Friday, September 6, 2019


One Monday morning in late June, I saw what appeared to be a moss-covered dome-shaped boulder moving at the base of a hill just south of the main gates to my property.  I'm not saying that boulders never move on hilly terrain such as this; it's just that I've never seen one move uphill of its own accord. So I paid attention.

Quickly I realized this was no ordinary boulder.  I watched in fascination as a head, arms and legs and a tail came into view. I began to suspect this was a snapping turtle.
Is this the way to Mt. Everest?

There are lots of signs warning of TURTLE CROSSING in the neighbourhood, so I wasn't totally surprised, but I couldn't understand why it was trying to walk up a steep hill.  It could have come up the driveway if it wanted an easy route.  This was at the same time an enormous influx of people were trying to scale Mount Everest, so I was tempted to name the turtle Sir Edmund Hillary. I thought the better of it when my neighbours pointed out that this snapping turtle was digging a hole in which to lay her eggs.

Early the following Saturday morning, my neighbours emailed to say the turtle was now in the very middle of the entrance to my driveway.  They were watching it dig a hole.  They explained that snapping turtle eggs need to be protected from predators until they hatch.  They lent me a dog crate to tide me over until I had time to build a screened cage as recommended by Credit Valley Conservation.

Once the turtle had laid her eggs, I presume she headed up the driveway towards one of my ponds.  I didn't see her again, as I went to Toronto for the day, while my neighbours kept a close eye on events in my driveway.

I read up on snapping turtle eggs and learned that my driveway would be the site of a turtle maternity hospital for basically the entire summer.  I'm conflicted: half of me is proud to be the birthplace of an endangered species.  The other half of me is extremely irritated that I have to drive around the screened cage.  And this latter half of me is indignant that any parent would be so careless as to effectively dump her kids by the side of the road and leave them for someone else to raise.  I'm expecting the eggs to hatch any day now, and I'll be very eager to get rid of the turtle cage blocking the entrance to my driveway.
Who leaves their kids by the side of the road?
Now, every time I drive past that screened cage, I instinctively burst into song, and now the title of that song has become the name of the mother snapping turtle.  I call her You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me, Lucille.

Canada Vignettes: Log Driver's Waltz (performed without hip waders)


All summer long, I've been telling myself that I need hip waders.

With three ponds, none of them too clean, I often find myself needing to climb into the water and retrieve a waterlogged tree trunk, or glide the Good Ship Louise through the particularly shallow narrows between Ponds Two and Three, or to saw off an overhanging branch.  You understand that none of the aforementioned was in my skill set when I moved here five months ago.

Even without hip waders, I often climbed into the pond, hoping to find the water level below the tops of my rubber boots.  Often it was, so I took another step, and found myself up to my thighs in pond water.  Once, my nephew Angus chivalrously offered to help me glide the boat between Pond Two and Pond One.  I stepped out, he promptly gave Louise one mighty shove in the right direction, and the flat bottom of the boat ended up on the tops of both my feet, throwing me (and my phone) off balance.  We fell backwards into the mud.   My language at that precise moment pretty much peeled the paint off the boat. Angus likely will not make that mistake again.   

But even hip waders would not have helped me in that situation.  Emptying frogs from my boots, a hot shower, a lot of soap, a cup of hot tea and a generous application of home made laundry detergent on my clothing restored my composure to a degree.  Angus still helps me whenever he's here, but I notice he gives the Good Ship Louise a wide berth.

Still, I've been pining for hip waders.  Two weeks ago, I was en route to my brother's place in Toronto when I realized I was close to Al Flaherty's Outdoor Store on Dufferin Street.  I had about fifteen minutes to spare, so I decided to pop in and look at hip waders.  Not only did they have hip waders, they had a pair in my size.  I didn't try them on, I just grabbed them, paid, and headed out the door.

Thirteen days later, I still haven't even tried them out once.  I don't know what the trouble is.  Perhaps there are so many other things to keep me busy at Five Acres this time of year, but somehow I've never gotten up the nerve to pull them on and attach them to my belt.  I think a bit of it may be that to get out of them is a hassle.  When I'm out working on the property, I can kick off my wellington boots at the screen door, come in for a drink of water, and be outside again in a minute.  Not so with hip waders.  You have to take off your belt, and pulling them off is probably an ordeal.  Maybe a smart move is to keep a large tub of clean water by the screen door so I can step in that, rinse off the foot part, and just come in with the hip waders on.

Be that as it may, today is the day I'm going out in my hip waders.  My work jeans are the right degree of grimy, it's not so hot outside that I'll need a drink of water every hour, and the water level on the ponds has never been so low as it is this week.

Stand by, readers.  I'm going in.