One afternoon last week before the daily deluge, I went to work on these pretty old planter boxes we have. There are four of them, and they are made of concrete and have a raised floral pattern on one long side. We love them.

The boxes are shaped like window boxes, but it would take a crane to lift them to window sills where their weight would likely pull the window to the ground. They are also too heavy to move and almost too heavy to turn over.

Consequently, before putting in the impatiens that I bought from Sue Billings, I needed to turn last year’s soil and put more soil into each.

And I was doing just that and had begun on the third. A warning thunder clap sounded from afar and I was looking skyward when – eeeeekkkk – my hand fell on something cool and rather soft and spooky to the touch.

It was a frog, sitting in the cool damp soil of the planter box.

I say it’s one thing to look at a frog and then, gingerly, to touch it. It’s quite another to feel something that turns out to be a frog, and so I forgive myself for what came next: Screaming and leaping to my feet simultaneously, proving one can do more than one thing at a time when motivated, woke my husband from a nap and brought him flying downstairs. Shoeless. Back up for shoes. Back down.

All the while this frog, totally laid back, was staring at me; his (her?) chin rested on the edge of the planter. The frog’s serenity calmed me somewhat and I saw that this was a pretty good-looking amphibian, not that I was about to kiss it and hope for a prince to pop out of the planter.

My husband went straight to the planter. Hey, you’re a really great frog, he said, kindly patting it on the pack. He resettled the frog in damp soil under a shrub and I resumed digging around in the dirt.

But was is a frog?

No matter. All toads are frogs, though not all frogs are toads. In Maine, there are nine species of frogs, including one toad. They’re amphibians. They lay their eggs in water – plenty of that around here – and then settle into woods and fields, or planting boxes.

Frogs and toads seem to be in short supply these days. Also turtles: There are 10 sorts of turtles in Maine, but I can’t remember seeing any sort of turtle around here.

Plenty of amphibians and snakes are considered endangered species. Hence, the New England Amphibian and Reptile Rescue.

Snakes in the grass

Being surprised by a snake in the grass, or under a porch, or in the wood pile, etc., is akin to patting a frog you hadn’t noticed: adrenaline rush, big time.

We have plenty of snakes in the grass of the River Valley. Over time, you’re going to encounter at least a few, or many. Just ask Gail Parent. She really, really, really doesn’t like snakes, and pointing out to her what good snakes do for gardens won’t cut it.

Of the 10 snake species in Maine, the one Gail and I never want to see is the black, or Eastern, racer. It grows up to 6 feet long and moves lightning fast. Don’t try to sell us on how great the racer is for controlling rodent populations and how it isn’t poisonous.

Maine and Alaska are the only states where there are no poisonous snake species. Climate change could alter that advantage.

Gail is a great story-teller. She spooked herself and me when she told of her daughter and son-in-law on a hike near Orono discovering – “…the earth moved!” – they were standing in a very large nest of snakes.

Ms. Parent had a big happy birthday very recently. Surely, no one gave her the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife full-color poster depicting Maine snakes.

Linda Farr Macgregor lives with her husband, Jim, in Rumford. She is a freelance writer. Contact her at: [email protected]



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