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Happy post time!

As characterized by the bluebird of happiness:
My body, from the chest up; I am wearing my Aida t-shirt and a fetching red paisley bandana.  One arm is slightly outstretched, and cradled in my hand is a small poofy blue chicken (more a bluey-grey really) who sits and calmly regards me.

And I’m going to be REALLY lazy and do it with links to my husband’s blog. HA!

1) Jeremiah Swakhammer survived the winter and is in fine form.

2) OK, so, back in Feb 2010 when Daniel came to visit, we went up to DC and wandered around the mall and there was a white squirrel and I didn’t believe him at first when he said “Hey, a white squirrel!”

But today we saw a white squirrel across the street, and Daniel got a picture! There’s also a black widow spider pic on that page so click cautiously if spiders bother you.

Also I should note in reference to the whole White Squirrel in DC thing that he had been joking around about wildlife and whatnot previously, so it was not TOTALLY out of left field for me to at first disbelieve his assertion that there was a white squirrel. I’m just sayin.

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Still no rest for the wicked.

Well, mild rest, this week is light on school work. However it’s also heavy on me trying to ward off a sinus infection, so if this is less coherent than usual, I blame pollen.

Also, in the interests of lazy blogging, there is a post containing a picture of Jeremiah Swakhammer right over here. That would be Daniel’s blog, but lest you get all excited I feel obligated to warn you that he is an even lazier blogger than I am. Still, there is a turtle picture! Also a stick insect. Such riches!

In other news, the chicken house has shipped, and this weekend we shall put polyurethane sealer on the outside, and also pull down all the rusty wire off the chicken structure and install a door and shiny new welded wire fencing, and clean out all the trash that’s in it, and lay down some sort of Digging Discouragement System to keep the coons and possums and roving dogs and cats away from the chickens. Also, we have a much larger plastic bin which shall be converted to a winter home for whichever of the Manor Cats choose to use it. Still needed: another couple bigass plastic bins.

The garden progress has slowed as my best beloved has aggravated an old shoulder injury with all the digging and whatnot, and we’d prefer him not to be crippled so all the digging is on hiatus. So is going to Skilled Fencing for the new fence posts┬áso we’re not tempted to start pounding them in. On the other hand, he is still spoiling me rotten so I cannot complain even a teeny bit except about the necessity of me having a job. Oh to win the lottery! But first I’d have to buy tickets.

This Friday is payday, then two days later is School Money Day, so I shall be buying the last odds and ends I need for soap and hopefully you can look forward to stories of successful soaping!

USCIS has received our application for Daniel’s green card, so cross your fingers for us that the bureaucracy moves quickly and is not nearly so annoying as the whole K-1 Visa process, as I would very much like to not have my brand-new husband deported. I wish he could apply for EB5 investment visa but for now his plans are different.

And finally, I have started taking Chantix with an eye toward losing my nicotine habit. We shall see how it goes. The dreams thus far are, um, interesting and let me just say that the first one about chickens was definitely to be preferred.

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I am a productive beast. In other news, winter is coming.

Yesterday Daniel and I met up with Christine and a couple other people at the Fall Fiber Festival at Montpelier, the former home of James Madison (the founding father and former president). We got to watch Border Collies move sheep around, and shop fiber! Daniel, who toils not with fiber neither does he spin, was along to make sure I did not come home with an angora bunny. I want one so badly. Apparently you do not have to comb the fiber off them, but can instead just shear them every three months. Since the fiber goes for $9/oz, roughly, it is extremely economical to have your own bunny if you want angora fiber. But, y’know, I do not need more critters, or at least not a bunny who requires keeping clean and some minimal grooming to avoid mats.

Anyway, I managed to get out of there with merely eight ounces of Blueface Leicester wool top for spinning, in mixed white and brown which should produce a lovely yarn in a manly color that I could conceivably use to knit something for my beloved if I were the kind of person who ever finished a knitting project. But given that I had just acquired eight ounces of alpaca fiber (also in mixed browns and greys) the week before at the state fair, bringing me to a total of one pound of spinning fiber in the last week, I thought I’d better actually get back to spinning, with the end result that I finished two bobbins of purply stuf that Mom likes and plied them for my first ever two-strand plied yarn. Go me! It’s currently drying in the bathroom along with a skein of single-spun white wool which I will dye at some point.

Fall is approaching rapidly. Jeremiah Swakhammer is still awake and moving around, but we shoveled a lot more leaves into his pen to give him a nice insulating blanket for when he decides to go down for the winter. The possums and the raccoon or raccoons (it’s hard to tell if we have more than one coon) are snarfing down dry food in massive quantities on a nightly basis. Romeo and the Patriarch, two of the local toms, have been spotted, and Dreadnought continues to come back. The girls are still the only ones we see in person; Briar Rose has yet to bring us any kittens although the Havahart trap is standing ready.

