Snakes, toads, and water-holes

Headed out early to the farm this morning to get everything watered (again) before the day hit.  Now it’s ninety-five degrees with a thirty mile-an-hour wind.  Just tweeting that I bought a new cooler and am wondering if I’ll have any salad greens left alive to put in it by Thursday’s market.

I did get a better deal (well, we’ll see how it holds up) on a supposedly-120 quart cooler that looks a bit smaller than my two other big marine coolers.  It does have a more spacious lid, so that may be where the extra volume goes.  My marine coolers were eighty to ninety bucks–this one was fifty-five.

As much as I hate that bad place, their everyday low prices can help–especially when there’s nowhere else in town that sells a cooler of that size.  That’s always the trade-off: buy from the bad place, or burn gas to find someplace else to buy? Caught in a devil’s bargain, indeed.

Saw two big garter snakes (at least I think they were two–could’ve been one that moved from the west to northcentral garden) this morning.  The second was while I was watering the salad mix in the northcentral garden–she came sliding out from under the row cover, glistening wet and showing her amazing red coloration.

(I always call adult snakes “she”–“Mama” if I’m addressing them directly–a holdover from that brief period I shared my residence with a 6ft Burmese python I named “Mama Cass.”  The poor cat I had at the same time was a neurotic mess.)

Then I saw that garter kind of dive into the mulch between the salad row and the turnips.  Couldn’t figure out what she was up to until I saw her emerge with a yearling toad in her jaws.  I kind of told her off about that–“You’re supposed to eat bugs, not toads,” I said, and sprayed her a little with the rain wand.

She just looked at me and continued gulping.  When she was done, I sprinkled her a little more, and she poked her head up and showed me the inside of her mouth, as if to say, “all gone,” or maybe rather “I’ll do my job; you do yours!” I realized that if I want the snakes to eat bugs, I’ve also got to allow them the occasional main-course toad.

I haven’t seen our resident five-lined skinks yet this year, but they’re probably hanging out under the mulch.  Toads, snakes, and skinks love the gardens because of the cooling layer of mulch, absence of noxious chemicals, and also because we have a little water hole up by the shed.

The water hole is about 2 x 3 feet or so–formed by the incessant leaking of that old hydrant while the well is turned on during the garden season.  This may give water conservation folks the heebie-jeebies, but the waterhole is small and much-appreciated by the resident critters, birds, and pollinators.  I don’t see it is wasteful, though I think H has the urge to fix it.  It’s on the long list, anyhow.

I filled it in a couple weeks ago with a broken sandbag so that it’s not just a big muddy puddle right where I go to turn on the spigot, and so the pollinators have an easier time drinking from it.

We even have a miniature collection of cattails (about six or seven) that just started growing there last year.  We also had a frog visitor there at about the time the cattails came, much to our surprise.  He/she was a long way (in frog-hops, anyhow) from the river.


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