When Your SNAP Is Gone

When this morning first began, I did not have a plan for the day at all. [This space is provided as a pause, to allow you time to pull yourself up from the floor after hearing that I did not have a plan for the day – you all know how I am.] The weather forecast boasted a bright and sunny day with a mild breeze, which are perfect conditions to help dry things up after more rain this past weekend. Even so, I knew it would be too wet and soggy through most of the day for me to manage any mowing or gardening, so I thought I might just do some reading. After all, I had been quite busy over the previous few days, so it just seemed right to take a day off to relax.

After having my coffee over a couple of telephone conversations with two of my sisters in Nebraska, I went to the back porch to check on Francesca and Buddy, our orphaned squirrels. They have been outdoors on the back porch in the big cage for about three weeks now, so this last Friday, FD and I decided it was time to open the little hatch door and let them start investigating the porch and beyond – if they chose to. As a result, Saturday and Sunday proved to be quite entertaining. Francesca seemed to be the most adventurous – taking all sorts of risks and being quite a show off. Buddy kept to the top of the cage, hidden in the leafy branches I put up there for cover. He finally did venture out on the deck railings and even managed to nibble some rose leaves and honeysuckle blossoms, but all of those places and plants were in “safe” areas. Francesca, on the other hand, had ventured into the grass and out in my flowerbeds – a little too far away for my comfort. But as always, instinct led her to quickly leap back or scurry to cover and safe nooks next to the house whenever a sudden noise or movement spooked her.  So, with this a new part of our morning routine, FD opened the hatch door just before sitting down for his breakfast at 7:00. Soon, the two youngsters were out of their cage and scampering around on the back porch when he left for work.

Francesca drinks from the bird bath on the back porch.
Francesca drinks from the bird bath on the back porch.
Buddy watches his sister on the deck.
Buddy watches his sister on the deck.
Francesca decides she likes the grass and dirt!
Francesca decides she likes the grass and dirt!
Buddy checks out the old antique grinding wheel.
Buddy checks out the old antique grinding wheel.
The sun shade and coral honeysuckle makes a great place for two little squirrels to observe the canyon below!
The sun shade and coral honeysuckle makes a great place for two little squirrels to observe the canyon below!

When I checked on them around 7:30, I found them having a wrestling match back inside their cage. But just thirty minutes later, I could not find either of them. Finally, I found Buddy hidden between the honeysuckle and the sun shade. I thought Francesca was probably cleverly hidden somewhere nearby too, but after about ten minutes of searching I began to worry. After checking the porch, roof, and flower beds that run all around the perimeter of our home, I decided to check the trees on the south side of the house. Perhaps Francesca had followed Punkin, our older, orphaned juvenile squirrel, who had also been on the back porch earlier for her morning pecan(s).  At this point, I donned my muck boots and started walking around the trees grunting, “Ur ur ur ur ur” and softly calling “FranCEEEESCA!!! Where ARRRRRE YOOOOOOU?” Becoming a little distraught, and in my mind going over all of the places she might have ventured to, I finally sat down at the old picnic table. Looking out further in the yard and pasture, I wondered if she might have ventured to other nearby places but, no, the usual first-go outings for young squirrels were these hackberry and elm trees I was sitting under.

And then, I spotted a large lump out in the yard just to the east. How odd. It looked like a big rabbit to me but, surely, it was not. I laughed. My eyesight is not the clearest anymore, as I suffer with dry eyes and allergies a good bit. But it did look like a rabbit to me, only it was awfully still. And if it was a dead rabbit, a fox or coyote or, at the very least, a vulture – would have confiscated it by now! Nothing dead ever lasts very long here. Curious, I walked towards the mound in the grass. Squish, squish, squish went my boots in the soggy grass. Whatever it was, it was still not moving. I looked to the south of the unidentified object, and saw a strange trail left in the grass. Whatever this was, it had drug itself across the dewy grasses leaving a tell-tale path. As I got closer, I realized that what I had discovered was a very big turtle and, by the looks of the shell, it appeared to be a very old one too. I had no clue what kind it was. It had the face of a snapping turtle, but there were no vicious ridges running along its back and the beak was somewhat smooth. This was definitely a photograph worthy subject, so back to the house I trudged to fetch my camera.

