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  • Christy@Gnarly Oak Acres

The Creepies That Eat The Crawlies

I consider myself a pretty tough cookie. I can usually push through some pain, tend to a bit of blood from myself or someone else, and I handle almost all of the animal care on our farm from hygiene to vaccinations, coop cleaning to manure collecting. And if you've ever been around animals, there are definitely some moments when you wish you had a fire hose and a hazmat suit. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure why I don't have a hazmat suit, they sell them on Amazon. Anyway, there isn't much that makes me wriggle... except things that wriggle.

Charlotte hanging in her web doesn't bother me, no, it is more the reptilian variety. The sight of a snake, even on TV or in a book, sends me into an episode of uncontrollable shudders, and a sound I can only describe as non-human. And it is completely involuntary... I have no control over it, like the hiccups, or dancing to Uptown Funk. What is it about serpents that gives me such strong heebie-jeebies? I think it has to do with the way they move, the way they look, the sound they make, the way they move, their eyes, their skin, the fact they're unpredictable, their teeth, the way they move, the way they appear when you least expect it, the way they move... I think you get it. I can't really pinpoint the exact feature, I just don't like them.

So, over the years, I've developed ways to try and avoid encounters and it heavily involves my husband. I usually make him thoroughly canvas a scene, prior to my arrival, where I believe there may be a snake lurking. We need to move that pile of wood? No problem, but I'm going to need you to poke that stick around underneath it all first. We need to rotate the compost? Sure, I'll be right there after you take the cover off, kick it a couple times and give me the all-clear jumping-jack wave (because I'm about a football field away). That worked well, until we moved to Gnarly Oak Acres. Enter the Five-Lined Skink.

I've lived in the rural woods of Minnesota my entire life, and I had never seen or even heard of a skink. If you are like I was, and wondering "what is a skink?", well you are in for a treat! Picture a garter snake...with four tiny legs. So, now we're dealing with a snake/lizard. AAAHHHGGGG! I mean, come on.

After that first summer here, I wished skinks didn't exist, and I would have been happy to never see one again. But then, something super gross and super fascinating happened that fall. Our daughter witnessed one of our chickens zig-zagging through the grass chasing something on the ground, so she set off to find out what it was. As she approached, Marvel (the chicken) dove at her target but came up short. Our daughter then saw "said thing" moving in the grass and grabbed it (to this day, I do not know what possessed her to grab at a random moving object in the grass!). To her shock, it was a severed lizard tail still wriggling in her hand. Gross! However, this incident led us to discovering that a skink, when being chased, will shed its wriggling tail as a distraction to evade the predator. And, then they grow the tail back! Fascinating!

Okay skinks, you got a little of my respect. Then, okay Google, what else don't I know about skinks? Well, as you would expect, they eat tons of bugs and larvae that we don't like in the garden. Hmmm, more respect. And, on the flip side, skinks are food for my beloved song birds that keep our canopy alive with the sound of summer. Sigh... maybe I could learn to live with the little creepers?

Skinks are still everywhere around here - under every rock, dirt clump, weed cluster, in my dreams... everywhere. My kids, of course, think it's hilarious and have committed my "skink sound" to memory so they can calmly ensure visiting friends that "Mom is fine, she just saw a skink." But, truly, after the screaming stops, I am fine and dare I say, I'm even glad they're here. Disturbing as they are, they are part of God's perfect plan and this incredible ecosystem that we are allowed to call home.

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