Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Eastern Box Turtles at The Shack

Eastern Box turtles are exclusive to North America.  Having grown up in the Midwest, coming across a box turtle in the fields was not uncommon. But I never, in a million years, expected to come across a box turtle at my property in West Virginia. Not only have I come across one, two box turtles have crossed my path in less than two months.  I decided I should educate myself about Eastern Box turtles. 

Eastern Box Turtles in West Virginia

In early May, I came across a box turtle that was crossing the road. I was surprised to find that turtle as I had believed turtles remained closer to water or wetlands.  The timing of that sighting seemed like a message to me. A well-timed message to be okay with slowing down.  I was moved to write about that turtle

This is the turtle in the road

This past weekend, I was driving onto my lot and spotted a turtle in my "yard". Of course, it was very near the area where I drive and was very glad to have spotted it. There is a good chance I would have driven over it otherwise. I got out and snapped a few photos and just watched it for a bit.

This is the turtle in the yard.

These turtles spiked my interest in learning more about them. I wanted to know what they were doing so high up and far from water. There is a creek near my place. But it is in the valley at the bottom of the ridge.  It seems far too far for turtles to stray.

This is what I've learned so far:

  • Eastern Box turtles are thought to be declining in numbers. Due to loss of habitat, being struck by automobiles, and from being taken out of their habitat as pets.
  • Eastern Box turtles have red eyes if they are male and darker brownish eyes if they are female. I can verify that the difference is easy to note - as the first turtle I saw had red eyes and the second turtle had brownish/golden eyes.
  • They hibernate (in the ground) in the winter months
  • The females lay their eggs in small holes they dig (I will watch the dogs closely so that they don't dig up anything other than rodent holes!)

What to do if you find an Eastern Box Turtle

  • Look and DO NOT Touch
  • DO touch if you find it crossing the roadway. If you can safely stop and move it to the side of the road (in the direction it was traveling) please do so
  • Do not encourage the taking of wild turtles as pets 
  • And as always, watch what your dogs are playing with when they are outdoors.  Not only are some things dangerous for your dogs... your dogs could be dangerous for some things

Rather than continue regurgitating the random bits of information I have learned I will share a link of a very helpful video about Eastern Box Turtles.  I hope that my next turtle update from The Shack will be photos of healthy and happy baby turtles safely crossing my path. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Ultimate Chew Toy for Dogs

Willy - and his teeth!
This is Willy and these are his teeth. Willy is the chewingist dog I've ever met.  He no longer chews items other than what I give him as dog toys - now that he's no longer a pup.  But he has THE strongest and sharpest teeth I've ever seen on a dog.  It has been quite a challenge to find suitable chew toys for him.  I have finally found a perfect toy for him. If you are searching for a safe, durable dog chew toy I think you'll be pleased with the Ultimate Ring. 

Willy the Treeing Feist

I am always asked what breed Willy is.  He's a Treeing Feist. Treeing Feists historically are hunting and farm dogs and their history dates back to the Colonial Period in the US. I hadn't known about Treeing Feists much before I brought Willy home. I did some research and went to take a look at him. You can read more about my decision to bring him home here.

I don't know if all Feists have teeth that are so strong and sharp, but his teeth are amazing. Willy chips hooves into large sharp shards in a matter of days. Stuffed items are unstuffed within an hour of their arrival and completely shredded within a day.

A Busy Dog is a Happy and Healthy Dog

Dog lovers know that a dog who plays or works regularly is a happy and healthy dog. It is important to provide your dog with things to do. But these things must be safe things. And that has been the challenge with my Willy.

The Ultimate Dog ring has been a wonderful find.  I highly recommend it for dogs who chew and who are able to destroy toys very quickly.

Tuffy Ultimate Ring for Dogs

Even though I have seen the advertising video, I have no idea how they create such a durable toy. It is a "soft" toy that Willy hasn't been able to unstuff.  He plays with it on a daily basis - either bringing it to me for a game of fetch or lays contentedly chewing. I can see that he concentrates and tries to find the weak spot so that he can open the seam.  It has been about two months, and he has not been able to open any seams or poke any holes. 

Rather than trying to explain something that I can't fathom, you can see the video on how Tuffy constructs these durable soft toys for dogs. 

Willy and I are both very happy that I chose the Tuffy brand Ultimate Dog ring.

Related Information

More information about Treeing Feists can be found on the American Treeing Feist Association web page.  My Willy is a sweet baby who is also protective and active.  For me, he's the perfect combination of goofey, loving big baby and protector.

I've had some luck with certain brands of rawhide, such as the Oinkies brand. But I'm still concerned about giving them too frequently as I'm worried about the amount of rawhide he ingests.

He loves his Kong brand treat dispensers. But doesn't play with them as much as he works at retrieving the treat.  In other words, once the treat is gone, he's not interested.  Even so, his Kong treat dispensers are an important part of keeping him busy.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Amazing Davina and The Vagabonds

Davina & The Vagabonds - Sunshine
Let me introduce you to someone, if you haven't already had the pleasure. It was sheer luck that I was channel surfing one dark and starry Friday night on the drive up to The Shack. I am constantly channel surfing on the radio and it takes quite a bit to make me pause on one station. But that night a voice that sounded like an angry angel with trumpets from heaven sounding in the background stopped my wandering finger.  Davina's voice punched me in the throat and jerked the tears from my eyes. And the band was amazing. If you love music and have not yet heard Davina and the Vagabonds, you need to make a point to listen.

