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L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 993, October 7, 2018

We shouldn’t lie to the young, and all
our fiction and most of our movies lie
about what women can and can’t do.

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Norseman's Diaries—Summer of Storms Part One: Quenching the Dry Belt
by Jeff Fullerton
born2bewild1962@gmail.com

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Busy days and the summer edition is long overdue. It took several weeks to put this together and would probably get put off yet another week if I didn’t push myself to get it done.

Picking up where I left off with this thread back around the end of May ; the Springtime Reboot; the recovery continues with the rebuilding of the turtle flocks by replacing lost members and production of new offspring. One sure sign that it is time to start watching my females and getting the incubator ready is when I see wild turtles like this female snapper I found crossing the road on my way to work one morning.

Other signs are the spider lilies in my pond and when I kept North American Wood Turtles—it was the ripening of Bloodroot pods that were my cue.

For Box Turtles the nesting season starts a little later. Toward the end of June going into July. I came home one evening to find the female Gulf Coast on a dig—right on the same spot as previous years. I’m guessing it may be the built in natural GPS they have that lets them find the same spot year after year—down to the square decimeter!

6/7/18

Got it done! After going to the bank, getting gas and then having an awesome Baja Burrito (shrimp / rice / vegetables / refried beans wrapped up in a tortilla the size of a small meatloaf—I returned home to cut nearly all the areas I regularly mow and some of the newer areas reclaimed late last season. Those I have to go easy with because they have a lot of rank growth of goldenrod and other weeds that can choke a mower. And if not vetted properly there may be thick branches or rocks and other objects I’d rather not run over. There is also the issue of turtles.

That was a big concern while Franklin was at large and remains an issue because of the possibility that members of my former Eastern Box flock may still be around—or remnants of the wild population. I’m trying to keep up better with the grass so it doesn’t get high enough to for turts and other critters to hide in and get chopped up. It might also help the wild turts by creating more open areas and edges which they need for basking and nesting. I remember Box turtles were abundant when this property was grazed and kept open by cattle. I think they are adapted to co-exist with megafauna which keep the land open and leave droppings that turtles rip open to get bugs and undigested seeds and other plant material. Box Turtles and Striped Muds are known to feed on cow pies in pastures!

Anyway got the mowing done and looking forward to reclaiming more land to keep mowed in the near future as I work my way toward making ever inch of the property accessible to me.

Did a little feeding at the pond site. Tossed shrimp pellets in the main pond—only saw one Bullhead and a couple goldfish. This time. I’m wondering if the other two might be nesting. That will be great to see a swarm of babies some day swimming around in the pond. The new cohort were coming up to feed with the Redbreasts—which may become the prominent sunfish species in the pond—though I hope Dollars can coexist with them.

Funny thing—the Dollar Sunfishes were very prolific and even overwintered outside in the late 90s along with the Eastern Starhead Topminnows—Fundulus escambiae which really astonished me when the three that I caught in late fall of 96 and put out the following spring survived the winter and then proliferated like crazy—making my trip back to Florida to catch a whole crapload of them in that roadside slough near the boundary of Washington and Bay counties for the most part unnecessary. We definitely had some unusually mild winters in those years before it got colder again in the early 2000s. Since the ending of the natural warming cycle that started in the 1980s I’ve had terrible luck and have resigned myself to adopting a strategy like Ray in Wisconsin to overwinter fish indoors and in the greenhouse pond.

6/15/18

Wednesday Eve was an eventful one as severe weather tracked through the region. They had tornado warnings up north in Indiana , Cambria and Blair counties and a couple blobs of deep red in our area that worried me. One swiped by just north of Latrobe and another just north of Mt Pleasant and for a minute I thought I’d just dodged a bullet when yet another heavy cell popped up to the northwest of Scottdale aimed right at my place—so much for the Dry Belt as a buffer. But for all the worry those storms did not amount to much as the Hospital never called a Code Yellow and there was maybe a quarter inch of water in the tub setup for the baby Euro Ponds and sliders when I checked last night and all was well at home.

Went to bed shortly after I got in and woke up around 4 again and went back to bed about daybreak and slept till mid morning. Then watched some Kenan videos and other stuff before making a big breakfast. And finally stated getting the baby water turtles including the striped mud ready for the trip home. I also took time to feed the newts and tend the black worms. The latter are not looking as bad as I thought and should rebound if I start giving them more attention. As for the newts—I gave them the pellets again—only 3 or 4 per animal as recommended on the container and I’m going to try using it as a supplement rather than a staple and feed mostly live foods and thawed frozen bloodworms. My near disaster with the bloating problem late spring seems to have been a combination of overfeeding and the heat that week. That I’m convinced since the issue resolved after I moved them to a cooler place and cut back on the pellets.

Finally made it out home sometime around noon. First thing I started on was the idea of covering the ground inside the half of the pen where the tubs were going with weed barrier to keep anything from growing up in the spaces between the tubs. Then I took the tubs down to the back porch again to make some additional drainage holes for redundancy and to put holes in the wash basin tubs for the baby Muds. For the Euros and Sliders I brought along the turtle dock and other furnishings from the enclosure they wintered in and set up a similar configuration so they will feel more at home and hopefully not get disoriented by the change and drown or stress out.

The Muds got a more simple setup—just a couple inches of water in a plastic basin and Elodea cuttings. The two cohorts of baby Gulfs got the same terrestrial setup like I did in previous seasons.

The project went well and I now have only 3 turts left to get outside—the older Euro Pond cohort that I’m hoping to soon get a 50 Rubbermaid with a raccoon proof lid set up for. And maybe finally a little smoother sailing as I continue to catch up a day take more of my place back.

6/17/18

Slowly getting caught up on more things. Was only hours—11 to 7 yesterday so I cut some grass both coming and going to and from work on Saturday and then came back after a few hours in C’ville to have pizza and reload the pill box for the week. Fed the newts some daphnia and wigglers and tended the black worm culture. Going to try to get that beefed up with more feeding and water changes.

Took a portion of the daphnia I caught last night to seed the culture tank again in hope of establishing a supply down there and I found a big nasty leopard spotted slug in the bag of yeast granules feasting away ! The yeast is getting gummy so I’ll have to replace it and it give me a good idea for trapping slugs in the greenhouse.

Nice relaxing overnight. Fed the frogs again. Plan to start feeding the baby turts more gut loaded roach nymphs to get them more calcium. It seems the Euro Ponds are more susceptible to metabolic bone disease than the others and have been developing deformities of their shells to a significant degree. It may be the combination of feeding a lot of food sticks and lack of UV wlhich was the major prompt for getting them moved outside. It’s mostly the Sombrero Effect where the edge of the carapace curls up. They should be able to outgrow it. I’m going to aim for getting everyone outside for the summer from here on. Especially the sub adult Euro Ponds which are obviously sensitive to diet deficiencies.

The Dollar Suns Ray sent were looking good in the evening when I fed them. And ditto for the Blackbandeds. And I have other potentially good news. It looks like the female Euro Pond is trying to nest. Found her on the sand yesterday morning so I aborted my visit to the site to not disturb her. Then I found her on her back in the evening in that corner of the pen. She squirted water from her cloaca when I turned her back over so I put her back in the pool to refill and she was out of the water again when I returned at dusk to harvest daphnia. When I dug thru the sand I found no eggs so she did not lay. I’m hoping she does soon because this dithering around drives me crazy. Time to look for eggs in the Gulf pen and JPTs too. Would be really cool to have a full incubator this season with multiple species hatching.

6/18/18

I was slow getting started and got outside a bit later than I wanted. Late morning I made it to the greenhouse to water and feed turts the salmon trimmings and I collected mosquito larvae from the rain barrels to feed the fish. Then breakfast and the ponds.

The younger bullheads are really sucking in the cichlid pellets but the bigger ones in the pond were a no show again. I think they are trying to nest now because I discovered that someone had dug out about a quarter of the soil in the pot that contains a spatterdock. I just hope they can successfully pull it off this year and I get swarms of babies. If not—then I have an idea that might work. I remember that Zett's or someone was using trash cans with a baffle on the front end like a dam and turned on their sides to spawn channel cats. I'm thinking I could do something similar with buckets since bullheads are smaller.

