Sunday, September 7, 2008

Work-related: animals

In the year I've been at my current job, I've chased a lot of things out of the greenhouses. In some cases, I've had to grab them in my bare hands to get them out, because they're not smart enough to figure out how to get out on their own. Or don't realize that they ought to, maybe, which is a different kind of stupid.

So far, the list includes:

at least two rabbits (plus many more rabbits outside on the nursery lot),
vast numbers of butterflies (above),
one ground squirrel or chipmunk or something,
one or two ducks (I didn't do those, but I heard about it later),
one large black-and-yellow millipede (see below),
one fledgling robin,
three mourning doves,
one feral cat,
and a partridge in a pear tree.

And this is not counting the lizards and frogs that come up with the tropicals from Florida, or the slugs that eat holes in the plants, or the NEARLY INVISIBLE ROBOT SPIDERS THAT COULD BE LURKING ANYWHERE. (The linked article is very off-topic, but very amusing. Be sure to read the comments, too.)

The millipede, from a few days ago.

Earlier this week, I found a millipede on the greenhouse floor, out in the middle of everything. I think this cannot possibly be a native species, as the only millipedes I've seen here before have been nondescript little gray things. Searching on-line led to one picture (here; scroll down to the post titled "Millipede: Exotic or Canadian???"), in which the millipede is said to have hitched a ride up to Saskatchewan in a potted tropical plant. didn't know what it was.

It was amusing to watch, because it kept -- I swear to god -- tripping. Or at least it really looked like tripping. It would walk along for a little while, in normal millipede fashion, and then suddenly the back half of it would twist like in the picture. Once or twice it actually fell all the way over, so the whole length of its body was on its side. I'm assuming that this is probably either a pesticide thing or a starvation thing, but didn't investigate. I don't even know how one would investigate something like that, short of looking around on the floor for tiny beer cans.

Then last Friday, I added a new species to the list: a garter snake. I first noticed it while helping a couple college guys pick out a plant for their apartment (they went with a Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana,' which hopefully they won't overwater), and when I tried to grab it and pick it up, not only did it get away from me, but then the college guys reappeared with a question about pots, and when I got back, the snake wasn't there anymore.

After looking around the area for a while, I re-found it, between a pair of rocks in a difficult-to-access back corner, under a Phoenix palm with anger management issues (read: they have thorns), and after some lunging on both sides, some hiding on the snake's part, and me getting some stabs in the forehead from forgetting the palm was there, I managed to grab the snake by the tail. Whereupon it bit me on the opposite hand (drawing blood!). And then I carried it outside while it squirmed around some more. It calmed down somewhat once we actually got outdoors, and I started walking faster. Eventually we wound up behind one of the (currently unused) greenhouses in the back.

And then I wanted to get a picture, because everytime anything even remotely interesting happens at work now, I think, ooh, the blog! and take pictures of whatever it is, but of course I couldn't let go of it because then it would get away before I got the camera ready to go. So I'm still holding the snake by the tail in my right hand, and I'm getting the camera out of my pocket with my left hand, and I start to go through the various one-handed button-presses required to turn it on and get in a mode that will focus properly. Then mere moments before I'm ready, the snake, sensing an opportunity, reaches back and bites me on the knuckle, causing me to forget myself and reflexively whip my hand backward, flinging the snake into the back wall of the greenhouse, where it bounced off and slithered away without missing a beat, like that kind of thing happens to it all the time.

Later, when I tell Younger Co-Worker about this, her first suggestion was that I was supposed to have killed the snake (step on its head or something). Which seemed a little harsh, and which literally would never have occurred to me. (I like snakes. Especially garter snakes, which I think are adorable.) I told her so, and her second suggestion was, well and also if you're going to pick it up, you should grab them right behind the head, so they can't reach around and bite you like that.

And I was like, oh yeah. I knew that, once. It's amazing what useful information you can forget that you know.


Aiyana said...

I could deal with all of them, except the millipede and snake. It's just so childish, but I still get ill just looking at them, and I'm old!

sheila said...

One morning we had just opened up the garden center, and there was an ENORMOUS snapping turtle out by the annual racks. It was just me, the brand new employee, and the manager, who I thought was pretty tough. So I went to get her, and she jumped UP ON THE TABLE, like those cartoons when the 1950's housewife sees a mouse!

So obviously manager wasn't going to help much. We got some long handled tools and the biggest nursery pot we had and eventually got the darn thing trapped under the pot with a rock on top. Have you ever seen a snapping turtle whip its head around and lunge at you? It's scary.

Then we called animal control. They took it away, and told us how to pick one up next time, reminding us to wear really heavy leather gloves and grab it between the front and back legs. Yeah, right.

Now, the worst thing I have to deal with is an occasional snail. But there is one client who's had gigantic cockroaches jump out of her plants at me a couple of times (ewww).