Okay, maybe that was slightly dramatic. But only slightly. I couldn't think of a good description for the size of the lump in my throat. They may not be your cup of musical tea but there is a good chance they are. I like to listen to all types of music. So I channel surf.  When I am listening to the radio I am always in search of songs that make me feel. Songs that make me feel like dancing. Songs that make me feel like singing at the top of my lungs. Songs that make me feel like I've purged some negative emotion.

Typically, I do not want to listen to a slow song unless it is a lullaby or about heart break. And then it has to make me feel - if it's about heart break, it had better give me goosebumps.

That Friday night I was basically alone on the roads.  As my Jeep curved, dipped, and climbed through West Virginia, I surfed. I came upon a song that sounded old but new. Something along the lines of Bettye Lavette or Janis Joplin but different. The woman's voice pouring out of the speakers was amazing and the band with her was rich with horns, strings, and keys. And that is about as far as my musical knowledge goes.  I just knew that it made me feel.

I drove on, radio blasting, through the dark night.  Then she sang I'd Rather Go Blind and I cried while I drove. Between the lump in my throat and the blurry vision, I probably should have pulled over. But I drove on and began to sing along.

Once I returned to the apartment near Baltimore (and my internet connection) I searched for information like crazy.  

It seems I was listening to a radio show called Mountain Stage. According to the Mountain Stage site, they have provided a show of live music for the past 30 years. Once a week, they showcase both emerging and seasoned musicians from a large variety of music genres.  

Again, it was sheer luck that I found that station, at that time, and "met" Davina and the Vagabonds. Their official website describes them in ways far better than I am able to:   

[DATV's] shows are filled with New Orleans charm, Memphis soul swagger, dark theatrical moments that evoke Kurt Weill, and tender gospel passages. Davina's voice and stage presence defy category in a different way.

As much as I'd Rather Go Blind is a tear-jerker, Sunshine is uplifting.  I will leave you with this toe-tapper and hope for sunshine from this day on. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

My Love Affair (with Osprey)

Osprey - Photo courtesy of NASA (public domain)
I am having a love affair. 
It began when I moved to Maryland a decade ago. There are things that I dislike about Maryland - the congested traffic being the top item. And I can't wait to retire to a remote country setting far from here. But while planning my retirement, I am already mourning the loss of some of the flora and fauna I've become accustomed to here. I have had a 10 year love affair with Osprey and I have a feeling that I'll have to break it off when I retire to my West Virginia place. And I will miss seeing these spectacular birds.

Birds Near Baltimore

Osprey are plentiful here.  The Chesapeake Bay, tidal marshes, and rivers are the sort of environment they thrive in. I have spent many days at local beaches laying on my back, watching the Osprey fly overhead. Always hoping they will dive for a fish near me.  I've become familiar enough with them that I can hear their little chirp as they fly overhead - almost as though they are reminding me to look up.

I have become familiar with spotting their nests on platforms. And sometimes on power line poles. I have been lucky enough to watch an Osprey carry a large fish to a tree and perch there with it's lunch.

I love to watch them dive for fish and always hope they've caught one.  I know they have been unsuccessful when they fly back into the air and vigorously shake the water off.

Osprey in West Virginia?

I have not yet spotted an Osprey from my little piece of land in West Virginia. I was hopeful as there are bald eagles in the area. And a river nearby.  But so far, I have not yet seen or heard an Osprey.

This morning, after making an intentional visit to an area near an Osprey nest, I returned home to look on the eBird Range map.  No. It does not appear that there are many Osprey near my planned retirement home.  Bummer.

I will continue to visit areas where I can watch Osprey fly, nest, and fish as often as possible, while I am still their neighbor. 

Today's Osprey Adventure

This morning I wandered down to a familiar platform. I was told by a friend that Osprey are nesting there this year.  I planned on going down just after sunrise and watching them from a very small beach area.  Turns out I was a bit later than I wanted to be. The sun was higher in the morning sky than I had planned on. Also, as it turns out, it was high tide. So the river was high and I could not get to the spot I had planned on - unless I waded in knee-deep brackish water. And I just wasn't prepared for that this morning.  I have to also mention that this particular beach is the spot where I watched a huge copperhead snake eating a fish.  Since that time, I have trouble bringing myself to wade at this spot. 

So I sat on the trail and watched. She flew overhead, scolding me and watching me.  I moved as little as possible, trying to snap a few photos.  I did not stay long since my location seemed to irritate her. 

You can be sure that I'll sneak off and visit her as often as possible. 

I do not have the camera equipment that I need for detailed photos or videos.  Fortunately, many other people do. And we have amazing videos like this at our fingertips:

More Information

I know very little factual information about Osprey, or birds in general. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides All About Birds online bird guide. This is a very helpful resource. It includes identification, history, sounds, and videos of birds. This site has been very helpful with identifying birds - something I'm not very good at. Thank you to my daughter-in-law for the tip. 

The Chesapeake Conservancy osprey cam. A view of a nest above water.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Deer Visitors

Almost Wordless Wednesday is a good time to share another photograph of one of my dear deer visitors at The Shack. Isn't she just the sweetest thing? This photo is from my Moultrie game camera. I am having good luck at capturing the happenings at The Shack while I'm away.