Turtle Blues*

August 24, 2009 001 (2)
Or perhaps the title should have been Turtle Peaches.

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Our story begins back in mid March. The little purple leaf peach tree that was started from a cutting by good neighbor Mickey is blooming. The tree has been limbed up a bit so the plants underneath would get more light and water. It sported the most flowers ever, in spite of so many branches having been removed.

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The fruits are normally ignored, for they are usually very dark purple and shriveled. This year they almost look like the real deal.

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But let us back up a bit. On a garden perusal, carried out several times per day, every day, movement was caught just at the corner of vision. Upon looking down, we saw a peach lying in the ajuga near the path by the black garden. It was rolling around and had bites taken out of it. Getting down real low, knees cracking in protest, an eyeball was spotted. It was the eater of the peach.

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Oh baby! Gravel was scattered from the path as little feet ran as fast as they could back to the house to get the camera. Upon return, our diner was still in place, frozen like a statue. We set the mini tripod on the bricks edging the path and also froze in place, waiting.

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The legs and head remained outside of the decorative shell, she did not pull inside. But the legs turned away from the camera. Oh rats, she was leaving the scene. But no, that was not her intention.

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She wasn’t leaving. She was moving the peach to get a bite of unscathed fuzzy flesh. As the head stretches full length, the similarities to the snake relative is scarily apparent.

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Her appetite is voracious, her tongue is pink, she is an epicurean at the banquet table in the Black Garden section of the Fairegarden.

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The jaw is like a piece of heavy machinery, a steam shovel perhaps?. Is that design based on the mechanics of this prehistoric looking creature?

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The complexity of the shell is enchanting. Is this an example of the Fibonacci in action? Research shows this to be the case. Here is what was found at a very interesting web site about the lore of the turtle clan:
Turtle shells have special mystical significance. The top of the turtle shell or carapace consists of 33 plates or scutes. Five spinal scutes called vertebrals, 8 flanking scutes (4 per side) called pleurals and ringed in by 20 edge scutes called marginals. There is an extra pseudo-scute called the cervical making 21 in all. On the bottom or plastron are six pairs of scutes from head to tail called the gular, humeral, pectoral, abdominal, femoral and anal. The intergulars are very tiny and are part of the gulars. The 5 vertebral scutes and the 8 surrounding pleurals make 13, then add in the 21 scutes around the edge for a total of 34 scutes in all and the sequence follows the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth terms of the Fibonacci Sequence where each succeeding number in the sequence is obtained by adding the previous two (e.g. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, etc). Fascinating stuff, eh?

Watching the turtle tearing into the overripe peach was pure magic. It was a happy accident to have discovered this meal taking and to be able to record it on pixels to share and remember.


Please enjoy this piece, the work of the legendary Janis Joplin recorded with the band Big Brother and The Holding Company for the album Cheap Thrills. While not the most popular or famous song by Ms. Joplin, it remains my personal favorite. No video of this performance could be found.

*Turtle Blues
Janis Joplin

Ahhh, I’m a mean – mean woman
I don’t mean no one man no good. No.
I’m a mean – mean woman
I don’t mean no one man, no good.
I just treats ’em like I wants to
I never treats ’em, honey like I should.

Oh, Lord, I once had a daddy
He said he’d give me every-thing in sight.
Once had a daddy
Said he’d give me every-thing in sight.
Yes he did
So I said, “Hon I want the sunshine
you take the stars out of the night.”
Come on and give ’em to me baby, ’cause I want ’em right now.

I ain’t the kind of woman
Who’d make your life a bed of ease
No – no – no – no – no – no – no – no – no.
I’m not the kind of woman, No,
Who’d make your life a bed of ease.
Yeah, but if you – if you just wanna go out drinkin’, honey
Won’t you invite me along, Please.
Oh, I’ll be so good to ya Bear, Yeah!
Whoaaa, Go on!

I guess I’m just like a turtle
That’s hidin’ underneath its horny shell.
Whoa. Whoa – whoa oh yeah, like a turtle
Hidin’ underneath its horny shell.
But you know I’m very well protected
I know this g**-d*** life too well.

