garden-skullFrom the series: Life on Dog Hill

Most of my discretionary time these days is spent in the garden. To be honest, unless I have a work commitment (someone else paying for my time), I’m in the garden. After all, it’s July in a zone 7. Nature is taking over.

I begin my outside work early morning while the temperatures are still in the lower 70s. Perfect gardening time. When I finish, it’s in the 90s — heat stroke temps — which is why I include lots of breaks to rehydrate.

Today I’m digging up a garden bed and replanting it. The weeds are so invasive that digging everything up is easier and more efficient than plucking the unwanted one-by-one. Not to mention, digging it all out gives me the chance to separate overcrowded bulbed plants. All in a day’s work, right?

As much as I love gardening, recent dangers have made me much more careful. There were the two copperheads found earlier this week, one more than three feet long. The nasty (dead) guy in the photo here was about 18 inches. It had just eaten a frog, and you could see the shape of the frog lodged in its throat.copperhead-summer2015

Ew. Poor frog.

Lucky me.

The snake was found by a worker installing new lights in my water feature. Earlier I had been walking through that area picking up debris and had probably stepped past it more than once.

The longer one was found on the side of a hill where, just days earlier, my son and I were digging up ferns.

Whew!

I was reminded by an uncle that my maternal grandmother had once been bitten by a copperhead. She survived, but I vaguely recall a lot of pain and discomfort with her experience. Even my great-grandmother on my father’s side was bitten by a copperhead. He tells the story that she lanced it herself, cut the leg off a chicken, and inserted it into the open wound. Because the temperature of the chicken leg was higher than my great-grandmother’s body temperature, the chicken leg pulled the poison out. As the story was passed down to my dad, the amputated chicken leg turned “black as coal.”

Poor chicken.

Lucky grandma.

Honestly though, snakes are the least of our worries. According to my Westie, Bonnie Belle, more dangerous than the invasion of poisonous pit vipers is the resurrection of Mr. Gnome.

My son Ryan and I found Mr. Gnome face down in the dirt, covered with ivy. He had gone missing some time ago, so we were happy to find him again. Ryan placed him in the middle of the bird bath, with decorative stones at his feet. I thought that was a bit over the top given that Mr. Gnome had a history of mischief. I can’t tell you how many times we found him on the back deck, a cigarette to his mouth. Smoking is not allowed at our house, but Mr. Gnome considered himself an exception to the rules. I dare not mention other indiscretions, other than to say that my magical dancing lady who adorns the fern garden was lured into… well, enough said.

Our guess is that Mr. Gnome succumbed to the ivy in a drunken stupor. Looking through my rose-colored glasses, I understand it was a type of rehab, so to speak.

As it turns out, Mr. Gnome has already been of great service. He keeps Bonnie Belle from scratching at our new Anderson sliding glass door. That’s a biggie. Bonnie Belle considered him an intruder of the worse sort and barked at him for two days non-stop. Now she just stares from a distance, eliciting the occasional growl to inform us that, while we may see a gnome in recovery, she sees something much worse.sheila callaham blog

I trust a dog’s instinct, but Bonnie Belle’s perception has been, how-shall-I-say-ever-so-delicately, a bit off. I’m positive the breeder gave a great sigh of relief before breaking out in howling laughter after we walked out the door.

We see a simple garden gnome, Bonnie Belle sees…

sheila callaham blog

While I am cognizant of the gardening dangers of snake bite and heat stroke, I’m inclined to dismiss Bonnie Belle’s “six-sense” about Mr. Gnome. As long as he leaves my magical dancing lady alone and doesn’t drop cigarette butts in my yard, we’re good.

Sheila Callaham is an author, inspirational speaker, and life coach. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and children. She always has dirt under her fingernails. 

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