Notes From the Zookeeper: How DO You Move a 525lb Tortoise?

It’s the best time of year – SPRING IS HERE! And do you know what that means? It’s time for Big Al to go on exhibit! Al the Aldabra Giant Tortoise loves to be back out on exhibit. He likes to be out in the fresh air, natural sunlight, green grass, and in the midst of his adoring public.

So how do we move this big guy? In the past, we have lifted him in the back of a truck and driven him to the front of the zoo. And by “we,” I mean 8 guys who are way stronger than I am. Al does not enjoy being lifted. It’s unsettling for a tortoise to be lifted off their feet, but there wasn’t a better way. Until this year. This year, we have a crate!

Big Al did not fall off the turnip truck yesterday. He knows what it means when the exhibit design team and our curator appear at his enclosure. And he does not like it. Last fall, he did fine walking toward the truck until he heard our curator’s voice, and then he knew for SURE what was about to happen. He headed off in a different direction as fast as his chilly legs could carry him. So it’s all about patience and baby steps. I did ask my curator to steer clear so Al wouldn’t be tipped off.

Al loves my son, so I had him walk Al toward the greenhouse gate with a handful of honeysuckle. Exhibit design team came down to meet me. In order for the move to be as stress-free as possible, I told the team to treat it as a social call. They could offer him treats, pet him, etc. My goal was to keep them from having to push or pull on him because once that happens, he is no longer game, and our job would be much more difficult. The tricky part was that the greenhouse is surrounded by woods – lots of delicious things to eat. If he headed off-course, we’d have to wrestle him into the crate.

How do we move a Giant Tortoise? Like this:

We planted grass and clover last fall, and I over-seeded a few times to get the lot ready for my sweet boy. And he has thoroughly enjoyed it. He stayed up way past his bedtime because he couldn’t stop eating the delicious, fresh grass.

The move was completely without fear or trauma. He did not lose his trust in me, and was happy enough to pose for a picture. No hissing and running. Yay!

Who’s a tired boy? Normally he’s down for the night by now, but he’s so intrigued by the clover that he is only taking a nap. How do I know? By his stretched out neck. When he is down for the night, he parks himself with his head against a wall.

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Notes From the Zookeeper: Team Player! And the Cutest Thing

Gotta make this quick because I woke up late. But I promised to share an amazing video, so here I am.

Here’s a sneak peek:

Grumpy little Northern Spider Tortoise.  Freshly hatched with plastron still folded

I did something crazy a few weeks ago. No surprises there, really. I am kind of unpredictable a times. But the zoo is a corporate sponsor of the local marathon, and that meant we needed a TEAM. I am a team-player, friends. I likes me a good team, and I LOVE a long walk, so I signed up for the 1/2 marathon. Not to run it, mind. I was put together out of spare parts, kind of like a platypus. I cannot stay sound enough to run anywhere unless chased. Even when I’m chased, I am not fast. I can only win in the survival of the fittest by pushing someone down. Don’t gotta be fast, just faster than someone else, right?

Anyway, yesterday was the day. I originally had a goal of finishing in 3:30 – three hours, thirty minutes. That’s how fast you have to walk it before they start taking the course down. But then I developed this pesky arthritis in the ole spinal column, so my plans changed. Finish the thing with no time goal. Finish, or die trying.

My view yesterday morning:

The Sun Sphere, a Knoxville landmark from my childhood. I have some bitterness about this beautiful thing. Remind me to tell you about it sometime. No, Marge, I did not forget.

Who’s an excited girl?

40 degrees, not quite daylight, but here I am with about 5000 of my closest friends!

And the crowd builds energy. So many people of different body shapes, all out here with a common goal. Also, something I didn’t expect.

Yeah, that’s a T-rex. See that yellow bib? That means it’s running the full marathon. Godspeed, my Cretaceous friend!

I hung with some of my teammates for a while, but though I am not built for running, you can wind me up and I’ll walk all day. It was actually more comfortable for me to open my stride and walk faster. And the miles fell down behind me. I started passing people, especially on the hills. You’ve never seen my legs, but I do not have calves – I have steer. I am MADE for climbing hills. Plus. I walk our neighborhood, and it is uphill in both directions. I am a rock star when it comes to churning up hills. Then the sun came out, and I got to see some of the prettiest parts of my city on my stroll.