Oh! Now call me mean, You can call me evil, Yeah – yeah
I’ve been called much worser things around
Hon, don’t ya know I have!
Whoa. Call me mean, or call me evil
I’ve been called much worser things, all things around
Yeah but, I’m gonna take good care of Janis, Yeah,
Hon, ain’t no one gonna dog me down.
Alright. Yeahhh. οΏ½Η₯

As recorded at Columbia Studio D (Hollywood) on 12 April 1968 and first released on the vinyl album “Cheap Thrills” (track 1 side 2) Columbia 9700. “Vibes” of Turtle Blues courtesy of Barney’s Beanery, so says the album cover art by Robert Crumb.

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36 Responses to Turtle Blues*

  1. Joanne says:

    What a superb post. So interesting and lovely shots. how lucky you are to have a Turtle visit your garden

    Thanks so much, Joanne, for those kind words. We love our turtle friend, or friends. I have seen him, or others, not sure which around and about while puttering in the garden. The eating of the peach was a special event, pure luck. πŸ™‚

  2. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances, what a lovely visitor, I am sure he/she will continue to enjoy your peaches. Lovely pictures.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Thanks Sylvia. The peaches are plentiful this year, a first. I am glad someone will enjoy them. πŸ™‚

  3. Wow! What a great post Frances, I cannot imagine seeing a turtle in the garden – so glad you were there to record it for us all to see.

    Thanks Karen. Turtles are quite common around these parts. We have always had them, in all the places we have lived. Cute little guys! πŸ™‚

  4. gittan says:

    WOW! What more can I say! Such a great visitor you’ve got ther, really interesting / gittan

    Hi Gittan, thanks. He is a sweetheart and is welcome to all the peaches he wants. πŸ™‚

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I just love the turtle shots. What a lucky find. Doesn’t it make you wonder what else shuffles through the garden when you aren’t looking?? This turtle probably comes through often yet unseen. Something has been eating the apples in my garden. I have blamed the squirrels. I will have to keep my eyes open for the true culprit. It is wonderful that nature can partake of the fruit without worrying about pesticides etc. I like Janis’s song. I must have heard it at one time. I used to have that album. Hmmmmm

    Thanks Lisa, you are so funny. I wondered if anyone would know the Janis song, HA I am wondering if the turtle is the strawberry thief too. I also blamed the bunnies and squirrels but they might have been innocent, this time! πŸ™‚

  6. lotusleaf says:

    Wow! The turtle shots are superb. It so happens that my class did a project about Fibonacci sequence yesterday. They will be thrilled when I tell them about the turtle.

    Cool Lotusleaf! The Fibonacci numbers are an amazing thing to me, glad you have something of interest to tell the class! πŸ™‚

  7. Gail says:

    Fun post Frances and aren’t you lucky that this wonderful creature is living in or near the garden. As long as there is food he will visit. I used to leave strawberries out for the guy who visited us…He’s not been here for a long time. The photos are wonderful; especially the jaw in action shots! Janis was something else~~I can’t even imagine the senior citizen she would be today! Gail

    Hi Gail, thanks. There is plenty of food for the turtle, and everyone else. I can always buy at the farmer’s market. HA I suspect my strawberry thief may not have been rabbits as first suspected. The jaw of the turtle was most fascinating! Janis lived way too fast and hard to have made it to her golden years, sadly, don’t you think?

  8. Dot says:

    What a wonderful surprise for you! I just love turtles. Your post was an absolute delight!

    Hi Dot, thanks so much. Glad you liked seeing our visitor. Or resident, as I have seen him or others like him for many years here. πŸ™‚

  9. You never cease to amaze me with the layers of your garden. The resident turtle is amazing. How lucky you were to be able to catch him in action.

    Thanks Heather, the garden is a real conglomeration, that’s for sure. Sort of a Noah’s Ark of plants, we will try anything to see if it can be grown here. Hard to get a cohesive design with such a garden though, it is more of a collection. The turtle has been seen several times, we loved seeing him enjoy his food this time! πŸ˜‰

  10. You are a patient photographer and it pays off. I see goldfinches at my coneflowers and run in for the camera, but don’t have the desire to wait for their return. The only photo will be in my head.

