Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More Michael Ray...

Caladiums before Michael Ray and his new found climbing and stomping skills:

Caladiums after Michael Ray used his new found climbing/stomping skills:

I am not going to post a picture of what he did just one day later. It's just so....... why do turtles have to be so darn thorough?

When I come home from work now, Michael Ray is at the back door pushing, pushing, pushing. Behind him are all sorts of plants that have been thrown over the deck or turned over or if they can't get turned over, he pulls himself up over the edge of the pots and plants his front feet in as far as they will go (I haven't seen this....yet......but I know what went on because of the deep "tracks" he leaves behind). I did remove a lot of plants from the deck but not all of them.....I thought some of them were in pots too tall for him to get to......I guess that's not a problem if a turtle also puts in an 8+ hour day.

I came home from work last Thursday to find that Michael had been busy rearranging furniture on the deck (a thing he loves to do when he sometimes finds himself loose in the house). The glider needed to be reset at an angle...

And here he is working on moving a storage bench to another angle...

He is a very busy turtle. This was his Friday project. Do I even need to make a comment here?

True. That old whiskey barrel was falling apart (that clay pot used to hold a horsetail which died when the barrel couldn't hold water anymore)...but only 2 or 3 of the staves had fallen off. Michael just finished the job. He also moved a couple trees in 5 gallon pots away from the fence so he could have his old route back.

It's hard to live with a turtle who is too hot. Michael can't put up with the heat. I'm kind of tired of putting up with him. What to do....what to do...

Turns out a fresh tomato or a plate of sliced strawberries is all a turtle needs to make him happy.

And that means happiness for me too because once Michael is full of tomatoes or strawberries or a slice of watermelon, he loses interest in climbing the deck steps for the rest of the day. We have finally worked things out. I hear him stomping up the deck steps and I race out with something red and delicious and life is back to normal.

For now.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Happy Hatchdays

The always good and always sweet Starlinka turned 11 years old in June!

Stella turned 21 in April but unlike Adele, she's not going to make anyone cry about it.

And then there were the twins....the terrible, terrible, no longer teenager twins.

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Michael Ray and Cathy Jean may have turned 20 years old last month but they certainly didn't get any more mature.

Nonetheless, everyone had a happy hatchday...some just involved more cleanup afterwards than others. :-/

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beating the heat

A couple weeks ago I took a full week off from work and although I had plans to get a lot of things done (a lot!), I ended up just sitting on the deck, knitting, with all my pets around me, in glorious weather......alllllllll week........every day. It was great. Everyone immediately got into the rhythm of being served treats on demand, they just had to get my attention.

A good staredown from a turtle first thing in the morning....

...resulted in watermelon before breakfast.

Violet tried to get in some quantity sleep but with what was going on at the suddenly 24/7 Coontina, it was hard work because the birds were just several feet away with decidedly bottomless stomachs.

Starlinka and Shugg were fed every hard-shelled worm, junebug, rolypoly I could find hiding under the potted plants. Starlinka daintily bashed her rolypolies senseless before swallowing them, savoring them individually, one by one.

Shugg could eat 2 dozen rolypolies before I even opened up my hand in his cage (rolypolies will scuttle away or leap to the ground and then scuttle away unless you contain them in a fist). I swear that bird was screaming MORE, MOOOOOOOOORE when he discovered he had eaten all the rolypolies I had carried to him. Shugg had become an expert at mimicking that awful sound baby grackles make when they follow their parents around waiting for something more to eat (what they were doing in early June). More. MORRRRRRRRRE.

So I obliged by getting m o r e.

I've been growing a lot of seeds this year and have been transplanting the little seedlings into bigger six-packs when they needed it. Michael got right on in there for some reason and stomped all over my feet because I was in his way. No problem. I just moved out of his way.

He wasn't trying to get my attention though....he just wanted to get up those deck steps. Michael can usually get up one step but he surprised me by making it up two!

Every day Michael would try and climb those steps and he got better and better until he finally made it all the way up. I admit I was impressed but at the same time, horrified.

This is the kind of trail he leaves when he climbs the steps...

What got in his way was kicked to the side....some of those plants found themselves airborne and landing in the fishpond without their pots. No plant was safe from turtle traffic now.

