May 25, 2009

"Eye of newt, and toe of frog. . .”

Two years ago we had serious drainage problems with the northeast window wells of our Denver house’s basement. This time of year in Denver we can get torrential rains. As much as 2 inches can fall in an hour on an exceptional day. Well two years ago we had that kind of weather. I sent Esperando off to his job in the morning. It had been pouring for about 30 minutes when I decided to go to the unfinished basement in my innocence still attired in my nightgown to see if we were having any flooding down there. Lo and behold, the floor had about an inch of water on it in the northeast section and more was gushing in through the window well as the water was 4 inches higher than the window ledge. I immediately ran over to grab the shop vac and starting suctioning water off the floor, then I would drag the shop vac over to the northwest corner where there was a sump pump and empty the water into that hole, race back to the window and start vacuuming again. Did I mention that standing for 10 minutes vacuuming in the same spot is mesmerizing and surprisingly I wasn’t really quite awake even yet? Finally I realized there was aThing swimming in the 4 inches of water. I thought I was going crazy. I looked closer and the thing was like a fish, but it had very fancy gills on it that looked like leaves. I decided that it was some kind of salamander. After about 30 minutes of my suction-and-dump routine the vacuum seized up, it was working too hard and couldn’t keep up with the influx of water. I called Esperando at work and told him to come rescue the basement which he did. Then before we moved down to Mexico, Esperando dug up and redid the water drainage systems surrounding the house to make sure we would not have that kind of problem ever again.

It is worth mentioning that Esperando and I are actually among those strange kinds of people who like reptiles. That is why last year after heavy rains when I went down to check the window wells for flooding and found toads and salamanders instead basking on the damp gravel I didn’t scream but picked a toad up to take upstairs and show to Esperando. Pretty soon we were carrying out toad rescue operations. As many as 4 or 5 toads would be in each window well, with no way to ever climb out of their dungeon. Initially we thought as little tykes they might have fallen through the grating and were just eating whatever fell down there in the in the way of bugs and spiders. We eventually pulled 22 of them out. Now this third year we have decided that someone is laying eggs down there, because although there were fewer toads, they were still there.We leave the salamanders in the window wells, it is moist and they burrow into the soil, but the toads were seriously overcrowded and we think they are happier in the garden where there is more variety to eat.

Yesterday after our first really big rain I went down and found six Great Plains toads, about 1-1/2 to 2 inches long, four Tiger salamanders about 8 inches long and one very small Garter snake of about 10 inches long. We have never had a snake before. I was sure it would crawl into a crack and be very hard to catch, but Esperando with his boyhood training in snake hunting had him in a second, so he joined the toads in the release program. Later I regretted that we hadn’t kept the snake for a few days to admire him, he was so cute.

1 comment:

Claire said...

a regular aquarium