We’ve decided on a general area for next year’s garden and picked out a chicken coop that we just need to order, Daniel has started a compost pile, and we’re working towards readiness for spring planting and spring chickens. Wood has been split and stacked for winter, the days are noticeably shorter and cooler now.

There will be pictures of all this busy-ness at some point I’m sure, but for the moment I’m too lazy to even do lazyblogging. Which is pretty damn lazy.

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Tuesday round up?

The Three Musketeers all visited the vet yesterday, Emmett (Astute) and Badger have had stuffy noses and runny eyes. Zeke (Intrepid) just had light nose crusties, but I figured whatever the other two had, well, he probably had it too. The vet diagnosed your average viral URI (Upper Respiratory Infection) with secondary bacterial infection, so now twice a day I am squirting Clavamox down kitten throats. Woo. Luckily they are young enough to be forgiving, and have forgotten about it 10 seconds later.

I’ve had a request for Jeremiah Swakhammer update, so here you go: he is being a turtle. This means I see him about twice a week; I just drop off the salad and it gets eaten or it doesn’t. Meanwhile, he shuttles between the two hides I made (one of which he enlarged) and a place in the compost pile in the middle of his pen with occasional stops for a dip in his pool. Truth to tell, he’s the least troublesome of my current inmates, and I find I’m really fond of his quiet non-demanding lifestyle. The most care he requires is some chopped salad and the occasional batch of slugs, snails, or worms tossed into his pen, plus a light spray-down to keep his place moist. Compared to the rest of the beasts here, that’s fantastic. Oh, and he ate the leaves on his cantaloupe vine and then dug up the stem and stomped it. Right, message received: no more canteloupe vines for you, Mr. Swakhammer.

Meanwhile, Emmaline started aggressively attacking the resident cats in an attempt to bogart all the food. I realize she grew up under circumstances that make guarding food sources seem quite urgent, but still, that behavior isn’t going to fly. I moved her to the bathroom, and she proceeded to remove some of the linoleum. I have ordered her a cat cage to live in while I figure out what on earth to do with her. It’s kitten season so I suspect the odds of finding her a great home where she can be a single cat, or even a multi-cat home that free feeds from a couple widely-separated stations, are slim to none. I hate to send her back outside, but she was admittedly pretty happy there. Unfortunately she also appears to be coming into heat, so she can’t go outside for another couple weeks anyway until after she’s been spayed. Meanwhile, she’s living in Zille’s crate. Zille is not amused.

The rest of the Usual Suspects are having a fine old time now that the weather has cooled off enough for extensive dog-play outside and for me to have windows open in the house; the cats love to sit at the screens and sniff the great outdoors. I’m chugging along, Daniel’s interview is in 9 days, school starts in 2 weeks, and there’s wedding planning to do. No rest for the wicked!

Have a happy link, via Rinalia at For the Pit Bulls: three stray dogs who were adopted by soldiers in Afghanistan thwart a suicide bomber; one dog dies in the blast and the other two get homes in the US with grateful soldiers.

Oh, and my spamtrap for the blog here has evidently decided that EVERYONE with a website link is a spammer. If you comment and it seems that nothing happens, please be patient, I’ll release your comment from the spambucket as soon as I can!

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Answering Googled Questions

I am in England this week visiting my fiance and queuing these posts up beforehand.
An anonymous Googler asks “will a turtle die if you move it”.

I can’t speak for all turtles, but for Eastern Box Turtles the answer is “almost certainly yes.” EBTs live their lives within 600 feet of the place they hatch. If you move them away from there, they have a homing sense and they will try to return. The world is a hazardous place when you are a small, slow-moving reptile, even if you are a mobile panic room[1]. So the turtle is probably going to die trying to go home.

If you see a wild box turtle, the best thing to do is leave it alone. If it’s in a dangerous place (like the road) then you can help it across, taking care to keep yourself safe. Always, if possible, move the turtle across the road in the direction it was going anyway, so it doesn’t just stomp right back into the road.

This is, after all, how I ended up with Jeremiah Swakhammer and a $400 turtle pen in my yard–a well-meaning soul picked him up, drove him all over a couple counties, and was intending to release him a long way from where he was found. While I’m enjoying Jeremiah, who is the least troublesome of the Usual Suspects, he would have been better off in his home range in the wild.

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Monday Morning Happy: Jeremiah Swakhammer’s World Makes Sense Again

I’m queuing this up on Sunday night. I took Jeremiah out to his new home a little bit before 2000 as it had cooled off enough that it wouldn’t be too much of a shock to his system. He was so. adorable. Seriously. Of course there are pictures, what do you take me for? So here you go, to brighten up your Monday morning: a little bit of a happy as hell teeny turtle, who I may actually never see again now that he has a whole big world to bury himself in.