Mile 13. I am so happy, having SO MUCH FUN!

I could not stop smiling. An officer at mile 13 barked “There’s no smiling in marathons!” I yelled back “The course hasn’t been taken down yet! I am achieving my goal!” He tossed me a thumbs-up.

And then, there it was. The finish line. This marathon finishes runners on the 50 yard line of our football stadium. We’re projected onto the jumbo tron as we cross, and then a volunteer hands us a space blanket and a medal. It was an incredible moment!

And here I am!

Selfie at the finish line! I did it! LOOK AT MY SHINY MEDAL! Sparkly, pretty, and heavy enough to be used as a weapon! Yes, that’s a Gryffindor shirt I am wearing. It also has a cape, which isn’t visible in the photo.

And now for news of the cute. My co-worker has had some incredible success hatching Malagasy Flat-tailed tortoises. Pyxis planicauda are hard to breed, even harder to incubate. But here we are!

Hatching is a lot of work. I’mma take a little nap.

First delicious meal. Is that a mushroom?

And now she is hatching some Taylor’s Shield-tailed Agamas. I’ll share more about those later, but it’s school and work time now. I’ll leave you with these.

The pink in the egg is the head of the embryo. The pointy thing is it’s head.

And if you do nothing else today, watch this video. Embryos move long before they hatch.

What’s magical in your world this week? Did you attend a march? Tell me about it!

The Introverted Activist: We Shouldn’t Have To #MarchForOurLives

I don’t want to write this. I am tired. I’m worn out from daily gun violence across the country. I’m exhausted from fighting to make my voice heard in this whole debate about gun reform. And I am SICK and tired of the rabid folks who want to spin school shootings as just one of those things when literally no other nation with our kind of wealth and power has thousands of people die each year from gun-related violence. And that want to reframe all attempts at reform as “Them libs wanna take all your guns.” Because that’s garbage.

  • If you can’t log in to social media without seeing reports of gun violence, you have a gun problem.
  • If it is more difficult to purchase an R-rated movie than a long gun, you have a gun problem.
  • If your child has ever lain on the floor of their classroom during an active shooter emergency, wondering if the footsteps in the hallway are those of a gunman coming to kill them, you have a gun problem.
  • If your third-grader has ever come home distressed because their assigned spot in an active-shooter drill seems way too obvious, and they speak matter-of-factly that when a shooter comes (not *if*, but when), they will be shot first, you have a gun problem. Third graders in our country have to think about where they are going to hide when a shooter comes to their school. America, friends.

I’m going to suggest that, perhaps, these cold-blooded murders are not simply the cost of doing business in a free country. We have to do something differently if we want a different result.

To those screaming “2nd AMENDMENT!” I call BS. In 1934, the National Firearms Act created a list of firearms that are illegal to possess. Machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, explosives, silencers. So there is a precedent for restricting certain times of firearms. So now is the time to make some additions to the list.

Do I want ALL THE GUNS? Um, no. I take no issue with hunting, or with people having hand guns as personal protection (though I will not send my kid to a school where teachers are carrying handguns on premises). I do want:

  • military and police-grade weapons and certain long guns (AR-15, I’m looking at you) banned, along with large amounts of ammunition.
  • gun owners to carry liability insurance for each firearm they own.
  • more extensive background checks.
  • loopholes for gun transfers and gun shows closed.
  • concealed carry permits granted only to military and police.
  • people found guilty of domestic violence lose ability to own firearms

Is this a liberal agenda? I’d like to think it’s more one of common sense. I consider myself more middle-of-the road when it comes to politics, but if being sick of seeing children die of preventable violence at school, well then, call me a liberal.

Here’s an incredible video my son shared with me about common-sense gun reform. And it uses cats as a fabulous example.

To the folks talking to the streets in protest tomorrow, I am so proud of you! And I am with you in spirit.

