Clare County Review & Marion Press

Postcard from the Pines: For Goodness and Snakes

We will soon mark a year in residence at our new home. We remain very pleased with our decision to leave the Pines for the other side of the river. It has been a win-win for all involved and it often proves that we made the right move for us. We regularly continue to find new and interesting things about the place. No one can argue that an unexpected and good surprise every so often is a bad thing.
The previous owners here were busy gardeners during their long tenure and quite a few plants and shrubs remain. They are the winners after several years of playing a game of survival of the fittest. The toughest have survived and are proving with each season just why.
Spring brought us a veritable plethora of daffodils, grape and regular hyacinths and crocus with a late blush of blue Stars of Bethlehem. I reckon that the tulips, and there must have been tulips, went as deer and squirrel snacks years ago. We also delight in creeping phlox, sweet William and Dutchman’s britches, all plants that shunned or struggled in the Pines.
Perhaps the most gratifying blooms in the garden here are those of the resident roses. Although few in number and some in size, they are surprising. A pink seven sister’s rambler grows against the fence and is blooming profusely for its size. This is the kind I knew as a kid on Blevins Street. I am delighted; so delighted that I picked some in fact. We’ve added a new-comer to the rose bed in the shape of a knock-out red rose. So far it likes it here too.
As for the birds, we’ve noticed small differences in the visitors to the yard and the feeders. We have the usual and most beloved of the feeder birds, including some summer visitors who are seed crazy. Just now the rose-breasted grosbeaks and orioles are introducing their off-spring to the delights of sunflower seeds. Others will soon follow. The hummingbird feeder is a draw to more than the hummers.
All birds visit and enjoy a good birdbath, for both bathing and drinking. Water is essential to all living things. Seeking a drink in the driest of summers is when we saw Kirtland’s warblers, among others, in our Pines yard. The non-seed eating and rather illusive scarlet tanager was also a regular visitor for a spa treatment. Here, we see them flitting from treetop to treetop, seeking seed buds.
All in all, things are quite even on the bird front. We have more and regular visits from the cardinal couples and pileated woodpeckers here. On the other hand, we have not heard the distinct call of the whip-poor-will or the much beloved nighthawk this year. I am told that they are also shunning the Pines.
With the joy of the flora comes the surprise of the fauna, or should I say reptiles. We moved into the territory of what is likely a long established condo of common garter snakes. We regularly see too many of them and five sunning at once in the morning sun is too many! By the looks of two of the largest, and this being the time, we reckon that there will be a great birthing of night crawler sized snakes any time.
This garter snake colony is quite interesting, especially since we can look down on the commune action from high above by safely standing on the decking at the back door. So far we know where one of the largest snakes calls home. She will probably give birth safely in her half of a partially buried cement block against the basement wall any time now.
Since we aren’t about to stir up this nest, we will use it as a learning experience. The garter snake empire is a tough piece of real estate to change and may be hard for us to defend if we do.
In the meantime, we’ll look for the live birth of the (Thamnophis sirtalis of the family Colubridae) non-venomous Common Garter Snakes. They are quite social in their living habits, no kidding, and will give birth to from 10-25 offspring once a year, August to September. They are Michigan’s most common snakes and dine on amphibians, worms, slugs and small animals.
We looked up the eastern or common garter snake in a couple of source books; one dated 1959, the other 2004. Forget that internet stuff. The older book began the most informative paragraph on garter snake behavior by stating that they made good pets and that their bite, and yes, they bite when scared, was harmless. It also advised against freaking out when you found one in your son’s pocket.
There was a time when I would have freaked out just reading this, let alone ever watch sunning snakes from a platform. Time brings change and I don’t have the energy to waste on snake avoidance anymore. They are, as my parents said so long ago, “More afraid of you than you are of them.” Probably.
All in all, we are very happy and content in our new place. There is a whole lot of goodness here and we greatly appreciate it. And then there are the snakes.

Leave a Reply