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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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…
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…