Spent a lot of time on turtles. Fed the baby water turtles gut loaded roaches and fed the baby gulfs and the female some salmon. Then later offered the gulfs more roaches when I came back to feed those to the Florida Boxies and Striped Muds. At the other site I did pretty much the same feeding roaches to everyone after I gave them the salmon and some corn kernels. For the bigger ones I'm processing large female roaches (the winged males aren't worth much other than for breeding the females and maybe as fish bait since they don't have much meat in them) by cutting off the heads with scissors and trimming off the sharp edges of their exoskeletons and the limbs and then splitting them in half. That makes for a more slender—easier to swallow and digest package and it's quicker for me than crushing their heads and pulling them apart with my fingers. This looks like a breakthrough on par with using syringes to load baby food into night crawlers.

I did shoot up four of those today for the Euro Pond duo. The male ended up eating all of those plus a couple roaches because the female is off feed. She is behaving like my female Woods did when they were gravid so I'm thinking she is. Maybe the Gulf Coast as well since she is apparently eating lighter too.

Knocked out various small things. Pulled up a couple Japanese Spatterdock rhizomes that jumped the pot and got three new divisions. Want to send Ray one of those plus one of the Cape Fear x japonica hybrid and the Nuphar variegatum that I got from the Great Marsh of Wisconsin on my 2000 trip. I will anchor these on bricks in the water for a while to have established plants that can be sent bare root—and survive better than fresh divisions.

The other project accomplished was replacing the 4x6x12 blocks holding up the shallow water platform in the striped mud pool with the duo of 4x4x12 blocks salvaged from the Waterland renovation. That was good to have done because the thinner blocks do the same job with less water displacement and give the occupants more space under the platform.

Then the last project of the day before I scooted: getting the tub for the green swords leveled and ready for summertime occupation. And none too soon as when doing a water change late in the day I noticed a baby fish in the tank. So it looks like my plan will yield fruit . I hope to get it filled and planted tomorrow. Letting the tub sit there all these months made for an easy job as I had a nice weed free pattern for leveling the ground.

Not a bad day despite the late start and there was still enough time to cut Uncle Budd's grass back in C'ville! Not bad.

6/19/18

Was able to get the Rubbermaid at least partially filled in a narrow time window yesterday morning and look forward to finishing the process this morning. Then maybe start planting it tomorrow. I'm anxious to get the fish out but would like to give the setup a few days to stabilize before I move them.

Long day at work and a scorcher. With it inching into the low 90s I was concerned about the turts in the new setup and wished I had put a little more shading over their tubs. But they were all fine when I checked last night. I will further enhance the setup but I think it is working out well so far. What little shade I have rigged plus the deep moist mulch in the terrestrial setups and making sure those have water constantly available for drinking seems to be working but I can always do more.

Was a stormy unsettled night in the forecast for the region though nothing happened locally. Just a lot of heat lightning that put on an awesome show as it flickered in a starry sky with a bloody orange crescent moon on the drive home. It was probably associated with a line of strong storms on a frontal boundary sagging down into the northern half of the state that apparently fell apart or never reached here.

6/20/18

Got eggs!

It started out as a rushed morning with barely time to do anything. Just enough to fill the new setup for the Green Swords a little while going around to check on things , feed cats and dip wigglers for the sunnies. Then it was off to work for a trying 8 hours of shit storm and Byzantine bullshit that I felt lucky to survive; let alone a 12 hour day. It was so wonderful to be out of there and off my feet. I went strait home not wanting to waste a minute of remaining daylight. Even just days away from the longest day of the year.

I was going to feed turts at the greenhouse site when I made the discovery. Female Gulf was nesting! Not wanting to disturb her I hastily dumped my dusted roaches through the mesh over the baby Gulfs and dropped a few pellets to the water turts and moved on to the striped muds which became the focus of my attention this evening. I fed those the large Hikari Gold pellets. Then I decided to clean out their filter which was long overdue. Was also able to fill the tub a little more since I have the hose in place and don't have to go near the pens to set it up. By time I was finished with the muds the nesting was done. At first I feared it might have been a failed attempt but I found eggs. It was too late in the day, running of of daylight and I was very fatigued and figured it better to start on that project the next day when I'm well rested and less prone to make mistakes and its an off day so I won't be rushed. I placed an inverted rubber pan on the mesh above the nest to give it some shielding from rain so it doesn't get drowned or turns into a muddy mess before I can get the eggs.

Ray told me about a mishap he had today with a slippery deck that sent him plunging into one of his ponds! Which reminds me of the need to deal with my front steps and some of the rubber faux brick tiles on the patio. I have to make up a Physan solution to scrub those down with. That's my greenhouse disinfectant I use mostly for sanitizing cutting tools and for soaking orchid plants in when repotting or dividing. Also recommended as a good algae destroyer in bird baths and on surfaces. And my turtle pens need stained and treated with Thompson's. Another back burner issue I can't seem to get to. I'd like to do it at the end of the season after the pens are vacant so it can cure over winter. Some of my lids need replacing so a good time to stain and treat those will be at the end of this season after that is done. I'm going to try to get serious about getting wood for those soon.

6/21/18

The surviving adult female Gulf Coast Box nested yesterday evening. Recovered 5 eggs this afternoon.

Put them in a plastic container embedded in moist vermiculite and covered with moist sphagnum moss and will incubate at 30 C which is 86 degree F; the threshold for producing mostly female offspring.

These and 5 hatchlings from last season’s clutch of 6 and 3 from the previous year and a tennis ball sized young one from circa 2012 are the legacy of my dearly departed Franklin who died this past winter. If I don’t find another male to replace him in the near future it is likely my lone female will continue to lay fertile eggs for a few more years. Box turtles are reputed to remain fertile for up to 5 years after mating!

After getting the eggs situated I managed to get the tub for the swordtails planted with a lily and some plants from the greenhouse pond and will let that settle for a few days before I move the fish out. Looking forward to check it and maybe get a pic on the way but I'm kind of pressed for time this morning.

The story of Ray's recent mishap prompted me to scrub down my front steps with Physan to get rid of the algae. Before I take a spill. Unfortunately he cant use that stuff on his deck which overhangs a pond because the chemical is toxic to fish and other aquatic critters. But it is good for general applications and I plan to use it on my patio next as it is becoming a slipping hazard when I walk on it in wet weather.

I tried some of my frozen Mysis shrimp last night. The dollars and even Blackbandeds will eat it so it will be a good supplement to a diet of mostly wigglers and daphnia. I've had these cubes for some time but the expiration dates are in 2019 & 2020. I will also give them to the baby turts to get them used up this season.

6/25/18

Very little time for anything yesterday. Just a quick check in the morning before rushing off to work. And it was a picture perfect day to miss out on. Only consolation was that it was one of those better days in the ER where I did not get beat up real bad. Had some really rough ones last week where my legs—especially calves were aching really bad. Not sure if its from the wear and tear or low potassium. I guess we are wearing out. So far managing to avoid the dreaded summer cold but some mornings my sinuses are really bad.

I was still pretty tired at the end of my shift and was considering not stopping on the way back to C'ville but had to drop off a massive division from the Peace Lily that lives up in the hospital lab. That one will join the ones in the shallows of the greenhouse pond that got their start as terrarium plants which have since outgrown the frog tank. I managed to get a second wind on the way home and made my way up to collect more daphnia from the Euro Pond enclosure to feed the young sunfishes and to also take along for the newts and to add to the indoor culture.

Noticed the moon getting fuller again and really lighting up the landscape. I really miss being able to enjoy it on a regular basis under more relaxed circumstances. Few things beat a walk in the moonlight by the ponds or out in front of the greenhouse.

Was feeling better by morning. Once again off to a later start but won't be bad if I get moving now. Have to do some shopping for a few odds and ends and get breakfast when I get back. Then I will be off for an afternoon at my place.

My other major objective is another upcoming reptile show where I hope to find that replacement for Franklin—and perhaps another female to increase the output of offspring. Then I can be more confident about parting with some of last seasons brood. I'm saving the most colorful of those along with the three from the previous season. They now share the front tub making it an even 4 in each one. Will probably save one from this recent clutch as well and then cherry pick from the ones that result from unions with new breeders or a second female. I'm also going to start looking for some babies from other flocks to start building a nice looking and genetically diverse future breeding colony that might come of age in my lifetime.

