Turtle Time…

Mr. Box Turtle says “Hmmmph, YOU and your clicking camera again!”

Yesterday morning, I headed outside with a dozen projects in mind.  The day had begun with an overcast sky, but the clouds were already breaking up by mid-morning.   Stepping outdoors, I felt a strong need to get myself going with my projects if I was to beat the heat that would surely arrive by noon.  My first objective was to get both gardens weeded and to plant a row of beans and a few hills of summer squash.   I loaded up the buggy with all of the tools I would need… but wait, where was my garden hoe?

I looked everywhere – twice.  It should have been with all of the other garden and yard tools in the storage building.  I looked in both gardens, and in the flower beds all around the house.  I looked over at FD’s Mom’s place just in case it had gotten in with her tools.  No luck there.  I checked fence lines and even pawed through the horseradish bed in case it had fallen in the tangle of huge leaves.  There, I found no sign of the hoe, but I did spot my familiar, shelled friend; an older box turtle I had been seeing on the place for a couple of weeks now.  To me, his expression always seemed to say, in a rather grumpy tone, “Oh, it’s YOU again.  Bah!”  My expression upon seeing him was always of excitement at spotting the quiet and steadily creeping land rover and exclaiming, “Oh, it’s YOU again!! How is YOUR day going my friend?” Sensing his usual “harrumph” at seeing me today, I left him in his cool, shaded spot.

“Why are you always in such a hurry, Lady?”

After exhausting my search effort, I finally gave up on ever finding the hoe and moved on to Plan B.  The fence lines needed weeding.  Pigweed and lambsquarter were reaching knee-high stages and would soon be going to seed if I did not eradicate them soon.  So, off I went in the buggy with gloves and a shovel, throwing in a couple of buckets to capture the grass burs, goat heads and musk thistle I would pull and dig up.  Every year I do battle with these beastly weeds (See my post The Damnable Burs…) and was soon busy digging and hacking away at them around the perimeter fence.

I don’t know how long I had worked, but as soon as the clouds vanished and the sun appeared, I knew I needed to hurry my project along a little.  I would be mowing along the fences later in the afternoon so, besides pulling weeds, I also had to pick up trash along the way.  Sadly, people often throw soda pop containers and fast-food sacks from cars passing on the busy, nearby street.  I find all sorts of trash when I do my weekly alley check.  Lately, I have been finding a lot of golf balls as well.  It has happened long before since we moved here, and where those balls come from has always remained a mystery.  What neighbor would drive golf balls down an alleyway, unless of course they were very good at driving the ball?  Obviously, this particular golfer is not that good or the balls wouldn’t be all over our pasture.

As I pondered the question of the incompetent golfer, I moved along the fence line where I was about to complete cleanup in one pasture, and discovered a small, partially buried box turtle hiding in a cluster of five pigweed plants.  “What a clever place to hide from predators!” I thought.  However, it would not be such a good choice for avoiding the big Hustler mower about to come his way.  So, I picked Mr. Box Turtle up and put him in the buggy for relocation.

Slow leg maneuvering and steady focus wins a good grip on the slippery apple!

I soon completed my weed pulling and drove my electric, Bad Boy Buggy over to the raspberry patch next.  Here, I placed my new little friend in the shade of the raspberry canes and bid him a good day.  Being so close to the woods, we see quite a few box turtles on the place and I knew he would be fine and easily make his way to better spots to feed.  I also knew I would likely see him again.

People sometimes wonder how it’s possible to tell one animal from another.  If Daisy the orphaned deer lost her collar, would I know her from other deer?  If Ms. Foxy stood alongside five other foxes, would I know her from any other fox?  Yes, I believe I would.  My observations of nature have shown me that each animal’s behavior is highly individual.  Donald Griffin, an ethologist considered the founder of the modern field involving the study of animal thinking and consciousness, was quoted as saying, “If one wishes to understand the behavior of animals, or still more if one is interested in their thoughts and feelings, one must take account of their individuality, annoying as this may be to those who prefer the tidiness of physics, chemistry, and mathematical formulations.”  Not that I am a zoologist  or ethologist by any means, but I do study nature around me – the habits of the animals and birds that live here or frequent our little piece of land.  I find it highly interesting to watch and observe animals, and note their habits, patterns and movement.  I see them as individuals first, and not just a species of animal or bird.  So with that, trust me when I say I know my box turtle friends individually!

