Thursday, June 18, 2015

Playing in the dirt...

Spring has sprung, Summer has come.
Bright eyed boys digging up wiggly friends.
Giggling girls chasing leaping playmates.

Rain coming down, mud in the making.
The landscape is glowing emerald.
New life erupting silently from between my toes.

Toads and turtles, lizards and snakes.
Everyone needs a glass container so they can "watch".
Tears stream down cheeks when new friends leave.

These last few weeks I had big plans for us to log some good "Summer School" time. Instead, the kids have been filling our days with making new friends of the reptile and amphibian kind. Not wanting to be neglectful or hurtful of our adoptees, I have spent a good amount of time googling about the proper care of our adopted mates.

Meet Toad...

Years and years ago, we adopted a little toad from my mother's backyard because Hannah fell in love with it. We watched that little toad grow from the size of a quarter to the size of the palm of your hand in about two years. We finally released the toad when we had to buy crickets the size of your pinky finger that chirped all night long. So, it only seemed right to allow the younger boys the same experience when they fell in love with a hoppy little friend in my front garden bed. Here was the first toad the kids caught, already pretty good sized, Caleb and Micah called him Tim Duncan because he was a good jumper.

Then, I found him a friend when I was pulling weeds. This one was much smaller, more reminiscent of Hannah's first toad. I was inspired to improve on the flat look of the tank, using some flagstone from our pool decking and some succulent plants I had in small pots. You can see the small toad in the upper right corner on the "mountain" and the larger toad in the bottom center.

The kids have been finding smaller toads all over the last few days. I don't have a picture yet, but there are currently four smaller toads in a 20 gallon terrarium (the one I found weeding, one the kids found swimming in the pool, another I found in the flowerbeds, and the latest one was gathered during an afternoon visit to a friend's farm). We decided to let the larger toad go back in the front flower beds. Micah was sad about that, but seemed better after collecting the last one this afternoon.

Meet Miracle, the Red-Eared Slider...

Photo credits: Hannah

I found Miracle on a road in a shopping center. Not long ago we watched a research video about how a high percentage of folks will go out of their way to drive over turtles. I found the information saddening but had no idea that Micah had been so affected by it until we saw a turtle crossing the road in Kentucky on our family road trip. We had no way of picking that turtle up at the time, and Micah was crying, so we promised that the next one we found on the road we could take home. (I googled whether or not this was legal after the promise was made, and it is, thankfully. And the law about it is a bit comical, in case you are interested.) Well, we made it home from our trip and I went out for coffee with a friend. As we went back to my car, low and behold, a full-grown female Red-eared Slider was crossing the road into a large parking lot. When I made it home with our newest "pet", Micah said he had been praying for a turtle, and it was a Miracle that God answered his prayers, so that became her name. (The turtle's size gave away its gender, she was a full 12" across, and boys only make it up to 10", thank you Google.)

We kept Miracle for around two weeks. The kids would walk with her around the yard, we made sure she had fresh water and food. She really was sweet and friendly, not easily spooked. When the kids picked her up, she wouldn't even put her head or legs in, she'd sit on their feet (which the kids said was her way of hugging them). But she wasn't eating well. And we didn't have a way to provide her with moving water, which was important because mosquitoes were beginning to take a liking to her baby pool. We decided that she needed to be released. We loaded up our Miracle and headed to a local park with a river. Miracle was thrilled to be back in the river and we watched her explore her new surrounding for at least an hour. Dragonflies were also caught, skipping stones flung, and feet sunk into the bank. Micah cried and cried and cried about releasing his best little turtle friend. I think the little man is going to be a vet or a zoo keeper.

This afternoon our reptile adventures continued, and I wish I had a picture, or a video, but I don't. I was pleasantly surprised that no one suggested acquiring the anoles we discovered on my Red Yucca in the front yard because I'm not sure where we would have put them! But we did enjoy about twenty minutes with our neighbors watching a male anole doing his best to woo a female, bobbing his head up and down and expanding out his red bulging neck. The kids started looking for the female and we ended up spotting three green anoles in and amongst the Yucca leaves.

So, while we are squeezing in a little school work here and there, we are spending far more time playing in the dirt, observing nature, and soaking up the rain and sun. Oh, and every other day we stand around to watch the toads slurp up crickets. If you ever want to watch, just come by, I'll make coffee and we can "oooh" and "aaah" and cheer the toads on. :)