LOCAL VIEW –Reptiles Rule, Almost–

Every spring is different, and what has made this one unique has been the after-effects of a warm spell at the end of March followed by a deep freeze the first week of April. Certain flowering shrubs and trees, such as forsythia and black cherry, were right on the verge of blooming, and then seemed to put on the brakes. When the cold passed I waited for them to resume their budding and blooming, but the buds were blasted. The leaves came out, but there were simply no flowers this year.

I can’t tell you how much I missed the forsythia. It is such a happy bloom. It’s suppose to look like this amidst the late winter gray.Forsythia x intermedia Lynwood

Instead of that happy splash of color there were just stark stems, gradually leafing out with green. The cherry trees also just gradually leafed out. You could kiss your haiku sayonara.

Ordinarily the blooms, and especially the yellows, of spring evoke a sort of rollicking response in me. When I was a teenager, (after a winter that seemed particularly tragic to me, because a certain girl refused to smile),  even the yellowing of the branches of weeping willows defeated depression and prompted this joy:

Is that there a willow tree
In the winter’s gray?
Clowning yellows happily
And laughing in its play:
“Spring will come some day!”

Can it be a hidden grin
Is bursting out aloud?
A boatless sailors porpoise fin?
I see you’re in
Beneath your shroud.

But that was yesterday, and yesterdays’s gone.

Actually those two fellows are far too happy, singing that song. They fail to be morose in the proper manner. (Perhaps I should have linked to them singing, “Willow weep for me”.)

To live through a spring without the initial blooms is a sobering experience. After all, black cherries feed a lot of birds and critters, and it looks like there won’t be any, this year. Birds will be forced to seek alternative sources of nourishment, such as my vegetable garden.

The weather has gradually warmed in a desultory sort of way, and even the cold-blooded reptiles are stirring. Of course, snapping turtles are not welcome at my Farm-childcare, as their bite can take a child’s finger off. Yet one made an appearance today, though it was camera shy:

Snapping turtle IMG_2938

The males never leave the water, and tend to be draped by festoons of slimy algae, but the females can lumber quite amazing distances from their ponds to lay their eggs. Sometimes they travel five miles.  I think they don’t much want to share their ponds with their own children, or perhaps they don’t want the tiny offspring to be lunch for the grouchy fathers. The children are about the size of the lens in an average pair of spectacles, while the female in the above picture had a shell 18 inches (46 cm) from front to back. You shouldn’t be fooled by their lovely, friendly faces

Snapping turtle snapperhead

Photo credit http://mentalfloss.com/article/68505/10-biting-facts-about-snapping-turtles

Because they have very long necks

Snapping 3 common-snapping-turtle-breathing-at-surface-of-the-water (1)

Photo Credit  http://www.arkive.org/common-snapping-turtle/chelydra-serpentina/image-G136674.html

And they can bite you when you think you are at a safe distance.

Lastly, small children at a Childcare are not known for following orders. In some ways a farm is a good way to teach children to listen to elders; especially the older boys who are more rebellious. I once derived a certain smug and silent satisfaction when I witnessed a young know-it-all fleeing the rooster, setting a record for the hundred yard dash across the pasture, with the rooster a close second. I had repetitively warned the lad, “Stay away from that rooster”, but he wouldn’t listen. After the dash I didn’t have to say a word; the rooster had done the teaching.

On another occasion, after repeatedly telling a nine-year-old boy not to tease a particular goat we called “The Mean Queen”, I watched as that goat singled him out and, ignoring all the other children, stalked him like a cat does an unwary mouse, and gave him a good clout, pinning him against a tree. (The goat was hornless). The boy shot me a startled glace as he wriggled away from the goat, but I only shrugged and spread my palms in a way that was sign language for, “I told you so, but you didn’t listen, did you?”

However having a child lose a finger seems like going a wee bit too far, in my policy of letting children learn, from mistakes, that elders are doing more than ruining the fun, when they give orders.

We get many small children who arrive at our Childcare without any self discipline; wee tots turned into tyrants by permissive parents; and it takes me a while to teach them I am a fierce old grouch, a force to be reckoned with, as my “no” means “no” even if they tantrum until they are blue in the face.  (I might get faster results if corporal punishment was allowed, but it isn’t.) Progress is very slow in some cases, and I can’t take chances with a four-year-old “testing his boundaries” when I tell him to avoid a snapping turtle. Therefore I tend to get rid of snapping turtles at our Farm-childcare, when I can.