6/28/18

Yesterday I was pressed for time and drove strait off to work. Had a fairly good and interesting day. That could have made for a great story in itself like many things in the Emergency Room but because of legalities concerning patient confidentiality and other issues I will have to settle for the severe weather alert that broke that evening.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warming over the cell phones just before I went in for the blood draw on that guy. Apparently a funnel cloud was passing through the area between Latrobe and home and someone was saying it touched down in Mammoth which is just over the hill from Mrs G's place. She was hunkered down in her basement while the rest of her family were outside watching it. Kind of reminded me of the day of the twisters back in late spring of 98—the day I'd just brought Mike who was visiting—from the airport. Mike and I went back up top to watch the clouds swirling overhead while Mom and Grandma were in the basement. Everything turned out ok and I didn't see any damage in Mammoth or Kecksburg on the way home and it hardly rained at my place. So a dodged the bullet again.

Was kind of weird coming out of work on the drive home with a drizzle here and there yet patchy clouds and light of the full moon flooding the landscape. It was bright enough back home to check the turts at the greenhouse site without a flashlight.

Was not planning to do much other than feeding the cats and checking stuff but I got to messing around with the door on the vanity that kept coming apart while I was going to the bathroom—fixed that and then decided to take another crack at getting the broken toilet seat off. I actually did it by working the nuts loose to be able to pull the bolts up and saw them off at the top end. And putting on the new seat was a synch. It has plastic wing nuts so they won't get rusted on and will be easy to cut or melt off if I must change the seat again.

Glad that is done! Now I can move on to other projects.

Speaking of I must move on if I want to get anthing done before 3 to 11! I'd at least like to feed turts and cut the grass again.

1/7/18

First day of July.

Friday marked the beginning of a heat wave and possibly an end to the persistent wet weather pattern with a string of 90 degree days going through most of next week and no rain in the forecast until the weekend.

It was also the day I discovered an egg in the Euro Pond pen. Found it when I got home in the evening; dropped on the ground. Another one was in the water. Both looked in good condition so I collected them for the incubator. If I can get a couple nice looking female offspring from the Hellenic duo it will be a success. And I hope I can get more eggs.

The plan is was to come back and keep an eye on the female through the day but that plan kind of fell through as I never got going until late in the day and got back home well after dark. The female was out of the water hanging out near the sand but no eggs were found laying around and nothing when I dug around in the sand. I have hope maybe she will soon go ahead and nest normally like the female Gulf did a couple years ago after she dropped two eggs in the watering pan. Those were the one that emerged unexpectedly in the fall—two of which drowned in the water and the remaining one died over winter. Then I found 3 more alive and well in the pen come spring. And then the recent case of the striped Muds—so it’s always worth giving them a chance.

Now late night my thoughts have refocused on the upcoming show. Sunday morning is the day and I got some cash from the credit union on Friday

Yes tomorrow is the day. I accidentally launched prematurely when I was composing an email; which means I’m getting fatigued. It’s about 45 minuets to get there so I better set my clock to 7:30. If I’m lucky I’ll have a replacement for Franklin and maybe a second female.

Got my fingers crossed!

7/1/18 circa 13:00 or 1 PM

Summer has started!

Just got back from the Westmoreland Reptile Expo and visited the greenhouse first thing to spray the place down and get my latest acquisition into a bucket with a few inches of water to make sure he stays adequately hydrated while I work on getting an enclosure ready for a male striped mud turtle.

He was a good find. Not the prettiest of his kind but fairly young and energetic. He was constantly trying to get out of the vendor’s container the whole time I was standing there and probably would have succeeded eventually if I had not bought him! He also was chasing my finger when I extended it down in front of him like the three females I have often do so I’m confident he will start feeding right away—maybe even while he’s still in the bucket.

I’m seriously considering putting him in the corner by the West entrance which has the giant calla lily and live oak and a sunken cement tray for a pond. I’ll start him off confined to the tray which I’ll keep half full until he gets used to it and that will buy time to purchase another Turtle Dock and some driftwood and I might build a shallow water platform for that pool. I will also make sure the Trex boards that I walled off the perimeter with are secure and may add corner boards to prevent climbing.

As I’m thinking now this may become his permanent abode since I know from experience that male Striped Muds can be hard on the females ; chasing and biting them constantly when they are in the mood! Sometimes to the point of injury. So it might be best for his home territory to be in the greenhouse and put him with the females or vice versa for brief conjugal visits. Will start that around the end of summer going into fall after the quarantine period to ensure he’s in good health. That was going to be the plan for the male Gulf I was hoping to get.

When I got to the show I went strait to the corner where the guy who was supposed to have Gulf Coast Box Turtles was going to be. He is the fellow Brian recommended and when I talked to him last show; he assured me he could get me started again with a new breeder. I drew extra funds from the hobby account just in case he had a female I might want—and in case I saw other critters that interested me. Unfortunately he was unable to get them this time around and I have a sneaking suspicion it might be the end of yet one more good thing as this subspecies has suddenly become scarce in the Fauna Classifieds and on Kingsnake.com. My best guess is that the supply is being tightened down on but I have faith that eventually I’ll happen upon at least a decent breeder like I did the mud turtle today.

In the meantime I still have my female and 8 hatchlings and the two tennis ball sized juvies and 5 more eggs in the incubator. And I may yet get more fertile eggs for a few years at least if I don’t find another mate for Olivia—which is what I’m calling the old one I got at the Ohio Show circa 1995. She and the the one that survived getting stuck in the frozen watering pan were once a pair. And there is chance I may get him back too someday—along with the rest of Brian’s flock if he decides to get out of turtles altogether.

That possibility means that eventually something will turn up.

As for the rest of the show it was not bad. The vendor from which I got the striped mud which cost me $50 also had a good selection of turtles. I was tempted by one of two Japanese Pond Turtle hatchlings that were going for $75—but passed because I didn’t want to chance it being another male as my current gender ratio is an even 50 / 50. The tail looked skinny and the breeder was from SC which means a high likelihood that it was incubated at the high end of the range but I’d just assume wait for my adult trio to breed and then I can control the development of the eggs and be more sure.

It’s hot here and I’m less enthusiastic about working outside so I may start off in the greenhouse cleaning out the pool for the mud turtle. It’s usually cooler in there with the thermal mass of the water in the jugs and the pond and air movement from the vortex fan.

Then I’ll move from there to the ponds and turtle enclosures and wait for the sun to get a little lower before starting on the grass. It’s inching up ever closer to the century mark as I checked the thermometer again.

7/3/18

Cleaned out the corner enclosure on the west end. That involved bailing out the pond which consists of a cement tray nested inside another one that makes for easy removal. I got rid of the duckweed infestation and the accumulation of leaves from the live oak. Also pruned the Live Oak which keeps growing up and against the glazing. That tree has an impressive collection of air plants and even a small orchid on it. I will be adding more as I now have my attention on that area which has been for the most part neglected in until now.

Also uprighted the tree by pushing a brick under the end of the pot which was sagging toward the pond. Someday I’ll have to lift it out and do a root pruning and maybe even replace the old clay pot which might be on the verge of cracking. I’m going slow with the new turtle. I need to get some more furnishings before I put him in the habitat. I should have shopped for a turtle dock and some driftwood at the show which had a pretty good selection. And I will need a filter. Might just get another of those mini barrel things with the sponges and bio balls from Lowe’s because it’s ready to go. Or DIY with a plastic bucket but I’ll probably buy one because it’s less trouble.

Fed the mud turtles after having a leftover taco dinner on the bench in front of the greenhouse. After that I finally got around to mowing the grass

For a change my day ended well. Yet as usual I ran out of daylight.

7/3/18

Today's conversations with Ray were reminiscing about the good old days. He had sent me link to a beach in Louisiana that reminded me much of the Gulf Coast of Florida down to the cabbage palmettos.

If you want Louisiana we got it this week.

Yesterday the weather took an unexpected turn to storms late day and the hospital announced a Code Yellow Action. But nothing much happened. Just a little rain with the heavy storms rolling through in the area between there and home. And C'ville and southward. Uncle Budd said he thought he heard hail last night. By the time I got home it was all over and everything there was ok—though I didn't check the new turt that I went ahead and moved into the cement tray in the front west corner.