Cathy Jean, who is usually 23 hours behind whatever Michael figures out, was right behind him with this new activity.

She's not as calculating and determined as Michael and (lucky for me) decided to just settle in at the bottom and watch her brother climb up the steps until he disappeared from her sight.

The technique is pretty interesting though. Lift up, turn sideways, lift up, turn sideways, repeat until you get to where you want to go or run out of room. I've also seen Michael hook a foot into the saucer of some of the bigger plants on the deck steps because when they're well watered, they are heavy and are able to help leverage a determined turtle up, up, up.

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And those potted plants near the deck steps, which I thought were too tall for him to get at, are also now being used as steps to get up and steps to get down when a turtle runs out of room.

This is what four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) look like before Michael gets at them:

And this is what they look like after:

It does kind of make me laugh (kind of) to see the trail of toppled plants he leaves behind (I've since moved most of those plants on and around the deck steps to recover in another part of the backyard where they should be safe....if turtles don't learn how to hop onto old benches...).

Michael had been adamant about getting into the house even though I didn't understand why because it really hadn't been that hot outside (it's different this past week though.....it's been in the 100s every single day). Michael obviously had other thoughts about weather than I did. Turtles are cold blooded and when it gets hot, they need to find some place cool to cool down and Michael Ray knows all about houses and how they have air conditioning. I think he knew that it was going to get hot, really hot, and he needed to find a place to camp out until it changed to a temperature that a turtle considers pleasant.

So I gave up and just let him in. It was too pretty a day for me to spend it indoors so I closed the door and stayed outside sitting on the deck, knitting, with all of my animals around me except for one named Michael Ray.

I started hearing sounds coming from inside the house....the usual ones when there is a turtle loose in the house. Furniture being moved, chairs transferred to other rooms, and then some unusual sounds like trash cans being turned over, things falling....crashing. I went inside to see what was going on but couldn't find Michael in his usual spots....despite him leaving a trail of destruction where he had been (which he does so well). I saw that the bathroom door was shut and when I tried to open it, Michael was on the other side pushing back. Smart thinking. Tile floor and a vent blasting cold air and he was not going to share....Michael had settled in and he was not going to move if he could help it. Ever.

Now when I came home from work (after putting Michael outside in the morning) this is what I see...

What can you do? I just open the back door and let Michael in. No point in trying to fight that kind of determination. I can't win. I try.......but I never win when it's me against one focused turtle.

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Watching a turtle expertly climb those steps and help himself into the house is really something else to watch...

....because that's what Michael Ray is. Something else.

He now knows how to climb up the steps and if I'm not there to open the door, he knows how to climb back down. It's gotten to the point where I just leave the back door open when I'm home. He's worse than Violet with the wanting out and wanting in when he's near a door.

I've got to watch this open door policy when it starts to get dark at night though......... last Sunday Eddie and Violet were nodding at something in the living room. I thought it was Stella. It wasn't. It was a bat hanging on the drapes. It flew out the back door after a couple minutes after bonking my head and Eddie's while it screamed its little head off trying to figure out how to get out. I didn't know bats were so darn loud when they used their sonar (!!!) but I finally got him out and shut the door. And then......another bat appeared in the house. :-/

Terrible happens in twos....just like turtles.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Last spring I was at The Anita Gorman Discovery Center and was delighted to find a buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), a shrub native to this area.

Later in the year it looked like this...

And then later in the summer, it bloomed.

The flowers are just so darn odd.

They look like a styrofoam ball pincushion...  Oddest, oddest things.

When I went on the Miami County Farm Crawl last May, I stopped at a nursery and brought home three buttonbushes.

I wasn't sure where to plant them and since they like water and they don't mind even living in water occasionally, I set them in the creek so they wouldn't dry out by the time I returned the following week (or um, weeks).

Sometimes I'd find this....you know, after it rained. Then I'd have to track the missing ones somewhere down the creek. I don't think they were very happy to have more than their roots submerged in water.

And I don't think this guy was happy about me removing him from a submerged pot, his newly claimed home.

He finally had enough of me (and our staring contest) and then backed away quickly right back into the creek. Just like that. Gone.

I also bought another buttonbush somewhere along the way last year, a small one, and that one stayed in my backyard for the summer and then surprised me with one bloom. One day it looked like this...

