one that was black with bright green bands. And my favorite looked like a garter snake. And after almost 2 months of life in the garden, in the span of just a couple of days first four of them were "liberated", then the last two wandered off suddenly in the night. I suffered a small psychotic break from reality over this occurrence. I was pretty upset that anyone would be stealing things from about 15 feet from my back door, and of course once the snakes were gone the animal kingdom set upon my poor garden in very short order. Fortunately for me the bunnies have been too lazy to jump over the boards and into the beds, but the birds have sifted through ever inch of the garden looking for seeds. I can only hope that everything has sprouted sufficiently so as to not be appealing to bird palates. But I digress.

So after my small psychotic break, I set about trying to think of everything I could possibly make for free or very cheap to keep bunnies and birds out of the garden. Being assured by numerous sources that bunnies hate anything shiny- I made very festive garden stakes from foil noisemakers and chopsticks. I buried every glass bottle I could lay my hands on since I had it on good authority that bunnies hate the noise of wind blowing across bottle necks. I began a paper mache hawk. And I put my mind to the topic of snakes.

How to best make pseudo-snakes for the garden that would fool the animal kingdom? How to do it with things I have on hand? Hmmmmm. Well, I had nothing even the slightest bit "snake-y" on hand. DH made me a very cute little snake from a bit of flexible tubing and some bailing wire (remember how much I *LOVE* bailing wire? It will come up a lot in the weeks to come :P). We figured it would get a coat of paint, and likely work fine- but I needed more. One snake is just not enough to keep the animal kingdom from my veg beds. A dear friend was kind enough to gift me an old hose she didn't need, and I figured my snakeless woes were over. I cut a few 18-24 inch lengths, scattered them in the beds and figured that I was covered. I don't think that any birds or bunnies even noticed them.

They all ignore the noisemaker foil tassel bed stakes. I'll leave them out, they're kind of festive and fun. They ignore the cute little snake D made me. They don't even see the hose sections. So I had to come up with new snakes. And of course, I refuse to buy more fake snakes. Especially since I'm pretty sure they will just get stolen again. (My faith in humanity was pretty well shaken over 2 incidences of snake theft, but I'm getting over it). So I cut some of the hose into little bits- maybe 1" to 2 1/2" lengths. And working from a picture I had in my head, I threaded them onto a doubled over piece of bailing wire (see? I told you it would come up again). The idea was to have a fully articulated, sort of segmented snake. Idea #1 didn't work. the pieces of hose were just too loose. So I tried using 2 lengths of doubled bailing wire, and it was perfect.

Basically, you start with 2 equal lengths of baling wire- I wanted a finished snake between 18-24 inches, so I used lengths of bailing wire about 50 inches long, doubled in half. You hold them together and sort of work the middle area into a largish loop. This will be your snake's "head". Then slide the first hose bit on. flex the "head" so that the hose can't slide off. Then bend two of the lengths of wire at right angles to the hose- outward (we'll call these wires "A" and "B"). The other 2 will stay to the middle- we'll call those "C" and "D". Thread the next hose bit onto the 2 middle wires. Pull the outer wires - A and B- close to the hose, and bend them in toward the middle of the hose opening a bit. Pull the inner wires- C and D- taut and bend them outward at right angles. Then you'll thread the next piece of hose onto wires A and B. Bend A and B outward at right angles, and bend C and D inward. Thread the next piece of hose onto C and D and bend them outward. Pull A and B close and bend them in and slide the next piece of hose onto them. Repeat. It sounds complicated for some reason, but it's super easy, you're not even really weaving. You just always thread each hose piece onto only 2 of the wires and the other 2 will wrap around the outside. Then for the next piece, you switch and thread on the opposite wires and wrap the other pair around the outside. Easy, I promise. I found I had the best result if I tried to keep the wires all close rather than letting them wander as they pleased around the snake...also, I'd alternated the direction I folded the wires, so for example when A wrapped the hose and moved inward and C came out of the middle of the hose to wrap to the outside of the next piece, then A would wrap behind C. When C wrapped, it wrapped to the front of A. I hope that I've been able to capture that in the pictures. When I was done adding as many pieces of hose as was required to give me the length of snake I wanted, I just folded the remaining wire into the last bit of hose so there were no pokey ends. And Voila! You've got a snake. I figure I'll use some spray paint and maybe paint pens or some small brushes to dress these guys up to look like some "scary" local species. There's also this idea:

Before I made any snakes at all, I was tossing ideas around in my head to make them. One of the ideas was to use cloth to either make the snakes, or to "dress up" some of the snakes I would be making (as in, instead of paint, I'd make sort of sleeves and "dress" them as snakes). After making a few of the segmented hose snakes, I decided to dress one up one of them in snakeskin print fabric. Conveniently, I had received some ugly snakeskin print shirts in a bag of stuff from freecycle. I figured that making snakes was as good a use for them as any. I didn't do anything fancy- I didn't even use my sewing machine. While D and I were watching a movie I just sort of pulled the fabric around the snake and whip stitched it on by hand. I LOVE the way this little guy turned out!

To keep my newest "family" member from wandering off, I just took a length of chain about a foot long and attached one end to "Friendly"'s head, and then attached the other end to the garden frame with a screw. The chain will allow me to move him around the garden a little- to change his position once in a while to keep the birds on their toes. Sure, Friendly looks like he might have been a bad snake and therefore is tethered to the garden. But at least he'll be sticking around, and I can bury the chain to keep it from sight until I'm ready to move Friendly a bit. The birds and bunnies have been suitably impressed so far and are staying away. A second snake, "Slimy", is in the works, and I plan to also leash him to the garden. Hopefully, I'll be able to enjoy my new friends in the garden for quite a while to come!


  1. That one looks really cool Jen, just make sure you do weld it down or I'm sure the little snake-stealers will make off with it!! Why not throw a real snake in there for good measure? :)

  2. I REALLY wanted to put real snakes out in the garden, now that the thieves are primed to grab the fake ones. But I couldn't figure out how to make them "stay"- so I figured out how to keep my new fake snakes in place ;)

  3. The rabbits are totally unimpressed with my very lifelike snakes. Until I figure out a way to make them move, I think I'm just going to have to put up netting. :(