I figured he'd be okay if I made a basking place and small area of shallow water with some bricks salvaged from the Waterland renovation. And I was going to leave a few clipped branches of live oak in the water for hides but decided to take those out and stick them in the ground along the rim of the tub so they could provide some cover without becoming a potential escape route. I'd like to keep him in the tub for a while until I can make sure he can't climb out of the total enclosure or get underneath the potted tree or calla lily. Eventually I will get the land area in order and the tray will be allowed to fill up and become a pond with some plants and driftwood and a couple ramps for getting out. Will probably combine some of the ideas from the videos of “Bauri Bob” with my own involving Rock on a Roll to enhance that setup.

It was another one of these days where best laid plans fall by the wayside but maybe for the better as its often better to deliberate on important changes like that or transferring animals to new setups. In light of today's shift in plans I decided it is finally time to move the Green Swordtails and while drawing down the tank I decided to pause and thaw some bloodworms for them so they can eat their fill before going on the road. I saw a baby again. Don't know if its the same one as before or another one or hopefully one of a few more. Those will stay here and I'm going to use the tank to raise the ones I collect back home and eventually get a second tank going below so I can winter the breeders and offspring separately.

Think I've killed enough time writing. Those bloodworms for the fish should be thawed by now so I need to resume so I can get on the road.

7/4/18: 12:47 AM

Update after a day that ended with a sense of satisfaction in spite of such a late start and the storms that were more of the nuisance variety that kept cropping up through the evening.

It was 3:41 when I pulled out from Uncle Budd’s place. Wasted a good bit of the morning watching videos on YouTube but much of it was good tutorial stuff on husbandry or home improvements. Then I fixed a late breakfast and installed a toilet seat riser. After that I started on the drawdown of the fish tank and paused midway to feed the Swords some bloodworms and gave the remainder to the newts. I wanted the fish to have a good meal in them before the transfer to continue conditioning them for breeding. They’ve already began as I noticed a baby one in the tank when I did a water change about a week ago and I saw it today while I was lowering the water and after refill. But it appears to be the only one so far. I hope that will change once the breeders get settled in and start doing their thing.

I started acclimating them upon arrival by swapping water between the bucket and tub they were going in a few cups every so often while I tended stuff at that site. Found the Polydactyla Fern was drying out because some of the leaves were starting to curl—which it does much like a Resurrection Fern—so I put it in one of the rain barrels to soak for a while along with a few air plants and I put the two Cattleya orchids—guatemalensis & skinneri into the pond. Both are recovering from a near death experience from frost damage and dehydration by the hot air from the Modine over the winter and the skinneri I was about to write off until I noticed a new growth sprouting from the mostly dead rhizome last week! Last winter took quite a toll on many plants. Several of the Zamia pumilia cycads were totally defoliated and are now putting out new fronds. And I lost one of the Mexican Bay Laurels—Litsea pringelii which was from Yucca Do that closed shop last season and I may never find again.

On a brighter note—the male Striped Mud was alive and well in his new habitat which I look forward to improving in the coming days.

Darkening skies and the rumble of thunder made me hasten the process of getting the swordtails into their new summer home. I hung the bucket inside the tub for a few minutes and continued mixing the water. Then released them.

Hope they take well to the setup. It’s got a Chromatella lily plus the Drunken Concubine lotus, a few pots of Jungle Val , lots of loose Elodea and an assortment of other plants. The water in the top layer was almost what you’d call hot but it was cooler toward the bottom so I mixed it up before releasing the fish. I think they will be able to find their own level of comfort and cycle their daily routine accordingly. And it’s probably no worse than some of the ditches and ponds where they come from in Mexico and Central America.

The first round of storms that were threatening were spotty in nature and missed my place so I went on to feed turts and fish at the other site. Found my skimmer net to dip some of the oily scum off the middle tub the Redbreasts and Bullheads are in. I think that stuff is coming from the pellets I’m feeding them. I should maybe get one of those floating mini pond skimmers to drop in and run as needed. And work on a bio filtration system that I might eventually want to get into all of my Rubbermaid 300s. Maybe something simple as a pump pushing water thru a crate of lava rock with a basket of pickerel weed or water willow on top. That would really improve the water quality in the tubs and I might as well do that since I’ve made them the actual habitat for some fishes as opposed to merely a breeding facility to repopulate the ponds.

Moved onto the Euro Ponds. Surprisingly the female had her appetite back and was ravenously sucking down the big Hikari Gold pellets so I thought maybe she finally decided to go ahead and drop the rest of her eggs after I set the bundles of bamboo clippings into the sand bed to simulate clump grasses that turtles like to nest around. So I dug around but no eggs. She was still hungry and I fed her some more after going through the entire mass of sand. Perhaps the two that she dropped on Friday were all that she had—but she was still putzing around the following day. It is also possible that she dropped the remainder in the water and they got eaten like the JPTs a couple years ago—or maybe she nested some place else and concealed it really well. I’ve heard accounts of turtles nesting in the worst places like a gravel driveway rather than sand or loose earth. So we shall see if any little ones turn up later this summer.

Just looked at the two eggs I collected Friday and they look rather decent just like the ones from the female Gulf Coast. If I just hatch those I’ll have two Hellenic types that would cost me about $75 to buy and they’ll likely be female since I’m incubating them at 30C. That’s about 86F. And I don’t really need too many of them anyways because they get about as big as the native Wood Turtles. Still it would be nice to get a bigger brood to pick and choose the best looking ones from. And I may yet get that far along when I finally get this pair into a really good setup with more room and a more naturalistic landscape. Maybe I could build a really big pond like my main one or a little bigger with a sandy beach and a perimeter surrounded by a wood fence with a reliable electric deferent like the guy at Garden State Tortoise demonstrated in the Kennan video.

Fed the pond fish shrimp pellets and moved onto the JPTs which I fed a mix of Blue Ridge and the medium Hikari Gold before more storms rolled in. It was rumbling off to the north and east—Ligonier and Indian Head and Melcroft over the ridge and I had assumed that one was also going around as grandma would say back in the day when we were singing the proverbial Dry Belt Blues. But I heard a few rumbles close by and saw a flash—so I put my plans to feed the CBTs on the back burner and headed for the house.

Fetched the keys to put the car windows up and trekked to the greenhouse to close the doors which I don’t like to leave open during storms for fear they might get damaged or ripped off by high winds. And the possibility it might storm for a long time and I just might not want to go up to close them in heavy rain or dangerous weather.

Well the storms kind of peetered out so I decided to take a look at one of the downspouts I want to divert away from the foundation drain system and pruned the azalea bush to get to it. Then ran the mower to cut up the clippings and some from a hydrangea that I trimmed on the east side of the house. After that the storms fired up again and for a while it was looking like this time it was going to get bad with an intense barrage of lightening in the area. As in war zone intensity! I looked at the radar on my phone and saw I was right between two blobs of major activity—one to the east which was the source of the rumbling over the ridge and one to the west creeping up on Mt Pleasant and Scottdale and coming my way as well. So I thought may I should go do my shopping rather than waste an hour or two waiting for storms to pass and then running out of day and stamina to shop later on. Plus it was about 6 PM and the dispensary at the pharmacy where I needed to go for Uncle Budd’s pills closes earlier than the rest of the store.

I hit a good deal of rain when I got down to the lake and all the way there as I was pretty much running right into the storm. But it was not a really bad one like the one that had just passed to the north with the heavy lightening strikes. Just bands of heavy rain with breaks in the clouds and peeks of blue and sunshine. It had been heavy enough to send torrents of water in the ditches going through Buckeye. And it was heavy when I got out to run into the pharmacy and letting up when I left for Walmart. Saw a rainbow on the way there but it was not much to write about let alone take a picture. It remained sunny and pleasant but hot and on the steamy side as I returned home with groceries and a couple fishing chairs. I almost got my fishing license but decided to wait for a bigger shopping trip planned for Friday—after payday.

7/4/18

Another update at 0-Dark Thirty. Or there about.

Saw one of the male swords while spotting the tub by flashlight. He was hanging out over the pot of the lotus plant looking fine. The others should be too. Went to the Euro Pond enclosure after I pulled a pie from the oven about an hour ago to get daphnia for the small sunfishes. Did not see any eggs or fragments thereof in the water so if the female dropped any there they were probably eaten. Both of the duo were hanging out—sleeping—in the water which is normal for them. If the female continues to feed well I’ll presume there are no more eggs left in her or they were laid in the water and eaten or she managed to nest in a very unorthodox place and concealed it well. Unlikely but not out of the question.

