When walking up the driveway toward Chris Christie's convivial North Mankato garden, be sure not to step on the snapping turtles.
Two years ago, turtles hatched in the yard of her North Mankato home. Then again, just a few weeks ago, she safely stewarded a bale of 27 freshly hatched turtles from her front yard to the safer confines of nearby Hiniker Pond in a dust pan.
And do keep an eye out for the two new woodchuck pups which are being harbored under her potting shed.
And don't forget to look for the orioles, bluejays, woodpeckers or tanagers that may be feeding in her various birdfeeders and the deer that have so sharply trimmed her tamarisk plant.
"That's what I like about this place," said Christie in the midst of the small wildlife refuge that doubles as her home garden and is a featured destination on the this year's Blooming Pretty Garden Tour on Sunday.
"There is so much wildlife."
Having purchased the home in 1995 in a somewhat dilapidated state, Christie gradually made improvements to the home and yard in the years since.
What stands now is a charming and colorful abode -- featuring what might be the only orange front door in the area -- surrounded by a garden that is part artistic expression, part hobby garden and part habitat preservation.
Along the driveway, an unlikely yet thriving cactus she bought last year at a plant sale mixes with flowers and shrubs. The concrete walkway in her front yard that leads to her birdfeeder is specially landscaped to thwart the constant burrowing of raccoons. In her backyard, sculptures made by her artist daughter Makeba Ische fuse with fences, a shed and wooden porch crafted by her son, D.G. Ische, to create a space both practical and whimsical.