In My Backyard - Issue #11 - Turtles, Tortoises or Terrapins

The cold is officially over here in the mid-west and those days of drippy, humid temperatures have already begun. Though some of us might dread this warming weather, there are those who thrive in it. And I don't mean those warm-blooded humans but literally warm-blooded creatures also known as ectotherms. Snakes, lizards, and turtles are prevalent in these temperatures.

Last month I wrote about the Garter snake and though we haven't been visited by more of its kind-- and I know this would please some people-- we have had another neighbor of the same class. In fact, we have had four. Turtles, that is.

One evening my brother was looking out his window and spotted one in the yard. Unfortunately for the turtle, we all ran out to take a look. We took some pictures too.

A shy little guy, he stayed like that for the most part. Only after we backed up did he decide to make a run for it. Don't underestimate the little guys, they may not reach high speeds but they can make unexpectedly quick getaways.

Take a look at its claws. They're long and, as my brother noted, the colour goes down to the tips, unlike a dogs whose claws are usually a paler or darker colour.

The top of a turtle is called the carapace and the bottom is the plastron while the sides, what you see in the picture above, is called the bridges. Isn't the colour gorgeous? Take a good look at the structure of this turtles plastron, firm and unmoving. I'll point out a difference in a little bit.

The turtles shell is part of its skeleton connecting, believe it or not, to its ribs. Obviously, these guys can't wiggle out of their shell like they do on Mario games. Sorry.

Now though I may refer to it as merely a "turtle", it has a specific name. It is actually a Chicken turtle, named according to its taste that used to be quite popular in these parts. Here's a picture of one I found on the internet. Its colors are not so vivid but they look very similar.

Courtesy of Google Images
Twice we have seen one of these guys around here, the second time Mum spotted one out in the field behind our house. He was even shyer than the other and much dustier.

But I mentioned four encounters. The other two Dad brought home, on separate occasions, after coming across them on the road. They looked like this one.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Its hard to tell its size in this picture but they are smaller than the chicken turtle. The two he brought were a little lighter than this guy but the one thing I noticed immediately was their shape and different plastron. Take a look at the next picture to see what I mean.

Courtesy of Google Images

The upper part of its plastron closes like a hinge providing the turtle with complete protection from the outside. At first, knowing very little about them, I wondered if the smaller turtles were younger and could therefore close up while the larger ones had grown too big to close up. So I researched it. This little guy is a box turtle who can do it all the time, while Chicken turtles cannot.

Turtle, Tortoise, or Terrapin?

This is a questions I have often asked, what is the difference between a turtle, tortoise, and terrapin?

The turtle is an all around word meaning reptiles of the order Testudines, or Chelonii, while tortoise and terrapin are more defining. The turtle could mean anything from a large terrestrial turtle to an aquatic turtle to a tiny turtle living in brackish waters. The other two terms, however, define the type. Tortoise, for example, is a turtle that is a land-dweller. Like this big fellow:

Courtesy of Wikipedia

A terrapin on the other hand is a turtle that lives in fresh or brackish waters. To me, they are the small ones you can put in aquariums. But terrapins can be bigger than that, though how big depends upon the species. Tortoises are still the great monsters.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Above is a picture of a baby tortoise helping itself to a bit of lettuce. Too cute!

Now lets not forget sea turtles who inhabit most of the worlds oceans, handling salt water in their own special way. You may or may not know that sea turtles have glands near their eyes that release excess salt from their bodies sometimes causing them to appear as though they are crying.

Here's a beauty to gaze on:

Courtesy of Wikipedia

One very obvious difference between terrestrial and sea turtles is their appendages. Sea turtles, like this common Green sea turtle, have flippers, front and back, for swimming and they only go ashore to lay eggs while tortoises, on the other hand, have heavy clawed legs more fit for land travel. God created each one specifically for their location, and perfectly, otherwise they wouldn't have survived. A turtle with heavy claws and a love for water would hardly have a chance, just like one with flippers would be easy prey to land animals hungry for turtle. 

