Saturday, March 30, 2013

Boo update

Little Boo, our Greek tortoise, is doing SO well! He has gained quite a bit of weight, he is eating lots of new weeds and greens I pick for him, and he is much more friendly.  

Boo still hides when you first pick him up...
When we first got Boo, he felt alarmingly light when you picked him up. Now he feels nice and heavy, like a healthy tortoise should. If you look in the picture above, you can also see a nice bright new growth ring showing up. I'm happy to see that the new growth is nice and smooth.

...but then he comes back out of his shell, and squirms and sniffs you!
I love Boo's little tortoise face. He has huge eyes, and a funny little nose...

Boo from the side. Such a handsome little dude!
Boo also has a nice new outdoor enclosure now that he spends the daytime in. A few months ago I found a big 6'x4' heavy-duty-plastic koi pond on Craigslist. I excavated a hole, filled the hole with gravel, drilled drainage holes into the bottom of the pod, put more gravel into the pond, covered the gravel with landscape fabric, and put the dirt back in, now mixed with some leaves and a little sand. 

Boo, on top of the little hill I built in there
The outdoor enclosure is on the west side of the house, so it is shady there until about 11am. Because of this, Boo stays indoor during the morning, and then once the sun hits this area, I bring him outside. He'll spend all the sunny days outside, but when it is pouring, he gets to be indoors, since cold, wet weather isn't good for these little guys.

Not much is growing in there right now...
I transplanted a few plants and weeds, and I seeded the whole enclosure
with a tortoise-friendly seed mix my friend gave me. 
Because this side of the house gets direct afternoon sun for several hours, I had to make sure to create multiple micro-climates for Boo. I built him an insulated tortoise hide out of an old recycling bin and a cement mixing tub, filled with organic top soil. He can dig down into there if it gets too hot.

The view of the Koi pond - the tub in the back is 1/2 of the hide house.
The water dish is missing from the picture above - but you can get a general idea of the enclosure. There is a hill, some rocks, some plants, a hide house (in the pic above the roof is missing from it).

Boo likes the thistle and the rosemary plant.
 I only have pictures of Boo hiding while he's in the enclosure, but he actually really enjoyed walking all around and exploring. He sunned himself for a little while, and finally dug down into the dirt.

The outdoor enclosure with the lid down.
The above picture shows the enclosure with the lid on. This is to help protect Boo from any hawks, crows, or cats that might happen by during the daytime. The odd green grassy stuff came with the lid (used to be part of an iguana cage), and still needs to be trimmed. It will provide some nice dappled shade when I finish trimming and attaching it better.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Variety, variety, variety!

When you ask a tortoise expert what to feed your tortoise, the first thing you will be told: VARIETY! There is no ONE plant that is perfect for tortoises. In the wild, they graze, and they get all the nutrients they need by eating a wide variety of foods.

Shelton, our foster tortoise, refuses to eat store-bought foods. He won't even touch romaine, which is normally a treat for my other tortoises! Weeds, on the other hand, he will tear into like there is no tomorrow. He ate the entire pile you see below.

Shelton chowing down - no more hunger strike!
On today's menu: dead nettle, miner's lettuce, dandelion flowers and leaves, thistle,
and broad-leaf plantain.
Different tortoises prefer different plants - even within a species. Some of my Russians are little piggies that will eat anything, others are very picky. I try to offer a wide variety, so that everyone will eat and thrive.

Timmy enjoying some strawberry leaves, sedum, raspberry leaves, and violet leaves and flowers
As the seasons change, different plants grow in my garden, in my friends' gardens, and near our home. Of course I make sure none of the plants I harvest have been sprayed or are too close to roads. I enjoy collecting food for my tortoises - it is part of my weekly routine. Except for December and January, I don't purchase food for my torts.

Boo enjoying some sedum, violet, and strawberry leaves
I know that for new tortoise owners, the prospect of memorizing edible plants might feel daunting. I recommend printing off this (good but incomplete) list of edible plants HERE. There is also a good list HERE. Maybe you can memorize just one or two at a time. It is best to err on the side of safety, never feed your tortoise something you aren't sure about.

IMPORTANT: please make sure the plants have not been treated with chemicals. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Tortoise Paintings in my Etsy shop!

I finally have listed some new tortoise paintings in my Etsy shop, Mossy Tortoise (!

A little Russian tortoise, ready to be gifted!

A baby Sulcata tortoise meeting a snail

A baby Leopard tortoise meeting a goldfish

A little Russian tortoise, basking

A hatchling Leopard tortoise stealing a bite of apple

A happy little Russian tortoise, going out for a stroll

A hatchling Redfoot tortoise

An adult Redfoot tortoise

A close-up of a Yellowfoot tortoise

A Radiated tortoise from Madagascar

A lumpy bumpy Indian Star tortoise

A gopher tortoise

A top view of a pancake tortoise

If, by the time you get there, the one you want has sold out, just send me a message in Etsy, and I can have a print made in 5x7 or larger.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Greeks vs Russians

This sunny weather the past few days has been so nice. It was still a little chilly, but I decided to let the tortoises tank up a bit of good old 'real' sunshine. The 4 Russian tortoises had a BLAST, climbing and running all over the place. Boo, our Greek tortoise, on the other hand... well...

"I'm not coming out. You can't make me."
Boo spent the ENTIRE time hiding in his shell. I don't let my Greek interact with my Russians, mainly to prevent them from trading pathogens. They have separate tortoise tables in separate rooms, and I wash hands between handling them. One of the Russians managed to cross over into Greek lawn territory, however...

"Hey! You look different!"
Mila was very curious about Boo, she sniffed his shell, and then tried to bulldoze the side of his shell. When she started to circle him and moved towards him with her mouth open in classic territorial defense, I separated them. Boo probably didn't notice any of this - he remained snuggly tucked into his shell the whole time.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Russian Tortoise Feeding Frenzy!!!

All the sunshine of the last few days has brought forth a wonderful new crop of fresh weeds for my tortoises! 
They are going absolutely NUTS over the dandelions and miner's lettuce I harvested for them yesterday. 

Russian tortoise feeding frenzy!
I think it is safe to say that the 'bought food' season is finally over - growing/collecting healthy leafy greens is more work, but also SO much healthier for my little tortoises!