There shouldn’t be any uproar about turtle-removal, for snapping turtles are not endangered species in these parts, and about the only good they do is reduce the population of invasive Canada Geese by nabbing the cute goslings as they swim behind their parents. (Every golf course should import snapping turtles into their water hazards, to rid the fairways of Canada Geese.) Therefore there should be no uproar if we get rid of a turtle in the most natural and efficient way, which is to eat them.

We did eat a big old male, once, (and I have never chewed a tougher and more rubbery meat; I must have prepared it incorrectly.  I stewed it, and no amount of boiling would soften the meat.) However I have since learned modern mothers have soft hearts about most everything.  They are very spiritual, believe the lion should lay down with the lamb, and likely have never seen five cute goslings swimming behind a mother goose abruptly become four cute goslings behind a mother goose.  If they saw that their opinions might change, but as it is they are so softhearted they can make me feel guilty about putting a worm on a fishhook. The long version of this education involved a time I showed the kids how to make woodchuck stew, and if you have the time you can read about my education here:

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/groundhog-stew/

The short version is that I’ve learned it is safest to either make sure parents sign a permission slip, or look over both shoulders surreptitiously, before I so much as bait a hook.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate being educated by mothers younger than my daughters, and I may become a Buddhist yet, as I contemplate the feelings of worms as I hook them. (If not a Buddhist, I may become a fly fisherman). However it does seem odd young mothers want to control me, when they can’t control their darling toddler Adolf.

In any case, a snapping turtle on the Childcare property does present me with a bit of a problem.

This snapper would not even give me a decent picture. (That is why I had to use the pictures of others, and supply photo credits). I like taking my own pictures, but this female only poked her long neck up like a periscope once, and then, seeing I hadn’t left (and before I could aim my camera), ducked back down. She nestled more deeply into the leaves , and occasionally heaved a sigh, but didn’t poke her head up a second time, (which would have made a great picture.)

I waited and waited. I was so silent I could hear the grass grow, which reminded me of the job I was doing, when I first saw her, (mowing the grass.) Grass sometimes seems it is the only thing that is growing, this stunted spring. It’s a blasted nuisance. I’d rather watch a turtle than make a racket with a mower. But sometimes a man’s just got to do what a man’s got to do.

I use up lots of gas. It’s how I earn my pay:
Cutting lots of grass but never making hay.
Hay could feed some sheep which could feed and cloth the poor.
It makes me want to weep. Just who am I mowing for?

I’m a lawn-mowing man! I make the noise pollution!
I just do what I can, and await a revolution.

I kept checking on the turtle as I mowed, but she just stayed there, until I decided she must be laying eggs. This got me thinking. Turtle eggs make good eating, though they have some odd qualities. The whites never turn white, even if you boil them an hour, and therefore you need to fry them, or get over your dislike of uncooked whites. In either case, cooking turtle eggs would be yet another activity that makes my Childcare different from other Childcares.  At the very least, thinking about it kept mowing-the-grass from boring me to death.

It takes longer, but one thing I insist upon as I mow is bagging all the clippings and using them to mulch the garden. It cuts back on weeding, (which I like only slightly more than mowing), and also it makes mowing seem less pointless and useless. I mean, if people are going to worry about Global Warming, and yet use up umpteen gallons of fossil fuel cutting grass, and never use the grass for anything useful, then they will never dare criticize me, for I actually utilize what I cut. Right?

Wrong. I’ll save the details for some other night, but there are some folk who just hate farmers. No matter what you do they see it as some sort of rape of the environment.

It all seemed to conspire in a way that soured my sense of spring. Just as the forsythia has no happy yellow blooms, the next generation sometimes seems like a bunch of soured mothers with soured children. Grumph. Grumph. Grumph. And just then the next reptile gave me a shock, as I brought grass clippings to the garden.

Snake 1 FullSizeRender

It was a harmless and common garter snake, but snakes always make me jump at first. This one slithered into weeds and was being as uncooperative as the snapping turtle, when it came to being photogenic. However I was sick and tired of being patient with others when others are not always patient with me, so I poked it and forced it out into the sun.

Even the above photo seemed pretty dull, and unlikely to attract people to my website, and the snake wouldn’t sit still and be photogenic, and therefore, to make this post more interesting, I stepped on the end of the snake’s tail.

Snake 2 IMG_2965

Much more photogenic! What’s more, I noticed the snake’s tongue darted in and out much more often, when it was trapped. The tongues of snakes dart so quickly I’ve never gotten a good picture of one with its tongue out, but this seemed my chance.  I nearly exhausted my cell phone, but finally\ managed to catch this shot.

