Down With Power Audiobook!

L. Neil Smith's

Number 877, June 19, 2016

"Gun control is the idea that it's better to
see a woman dead in an alley, strangled with
her own pantyhose, than to see her with a gun
in her hand."—T.D. Melrose

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The Norseman's Diaries Part II: Return of the Cicadas
by Jeff Fullerton

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

A few weeks ago I started writing this article which was intended as a follow up for the previous entry and intended to document what I thought was going to be a great vacation in which not only did I knock out a few projects—but that long awaited trip or two that I've always wanted to write about.

Unfortunately the week turned out to be something more along the lines of "My Lousy Vacation" or Stay-Cation that started off with two days of wet and dreary weather along with a reptile show that wasn't ; followed by other problems which really put the damper on things in spite of the dramatic improvement of the weather which after that Sunday—the one before the Memorial Day weekend—went from a late spring chilly spell into full blown summer overnight. Seemed like the start of a prefect week off at long last. Or so I had thought.

To keep a long story short—the Greater Appalachian Reptile Show in Morgantown WV was canceled and my subsequent attempt to make up for it by ordering some baby turtles from the Turtle Source did not work out so well with the deaths of two hatchling Southern Painteds that I acquired along with a young Cumberland Slider that was my main objective for going to the show. I had gotten two at the previous show last September and I was seeking a replacement for the one that died. Failure to thrive—as it was always a picky eater unlike the survivor pictured below which fared very well.


Things like that happen sometimes with turtles and other animals. There always seems to be one or a few in a cohort of hatchlings that does not do as well as the others or is predisposed to illness. As for the Southern Painteds: they being young and delicate may have gotten sick in transit or picked up something when they arrived here. The new Cumberland slider so is thriving and getting along well with the one that came last fall.

At least there was that and some other good turtle news that week.

On the way back from the reptile show that wasn't—I stopped at a friend's place—the guy I borrowed the male to replace Franklin last Fall. While there I looked at his Gulf Coast flock and got to see the old male from the Ohio Show in 1995. This was the one who got frozen solid in his watering pan when he emerged during a warm spell one winter in the early 2000s. He survived surprisingly and is still sloughing off the damaged parts of his carapace.


A testament to the ability of these creatures to survive things like that in addition to brushfires or even a smashing on the highway. Is it any surprise they preceded and survived the dinosaurs!

Things were looking up as the weather finally turned nice going into Monday. But over the course of the week things sort of went south between the deaths of the two painted turtles and ambitious travel plans to Spruce Knob—the highest point on West Virginia and a trip to Zett's Fish Hatchery in Drifting PA that might have included a side trip to Altoona to visit the grave of H. Beam Piper who's novelette "Lone Star Planet" I finished recently. But all of that fell through on the account of my not feeling so well from sinus problems or a persistent cold that I am still trying to fight off and just being really too busy to travel. There were so many things in need of doing and the shorter trip I took to Somerset to pick up the Behlen tank that finally arrived and that was a cluster which took two tries because the first attempt I missed the turnoff entering town and did not make it before closing time. And the project itself—renovation of the DD Pen remains in a holding pattern as I continue to gather hardware and think things out as it involves the shifting of the existing setup to the upper pen and drilling of the barrel, and tanks and wooden structures with a hole saw.



In the meantime I got it up and running again to serve as a home for the younger Mauremys japonica in the lower section and a terrestrial setup for the adult females now that it's egg laying season!

There was another bit of astonishing turtle that week—the return of Adrianne; a female Eastern Box released on the property several years ago when I gave up native species. She returned again in the fashion of Franklin and even more astonishing; the turned up in her former enclosure—a small fenced in area that includes a sand bed and small pond that is pending upgrade as a daytime run for the Japanese Pond Turtles.


My guess—she came back to lay eggs—being that turtles are noted for fidelity to good nesting sites and it is the season. I put her back outside the 3 foot perimeter fence of hardware cloth and will keep an eye out in case she returns. In the future I may put in a sand bed in a sunny area along the outside to accommodate her or other female box turtles that might return. Could become a future conservation success story in years to come.

Speaking of returns—the one destined to become the main theme of this article is of course the return of the Periodical Cicadas—


AKA the 17 Year Locust. Magicicada septendecim—Brood V that emerges en mass every 17 years throughout its range across southwestern Pennsylvania an'd adjoining parts of Ohio, West Virginia and western Maryland. I knew they were coming all spring as I was turning up the nymphs that were posing for the event just about every time I put a shovel in the ground or lifted a rock or other object in the root zones of trees. And the turts were getting quite a treat once again. During the previous emergence in 1999 we were gathering the winged form in bags and freezing them to feed the turts for a while afterward. About the midpoint of vacation week was The Day.

I missed an awesome opportunity to photograph an abundant gathering of them on a poke berry plant near the Gulf Coast pens when I went to visit Franklin and the others who all ended up eating them in the winged form with gusto! Indeed the cicadas are a great food source for turtles and many other wildlife that take advantage of the mass emergence of these mostly harmless creatures. Indeed it is believed that this is an evolutionary strategy to overwhelm predators with sheer numbers to ensure that the majority of them are able to breed. And there is an even more outlandish theory concerning the periodicity of the events which are in prime numbers that make it difficult for other animals that feed on them to synchronize their population cycles with that of the cicadas!

It's just a fat year for everyone as the trees take a bit of a beating from the females drilling into the limbs to deposit their eggs. That's about all they do during the 4 to 6 week breeding season and then they die. Like some salmon runs.


And currently they are EVERYWHERE. Some days the chorus droned like the sound of a Star Trek phaser! And they are destroying the branches on one of the fringe trees by the greenhouse and an Asian Dogwood I planted last summer. I'm kind of glad I didn't plant too many new trees recently. The damage to small saplings can really set then back a year or so. To mature trees there will be a lot of dead tips that fall off and then that is it. The while thing will be over with and I won't have to worry again for another 17 years.

If we make it again.

The event before the previous one (1982) the state of the world in the early days of the Reagan Presidency and the Cold War ramping up for its final act—things at times looked quite doubtful. And I was even told so by an acquaintance who was convinced that Armageddon was just around the corner. That was probably the beginning of my disenchantment with fundamentalist religion. Well I lived to see it again at a time when it was looking much better—at least before Quinn had me scared to death for a while about the Y2K problem and martial law. Which in retrospect turned out to be a hoot something like remembrances of being hairless and bewildered in boot camp!

And now here we are again with the world on fire and the possibility of being compelled to wear the mark of the Hildabeast looming in the not so distant future.

Last week it was flooding in Texas, France and nearby Ligoneer and for a moment I thought maybe I ought to be building an ark instead of all those turtle pens! But we have to enjoy life sometimes and do the things that enhance our joy.

Thursday afternoon while grabbing a quick bite on the way to work I looked out and marveled at the Stella d' Orio Daylilies in the flower bed. Beautiful things that are the product of human invention. Much like the faux rock I ordered to cover the new access well for the electrical system I built by the pond. Or the hybrid Ladyslipper orchids that have now faded.


And many a great work of art and literature. Things that make America and western civilization worth saving from those who want to rule it or plunder and destroy.

It's too sweet a life to let go of without a fight.

New Electrical system access well

Faux rock cover

Blends very well into the landscape

Periodical cicadas article in Wikipedia

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