31 May 2017

Exploring the Lawns - Rocket's First Walks Outside

In the last week I have turned into a tortoise shepherd! Yes, you are reading correctly. There are many differing opinions on whether or not young tortoises should be out in the garden or not with regards to foraging on weeds, exposure to natural UV light,but also possible exposure to parasites, predators, chemicals etc. Rocket is by no means a hatchling, but she is still tiny! (weighs 132 grams and is 8.3 cm long precisely -  I just checked!) 

However, based on Tortoise Trust and their online booklet "Taking Care of Pet Tortoises" young tortoises can go out in suitable weather and should not be kept exclusively indoors for the first four years (which is what I was told). 

Once I got her out onto the lawn (where no chemicals or fertilisers are being used to help it grow - I checked with the site manager), I realised how much happier she is when she is outside. She immediately went for it and started eating, walking, eating, exploring, then some more walking and eating, simply foraging, which is something she cannot really do in the tortoise table, even though we try and spread the food out for her as much as possible. She really looked content.

One thing that I was worried was the temperature - tortoises cannot regulate their body temperature and when in full sun for too long without any opportunity to hide in the shade they can overheat. That is why I took my non-contact digital infrared thermometer with me. The recommended basking temperature is 90F. When Rocket's body temperature got to 96F she retreated into the shade as a good girl.

Being out and watching her makes me happy and also reminds me of all the times I have done this back at home when I was a kid with my Horsfield tortoise. It is simply a time to sit back and enjoy being outside whilst watching the little amazing creature (and you have to watch her because no matter how content she looks munching on that little patch of plantain, she will leg it and disappear when you least expect it). Life slows down for a moment and that it exactly what I need.

Eventually my aim is to build Rocket an all-day enclosure in the garden which will be planted with all sorts of weeds she can eat. However, that step would involve some serious moving up the property ladder and so for now whilst we live in rented flat, these little walks will be making sure that she doesn't get bored or unhealthy.

29 May 2017

Saturday Weedwalk

The town side of Willow reach. It doesn't look like much, but the further in you go, the more magnificent it gets.

I love Saturdays. They are the only day of the week that we don't set an alarm. Waking up is something that happens rather than someing an alarm tells you to do. It feels nice, even though we usually wake up barely an hour after we would during a weekday, it still feels like a treat. It is a lie in. Followed by breakfast and whatever else we want to or have to do, but the mornings are always slow.

Last weekend my husband needed to work on a piano he is rebuilding, so I was at home on my own. After briefly considering going for a park run I eventually decided to go for a weed walk instead. What is a weed walk? Well, it's this thing that many tortoise owners do - going out and picking weeds to feed their tortoises.

There are many weeds in the UK that a mediterranean tortoise like our Hermann's tortoise can eat and I am learning how to recognise them one by one. One of them ribwort plantain can be fed to tortoises every day and is very easy to recognise.

And I knew just the place to find them. Willow reach, a new development quite close to where we live. It sits on the stream in the amazing Hoe Valley wetlands.
One of the ponds/wetlands. An amazing piece of nature and yet you are still within the dight of houses.

I have forgotten how nice it is to just go somewhere into the unknown with almost no people around and just discover the secret trails and little hiding places. I felt like being in the wild, yet always within sight of the buildings. The fresh air and playful wind, the smell of earth and water was gentle but somewhat overwhelming to the senses. Such a refreshing walk!

Rocket's daily meals were enriched by ribwort plantain and dandelion leaves for a whole week and I can't wait for the next opportunity to go and take the hubby round as well.

This bumblebee was just getting out of the wet grass
after a quick summer shower of rain.

I found myself a little place to sit down and eat my biscuit snack.
This duck couple was particularly friendly, maybe because I kept
"accidentally" dropping crumbs.

13 May 2017

Little Houses under the Castle

Stara Lubovna castle

This is a very late post about our August trip to Slovakia, which I took with my man. My parents took us to many places, as they wanted to introduce the nice bits of the country to the foreigner :) We saw this open air museum on the same day as we rafted down the Dunajec river on the border between Slovakia and Poland. The open air museum lies right under the Stara Lubovna castle, which overlooks it from the hill.

The little houses were brought from different parts of the republic, so they looked different on the outside and even more different on the inside.

Some had gardens and there were really nicely arranged flowers in the windows. If you like finding those little details, you would be thrilled here.

The houses were also decorated for certain big life events that the people celebrated in very traditional ways, such as birth of a new member of the family, weddings or deaths and pre-funeral preparations.

The Owlets

These little birdies are the latest additions to my little family of crocheted animals. They are small, soft and cute. They don't have owners yet, but I don't think finding some will be a problem :)

Growing Seedlings in Toilet Paper Rolls

After last year's disappointment I decided that I will not grow sweetcorn again. The garden at my in-laws doesn't have enough sunlight, the soil dries up very quickly because of all the trees around it and cats and foxes digging up the seedlings did not help.

However, something changed my mind this year. Did you know that maize leaves, unlike the actual corn on the cob, are safe to feed to tortoises? Apparently so, as it is a grass (my information is from The Tortoise Table). That meant that as long as there are some leaves growing, I cannot be disappointed. And neither can Rocket.

After browsing ideas on Pinterest I decided to try growing my seedlings in toilet paper rolls. I have temporarily turned the bathroom into a planting area and started working on it. I cut the bottom into four flaps and folded them to create a little "pot".

It worked very well. As the plants grew, the roots found their way out of the bottom and I ended up with many healthy looking seedlings :) 

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