Author Archives: tumbleweedstumbling

About tumbleweedstumbling

I have three blogs, embryogenesis explained, tumbleweed tumbling AND fulltimetumbleweed. I am a scientist, and my husband and I have written a book which will be published soon by World Scientific Publishing called Embryogensis Explained. Full time tumbleweed was my first blog which I worked on during five years of living full time in a travel trailer. I have now retired that blog in favour of Tumbleweeds Tumbling since we bought a stick house in April 2015 and are no longer full-time. I have a blended family of five sons and one daughter, all grown up now. I am (step)grandmother to nine boys and one girl. My husband and I have two dogs and a cat. We spend summers in Manitoba, Canada, in a 480 square foot house on a half acre of land in the tiny town of Alonsa. We spend winters in the USA. My husband is retired and being a US citizen, he does volunteer work in winters for Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea Florida as their emeritus. I retired in Sept 2013 and so far I am loving it.

Riding the Tide into a Salt Marsh

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We did something I have wanted to do for a long time. We rode the incoming tide from Levy Bay to the big pool at the intersection of Chattahoochee St in Panacea and Highway 98. There is a channel that winds through marsh grass swamps, sinkholes with springs, and some forested areas. The land is privately owned so you can’t leave the water but you do get to see some forest along the trip. We started at the Levy Bay landing which is a public boat dock. The marsh turns into impassable mud flats at low tide so we arrive one and half hours before high tide. By the time we had the canoe down and everything set up, we had one hour until high tide.

The tide rushes into these narrow channels at a brisk pace. You have to pay careful attention to avoid getting stuck on sandbars or hitting oyster bars. There are also lots of obstacles like fallen trees, remnants of old docks, and debris. Additionally the channel itself has many deep pools over springs where you simply can’t see the bottom in the brownish water. So we rode the tide in. In places it was like mini rapids. Always a strong flowing current fast moving to ride. The water is topped with foam, full of all kinds of bits of debris and detritus and it abounds with all kinds of crab holes along along the muddy banks of the marsh grass. We saw mullet, smaller fish, a string ray in black about 18 inches across the wing tips and many birds, especially egrets, cranes and vultures.

We did not bring our camera. We have used the rice trick (putting the camera in a bag of rice to dry out) once already after a canoe trip and while the camera recovered, the calendar never worked again so my pictures always come out marked as having occurred on 2013 date the camera got dunked. It was a good thing we didn’t try to take pictures. Riding the tide in those narrow channels at quite a good clip while avoiding all the potential places to spill was challenging enough. If you look at the picture you can see near the end of the route one very large and very deep pool. It was a real pleasure to come charging in there at top speed and find ourselves in this huge relatively calm place. The volume of water there is so deep even the incoming tide makes only a small impression. Though the water was clear we could not see the bottom making me wonder if maybe there is a smaller version of the Wakulla spring in the deepest place.

We rested a bit and then took the final small channel to the egret pond next to the highway. That was our goal. We see that pool every time we drive to the beach and I really wanted to find out why it always has at least three white egrets in it. We arrived at top speed out of the channel to find ourselves on a flat mud basin. The egrets were intently feeding and barely looked up, as if canoes with humans arrive here all the time. They had certainly had no need to worry since we were firmly grounded on smelly mud.

We unstack ourselves with much heave ho-ing and worked our way back up the channel to the deep pool. The tide was already ebbing. By the time we crossed the deep pool the rush of water had ended so we leisurely wended our way across the pool and then back up the channel. As we arrived in sight of our truck the tide began to turn and run back out. We rode the reversed current the last few hundred yards.

Being a prairie girl and not accustomed to the ocean, the tide fascinates me. The marsh breathes the water in and then breathes it out. The grass and creatures that live on the shore line have adapted to thrive in the rhythmic rise and fall. The marsh’s rich detritus is carried out of the marsh with the tide and feeds the wildlife at the bottom of the food chain. Farther and farther up the food chain larger and larger creatures wait at the mouths of the channel and then at the mouths of the bay ready to eat. The marsh is the food source of many creatures in the bay.

The marsh also serves as a nursery for much of the sea life. Many fish swim into the bays and lay eggs and then swim out. The fry hatch and grow in the shelter of the marsh feeding on insects and the like until they are finally big enough to ride the tide out. The endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles feast on blue crab in the bay for two years or so before continuing their slow migration back around the gulf to their breeding places. The mud flats, like the final place we saw all those egrets, is its own feasting place for these and many other glorious birds..