Now onto some business pertaining to acquisitions. Actually for replacements of a few lost items. Had gotten a message from Hillside Gardens late afternoon that they are ready to take fall orders so I ordered a Hepatica nobilis and another pink hybrid ladyslipper and a native globe flower while I was at it to replace the one that was dwindling away before it got engulfed by the invading bamboo. Not sure if that one will make it long term either but maybe long enough to create a hybrid with one of the European or Asian species that might favor the native in appearance but do better in the garden.

Didn’t want to flumdiddle with this order because many of these plants sell out fast. Thankfully I now have the Credit Union account with a $50 per pay deduction devoted to discretionary spending.

Also ordered two more trident maples to replace the ones that died over winter. This time smaller pre-Bonsai to go in the containers the dead ones are currently in. Figured I’d save a little money and there is no point in ordering two more in pots that might break in transit. After that—ordered another Perry’s Baby Red lily to replace the one that was lost this past week winter. It died from getting smothered by algae in the sunken 150 last year.

All this replacing stuff. It’s getting old; both Ray and I agree! Going to start on the basement a little in the morning. That is the beginning of the process of getting the place gutted out for renovation. And hopefully the end of replacing fish over and over again.

7/4/18 12:49 PM

So far plenty of Redbreast fry in a cloud hovering above the nest being guarded by the father who is of the Palomino genotype. They could very well turn out the same though I hope I get a mix of those and heterozygous offspring. If this works out these could easily become one of my favorite sunfishes.

I'm currently evaluating some of the temperature tolerant Mexican Godeids for potential as a good summertime pond fish—though they'd likely get a Rubbermaid like the Green Swords and winter in the Florida Room since the greenhouse pond is going to be for the monster fishes—catfish and large sunfish species. Bluefins Killies actually maintained a population in there for a while and might again if I were to provide a refugium from bigger fish. A note—I found one of those—just one—when I spotted the half barrel in the greenhouse the other night. Would be nice if I could find a few more and get a population going again. Might have to order from someone if I can't find any more in my systems.

7/27/18

Had a crazy dream last night. That the neighbor's wife and daughter came onto my property in pursuit of their dog that wandered off—apparently to chase my chickens that were out free ranging. And then they both slipped and fell. I went to their aide to help them up and they were ok and then I discovered a box turtle right where they fell. It was Franklin!

Of course it was too good to be true as my intuition told me and I woke up immediately. It was one of those dreams like when I discover my grandma or mom or other deceased kin alive and well again. And I don't have the chickens anymore either.

I pondered the significance. Obviously it can't be an omen that Franklin would return again—this time from the dead—but it did inspire me to take another try at looking for a replacement and I found this add. I have to call to verify if the add is valid and not something from several years ago. Did a general search for the dealer's price list independent of the link on Kingsnake and it may be legit. So I will inquire.

Still considering getting a pair—especially if they look like the animals pictured. That would probably be too good to be true but even so it is a positive sign that other well established long term pet turtles are out there and will go back on the market in the future.

7/30/18

New Gulfs are a done deal. Placed the order this morning for Friday delivery by UPS next day air. Thought about requesting pickup at the terminal in New Stanton but if the high that day stays below 90 they should be fine.

Cost for the turts and shipping which is not bad for a major breeder investment like the Marsupial Frogs. And the empty pen makes for a good default quarantine accommodation. It sure pays to have extra space to fall back on. I will eventually build more just for that purpose.

Interesting news big: I heard on the Weather Channel that ocean water conditions haven't been as cool as they are now since the 80s. They’re probably fretting over the reduced hurricane potential for jinning up the fear of Gore-Bull warming.

8/3/18

They’re here! Two beautiful LTC Gulf Coast Box Turtles from LL Reptiles that arrived this morning by UPS. One hour ahead of the projected 10:30 delivery time and I when the delivery man honked his horn I walked out in the light drizzle to meet him.

The moment of truth had arrived. I unboxed them on the patio and they were as promised: similar to the ones shown on the dealer’s price list—dark brown or black with lots of yellow speckling not unlike turtles Mike and I found—often smashed on the road—in the Chipola basin which often look like giant versions of Eastern Box Turtles. Probably the genetic influence of animals washed downriver by floods. They are indeed of the Panhandle phenotype and were long term captive raised and probably captive bred judging by the thick growth rings on the scutes. Indicative of a well fed captive turtle.

The female has a fair amount of chipping on the front end of the carapace that is more common in wild caught specimens but that can happen in captivity too—as a result of persistent biting and butting by aggressive and amorous males!

I’m fairly happy with what I got , though I kind of wish the male looked a little different than the female. I didn’t want an exact clone of Franklin or the other fellow—but I was hoping for some variation. But beggars can’t be choosy and I at least have a new bloodline that I’ll be able to mix with my horn colored Louisiana female like I’ve done with Franklin and have those offspring in addition to ones from the new pair to mix and match with my existing babies one day when they come of age. And I’ll look into getting a few babies from other breeders and who knows what else I’ll pick up in the meantime.

This new pair will go into the vacant upper DD that was originally built as a nesting pen for the Japanese Pond Turtles which has been repurposed as a quarantine enclosure. If they feed well and don’t have any problems I’ll probably introduce them to the pen with Olivia—my Louisiana female sometime in September—though I’m now thinking of keeping them apart until next summer to allow Olivia the chance to produce one more clutch from Franklin before letting the new male breed her.

BTW the clutch of five laid a month ago should be hatching soon.

8/4/18

The Gulf Coast pair is settling into their temporary accommodation.

As for my new animals they are long term captive as stated by the source. In my thank you message I speculated by the wide growth rings they were in captivity for a long time—about 10 years and they said that was about how long the original source had them. Most likely one of many in California who keep various types of box turtles. A really good source for many species because the mild winter climate makes it easy to keep them outdoors where they have better success breeding. I wouldn't mind living there were it not for the high cost of living and the general craziness and insane politics. The latter part was less of an issue when I was out there and it was still Reagan Country.

Speaking of politics I've been saying to friends in the hobby that we should be careful now more than ever since Trump is in office trying to drain the swamp. With that fight going on—reptile stings are likely to become more common as conservation agencies may be facing budgetary pressure and looking for dramatic ways to make a scene with a big bust to gain publicity and justify their existence. The one in Maryland back in the early 90s when Chuck The Snake Man and other breeders got busted happened at a time when republicans were in power and the DNR was closing parks to balance budgets. Looking back from today it is obvious much of that was political theater to piss off the public like what was done during the govt shutdown in the second Obama term.

I do sometimes worry about getting caught in a sting like Snake Scam—which I had a close brush with in my college days. I might have gotten in trouble if I responded to the handwritten note on the price list they sent saying they were interested in obtaining bog and wood turtles. I thought about offering to trade the latter for Spotted Turtles which I had always wanted.

Anyway they made it and are eating and looking healthy so far. The new duo ended up in the DD as originally planned. I was contemplating putting them in an empty Rubbermaid 50 indoors but decided outdoors in a more spacious enclosure would be less stressful and keep them in synch with the local climate so they will condition to hibernate this winter.

Had to take leave to go shopping and did more feeding and weeding after dinner when I got back. Also started cutting brush around the pond site and did a major mowing around the house. Never enough time to get everything I want done but I'm keeping up and chipping away.

I have to only work 4 hours tomorrow eve because of a trade I made and was thinking of going to the big reptile show in Cheswick but now I have my Gulfs so probably no need to. Running low on Superworms and need another batch but I can order online or just wait for the local show in a few weeks. I figure I'll forgo the temptations and save the money I set aside for the newts which will be ready soon.

8/5/18

Managed to wing the Tinfoil Fest article Saturday morning and put the final touches on it during my dinner break yesterday and got a pretty decent article for this mornings edition. The first in months and I feel alive again! And back on track now that the Gulf Coast flock has been restored and and even improved on with an additional female breeder in place of one of the lost males.

With the trade I made last week with Mrs G I could have gone to the Pittsburgh Reptile show which starts in half an hour and it would take me about that long to get there—but my best bet is to take it easy and conserve my resources for a while. My next acquisition will be the newts on order and a male Florida Box to get that flock producing again. I started looking last night. There is Tortoise Town which sells captive bred juvies and offers a sexing option for $10 extra—I'm presuming they might temperature sex them during incubation which is not always a guarantee but better than rolling the dice and hoping for heads or tails. Will have to look into it.

