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In Birdland, it’s high spring.

The tulips and daffodils have done their dance and gone.

Poppies have popped, leaving only scattered tatters of their crepe.

Irises are unfurling, and we’re lucky enough to have many varieties from my grandmother’s pale purple to some almost black ones.

The Siberian irises we got from the Extension’s plant swap last year are blooming. They were dug up from Bryant Cottage, planted there by Abraham Lincoln himself.

Hard in grading season, I have little time for yard work, though I managed to sneak an hour in to weed my herb spirals, tend my horse trough victory garden and plant the peppers and tomatoes gifted to me by two separate friends. (Thanks Chrissie! Thanks Brian!)

Michael, on the other hand, is reveling in the beauty of the yard. My husband has been selectively mowing — leaving islands of Dutch clover that the bees like so well, and these islands are beginning to bloom. Honeybees gather their sweet nectar, bringing it back to their hive.

I’m really hoping to harvest some honey this fall!

But what I wanted to tell you about before I got sidetracked by the flowers was the little traveler that visited our yard the other day.

Michael called me down from my garret desk to some kind of urgency in the yard. He ignored my protests that I needed to work and insisted I come down to see.

He led me by the hand to the back of the yard, just south of the spinney, and there was Cullen, the brown dog, worrying at some unknown exigency.

He was visibly relieved when he saw us coming, and as we approached, we could see the grass moving.

“Look out!” said Cullen. “This rock is moving! And it smells funny!”

I reached down to pick it up.

Michael was alarmed, “It may be a snapping turtle, we don’t know.”

Bless my soul! It was a tortoise. A box turtle!

I have never seen one in our yard, but I think that as the spinney gets wilder (and we’ve noticed that the wild flowers we transplanted to the woods are spreading, but also new ones we didn’t plant are cropping up), maybe more plants and animals find it a hospitable island in a monocultural sea of commodity crops.

In fact, I haven’t seen a box turtle since my childhood, when we kept a “pet” box turtle that wandered into our backyard one day.

We named her Myrtle, and we loved her, gentle soul. I wish now that we had just let her wander, which she presumably did once she escaped the pen we made for her.

Now I held our friend aloft and reassured Michael that she would not bite.

She seemed nonplussed as she stared me down with her red eye. Her throat inflating and deflating with her breathing. Her muscular legs hooked around my fingers.

I set her down and told Michael to keep an eye on her while I ran for my camera.

“Those things are faster than you think,” I called over my shoulder.

When I returned, he told me I had just missed her snapping up an earthworm snack.

I got down on my belly and snapped some photos. She lifted her head like a muscular periscope and tried to peer over the grass to chart her path.

Then, determined, she headed in a straight line through the tall grass and left us in wonder at this visitation by a wild soul.

Just now I did some searching and stumbled upon, a community of ecologists who can share observations of species of plants or animals.

I joined up and recorded my observation of the terrapene, and now I feel just like a citizen-scientist. You can find me there at MaryLucille. Check out my photos of the little traveler.

Walk in Beauty; Work in Peace; Blessed Be

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She just got her first letters from the call she put out last week. You can read Birdland each week at or the Piatt County Journal Republican. Consider subscribing to support your small-town newspaper. You can follow Birdland on Instagram and Twitter @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of this newspaper.