Thursday, November 19, 2009

Exploring--Our North Florida Back Yard

I have posted before about exploring in our area and discovering all the delights of coastal Northeast Florida. Today, our exploration is even simpler--stepping out our back door. These photos were taken in late October, when we were beginning to experience nights going down into the 50s Fahrenheit and even an occasional dip into the 40s. Our daytime highs have stayed mostly in the 70s with fewer cooler days than we normally experience this time of the year.
Our little Shih-tzu was thrilled to find a turtle in our back yard one day and happily sniffed and nudged it, totally spooking the poor thing into its shell. So I wasn't able to see it clearly or get good photos until later on, without Maggie's interference. I have checked our field guide to Florida, hoping to identify this new friend, but did not see one exactly like it. The highly domed carapace resembles the shells of a couple of turtles from the mud and musk turtle family, but those listed in the field guide were quite a bit smaller than this one, which had a shell about 8" or 9" long. The similar turtle shells shown in the guide were also plainer than this one, without the interesting markings. This turtle's under shell (or plastron) was hinged so that the turtle could raise the front portion to completely close off the openings for the head and front legs after they were pulled in. I plan to do more research on-line when I have some time, but perhaps some of you readers will recognize this lovely beast.
The other photos show our mandevilla vine a few weeks ago at the end of its flowering for the season. It is one of my favorites, with clear, bright pink blossoms. This year, rather than simply clambering on our fence, the vine has a new wrought iron piece to climb. We purchased it from Scott Hornbaker, a talented artisan from St. Mary's, GA who brings his works to our weekly outdoor Riverside Arts Market. My husband admired this piece so much, I decided it was a perfect Father's Day gift (he thought so, too). You can see Scott's artistry at his web site.
I am fortunate that my husband, Mark, loves to work in the yard and has become a Master Gardener since we came to Florida. Guided by his mantra, "right plant; right spot" and his research into using Florida natives in our yard, he has beautified our home on every side. If I feel stressed and need a refreshing break, all I need to do is to step out the door, breathe deeply, and stroll around. Beyond the little fenced-in back yard area, we also have an overgrown, wilder area full of ferns and shaded by evergreen Laurel Oaks (a relative of the better known southern Live Oaks) with a small creek at the very back. You can glimpse that area in the back yard photo in my last post from earlier this week. The creek is probably the home of our turtle friend, who has not ventured up close to the house again since our small dog gave it an over-enthusiastic welcome.
Question of the day: What outdoor delights have you found at home or nearby in recent weeks?


  1. What glorious photos, Mary. I was thinking that the markings on your little visitor were amazing! In fact, the dashed line down the center of its back looks as though someone drew it with yellow chalk! I am not sure why, but I find myself worrying that the gators will get him! Not too long ago I posted photos of some visitors of our own; you may have visited (I cannot remember who left comments). But imagine my surprise to find two turkey couples (not wild, but family owned) visiting our little park. Fortunately, we do live in the country and are often blessed to see an abundance of both flora and fauna around us. By the way; I do so love your ruminations over here. I'd be quite saddened to miss anything!

  2. Autumn, I'm glad you like our friend--and no worries about gators in this neighborhood since even our retention ponds are a bit too small for them. However, I have no idea how widely turtles might roam. I did see your post with photos of the turkey couples visiting--very cool. Thank you for your kind comments on my ruminations. I truly enjoy the conversation you and I have via our blogs.

  3. It must be the season for turtle sightings. I've found a snapper and one similar to yours strolling across our yard in recent weeks. It's great that your husband loves to garden. Does he have a blog to showcase his efforts and share some wisdom? There are thousands of garden bloggers out there, but there's always room for another perspective.

  4. Welcome back, W2W! No, my husband is not at all interested in blogging. He does not understand the time I spend on it or my enjoyment of the blogging community. That's OK--to each his own. I wonder why the turtles are on the move in Florida :>)

  5. The mandevilla is beautiful!! And that turtle has such pretty markings! I'm off to check your husband's website! Thank you for sharing your world, Mary!

    Oh, my, what gorgeous work he does!!

  6. Thank you, Jean--I do love the mandevilla, and also thought this turtle was special. Great to hear from you!

    However, I am mystified about the website you visited since my husband does not have one :>) There are odds and ends on the web under his name, so I am very curious what you looked at.