There is also the guy who has Third Eye Herpetoculture who used to have some nice flocks of Florida—Gulf Coast and even Kwangtung turtles! He is also the inventor who authored the lidded turtle pen article in Reptiles Magazine that became inspiration for my pens. Apparently he's gotten out of everything but Floridas which I'm guessing he decided to downsize and specialize in that species. My best strategy may be to just get a few hatchlings from a number of sources and keep watching Fauna and Kingsnake and the reptile shows to see what turns up. I might get lucky.

I certainly got a good deal on the Gulfs. Born and bred in California so they are not only well adjusted to life in captivity but also likely to be free of parasites and diseases that are hallmark of animals sourced from wild populations and subjected to deplorable conditions on their way to a pet shop or reptile dealer. Still I'm taking precautions and I've got them in the lower end of the upper DD. a pretty simple setup since the JPTs literally destroyed the plants—but there is a sand bed in case the female is gravid and needs to lay and I added leaves for them to dig in and the old ceramic rock pool from the Marsupial Frogs that I let sit outside for several months in the weather and sanitized with bleach solution for good measure.

At first I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with the male being almost the same as the female—and chances are they could be siblings since they are from the same breeder. But that problem is not really a problem since inbreeding is not harmful if mating is random and they are a new bloodline and I'll be pairing the offspring with those from Olivia and the previous males I had. And eventually I'll find another male to add to the flock. I do miss Franklin and the younger male I borrowed on a breeding loan as a replacement while he was AWOL. I was right in my intuition during the process of placing the order that the new one I got would never hold a candle to them—but life goes on and eventually I'll bond to the new male like I did to my Asian turts after transitioning away from my native species.

Hope to go home and get to know them a little better this afternoon.

8/12/18

Only a week after the arrival of the new Gulf Coast pair—my final restoration of the turtle flocks is now within reach.

As for my latest prospect—it was a slow day as in very slow—down to a few as 3 patients which is unusual for any day let alone a Saturday. So I got to do a little looking at the Fauna Classifieds on my phone. It was mostly showing cute heart grabber pics of baby turts to Jordie and Lindsey and I stumbled across this ad for a male Florida Box that seems too good to be true or too good o last very long before someone snaps him up. So I finally decided this evening to register and join the list like I did Caudata and send a message to the dealer—SoCal Reptiles—you guessed it—Southern California which despite the messed up politics and catastrophic wildfires seems to remain a turtle lover's paradise. Figure worth the effort to inquire and I'm quite serious about getting that one if I can. The last big item on my current wish list or I should say replacement list. Would be nice to get that out of the way and back on the way to breeding this subspecies again.

Got a kick out of the disclaimer on baby turtles being sold for scientific research only while researching the dealer's website. “We all know how that one goes”!

8/16/18

Took care of the grass and weeds growing up through the chain link fence at Uncle Budd's.

Yeah it’s a rather hard and tedious process but mainly because I let it go for a while and needed to get it done before the lawn Nazis start sending citations. Now that the thick stuff is cut out it will be a little easier in the future and it did not take me that long to do it today. Only an hour to go around the side and front. Next time I get into the garage I’m going to get the powered trimmer out and we are going to take a look at it and see if we can get it going again.

Got out of there around 1P and did a little checking out the ponds and greenhouse. Made an interesting discovery in the 150 embedded in the breast of the main pond; there were several small minnow like fish rooting around in the fallow lily planter. I was intrigued so I dropped a few shrimp pellets on the planter to coax them out again after they fled into the vegetation and hung around to observe. Turns out they are little bronze colored baby goldfish that somehow got in there as eggs on plants I moved there from the pond in the spring. And their growth has been amazing to say the least. They look as big as small grade feeder fish from the pet shop and that’s just from eating algae, bugs and tadpoles because I never feed them having been totally unaware of their existence until today. Wonder how many are in the pond. I remember them rolling around in the shallow pocket on the other shore back in early spring and my efforts to remove the strands of milfoil to make it less appealing to spawn there for concerns of the cats being able to get them.

Funny thing how they survived the snakes. They’d even be an easier target than big Bullheads—as the smaller snakes could easily eat them. There is concern for the new cohort of Marbled Bullheads in the big tub which have apparently become MIA in recent days. So I decided to drain out the water and see what is going on in there. Got as far as removing all the planters and blocks and scooped out some Redbreast fry with the skimmer net before using the net to scoop out duckweed and clump algae and I caught a few catfish in the process but don’t know for sure how many because I may be catching the same ones more than once. Only solution was to let the water settle and see if I can visualize all the occupants after making a run to take care of payday business and other things.

Which was what I did instead of Elmer’s.

In the meantime it was to brickyard first for 4 buckets of river pebbles to dress up the CBT pen and then Allstate, the pharmacy to pick up meds and bank to get cash and the direct deposit amount for my checkbook. Kind of roundabout because the brickyard closes around 4.

Storms were starting to rumble while I was getting my gravel and it hit right after I landed back home and I ended up setting the first bucket that I was going to carry up to the site under the awning at the cellar door and hastily closing the trunk before retiring indoors to ride it out.

The thunder blasts sounded awful as the storm moved in—as in war zone intensity but that fortunately subsided quickly. Got some heavy rains that took forever to taper off and finally it has. Will at least get some gravel mulch to fill in the muddy areas in the CBT pen where the bird bath pools overflow during flushing. And should have some leftover to do Geiger’s pen.

Looking forward to that and final outcome of the head count in the Rubbermaid tank. Hoping I won’t have to drain that one but it depends on how well I can see what’s going on in there after the silt settles.

8/17/18

In regard to my primitive method of trimming grass and weeds the other day; Ray was mystified why I don't use a gas or electric trimmer.

Frankly I'd rather have the powered version but I also rather not let the lack of one or any other tool or gadget stand in the way of getting something done. Like a screwdriver when the power drill is broken or runs out of juice. Or the hatchet and bow saw when the chainsaw is down. I even have a reel mower but I haven't used it much lately—mainly because its not very good if you let the grass get high.

Overall it was a productive day despite time lost to the storms. I was surprised to find out that it was already 7PM when I was able to get back outside and check on the fishes. The tank settled enough to see that there were at least two catfishes in there. But still enough clots of algae and cloudiness to obscure things and the waning twilight was not helping things either. So the decision to drain the tub was made. That process took about a half hour and was complete in time to visualize the remaining occupants before the daylight ran out.

Happy to report that all six of the new cohort were still there alive and well. I caught all of them with the skimmer net and transferred them to a bucket in order to get an accurate count. I didn't count the redbreasts but it looks like all of them were also still there and they've grown significantly. I'm hoping to get them a bit bigger so they'll be safe to go to the greenhouse pond with the three big catfish this winter. They are a nice mix of normal and golden or palomino phase morphs. I dipped a bunch of fry out before I scooped out the algae and other detritus and those I decided to dump into the vacant tub next door where their parents were last summer and hope for the best. Right now raising that species is not at the top of my priorities list—I just want to make sure the breeders—which are proven—survive until next season when I hope to be caught up and better organized to deal with large numbers of offspring.

It is possible that some fry remained in the tank when I stopped pumping—and tiny fish do survive passage through impeller blades or else there would not be baby Rosy Reds in the upper pools of the DD system. And the breeders may spawn again. Especially after the major disruption of their habitat that might give them some biological cue to repopulate.

As for the catfish—I have no idea what was going on. Maybe a seasonal behavioral change—or else they were less hungry from caterpillars and other bugs falling in from the trees above (that was the reason the juvie Euro Ponds were getting too fat that one summer when I had them out there. Even after I cut their rations drastically. And then indoors it was the stinkbugs! Or maybe the catfishes just switched to waiting for the leftover pellets to sink. All that work for nought and I probably destroyed a lot of baby sunfishes in the process but at least I know all my marbled bullheads are still alive and well. That gives me nine potential breeders and whatever offspring are at large in the pond. Would have totally sucked to have found out that most of those I bought earlier in the season were gone.

