Garden planning with the family reptile! A lesson in sharing.

It may only be mid-February, but it is time for me to begin planting my vegetable seeds if there is going to be any reasonable expectation of setting out plants in April. I’ve poured over the seed catalogues, made my vegetable choices for the summer garden, and I’m ready to start putting the little gems into their peat pots. I have pre-springtime routines and the time is NOW! But I’m in the throes of a minor space dilemma. I have some competition this year.

Meet Darwin!

If you didn’t previously read my post on how he came to be mine, you might enjoy reading more about this once fifty-cent sized Sulcata Tortoise! Read this charmer’s brief

Darwin joins the familybiography here. I'll tease with a photo.

biography here.  I’ll tease with a photo.

Housing him has been a problem! He long-ago outgrew even the largest glass reptile aquarium. Free-range time in the yard works well in good weather, but this guy needs a constant source of heat in cold. So, as soon as summer turned to autumn I gave him temporary housing in my greenhouse. Or at least it was supposed to be temporary–just until we built him his own home!

We thought he could just “winter” in the greenhouse with his side-kick Rocky, a much, much smaller box-tortoise. I didn’t think of giving it to him permanently! But this hulk of a guy has figured out how to move about freely. He has claimed his space. When the sun is high, out he goes, and with no prodding on our part he lurches over the raised threshold, finds a spot of sun and basks until he’s ready to exercise.

Strolling around the yard

After a season of motoring about the yard he seems to watch the sun and before we can even note the changes he very quickly reverses course and heads home!

Remember my comment that he needs a constant heat source?

Oh yes it DOES rain in Southern California
And it didn't stop!

All photos, bright sunshine and rain, were taken this week. It’s not at all unusual for us to forget that rain may sweep in unexpectedly leaving this guy vulnerable, especially because he likes to burrow. So since it’s clear that the greenhouse is giving Darwin his ultimate independence as well as protection, I’ll be spending some time this weekend mucking out the floor and giving in to 50% less space than last season.

Protecting this little guy is important, but so is my pre-garden space. I may have to do some readjusting in the greenhouse for shared occupancy, but I’ll probably be sharing some of the vegetable yield with Darwin, too, so I might as well start thinking cooperation!

The well-being of our critters is important, too

Enjoy a peaceful weekend, my friends.  Debra

38 thoughts on “Garden planning with the family reptile! A lesson in sharing.

  1. Love the turtle, Debra. His obvious enjoyment of his space is a testament to you. On this coast, we have to think about gardening now, too. We usually get greens to grow through the winter, but it is about time to contemplate those tomato plants. 🙂

    1. I like this time of year…all the anticipation of the garden without too much responsibility in that area quite yet! I’m surprised at how much pleasure we get from this little tortoise…I’m easily amused! I’m happy to share him with you 🙂 Debra

  2. What a wonderfuls story! I love turtles but we haven’t seen any here. We do get all kinds of frogs and toads. They also have the prehistoric look to them but they find their own food. I’m glad you have him but considering how large he gets, the pet shop should advise people about that. I can see someone dumping one out because they got too large.

  3. My grandparents had a tortoise when we were children and gave it to us when we were old enough to care for it. Thankfully it was a very small one and grew very slowly, not like your rapidly-growing giant. Having googled the species, it can grow to one metre across! Hope your greenhouse is big enough, Debra. 🙂

    1. The rain was a surprise! I have also been told that other older Sulcata’s are sometimes rented at children’s parties as rides! I can’t quite imagine, but I guess we’ll see 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! Debra

  4. There was a time when I wanted a tortoise but, frankly, being this far North, it really isn’t in the creature’s best interest. Better they find homes like your own, where they can live most of the year outdoors with plenty of room to roam. So, I’ll enjoy tortoise ownership vicariously through your blog postings. Finally a pet that won’t cost me a fortune in vet bills! Thanks, Debra!

    1. Yes, I think unless you want to keep a tortoise in your kitchen, it probably isn’t a good idea 🙂 But he is a comparatively inexpensive pet! In the middle of the summer he has a voracious appetite and we feed him tons of fresh broccoli…in those times he eats better than most people! I’m glad you enjoyed his little visit! Debra

  5. Darwin! A fitting name for a turtle. Our daughters would just love to have such a pet. Jennifer once saw a huge turtle crawling along near her condo, called the police as she was afraid it would be run over. They thought nothing of it and she waited to make sure it got to other side. Long wait.

    I see a series of children’s books. I’m always seeing children’s picture book. Darwin. Darwin and Sophia. Darwin and the Big Rain. Darwin’s New Greenhouse. Quick, somebody help Penny.

    1. I have friends in Arizona who often see them crossing the road. I would find that VERY distressing! I love that your daughter called the police! So caring! I like the sound of the children’s books! The titles are great 🙂 Maybe I need to take tons of pictures for the “if I ever get to it” project list! D

  6. He is quite big… I hear you on sharing space. My mom had a few and then they had kids, it took a while to distribute them to others… Hope a happy medium is found. Where is the other one hiding? 🙂

    1. The other little guy is in a terrarium, of sorts, in the greenhouse. He doesn’t seem to have quite the same personality! I would LOVE to have the opportunity to see some little babies…how fun would that be! D

  7. Dear Debra,
    I’m so glad you linked us to your earlier posting on Darwin. The two pictures of Sophia and Karina feeding him are delightful. How devoted you are and what a wonderful friend you ar to animals. Once you make a commitment you keep it. That’s so admirable.

    As a side note—I read a recent comment of yours on Penny’s blog about how much you enjoy learning about World War I. If you like mysteries, I recommend the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. In the first book of the series (“Maisie Dobbs”) you’ll be in the upstairs/downstairs atmosphere of Downton Abbey. As the books progress–there are about eight or nine in the series now–you learn more and more about World War I.


    1. Dee, thank you so much for the recommendation about the Maisie Dobbs series. I haven’t previously heard of them and I think I would definitely enjoy the context for a good mystery series. I’ll look into them! And I’m glad you enjoyed the little post about Darwin…isn’t it funny how special these little critters are to us. There is something personally satisfying about nurturing one of God’s little beings! 🙂 I know you know ALL about that!! Debra

    1. Kate, you probably know how much it means to me that you’d share Darwin with your delightful children! I love that! I have commented so frequently on how much admire their curiosity and love of learning, so to be even a small part of that brings me much happiness. Thank you for sharing that piece of news with me! Debra

  8. Morning Debra, I adore your tortoise, i would just love to have one but I am sure he will not be happy in our winters, and your fella is so big! Does the rain hurt him? or just the drop in temp, I am in Love!! c

    1. Celi, With all your many animals, a tortoise would be fun…absolutely no work 🙂 You would need a constant heat source, but I think that’s about it! I’m glad I could share him with you. He’s really quite dear–surprisingly so! D

  9. Pingback: Debra and Jay play “Where’s Darwin?” | breathelighter

    1. Anonymous

      Your tortoise, though very cute, is malnourished. That pyramiding of the shell is from too much protein, and not enough calcium. You need to change his diet or environment or both or it will get worse and may cause MBD.

      1. Wow! You’ve really caught me by surprise. We will have to try to get some more information. I’ll have to analyze the components of his diet because he gets a lot of calcium through broccoli, and I’m not sure what we could be providing him that has protein. I’ll definitely do more research and get some veterinary advice. Thank you for your concern and the alert. He’s a very special family member and we do want to provide the best for him.

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