The One Where God Smacked Me Upside the Head

I grew up in a church. My family was one that was in church any time the doors were open. We were in children’s choir, youth group, puppeteering, even clowning. *** My exposure to all things Jesus included all the best Bible stories. And there were some weird ones. Daniel hung out with some lions, Jesus turned water into wine. Kind of cool. And of course I knew Jonah and the whale. Or I thought I did. And then my friend Danielle delivered me a sermon.

In case you aren’t familiar, I’ll catch you up to speed.

So Jonah was a prophet of God, and God wanted him to go to Ninevah, which was the heart and soul of wickedness. They skinned their enemies and cut out their tongues, they terrorized the countryside, and they probably didn’t even wipe their sweat off the stationary bike at the gym. They were all around bad dudes and dudettes. And God wanted them to know it. Text messaging hadn’t been invented yet, except for that one time with some stone tablets on Mount Sinai, so God told Jonah to get a move on and tell the bad guys that God was going to shake things up if they didn’t change their ways. And Jonah said no.

Here’s the part I didn’t understand. Jonah said no, not because he was afraid he would be skinned, detongued, and forced to sit through spin class in a puddle of someone else’s sweat. He didn’t want to go because he didn’t want God to forgive them.

See, Jonah knew God. He knew his goodness and his mercy and that God kept his word. And if God keeps his word, that would mean that if the bad guys said sorry and meant it, God was going to forgive them. FORGIVE THEM! And Jonah basically said in his head “Are you kidding me? God wants me to share heaven with these heathens? Yeah, no thanks!” So he jumped on board a ship to Joppa, which is, like, a gajillion miles away in the opposite direction. Because we can hide from God and all, right?

Another phenomenal BC drawing. You’re welcome.

As I sat in the sermon, God hit me over the head with a giant, soggy fish. Danielle was preaching to ME. And God and I had a chat.

God: Yo, Jonah.

Me: That’s not my name.

God: Might as well be. Hey, how ’bout handing out some of that forgiveness I’ve given you?

Me: But, they… I mean… what about… Okay, NO.

God: Seriously? Do it.

Me: But they –

God: Do it.

Me: But when-

God: *facepalm* Kid, Imma say this slowly so you can understand. You don’t deserve grace. But I gave it to you, right?

Me: Right, but-

God: You’re a sinner.

Me: I got that, but they –

God: Who forgave those sins?

Me: Um, you, but-

God: Who?

Me: You. You forgave my sins.

God: You’re a sinner. They are sinners.

Me: You got that right! Do you know what they –

God: *sigh* Let me explain it another way. You don’t deserve grace any more than they do. And they certainly don’t deserve it any less.

Me: …

God – Hello?

Me:…

God: I’m glad we had this little talk, aren’t you?

And here’s the beauty of it. I AM glad we had that talk. Because it has changed me. Suddenly, I could let go of that perceived slight. I didn’t worry over someone’s misdeeds because I, too, had been given a gift that I didn’t deserve. I fall short of God’s glory, and He gets that. He’s got grace in abundance and stands in the gap for me, and if he will do it for me in all my brokenness, who am I to stand in the way of other people receiving the same gift? So I say thanks and move on when I didn’t think moving on was even a possibility. God is good that way.

Have you ever felt like the message (from sermon, book, movie, music video, etc) was directed at you?

***Don’t knock it. We were paid $10 an hour in the 80s to don the clown suit and terrorize entertain children at picnics and such.

 

Possum Living: My Frisky Bitz Bring All the Cats to the Yard

Normally Fridays are reserved for politics, but this week threatened to send me into a tailspin, so it’s Possum Living instead. My biggest and most challenging goal for 2018 is to go the entire year without buying anything I don’t need. When I am stressed, depressed, or anxious, I have a bad habit of either eating compulsively or spending too much, and I’m drawing the line. There are less destructive ways to cope. And I’ve found one.

First, let me tell you my successes.

