Living in Wild Kingdom

My garden looks rough.  There’s no way around it.  Granted, it’s the middle of October and everyone’s garden looks rough.  August and it’s lack of rain combined with September and early October’s deluges have just left everything looking rather unfortunate.  Partially inspired by an article I recently submitted for publication on the topic of how to winterize one’s garden and partially inspired by the purchase and renewal of the house behind us that has sat vacant for well over a year (and had slipped into neglect the last few years before that), I found myself with a few free hours the other day and decided to do a little bit of a clean up in my sunny perennial bed, aka, the ‘down by the side of the road’ garden.

Taking my own advice, I cut back the plants that had any hint of a spot of mildew growing on it, which given the recent weather, were most of them.  As I worked my way through the flower beds in the back yard, I stumbled upon this, hiding under the brush pile that the rudbeckia bed has become:

A box turtle!  We’ve seen a box turtle back there before – the day the previous owner of the house behind us left his home – but we haven’t seen one back there in the year plus since.  The next afternoon, I showed Pat where I’d seen the turtle and he was back in the same spot as the day before- we recognized him from some scars on the front of his shell that look like some critter tried to have a turtle on the half shell.  Pat pointed out it was a male due to the concave shape of the bottom of the shell.  We’re not sure if he’s setting up camp there or what, but for the time being, I’ve left that particular spot alone, so he can have a little cover, which is probably why he set up there to begin with.

The day after I found Mr. Turtle, Pat came up the back steps hollering for me to come see what he’d found when he opened the basement garage door.

Two garter snakes, curled up in a pile.  Given one was much larger than the other, we think they were a mating pair, as females are larger than males. When Pat grabbed them, the larger one ‘skunked’ him, meaning she released a funky smelling odor, which is not nearly as potent as a skunk, but you get the idea.  He relocated the pair to the yard, because while we have a ‘pet’ snake and while I’m okay with the idea of snakes lurking in the yard (I came across a rather large black snake back by the creek this summer), I am not completely on board with the idea of them roaming free in my basement, especially breeding snakes,  no matter what they eat (in this case, small critters like those cave crickets that inhabit the basement).

My garden might be a hot mess right now, but clearly, we’ve created some good habitat for some critters here in the city which is pretty cool.  It’s like living in our own little wild kingdom!

8 thoughts on “Living in Wild Kingdom

  1. melissawest says:

    Last weekend I started putting our gardens to bed. Exhausting work. I didn’t find the surprises you did, however. A box turtle! How cool is that?

  2. pattisj says:

    I’m surprised by some of the visitors to our city yard, too. Most of the ones we’ve seen were four-legged mammals, though a neighbor found a snakeskin in their garage. I haven’t seen a box turtle in a very long time.

    • Becky says:

      There’s a neighborhood fox as well as hawk and a family of deer that live behind a neighbor’s house. For being so close to downtown, we have quite a bit of wildlife!

      • pattisj says:

        There was major development in our area a few years ago, I think what we saw were displaced animals looking for a new home. I’ve never seen deer in our neighborhood, but one crossed our path at the local wildlife refuge. Our neighbor has seen a fox, and we had an opossum and raccoon come by late to clean up under the bird feeders. The raccoon found the squirrel’s peanut feeder and figured out how to open it. 🙂 I didn’t expect to see them in Virginia Beach–but I’m glad I did. I grew up in a rural area and remember my dad cussing the ground hog that liked his corn. 🙂

      • Becky says:

        We haven’t had development here, we just have a very suburban like environment for living just over a mile from downtown and a major university.

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