And this draws the eleventh issue of In My Backyard to a close. In one more month I'll have reached a year and in two I will celebrate its anniversary. Meet me back here for each of those events! Until then, keep your eyes open for what nature you already have around you and be sure to thank God for the blessing of it all.

Having Questions Doesn't Always Mean You'll Have Answers


This morning I was fixing sourdough biscuits  like I do just about every other day. (We leave them in the fridge till supper to let the sourdough do its duty). Gracie, our pit bull/lab mix, was laying on the cool linoleum sleeping. She's an outdoor doggy but we spoil her, and she doesn't complain. Anyway, as I was working I was talking to her about my writing. She's a good listener, she never has a problem with anything I say.


My thoughts had to do with character and plot influences. For example, if I was to create a story character, a girl named Jane, how alike would her character be to mine? There would be similarities since I am the creator of her character and therefore her knowledge would reflect mine. But how far of a reflection is okay? If I were to say she had red hair, (in case you don't know, I have red hair) would that be okay or would people point and say, "So are all your characters supposed to be you"?

I actually think, in this case, it would be acceptable. But what if two out of three novels had a heroine with red hair, would that be merely a reflection of my understanding, (since red hair isn't quite as prominent as blonde or brown), or would it be redundant?

Maybe the above is acceptable, maybe not. How about if my heroine had a love for cooking and was/had been homeschooled? I can connect with homeschoolers since I was homeschooled and I know the ups and downs, the feelings as opposed to public schoolers.


Then I come upon another question, to create a plot where there is a lot of unknowns for me, say for instance, a girl living in the Bahamas (I don't live in the Bahamas), I would naturally have to do a lot of research. But would I ever be able to write about her life in the Bahamas so convincingly that people would never guess that I had never been there? A good writer could, I really believe.

Since I am an amateur I fear I am stepping out of the bounds of my creativity by writing about things I can only research and never experience for myself, at least at the present. I am not against writing about what you know, but as I said in the beginning, how much should you write about what you know?

I've read that a lot of classics from writers like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Charlotte and Emily Bronte, whose works reflect their life. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility both reflect the lifestyle Austen lived in; she wrote about what she knew. Dickens also wrote about what he knew, the impoverishment of Londoners in A Christmas Carol, the difficulty of growing up and finding work, among other things, in Great Expectations. And the Bronte sisters suffered similarly to Jane in Charlotte's book, Jane Eyre.

So this obviously proves that writing about what you know is the essence of a good author. However, knowing how much to reflect of your life in your writing is a mystery to me. Naturally, my female characters, or at least the heroines, will have similar desires and interests. If they were to have a lot of similar interests, is this evidence of a lack of experience, or the inability to understand other characters and feelings unlike mine?


To sum up, I have two questions, make that three:
  1. How much of your writing should reflect your life/your interests? Or how much of a reflection is okay? and,
  2. Should inexperienced writers stick to what they know and not venture beyond the known until they've had sufficient experience? Which only asks the third question, 
  3. How much experience does one need?

I'm a strong believer in teaching yourself, learning as much as you can, and never saying something is too hard. But I also don't want to bite off more than I can chew. Realistically speaking, I feel there is still a lot I can't, or shouldn't venture to handle at this stage in my writing "career". Then again, maybe its just the insecurity and uncertainty in me that asks these questions.

Anyone care to give me some advice?


The versions we own.
Did you know that my favorite (modern) author is Michael Phillips? I have only recently discovered just how amazing his books are. I started reading his Secret of the Rose series a few years ago and I haven't found a better series or author since. This isn't to say I don't like any other modern writers. I've actually been quite occupied with Davis Bunn's books of late. But the depth to which Phillips writes is so thorough and yet not so much so that it is slow or boring. But here I go on a whole other topic. I'll save this for a later post.

The new covers. I love them!

In parting I'd like to add if Mr. Phillips could give me some pointers it would thrill my soul. And that doesn't happen very often.

The Result of a Knock on the Door

There we were, preparing lunch, when we heard a knock on the door. I answered it and this woman told me that the bible never says God rules the world. I said, "Ha!" and shut the door in her face. Actually, I awkwardly told her "I don't believe that" and proceeded to shut the door.