One of the unfortunate things that has happened in Florida is that many of these nurseries and feeding places have been filled, levelled and now have shopping malls and hotels and houses. Wakulla has been blessed with acres and acres and acres of coastal wetlands that protect and nourish the Gulf. There is a tale of this area that says a very rich woman once asked naturalist and writer Jack Rudloe how to best help sea horses. He told her protect the marshes on the coast because the marshes feed the reefs just off shore where the sea horses live. And so she bought six miles of coastland marsh and she does nothing with it except protect it in order to protect the sea horses.

The world needs more such wise women.

Trump derangement syndrome strikes again.

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Trump derangement syndrome strikes again. Dick’s cousin sent a long diatribe about some swastikas and Nazi symbols on a New York subway. Disgusting stuff yes, but obviously amateurish, written in felt pen. (Other subway riders promptly removed the stuff with hand sanitizer, hurrah for them.) The message from the cousin blamed the event on President Trump and demanded we immediately repudiate President Trump and join him to rise up against President Trump before we all end up in gas chambers.

I replied that, where such statistics are kept, such blatant acts of Jew hate are overwhelming done by radical Islamic extremists and the Democratic Party has among their consideration for leadership, a person whom experts on the topic say has a lot of ties to radical Islamic extremists so maybe he should look at his own party if he is worried about gas chambers for Jews.

My husband told him President Trump could not have written that graffiti because someone would have seen him do it and President Trump would have signed his own work. He then added that President Trump had more Jewish grandchildren that both of them combined so gas chambers for Jews are highly unlikely under his presidency.

The cousin said that he should tell us to just f*ck off but since Dick is a relative he would be polite. He then devolved diatribe about how crazy we are, followed by many more far less flattering descriptives  including implying we are abnormal by sending us copies of email messages calling for the ousting of President Trump from his buddies (and forwarding emails of those who agree with him under the title of “This how normal people react.”). Then he said we are never, ever to contact him again. He finished by citing stuff from the group he is in that is going to ‘rise up’ against hate and overthrow President Trump and take back the USA . (Apparently he did not see any irony in claiming he is against hate while directing so much hate at us himself. Like these folks.)

People like this are, quite simply, f*cking deranged nutcase loons. Thank goodness this cousin is also a strong advocate of gun control he boasts about not owning one and he lives in New York. I shudder to think what such a hate filled angry person could to us do if he owned a gun and lived nearby.

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I disagree with just about everything Noam Chomsky says and stands for but I agree with him on this point about free speech.

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And that makes the fourth relative that has cut us off. Love Trumps Hate indeed. Just goes to prove that old adage about how you can pick your friends but not your relatives.

And by the way, I do not believe in gun control for law abiding citizens, like me.

Lil Girl Released to the Sea.

Another post about turtles.

Embryogenesis Explained

Yesterday we attended the hatching of a loggerhead sea turtle named Lil Girl. Lil Girl had been a resident of Gulf Specimen Marine Lab since she failed as a test subject on a turtle exclusion device. She was one of several hatchlings who were taken from Florida, transferred to Galveston Texas where she was raised by NOAA until she was the perfect age and size to stand in as a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle in experiments on mandatory equipment used by shrimp fishermen that allow turtles to be excluded instead of drowned.

Turtle exclusion devices are, in my opinion, the very best of humanity in action. Instead of simply railing at evil of humans who accidentally kill turtles as by-catch a constructive solution was researched, developed and then tested. The problem is solved in a rational and practical way that still allows humans to eat shrimp. This wonderful and incredibly…

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Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid

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After we finished viewing the Moody Gardens Rain Forest Pyramid we again took advantage of the Senior on Tuesday special where you can get into a pyramid for $10 and we took in the aquarium. Unfortunately for us, the aquarium is undergoing a major renovation so about half the displays were shut down. This was disappointing but we still had a great time because the big aquarium, the shark tank, the seal tank and the penguin habitat were open. The penguins are absolutely delightful to watch and they seem as curious about the visitors we we were watching them. They had several different species many of whom were swimming about and more than once they would swim right up to the class to look at us.

I noticed many of the fish in the aquarium were doing the same thing. About half of them just went about their business ignoring us but about one quarter actively approached the glass and interacted with us as if we were entertainment. The angelfish in particular seemed to find us fascinating. The last one quarter of the fish were very shy and could be startled if we moved quickly so we didn’t. They stayed well away from the glass. The aquarium is beautifully designed with many glass insets so you can get right up and almost into the tank.

The seals were also fun to watch. They are so fast and graceful. The seals are rescues who have lost an eye or two and are deemed unfit to return to the wild. How did that blind seal manage to move around so quickly and so easily without bashing into the glass?