This is the lump in the distance I saw as I sat at the picnic table.
This is the lump in the distance I saw as I sat at the picnic table. Do you see the brown spot between the oak tree in the forefront, and the two little cherry trees in the upper left corner of the photo?
This low to the ground you have to keep your head up and be alert for danger!
This low to the ground, you have to keep your head up and be alert for danger!
My visitor seems to be old and weathered.
My visitor seems to be old and weathered.
I love the detail of this close-up shot. I wonder about the many stories this turtle could tell!!
I love the detail of this close-up shot. I wonder about the many stories this turtle could tell!!

After getting a few photographs, I followed the path the old codger had taken which led me to the pasture gate leading out to the street. But surely this turtle had not come from town! A sharp turn in the grassy trail told me it came from the west and followed our south fence line along the alley. From there, I walked all the way back to my new friend. In a slow but purposeful manner, it had made a little progress towards the picnic table where my quest began. As it trudged along, I stayed a distance behind and to the rear so I would not deter it from proceeding on its journey. Meanwhile, I spoke squirrel, “Ur ur ur ur ur”, just in case Francesca might be playing nearby. I doubted I would have the patience to follow this turtle very far along its journey, but I was curious about where it was going.

Following the turtle trail in the dewy grass to the pasture.
Following the turtle trail in the dewy grass to the pasture.
Somehow the turtle shimmied under the pasture gate, though it looks like a very tight squeeze to me!
Somehow the turtle shimmied under the pasture gate, though it looks like a very tight squeeze to me!
The same path along the ally fence indicated my friend came from a neighborhood to the west.
The same path along the ally fence indicated my friend came from a neighborhood to the west.
After conducting my investigation of where the turtle came from, I decided to follow and see where it was headed.
After conducting my investigation to understand where the turtle came from, I decided to follow and see where it was headed.

S L O W L Y, my old friend made it to the slope and then picked up a little momentum as it headed down the hill and into the canyon. I took a few more photographs, and then decided to look around for Daisy. I walked back into the woods, but was immediately attacked by masses of mosquitoes. I zipped my hooded jacket, but my ill-fitted garment was no match for the buzzing army I faced. My left hand held the camera while the right swatted and smacked at my ears and face and my exposed left hand. These annoying bastards were everywhere!

Determined, I trudged back deeper into the jungle of growth where I had seen Daisy resting the week before. Through poison ivy and tacky spider webs I pushed forth into the cool dark of the woodlands. Finally, the mosquito population seemed to dwindle. I noticed the recent rains had washed a lot of decomposing matter and wood along the canyon floor, leaving small lines and piles where the water receded. Sandy, red dirt, mixed with black loamy soil, created a kind of sand art on the woodland floor. Fragrance from blossoms of a woodland shrub that I had often observed Daisy eating summer berries from, mingled with the musky scent of damp earth. In this cool darkness of the woodland tree canopy, I felt alive. I was deep in the oxygen tank of the woodlands… And I felt entirely immersed in the pureness of it!

Gaining momentum going down the slope!
Gaining momentum going down the slope!
Recent rains smoothed areas of the canyon floor into works of sand art. I wonder what small animal left these tracks?
Recent rains smoothed areas of the canyon floor into works of sand art. I wonder what small animal left these tiny tracks?
Each spring I see Western Scarlet Cup fungus in the darker areas of the woodlands. grasses. I am always careful not to step on these small, delicate beauties!
Each spring I see Western Scarlet Cup fungus in the darker areas of the woodlands. I am always careful not to step on these small, delicate beauties!
I imagined the turtle might travel through the pecan orchard, heading to the old river channel or perhaps the river beyond.
I imagined the turtle might travel through the pecan orchard, heading to the old river channel or perhaps the river beyond.