    Hi Jill, thanks. When I came back out with the camera, I was afraid he would walk away, of stay inside his shell. I know he saw me, but held very still, after seeing Jurassic Park and learning that the dinosaurs could only see movement. It worked! HA

  11. Jenny says:

    How fun. I bet he grew another ring whilst you were watching him. What an appetite!

    Thanks Jenny. His shell was so interesting. Is there a way to tell his age by it?

  12. I had pet box turtles from when I was about eight until I was about sixteen. (They died. But it was not my fault! I think!)

    They’re not good road-crossers. So my uncle, who lived in the Ozarks in Missouri, picked up three, total, at different times, and brought them up to me and my younger brother in Iowa, because the alternative was (probably) to let them get crushed by cars sooner or later. Bad for the species: I found out some time later that two of my turtles were ornate box turtles (Terrapene ornata), which are officially threatened species now (they may not have been at the time, though). Arguably good, though, for the individuals. Or at least better than getting hit by cars. The threatened species (Terrapene ornata) was a male and female, and they did mate (as you would imagine, it takes a really long time, and is comical) and lay eggs, more than once, but we were never able to incubate the eggs properly. Had we been able to, I might be a box turtle collector now, instead of a plant collector.

    Your guy is most likely an Eastern box turtle (the third of my box turtles was an Eastern. He was named Keith until “he” laid eggs and it became obvious that he was a she, at which point she became Keithetta), Terrapene carolina carolina, which is officially classified as “near threatened,” which classification translates roughly as “common, but we’d like it to be commoner.” He may also be a she: I can’t quite tell from the photos whether the eyes are red (male) or brown (female).

    Wow, Mr. Sub! Thanks for all that info! When we first moved back to TN in 2000, my daughter Semi’s friends would often bring turtles here that they had picked up that were crossing the road, just like your uncle did for you. We always put them under the shed. This may or may not be the same one, or an offspring since there were several put there. I see them around the garden and always smile, knowing this is a good safe place for them. No cars can drive on our steep slope. I will have to check out the eyes if he/she is seen again. πŸ™‚

  13. TurboLotte says:

    Oh I just love turtles. But here in Norway we have them only at the zoo.. i am sorry to say. Too cold i guess. Great shots!

    Thanks Charlotte. We do have cold winters, but not as cold as yours! Turtles are common here, we often see them tryiing to cross the road, not a good idea! πŸ™‚

  14. tina says:

    Wow! That was a fun visitor. I bet he’ll stick around and help you dispose of slugs once the peaches are gone.

    Oh man, Tina, turtles eat snails and slugs? I will be looking for more of these guys to bring home! Now can you tell me who eats grasshoppers? They are the worst ever this year. πŸ™‚

  15. Janet says:

    Interesting post. I didn’t know all the details about the turtle shells. I love happy accidents. Gotta love Janis…man!!

    HA Janet, thanks. Not many comments about Janis, oddly. I didn’t know about the Fibonacci connection until doing the research. It just looked like something that would fit with those wonderful designs. Seeing him/her eat the peach was a treat and a privelege. πŸ™‚

  16. Dave says:

    I saw a pair of turtles once in our yard munching on cucumbers in the compost bin. They are fun to watch!

    Great Dave! Knowing it is the turtles eating the produce makes me less upset about losing the strawberries, ect. We can always buy some, and like having those critters around helps the garden’s ecology. πŸ™‚

  17. Aw, the cute painted turtle is way less intimidating than the snapper who visited me early this year. Still, I was honored that a turtle had come, as I know you are.

    Hi Monica, thanks. Honored, yes, especially that he went ahead with his dining while I had the camera just inches from him. I may have mentioned to you that I was once bit by a snapping turtle as a child, trying to feed him lettuce. He did not let go! πŸ™‚

  18. What an interesting fellow…thanks so much for sharing him with us! Awesome post, Kim

    Thanks Kim. Glad you enjoyed seeing our little friend. πŸ™‚

  19. Carol says:

    Wonderful post Frances! Great shots of your neighbor … you are so kind to share your peaches with him. What a beauty and the story about the shell so interesting… I see a dragon fly on the top. I will have to try to find that Joplin song.

