June 13.2013 Derecho, Fungal Duff and the Great Turtle Migration

My apple trees have been struggling this year.  The chlorosis seems to have abated somewhat now that the weather has warmed a bit, but the cedar apple rust is horrific this year.  I’ve been so busy with the garden, I haven’t had any time to do anything to help the trees.   That changed today.

First I mowed and then threw down several handfuls of Azomite around each tree, followed by some kelp for good measure.  (Azomite is a volcanic dust that is mined in Utah and is used as a remineralizer, among other things.) Then I started dropping spoiled hay bales around the trees.  These hay bales kept the wind off my bees this past winter, and then they spent another month keeping my ducklings confined.  Lately, they’ve had so much fungus and green sprouts poking out of them, they’ve been a breakfast bar for the ducklings.  Slimy and moldy, moving them wasn’t exactly a pleasant chore, but Michael Phillips – an east coast orchardist who doesn’t use an arsenal of toxic chemicals on his trees – says spoiled hay makes a pretty decent mulch for apple trees.  Here’s where it gets a bit weird: the trees and the fungi talk to each other and help each other access nutrients.  Well, that’s the theory.  I’m just thrilled I got three separate uses out of those hay bales.

For most of the day, while I was schlepping those bales, it was wicked hot. 95 to be exact.  But there were rumors.  Rumors of a vicious storm front racing across the country.  And this is how that went down:

3:08 Still two trees left to mulch, but the sky to the northwest is suddenly quite dark and threatening.  It had been clear a few minutes earlier.  I texted my daughter to ask her to check the radar.  “Is it going to miss us, or do I need to run for cover?”

3:09 She replies, “It’s heading straight for us probably an hour.”  Um, no.  I can tell it’s moving much quicker than she thinks.  I am running out of time, but I managed to stuff two bales into the wagon on the last trip, enough to do those last two trees.  A couples minutes for that, then a minute to put the riding mower and wagon into the barn and fetch a hammer to reset the electric fence.

3:22 Pause to take this picture.

All neat and tidy in the apple orchard, but storm clouds are piling up to the northwest.

All neat and tidy in the apple orchard, but storm clouds are piling up to the northwest.

3:30 Safely back on the porch.  It’s 95 degrees still, but the wind is picking up and the sky has a greenish cast.  I am worried about hail, but the ducks come to the steps and chatter about how exciting it all is.  “Duck weather!” they proclaim.  To which I reply, “Just point your bills into the wind and spread your wings.”  They did and my six ducks pretended to be kites for a few minutes.

3:45 The temperature is now 80 degrees and still dropping.  I take this picture.

A greenish cast to the clouds has always meant hail to me.  But luckily, these greenish clouds sped off to the east and did not hurl any icy fast balls at us.

A greenish cast to the clouds has always meant hail to me. But luckily, these greenish clouds sped off to the east and did not hurl any icy fast balls at us.

3:50 And now the front orchard looks like this:

Those young pear trees in the foreground are amazingly flexible.  I certainly can't bend like that.

Those young pear trees in the foreground are amazingly flexible. I certainly can’t bend like that.

3:55 Then the world went sideways for a few minutes.  The winds had to be up around 6o mph.  Definitely worse than Hurricane Isabel.

world gone sideways

4:05 The wind and rain have backed off to a modest, run of the mill thunder storm status.  It’s now 70 degrees.

4:15 Nothing now but a soft rain that can’t be heard over the noise of the generator.  A good portion of the county is without power and trees are down everywhere.  (As far as I know, we just lost a few limbs from the dying honey locust up at the grave yard.  Chicken tractors were not parked underneath it this time.  It is now time to dry off, get cleaned up and cook dinner with small appliances because the generator doesn’t run the range.

I am pleased to note, as I look out the kitchen window, all the trellises in the garden have held.  Small victories.  I should go check on the chickens, but the Egg Layers Union has declared a general strike.  If I am lucky, the wind will have blown the whole flock out to sea.  I am tired and hungry and frankly, I don’t care.  I do, however, send the minions instead.

Now, about those turtles.  I have noticed, since moving to the country, that once a year the local turtle population collectively decides to cross the road. They are everywhere it seems and they are usually in quite a hurry (as much as a turtle can hurry) and quite oblivious to vehicular traffic.

On Tuesday, my daughter photographed this one.

Eastern Box Turtle, highly  fond of crossing roads and getting smashed by cars.  Their numbers are declining.

Eastern Box Turtle, highly fond of crossing roads and getting smashed by cars. Their numbers are declining.

I don’t know anything about turtles so I don’t know whether this a young man out cruising for chicks or lady turtle desperately seeking a nesting site.  Either way, the turtle was on a mission and didn’t look both ways before crossing the street, nor did it stop and strike a pose.  Eastern Box Turtle.

The very next day, my husband ran across this one, on the same road.

big turtle 2

I think this is an Eastern River Cooter, based on the images at http://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com.  But the record size for the Cooter in Virginia is 12.5 inches (according to VHS).  The one my husband photographed was bigger than his foot which means bigger than 12.5 inches.  Should have brought that one home.  What sort of prize do you get for finding a record setting Eastern River Cooter, I wonder.
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