A sudden “SMACK!!!” brought me back to reality – I was still battling mosquitoes and was beginning to get hot in my hoodie, despite the cool shade. Maybe it was a hot flash, I do not know, but I was suddenly mighty uncomfortable. Obviously, my clothing selection was much too heavy for the warm and humid temperatures and, along with these stinging insects buzzing about my ears and alighting on my face, I had had enough! Squish, suck, squish, suck, I slopped along the electric buggy trail with my boots being sucked into the dense muck. As I hurried out of the humid and insect ridden depths of the canyon, I met the old turtle heading to the west. I imagined he would travel into part of the pecan orchard and on to the old river channel. Maybe he would even venture as far as the river, just beyond. I thanked him for allowing me a few photographs, and then headed towards the slope. And then, there was Daisy deer at the feeder!

I am always happy to see Daisy Deer!
I am always happy to see Daisy Deer!

After spending a little time with Daisy, I finally made my way back inside to the cool of the house to research the turtle I had found earlier. From my photos and research, it appeared I had stumbled across a very old female Common Snapping Turtle. Long gone were the spiky ridges running the length of her shell. Worn smooth was the point of her beak. Even her tail had lost its ridge of sharp, jagged scales. I have seen quite a few snapping turtles in my day, and it was quite plain that this old girl had lost her snap a long time ago.

With all my missing squirrel, turtle discovery, and Daisy visit going on, I did not manage to read my book at all today. Instead, I took more worrisome walks to the trees and all around the house, in search of Francesca. Finally, I decided to just come in and write about the day’s adventures. Maybe that would take my mind off of Francesca’s disappearance for a time. Then, with a heavy heart and my writing almost complete, I decided to go out for a quick break at 3:00 and give poor Buddy some company. Imagine my delight when I stepped out on the porch and saw TWO squirrel tails… brother and sister wrestling in their cage!

I was SO happy to see TWO fluffy tails!
I was SO happy to see TWO fluffy tails!

There was a time today when I felt I had lost my snap too! Like the old, weathered snapping turtle, I was feeling smooth worn out, trudging along, defeated. But now, here was Francesca, as if she had never been gone, roughhousing with her brother. I knew this was a sign that it was time for me to “snap” out of the fear and worry I had allowed to take over my mind. It was time to celebrate and live in the moment of happiness! So, I went to fetch a few pecans for everyone in celebration of Francesca’s return!

Snapping Turtle_0779

Later in the evening, while chatting with my neighbor, I learned that he had actually seen the snapping turtle while walking his dog this morning.  Apparently the turtle made it to our gate, but was unable to get under it. My neighbor lifted the hefty girl up and over, reaching down as low as he could to allow her to land with a slight thud on the other side. He felt she was better off on our property than walking the streets. I asked if she snapped at him and thrashed to get free. He said she was quite compliant and accepted his help without any fight. Maybe she had not lost her snap at all, I wondered, but had simply lived long enough to learn when she was exposed to real danger, and to hold her snap in reserve until the threat was dire…

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


39 thoughts on “When Your SNAP Is Gone

  1. I think you might be right about that elderly turtle. She obviously knew that your neighbour was helping, not harming. She has lived long enough to know the routine I would imagine. SO glad Francesca came back! The hardest bit about caring for anything is allowing it the freedom to move away and become independent. It seems female squirrels are more adventurous than their male brethren from your experiences with them so far. They certainly are charismatic little critters aren’t they and your wonderful photos captured them, and their spirit, perfectly 🙂

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    1. Thanks Fran! Well, no more than I had written this and the kids are now spending whole days in the trees just south of the house. It’s been quite chilly here with all of the rain and cool spring weather, so I think Buddy and Francesca will still cuddle up together in their next box at night to keep warm. But as soon as the heat moves in, I feel they’ll be out to the trees for good. I always worry a little at first. Heck… you know me, I worry about all of the orphans long after they are gone. Daisy has shown me again and again she’s capable of handling life in the wild. I just need to let go and let be. 🙂 I am glad with this pair (who are very talkative) that I have finally mastered speaking squirrel. I’m pretty good at it too. They both come when I call, “BREAKFAST TIME” which translated to squirrel is “Ur ur ur ur URRRRR”. 😀

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  2. I like the lesson of the snapping turtle: choose your battles. I bet that’s how she’s lived so long. I wonder how long it will take Francesca to learn that with Buddy! 😉

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    1. Ha ha! Oh, Monica that is hilarious! You know, I was quite impressed with Ms. Snapping Turtle. Usually, they are quite aggressive and are capable of biting fingers off. She was just as leisurely as she could be, and my neighbor said she was very docile. I found her very beautiful… especially her eyes.

