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Of turtles and interventions, financing suspect vehicles

The family farm is thick with nature — bears and cougars, owls and heron and turkey vultures, raccoons and deer galore — but the wild creature that caught everyone’s fancy in the last few years is a turtle that pitched up in the Lower Pond. It’s a native, a western painted turtle, so called for the distinctive red underbelly (called a plastron on turtles). It is hard to catch a glimpse of this colouring but when the turtle suns himself on a log his ochre tints reflect in the pond. That’s how we knew he was a Painted Turtle, and not one of the invasives.

Why the turtle caught our fancy I’m not sure. Turtles, like rabbits, have the public relations advantage over other wildlife of being featured in children’s books. They are slow and self-reliant. Both those are at least non-threatening qualities, if not actually attractive. At a well-oiled family gathering featuring three feminist daughters/step daughters, a strong wife and my locomotive-powered mother-in-law I floated the idea that turtles, like pigs and women, have shapes that are innately pleasing to the eye. As I toiled over the dishes by myself that night, I had plenty of time to reflect on how that didn’t go over so well.

Whatever the reason, we all found the turtle pleasing, and reported sightings to each other with the same enthusiasm and marvel usually reserved for the appearance of the first spring crocuses.

Then my wife, a serial interventionist, who can’t stand to leave anything that is less than perfect just be, decided the turtle needed a better place to sun himself than a rotten windfall log. So, over my objections that we should leave nature be, she went online, downloaded plans for a turtle float and built it in an afternoon. That evening she and cousin Emily kayaked into the pond and anchored the float with a rope and concrete block.

My experience with such interventions is that they often don’t work. The house built for swallows is taken over by starlings; squirrels eat the seed set out for birds. But in this case I was wrong, or so it seemed. The next day the turtle was spotted on the float. Every day he sunned himself on the float, more regularly and for longer periods than he ever did on the log.

There was talk of another float, and hope of another turtle. Family discussions always included the turtle, and the float, and what this kind of intervention meant. Doubtless he enjoyed the float but I thought it might have made him lazy and careless, in the way that the social welfare state can take the impetus to work from some able bodied people.

Then an otter arrived in the pond. We have not seen the turtle since. Is there a relationship between the intervention and the otter? No one knows.

Here’s the thing about mucking about with nature (which is really what farming is all about): the unintended consequences are as marvellously intriguing as nature’s creatures themselves.

Financing the sale/purchase of old vehicles

We’ve all had the experience of either buying or selling an old vehicle or piece of equipment to a family member or friend. Its time for the old F250 to go, and the brother-in-law needs a junker for hauling firewood. There’s no advertising, or dealing with the public, it seems like a natural transaction. But we all know that doing business with family and friends is fraught with trouble. Brother-in-law buys the truck and it doesn’t make it to his place before the front hub digests itself.

A carpenter who was working for us came up with what seems like no-fail solution to this kind of situation. He sold his well-worn Chev pickup to a friend on a payment plan. They agree on an overall price of $1600 to be paid off at $200/month. If the truck ran for eight months without significant problems Chris got full value. If something serious went wrong before eight months payments would stop. So, from the seller’s point of view, the risk/awkwardness of dealing with family is reduced. From the buyer’s point of view there is essentially a warranty on the old vehicle that, should something serious happen at, say, the second month, the entire investment is not lost. At worse, the buyer has paid (in this case) $200/month while the vehicle runs. That’s fair for even an old junker.

It’s an elegant solution all round.