Even Dead Snakes Want to Look Pretty Sometimes

Spring has arrived in North Carolina. I’m aware it’s only February. I know that we could still get some vicious cold snaps in the next month. I don’t care. Spring is here.

How do I know?

Because I woke up last weekend and thought, “I need to go do manual labor in the backyard.”

I know it seems crazy but I actually breathed a sigh of relief when that feeling hit me. I never really had that moment last year. Preeclampsia and bed rest and sleep deprivation did a number on my body and I felt weak and out of breath. It took a full year for my lab work and blood pressure to return to something resembling normal. I remember going out to pull weeds and feeling winded after five minutes. I didn’t touch my garden, and the kids’ play areas were pretty much completely overgrown by early summer.

The year before that was the year of Rowan. I started off strong (or, as strong as a very pregnant lady can be) but everything not on the “necessary for survival” list was dropped as of April 11.

This year? This year I have plans.

First up, we have the kids’ play area

When we first created this it was the home to the world’s most annoying climbing rose. It was a monster. Huge thorns, and literally two stories tall. I hated it. We dug it out and filled the whole space in with pea gravel. Bag after bag of pea gravel. The weeds promptly regained control. I have tried at least a half-dozen approaches to keeping the weeds back but they are ferocious. A few weeks ago this space was entirely full of weeds up to my waist — basically the same as what you can see in my garden area in the background.

My plan for this area is to clean it out as best I can, pull the rocks to one corner, fill it with “Chapel Hill Gravel” and then recover with the pea gravel. I’m not ruling out literally salting the earth. I also need to try to tighten the sail shade.


Next up is my poor neglected garden.

Two years ago some friends came and planted for me but then things went from bad to worse and I just never got back out there. For the first time in a decade, I planted absolutely nothing last year. The cool A-frame trellis we built a few years ago was starting to rot at the bottom and was leaning ominously, so I went ahead and removed it. I’ll figure out some other support system. The older of the two raised beds is starting to rot, as well, but I think it will have to wait until next year.

Bottom of the stairs

Three years ago I woke up one morning and thought, “I need to go move the flagstone.” It was 8am on a Sunday morning when Zach walked out onto the screen porch, looked at me, shook his head, and walked back inside. I pulled up every piece of flagstone, leveled the area, got additional flagstone out of the garage, and reset it all. It was beautiful. For a few months. Then the weeds took over. You see, my backyard does not contain any actual grass, it is nothing but clover, wild strawberry, and mutant weeds. So this weekend I pulled all the stone up yet again and am going to dig deeper, put gravel down, and hopefully make the area nicer.

The Secret Garden

This is one of my theoretical favorite parts of my yard. I call it the “secret garden” since it is off to the side of the house. A friend gave us this trellis to use as the entrance, and I keep a variety of miscellaneous “loose parts” there. Tires, bike wheels, planks of wood, bricks, etc. I put down mulch, but that side of the house is paradise for Ivy and Vinca Minor. And trees keep growing. So I took a hacksaw to all the little trees because fuck you little trees. Then I scraped all the mulch out of the way that I could. This area is getting the “Chapel Hill Gravel treatment” as well.

You probably can’t tell but this is a brick patio.

If you look really closely on the right-hand side, near the worm bin (RIP worms), you can almost make out a few bricks under the weeds. I pulled up every single brick, save the ones right against the edge of the play area, since those are keeping the play area edging in place. The plan is to dig that out some more and, you guessed it, lay down some gravel and even things up. I’m tempted to go get some bigger stones, just so I don’t have to re-lay a million little bricks.

If you suffer from ophidiophobia, stop reading right now

While I was digging out the flagstone, I came upon a snake. I jumped back. The snake… stayed very still. The main venomous snake in our area is the copperhead, and this clearly was not a copperhead, so I edged closer to it. Eventually, I realized it was a very dead garter snake. I don’t know how it died — it looked very alive, mouth open, full of switchbacks that made it look like it was in motion. It took me a while to be convinced it wasn’t going to spring out at me.

I wanted to put a hat on it. I couldn’t find a tiny hat, so I decided to go with some lego hair. She tried on quite a few different hairstyles, but this is the one that made her feel beautiful. She liked how breezy and carefree she looked in pigtails — a look she doesn’t really get to wear often, what with being dead. And a snake.




What are your garden and yard plans for this spring? Whenever it becomes spring in your neck of the woods.

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