Turtles must be of French origin. They spend a lot of time eating small portions of food and even have that persnickety French attitude to boot! (Just kidding about the attitude. I really don’t think that way! But it’s such a fun cliché isn’t it?)

After lunch, I cranked up the Hustler and began my mowing chore.  Three hours later, as I rode the mower back to the storage building, I noticed a sheen of light bouncing off my grumpy old friend who had been hiding in the horseradish patch earlier that morning.  He had moved only about fifty yards to the old apple tree where he was now snacking on some fallen fruit.  This old fella seemed to focus solely on the apple, while telepathically messaging me to say, “It’s you AGAIN? Bah!  Don’t bother me while I’m EATING!”  I, however, spoke nicely to him, though he simply ignored me and my clicking camera as he continued taking slow chomps on the apple, which was a bit too large for him and slipped from his small mouth when he tried to bite it. SLOWLY maneuvering a grip with his front legs, he persistently tried biting again and again.  Eventually, he was successful.  I wondered as I watched him chew a few of these tiny, hard-earned pieces of apple, how he ever managed to get enough to satisfy his appetite?  Then I thought about how many times I hork down my lunch, not really taking time to enjoy it, and head back outside to get on with my day’s work.  Maybe I could learn a thing or two from old Mr. Box Turtle about slowing down myself?  After all, did I really need to do everything around here at a jack rabbit’s pace?

A Red-Eared Slider that I found last year near the chicken pen fence. This little guy was 1.5 inches long at the most. Just a baby!

This morning, I felt stiff and sore from yesterday’s work of digging and pulling weeds and decided to task myself with an easier plan for the day.  FD had plenty of work pants and shirts that needed ironing so, while he got ready for work, I set up my ironing board near the sliding glass doors, where I had a beautiful view of the canyon beyond the slope.  That is when  I spotted Daisy deer down at the corn feeder.

I grabbed a container of pre-cut apple chunks and headed out the door to feed Daisy.  That is when, at the foot of the back porch steps, I spotted my new box turtle friend, the little fellow I had relocated from the fence line yesterday.  Seeing me, however, he quickly retreated into his shell.  He seemed afraid, unlike grumpy old Mr. Box Turtle, who always ignored my presence when he saw me.  Feeling his fear, I left this new little guy alone.  After all, if he chose to stay up top here, I knew we would be seeing each other again, and there would be plenty of time for him to learn to trust me.

I went on down the slope to feed Daisy her a little apple snack and pet her a bit.  She seemed sleepy this morning, and eventually sauntered into the woods to find a napping spot.  As I watched Daisy disappear into the thickets, I thought about the gentle ways of nature, contemplating their leisurely way of life without a plan for the day or “to do” list that just had to be done.  Their actions are so unlike the hurried activities that humans find necessary in life. Only do their movements appear hurried when “fight or flight” instinct kicks in, or maybe when in pursuit of food or prey, or perhaps when just being silly.

What a tenacious looking fellow! I guess he has to at least APPEAR fierce to live in the big world of predators!

Later, as I always do after preparing him a good breakfast, I walked FD to the truck in the storage building/garage and bid him farewell for the morning.  When I turned around to go back to the house, lo and behold, leaning against the old blue ’59 Chevy, I found my garden hoe.  I smiled to myself.  Likely, I had been side-tracked while multitasking one morning and had abandoned my hoe at the location of another, more important project.  While leisurely strolling back to the house on this quiet morning, I discovered the item I had fretted about, and spent so much time looking for, the previous day.  I vowed, at that moment of realization, to at least try to think like a turtle every now and then, instead of jumping right in to my usual jackrabbit-way of taking on the day.  If I endeavor to take this approach, I may finish the race at a slower pace, but I am quite sure I won’t lose my tools, nor lose my thoughts, nor get side-tracked along the way!  Well, maybe I won’t lose my tools anyway…

I’m glad we don’t have any Snapping Turtles on the place! I photographed this one in 2007 on a county road that had flooded. He looks like one mean fella!
A crusty, old box turtle who was making his way down our slope and into the woods. This guy is obviously an “old-timer”.

