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Monday, April 28, 2014

A Guest Turtle on a Stormy Day

Yesterday was a day of strange weather and odd portents, and briefly we entertained a guest turtle.

It started off cloudy and windy and cool, with Bow enjoying the great outdoors. Then at one point I noticed that out in the yard, among Brownie's extensive collection of treasured rocks, there was what looked like a turtle shell. So I told Bow I needed to investigate and went into the back yard.

The dogs did not seem too concerned about the turtle shell, which was clamped shut and seemed lifeless, although I could see that someone was still in there by looking through the cracks. I showed Bow the turtle shell, then went to put it out on the front porch, where it would be safe from the dogs.

The turtle still showed no sign of moving, so I left it there and came back later to check. When I returned, it was nowhere to be seen, neither in the spot where I had put it, nor in the immediate vicinity moving away from the house. I spotted a rabbit in the pasture, but no turtle. How fast can a turtle run? I wondered.  Thinking that the turtle was gone for good, I stopped to admire some wild flowers in my front yard.

It was only after I turned around to go back in the house that I spotted the turtle. It was very close to my front door.

The shell was open, and I could see its head looking out through the crack. It was shy but curious.

I went back in and took care of some things for Bow. By now Bow was in the inner pen. Then I brought out some vegetables for the turtle.I left the vegetables by the doorstep and went back inside.

 My friend Pam, who is an expert on both turtles and Jean Laffite,  identified it as a three-toed box turtle.  She suggested I give it fresh corn and berries. I didn't have that, so I opted for cauliflower and cherry tomatoes. But the turtle did not go toward the vegetables. When I returned a little later, he  had already  moved again to put more distance between himself and the food.

I never saw the turtle move. But I did see him in a different location every time I came back. Once he was on top of a sack of  potting mix.

The next time he was in my rock garden next to the porch.

By then, the weather was getting pretty stormy, and it was right after lunch. I cleared away the dishes and told Bow I was going out. Normally, I take my walk right after lunch. But this time I thought I would sit very still with my camera on the front porch and see if I could get some footage of the turtle walking away.

It started to rain, and the turtle was in an uncomfortable place, where all the run-off from the roof goes. Surely he will move now! I thought. But no. He stayed put and for five minutes I watched him do nothing while he was practically buried in water. Finally, I could stand it no more. I fished him out with a sigh and put him on the dry porch cement. Then I went back in to the pen.

When I checked again, the turtle had gone and no search could reveal his whereabouts. I hope he made it safely to the destination of his choice.

When I was little I wanted to adopt every animal I met. But now I am happy to host lots of independent animals on my land, most of whom I will never meet, who are all perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.

Bow was unusually calm during this particular storm. He was happy to have me back in the pen, and he even groomed me calmly during a thunderstorm. We were lucky with the weather we got, because people in adjoining areas had it much worse.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The View From Outside the Pen

Most days, for nearly twelve hours a day, I am with Bow, inside the pens. But I do occasionally go outside, and when I do, this is what it looks like.

This was my front yard, yesterday morning. Everything is in bloom, and the birds are singing. I brought some redbud blossoms for Bow to try again, as they have fully opened up by now, and even the leaves are starting to come in.

Bow decided he would rather watch me eat the flowers than eat them himself. They taste fine, but it's just like salad: not enough calories to live off. Redbud would make a nice garnish, but not a meal.

The weather has gotten cooler this morning, so much so that I am wearing a jacket. Bow is sleepy, because the sky is cloudy and there is not that much light.

Earlier, I went out to the back yard to mow what grass we have left. I have not been taking care of the grass, and the dogs have worn out big patches. However, what remains needs to be kept fairly low. This gives me an opportunity to interact more with the dogs, but Bow feels left out.

Notice how when Bow rattles the grid, the pea plants shudder? I am not sure what to do about that. In the distance, we could occasionally hear gunshots. Our neighbors must be out hunting.This upset Bow a little, but the dogs did not care.

Brownie really wanted me to throw him a rock, so I complied.