First, he took a little look around:
Jeremiah Swakhammer, a small Eastern Box turtle with a dark brown shell and striking yellow markings, sits with just his face peeking out of his shell, the rest of him boxed up. His head is mostly dark, but his beak is bright yellow and there are yellow spots on his head. His eyes are brown and dubious. Turtles are often dubious. He is sitting with the front of his plastron at the edge of an 18 inch saucer that you might put under a very large potted plant, which is filled with water.

Then, he got more confident about looking around:
Jeremiah's entire head and part of his neck are now out of his shell as he regards his new domain. His legs remain boxed up.

Then all of a sudden his legs popped out and *bloop!* he dove in to wash the stink of captivity away. At which point I realized that I had freakin forgotten to make him an exit ramp from rocks, and set about finding a bunch of them and opened his enclosure back up and made him an exit ramp.
Jeremiah Swakhammer is now in the saucer of water, just his face and the very top of his shell poking out. He looks much less dubious, but turtles never achieve a complete lack of dubiosity.

I had by now pulled a sweat getting this turtle all set up and later I would have to use sweat odor removal product just to get my shirt back normal but it was worth it! I got to see him wash the stink of the indoors from his handsome self, he made use of the exit ramp:
Jeremiah Swakhammer sits on his exit ramp of rocks, regarding some bright pink petunias with a disapproving gaze. Turtles are often disapproving as well as dubious. The water has made the markings on his face and shell bright, bright gold.

And then he contemplated where to go next. This may actually be the last I see of him for a while, since he has a million billion places to hide in his new domain. But dang, he was one happy little turtle, seriously. I got kinda teary-eyed.
Jeremiah Swakhammer stands next to the bright pink petunias in his brilliant brown and gold shell, majestically contemplating the piles of dead leaves before him. He barely even bothers to be dubious, and is definitely not disapproving.

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The Empire of Jeremiah Swakhammer

A heartwarming tale for your Sunday evening: Mr. Jeremiah Swakhammer’s new abode is complete. It took two days in temps with the heat index over 100F (roughly 38C), although at least we were working in a shaded area. The siting of Mr. Swakhammer’s mighty Empire was determined by 1) the morning sun 2) the shade during the hottest part of the day and 3) how far I can reach without getting out the Long Hose.

Speaking of hose, my friend C came over yesterday to help with laying the foundation, bringing with her Musket, who is 5 1/2 months old now (I am often sketchy on ages, this is the latest figure from C though so go with it). Is Musket fun? Oh my GOD is he fun. He loves to chase the water from a hose. LOOOOOVES it and if you spray it straight at his face he will be all “WHAAAAARGARBL” and snap at it and let you shoot it straight down his throat until he starts making weird gurgling noises and you have to stop so he can catch his breath. He is totally the perfect puppy, personable, curious, willing to give you his attention and work, energetic, handsome, and also belonging to C, who took him home with her at the end of the day so I didn’t have to deal with a waterlogged puppy. If you are looking for a working dog, and I mean here a dog who actually needs some work so he doesn’t decide to dismantle your house or something, look no further because seriously, he is a great puppy and is going to grow up to be a fantastic dog.

Wait, what, you wanted to hear about the Empire of Jeremiah Swakhammer? Right. I have pictures! Please forgive me if my alt tags aren’t up to their usual snuff, I am kind of incoherent after two days in the heat. Also I got no pics yesterday of the laying of the foundation, so, y’know, you’ll just have to suck it up and we’ll start with the building of the walls:
Four two inch by ten inch by ten foot boards rest in a square on a foundation of red twelve inch by twelve inch pavers.  A man in a white t-shirt and khaki shorts straddles one of the boards in the background, he holds a hammer in his right hand.  A section of four inch by four inch lumber, cut to twenty inches high, stands upright at the corner of the board opposite the man.  In the middle of the square, amid mounded dirt, sit plants in pots.  The area is dappled with sunlight but mostly in shade from the tall oak trees around it.

While my friend Rod was building the walls, I was in there digging holes for plants, placing hides and a small pool, and then shoveling leaf litter in that I stole from other parts of the property, the idea being to give Jeremiah Swakhammer the kind of forest floor environment he is used to:
The walls of the pen have now been constructed, so they are twice as high as in the last picture.  In the center of the pen, a piece of one inch by four inch lumber runs straight down the middle, supported at both ends and in the middle by more pieces of four by four.  In fact, Rod is placing the middle piece of four by four in this picture, taking care to avoid the plants, pool, and hides that have now been placed around the enclosure.  The floor is no longer mounded dirt, but covered in a thin layer of straw that is barely visible in places through the thicker layer of dead oak leaves that have been been spread throughout.

