Wednesday, July 23, 2008


With all the animals we have, I thought I'd start blogging about each of them, sort of as an introduction (...and to show just how insane I am!). I will also try to outline their care a bit, so you have an idea just how busy things are here just caring for the animals. We happened to get a new member of the family on Sunday, so I thought I'd pick him to blog about first. Meet George!

George is a Russian Tortoise. I would estimate him to be around 5 years old, but these little guys can live to be 50-60 years old, so he's just a baby. Despite the fact that we have had him less than a week, he has already settled in and we have become quite attached to him. We bought him for Tucker for his help in loading all that hay. He originally was going to get a Nintendo DS, but decided he wanted a tortoise instead. Is he my kid or what?!

Geroge's favorite activity seems to be exploring the yard and eating everything he comes across. After being kept in a 20-gal tank, he now has a 55-gal opaque container to get lost in. You see, turtles and tortoises should be kept in opaque containers because they don't understand the concept of glass and will continually try to go through it. It's very stressful on them! The storage containers take care of this. He still tries to get out, but instead of just blindly walking in place, he is actively looking up and trying to climb out. He only does this from time to time, and spends most of his time eating and digging. It's cute because when he climbs on the side, it looks like he is begging for someone to take him out.

We have about 6-inches of Bed-A-Beast and playsand mixed together for him to dig in. We also put a bunch of hay at one end, which he loves to nap under. They say tortoises like to munch on hay, but so far he just plays in it. As with our other reptiles, we have a warm side and a cool side, so he has a choice of temperatures. The warm side gets up to 75-80 with a basking rock that gets hotter. The cool side gets down in the 60's at night, but gets up in the 70's during the day.

It's fairly humid in his container now, but that's because the Bed-A-Beast is still evaporating the water out (you have to soak the brick in water to loosen up the coconut fibers). I want to get the humidity down a bit because Russian tortoises are found in arid regions of Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan, Northern and Eastern Iran, North Western China and the Soviet territory Kazakhstan. They are most commonly found in sand and clay deserts with sparse grasses and bushes. Russian tortoises are rarely found in dense grassy areas or cultivated fields. Well, George is now enjoying "dense grassy areas and cultivated fields", so I want to keep his tank more in line with what his hardy ancestors have to deal with. It will be a reality check for him, because he really seems to enjoy our "dense grassy areas and cultivated fields" .

For a small tortoise, George can really book it when he wants to. He cruses around the yard, with the kids trotting behind him. If you don't watch him, it would be very easy for him to disappear in the tall grass. He is very good at burrowing through things! Here's a picture I took of him moving:

The blurring really gives you an idea how fast he is going! Well, for a tortoise, anyway. Still no match for a hare, but we all know how that story ends.

Russian tortoises are not allowed to eat any fruit, other than an occasional apple as a treat. It gives them the runs (I know, ewww!) and is not something they would normally eat in the wild. Some of George's favorite greens include dandelion leaves, plantain (plantago major the weed, not bananas), clover, and violet leaves.

We have an old sand box in the yard set up for George to get his daily dose of sun in. He likes it, but definitely prefers to have free run of the yard.

Well, that's about all I can think of to add about George. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments area!

Sites with more information about Russina Tortoises:

The Russian Tortoise

Russian or Horsfield's Tortoise

Russian Tortoise Care Sheet

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Not So Itsy, Bitsy Spider

Ain't she a beauty?! I found this huge spider crawling up the side of our house the other morning. My first reaction was to scream and run--very far away. Instead, I ran in the house and got my camera, then slowly crept out trying to summon up the courage to get close enough for a good picture. The longer I stood there getting pictures, the braver I got. It was a bit chilly that morning and she wasn't moving fast, so I stepped right up to get some macro pictures. It was then that I noticed the babies.

She's a species of wolf spider (Family Lycosidae) and they, along with nursery-web and fishing spiders, are good mamas. First they carry the egg sac around under their abdomens, holding it in place with a bit of web. When the babies emerge, they cling to their mama until they are big enough to catch their own prey (their first meal often being one of their siblings). I think they are very fascinating!

Sorry the pictures are a bit dark. The sun hadn't quite come up and when it did, the spider ran under the house where it's nice and dark. If you look closely in the picture above (click on it to enlarge it), you can see an older, brown-colored baby up by her right front leg. It either emerged before the others or, more likely, it came from another spider and is eating the babies. There's also another light gray-colored baby above and to the left of that one. They would climb up and down her legs, but she never once made a move to get away from them.

