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The Middle-Aged Woman & The Sea (Plus Bonus Turtle!)

I return from the vacation of vacationness!

It was pretty good. We walked on the beach and wore hats and went to small tacky beach shops and bought small tacky objects that seemed like a good idea and which will puzzle us in years to come. (Though I am quite pleased with my flamingo-shaped birdhouse.) We went out to Shackleford and saw the wild horses, which are not the Marguerite Henry ponies (I was wrong) but probably the descendants of Spanish horses, and are believed to be the oldest population of horses in North America. So that was pretty cool.

I went in the ocean. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I am highly skeptical of the Atlantic, because it is warm and not full of rocks. I suspect it is plotting something. It rewarded this suspicion by slapping me repeatedly with waves. I retired from the field of battle, because it is not possible to win against geography.

Got back home and went into the garden to do some much needed clean-up---the heat over the last week has slain the last of the peas, and the beans are starting to produce big pods that are yellowing up. Built a drying rack out of narrow RV window screens, which fits nicely in the studio window table and should be destroyed by the cats any moment now.

And then, as I was chopping back the native creeping St. John's Wort, I saw this little guy digging into the mud alongside the path...


Defective wildlife ahoy!

As you can see, he's got something swollen on the side of his head. It turns out that ear infections are common in wild box turtles and cause abscesses. (Who knew?) It's a pretty easy fix---you drain it and give them antibiotics---but well beyond my skills, so I started calling wildlife rehabbers in my neck of the woods. Fortunately, I got a gentleman on the second try who was still taking small stuff (I think, based on his cautious answers, he was afraid I was gonna dump a fawn on him or something) and said "Oh, that we can handle!" So I put Turtle-Bob here in a box and ran him out to the rehabber. (Big house, huge garden, peacocks and beagles roaming the grounds. I took him up to the front door, and the porch was covered in peacock feathers. My kinda people.)

The rehabber said that Turtle-Bob was quite young and that they tend to be pretty hardy with this procedure, so he'll give me a call if he pulls through and we can bring him back to the garden. Box turtles have very small, very set territories, and while this one may not have settled yet, if he has, we don't want to stress him out by trying to introduce him somewhere else and possibly having him get hit by a car. (We lost one to a UPS truck that way awhile back, and lots and lots of box turtles die on roads every year.)

Honestly, I occasionally think I'm running box turtle hospice here--I found another one a few years ago, and he hung out in the garden for a week or so, eating my tomatoes, then expired quietly. There wasn't a mark on him, so for all I know, he died of old age or something. (I can at least be sure he didn't get into any pesticide laden veggies here, but reptiles are hard and they get weird diseases that don't make sense to us mammals. Anyway, I at least know he had plentiful food and peaceful final weeks.)

Hopefully Turtle-Bob the Third will pull through and be able to return, and if not, at least he got care.

And the rehabber told me to take a bunch of peacock feathers when I went, so I've got a couple in my studio now.

ETA: The rehabber just called---Turtle-Bob survived surgery just fine and is doing well! If all goes well, he'll be ready to come home in a week or so!

Hooray, you had a good vacation. And congrats on adding to the Bob collection.

I've rehabbed a couple of ear abscess box turtles, and though at first the pus is quite impressive, they both recovered and healed up very quickly.

Oh, that's good to know! He said it was pretty straightforward, but it's a big swelling on a little turtle!

ursulav , I wanted to tell you something that I thought might amuse you. I just moved, and in unpacking books, I ended up with a shelf that goes Michelangelo's poems, scholarship on renaissance art, reproductions of Leonardo's notebooks, Digger.

Edited at 2014-06-23 01:26 am (UTC)

In honor of Turtle-Bob, I feel obliged to ask if the shelf also includes anything relating to Raphael or Donatello.

We used to have box and snapping turtles wander into our yard back in NW Florida; I never saw one with an injury like that, but I saw them missing toes and once missing an entire paw. They're hardy little critters, though, and they seemed to deal with their injuries well enough. Snappers in particular would show up with scars and were cranky little monsters-- one of them took off the tip of my brother's fingers.

Box turtles are my favorite critters in the entire world, you are so lucky to cross paths with so many Turtle-Bobs! :D

It is true, within the first 4 months of their lives they orient to their home territories like birds with homing instincts, and if removed will forever seek to get back there, which depressing fact I enjoy sharing whenever I have the chance to talk about box turtles, because it horrifies and saddens people into leaving them alone and not taking them home; if I have successfully horrified and saddened, then my work is done.