Brownie was very happy that I threw him that rock, but he did not return it to me. He decided it was time to bury it. Leo just wanted to be petted.

I use a hand-pushed reel mower, which is good exercise, but I stop many times to look at things in the yard.

The dogwood is in full bloom now. The dogs look happy under its snowy blossoms.

Bow, on the other hand, was not always so happy while I was out in the yard. This is what he looked like from outside the pen.

This is the way most people view primates in zoos and sanctuaries. Even the people who work there as caretakers often do not get to go in.  It is not the best way to really get to know a chimpanzee and develop a long term relationship. But when we go inside, as I did, after I had mowed the grass, the grid disappears, and we see the real chimp.

Bow wanted me to groom him, so I did,  but now Leo was jealous. You can't please everyone all at once!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Improving Our Knowledge of Botany

Confession: Bow and I don't know much about botany. We are not that good at identifying  plants. My friend Kathy was here the other day, and she told me at once that those flowering trees by the woods were not Bartlett pears. She was not sure what they were, but not that. Later we found out they were service berry,  also known as shadbush, also known as wild pear or chuckley pear. Their scientific name is amelanchier arboria.

Luckily, Kathy brought us a small gift when she came, a book called Trees of Missouri. We have been studying up.

The service berry does give fruit, and the berries do look a little like very small pears. I am going to watch it fruit this year and see if I can pick some before the birds get it all. The tree does not get very tall usually, though it has been known to reach a maximum of thirty feet, which in my opinion is quite tall enough. I have it growing in my pasture as well as near the woods.

In other news, it rained last night, and before the rain, there was a lot of wind. Bow was outside when it started to storm, and he did not want to seem to retreat before the aggression of nature, so he put on a lot of displays before he discreetly went inside, under cover of bluster.

I left the pea plants outside to enjoy the rain, and this morning they are in the act of trying to climb the grid.

The plant has already attempted this once before, and Bow tore it from its moorings by moving the pot when I was not looking. Now the tendrils are gingerly reaching out again.

Bow and the pea plants have an uneasy truce. Bow tolerates their existence, but he is not overly protective of them.

The natural chimpanzee attitude toward food giving plants is to exploit, not nurture them. It is also the human way, because, after all, we are not so different.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

From Dawn till Dusk

Bow and I have a fairly peaceful life here, from dawn till dusk. The sun rises behind out woods, and we get up and have breakfast in the inner pen. And then, after all the dishes are cleared and our morning email has been checked, Bow asks to go outside.

Bow is a very quiet fellow most of the time, but he does have to get a certain things off his chest before he can become calm again and enjoy the quiet contemplation of nature.

Most of the time Bow is happy and satisfied and calm and satisfied.

We have lunch at noon.

Bow eats heartily.

After I clear the lunch dishes, Bow allows me to go for a walk. In fact, if I don't show signs that I am going, he kind of pushes me gently toward the door.

Yesterday afternoon on my walk, I spotted a butterfly in the second cherry tree.

My friend Kathy identified it as a Western Tiger Swallowtail.

Kathy is planning to come see us soon, but I decided to give everyone else a tour of the orchard here.

When I get back to the pen, I usually show Bow the footage I have shot. He watches it with interest, then asks to go outside again.

Usually Bow is quiet and happy outside, except when he thinks he sees intruders. For instance, today a young fellow on an ATV stopped by to ask if we needed our grass mowed. I told him we already have someone helping us with that. Bow was very upset that this stranger was there.

When the mowers he knows come, he wants to talk to them. He also protests if anyone he doesn't know is  helping them with their work. Everything has to be predictable, and only personnel that Bow has approved can be on the property.

If the neighbors drive heavy farm equipment with no muffler on the adjoining property, Bow gets annoyed. Of course, they have every right to do that. And Bow has every right to protest very loudly every time they do.

However, most of the time it is very quiet outside, and the birds chirp and the dogs frolic, and Bow is happy. The pea plants reach up toward the sun and send tendrils out looking for something to climb on.

I am not yet sure if it would be a good idea to allow them to climb the grid of the pen, but I bet that is already what they are plotting to do.

