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Shelly Likes Melon

Thursday, August 30, 2012

And what of Shelly, the little box turtle who we found nearly a year after her release? I left you hanging. But it was only because she was so adorable I was afraid you’d choke on the photos and video of her chomping away at hard-boiled egg.

I took a video of her eating cantaloupe. It was just as cute as the egg video. I never tire of watching my little charges eat. It’s food and drink to the nurturing spirit inside me. Shelly's back now, enjoying her melonic interlude.

Aggh this photo almost cripples me. Makes me want to go out looking for her on the east slope where we turned her loose the next day after Sara found her, bearing a plate of cantaloupe and egg. Here Shelly Shelly Shelly. Here’s your bronkfest.


The minute we got Shelly in the house after "recapturing” her (she really didn’t mind; it didn’t seem like a capture, more like a visitation), I put an egg on to boil. (Egg was her baby food and ever her favorite). In the meantime I fixed her a plate of cantaloupe spiked with Repto-Min, flavors she’d also remember. She tied into it.

Live action, mo betta. Oh, it's so good to see Sara and Kelly again. Sara happens to be writing about her visit to our home on her new blog, God is In the Dirt. 

For anyone reading this who is tempted to think that box turtles are stupid, slow and simple: Nothing that can live 150 years could possibly be simple. Slow, yes. Stupid, never. Ever.

God is in the dirt, and in the box turtle, too.

Zick Does the Muskingum!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Canoeing: If you don't do it, you don't do it. The canoe just sits there collecting dust and fally tree bits and giant fishing spiders up inside its hull. And so when the Rivers, Trails and Ales Festival came around for its second year here in Marietta, Ohio, and there was an all-day organized paddle from Lowell to Marietta, of some 14 miles, advertised for "hardy paddlers," I was IN. I am feeling quite hardy lately. Doinky toe and all.

The day (August 11) dawned cloudy and cool but with no forecast of rain. Perfect. You can put the cool days this summer in a very, very small basket, or perhaps hold them in one hand. It was a gift.

The bridge to Buell Island in Lowell, where we started. As you can see, this was not to be a whitewater adventure. It was a lazy river float. There was even some scum.

I quickly dropped well behind everyone else, being interested in other things than getting there first.  The sky, for instance, with tantalizing edges of blue beckoning. And birds. Trip list ran to 28 species, including green and great blue heron, belted kingfisher and wood duck families, lots of bank and barn swallows, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, and tons of cedar waxwings (they're flycatching along the river this time of year). I left my big camera rig (Canon 7D with 70-300 L series lens) at home, because I figured I'd have lots of chances to dump it into the Muskingum in a 14 mile stretch. Brought my old rig with telephoto, and was so scandalized at the difference in quality of my bird shots that I won't inflict any of them on you here. Lesson learned. Just leave it home, or bring the big rig and take your chances. So the little Canon G-12 had a chance to shine.

Most of the crew stopped for lunch at the Edgewater, a Marietta bar. Not me. I had Sungold tomatoes, almonds, sangwitches, nectarines, ice-cold water in a below-deck cooler...I was all set. So I used this opportunity to catch up with the vanguard so we could all lock through the Devol's Dam Lock together.

I got a little pitter patter when the lock finally loomed into view, 9 miles along my route. The lock is to the left; the dam is to the right, and you don't want to go over the dam unless you're in a barrel or something. Yes, that's an iguanodon on my bow. I needed a mascot. It was just a question of which of the 64 plastic dinosaurs it was going to be. This one had the right intrepid look.

Ohio's Muskingum River is the longest navigable waterway in the state. It's 111 miles long, running from Coshocton to Marietta, near where I live. At Marietta, it meets and dumps into the Ohio and that's all she wrote. This river was an important commercial shipping route in the mid 1800's, and the locks and dams along its length testify to that. By the 1920's, trucks and trains had taken over shipping, and the locks fell into sad disrepair.

 But an increase in pleasure boating spurred repairs on the old doors and gates, and they're now fully operational. In fact, this lock and dam system may be the last and oldest hand-operated system in the U.S. Meaning, a guy stands up there does it all by himself using big crank wheels he turns with his arms. Which makes it a national Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Since 2006, when it was designated an Ohio Water Trail, more canoes and kayaks have traversed its length, getting locked through just like the big boats. Cool!

My new friend Vicki waits for another group of kayakers to lock through.

This is where it got a little freaky for me. You can see my other new friend Charlotte fighting the strong current that was trying to suck us toward the lock doors. This was because the lockmaster was busy letting all the lockwater out to release the first group of canoes and kayaks. So it created tremendous suction behind the gate.

So I hanged on to some knotweed on the bank (noting the presence of Fogfruit, a nice aquatic bloomer) until the gates creaked open and the current eased.