They do get some pretty gnarly infections though. I was reading a book on them some years ago and one of the illustrations was infection puss coming out of one's tear ducts, a.k.a. EYE SOCKET. That must have been some 15+ years ago that I encountered that photo, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Thankfully it was describing conditions found in questionably kept populations gathered for the erstwhile pet trade, because if I ever saw one looking like that in person myself, it would be karma returning tenfold all the horrification I have ever instilled in others with nightmare-interest tacked on.

Good for you for rescuing the turtle. I have two pet (land) box turtles, and needed to give shots to one of them a few years ago. I...managed. To this day, she still pulls her arms in when I pick her up. She's the smart one.

I hope Turtle-bBob will recover - did the rehabber tell you how old s-he is? I'm thinking that s-he might home to your garden.

Edited at 2014-06-23 02:42 am (UTC)

Quite young, according to the rehabber, but he didn't name exactly time frames.

Bless you for being awesome and taking good care of Turtle-Bob -- poor little guy, I'm glad to hear that the surgery went well!

You are awesome, and your vacation sounds like a blast -- yay! ^___^

-- A <3

Yay Rehabbers!

It's a lonely, thankless (at least, thankless from the rehabees) job but someone has to do it.

"There wasn't a mark on him, so for all I know, he died of old age or something."

Now, I'm not positive this is true of all turtles, and please someone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about any of the science here*, but at least for some species it is impossible for a turtle to die of "old age." Infections, predation, getting hit by a car, sure, but barring all of those (and many, many other things) a turtle could theoretically live forever.

When most species' DNA replicates during cell division some of the bits at the end get kinda used up in the process. Some people think this is why we have lots of junk DNA, so there's something there to get destroyed that we won't actually miss. A lot of the problems with old age happen when you run out of junk DNA, and the cell replication starts eating into the important bits that actually encode things like how heart muscles are supposed to work and the like. However, this doesn't happen to turtles (and possibly lobsters, I can't remember exactly). When their DNA replicates it comes out the same length - nothing gets used up in the process. So turtles don't really "get old" the same way humans do.

*disclaimer: this is all based on some articles I read in science magazines a few years back, I am no expert in turtles, biology, or genetics.

You may actually be right--I know very little about box turtle biology!

I'll fall back on "reptiles are hard." *grin*

I've been on the other side of rehab phone calls. That caution is indeed a sign of someone who never knows, with each call, just what's going to be on the other end. :-)

Yay for Turtle Bob! I'm sure he will be feeling much better and grateful for not having that headache anymore.

I am highly skeptical of the Atlantic, because it is warm and not full of rocks.

Well, down South, yeah. You might like it better north of Cape Cod, wherethe coast starts getting hit with the last remnants of the Labrador Current, rather than the Gulf Stream,* and sand starts getting scarce...

* A fun fact learned from, Iwannasay, Voyage of the Mimi in 5th Grade, so this explanation may be totally wrong. The Gulf of Maine is still cold and full of rocks, a thing that I had not really known was true of the Pacific Northwest before.

My experience with the West Coast (as a long-time resident of the San Francisco Bay Area) is that it has very nice-looking beaches, but as soon as you go in the water you run right back out again because it is cold in there. You need a wetsuit if you're going to go surfing or do anything else in the water really.

Of course, my dog has no problem with the temperature!

I would be very interested in anything you cared to wrte up about harvesting your peas, as I also have blue-podded peas out there looking like they have about had it with this 'summer' thing. Did you eat any of the peas shelled and steamed, or are you drying them all for storage? Are you harvesting the pods and drying those, or cutting down the whole plant to dry? Inquiring minds total newbies want to know.

Best wishes to Turtle-Bob in zir convalescence.

The blue-pods were a little disappointing--I planted them for snow peas, but you have to stay right on top of the damn things, so I never did get snow peas. But they ARE easy to spot in the pea plant! They were okay as shelled peas eaten raw, but not nearly as good as "Wando."

What I did was pick the remaining pods, shell 'em, and set them out to dry. There aren't that many--maybe a cup or so--so it'll get thrown into soup eventually, I expect. The pea plants get cut down at the soil line--I leave the roots in the ground so that the nitrogen fixing bacteria last a smidgeon longer.

If they're amazing as soup peas, I'll consider them again next year, but it looks like Wando carried the day again.

From my own experience at Shackleford, I will warn you to check everything for ticks. Everything.

The horses are pretty awesome, though. There are no natural water sources on the island, so they dig themselves little seeps.