Mints, Toads and Spiders, oh my!

Ah, June. I love this time of year, the garden is starting to come in, my herbs are already beginning to yield. In addition to the usual veggies, I’m growing basil, cilantro, chives, comfrey, thyme, lemon balm and of course, mint. I am limiting myself to only three types of mint this year. Be gentle, this is hard for me.


3 MintsThe plant on the far left is Mentha x piperita ‘Citrata’, more commonly known as Orange Mint. In the middle is Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate’, or Chocolate Mint and on the right, Mentha x piperita, a variety called Twist of Peppermint. Aside from being beautiful, tasty and naturally grown medicine, mints are among the easiest garden herbs to grow. You do have to make a determined effort to control their spread, hence the reason I always plant them in containers. If you want to try your hand at gardening, start with herbs and mints in particular. These guys will make you feel like a wise old hobbit…or at least a competent human.


My day begins with letting loose the hounds, Bigs first, Littles second. No sooner were the Bigs out when there was a commotion by the shed. I figured they’d spotted one of the chipmunks who live underneath, or a squirrel hesitated before sprinting for the trees but it quickly became obvious it was something inside that had their interest. Tossing a couple of balls in the other direction (like some men, dogs are easily distracted) I opened up and glanced around. Word to the wise here: what you see as a tool shed, Nature sees as a multi-story condo with no fees and a built in buffet, a.k.a your garden. If you even think something is in there, proceed SLOWLY. I’ve run into more critters than I care to think about. Literally.


This time I found a beautiful specimen of Bufo a. americanus, or American toad. She seems to be a healthy female, so I set her up in a small apartment under the pumpkin with her own pool. It only took a few minutes, just set a clay pot in the ground, toss some dirt and damp grass in, and add a water source nearby. Since one toad can eat up to 1000 insects each day, I’m hoping she’ll find her digs acceptable and stick around. Click on the image and you’ll see her inside.


Toad in house2


Morning chores and rescue of the day accomplished, I sat down to write. About two minutes in… it hit, that creepy vibe that slithers over me whenever something I utterly detest invades my personal space. I’m not talking about the “18 People You’re Scared of on Facebook” kind of creepy. This is more like Ripley knows an alien is close, by the way the hair on her arms stands up and the skin on the back of her neck crawls. Eventually I had nowhere else to look but up… and there it was. A freakin spider…

Right over my head people!

Now I’m pretty tolerant, especially when it comes to all creatures great and small HOWEVER…there are notable exceptions. Spiders are one of those.


I know they are good for the garden. I know it’s not their fault they have all those legs and that jerky walk, but neither is it my fault I find them terrifying. I tolerate them outside, but in my house? Sorry but no. Since there wasn’t anyone else around, and dogs are utterly useless against arachnids, I had limited options here. Waiting for a hero to come along was not one of them. Like Ripley, I was left to save myself.


So that was how I found myself kneeling precariously on a drafting stool, maneuvering into position for the kill. One hand holding a rolled up newspaper, the other maintaining a death grip on the backrest all while muttering “Please don’t fall on me” under my breath. After a thrilling round of “what if I miss?” the battle began. Naturally my first strike missed and equally naturally, the spider opted for the best defense, which as we all know is a good offense. It rappelled to the floor like a little Special Ops ninja spider, looked up with all eight eyes and said…”Let’s Dance Woman!”


Picture if you will… a woman in red checked pjs and faded AC/DC “Highway to Hell” top, swatting madly at a spider on the floor darting in 13 directions simultaneously, hopping around in a vain attempt to keep both bare feet off said floor, set to the shrill baying of two small dogs who have, oh so helpfully, joined in the chase.

Really guys??

This will not go down as one of my fonder memories. On the other hand, it’s moments like that where I have to admit I am grateful not to be famous.

Can you imagine that shot on the front page of the National Enquirer?