Bow has a snack at 3:00 pm, and we have dinner at five o'clock, and  then after clearing the dishes, we unwind. By 6:30 or so, Bow is ready to go to bed. If I delay in closing up shop in the pen, he reminds me. I sing him a lullaby and leave him with his blankets and rug, and he is happy. After Bow has gone to bed, I can go for another walk. In the dusk, birds sing their good night calls and moths flock around the redbud tree next to our house.

It's a pretty good life.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Invasive Pears?

After I discovered the little cherry tree at the edge of my woods, I also started to pay more attention to some other flowering shrubs or trees growing near the woods. They are not as showy or ornamental as that bunch of pink flowers, but do you know they weren't there before? I don't remember seeing them last spring, and I am almost certain they were not there when I first bought the property.

The flowers on the little shrub or tree look like this.

I began to wonder what sort of trees these were. Where had I seen flowers such as these before? I began to suspect that these may be somehow related to the pear trees in my front yard.

Pear blossoms just starting to bud 
 When my pear blossoms opened this year, they looked like this.

And on closer inspection, the pear blossoms looked like the same little bunches of flowers that were on the sapling in the woods, only larger and better developed.

Could the wild little blossoming trees by the woods be related to my pear trees? The Missouri Department of Conservation has recently issued a warning with regard to "invasive" Bradford pears. Could this be what they were talking about?

"Avoid Planting invasive trees such as the Bradford Pear" the article is called. Instead, they recommend planting redbud, or downy serviceberry. Now, in my defense, I did not plant any of my fruit trees, and their spread is entirely accidental. But if this accident results in more fruit for my family to eat, I am not inclined to disturb the natural spread of this "invasive" species.

What if I could have a garden of Eden on my property, where fruit grows on its own without cultivation? What if we could put an end to 'by the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread." Isn't that exactly what Bow needs? Isn't it also what many poor people who do not have enough to eat need? Why would the Missouri Conservation Department be pulling up fruit trees and replacing them with redbud? Redbud is edible, that's true, but pears are even more edible!

Lots of conservation efforts seem to foster the eradication of plentiful food sources in favor of some kind of ornamental pretty landscape. When I went to the MDC nursery site, I did not see any fruit trees I wanted to order. They were pushing native varieties that Bow will not want to eat.

Yes, Bow is an invasive, too. Born in Missouri, he is not a native variety. My daughter and I are also transplants. Should I not identify with the poor Bradford pear and spare it the conservationist destruction?

Every year, Bow gets pears for Christmas and his birthday from his uncle. But someday his uncle and I may not be around to buy pears for Bow. Wouldn't it be great if he could pick his own pears on his very own island? I see some of those trees popping up in the pasture as well.

Above is a picture of Bow looking happy outside this morning. Below is a picture of Bow's pea plants as they now look.

Bow loves to have fresh peas with his lunch. Wouldn't it be great not to have to buy them at the store? But chimpanzees do not live by peas alone. So a pear orchard on my land that grows all by itself is not a bad idea. And it wasn't even my idea. The pears volunteered!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Cherry Tree That Planted Itself

I am not absolutely sure yet, but it seems that a cherry tree has planted itself on my property. Yesterday afternoon, I spotted a cluster of beautiful flowers at the edge of my woods. I took a picture and posted it on Facebook, asking what sort of flower it was.

Some people thought it looked like an orchid, some said it was a dogwood. But others pointed out that dogwoods have four petals whereas as this flower has five. In fact, I have a dogwood tree in the back yard, and this is what its blossoms look like right now.

The dogwood blossoms in my back yars

So the new tree on the edge of my woods is definitely not a dogwood. Then my friend Kathy suggested that it might be a cherry tree. She went and investigated some more, and came back with this link for me to answer some interactive questions. I did, and according to the site, the new flowering tree is a Morello cherry! Now where would that come from?

I have two cherry trees in the front yard. One of them has been in bloom for a while now, so the flowers no longer look so fresh.

