It’s just the first week of June, and summer is already over – for me, at least. I define summer by time spent in my gardens. They are presently in their yellow period, the first flush of bloom consisting mainly of irises and ancient shrub roses grown from cuttings taken from my grandparents’ farm half a century ago. It is, at the risk of sounding like a doting mother, gorgeous.
It’s a shame, then, that I can only appreciate the beauty from behind the dusty panes of my bedroom windows, or in aerial pictures captured by the drone that I guess I’m going to have to buy for the purpose. How did it all come to this? Only days ago I was frolicking in my bower, spending happy hours picking sawfly larvae off the rose bushes, potting up geraniums, arranging the tiny figures in my fairy garden.
I decided to take a few, quiet moments in one of my newer beds, a St. Francis memorial garden where I’ve installed stepping stone tributes to the cats in my life and even put in one of those small, preformed ponds.
On this particular afternoon I sat on the low stone bench, leaning toward the pond, where I’d seen a little frog happily swimming the day before. It’s delightful to have wildlife in the garden, don’t you think? As I gazed into the slightly murky water, a small head popped up and rested on a floating lily pad.
It wasn’t a frog.
Yes, there is a serpent in my Eden. Specifically, Thamnophis sirtalis, the common garter snake. Here’s what I know about garter snakes:
- They are harmless to humans.
- They prey on disease-carrying rodents and insects.
- I want them the HELL out of my yard.
There are gardeners who rejoice at the prospect of sharing their habitat with things that slither. I think you’ve guessed that I am NOT one of those people. Frankly, I’d rather wade hip-deep in Bubonic plague-carrying rats than observe a six-inch snake from a distance of 100 yards.
Naturally, my first action upon making this discovery (after screaming and fleeing into the house, of course) was to consult the internet on how I can get rid of this monster. Turns out, snakes are attracted to little ponds surrounded by rocks to hide in and leafy foliage to lurk under. Who knew?
Several gardening forums offered advice. One counseled:
“A soft net and/or forked stick will help to trap the garter snake. Either place the net over the whole body of the snake (meaning you’ll need quite a large net) or place the forked end of the stick over the back of the garter snakes neck – so not only pinning it to the ground but also disabling it from biting you …”
Let me stop you right there. Unless Amazon offers a light and maneuverable net/stick combo that is at least 15 feet long, this is NOT gonna happen.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had snakes; several years ago there was a nest – a NEST – of them at the base of the lilac bush underneath my bedroom window. I’m a non-violent, live-and-let-live (somewhere else) sort of girl, so my solution back then was to turn the eradication program over to my elderly mother. Because she’s the mom. Fortunately, though she is as averse to the damned things as I am, she was up to the challenge. Thus, at approximately the same moment I was filling out an application with the National Wildlife Federation to have my backyard declared a Wildlife Habitat, my then 70-something mom was going full-on Berserker with a garden hoe. I can only imagine what the neighbors thought of this nice lady flailing about in the backyard, no doubt yelling a blood-curdling war cry as she brought the keen-edged bringer of death down on the foe again and again. Mom also employed chemical weapons in the form of oven cleaner sprayed around the perimeter of the house. So our property can now be officially be classified as a toxic waste dump.
Since then, until now, we haven’t seen hide nor hair … er, scale … of a snake. I imagine the lucky survivors of the purge left secret markings around the property, like the hoboes during the Depression carved symbols into trees: “This farmwife is a soft touch.” In our case, it was likely, “Crazy lady with a hoe! Slither for your life!”
But now they have returned. I say “they” because I’m given to understand that for every one snake you see, there are a dozen others lurking nearby.
This cannot be allowed to continue. To restore my peace of mind – and my access to the backyard – I have decided to turn to always-reliable technology. I have placed an order on Amazon for Snake-B-Gone granules (“Prevents snake entry, nesting and foraging.” Foraging? OH MY GOD). I have also ordered two Ultrasonice Solar Energy Snake Repeller stakes. If they seem effective, I will invest in 1,000 more and stick ‘em in every six inches around the whole property.
As I wait for these saviors to arrive, I will spend the weekend employing the old-school method that the Internet assures me has some effectiveness: stomping around. Apparently snakes are sensitive to vibrations, so heavy footfalls may scare them away. (Thank God my diet has failed; my footfalls have never been so heavy.)
Watch for me lurching around the garden in snowmobile boots, shouting “HULK HATE SNAKES! HULK KILL SNAKES!”
That oughta do the trick.