    Thanks so much Carol. He is welcome to all the peaches, they are strictly ornamental for us. The shells are amazing. I need to look at old turtle shots and see if the markings are the same, he might be an older fella! πŸ™‚

  20. What a lovely post, Frances. Great photos of your little visitor. I love the description of his jaw as machinery.

    Thanks Happy. Seeing the image of his jaw in action looked just like a mechanical shovel scooping mulch. πŸ™‚

  21. johnson says:

    How exciting – and to us in England, extraordinary – to have turtles in the garden. Beautiful photos and I just love the Hemerocallis, day lilies, elsewhere. Totally addicted to them, in fact! Johnson

    Hi Johnson, thanks and welcome. We are a pair then, with the love of the Hemerocallis. Turtles like this one, the Eastern Box turtle are a common backyard sight here. Being able to photograph him eating was a high privilege, even if it was my fruit. πŸ™‚

  22. What a great post. That little turtle seemed quite happy to put up with his papparazzi.
    Love that Joplin song. You’re right. She lived way too hard and fast. There was a lot of that going on then.
    We have that album, bought soon after it was released. I don’t even want to think how many years ago that was.
    Thanks again for sharing your garden.

    Hi Linda, thanks, so nice to see you. Janis was a true talent who died much too young, but we still love her music and that album and that song in particular. I can listen to it over and over. Ahhhh. πŸ™‚

  23. Would you have known it was a turtle eating your peaches, if you hadn’t caught it in action? I wouldn’t have. They are great shots, Frances, and I loved the Fibonacci sequence stuff, nature is so amazing in so many ways. I’m also glad to see that someone else remember’s Joplin’s “Turtle Blues”. (I once auditioned for a band using that tune. The guy I auditioned for said, “That’s the worst blues I’ve ever heard.” Tastes. differ.) And it’s true, JJ would have been a very interesting senior citizen!

    I’m adding to Fairegarden’s awards in a small way by giving you a MeMe award at http://www.tulipsinthewoods.com/cataloguebookwebsite-reviews/beautiful-blogs/. If you don’t want to do all that linking, just know that you’re appreciated from this corner!

    Hi Pomona, thanks so much for the Meme award, it has been ensconced on my awards page. I have posted the things about me before, found
    Now on to the comment about your singing that song!!!! I am so impressed, no matter what the guy said. I am sure he was way off base. Although no one can sing it like Janis, it was her song and she felt it down to her toenails.
    I would never have guessed a turtle eating the peaches, the local rabbits would have been blamed, like the strawberries and fallen tomatoes that show the same tooth marks! HA I was very fortunate he let me snap his photo while eating, a true honor. πŸ™‚

  24. Catherine says:

    That is so cool! Have you seen turtles in your garden before? Maybe it visits your pond? Great pictures.

    Hi Catherine, thanks. We have seen turtles, maybe this same one over and over many times in the garden, but never eating a peach! HA When we first moved to this house, offspring Semi had a friend who would bring turtles over that she had saved while they were crossing a busy street. At least three were brought and placed under the shed. Maybe this is an offspring of one of the originals, but the shell markings are the same as the others I have seen. A lucky coincidence to notice him/her. πŸ™‚

  25. Pam/Digging says:

    It’s James and the giant peach!

    HA Pam, that’s a good one! A favorite book of the offspring and mine as well. πŸ™‚

  26. RobinL says:

    What a charming visitor! I could certainly never deny him some of my peaches.

    Thanks Robin, I agree. He can have all the peaches he wants! πŸ™‚

  27. Semi says:

    Amazing! I love the eating pic. He is so cute! Maybe he will hang around for a bit. BTW I ate a bug while running today, almost choked. It was quite commical. I laughed about it all 5 miles. So I was semi reptile today. Ha love u

    Dear Semi, thanks. He was not there yesterday, that I could see, even though more peaches had fallen. Maybe he was looking for more variety up in the veggie patch. Only you would laugh about eating a bug while running five miles!!! A very unique individual, that is what we love about you. πŸ™‚
    Love, Frances

  28. chuck b. says:

    Good for you! What a cutie.

    Thanks Chuck, he is adorable, isn’t he? πŸ™‚

  29. lotusleaf says:

    Congratulations Frances, for winning the silver in the photo contest! Your picture was very beautiful.