I took pictures of the CBT pen before putting down river pebbles and then a shot of the process of pumping out the Rubbermaid. Was going to get the fry in the bucket when my phone started having storage issues again. That after a good bit of deleting earlier to free up space. This time the lion's share of memory space is being tied up by “other” as opposed to pics or email which is usually the case. I can't figure out what it is because the phone is good at telling me something is wrong but can't tell me what it is and give me a clear pathway to access and delete it. I may be ditching the device again. It also has bad implications for writing my next article but can probably use the mini iPad I'm on now and maybe transfer some pics over by email—if it will let me. Maybe I can do a major conversion of pics to hard copy and free up enough space to be able to work with the phone. But maybe I should just ditch it and move to a cheaper device and data plan.

Ran out of time to finish the CBTs but got gravel around the pool on the south and and started on the other one before running out of light. Will get it tomorrow or Saturday when I'm off. Had wanted to draw down and inventory the satellite tub too but will have to wait on that too. At Lear it appears I got rid of that huge female water snake in time before it started feeding on my fish after running out of frogs. And that was my day.

8/21/18—2:36 AM

Helluva day. Busy from the time I got there until I left and no lunch break so I ate my dinner on the way out the door and made a brief round outside to check on things and rig the clock radio in the living room to deter raccoons from messing with the tubs. Heard them chittering yesterday eve.

Gave the quarantine tub another disinfecting in preparation for the arrival of the Male Florida Box who is now in transit.

8/21/18—8:25 AM

Yesterday morning I stopped and pair my gas bill for the greenhouse. It was $698 and I was glad I had earmarked $600 last pay—so that is now done and I can start looking to get fuel oil for the house which I'll have to juggle with fall taxes and a bill from Med Express for $210. That was for my exam after the accident to check my back in March. You know—a paper that got lost in the shuffle is found on someone's desk and gets kicked back into circulation. Bureaucracy.

As for time I am going to be a little pressed being that my package is already on the ground and probably out for delivery by now. Going to have to get home sooner rather than later.

Weather looks nice for the moment but the forecast is stormy and it sounds unsettled in the way of wind gusts that have been stirring since last night. You can tell something is on the way. Going to try to get done whatever I can outside and get your plants before the rains move in. And will probably wrap things up early for a change since there is no point hanging around all day into the evening if there are more storms.

11:20 AM

New turtle arrived alive and well. Pretty much what the breeder said—full sized male Florida Box that was obviously captive bred and raised. You can tell by the growth rings that are similar to the ones on the two new Gulf Coasts and he does have some noticeable pyramiding from his first couple years that he’s growing out of like the ones I raised. The edge of the carapace actually looks like the profile of a wild caught specimen and that’s what I thought when I first visualized his shape and size through the mesh bag he was in embedded in the wadded newspaper packing.

He’s in a cardboard box while I get his quarantine enclosure ready. At the last minute I decided to clean out the plastic storage crate that was the temporary holding container for the Gulfs when I unboxed them and use that instead of the sick cage for now. Will put that in the greenhouse because that will be a better environment for him and keep the latter enclosure in the house so he’ll have a place to go when the greenhouse gets too chilly—depending on whether or not I hibernate him this fall.

Now I have to get back on it and take care of other things outside before the rains come back. It rained earlier when I arrived and when the turtle was delivered and stopped shortly after. I need to cut grass again too.

3:43 PM

More and more ; Summer of Storms seems to define this one appropriately!

The first round blew up while I was feeding the turts at the greenhouse site and the skyline was looking dark and ominous so I made haste to disperse the feed to the Florida Boxies after finishing up the Gulf pen complex and closed the greenhouse doors that were propped open earlier.

That one was a near miss passing to the south. C’ville probably got it. Decided to have lunch—steak salad and then some imitation crab and tea. By then I was ready to go to the pond site. Getting a good system down—earlier today I did a major sanitization of feeding equipment and containers so I can organize food rations for specific animals which makes feeding to a little faster. Will describe it later. Fed the quarantine pen last just as the next round was about to come in. The new Gulf pair are both eating the soaked pellets as readily as Franklin but it was time to get inside because it was about to hit and it looked like we might get the serious end of it this time.

However it also fizzled out like the one before it. While waiting it out—it occurred to me this would have been the ideal day to put that package together and I actually have our pre-labeled box. Unfortunately it does not look like I will get it together today because it’s late in the day and I don’t want to rush it. Even pre labeled I’d like to take my time cleaning, bagging and labeling the plants. I can probably take the job with me and put the box together in C’ville tonight and mail it on my way in the morning and also visit the pipe place to get valves for the pump line project and maybe do Geiger’s pen since it’s all in my line of travel between the post office and work. There is also the matter of wanting to economize my time here as I have done little today in the way of the weeding and mowing that I keep wanting to do every time I spend a day here. Sunday it was a late start and then the trip to Elmer’s and today—you guessed it—Storms. Even though they are nuisance variety so far they are eating up the time.

Well I better get back at it before they finally decide to get serious. Perfect moment now to at least grab the plants and then get some weeding and mowing done.

8/25/18

That was one drama filled week and it all runs together. Sure did accomplish a lot of good things at home too. The new Florida Boxie who completes the restoration of my losses from last year. I also ordered the newts requesting delivery next week and also ordered the mock rock which ought to be coming soon too. Thursday evening when I worked 11 to 7P I installed the valve in on the line from the Hurricane where the splice is above the CBT pen. That's where the new mock rock will go. I had a devil of a time getting the splice apart—had to cut off the upper end of the line with a hacksaw to get rid of the coupling! By then the daylight was nearly gone so I had to give up. Later today I hope to mess around with it and hook up a garden hose to top off the DD a little. Also need to burry the line which has worked it's way up out of the mulch from me constantly pulling the line apart . Another reason for the valve and faux rock cover. Will get some pics of the fitting in situ.

Was thinking about part 2 of the latest article but will probably wait until next week because I need more time to do it well and I just might have that perfect day by then if I can get the remainder of the weeding done this weekend and the watercourse running! Plan for this we

ekend is to get started on that later today after I take Uncle Budd for a ride. Then I'm going to start working on stuff at my place and stay overnight and go to the reptile show tomorrow for Superworms. And do more that afternoon. Also have some river pebbles for Geiger's pen to drop off.

In addition to regular care and maintenance I hope to gain more ground and get into places I haven't been into for a very long time.

8:25 PM

Got home late afternoon and fed the leftover bloodworms to the Blackbandeds, Dollars and Shiners in the kitchen tanks, then fed the cats and went up to the ponds to feed fish and turts. Cichlid pellets to the Redbreast / Bullhead tub, shrimp pellets to the big goldfish and Bullheads, the large Hikari Gold to the Euro Ponds and a combination of blueberries and soaked pellets I had on hand in the fridge from the last feeding to the remaining pens. Female Euro eats like a champ now so there is hope for even better egg production next season if I can get the female onto a pen with better nesting options.

Fed The JPT trio sparingly because they are getting obese. New Gulfs are taking well to both blueberries and the soaked pellets. It looks like I’ve got them feeding as well as the first group were.

My other project of the evening was to work on the section of line at the splice where I did the tap in. That worked out really good as I was able to work much of the exposed pipe back down into the leaf mold and mulch and I hooked a hose up to the tap and successfully topped off the Behlen tub in the DD while running the watercourse. Looking forward to getting the new Mock Rock on order. However it’s looking like the 12 x 12 x 24 inch may have been overkill because the footprint of the tap on the line is very small. But I may decide to elbow it up on a short post so we’ll have to see how it shakes out when the the rock arrives.

And that was a good end to my day.

Indoors before I started writing I decided to check the incubator and voila—the Gulf Coast eggs have hatched! All five are out of the shell alive and well! And they probably started earlier in the week as it looks like the yolk sacs are all gone. The little buggers were very active and energetic but I didn’t do anything with them other than expose each and everyone to make sure they were ok and put the container back into the incubator until tomorrow. Will take them with me to C’ville tomorrow evening in the tank I started the 2017 babies in. It’s warm down there and I can keep a better eye on them.

Only one of the three remaining Euro Pond eggs looks good. If I’m lucky I’ll at least get one new one. Possibly two if the egg I tucked into the sand garden is still there and still good. It looked good when I last checked it so I had better move it indoors before it does hatch or I may never find the baby—unless I get exceptionally lucky and it turns up in the pond or one of the lesser pools.