The bees are very attracted to these wilting flowers and buzz around them like crazy. Could this be the source of the sapling in my back yard? Did a bird eat of my cherries and drop a seed by the woods?

I'm not sure, and we will have to watch the tree closely to see if this identification is correct. But it could be that I don't need to plant more fruit trees after all. I may just need to sit back and relax and let nature take its course. That is certainly Bow's attitude toward agriculture.

It rained last night, and this morning the floor of the pen was wet.

The back yard is a beautiful sight, with the dogwood just coming into bloom. But Bow decided to stay in for the time being.

I really should emulate his relaxed stance toward everything. Maybe the more we work, the more work is required. But if we just let things happen on their own, the results are beautiful!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Egg Hunt - Hunting and Gathering on a Full Stomach

As usual, we had our Easter egg hunt today. Bow is the only member of the household still young enough for this. He knew it was coming up when he saw me preparing the plastic eggs. He made excited food vocalizations.

But as much as Bow enjoys M&Ms with peanuts and Cadbury eggs, you can see by watching the footage of the Easter egg hunt that Bow is not really hungry.

I gave it some time after breakfast, before I started the hunt, but clearly these treats are not a substitute for a meal, and Bow never misses a meal. As such, he is not desperate for the candy, and you can tell this by the way he conducts his search. He goes for the nearest and easiest to find egg. If a piece of candy drops out of his grasp, he does not hurry to pick it up. He may later go and get it, or he may not.

Everything tastes better when you are hungry. Most of us living in the United States have never truly been hungry, so we don't feel desperate for food, and quite possibly the food we do eat does not taste nearly as good as it would if we were  in desperate need of it.

But there's also another aspect of this. Many of us try not to waste food, and we have an ethic that tells us to save some for later and not allow a single morsel to go stale or ferment or go bad before it is consumed by someone. For a true hunter gatherer, it is always feast or famine. During a famine you must eat whatever is available. During a feast, your natural sense of satiety must dominate, because it would not be good to eat till you burst.

We do have mechanisms to keep us from over-eating built in, even in the case of plenty. But sometimes our ethic of frugality overrides those instincts. Bow is smart not to feel compelled by ethics to overindulge or to value food at the same price during a glut as during a famine.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Three Days in the Life of Bow's Plants

Bow and I were offline for three days. It happened like this. On April 15 during the day, we still had internet service. By evening we no longer did. On the morning of Wednesday  the 16th, I called our Internet Service Provider and was told that the modem had to be replaced, and they would be sending a new one by UPS which would arrive by Friday. It did not arrive on Friday. I called them again today, and they sent a technician who fixed everything by noon.

In the meanwhile, Bow and I passed three whole days in the company of each other, the dogs  and the plants. No Facebook. No Youtube. No email, and no news from the outside. So I concentrated on my offline writing and Bow's plants.

At first the plants were nothing but tiny little shoots.
I was still afraid it might freeze at night, so I would bring them in every evening and take them back out each morning. Bow declined to water the plants, and in every possible way he contrived to ignore them.

Here we are on April 17, taking the plants out again.

On Thursday, April 17, by the end of the day, the planter  looked like this.

The next day, on April 18, Bow studiously ignored the plants, while taking an interest in all sorts of other things.

It was a beautiful day, and  the birds were singing.

Bow was fascinated by the swing,  my key and trying to unlock one of the doors that led into the house, and he got very engrossed in trying to fix the bad zipper on my jacket. But he gave no thought to the plants.

By the evening of Friday, April 18, the plants looked like this.

Today was Saturday, April 19. I mowed the lawn in the morning, and I noticed, when I glanced briefly at Bow, that he was holding the planter in his hands and moving it to a different location. "Bow, what are you doing? Put it back!" I called to him. He looked a little guilty and moved the planter in the general direction of the southeast corner of the pen, but not right in the corner, snugly, the way I wanted it. When I went back into the pen I pushed it right into the corner. Bow continued to ignore the planter, as if he did not know that it existed. At least, he did as long as I was right there with him.

