Archive for July 2nd, 2012

While I Was Away . . .

Holding the leathery white “petals,” these turned out to be something else entirely

Strange holes can be found all over my driveway

It’s always a bit scary coming back to Maine after being away for several weeks.  I worry more about the effects of extreme weather and invading animals than I do about vandalism.  The usual scenarios that greet me inside the house  are lots of dead bugs, and an occasional dead mouse or two.  No mice this time  – – yay! – –  but a bear made off with part of my bird feeder, the weeds lining the driveway and the orchard are nose-high, and there are about a dozen holes dug up on the driveway.

At first I thought they might be burrows dug by chipmunks.  Closer examination revealed white, leathery petals inside the holes and at their entrances.   I know that some rodents leave the hulls of seeds and nuts scattered outside their holes when they do  an occasional thorough “housecleaning” but I’d never known them to be fond of flower petals.  They looked like magnolia tree flower petals.  But I have never seen a flowering magnolia tree  near me in Maine, since that type of tree is not hardy enough to survive the harsh Maine winters.

Curious, I picked up some of the petals, which other than a little sand, were clean and odorless.  That’s when it struck me:  I was looking at the eggshells of newly-hatched baby snapping turtles!

Every June large, primeval-looking snapping turtles 18″ long slowly make their way up from the boggy pond, across the road, and continue 400′ up to the top of our dirt and gravel driveway in search of soft sand where they can dig a hole and lay their eggs.  Then, task completed, they make their way back to the pond.  These turtles are easily agitated, and their jaw pressure is such that they can bite off an unwary human finger with one snap of the jaw.  Anyone who has come face to face with one realizes that just because they move slowly does not mean that they are innocuous.  They can live for 50 or more years.  Snapping turtles are prized for their meat in China (think turtle soup).

Based on how soft the torn leathery shells felt (they dried hard and stiff only an hour after I collected them), these must have been freshly hatched the night before.  Gestation is 9 – 18 weeks, depending on weather conditions.  The baby turtles must scratch their way out of the shell, and then dig their way 6″ to the surface through sand, rocks, gravel and dirt, only then traveling the 400′ down my driveway, crossing the road, and heading for a pond they’ve never seen before.  Snapping turtles reside mostly in water, venturing out to sandy areas primarily when they wish to lay eggs.  Truly snapping turtles are  a miracle of pre-wired instinct, determination and survival.

This momma turtle  was around 18″ long

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Derecho!

The irony of the “No Dumping” sign is not lost on me. I guess G-d doesn’t read signs.

For the past several weeks we have been in Baltimore, visiting our children and grandchildren.  On Friday night just after 11 pm, we heard strange noises amid constant lightening from what we assumed was a typical summer thunderstorm.  When we looked outside we were amazed to see rain moving horizontally, winds that were bending trees in half, flying debris, and lightening that would light the sky a different color with every flash:  blue, white, yellow, green, orange.  Here is a picture that pretty well shows what it looked like, although it’s not from our particular storm.  We’ve been in two hurricanes but this was worse.  Winds were 80 – 90 mph, and it turns out that this storm was in fact as powerful as a hurricane, but cannot be classified as such due to its much narrower path.  It’s called a derecho.  It didn’t help that the power went out, and as of this writing 3 days later, it remains out.  Normally that might not be such a bad thing, but yesterday it was 98 degrees (105 with heat index, which factors in the high humidity).  All of our children’s homes lost power, too.   Everyone was scrambling to find empty freezers at understanding friends’  whose houses were unaffected by the storm.   We are very grateful that no one was killed in our immediate area, and that everyone is safe and our personal homes and cars were either undamaged or suffered very minor damage.  Others were not so lucky.

Ironically, earlier in the week I had hired someone to trim the lower branches of a tree that was touching our roof. The guy never showed up as promised. Now he doesn’t need to.

fallen tree in backyard

more fallen trees in the woods adjacent to our backyard

This car is now a convertible. It was parked next to the Chabad House on Micarol.  It and a house across the street were ruined, but the Chabad House was untouched.

On Old Court Rd, directly across from Beth Tefiloh Synagoge. Both trees and lines came down.

Old Court Rd.

At Pikesville High School, a tree crashed down onto a fence at the edge of the track. That didn’t stop anyone from jogging there.

PIkesville High School, on Labryinth Rd. at the edge of the parking lot.

On Smith Avenue between Labyrinth Rd. and Carla Rd., a telephone pole was sheared off at the top by high winds. It then came crashing down through the car’s windshield. Two subsequent poles and some trees then fell behind the house. No one was hurt.