  • I survived the State of the Union without feeling compelled to spend money or eat things that I shouldn’t. I was really proud of myself. I was anxious, tense, scared, stressed, but I didn’t make bad decisions.
  • I passed on a deal for a book that I wanted. It was a sweet deal, too, but I sent the email to the trash folder without blinking.
  • I made a trip to Lowe’s for work, and I walked right past the sick plant section, even though I could see they had two Norfolk Island Pines that needed rescuing. I didn’t even look at the price. That was my hardest challenge. Plants are a weakness.
  • I have become more comfortable with being a little hungry during the day. I haven’t panicked as if I would NEVER EAT AGAIN. You can laugh, but some part of my twisted brain thought/thinks it is true.
  • My muffin-top has shrunk a bit.
  • I signed up for a 1/2 marathon.

So let me introduce you to the thing that is filling in the blanks for me. Neko Atsume.

The premise is simple. You download the free app, and you get a yard, a food bowl, and some cheap cat food. The goal is to attract cats to your yard. There are a gajillion of them. After they leave your yard, they leave fish behind as a thank you. Some of the fish are silver, but some are gold, (what you’d normally pay money for). You use the fish to buy items in the store – everything from fancy food to new toys to try to lure rarer cats to the yard. I’ve played it for a week-and-a-half, and I love it. It’s adorable, it allows me to make some purchases in their little store, set goals, develop a strategy for meeting those goals. It’s SO MUCH FUN!

On Tuesday, instead of choking down cookies or surfing Amazon, I checked in on my cats. I rearranged the furniture. I made sure the kitties were fed. And I didn’t worry. Or stress.

Kittehz! This is the original yard. The cat with his back to me cracks me right up. Isn’t that just like a cat?

The cats filter in and out at will, and the most fun in the morning is checking in to see who dropped by during the night. Only 5 cats can occupy the space at a time, so it’s a good idea to maximize the area by purchasing the items that are likely to bring in the most gold fish. It only takes 180 gold fish to expand the yard to hold more cats to bring more fish to buy more yard to hold more cats… And so on it goes. It may seem silly or pointless, but it’s working for me.

Different kittehz, and see how the little black one wore itself out playing?

I saved, I strategized, I read all the online tips, and I expanded my yard. Was it all I had hoped, Oh, yeah!

This is the yard and the inside of the house. The fat white cat on the grass is Tubbs. Most people hate him. I haven’t seen him often enough to be anything but amused by his chubby countenance.

The kitty condo holds up to 5 cats, which brings the total of cats at one time to 13!

I am late to this game. Lots of people discovered it before I did, but better late than never. I don’t know why it works, or even for how long it will work, but I’m okay with it. I’ll take what I can get, and if it quits working, I’ll find something new. I’ll make it to good health and a happier bank account one day at a time, one kitteh at a time.

What ways have you found to help manage stress? Have your methods evolved over time?

The Introverted Activist: What’s On My Mind

If you dislike politics, Friday’s posts are where they happen. I try to have a specific day because not everyone likes to talk politics or agrees with mine, and that’s cool. There’s more to me than that. So if you’re here for the turtles and zoo stuff, feel free to skip Fridays. I’m just glad you’re here.

So we’re, like, three or four weeks into the new year, and already I’m exhausted by the mess we continue to make. Awesome. Last week was horrible, really. I’ve been through government shut downs before. My mom worked for the government her entire working life, and we’ve been there. We experienced the three weeks of furlough and wondering how the bills were going to get paid. I survived it. Shut downs don’t scare me anymore. They infuriate me, like during the Obama administration when we were going from one 3-month appropriations bill to another. Come on, Congress. Get thumb out of ear and get budget passed.

So last week I was more angry than scared. I was proud of Democrats for standing strong and supremely irritated when Schumer caved. And I was OUTRAGED at Mitchy-witch choosing to reject funding to pay the military during the shut down. I know it was a pressure tactic, but it was cruel. Did you miss it? I’ve got you covered!

Here’s what Miss Heather wants.

