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The one thing I really didn’t want to find in my garden (or my house)


Just a couple weeks ago I wrote here about how I manage insect pests in the garden. The general point was that human intervention is often not required. If you create a garden with a healthy ecosystem, things will all balance out.

If that sounds just a wee big smug, you can rest assured that I’ve gotten what’s coming to me. Because my “healthy ecosystem” damn near gave me a heart attack this week.

Let’s establish a few facts.

  1. I am petrified of snakes. All snakes. Big or small. Poisonous or not. Giant anaconda or teeny garter snake. It makes no difference, my phobia is of the equal snake opportunity.
  2. I’m fully aware that snakes, at least those of the variety we have around here, which is mostly “harmless” garter snakes, are good for the garden. They keep the rodent population in check and, I suppose, eat other things I don’t want around.
  3. I have no rational reason for this fear.

I generally don’t let people know about Fact No. 1. When you let people know that you have a full-on phobia of something like snakes they start thinking they are real funny and the next thing you know some wiseacre has put a rubber snake in your shower and set up a camera in a cruel attempt to make a viral video.

And even though I am a logical person, Fact No. 2 does nothing to remedy Fact No. 1.

This all came to a head this week. Fergus, a large, orange cat who lives with us and who pretends to be cute and cuddly exactly once a month so I soften up and continue to feed him, was paying particular attention to the wall by the front door. Staring at it, pawing at it and generally being obsessed with it. There was no doubt, something was in there.

cat at wall
Fergus knew there was something in there.

This, by the way, is not all that surprising. We live in an old house with a few, um, quirks. One of those is the lack of sheathing under the siding. A few years ago a heat-sensing camera showed that we were losing a lot of heat from the area around the front door.

The next morning Mr. Much More Patient were standing outside the front door and he suggested maybe we should just wait for something to come out to find out what was in the wall.

And, as if on cue, a snake poked its head out from under the siding. He saw it first and implored me not to look. And like any normal human, when he said “Don’t look,” I looked. 

Attention friends with snake phobias: No photos of snakes will appear in this post. I wouldn’t do that to you. Nor would I do it to myself.

house front
See that window to the right of the door? That rude snake stuck its head out of the bottom of the siding just a foot or so below that.

What happened next can only be described as an out of body experience. I heard myself scream. A panicked, horrible scream. Then turned and ran to the only place that seemed safe: my car. I should add that I ran on tiptoes because I was wearing sandals and apparently I thought this would keep the giant anaconda from wrapping itself around my ankles. 

garden path
This is the path I high-tailed it down on the way to the garage, where I sought refuge in my car. Because there are no stories of snakes ever being in cars. Ever.

Then I got in my car and posted a tear-filled freakout on Instagram stories describing what I assumed was a family of snakes living in my wall. Not my finest moment.

I went to work and Mr. Much More Patient, being an outstanding person who was hoping I would one day return to the house (he was probably worried I’d send garden maintenance instructions), ripped open the wall (from the inside because the last thing we needed was to break a piece of siding and end up six months from now residing the house) to wrangle the snake family.

open wall
Operation snake hunt underway.
Supervisor on duty.

Inside (so I’m told) he found two newborn chipmunks. No writhing pile of snakes. Just two infant chipmunks. 

The logical explanation is that the snake was in there snacking on the rest of the chipmunks. The ophidiophobian in me is fairly certain the rest of the family of snakes was out at snake school during this extraction operation.

Nope. No snakes here.

The wall has been reassembled with the contents of multiple cans of expanding foam emptied inside it so at least I know the anaconda is not in there. Presumably we (the snakes and I) can go back to our previous agreement in which they make themselves scarce when I’m around and I pretend like there’s no way they can be in my garden.

And in the meantime, I’ve decided to be just a little less smug about my garden ecosystem. It might be thriving, but sometimes that’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

30 Responses

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  2. I love those front steps, among everything else, wow your house looks like a Thomas Kinkade painting. And the more I read the more I feel we have in common. I was weeding my flower bed on the corner of the house. There is a creeping phlox, I think that is what it’s called, and a crazy looking hens n chicks thing that I wish I could take a picture of because I am sure you could tell me why it is growing like that. But anyways, I am standing on some big rocks, bent over tidying things. When a little gardener snake comes out from underneath the phlox to get me. My Nike slides were still on the rocks, I was so scared I literally jumped three feet backwards out of my shoes. And made my husband get them for me. We seen the snake the day before in a totally different spot. He kept reassuring me that he is also a beneficial of sorts. But I like you are not a fan. And if I can explain it good enough, do you know why a stalk would grow out of the middle of a hens n chix, then there is like balls or blossoms?