Afterward I kept going over in my mind how I could have handled the situation differently. She was totally wrong and didn't know it. Of course, I wouldn't have told her that in quite that way. And unfortunately I will never have the chance to try again. But at least I can tell the world from my little and obscure blog what I now think I should have said.

So, this morning I opened my tablet that I keep with my bible and wrote "Proof that God rules the World". Then I leafed through the pages to the concordance at the back. I didn't need reassurance; I wanted something to say next time someone told me that "the bible never says God rules the world".

I was looking for a specific verse that said it all. But what I soon realized was:

The whole bible is a testimony to the sovereignty God!

In other words, every verse, every event spoken of in the bible is an example of God's supreme involvement in the lives of humans. Even the events where man has failed or tragedy strikes.

Want some proof?

In 1 Samuel the writer says that God anointed Saul king. Assuming the reality of God's existence is already established, here is evidence that God moves in the world of humans. He cares about who rules us and how. If He wasn't the ruler of this world then how would He have the authority to appoint an earthly ruler over us (or in this case, the Israelites)?

Then, in Daniel 2, Daniel is interpreting one of King Nebuchadnezzar's dreams. He explicitly tells him that he is king through the power of God. If God hadn't wanted Nebuchadnezzar (easy to say, huh?) to be king then he would never had been made king. A wonderful example of God moving in the lives of unbelievers, even when they aren't aware. Another example of this would be Pharoah in Exodus.

And then there's Genesis where we find the account of creation, the first humans, the great flood, God's everlasting covenant with His people, etc.

Adam and Eve talked and walked with God, but when they deliberately did what He said not to, they had to pay the consequences. He put them out of His garden and we have all been suffering since. Thank God that's not the last word.

Abraham, a nomad, wandering with no place to call home, but now his descendants can be found worldwide even today. All because He acknowledged that God was sovereign, the ruler of all

All of these accounts are nothing if God is not sovereign. Clearly, God is the ruler of this world and all creation. All you have to do is open the bible and read. I wonder if the woman (the one at our door) ever did that. A good way to turn the tables would be to ask her if she could prove that with a bible in hand instead of her pamphlet.

Consequently, I did locate a verse (not that its the only one) that proves God's supremacy. Colossians 1:15-18 (this is truly an amazing piece of scripture):

"He [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all 
creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence." (Emphasis mine)

Wrap your noggin around that and tell me what you think.

A Beautiful Love Story - Part Four (ending)

Part Four (read parts one, two, and three):

Rebekah sat far into the night in the same spot on her window seat. Hours had passed and everyone had gone to bed long ago but still she sat unmoving.

Her thoughts gradually began to clear and reality began to sink in. Was this really from the LORD? She asked herself over and over. Obviously, if it was then she would have no choice but to agree. But was it?

Just that morning (or last morning?) she had told her best friend Abigail that there were no such plans for her marriage and now here she was about to be promised to a man she had never met and heard very little of.

She knew this day would come. Every girl did. But not every girl was thrown into it quite so quickly. Well, that's not completely true. At least this Isaac was a relative blessed by God.

What was she saying? In an instant her life had changed completely. If she went through this she would most likely never see her family or friends again. She would live in a land she had never ventured to before, live with people she didn't know, surrounded by unfamiliarity.

Rebekah moved down to kneel by the window seat. "Oh God of Heaven, what do I do. I... this is so foreign, and I am afraid... Are you really a part of this as they say? Do you really want this for me? What would you have me do?..."

The hours passed and Rebekah waited for an answer. She trembled with uncertainty and anticipation while unspoken feelings hung over her like a shroud.


Morning arrived too soon for Rebekah and her family but not for their guest. As soon as breakfast was over, he begged to be sent on his way, obviously eager to fulfil his task. Rebekah hadn't emerged from her room since retreating to it the night before.

Everyone sat around quite awkwardly. Bethuel and Laban, who usually had left to attend to work at this point were still home awaiting the ending result to this turn of events.