  1. I want a clean DACA bill passed. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is the right thing to do. These folks were KIDS when they were brought into the country illegally. And now they’re college students, employees, tax-payers, and the GOP wants to yank them up and send them back to a country they may not even remember. Thanks for remembering Deuteronomy 10:19. Imagine being a toddler in the backseat of your mom’s car when she committed a bank robbery. Then when you’re 20, someone picks you up and puts you in jail for your mom’s crime. That she committed. Without your involvement or consent. Deportation of Dreamers amounts to the same thing. Why does that make sense to anyone at all?
  2. The second thing I want is funding for CHIP. Children’s Health Insurance Program is not the same thing as Medicaid. Whole different ballgame, folks. CHIP works with WORKING parents who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy health insurance. The program was a bipartisan effort to keep our kids healthy. Kids. Why is that wrong?
  3. The third thing that I want is for Congress to forget about the ridiculous wall. We don’t need a wall. The worst mass-shootings in our country’s history were committed by white people. We need that money for other things.

What have I done this week to achieve these goals?

  • I’ve called my senators on the regular. I speak with earnest civility to Bob Corker because sometimes he does the right thing. I rant at Lamar Alexander because he has swallowed the Republican bait hook, line, and sinker, and he only votes along party lines.
  • I have educated myself about the issues at hand. Education is key. So many people don’t understand what they’re voting FOR. It’s sad.
  • I have shared what I have learned online, and I have encouraged myself to keep fighting the good fight. It’s nowhere close to over.
  • I have begun discussing and researching candidates for the midterm elections. Even though 2018 has felt like a millennium at this point, November will come. And we can flip some states blue.

Here are some places you can plug in:

  • Indivisible 453 – Voter ID laws
  • 5calls.org – They will give you the number for your representatives and tell you what the burning issues are that you can call about.
  • Association of State Democratic Chairs – they can help you get in touch with your local group
  • DCCC – find out how to volunteer for the Democratic party
  • GOP – find out how to volunteer – I don’t expect that everyone holds my ideals. You do you. If we each work toward our important goals, we can shape this country the way it should be, with something for everyone.

 

What have you done this week to help move the country in the direction YOU believe that it should go?

Possum Living: Laying the Ground Rules

So back at the beginning of the year (is 2018 over yet, because it feels like it has hung around long enough!), I shared some of my goals. One of them was the most ambitious thing I have ever tried. Inspired by the book Possum Living (cool video here), I plan to go all of 2018 without buying anything I don’t NEED. Sometimes there is a giant grey area between needs and wants. Take books, for example. I need books like I need air. But do I NEED to BUY them? Unless it is a text for my job, probably not. This outline is rather fluid, and time may force some changes, but I will share any changes as a means of holding myself accountable.

Needs:

  • Gasoline
  • Food
  • College tuition
  • Clothing (but NO T-SHIRTS)
  • Utilities and mortgage
  •  Cellphone – I have a Tracfone, so I have to get service cards periodically. Texts are $5 for 1000, and it’s the primary way we communicate at work
  • Books specifically relevant to work – must be read within a month of purchase
  • Car (I signed my car’s death warrant when I put my favorite sticker on it)
  • Potting soil and bare bones supplies for growing plants to sell at Farmer’s Market
  • Photo books – I do these twice a year as a gift for my mom, but I also get one for me. My photos are essential. But no superfluous photo gifts. I use Snapfish, and they usually provide me with good coupons.

Wants:

  • Books (Goodbye, BookBub! Until next year?) – Not even the illustrated Goblet of Fire due out in October
  • Harry Potter memorabilia (this kills me!)
  • Music (unless I already have gift card credit on the music site)
  • Toys for the pets. It’s too bad, really, because Lumen is quite destructive, but she LOVES HER TOYS SO MUCH! I stocked up on the one toy she hasn’t managed to completely murder and dismantle, so she won’t have nothing. Don’t look at me like that!
  • Additional pets – (no more snakes? WHAT? But… but…)
  • He wants a friend…

  • Additional pet housing, beyond basic supplies (food, UVB bulbs, etc
  • Toys in general
  • Impulse buys for the kids
  • Clearance holiday stuff *whimper* unless it’s for prizes for my students
  • Squishables
  • Coffee or meals out – unless I am traveling or it is pre-arranged date-night
  • Postage for packages to friends
  • Gifts – beyond family birthdays and gift-giving holidays
  • An addendum to the above rule: no creating gift-giving holidays. In our house, Valentine’s Day is a children’s holiday. I cannot turn it into a “Hey, gimme this Funko Pop! figure” holiday.