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  5. Just found you recently so I am reading back through old posts. I too am terrified of snakes. I have not seen any in my garden but am told they likely exist. I hope they never show themselves. One in my wall would likely have me moving to a new house. Silly, yes. Unlikely, no. Thanks for making me feel normal!

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  7. Thanks for the warni8ng about no snake photos in your post. I have perhaps the most irrational phobia about snakes, and honestly – the story itself was bad enough to imagine let alone un the siding of the house. Eeek!

  8. Absolutely not!! I do not care how “good for the garden” they are. I do not care how they “get rid of mice and other varmints.” There is not one single thing a snake does that cannot be done by some other animal. There is a reason why Satan is referred to as a serpent in Scripture!!

    Now, that aside…funny story. My mama and Grammy were canning tomatoes in our kitchen and had the window over the sink open because it was nice outside. They kept hearing a tap-tap-tap on the window but thought it was my dad messing with them. When mom looked up, it was a huge rat snake that had slithered upon the window ledge and was making the noise. When mom and dad sold the place about 15 years later, there was still tomato juice splattered on the ceiling from where mom and Grammy about killed each other getting out of the kitchen and out the front door that day.

  9. Snakes aside ( I hate them too!) you can be very thankful you found those chipmunks. They can be very destructive to the point of chewing on wiring. Any vehicle sitting outside is fair game to them. It’s pretty expensive having wiring replaced and in the house is disastrous.

  10. I know snakes are all part of the eco system but they do give me the creeps and can’t even imagine how I’d feel if I saw one coming out of the side of my house! I think your fast exit to the safety of the car was a prudent one! But I do think Fergus needs an extra treat just for being the one that rang the alarm bell.❤??

  11. Oh Erin, you know you and I share the same heart stopping fear of snakes. We giggle about that at our Master Gardener meetings while we are learning how wonderful they are for our gardens. Ugh… I could feel my fear and anxiety building as I read your hilarious post. Always know your fear is shared by others—we are not crazy people!

  12. I share your phobia. Don’t care how small or harmless they are…just nope! And I second what Julie said about cats. Our cat, Scout (appropriately named) would stare at the fireplace for hours this past Spring. After several days, my husband and I finally heard the squeaking in the chimney that Scout was already attuned to – a mama racoon and her babies had taken up residence in our chimney. I’ll never doubt Scout’s instincts again!

    And your gardens are breathtaking!

  13. I feel the same way about spiders. Just thinking about them makes me cringe.

    Cats are not dumb. It’s important for us to pay attention to their behavior, because they can tell us things. In my case, one of my cats would sit on my bed and stare at the corner of the room. This went on for a week or two. Then one day the the floor in that corner collapsed. I think the cat could hear it happening, Little by little.

    You have a lovely house and garden!

  14. I’m so sorry you had this truly frightening experience, but you conveyed your terror most eloquently and I think this was one of your best posts ever. And thank you for the garden view that I don’t think you’ve shared before from this vantage point. It is just gorgeous and tasteful and all things wonderful.

  15. I too have extreme phobia of snakes!! I can imagine how uncomfortable was for you, having this problem in your home. Hope everything it’s been remedy and you won’t have this dilemma again. I’m sure you’ll make sure of this. Ona happy note, your garden around your home is beautiful!! It should be in Pinterest, Home and Gardens magazine etc. Thank you for sharing
    Happy Gardening????‍?

  16. Oh my gosh, I was eating breakfast while I was reading this and I laughed so hard that I drooled all over myself. The details in this post are fabulous. On one of our regular walks, there is a retaining wall next to a creek where we often see water snakes (little ones). We discovered that we can sometimes catch a peek of snakes with their heads sticking out of the wall, surveying the creek. We love our sightings, but I would completely freak out if I saw 1. a snake poking out MY side of the wall or 2. a snake peeking out of my house. I do love seeing their skins in our yard and knowing they are on rodent patrol. We could use some this year as the moles are awful. Thanks for being willing to share this in such graphic detail. It was a good way to start the morning.

  17. At least you won’t have to worry about any chipmunks in the house this winter. The snake was doing its duty. So sorry you are so afraid of snakes. It must be a terrible feeling being afraid of something that is so helpful around the garden.

  18. Honestly, I don’t think we have seen this view before and it’s totally gorgeous. Plus, no snakes!

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