The combination of cool temperature and strong sun made this a perfect day in the greenhouse, and the warm days make for lots of snakes.

Outside it was about 60 f while inside the hoop house it was about 75 f with the fans running all day. The smaller house stayed about 70 f with just the door open but the best part was the strong sun which is giving the geraniums a big boost.This morning it seemed like all the snakes in the world were in the greenhouse. It has been said that a snake in the greenhouse is good luck so judging by attendance today we are in for a string of it! We counted 3 at once.

They were every where on the floor and the benches. Since no one here has issues with snakes they are welcome house guests. I should say they are the common garter snakes, Thamnophis sirtalis, and they eat earthworms, small rodents, frogs and so on. We are at war with the voles so any help is appreciated although the ones we are seeing do not seem large enough to tackle a vole.

Yesterday we saw 3 out side basking on the stones. The need to regulate their body temperature by laying in the sun to warm up. At night they pick a spot to rest and it is not uncommon for 2 or more to sleep together to stay warm.

I am not sure why we are seeing so many but it is the romantic time of the year for garter snakes so maybe they were just having a little fun.
Yesterday we borrowed my fathers mantis tiller because we had some small areas around the herb garden that needed a little work, and since we had never used one before we wanted to see what they are all about.

Our usually go to machine is the troy bilt horse tiller which weighs more than 150 pounds. The mantis on the other hand weighs in at 20 lbs. The troy bilt is a rear tine design and it leaves a smooth, ready to plant path behind it. The mantis has no wheels or depth gauge, just a set of revolving tines which madly claw at the earth while you hold onto the the handles for dear life, pushing or pulling, depending on if you are cultivating or tilling.

Its a good thing its light, other wise it could be a problem to handle but with the small engine and tines its manageable even for my 84 year old dad.
I tackled the small annual beds next to the herb garden without too much trouble. The biggest problem is the lack of a depth gauge which makes it difficult to do an even job. Next I hit the cool garden as we want to get the lettuce and peas in right away. This garden is about 6 ft wide and 32 ft long. It took about 10 minutes to mix the compost and mulch into the top layer but again with out the depth gauge it made for an uneven surface. We will definitely need to rake.

The troy built would have done the same job in a similar amount of time but without all the hauling and pushing. I guess one would stay in better shape with the mantis. I can see it would be handy for some cultivating between rows but the place where it was really handy was the edger.

One nice feature is the slide off tines which are held on each side of the tiller with a friction pin. Not only does this make it a snap to change from tiller to cultivator to edger but it makes it really easy to remove the twisted vegetable matter and mud from the axles. ( or is it madder. When ever I am trying to clean the bolo tines on the horse I get madder ) The edger is like a single disc tine on one side and a 4 or 5 inch wheel on the other. To edge we just ran the wheel on the side walk and followed the edge with the rotating disk and it worked like a charm. We just ran a 6 inch ice spud along the top edge of the walk and the overlapping sod easily came lose. It was harder to wheel the barrow load to the back lot than to do the edging.

We used this edging/cutting feature when we hit the area around the herb garden. By measuring out from the garden and staking the distance we were able to get a straight job and the nice thing is the edger will run right up to the making stakes so we could leave them in place until we were finished.

Besides being a nice edger it started really easy compared to our horse tiller. 2 shots of the primer bulb, a little choke and 2 pulls. Its a 2 cycle and it really turns up. Probably the worst part of the whole experiment is when the gas can tipped over in the back of the station wagon and leaked gas. And even thought the lingering gas smell is bad the thought of $3.00 a gallon gas being wasted is far worse.
So the verdict is as long as I can borrow one for the 30 minutes work I need to do I would not consider buying. But if I won the lottery, well that another story.

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