So you’re here to hold me accountable.  Almost As much fun as a host of fleas nesting in your armpits.

I make a lot of impulse purchases when I’m feeling sad, lonely, depressed, excited, anxious. I admit that I shop (and eat) to deal with feelings and to fill a void. So what am I going to do when that shopper vibe starts bouncing in my brain? I’m going to be creative. Literally. Like, I’m going to create something. Here are some ways to channel my energy

  • Write – I’ve been successful with this one. I have been writing a LOT. I have written so many blog posts this year already, and that’s not even the tip of my brain’s iceberg. I think I could spend the next few weeks and write out blog posts for each day for the rest of the year. Don’t worry. I won’t. But I could. And I wrote a short story and entered a writing competition. So yay.
  • Take Lumen for a walk or a run- I ran with her a few days ago, and I totally freaked her out. “If Mommy’s running, someone must be chasing! LET’S MAKE TRACKS!”
  • Who’s the happiest dog-parking dog in the world? And maybe the most exhausted. Little Pittie mixes are fast and intense, old girl!

  • Read – I am on NetGalley, and I’m working on reading a book I’m super-excited about. And when I read the book, I can REVIEW it, so that brings me back to WRITING!
  • Knit – I have the basics down. Yay, me. But I suck at it. Practice makes perfect, so I shall practice.
  • Give stuff away – Stuff begets more stuff. If I clear out some of the clutter, I am less inclined to buy matching clutter. Also, moving stuff out helps me to realize how much I already HAVE.
  • Make little turtles out of Sculpey – I’m good at this, and I owe some people some critters. I gotta get on this as soon as my right arm begins functioning again.
  • Play Neko Atsume -What better way to practice becoming a crazy cat lady than to learn to attract stray cats?

    My yarn balls bring ALL the kitties to the yard. And I can’t get rid of them. Help!

 

How do YOU deal with anxiety or depression? What’s the most effective thing for you? Tell me in the comments.

 

 

What. Ever.

Today’s Daily Post prompt is “Agile.” Aaaand, I was stuck. Agile? I have the grace of a drunk badger. I can climb like a monkey at work, and I have to in order to reach some of my exhibits, but I have taken some hard spills. And with the exception of a pinkie toe a few weeks ago*** I haven’t broken any bones. And that which does not kill me is proof that I don’t have osteoporosis. So yes, I’m a tough nut to crack, but I’m not agile.

Helpers. The Caiman Lizard climbs to the top of his exhibit and sits on the edge to supervise my work. I call him Visa because he is everywhere I want to be. His perch here is 8ft off the ground.

My best friends at work? I write about them a lot, but they’re not so agile, either.

Eastern Box Turtle hatchling. He says “I carry my house around on my back. I don’t need to be agile, too.”

My best friends have shells, so I don’t hold their lack of agility against them. My snakes are agile. And I do love snakes. But this isn’t a post about snakes.

Piebald Ball Python – a pet snake in my house. So cute. He’ll be agile one day.

The only thing about me that can slide up and down with the fluidity of a first chair trombone is my frickin’ mood. This morning, my brain is in overdrive. I got up, and all was well. And then…

It snowed! YAY!!!

Wait. I can’t get to work without a ride. I’m snowed in. ARRRGH!

But a snow day at home with the kids? Snowball fights and long walks with the dogs? Awww!

But my Dart Frogs need spraying or their eggs will dry out. THEY WILL DIIIIIIEEEE!

calling frogs

Boss man said he can mist the eggs. Whew!

The Padawan has been sneaking food downstairs, and now I have to ground him for the day, and it’s a snow day so I will have to deal with his crappy mood ALL DAY, and when will he ever learn, but he also just finished the essay that isn’t due until next week, and it’s 2 pages longer than the minimum, and I am a terrible mother for punishing a good student, but then if I don’t, he will never learn, and I am a TERRIBLE MOTHER! And also a terrible writer. That was  one hell of a run-on sentence.

