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July 22, 2009

Two Minutes

Here in the South, gardening is an obsession. For women who are stay-at-home, it's almost an expectation: No worthy Southern Woman would be without some sort of garden at her home. The origin of the term "Garden Home" came somewhere, and my guess it originated in the South.

I heard about this "gardening" thing before moving here. I read Steel Magnolias and To Kill a Mocking Bird: ladies garden because it was expected they would garden. Begrudgingly, I've given this a try with no previous experience in Oklahoma save a few marigolds that would come back year after year no matter what was done to their soil.

Frankie posed a major problem to my ambitions of becoming a Southern Lady With A Garden. I did put in a blueberry bush and a raspberry bush in the backyard but Frankie ate them both. With Frankie, backyard gardening looked difficult if not impossible. I didn't want to do a garden in view of my neighbors lest they find out that not only am I a total failure in the "manners" department but I rate an "F" in gardening too.

After much consideration, I decided on a garden on the side of the house next to Frankie's fence. Last year I managed three yellow squash plants and three zucchini squash plants that produced a total of eight squashes before they were totally destroyed by bugs. Perhaps wanting to be an organic gardener was reaching too high.

So this year, I went back to basics. I dug up two feet deep worth of Alabama clay (mixed with rocks) from my designated garden area. The clay/rock dirt was put into Frankie's hole that went under my Air Conditioning Unit. I figured if it took me three weeks to dig 2 feet by 10 feet of the "hard as rock" stuff then it may take Frankie more than an hour to get under my AC unit. So far both projects were successful. I had a nicely dug out area for my garden and Frankie hasn't dug under my AC unit (yet) this year.

It's true what they say about soil: just go buy it at Lowe's Home Store, it's much better than what is in your yard for gardening. So far, after one month of gardening, I've done so good that I have harvested one cucumber.

Frankie has done better.

Next to his outdoor house and on the other side of the fence, a squash plant sprouted without me planting a seed and is outgrowing all the plants in my garden. I kid Frankie that since I didn't plant it, it must be his squash plant. Frankie just looks at me. He doesn't speak English.

Frankie's squash plant grew double the size of all of my plants in half the time. I am guessing it's all the degrading Frankie poop that washes from under the porch (where he hangs out all day) and fertilizes his plant into a frenzy. I've taken the hint and last week started putting all the Frankie poop I can find into my garden.

Although my garden is on the other side of the fence from Frankie, there is the occasional cucumber vine that dips down too low on Frankie's side that he can get a bite out if it. I do my best to keep the vines away from Frankie's reach but he is a clever tortoise. There have been losses. He has developed a taste for garden plants.

Like on the way to a walk he will try to get a bite out of the "Frankie Squash Plant" as he passes through the gate. The plant survived two Frankie attempts to eat it but as I was right by his side, Frankie had too little time to eat much.

Little did I know.

So Frankie and I are coming back from a walk and he is heading toward the gate to the back yard. I needed to set his skateboard and my water bottle down in the garage which I figured would take me less than a minute and then less than another minute to catch up with Frankie and lead him safely into the yard past my garden.

In the first few seconds as I unlocked the garage door, I saw that Frankie was a good boy and passed my garden up (to my great surprise) and instead started to graze the grass just four feet from the gate. I go inside to put down supplies. I take just an extra moment to take off my big Southern Floppy Hat (yeah, I got one of those). I leave the garage, lock the door and head up to the gate.

Two minutes. Maybe even just 100 seconds.

There was no more Frankie Squash Plant.

Gone, zilch, nada. Frankie has finished a squash plant that was about a foot tall and two feet wide in less than two minutes.

Frankie didn't even turn around to say "sorry," or "tough luck," or "what nut would plant a squash plant next to my path to the back yard!"

It was Frankie's plant. I guess he could do with it what he wanted.

July 16, 2009

Proof of Love

Big things were expected from the Dogloo brought it into Frankie's yard last week. The first 45 minutes were exciting as Frankie played bulldozer-the-yard-with-the-Dogloo. A couple of bushes were the only victims of the rampage. Solar panels, fences, posts, kiddy pools and bird feeding stations all went unharmed.