Around noon the technician came to bring us a new modem and to install it. He asked me if I had any dogs.  I told him two, but they were behind a fence in the back yard. "I also have a chimpanzee," I added. He seemed taken aback, but I assured him that Bow was in an enclosure and it was safe.

"You'll have to come say hi to him and tell him that you are here to fix our internet service."

Luckily, the technician had no problem talking directly to Bow, and Bow liked him right away. He only sat in a corner of the inner pen and rocked back and forth when the technician was busy working and not paying attention to him. But as soon as the man came by to talk to Bow again, Bow was happy.

After installing our new modem, the technician said goodbye to Bow. "This has been a once in a lifetime experience," he said as he left. He had never met a chimpanzee before. But Bow could not say the same, as he has met many technicians over the years.

Now that I had the internet working, I became immersed in catching up. But Bow wanted to go back outside. So I went out with him, but I left him for a moment, and from the corner of my eye, I could see him moving the planter as soon as I had gone.

When I came back in, I asked Bow: "Who moved the planter?" But he ignored me and paid more attention to Leo who was barking at him to get him to start playing. "Put the planter back in its place," I told Bow. He got up, picked up the planter, then set it back down in about the same spot without moving it much. I was not satisfied with this, so I asked him again. This time he made a real effort to get it kind of close to the corner. I accepted this as good enough and thanked him, and he grunted as if to say: no problem.

Bow's plants look like this today.

What does Bow think about his plants? I'm not sure. He seems to want me to think he is not thinking about them at all. But I bet he's thinking something. I just have no idea what!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Surviving the Cold

For the past couple of days, it has been unusually cold again. Even on the day when  Bow was giddily hanging off the rafters, later that afternoon it rained and rained, and the next time Bow went outside that day, it was suddenly much, much colder.

Bow looked out at the pen. It was much less inviting than it had been a few hours earlier. But he went out anyway, because he likes to be outdoors.

Leo is always willing to play some more, but I think you can tell by looking at the picture closely that Bow was feeling cold. This, however, did not keep him from expressing his thoughts.

Meanwhile, I was looking at the plants. First of all, there were tiny shoots in Bow's planter, despite the fact that he had toppled it over twice since planting.

Tiny shoots in Bow's planter on the afternoon of April 13
The cherry tree was now in full bloom.

Bees buzzed by the tree, even as the weather threatened to be stormy.

The pear tree, which up until recentlyhad been completely bare, now was covered with leaves.

And the tulip tree was sprouting leaflets right next to the old, dead flowers from last year.

The next day, April 14, things got even colder and I eventually had to start heating the inner pen again. I was concerned that it might freeze, so I brought Bow's planter with its tiny shoots inside.

The tiny shoots on April 14

The tiny shoots were a little bigger, almost imperceptibly so. I was worried about the fruit trees, because I could not bring them in. In other parts of the state, it even snowed last night. Luckily, not here so far.

This morning, Bow asked to go out repeatedly all morning, but I told him it was too cold. Finally, around eleven I gave in and agreed.

I took the planter with its tiny shoots and put it out to bask in the sun. Bow enjoyed sunning himself, too. But it was still very cold out. Soon Bow asked to come back inside. The tiny shoots in the planter, however, said nothing. So they stayed put. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring Giddiness

It is easy to feel giddy when spring is in the air. Everything all around us is blossoming.
the cherry tree in blossom
Bow has his moments of quiet contemplation, of watching nature as it unfolds, of being a spectator and not a participant.

But at other moments, he becomes active and the center of attention.

This morning, playing with Leo, Bow became progressively more active. Sometimes I forget how naturally athletic he is, climbing the walls and hanging from the rafters.

Even when we think the game is over, it may not yet be. In the following clip, Bow was grooming my hand, and Leo summoned him to play some more. Bow went to join him and in the process he suddenly remembered how much fun it is to hang upside down from the ceiling.

You might think the swing is there for Bow to exercise on, but he often takes his exercise from the walls and beams of the enclosure, and then uses the swing for quiet relaxation.

When everything is in bloom, it is hard not get giddy sometimes.

One of our peach trees in bloom