At the servants request, they finally addressed the issue. 

"Let us see what Rebekah has to say about this," said her father. Rebekah was sent for and she appeared a moment later in the doorway. Her eyes were tired but clear. Her manner was easy and poised.

"Yes, father?" She asked calmly.

He hesitated a moment and then cleared his throat. "Will you go with this man?" He asked simply.

The room was silent as everyone waited for her response. 

When she looked up, her gaze was steady and determined. "I will go."

The servant smiled and bowed his head in thanks, while her family tried to process the news.

Rebekah spent the next few hours packing her things with the help of her maids who would go with her as well. When all was ready and loaded up, Rebekah kissed her family and mounted her camel. The beast rose to its feet and the small caravan set off. She kept her head held high and only turned back once to wave one last time to all that she would leave behind. Then she set her face to the future.

God, she said in her mind, I have put my trust in you but I am still afraid. Give me courage, I pray.

Then she added, help me to be a good wife.

After travelling for days, they came to Canaan and Rebekah's curiosity began to rise. Was her betrothed handsome? Strong? Kind? Surely he was kind, God was with him. This gave her some comfort but the unknown dampened her hopes.

And then another thought entered her head. What if he didn't like her? Her stomach clenched. Maybe she wasn't what he expected? What if--? she stopped herself. This wouldn't do. There's no sense in encouraging the worry she felt. Yes, she had put her trust in God, but it didn't keep her from worrying.

They approached luscious fields of grain that made Rebekah think of home. A pang drove through her heart but was stilled as she saw someone coming near them off in the distance. Urging her camel forward, she came alongside the servant of her new master and asked who it was coming forward.

The man smiled knowingly. "It is my master's son," he said.

Rebekah's heart leaped into her throat and she bit her lip to still her tremors. So this was him, she thought. Straining her eyes to see, she watched him as he came closer and closer. He did look strong, she ventured to admit. In fact he strode with confidence and an air of authority which caused her hopes to rise.

A few feet more and she could make out his features just barely. He... he was very good looking. Then she blushed. She let her camel fall back to where her maids rode and drew her veil up over her face as was the custom.

They stopped before the man and each of them dismounted. He greeted the servant and spoke to him for what seemed like forever but in reality was only a few minutes. Then he turned to look at her. On shaky legs, she lowered herself before him. He walked slowly to her but she kept her eyes down. Almost kneeling down to her level he took her hand and raised her back up. Slowly she let her eyes move up to his face. She saw his eyes; they were as dark as the sunset. 

Suddenly all her fears were vanquished in single moment. When he smiled.


To read the story in its original form, see Genesis 24.

While reading this chapter in the bible, I always try to imagine just what Rebekah might have felt, and though I can't say for sure, this has been my opinion.

Often times we read the stories of the bible, and especially those of us who have grown up reading them, and tend to skim over and forget that these people were real with real feelings just like you and me. I find it comforting, and interesting, to see them this way and I must say, my story-writing tendencies always end up taking over.

I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If you would like to leave me a comment I would appreciate it. I'll answer any question I can as well.

A Beautiful Love Story - Part Three

Part Three (read part one or part two).

"Sit down, my friend, sit down and eat. We are pleased that you honour us with your presence."

Rebekah's father motioned for their guest, the servant of their relative Abraham, to take a seat at the table. Laban hovered around, his face full of curiosity. At this point, Rebekah realized they all were itching to know just what this man was sent for but decorum insisted proper hospitality before questions. Therefore, they were all surprised when the man refused to eat until he had told the reason for his mission.

"My master Abraham is growing old and he called me to him one day and bade me go to his people to look for a wife for his son Isaac," he explained. He went on to tell them of his masters great wealth and prosperity adding that Isaac was his only son, born to him when he was old. He was a blessing from God, the man declared.

He set out immediately to obey his master. Taking ten of his masters camels and a few servants, he travelled with haste for days, not taking much time to rest. It was obviously very important that he fulfil his masters command, thought Rebekah. Not often does one have a reason to travel at such a speed. This only proved to strengthen her awe and curiosity.