Snake 3 FullSizeRender

I was so pleased with the picture that I smugly decided there was a slight likelihood that the photo could go viral, and appear all over the web as an illustration for various blogs. But was the snake grateful for the possibility of fame?

Snake 4 FullSizeRender

Talk about unappreciative! But that’s how things have been going, this spring. You get no flowers. But I decided that, if the stupid snake didn’t want to be famous, he could go crawl about on his belly for all I cared. I would go see if the snapping turtle was more interested.

The snapping turtle had vanished. Furthermore, she left me no eggs. Apparently she only hunkered down in the leaves because she doesn’t like pictures, and deemed me the paparazzi. The nerve! Who does she think she is? Some Hollywood star?

As I rolled my eyes to heaven I noticed something. A branch of high-bush blueberry was loaded with blooms. Rather than finishing the lawn I investigated further into the brush. It was amazing, for every blueberry bush was covered with more blooms than I’d ever seen before.

Blueberries 1 IMG_2981

So maybe I did get some flowers after all. I just had to look for them.

Not that I expect any berries. This is likely just the Creator’s way of making up for the fact there will be few black cherries this year. Once birds realize there are few cherries, every bird in town will be chowing down in by blueberry patch.

My brief elation over blooms gave way to a gloom over an imagined lack of berries, and I trudged back to finish mowing the lawn.

That might make a good end to this post, but there was more, for the wind was picking up, purple clouds came hurrying over, and by the time I finished the lawn the gusts were chilly, and a driving mist was hinting at April. I rushed home to check the weather radar on my computer, and could see a cold front was ramming through, and that May snows were falling back in the Great Lakes, behind the front.

The way this spring has been going, the blueberry blooms will also get burned by frost, and they’ll wind up being worse than “for the birds”. They will be blasted, and there will be no berries for the birds. It will be, in the end, a sullen spring, a spring without flowers.

As I sat slumped at the computer, thinking how sad it is this spring gives me no bouquets, my wife, (who does not like it when I hurry to the computer to hunch over a radar screen without even saying “hello”), asked me if I’d completed a particular chore. Fortunately I had actually done it, though how I found the time only God knows. After all, as my faithful readers know, when I mow a lawn it involves a lot more than cutting the grass. It involves turtles. It involves snakes. It involves mulching the garden. It involves the blueberry crop, and the well-being of birds. It involves scanning the sky for frost in May. It involves important stuff, significant stuff,  like Global Warming. It involves the price of eggs in Africa.

Some days I envy robots. When they mow the grass, that is all they do. Some days I take my gloom a step farther, and think my wife would be happier with a robot. My daughters are not. They insist on bringing boys home that make even me look sensible. These young men do know about snapping turtles, but only because apparently there is a snapping turtle in some video game. Many do not know how to mow a non-virtual lawn.

The last video game I played was called “centipede”, a quarter century ago. Since then I’ve been too busy in the non-virtual reality to even watch ordinary TV shows. The only reason I go on-line is to study meteorology. The only reason I am involved in politics is because “Global Warming” dragged me into it, when all I originally wanted to do was avoid talking about unsafe stuff like religion and politics, and talk about “safe” stuff like the weather.

Be that as it may, I am now neck deep in serious stuff, significant stuff,  involving the hot topic of Global Warming. So far there is no reward. It is the epitome of a spring without flowers. In fact it is proof gloom is wise. To delve into the internet in this respect makes me live in a sort of basement.

Gloom IMG_2909

There is no forsythia in the above picture.  No happy spring. I can search the web all I want and my wisdom just gets darker. The politics of Global Warming isn’t warm, and proves cold-blooded reptiles rule, almost.

Almost, but not quite, due to an occupational hazard you face, if you run a Childcare. When you deal with children you may be older and wiser, and understand the logic of reptiles, but children know something reptiles don’t, and can be forsythia even when forsythia can’t.Gloom 2 IMG_2920

You can have been working a solid week to nurse a good gloom into life, but then a child will ruin it in five seconds. So I guess I’ll be gloomy about that.

I am bemused by my self, and conclude
I was made on a day the Creator
Mixed up pots of stuff that held nothing rude
And made good men, but when done, still had more.
In the artist pot, there was not enough
To make one; in the engineer pot,
Not enough; and so on, but such stuff
Should not be wasted, and so He took the lot
And mixed all together, curious
About what the mix might turn out to be.
I think that I ought to be furious
For the mix that he made turned out to be me.
I’m a Jack-of-all-trades who can do nothing well,
But if you make the Lord smile, you won’t go to hell.

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