The last display was the shark tank. It is a big tunnel the same as the tunnel at Assiniboine Park where you can see polar bears swimming above you. Here is a great white shark about four feet long. Frankly the polar bears put on a better display. The shark just did this random swim looking ominous.

If you are in Galvaston and you qualify as a senior (and then let you decide, they don’t check ID), be sure to check out Moody Gardens on a Tuesday. $5 per pyramid and well worth the wonder. Allow at least two hours per pyramid. There is a lot to to see. And wear proper shoes because it is also a lot of walking although if you need assistance the facility is fully accessible.

Moody Garden Rainforest Pyramid

Another great Galveston deal is that they have a special price for seniors at Moody Gardens. For $5 you can walk any of the big pyramid displays. We decided to do two of them, the Rain Forest pavilion and the aquarium. Now I should start with a caveat here, that being I normally avoid places wild animals are on display for profit. However I heard some good things about the Moody Gardens and I am glad I went.

One thing I really appreciated was that their reptile displays also had separate explanations about why reptiles make very poor pets and how damaging the reptile pet trade is to these gorgeous but vulnerable creatures. We got to see many reptiles and amphibians from teeny tiny little frogs in magnificent colours to huge Komodo dragons and monitor lizards. And there were many matching explanations on how they don’t make good pets. They had a few stunningly beautiful large Amazon parrots and again I was pleased to note big displays about why these long lived birds do not make good pets and how devastating the pet trade is on the wild population especially how many birds die to get one to a pet shop. They included a display on what kind of birds you can have as pets and they recommended only captive bred finches, pigeons and one other domesticated bird.

We also got to some totally new creatures, fresh water rays. We are very familiar with rays from Gulf Specimen Marine Lab but I had no idea there were lovely and beautifully patterned fresh water rays in the Amazon. I love finding out completely new things. We got there for feeding time and I also learned they have a vigorous breeding program. All the animals on display are females. Males are kept in the research areas and used for spawning. This ensures there is no cross breeding between the brightly patterned species types. As is so often the case, the guy doing the feeding knew an enormous amount about the creatures he cares for even if he was not one of the resident scientists.

The rain forest pyramid is set up so that you enter at the top of the canopy and spiral around and down to finally reach the forest floor. At each section there is something special featured. One section had lovely bright orange birds who are very tame and happily pose to the camera. There was section full of butterflies, insects raised right here at Moody Gardens. We saw a pair of monkeys and I got to see a tropical rain forest bat almost as big as my house cat. We have bats at home but they are tiny little mouse sized brown bats so it was fascinating to see these really big ones.

Near ground level they had a lot of pools and streams and waterfalls with fish and turtles in the tanks. The water seemed to be really clear and high quality and the animals looked very well cared for. We even saw some axolotls in sparkling good health. And so I am glad I went. it was well worth the mere $10 we were charged.

Galveston Historical Section Walk

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This is the dog sculpture. The tree had grown around the fence but the hurricane took it down. The paws of the dog replicate the way the tree had once grown over the fence. Many of the sculptures also had whimsical holiday additions.

There are a lot of things to do and to see in Galveston. One I can highly recommend is the historical homes walk. I got the idea from my absolute favourite RV blogger Ingrid at Live Love Laugh who posted about it in one of her blogs. There are many ways to do the walk. There is a company with a lovely open bus with padded seats where you can sit and you are driven around to see every site. We chose the cheap one, the self guided walking tour. The full distance of the walk is five miles. We started at the Galveston visitors centre, a move I highly recommend, and left with two pamphlets. One is a map of all the historical points of interest and one is a map of special tree sculptures.

The tree sculptures have a special history. In 2008 Galveston was flooded and damaged by hurricane Ike which landed as a category 2, near to category 3. Many homeowners lost beloved giant trees. Some of the homeowners arranged to have artists come in and carve the stumps and denuded skeletons in beautiful wood carved memorials.

Each historical house also has a sign explaining who built the house, why it is considered historical and information on the style of the building. One of the things that makes Galveston architecture so interesting is new European immigrants brought their home building styles with them and so you end up with Italian and German and English houses beside each other.

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The homeowners in the historical area take their responsibility very seriously and the majority of the homes were beautifully maintained and had gorgeous yards. A large part of the pleasure of the walk is enjoying the gardens. And many of the homeowners were out and they were all friendly and happy to chat with the tourists.

The walk took us about two and half hours because we took in so much and we quit halfway through. If you enjoy such things I recommend doing it in two sections. Best of all, it’s free!