    Wow, Lotusleaf, you are quick! I just got the pingback a few minutes ago. Thanks for the congrats, I am honored considering the quality of the entries and the skills of the judge, David Perry. πŸ™‚

  30. Really enjoyed the photos in this post. Fibonacci is one of those mathematical mysteries in nature. Thank you for sharing this.

    Thanks Jacqueline and welcome. I am glad you enjoyed the turtle and his magical shell. πŸ™‚

  31. Jake says:

    I like Turtles, they are a favorite animal. What is that tree in the first picture it is very pretty.


    Hi jake, me too. The first shot is the peach tree, a purple leaf ornamental variety given by my neighbor from a cutting he grew. He gave one to all the neighbors, several in fact, and even one for my daughter Semi. It is a beautiful small tree with pink flowers in spring. I didn’t even know it would produce peaches like those shown, it never has before. πŸ™‚

  32. Rose says:

    How lucky you were to be able to catch this guy on film, er, pixels! Very interesting information about turtles. Youngest Daughter has always loved turtles, and she’s a math whiz, but I don’t think she knew this about their shells–I’ll have to share this with her.

    Janis Joplin…ah, that brings back memories; what a voice!

    By the way, I left a comment on your concrete post today.

    Hi Rose, it was pure luck, like all my shots are. It is always exciting when loading them on the computer to see if there might be a good one. My son Brokenbeat is also a math major and might have seen the post and been impressed. Or not, it is soccer season, his day job. Janis was especially potent on this song, IMHO. I thank you for the concrete comment, I get an email everytime someone leaves a comment on any posts, even the old blogger ones. πŸ™‚

  33. dirtynailz says:

    A great post with great shots! The fact that you spotted the turtle and were able to get those pictures is one thing, but your appreciation of this unexpected visitor makes it really special. That’s what is so wonderful about nature. Once in a while, she reveals one of her secrets – if we are sensitive enough to see it.

    (Digging Rhode Island)

    Hi Cynthia, thanks and welcome. What nice thoughts about nature and our being able to notice how grand the whole thing is. All we have to do is open our eyes. Thanks for giving your blog name too, so I could add you to the sidebar blogroll. πŸ™‚

  34. Mark says:

    Great pics. Great post. Great song. I’d like to add a little bit about turtle conservation.

    Your turtle is indeed and Eastern Box Turtle and looks like a fairly young one. They’re on the endangered species list in Massachusetts and probably should be almost everywhere (the same goes for many other turtle species.) Their numbers are in decline due to human activity. They’re long-lived but have a very low reproductive success rate, so it takes quite a while for the decline to be evident.

    If you find a turtle in the road, the best thing to do is take it across in the direction it was headed and place it about 30-50 feet from the roadside. While this leaves the turtle in a potentially dangerous place, removing it is generally seen as a riskier choice. Turtles are territorial and are very likely to wander in search of their home ranges if they’ve been relocated. Even long-term attempts to establish new site fidelity for released box turtles have not been very successful. Here a couple of good links dealing with box turtle conservation:



    Hi Mark, thanks and welcome. I appreciate the information about turtles and found the same information while researching this post. We have several turtles that were brought here by a young woman, a friend of my daughter, about ten years ago. If this is a young turtle then it might be an offspring of those. It is hard to say if there are several, or I keep seeing the same one all over the garden. But it is welcome.

  35. Patricia Johnson says:

    Turtles migrate from location to location depending on the season. Rainy times, mean worms and slugs. Late summer means Peaches, so they will likely visit again next year. You also may want to keep an eye out during late May/June for egg laying season. If you have some sandy south exposure slopes, they are ideal spots. Protecting a nesting site is so easy, all you need is a small animal cage (bottom removed) tent spikes, and some rocks. Place the cage over the clutch site, spike it down (spikes aiming outwards) and place a single heavy rock on top. Make sure that this is not so large, as to prevent sun exposure. Also, be certain that the cage has big enough slots for the hatchlings to wiggle through. They emerge late August/September. 90% of nests are predated, so getting them past this vulnerable time can be an immense help to your local population.

    Also, turtle shell patterns are much like a finger print. If you have photos from previous years, you can see if you have a match or several visitors.

    You are so lucky!

    Thanks for that info! I will be on the look out for eggs. I do have other photos of the turtles in my garden and will check the markings.

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