Sunday, June 20, 2010

Taking risks

Tonight on my way home from town, I found a six inch strawberry turtle laying her eggs in the middle of the road. Actually, attempting to lay her eggs. Although it has rained for the last fourteen days, the gravel road is still not soft enough to dig a hole. She was trying when I drove into town and still trying when I drove back out two hours later. I couldn’t see that she was making any progress, the road was churned up a little, but no where near deep enough for eggs. And if she had been successful, the eggs couldn’t have possibly survived being driven over for the next thirty days. I herded her into the ditch beside the road. In the morning I’ll check to see that she has stayed off the road. The road is a part of the turtle’s ecosystem. Tall grasses, yellow clover and milkweed fill the space between pond and road. She was only looking for an open space with dirt to lay her eggs.

We’ve asked our township to stop spraying herbicides along the edges of the road bordering our farm. We have promised to keep the noxious weeds cut. Right now, the leafy spurge is blooming and the thistles are about to bloom. This is a bad time to cut road verges because ground birds are nesting, but I have to cut back the weeds. So tomorrow I’ll take the weed whacker or the scythe out to kill thistles and leafy spurge and I’ll keep my eyes open for whippoorwill and turkey and sand piper nests. I’ll cut around them, hopefully leaving the bird and her eggs undisturbed.

I disturbed a nest of eggs last week. I closed the big double wide barn door, and a nest with four spotted eggs fell to the ground. Yellow yolk spread around the broken shells. Why would a bird choose to build a nest on the handle of a garage door? I realize that birds don’t recognize garage doors as such. In fact, when we do shut the door, they get hysterical because we’ve closed off their normal exit from the barn. But we probably close the door weekly. One would think such a here today, gone tomorrow surface would seem risky.

Perhaps the bird who built that nest on our garage door handle was just a risk taker. I guess a turtle that lays her eggs in the middle of the road must be a risk taker too. Come to think of it. Anyone who tries to bale hay in Minnesota during the month of June must also be a risk taker. We cut the first of the alfalfa on June 3. We baled it when it finally stopped raining on June 14. We cut the rest of the alfalfa June 16 and hope to bale it this weekend, if it doesn’t rain.

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