We're goin' in!!

I was really excited to get a look at those massive doors and their huge timbers. They have to be strong enough to hold back a whole river, after all.


Double dang!

For those who, like me, haven't ever quite gotten what locks are all about, they're for lowering watercraft a significant number of feet so that they can traverse a dam safely. So locks are put over to one side of a dam. And the lock is a chamber whose water level can be changed by opening or closing these massive gates. You enter the lock at the river level you're currently on, and when you "lock through" you're essentially dropping your boat several feet to the level the river is below the dam. The lockmaster opens the gate and the water comes in and you do, too.  Here, we're all coming into the lock chamber.

Everyone picks a little steel cable to hang onto to keep your boat from drifting around while you're locking through. The lock is as full as it's going to get right now.

While you're waiting for everyone to get inside the lock, the lockmaster comes around with a clipboard and he lowers it on a rope and you clip $5 in it to pay your way through. He was making out like a bandit today.

Now he wants my money.

Alls I had was a ten, but there was change.

 Here's Dan and his little Irish terrier Maggie, in the fabulous racing kayak Dan made out of wood. There were some serious boat fanatics here. I chose not to be envious. I love my Wee Lassie, Lois, unreservedly.

I did wish Chet Baker could ride in a porthole, but he gets kind of trembly. Dan confessed to me that Maggie doesn't much like it either. Coulda fooled me. She was a model of ladylike deportment. What a beautiful doggie.

 As soon as we were all in and paid up, it started to get freaky again. The water level dropped

and dropped

as the lockmaster cranked a wheel (this is what we mean by a hand-operated lock!)

I'm not quite sure what he's cranking open, but the water is spilling out the downriver side of the lock and lowering rapidly within the lock chamber.

Behind us, at the gate where we entered, a furious white foam where water from the 8' higher river is trying to get in. I was very glad for the great stout, no-messin'-around timbers in that gate.

It is smelling very rivery now. I'm wearing gloves because Bill told me it would be ooky on the chamber walls, and it was. Also musselly.

I don't much like that foamy raging water trying to flood in the back gate, so I just point my camera back without looking. Becky smiles.

At last the downriver gate cranks open, the lockmaster doing it by hand, once again!

Happy kayakers stream toward freedom.

Everyone's smiling, relieved and excited to have locked through on the Muskingum. It was a very cool experience.

Here's Devol's Dam. You definitely wouldn't want to go over that in a kayak. Nose first and flip!

Locking all done, I let the current carry me for awhile.

and begin paddling again when a stiff headwind springs up. Here's the William P. Snyder, one of the last working sternwheelers in the area. John Hartford had his picture taken in the cabin for one of his album covers. That's notoriety enough for me!

The Washington Street Bridge in Marietta from below.

The Valley Gem, a handmade steel sternwheeler who takes river cruises on the Muskingum and Ohio.

Soon enough we reached takeout at the Marietta College boathouse. The trip had taken about six hours. I was sorry it was over, but ready for an ale, foshizzle. Here's to the Marietta Rivers, Trails and Ales Festival in its second vital and thriving year! Special thanks to Hallie Taylor of the Marietta Adventure Company for making it happen.

If you have a canoe collecting spiders, get it out and get out there. This is the best time of year for canoeing, bar none. Lois is my little freedom machine, and with a forecast for sun and 70's, we're going out again tomorrow! Gotta check on my red-headed woodpeckers at North Bend State Park.

#71 for the Bird Spa List!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Scarlet tanager is the one we see lots in our yard, sometimes right out the studio window. We get gobs of young scarlets blowing through in late summer and fall. Nearly all are in dull plumage, but they are beautiful nonetheless, and it's such fun to see them sport and play.

And then this character appeared. Now, when you see dozens of scarlet tanagers, the little things that are different about this bird jump out at you. First, it's larger. A different green, tinged orange. Longer wings, longer tail...less contrast between wing and body than a scarlet shows. Tail's not blackish like a scarlet's, either. It's all adding up to...just missing one part...

Ah! the Jimmy Durante nose! It's a juvenile summer tanager!

Well, look at you, looking at me!! You're makin' my day here, darling. Keep it up.

Umm.. would you consider a quick dip, getting yourself on the Spa List of species who've bathed or drunk at my special bird bath?

I'll think about it. After all, that's what brought me in, that googurling water.

That goldfinch certainly seems to be enjoying himself. Doesn't seem afraid of the bubbler, either.

And neither is the titmouse...

Don't mind if I do.

Dingdingdingdingding!! #71 for the Spa List!! Summer tanager, August 1, 2012. 

What are we, chopped liver? Anyone have a guess on the brown bird in the middle? Just a little quiz. You knew there'd be a quiz.

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