Monday, July 9, 2007


One of the "more creatures" I haven't introduced you to yet is our desert tortoise. She became a part of our family about 15 years ago.

She was seen marching down the middle of the street in the little town my husband worked in and was brought into his office. He sent one of his workers to the grocery store to get some scraps of lettuce, which she promptly gobbled up.

Of course the only sensible thing for him to do was bring her home. That is, in his mind it was the only sensible thing to do. Normally it is illegal to collect wild tortoises, but this one wasn't wild. Someone had painted one of the tiles of it's shell white. A bottom tile was broken. We guessed it was possibly from having a hole drilled into it and tied with a string or something. We looked in the paper for lost ads. There were none. It was surprising to me, because this tortoise was a good size, probably about 11" x 9". Not knowing any better, we called the tortoise "Rafael", after Raphael, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so popular at the time.

When we first got the tortoise. Notice the white tile on top.
When it became evident that we would be keeping this tortoise I started doing a little more in- depth research. I contacted the Department of Fish and Game. They sent me an info packet and paperwork for a permit so we could legally keep the tortoise. We even received a "license plate" that we were instructed to superglue onto the shell. I figured Rafael was probably about 30 years old and might actually be a "Rafaela" from the shape of the carapace (shell).

We kept her in the back yard for a long time, even building her a little house when it was time for her to hibernate for winter. And each spring as the weather warmed up she would emerge from her space. She didn't eat much after first awakening, but would drink deeply from the running hose. Later, as her body started functioning back to normal she would methodically chomp on whatever fruits and veggies we put in front of her.

We learned that although she loved iceberg lettuce, it was a poor choice because of the lack of nutrients. Romaine lettuce is much healthier. She also cannot resist cantaloupe and broccoli is one of her all time favorites.

One day she confirmed to us that she was indeed a she. She had dug a hole in the (then) sandy back yard soil and was going through the motions of laying eggs. Of course there were no eggs, but it was evident what was happening.

When she was "laying her eggs". The hole is deeper than it looks in this photo.
Now she lives in an area on the side of the house where she has dug herself a big burrow behind the dog house. When she feels like coming out she has a nice tree shaded weedy patch of grass she can graze on. I know she comes out more often than we see because the bananas, cantaloupe slices, broccoli and other goodies I put by her burrow opening disappear.

Chowing down on some cantaloupe recently.

The white paint on her tile and the "license plate" have long since been worn off, but that's okay. I have a feeling she'll be with us for a long time to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Tina, What a delight your blogs are. I rejoice that you share What marvelous photos!