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    1. Oh, Gail… this place just has that kind of magic. With the heavy rains and flooding we’ve been having (some of it quite destructive) I am seeing all sorts of turtles lately. Most have been water turtles that we rarely see this far from the river. I’m enjoying these unusual visitors!

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  3. Oooohhh, I loved this story, Lori! It reminded me of several nice memories of my own wildlife adventures—especially the slapping of mozzies while being the intrepid photographer! That scarlet cup fungus is gorgeous!! So glad Francesca made it home safe and sound. That girl has got a great future!!! xxx

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    1. Hello Ardys! We had more rain today and I noticed even more scarlet cup popping up all over the woodland floor. It’s like a polka dot fairy sprinkled little fungus everywhere! Yes, today Francesca spent the entire day in the hackberry tree just south of the house. She came down twice when I called her (speaking squirrel of course… ur ur ur ur ur) and I gave her a pecan. You know when kids first leave home they don’t eat like they should! 😀

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  4. That looks like a snapping turtle to me, but there are more expert turtle identifiers out there than me. Do you have a body of water near your house? A stream perhaps?

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    1. It is a very old female snapping turtle. She wasn’t the biggest snapper I’ve ever seen, but I am not sure I could have hefted her over the gate as my neighbor did. We have a river about a half mile from our house so it may have come from somewhere nearby. The city park is near also and it has backed up with water from the old river channel. I’m just glad she came to visit that day. She was a beauty.

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  5. Love it! I’m sure she hasn’t lost her snap, she wouldn’t have got to that age without knowing just how to use it to best advantage 🙂 I’m, glad your little squirrel didn’t stay away for long either.

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    1. Thank you! I think you’re right about Ms. Snapping Turtle… she seemed to know just what to do that day too! And I think Francesca is quickly figuring out what to do too. Since I wrote this post she’s discovered the trees just south of the house and she loves spending the day as a tree rat (as squirrels are sometimes called). So far the two of them still hole up together at night for warmth, but I have a feeling that soon they’ll take off on their own independently.

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  6. Lori this was a good one, I was literally holding my breath until the end, I was worried that Francesca had not returned. All in all, it was quite a day for you. The turtle. squirrel, skeeters, and then seeing Daisy at the feeders. She looks maybe not far from delivery? The red fungus is new to me. Quite beautiful in shape and color. Your narrative is great is usual.

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    1. Thanks Yvonne. The scarlet cup is really flourishing in the woodlands with all of the rain we’ve had this month. We are breaking all sorts of rainfall records – and after such a drought the past years, finally our rivers, ponds and lakes are filling again! Daisy is probably a week away from delivery, I think. I have seen her a good bit lately and walk with her every chance I get. I’m hoping if she delivers during the day (if I know where she is) that she will allow me to photograph the birthing. And of course there is the rain. I need to get some plastic gear set up to wrap the camera in so that I’ll be prepared. Rain is forecast each day this next week!