A pencil next to her to show size comparison.

Here are some wolf spider links to learn more about these cool arachnids:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hay is for Horses!

Every year, we go through this big hassle trying to get enough hay over the winter for our horses. Everyone seems to be using the big round bales now, but we have no way to handle those big bales. Southern States has hay, but charges an extra dollar or two per bale, which adds up to quite a bit over time. We finally found a place close to our farm to get square bales from. It's maybe five miles up the road and it's really nice hay. Nice hay = happy horses.

The guy cut and baled the hay, then left it in the field for us to get, which saves us a few cents a bale. Scott and I brought in 300 bales in two days and, for the first time, had some extra help in the form of our oldest son, Tucker. We just finished getting our last load yesterday evening, and I must say that Tucker really made things easier on us. Usually it's just Scott and I lugging those hay bales, but with Tucker, we were able to work a lot faster. I stacked the bales in piles in the field, while Scott tossed them up to Tucker to stack on the truck and trailer. Wow, in a couple years when Dylan gets older, I'll just stay home and let them get the hay!

Scott getting ready to secure the hay

Tucker using those big muscles to stack the hay

One cool kid!

Yay! Last load out!

Subway Okays Homeschoolers

WorldNetDaily reported yesterday that homeschoolers can now participate in the "Every Sandwich Tells a Story" contest. Subway also sent out a letter of apology:

"We sincerely apologize to anyone who feels excluded by our current essay contest. Our intention was to provide an opportunity for traditional schools, many of which we know have trouble affording athletic equipment, to win equipment. Our intent was certainly not to exclude homeschool children from the opportunity to win prizes and benefit from better access to fitness equipment."

Yay!!! You have until August 31st to enter. Here is a link once again to the contest:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Every Sandwich Tells a Story!

...well, it does unless you are homeschooled.

Subway has a contest up and running now called Every Sandwich Tells a Story. The rules are simple (and this is directly quoted from the site):
  • Have your child write a story that has a beginning, middle, and end. Or have fun writing the story together!

  • Be creative! Let your imagination cook up a story that is as delicious to read as a Subway sandwich is to eat. If possible, include a few details that describe "Random Acts of Fitness (e.g. eating right, exercising, playing sports, living a healthy lifestyle).

Story starters for the contest are:

  • The Mysterious Meatball - When the invitation to the Meatball came in the mail...

  • Turkey Doesn't Live Here Anymore - There was a loud knock on the door, but when Salami Sam opened it...

  • The Race to Red Onion Ranch - Everyone gathered in the center of town for the start of the race except...

  • Nothing Better - The smell of fresh baked bread coming from the store was so good that...

Grand prizes include athletic equipment for your child's school ($5000 value); Scholastic gift basket (apparently good spelling is optional as they have it spelled "bastket" on the site); $100 Subway gift card; and story is published on and in Scholastic's Parent & Child magazine. There will also be six runners-up who will get a Scholastic gift basket and $50 Subway gift cards.

Sounds like a great opportunity for any child, doesn't it? I know as a homeschooling parent, I am always looking for ways to encourage my children to write and I am sure parents with kids in public/private school feels the same way. And not only does the prize benefit the child, but he/she can perform a community service by being able to donate $5000 worth of athletic equipment to a school (possibly even a community park, youth group or maybe even an actual homeschool get the idea).

But now for the fine print (and take note of the very humorous misspelling of "United" as it is posted on the Subway website):

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. Contest is open only to legal residents of the Untied States who are currently over the age of 18 and have children who attend elementary, private or parochial schools that serve grades PreK-6. No home schools will be accepted.

I guess I can see why they might have excluded homeschoolers. After all, where would a homeschooler donate $5000 worth of athletic equipment? What use would a homeschooler have for a basket (or should I say bastket?) of Scholastic books? Why on earth would a homeschooled child want to see his story published on both a website and in a magazine?

Based on the fine print in this essay contest, though, I can definitely say that homeschoolers have no use for a Subway gift card. Certainly not those in the Untied States, anyway.

Subway sandwich contest: Homeschoolers not wanted

Subway Petition

Contact info:

Subway Headquarters
325 Bic Drive Milford, Connecticut 06461-3059

Tom Seddon CEO, SFAFT
800-888-4848 x1370

There's a feedback form:

You can contact scholastic at:
P& or