The servant continued. "I came to the well at evening time. No one was there at the present so I prayed in my heart that the woman God desired for my masters' son would act accordingly: I would ask for a drink from her pitcher and she would give me one and offer to give my many camels water as well. No sooner that I finished this thought than here came this young woman down the hill."

All eyes shifted momentarily to Rebekah. On any other occasion she might have felt awkward, but not at this moment. Hearing this stranger say her very actions before she did them in this way was unnerving to say the least, and yet she was not disturbed as much as enthralled. What manner of incident is this? She wondered. Is this from God?

The servant went on to relate the rest of what took place. He added finally, "Please tell me whether you will deal favourably with me or not so that I may know what to do."

The room grew silent.

Bethuel rubbed his bearded chin, Laban stared at the table in thought, and her mother stood by the counter behind her as still as stone. What was to happen now? She mused.

After a while, her father cleared his throat. "It seems that we can speak neither good or bad on this subject seeing that it is evidently of the Lord." Laban seemed to recover from his reverie. He looked at his father and nodded. "Here is my daughter. Take her, as the LORD has spoken, for your master's son."

Suddenly Rebekah's breath caught in her throat. She couldn't think. Everything had happened so fast. What was her father thinking? Questions not even fully formed bounced around in her mind.

Despite her apparent listless manner, the servant started praising God and clapping his hands together in relief. Rebekah hardly noticed the man's exit and quick return. She also didn't notice the great chests of treasures he began to lay before her father and mother and brother. Had she been aware she would have seen the slight sadness in her parents eyes and then the interest in her brother's eyes at the treasure before him.

A few moments passed and finally she deemed it time enough that she might excuse herself. She moved slowly down the halls toward her room, not even hearing her servants' questions as she walked passed. Approaching her window seat, she sat and stared at the moon outside.

One thought finally managed to make itself comprehensible.

...So this is my fate?...

(Read part one, two, and (ending) four).

A Beautiful Love Story - Part Two

Part Two (click here for part one).

The sun was starting to droop in the sky when Rebekah finished her sewing and began to attend to the last chores of the day. Her father had bought material for the dress she was making just for her on his last trip, which wasn't something he did very often. The material was beautiful, and of a shade rarely used due to its expense but here it was, ready for her to wear to some special gathering. She couldn't wait and felt very satisfied with the outcome.

The servants were busy cooking and doing other necessary chores, but she couldn't find her mother anywhere. She asked the trusted head servant if she had seen her mother and found that she was out in the garden. Rebekah decided to go ahead and fetch the water for the night and then go to see if her mother needed assistance.

Once again she lifted the pitcher to her shoulder and left through the kitchen door, grabbing a shawl on the way. The day had been warm but with the lowering of the sun, it would soon grow chilly. Before long her father and brother would be finishing their work and returning home. Then they would sit down to a delicious meal and afterwards her father would read to them as he always did.

She reached the well, this time alone, and proceeded to fill the pitcher. After lowering the bucket back down into the well, Rebekah lifted the jug to her shoulder and started back up the hill. Suddenly, to her surprise, a man came running up to her looking dusty and weary. He stopped before her and bowed.

"Could I have a drink from your pitcher, please?" He said.

Rebekah quickly lowered the pitcher and said, "Of course."

While the man drank his fill, she looked around and noticed the man's camels up the hill a little way. There were a good many which caused her to think he was a man of great wealth, but judging by the attire, he was most likely a servant of the man of wealth. His clothes were as good as a servant of high position would wear, albeit a bit dirty from travel, but she noticed certain elements that made her realize the man was from Canaan. Surely he is not a Canaanite, she thought. At least he didn't look like the Canaanites she had seen.

He sighed and smiled. "Thank you very much."

Rebekah smiled back. "Here I'll water your camels as well."

She ran back to the well and began filling the water troughs that encircled the well with water. There were ten camels in all, and since camels can drink a great deal of water, she took a good while finishing the job.