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  7. Oh Lori, what a beautiful retelling of your day! I was entranced. I wonder how old this snapping turtle is. What an amazing wise old face she has. I’ve recently had midge attacks on a walk I went on. My legs are still really itchy, so when I read about your mosquito attacks, I really felt them! I’ve searched and fretted quite a bit about young animals on the old farm that have been missing and then they’ve been there at the end of the day, quite fine! In the end you got to see a wonderful new creature, patted Daisy and your “baby” returned home. I’m so glad it ended happily. I was getting a little anxious myself! Thanks again for another delightful story about your connection with the natural world. It makes me feel so happy to read about your experiences. 🙂

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    1. Thank you Jane! Lately I have been very sidetracked in the woods with the camera a lot. I get out looking for Daisy in between the rains or I go out searching for the squirrels, and something else will present itself. I could enjoy it more if those darned mosquitoes weren’t harassing me and biting me constantly! Daisy seems to enjoy my walks with her and tending to her (petting, picking parasites, and brushing). She even lets me feel her belly. I felt a leg move yesterday… can you imagine those tiny fawns with those long legs curled up inside a tiny Mama? Daisy is a small deer, but she seems to manage and her babies have always been healthy.

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  8. How exciting to have that turtle in your yard. This reminds me of many years ago when a tortoise escaped a neighbor’s yard, crossed a busy street and strolled up our drive-way.And yesterday three baby ducks waddled across my driveway. We love nowhere near water.

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    1. Ha ha! That’s pretty cool! Do you remember when you were a kid that some towns had a “safe” house on every block? There was generally a little sign posted in the yard or a front window so that anyone who was lost, needed help, or was being threatened could seek protection and help. I think perhaps these critters see your place as a “safe” house! Your yard must have some kind of appeal!

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    1. Hi Cherity! We are seeing a lot of turtles – especially water loving species, since we have had all of this rain. Just yesterday I nearly ran over a red-eared slider in the pasture. I picked it up and relocated it to a small catch pond in the woodlands on our property. It was a larger one. And of course we see numerous little land turtles all summer long on the place. They love my flower beds! 🙂

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  9. Hi Lori, I’m having breakfast and just went on a wonderful walk with you. I felt the humidity, the mosquitoes and the pull and squish of my boots. I know the story of the venerable old lady turtle will stay in my mind and the contrast between her plodding progress and those naughty little squirrels so eager to discover new things. Enjoy your weekend xxx

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    1. What a lovely comment Henrietta! These little critters offer so much in lessons and messages. I’m listening… and it makes me happy to know others enjoy taking these walks with me. There is much adventure in written word and photographs! I wish you a wonderful weekend! We are expecting more rain and the river is to crest this morning sometime. It’s out of its banks now. I’m happy Daisy and her two friends, a doe and her little buck, are safe in this area on higher ground.

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  10. Oh what a day! I loved going along on this journey with you, and am glad that the turtle provided a little distraction for you. You sure made me feel that I was with you , Lori! Glad Francesca came home!

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  11. Who needs TV when there are squirrels exploring? What a pair. Nice to see them exploring so much ( and returning to where they are comfortable..even if for a little while longer)
    I love that 9th photo of the turtle portrait. Nature is such an artist. Beautiful design – and that expression. She certainly snapped to recognizing a couple of good hearted people and a nice neighborhood to join. (Turtle paths are so much fun)
    Good to see Daisy. Looks like summer. (the worse part: being so hot you can”t wear sleeves to protect against mosquitoes…UGH!)

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    1. Oh I’ll have you know those buzzing little devils do not keep me from my outdoor photography and a little fun. I just wear a heavier jacket and find a shady spot, then wrap a long scarf (not a thin one) over my head and ears, leaving little area for those mosquitoes to find flesh. They’re worst in the evening – and it’s best to work outdoors in the heat of the day when they’re not as apt to be around. They do like shade though, but if one can tolerate heavier clothing it does help! And any type of repellent does not cut it with Miss Daisy. She will not come near me with that on… but she does like essential oils. I use them but they’re not very effective.

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      1. You are a hardy soul. I’m with Miss Daisy – those repellents are best left on the shelf. (We camped out a great deal growing up – and mosquitoes always picked me…I was sprayed constantly with the most horrible – now considered dangerous stuff…it’s a wonder I don’t glow in the dark or something. I’ll be hiding indoors until fall chills.)

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    1. Yes Margaret, this year we have no travel plans. We learned our lesson last year – it’s more important for us to celebrate Daisy’s birthing than to be on a trip!

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