And then the husband brought me coffee. And I might weep with gratitude.

But then the Little Kid Formerly Known as Squish has decided that I can be convinced to let him buy more Nerf blasters and darts. We have an arsenal of these stupid things. No! TAKE  NO FOR AN ANSWER, OR I AM GOING TO THROW EVERY NERF BLASTER WE OWN INTO THE SINKHOLE BEHIND THE HOUSE!

But there’s caramel hot chocolate.

AND MORE NERF BLASTERS! AND THE KID WON’T LET GO OF THE CAT! AND MY ANXIETY IS CHEWING ON THE INSIDE OF MY SKULL!

But kitties.

Bellatrix has the right idea on a snow day!

AND THE KID IS BEGGING ME TO RENT A BOB SLED!

But now he’s found a cardboard box to sled in. Isn’t he creative? I love that kid and his enthusiasm for life!

BUT WHAT IF HE GETS KILLED?! OR MAIMED? AND IT’S ALL MY FAULT?!!! I am a terrible mother.

But he’s going outside to play by himself. Isn’t it great that he can entertain himself outside when so many kids these days just sit in front of the television and play video games?

THE KID JUST EMPTIED ALL MY CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS INTO THE FLOOR, SO HE COULD TAKE THE BOX TO SLED IN, AND NOW I MIGHT DIE OF A RAGE-INDUCED ANEURYSM!

But look at me! I can SPELL aneurysm without spell-check! Look at me! I’m an unstable genius!

BUT NOW THE KID IS TALKING ABOUT HOW HE MIGHT DIE OUTSIDE, AND HE JUST MIGHT, AND I SUCK AT MOTHERING!

I can write. Writing soothes me. I enjoy it, and it sets me to rights. I could do a Daily Post prompt…

The Daily Post prompt is “Agile.” Well, crap. My head hurts.

 

*** Pinkie toe injury – I broke my toe by dropping a remote control on it. Because I am smooth like that.

Notes From the Zookeeper: Gratitude

I love my job. There are so many things to be grateful for.

The first call is the critically endangered Golden Dart Frog. The second call is a Bumblebee Dart Frog. I have played these calls back to them for fifteen minute stretches three times a day, five days a week for several weeks now. It gets them grooving.

  • Ingenuity and success. Bowers made of coconuts cut in half are recommended for breeding Dart Frogs. I only have one, and my Annulated Boa has commandeered it. So I made due with what I had – black snake hide-boxes set atop the lids from Chinese food takeout containers. And you know what? It worked!

These are just a few of the eggs hidden in the exhibit. If they hatch, Dad will carry them to a water source on his back. Check back in about 10 days days.

  • Hoses that don’t kink
  • Hoses that aren’t frozen
  • Brand-new hoses that save us from filling our rearing reservoir with a bucket in the cold
  • Guests that show up on bitter cold days because they love the zoo
  • A raise
  • Good water pressure
  • Disposable food storage containers. Seriously. We use these for everything from storing food to raising dart frog tadpoles. Thank you, Glad and Ziploc! Wanna sponsor a post?
  • When the youngsters start to figure out what they’re meant to do

Egyptian Tortoises (Testudo kleinmanni). He’s only seven, so he’s maybe not quite got the hang of it yet, but he’s trying!

  • Surprises. My female Chinese Crocodile Lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus) has babies every two years. So we thought. She had eleven babies last year. In December, she surprised me with eleven more. This species is critically endangered due to habitat destruction, fragmented populations (some groups have 10 or fewer adults, which isn’t sustainable), over-collection for the pet trade, and a long gestation period (9-14 months!) which combine to make population recovery difficult

Newborn Chinese Crocodile Lizard. It’s tiny until you think that there were ELEVEN of them all curled up in there!

  • This guy.

    Tex, wearing his best opuntia fruit lipstick.

