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Norseman’s Diaries: Picking up the pieces
by Jeff Fullerton
Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
This winter has been quite a ride.
It has been everything from snowstorms to painful losses to another financial shock. I would actually have a colorful story to write about in detail were it not for the malaise I’ve been in on top of a busy schedule. it would have made an awesome diary format; had I felt like chronicling it—two nights this week driving home through blizzard conditions that were punctuated by a couple days of mild weather and the lunar eclipse that was spoiled by cloud cover leading up to the Groundhog Day circus of regional fame.
So here I am late Friday night two weeks into March slowly recovering from my funk and looking forward to Spring and maybe a new beginning. After the severe cold snap that took the lives of my two male Gulf Coast Box Turtles and severely defoliated the Texas and Oklahoma palmetto ecotypes and loosing my Lake Chubsuckers and several Goldfish to winter kill—I was telling Ray a few weeks ago that it may very well take several Renaissance summers worth of work just to recover and get back to where I was at the end last year when I was feeling quite confident about the prospect of finally getting where I wanted to be in another season or two.
I’ve been down this road before with my critters having dealt with the consequences of disease outbreaks, predation and some costly husbandry mistakes which I’m going to document in a future article on the pursuit of excellence in the herptile hobby that will also feature Kenan Harkin who has become something of a YouTube favorite of mine alongside Isaac Arthur and his Science and Futurism channel. He’s been busy, recently having built a very elaborate outdoor enclosure with a pond at his doorstep—literally—that functions as an outdoor habitat for a number of aquatic and terrestrial turtle species —including the four adult Chinese Box Turtles featured in previous videos. The things you can get done in South Florida in the winter; which is the ideal time in a warmer climate to do the heavy work involved in pond and habitat construction. Watching him attain his dream of moving animals outside to a more optimal and ultimate habitat was uplifting and I was reminded once again of things worth aspiring for. In a world like ours rife with doom and gloom, senseless hatred, violence and corruption it is people like Mr Kenan or Isaac Arthur who restore my faith in humanity and the future. Yet no one is perfect and we all make mistakes at one time or another.
Such happened to Mr Kenan recently when he lost a rare Fly River Turtle which disappeared from the new pond setup —which he had actually designed for that species. And it happened so fast—he saw it hanging out one day in the shallow end of the pond system and later that day it was gone.
Since it was a rainy day it is possible that the turtle had left the water and found a way to climb over the low log fence like my dearly departed Gulf Coast Box: Franklin did a couple summers ago. Theft is a possibility too given the high monetary value of this rare and virtually unattainable species. Poor Mr Kenan must have felt heartsick as I was on any of my own tragic occasions involving losses of animals. I’m hoping his missing Fly River will turn up on the property again like Franklin or a few of my other runaways through the years. Chances are it will eventually end up in one of his other ponds—it escaped and was not stolen.
It sucks to make mistakes. Especially with something rare or even more common animals that have been around so long they become like family members. Such was Franklin who I had since 1996 and the other male that I borrowed back as a replacement between the time he went AWOL and his return the following spring. At least I was fortunate enough to get to enjoy him and the other male for two more seasons and have offspring from those two years. I may yet get another clutch or two of eggs from the female who survived —since they usually remain fertile for several years after mating. So I’m in no big hurry to find another mate for her and that will give what is left of Franklin or the other male’s sperm a chance to produce more offspring and conserve the gene pool. And those can grow up to mate with half siblings or totally unrelated bloodlines if I purchase and raise other hatchlings at the reptile shows.
Hopefully I can live to see that come to fruition —as these creatures do take many years to reach maturity!
Life goes on and I at least may get to enjoy watching the young ones as they grow up much like I’m doing with the Asian turts I got into a few years ago. More on those and other related things in the next Nihon Ishigame thread.
This was supposed to be about Norseman’s Hell but aside from the severe cold early on and a plethora of named winter storms which cracks me up about the way the media fawns over them on par with hurricanes —the winter has been rather uneventful. Taking a holiday from slaving to feed the outside furnace helps a lot as does having the option of spending the nights at my uncle’s place in town when the weather is bad. I can even tolerate the thermostat at 60 degrees or lower by using an electric heater to warm a room or two when I’m there and that has me rethinking my strategy for meeting my own comfort needs in winter. Issues pertaining to supply and price of firewood still need to be resolved along with shelter.
The verdict is still out on the “50 Dollar Underground House” I wrote about earlier on. It would be nice to have something that is more energy efficient and cheap to build. However the matter requires careful study and it might be best to do something on a smaller scale to test the concept against local conditions—such as a root cellar or a hibernation facility for wintering turts and fish as well as storing my fig trees and tender bulbs. Things I could do with an earth shelter the size of my garage. Put in a 300 Rubbermaid tub and some smaller ones and be able to keep all my bigger fish in a place much safer than an outside pond in winter. And have a place where the turts can sleep the winter away without worries of them freezing or waking up prematurely. Stability is the key.
Strangely enough—I’m discovering that the greenhouse may be the best place to hibernate the Japanese Pond Turtles. The transitional setup in the Waterland Tub which did not work out so well for its intended purpose because the water stays chilly all year long—is proving to be the ideal hibernaculum that is keeping the occupants in a dormant state until they can safely go to the outdoor habitat.
Upper end of Greenlick Lake a few weeks ago
The water also covered the breast of the dam making access to my place more limited. The matter was farther complicated by a fallen tree on a snowy night that followed right on the heel of a warm sunny day that woke up the Florida Box Turtles in the greenhouse. The only way left to get in and rescue them for transport to my alternate facility in town was to park at the roadside on the upper end of the property and walk in to get them on the way home from work.
If the week were not dramatic enough we also had an EF 2 tornado the night of the great deluge! Lucky it missed my place.
That is close at hand as we are nearly half way through March and the winter flowers were at their peak last week when it was warmer. I also heard the early spring frogs then too. So there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Probably the source of my problems with fish mortality. Because the onset of freezing weather was so rapid I never got a chance to get the leaves off and the water quality suffered.
Finally the net is off and can be cleaned and dried for storage.
The legacy of winter kill.
At least there were survivors.
Dwarf Amaryllis bloomed later than usual. Normally it flowers around the holidays.
Florida Boxies waking up the day between the floods and another cold snap.
Philodendrons recovering from chill stress.
Crocuses by the furnace
The tiny native Snow Trillium
Barley straw for algae control.
Barely bale deployed. It will eventually sink to the proper depth once hydrated.
300 gallon Rubbermaid’s set up to begin filling with rain and pond water in preparation for fish in the coming days.
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