He rummaged through one of the packs on the camels backs and came up with three pieces of beautiful jewelry. To her surprise. He gave them to her and said, "Tell me, who's daughter are you? And do you have room in your house for a stranger, and food for his camels?"

Still curious, Rebekah said, "I am the daughter of Bethuel, son of Nahor. Yes, we have plenty of room, and feed for your camels." Housing unknown guests was something many of the people did since the nearest inn was miles away. Besides, common courtesy demanded it, and if it didn't, her brother Laban would. He was always eager to hear news of the outside world that might benefit them in some way.

The man gave a sudden laugh of relief and said, "Praise the God of my master Abraham who has led me to my master's own people."

Rebekah started and suddenly realized that he was speaking of their relative, Abraham in Canaan. She had often heard of him spoken of by her father as a man of great wealth and greatly blessed by the LORD. Never had she seen him but hearing the news that his very own servant was here seeking shelter made her see just how big this news was. Without another word, she dropped her pitcher and ran for home. Her father! She had to tell her father!

(Read part onethree, and four).

A Beautiful Love Story - Part One

Here's a little story I've written. I have split it into four parts, this is part one. (Read Part two, three, and four).

Rebekah awoke like she did every morning, to the beginning rays of the sun peaking in her window. Was it morning already? she asked herself. Pulling herself up from her pallet she methodically dressed and started the morning chores that must be done before breakfast. She found her mother in the kitchen already hard at work. She would soon help her but first she needed to go down to the well to retrieve water. Lifting the empty water pitcher to her shoulder, she set off for the well down the hill.

The morning was crisp and beautiful, causing her to smile despite the prospect of a busy day. Her gait was steady and she listened to the birds singing their songs in the trees above. The path she followed was an old one, worn down by the many years of being tread upon. She had walked it all her life, as did many before her. It was her lot in life, she thought fondly, and then absent-mindedly, was that all she was allotted?

A few of the young women from the surrounding homes were already there. She waved to a friend and muttered good morning to a couple of others. Abigail, her childhood friend, was coming down the hill a few feet away and she called to her. Abigail waved back in reply and met her at the well. The two young women hugged each other and talked about everyday things. While Rebekah was filling her pitcher, Abigail suddenly asked her: "Did you hear about Hannah?"

Rebekah gave her an inquisitive look while lowering the bucket back into the well.

"Her father has promised her to Reuel, son of Rueben ben-Jair."

Rebekah raised her eyebrows. "I've never thought of those two together before. What does she feel on the matter?"

Abigail squinted in the bright morning sun. "I can't say for sure, but at least she will not want for anything. The family is a wealthy one, as you know. I might even think better off than her own."

"Hmm, that's good for her." Rebekah turned thoughtful.

Abigail moved over to pour the contents of the now full bucket into her pitcher. "What are you thinking, Rebekah?"

"I was just thinking how nice it would be to marry a man who loved you before you married, not just after time had passed."

Abigail smiled. "You mean like your parents. Well, sometimes it works that way, and then sometimes you just have to be happy with what your father chooses for you."

Rebekah laughed. "That's easy for you to say after your father promised you to Yusef. I know how you've liked him since you were a child, you can't make me think otherwise."

Abigail blushed. "What about you? Has your father turned his mind to such arrangements?"

"If he has, he hasn't brought it to my attention. But Laban, on the other hand, has other ideas."

Abigail twisted her face. "Your brother will have you married to an old man; rich and old."

Rebekah just laughed. After a few more words, the two friends parted ways. They would possibly meet again later that evening to retrieve the water for the night.

Walking back up the hill, Rebekah thought about what her friend had said. How much longer would she be living here? Would her father really marry her off to some rich man? No, she smiled to herself, her father wanted more for her than just wealth. Then she remembered what Abigail had said about Laban. She was right, she knew. Laban loved her like a brother would but he always did have a love of wealth. His business methods had caused her father to gain more acclaim in his circles but then again she had never felt her father needed any help gaining respect from the townspeople.

She entered the kitchen door and immediately set to work helping with breakfast. But her thoughts were still on her and her friends conversation.

(Read Part twothree, and four).