  • When my snack drawer is full. Zookeeping is hungry business!
  • Hidden opportunities. In 2017, I got to volunteer at the Turtle Survival Center in SC, and I got to go to the Turtle Survival Alliance conference in Charleston. I also had a trip to Amphibian Management School. This year, I’m going to Amphibian Research School, and I have a lead on a trip to California.
  • Weird animals
  • Mossy Leaf-tail Gecko (Uroplatus sikorae) shortly after hatching

  • Guests who ask questions and are genuinely interested in learning more
  • The sense of wonder and amazement when guests finally see a well-camouflaged animal on exhibit
  • Plants. I just started two small green houses at work with cuttings to make some really interesting additions to exhibits
  • My iPod. A lot of what I do is solitary. It takes me 6-8 hours a week to maintain my aquatic exhibit. It’s great to have music to listen to. This year, I may expand to podcasts
  • Lowe’s. I love home improvement stores, and it gives me jollies to know where everything is
  • Toboggans and gloves. It’s cold out there!
  • Possibilities. We’re working on planning our new facility. It is going to be incredible and state-of-the-art. Stay tuned!

What are you grateful for? Today is the last day that the linkup is active. Want to participate? Set a timer for 15 minutes. Make a list of what you are grateful for. When the timer goes off, stop. Post, link.

From Dawn at Tales From the Motherland:

How to join in: write your own post and publish it. Copy the link from the post. Then click on the frog below, and follow the instructions to add your link. If you have any trouble, please let me know, and I’d be happy to help. I will also add a link to each post on my own blog post, as they are published. For extra fun, please add the hashtags #BloggersUnite and/or #50HappyThings… because, well, everyone loves a hashtag! The link-up expires January 15th at 11:59pm.

Click here to link

 

 

The Daily Post : Weathered

I haven’t tried the Daily Post in a number of years, but I was inspired by today’s theme: weathered. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t put a zookeeper slant on it, though, would I?

Riverbanks Zoo has a herd of Galapagos Tortoises. We have Aldabra Tortoises at our zoo. These two species are a fascinating example of convergent evolution – animals that develop similar traits, but in different parts of the world. Galapagos Tortoises are found off the coast of Ecuador in South America, and Aldabs are found off the east coast of Africa in the Seychelles. They last shared a common ancestor about 20 million years ago. But they are so similar.

Here’s an Aldabra Giant Tortoise:

Big Al and his watermelon that was donated by a child. If I cut up the watermelon, it’s gone in 10 minutes. A whole watermelon gets shoved around for 5 hours.

Galapagos Tortoise in Riverbanks Zoo, SC

There are minor differences. Galapagos tortoises can get up to about 600lbs, depending on the subspecies, whereas Aldabs top out typically at 350. Though Big Al is a plus-sized model. He’s 525lbs. Galaps typically lack the little scale on their shell behind their neck, called a nuchal scute. Their shells vary, and some have really high arches at their necks to allow them to reach taller shrubs. And Galaps have a very round head by comparison to Aldabs, but you have to really know them to notice. My favorite difference is that Aldabs stretch out their necks to be scratched, while Galaps look straight up. ADORABLE!

The thing about both species is, they can live for, like, ever. Not really. Eventually they peter out, but they live a very, very long time. One animal died in 2006, and there were records on it going back 252 years, and it was a wild-caught animal. The oldest confirmed tortoise was 189 years old. That’s a lot of wear and tear.

Time takes its toll on all of us, tortoises included.

It’s like looking into the face of a dinosaur. Weathered.

Time, wind, and water wear us down. The scales on this Galapagos tortoise girl’s neck have worn smooth with time. Her shell, too, sports that lived-in look. She had a nice hole in her carapace (top shell) that is now a cozy home to a spider.

See the spider web? It was nice and fresh. The damage is purely cosmetic. Shells are tough!

She looks pretty good for her age, don’t you think? Just imagine, a century ago, she looked more like this:

Juvenile Galapagos Tortoise

This tortoise is under six months old, all shiny and pretty and new. There are plenty of growth rings in her shell, too. They are like trees. As they grow, they get new rings. The center of the ring is essentially dead shell, like our hair or fingernails, and the rings are fresh growth. This little baby is all bright-eyed and represents the future of her species.

And this girl? She’s bursting with history.

If this girl could talk…

What do you think of when you hear the word “weathered?” Show us your best photos. Join this week’s Daily Post.