Thursday, April 28, 2016

Reptiles, Amphibians, Flowers, and a Zipline

Peekaboo!  I found this box turtle while I was out looking at stream restoration project for work.  When I picked him up he exhaled so fast he sounded like he was hissing at me.  I pretty sure he was just trying to get a small as possible so he could fit inside his shell.  Like when I squeeze out all my breath before I button my blue jeans after they shrink in the dryer. Wait, I don't have a dryer...

Box turtles are omnivores, so they eat stuff like worms and slugs and bugs and flowers and mushrooms.  I once saw a box turtle take a bite from the fruit of a mayapple (Podophylum peltatum), which is a poisonous plant.  If my parents let their tomato plants grow on the ground, the box turtles eat the tomatoes.  Once upon a time, a coworker and I stopped our work to watch a couple of box turtles mate, which is not something you get to see very often.  It was quite boring, really, and awkward.   For all of us.  

It's not just the reptiles out enjoying the spring weather, the amphibians are active now too.  I hear frog calls every evening, and this puddle was teaming with tadpoles.  I think these are toad tadpoles.  

The fleabane (Erigeron sp.) is blooming in the field behind the barn.  The chickens get curious when they see me focus on something near the ground and follow in my footsteps.  

Winter cress (Barbarea sp.) is blooming now too.  This bright yellow flower really stands out against the new green grass.  I saw wood bees and wasps drinking nectar from these tiny flowers.  

I read that the leaves of the winter cress plant are edible, but when I offered some to this young rooster, he wasn't even interested enough to taste it.  Eat your vegetables!

Did I tell you that we got a zip line?!  We gave it to our nephew as a gift, with the understanding that we would install it out at our place.  The instructions said it was for kids at least eight years old, but I was pretty sure even my younger niece would be able to handle it as long as we didn't hang it too high.   It was harder than I thought it would be to find two tress the correct distance apart that didn't have something in the way.  Once we settled on a location, Brandon used a chainsaw on a long pole to trim some branches from the trees.  

The zip line is a long metal cable that runs about seventy-five feet between two trees.  The instructions explained how to hang it so that the rider slows before they arrive at the end tree, which keeps them from having a crash landing.  

Over time, the kids are supposed to build up their arm muscles so they can zip between the trees without using the detachable seat.  

It works!  Weeeee..... It starts out high enough that the kids are above our heads, but by the time they slow down at the other end they have to raise their feet so they don't drag the ground.   Now, if only I will get brave enough to try it too!

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