(Clockwise from left) The usual traffic on a road near the author’s home; a chicken snake going after blue bird eggs—“he came up short, that time at least,” she notes; Zoe eyeballs the single clump of dirt left after devouring a plant.
What’s the opposite of traffic, cruise ships, and cobblestone streets? That would be snakes, spiders, armadillos, and dirt roads—also known as “the front porch of the Lowcountry.” Drive one hour south of Charleston, and you’ll find yourself decompressing to a cicadian symphony under a canopy of shade that can drop the temp 15 degrees. But beware—that boon is quickly offset by the ever-present wilderness raising your blood pressure 15 points.
My husband, Don, and I moved inland five years ago to quiet our souls and live off the land, only to discover it can live off of us as well. I had initial misgivings: there are no mosquito-spraying planes, for one; more importantly, could I survive that far away from a decent bottle of Cabernet? Turns out, there was no need to worry. The local convenience store owners may not be sommeliers, but I can get a decent bottle of red in a pinch. Fortunately, the mosquitoes aren’t fond of my blood type, but they sure love my hubby’s.
Our first years in the sticks were quite the learning experience, for us and our yellow Lab, Zoe, who spent her first six months “on death watch.” She ate mushrooms, azaleas, gardenias, pinecones, and this was on the leash. Oh, and just recently we added bullfrog frothing kisses to the list—yes, it’s a thing; Google it.
Our ever-curious pup has a knack for unearthing all manner of critters. Last week after a particularly hard day at work, I noticed she had uprooted a mole. Hot, tired, and lugging groceries, I didn’t feel like bothering with mole retrieval but, after dumping my bags on the table, I relented and went out to save it. The fight hardly seemed fair, moles being blind and all. I gently placed the rodent outside the fence to live another day, knowing full well his new day could be my last, tripping as I do on their tunnels. Making matters worse, armadillos root up the mole burrows, doubling my risk of a broken ankle. Then again, armadillos eat ticks, which can cause Lyme disease. And so it is, another transaction in this rural economy: choosing the lesser of evils.
Out in the boonies, we live on the catch-and-release honor code. We either release back into the wild or release to Jesus. Such a deportation occurred one night last week when Don failed to return after putting the chickens in the coop. I went out to find him decapitating a copperhead, with a hoe, in his boxers, under the ancient oak, in the moonlight. I have to admit, it was pretty sexy.
Another point for living in the country? No need for pricey fitness classes. The rural landscape is its own Peloton! One morning, I ventured outside my back door and into my very own HIIT workout. An artistic spider had worked through the night, only to have me destroy its elaborate silken Picasso in two seconds flat. Another cardio spike occurred when I went to our chicken coop, dubbed “Over Easy,” and lifted the lid to fetch eggs only to find a five-foot chicken snake eating omelettes, mere inches from my face.
As a country dweller, this is par for the non-golf course. Like the night when Don jostled me from sleep, flashlight in hand. Another evil varmint, I was sure—what now? Instead, he led me outside to see a pair of owls in the low branches of a sprawling live oak, calling to each other, unafraid but wary of us. There is awe and magic in this call of the wild, and it raises my heart rate in all the right ways. Here on the front porch of the Lowcountry, peril lurks, but so does a world of wonder. Like the owls, I will be guarded but unafraid—and forever grateful.