Tortoise Ranch

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     From the first day we moved into this house in Carthage, I was aware that we had a resident tortoise in the garden.  I might get a glimpse of him for a minute, but not be able to find him again in five minutes or for a week.  Don’t believe anything about a tortoise being slow.  They can transport themselves across a yard, lickety split.  I was sure having a tortoise live in your yard must be a sign of good luck in some folklore and I felt happy about our cohabitation while he was self-sufficient in our yard.  I repeat, I did think that he was finding what he needed on his own. 
     We have been doing some major yard work this spring and we’ve hired a gray haired, French gardener to help us.  He was not at the house five minutes before he was standing at the sliding glass door holding the tortoise with a what’s wrong with you people look on his face. “Salade Madame!” he scolded.  I got it and scurried to the refrigerator where I pulled out a head of something I was probably planning to use for dinner and handed over the whole thing.  He set up the tortoise in a sunny patch of a garden berm, with the greens, and the whole bunch was gone within an hour.  I guess he was hungry.
     This got us watching the tortoise (pronounced tor-twa in French) and getting intrigued with his movements and patterns.  And then Allan got an idea.  Let’s get more of them.  Let’s get some males and females and see if they will have babies.  Now I just wrote about an abundance gene that I think runs in my family.  Allan’s family definitely has an animal husbandry gene.  His father has passed now, but he was a true genius at breeding animals, especially birds.  Allan’s sister has become a well-known bulldog breeder in the US and our family has cycled through a great number of pets, often at Allan’s inspiration. 
     But tortoises seem like a low commitment pet and our new garden is designed perfectly for them with a gravel base and gently sloping earth berms around the perimeter.  From the oversized sliding glass doors that open to the yard, it’s like we’re living in a giant terrarium. 
Junior, sunning his shell and cooling his underside.
So at the market yesterday, we bought three more Tunisian spur-thighed tortoises, one male and two females.  I can’t believe the personalities they exhibit and they are so active.  The adolescent male barely had his feet on the ground before he was shell ramming our granddad tortoise like an elk during mating season.  We finally thought it might be too traumatic for our old-timer and removed the newbie, but this morning, we saw our old tortoise facing off the young one as he slunk away so I think they’ve somehow got their hierarchy established.   
Baby girl wandering off.
One female is an adolescent and she’s pretty independent and then there is a girl baby and she’s all over the place finding herself in little predicaments, like toddling babies do.
     We really have no idea how old these reptiles are and when they might be of reproduction age, but one day, we might witness up to 30 spider sized babies emerge from a hole in the garden and start to flounder their ways around the garden, with no help from their parents.  Then what are we going to do?
Gramps getting acquainted with Little Sister.  Isn’t that nice?

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