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

16 thoughts on “Turtle Time…

  1. I just love them. So ancient looking. We ran across one during a walk to a friend’s house and sat with him for a good 15 minutes before he tired of us. Very cool.


    1. I love finding them this time of year. I often see them crossing the yard, and oddly, they can move pretty fast when they want to. I’ve seen them move quickly down our slope to the canyon. Now those snapping turtles I can do without!


  2. Oooh I love it.its so great when we can learn things from animals and the box turtles are so cute, how fantastic to have nature right on your doorstep 🙂
    Love the post and the amazing pictures x


    1. Thank you my new friend! Yes, I am fortunate to live in an area teeming with wildlife. But you know, even when I lived in town, box turtles were found from time to time in my backyard, and I attracted many songbirds and mourning doves. I put in a lovely water feature with fish, and planted flowers to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Nature abounds wherever we are!


    1. I’m sure Mr. Snapper wasn’t happy about being flooded out of his home, but I am also sure that the Snapping Turtle species was named “Snapping” because that’s what they’re known for! They can take a wicked bite out of their prey! I love the little land terrapins. They are very cute and shy.


  3. I’d say your old snapping turtle is looking very happy. Like he just heard a funny joke. Or maybe he was just enjoying the thought, and awaiting his chance, to take a bite out of someone? I was told many years ago, “That once a snapping turtle bites you he won’t let go till it thunders!”


    1. Hmm, I wonder if that’s a SIGN that the OKC Thunder needs a little snapping turtle attitude with the Miami Heat tomorrow night in the NBA Finals! I’m not really a sports person but for some reason I’m proud of our young team. The coach and players have been donating time and money to help those in need in the OKC area. Pretty cool!

      I like your perception of Mr. Snapping Turtle. He’s pretty cool actually. I mean, who can wear mud clumps on their back and make it work for them??


    1. Thanks so much… now I will have to research who Susanne Moodie is! Please feel free to read from my archives. The stories regarding Daisy deer have been some of the favorites. Of course there is much said about small ranch life too, and what I observe of nature in general. It is such fun writing about the animals and the humorous happenings in a day. Thanks for stopping by!


      1. Daisy deer is definitely delectable haha! To a city slicker like me it seems like one of the most romantic things that can happen, the communion between humans and nature (which is, after all, quite natural as we are a part of nature). Susanna Moodie is an early Canadian writer- she wrote a book called “Roughing it in the Bush” about her travels and life in pre-confederation Canada. She definitely lacked a sort of empathy for people and nature but has some beautiful descriptions of nature, particularly in the chapter “Brian the Still Hunter”. http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/moodie/roughing/rough-10.html- here is the chapter, read it if you get a chance :)!



  4. I love to picture you, Big Sister, placing that little box turtle in your buggy, only to relocate him later to a reprieve safe from the big Hustler mower, and in the midst of fruitful bounty; it’s a delightful picture in my mind. Your deep connection with nature is awe-inspiring, as you have an amazing gift to gently mingle about the creatures & wildlife, leaving their world an even better place simply because you were there. Thank you for the smile you left in my heart when I read your blog today!


    1. What a wonderful thing to say Baby Sister… and I could say the same about the smile you put in my heart, the day you entered my life nearly 39 years ago! We all have gifts to share. Your gift is to heal… the wounded, sick, and the broken-hearted. Your empathy and compassion is your gift to mankind… and animals too! I love you so much!


  5. Having been confined to body casts twice in my life, I have always loved turtles… I have a special feeling of kin to them! 🙂 This is a great post… love it.


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Gosh, body casts twice? I think that qualifies for being part turtle if you ask me! What a lovely thought to feel kin to turtles.

      In the summer heat I have noticed the little fellows (or gals) taking cover in thick vegetation that I water, like the horseradish and the sweet potato vines. I don’t blame them. Temps of 100° and more would certainly be unbearable in a shell!


      1. And in a body cast as well! Summer heat was dreadful… you have never itched like you itch in a body cast in summer! But I was caught in a black out one year and had no place to sleep but the floor … and my body cast made that quite comfortable indeed so it wasn’t all bad.


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