I sacrificed a couple pieces of firewood to make a hide, and added a large rock and then chunks of turf that had been removed during the laying of the foundation:
A view into Hide One.  A wedge-shaped piece of firewood whose length is indeterminate from this picture, sits to the right.  Propped up on it at one end and resting on the ground on the other is another wedge-shaped piece of firewood.  The interior is dark, but from this angle you CAN kinda tell that the back is topped with turf.  Petunias with pink flowers on them are planted in front of it.

Yet another piece of firewood sacrificed to make a hide. You can also see the Feeding Rock. That’s a Hosta on the left and the cantaloupe vine on the right.
A section of oak log, not too huge, rests on the ground, except you can kinda tell that there is a space dug out underneath it in case a turtle would like to hide there.  To the left of the log are the green leaves of a hosta, to the right of the logs a brave little cantaloupe vine puts out a yellow flower.  Behind the log is a square grey tile of slate to be used for offerings of food.

Finally, here it is all done and closed up so as to thwart Raccoons and other predators who might wish to make a snack of turtle:
A view of turtletopia with the top closed.  The top is two five foot by ten foot frames, which have strong hardware cloth attached to the underneath.  They are hinged, and on the left side in this picture you can see a handle on each so they can be opened more easily.

Anyhoo, Mr. Swakhammer will move into his new digs either later tonight or early tomorrow before I leave for work, when it’s cool out and he can explore a little bit and discover the hides and the pool and stuff. At some point, probably after I bring him in for the winter and the plants have died (although hostas at least are perennials! If they live…) I will add about 6″ of topsoil to the whole thing for better plant-growing conditions. I think this will work out for now, though, as long as I keep it watered and the plants don’t die. Speaking of keeping it watered, I think we’re about to get a thunderstorm. Well, the sky has gone dark and it just thundered, anyway, which was met by barking from Ms. Tink. When Big Sky Dog growls, you must respond to the challenge, lest Big Sky Dog think a territory is undefended, you know.

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The Epic Turtle Palace

We got the foundation laid yesterday, and all the wood for the sides cut to length, and soaked the dirt down but good in preparation for planting today. I didn’t feel like dealing with 50 cubic feet of dirt right at the moment so there’s no new topsoil, but will be stealing bits of forest floor (complete with bugs) to make the place homier for little Jeremiah Swakhammer. I also got him a strawberry plant and sweet basil and a cantaloupe vine, plus some hastas (we’ll see if they take). And I have weed seeds left over from my attempts to grow a garden for Clover the Departed that I will be planting out there, as well!

The foundation is 12″ x 12″ pavers, the actual enclosure will sit on them to keep Jeremiah from digging out. Hopefully. If he does tunnel over a foot to get out, well, I’m not going to stop him because that’s a hell of a tunnel for a little box turtle to dig. The sides are 2″ x 10″ x 10′ lumber, stacked two high and anchored on chunks of 4″ x 4″ at the corners, the lid will be two 5′ x 10′ sections because I’d like to be able to lift it, made with 1″ x 4″. There’s latches to keep the coons, possums, and other turtle predators out.

I would have pics for you but discovered when I went out this morning to take them that my camera’s battery was dead, so I petted Noodlehead instead.

Confidential to whoever got here googling “where can i buy an eastern box turtle in virginia”: you can’t. It is illegal to import eastern box turtles to, export eastern box turtles from, and sell eastern box turtles within the state of Virginia. Your best bet is to check out The Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society, who may have a rescue EBT that you can adopt. If you do find someone selling them, please contact The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to report them.

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Big things are afoot.

Tomorrow, not only do I get to go get massaged, but a working party is forming in the afternoon to build Turtletopia, the future home of one Jeremiah Swakhammer the Eastern Box Turtle. His appetite in captivity has slacked off, which means I must move him outside post-haste. My friend C will be coming, bringing with her Musket the Helpful!Puppy, and a co-worker who has actual experience building things from scratch when the only instructions are “Um. It should be 10′ x 10′ and we’ll have to put down 12″ x 12″ pavers first so he can’t dig out, and also there will have to be a cover to keep raccoons and cats and dogs from getting him.”

There will be constructing, and also laying down of dirt, and some planting, as Eastern Box Turtles in this area are creatures of the forest floor and the forests here are all jungly second-growth swaths of wilderness. So we will attempt to recreate that in a 10′ x 10′ area that is close enough to the pump for me to water it. And hopefully Jeremiah Swakhammer’s appetite will resume, and all will be well.

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Another Chelonian Wiktory

Jeremiah Swakhammer the Eastern Box Turtle has eaten! Huzzah! This is a momentous occasion because wild-caught turtles are often so stressed by the switch to captivity that they refuse to eat. I left him a dozen crickets, a strawberry, and a blackberry and lo! The blackberry has been consumed. The strawberry remains unmolested which is odd as turtles are supposed to love red food but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Tomorrow I shall perhaps try a bit of banana and an earthworm or two if I can remember to go to the local bait shop.