...the next day it looked like this:

And that's when the bugs discovered it because that flower was sticky sweet with nectar. The flower was so sticky, if you disturbed a nomming insect, it had a hard time lifting its feet to get out of the way.

Eventually I got them planted in a row on a bank beside the creek but kind of late in the year. I wasn't so sure they would survive my bad treatment of them...

...but they did. And at the end of March, they had already started putting out their fresh new leaves in their new, finally permanent, home...

...looking relieved and in plant language, shouting out a hallelujah.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring beauty

I've been so bad at keeping up with this blog and good grief, although today is April 21, outdoors it is already midsummer. Everything that was supposed to bloom in the spring bloomed and everything that was supposed to bloom a month from now.....bloomed (Roses! I have roses the first week of April!). There's a lot going on out there but I want to capture the beauty of what was blooming a couple Sundays ago before I venture out to Kansas again tomorrow.

The Dwarf Crested iris (Iris cristata) I planted last year along the stream bank was blooming. I only got one bloom but the rest of the plants are looking good so hopefully next year they will be spectacular.

The non-native irises were blooming too and of course, they were spectacular (irises always are). I remember the very first iris I met. My best friend in high school's mother was a gardener and I remember walking out the back door of their house one spring and seeing her mother's irises in bloom. They were the most exotic thing I had ever seen...regal, sturdy, delicate, upright and tall...irises just have a special presence to them. Although I did have a big collection of houseplants as a teenager (dozens), I hadn't realized until now that I had an equal interest in the plants growing natively outdoors too. I remember talking about trilliums with my friend's mother, a plant she coveted. I had seen trilliums growing in Northern Michigan and promised to dig her up some if I ever found them again. That was a lonnnnnnnnnng time ago but every spring when I see my first irises in bloom, I think of Mrs. Maki. :-)

Last year I had planted some Heart-leaf Golden Alexanders (Zizia aptera) in an area I had cleared in the woods...

...but this year, you can hardly see them because of all the mayapples that took over this newly cleared area (I was trying to get rid of the coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus)... a native plant that is absolutely everywhere. Everywhere. It's in the honeysuckle family...you can tell it's a relative because it makes its presence known absolutely everywhere. Everywhere! Coralberry is a woodlands plant and is probably of some use to deer if they are starving but in my 15 acres of woods, nobody seems that interested in it.....especially me. Okay, end of rant.).

Mayapples. Mayapples. Mayapples. They were coming up everywhere...this one was popping through an old oak leaf.

I remember when I saw my first small colony of mayapples when I first bought my land and was so happy to find that 10 square feet of native prettiness. Hahaha. Those mayapples are just everywhere this year. To the horizon line. Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) are spring ephemerals so in a couple months they will be gone...I sure wish that boring coralberry/buckbrush was an ephemeral. Too bad it's an "everpresent."

Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis violacea) was blooming right on the path. I had never seen it before.

You can tell it's in the oxalis family because of the shamrock leaves.

This has been a spectacular year for Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica). I usually find them lost in the growing grass but they were as elusive as mayapples this year. :-)

They were blooming in every little cranny in the woods, as well as in the areas that get a lot of sunlight.

The oak leaves were beginning to unfurl.

Feathery prettiness even before they let go...

I walked past a little 4 foot tree in the woods that looked like yellow-green Christmas bulbs were hanging from it.

That little oak tree had five huge oak galls on it. Five. It was something (here Tilly helps with the photography by moving in to provide some extra contrast).

This year the hickory leaves are unfurling when they feel like it. I remember them synchronizing their ballet a few years ago so that it seemed like all the unfurling took place in just one day. I've been watching these guys unfurl for a couple weeks now. It's random this year for some reason.

Still, it was a day full of spring beauty...but this guy wouldn't know it. He had his head stuck in a hole in the dirt.
I pulled him out to get a look at him to see if we had met before.

Nope. New box turtle to me. He was unimpressed with me and everything around him...nothing new there when it comes to turtles.

I sure would hate to have to perform in front of an audience of turtles because whatever you do to entertain them, nothing will impress them. Nothing.

I put him back in his napping spot. So much concentrated spring beauty around him but since he's a turtle, it's all a big whatever to him.

But of course, not to me. :-)