I’ve got 18 Gulf Coasts if all the new ones make it. Don’t plan to keep that many because it would require about a half acre of pen space to give that many enough room to live a good life and I’m planning on getting a few more new bloods as it is. Now I have been thinking of going back to an open air pen to give tye bigger Gulfs more room. If I do high walls of wood like GST it would be hard for raccoons to lift a full grown Gulf Coast over the wall. And an electric fence would help too!

Next year I hope will be a turtle breeders renaissance which it could be with two female Gulfs producing along with all the other species. If that happens I’ll probably have to set up the Hovabator and maybe the Little Giant.

That and the successful comeback of favorite fish species will really make my year.

Reptile show tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll get superworms and maybe some husbandry supplies. Who knows what live goods—maybe more Cumberland Sliders or something else. But I’ve got to watch my cash since I put that money back to go toward the newts. Will have to put some more aside because it is nice to be able to opportunistically pick up something that pops up unexpected.

8/26/18

Reptile show was not bad.

Actually it seems to be getting better with good vendors offering a great selection of animals and dry goods. I had come mainly for Superworms but also got two more Cumberland Sliders from a guy dealing several species of turtles. These are young of the year and still had the egg tooth but surprisingly they fed on Reptomin sticks when I got them home!

8/30/18

Late day. Back in C'ville resting again after some nice homemade burgers and Famous Fries. Pretty satisfied despite not getting everything done I wanted because what I did get done was very significant.

Was afraid at the time when I was writing earlier that it was going to be a washout because the sky was darkening like rain was imminent but it eventually brightened and we even had a fair amount of sun throughout the afternoon. I fed bloodworms to the Dollars and Blackbandeds and took some up to feed the baby water turtles. Then back to the house and had the two remaining stuffed crabs and corn on the cob for lunch and returned with loaded red worms for the baby gulfs and Juvies and loaded crawlers for Momma Olivia! Then went back for pellets which I soaked and gave to all the younger turts in the complex before moving on to the greenhouse to feed the Muds and Florida Boxies.

I do need to slow down a little so I can pay more attention to the new male to make sure he's eating the stuff I've been throwing into his enclosure. A have seen him eating a few times and the stuff disappears but I need to observe him a little more. Part of the problem is that the pen is a bit out of the way. I have been thinking about moving him to the sick cage in the house. That will probably happen anyway in a month or so depending on how soon the greenhouse gets dank and chilly.

At the other site I fed everyone pellets and then worms and some Superworms—except the Japanese Pond Turtle trio which just got the large Hikari Gold pellets since they are are on a diet because of obesity issues. The lighter colored female got freaked out because of her skittish temperament that remains despite the time she's been with me—so I moved the other two to the the greenhouse to let them spend a few hours in the Waterland so the shy one could have the outside pen to herself and eat at leisure without the other two getting everything.

The Waterland has been functioning well all summer with the pump running the waterfall filter and no issues with water loss. That is encouraging since it is their winter home now. I have been thinking a lot about that lately but I'm prepping to make sure nothing like what happened last winter ever happens again. Got another plastic tote today so I now have 4 new ones plus the one I hibernate the muds in. That just might take care of the CBTs, Floridas and maybe Gulfs depending whether or not a double some of the latter up.

Feeding took way too long again. Then again I have 50 turts now counting the new hatchlings. Guess I'm catching up with little Miss “There Are 80 Turtles In My House”!

If I ever get into the Black Knobs, plus Guerrero Woods , areolata and Spotts again—I could easily surpass that! But I'm getting more efficient I think. At least got to do a little more of with the weeding of the rock garden and the bed beside the Rosyside Pool—pulling out the stilt grass and other weeds. I also pruned the rhododendrons above the upper falls to open up a good deal of the rock garden that had been slowly engulfed over the years. That will give a new lease on life to many plants and regain more lost ground.

While that was ongoing the Mock Rock which I had pretty much gave up on getting it today let alone this week arrived. I knew it when the UPS truck tooted so I left the rhododendron limbs lay on the rock garden and grabbed the service tote with the feed and supplies to carry it down with me and shouted a thanks to the delivery man as he was walking away from my front porch.

Unboxed the new rock that was everything I hoped for and I carried it up to the site to deploy. Were it not for the poor light conditions I would have taken a picture. Will have to do that tomorrow afternoon before work. Have a pretty good idea how this will finish up. I'm thinking of getting a threaded nipple to extend the tap in a little farther away from the edge of the path where the line runs and elbow it up about 6 inches and have the tap there almost like a regular hook up for a hose. And then I'll get two hoses—a long one to reach for the DD and a shorter one for the CBT pen and keep them nearby. And get another one to reach to the Gulf pen from the greenhouse. Each site have its own so I'm not constantly going back and forth for stuff.

After cleaning up the rhododendron clippings there was very little daylight left. I used that and the headlights of the Troy to mow a little around the house and the strip between the greenhouse abs Gulf pens. Now that all flocks are fed I'm going to try to get more aggressive with the machete and weed whacker tomorrow and a little through the weekend. Will probably toss everyone some blueberries over the weekend to give them something to munch on while I'm busy. Then next week maybe I'll start on clearing out around the perimeter so I can rig up the electric fence for added security.

Finally at long last I can actually see myself working on that project. As the season starts to wind down. Hoping maybe next year I'll be able to enjoy everything and be caught up so so there is more time for that stuff and more. Regret that I didn't get around to moving the newt tank down here and a few other things but Rome wasn't built—or restored in a day.

9/3/18

Labor Day. It’s hard to believe it went so fast. In the beginning it seemed like always ; summer would last forever. But it’s over now or having one last gasp—a stretch of 90 degree days has put the newt shipment on hold again. But I can use a little more time to get ready anyway.

Been a busy week. Little time to do much for the turts the last few days and tomorrow is a Dr visit day so I stayed overnight st my place so I can get out early and feed everyone and maybe just look around and appreciate and enjoy. I’ve hardly had time to do anything more with the new Mock Rock I deployed last week. I’d like to eyeball it some more and figure out the most aesthetically pleasing position for it from a landscaping perspective and figure out what fittings I need to extend from the T splice to an elbow for the faucet.

Hoping I’ll have enough water to run the watercourse. Despite the recent storms in the region it has been dry locally because many of those skipped or peetered out—this is the Dry Belt after all. I’ve been running a trickle from the spring flow to keep the pond topped off but that will be getting low and one version of the forecast I looked at yesterday had it dry all the way through mid month but this morning the one on my phone has storms this coming weekend.

Right now it’s about 73 so it will be ideal to feed turts and water the greenhouse right after breakfast. Hope to get out of here before the heat of the day and cut the grass in C’ville. Will probably be an Ozone Action Day—if they even do those anymore—they used to in Pittsburgh and I would hear it all the time on my favorite talk radio station. It was kind of a holdover from the go green craze of the 90s and I always joked that it means perfect weather for mowing the lawn. If the lawn Nazis don’t get you for not cutting your grass the greenie weenies will get you if you do!

And ozone—as in ; remember Ozone Al? ; I thought the loss of it was supposed to be the problem. Of course I know that the generation of ozone at ground level is a whole different ball game than the depletion of the same up in the stratosphere. However you don’t hear much about that lately so apparently the problem is solved. And ditto for saving the rainforests and the whales as other than an occasional mass stranding of the latter—it is all been overshadowed by the boogie man of global warming. Algore better get out there and say something before the coming winter drives him back into hiding.

Read yesterday that California is going to carbon free electric generation by the 2040s. Hummm—they just might be able to pull it off with solar power satellites—if commercial space flight and asteroid mining takes off in the next 20 years. Could that be Governor Moonbeam’s secret plan? He was ridiculed back in the 70s when he endorsed the idea during his previous tenure in the State House which is how he acquired that nickname. But beamed solar power from space is probably the only way to feasibly and physically do it aside from nuclear fission or fusion. To carpet miles and miles of desert with solar panels and line every ridge top with windmills has a lot of environmental and maintenance costs.

Postscript: here I end part one of this edition with a cliffhanger. The Summer of Storms is about to ramp up a great deal with the approach of tropical storm remnant Gordon—soon to be followed by Florence. The Dry Belt has finally been quenched ; but now it's about to get drenched with some drama more typical of a winter edition!

TO BE CONTINUED

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