The brief chaos was follow by quiet as Frankie abandoned the Dogloo under a tree. After that Frankie had nothing to do with the Dogloo. All my hard working cleaning this big igloo was for nothing. A vision of a new shelter for Frankie when he wanted to sleep in the yard just went "poof". Posted Image

We owners try many things and need many options to protect our dear sulcata when they do the strange things they do. One of the strange things they do is test our love for them.

Two nights later, a fast moving and dangerous storm struck suddenly in the evening. I made a trip outside as the first drops of rain begin so to be sure Frankie was safe in his enclosure for the night.

Frankie was not there. I had cleaned out his house and left the top open to air the stinky place out. Frankie will not use it when the lid is open. He is outside sleeping somewhere. Thunder begins to get closer and the rain is stronger. Greg is yelling for me to get inside. But I couldn't. Frankie was out there somewhere.Posted Image

I head to the back part of the yard, pressing forward as the thunder is now accompanied by large flashes of light. I see Frankie sitting by the back fence. I am now being pelted by very large drops of rain.

Frankie looks up at me almost accusingly to say, "You left my top open and I am forced to sleep out here in the rain. You don't love me."

I clapped my hands for Frankie to follow me, then I nudge him from behind to "jump start" some movement, and finally just start pushing him four inches at a time. He finally starts a slow walk past the bushes and into a clearing. I thought to myself, "Ten more minutes of this and he will be safely to shelter." I am soaked to the bone.

Once we pass the bushes and trees, Frankie quits all forward motion. He just gives up and sits. Greg is yelling from the porch that we are now under a thunderstorm and flash flood warning. Duh! I beg Frankie to move forward.

"If you really love me, Mom, you'll pick me up and carry me to my house, even if I am 60 pounds. If you love me, you will save me from this dangerous storm."

Oh, for goodness sake!

And I do. Barefooted, completely soaked, shivering, I do it. Frankie is saved. I get a big talking to by Greg. But this is what we sulcata owners do.

Like last night. Frankie insisted on sleeping in the yard. At mid-night it starts to rain and storm. In my night gown I go to the back yard to see if there is any chance Frankie has been smart enough to go into his shelter (the lid is down!). He hasn't. In just a night gown and with no shoes, I refused to push or pick up the 60 monster. NO WAY. Luck is on my side: the Dogloo weighs less than Frankie.

Now complete soaked in rain, I drag the Dogloo from across the yard where Frankie left it a week ago, and place it over Frankie. If he will not go to a shelter, the shelter will come to him. I return inside my house. I remove my soaking wet night gown, dry me and my hair, put on a clean dry night gown and return to bed.

Thirty minutes later I am waken with the thought that the Dogloo has no vent cover on the top and Frankie is probably soaked and is freezing to death.

This time I put on a rain slick complete with a hood. I grab a piece of plastic and head outside. Rain is coming down hard. The plastic is placed over the open vent area. I look inside to check on Frankie: He is sound asleep, dry, and warm to the touch.

When I get back inside it is nearly 1:00 a.m.

I gotta be nuts. I must really love that 60 pound monster.

July 7, 2009

A Mind of His Own

One of my favorite places to shop is on street curbs.  You know: other people's trash. I would be a dumpster diver but my husband strictly forbids its. I am allow to look at what people put out in front of their yard for "big trash" pick-up so I am always on the look out for a free bargain.

Today I passed by a neighbor who had two large dog houses and a large Dogloo out by the curb with a sign that said "Free". Cool! I stop to consider whether the Dogloo was big enough for Frankie.

Many sulcata tortoise keepers swear by the Dogloo: Mostly keepers in good climates. Keepers hang heating lights inside for heat and add plastic doors to keep the weather out. Yes, Frankie already has a nice outdoor enclosure but I was looking at this Dogloo as a extra something up by all the trees. Frankie could sit in the Dogloo under in the shade or sheltered from rain, and still enjoy the world going by.

Into the car goes the Dogloo. Frankie has a new shelter.

Frankie, however, makes up his own mind about things put in his yard.

For instance, several years ago, Frankie decided that a flat plastic container lid that covered the poison I put on a fire ant mound was instead a slide. He would get on the slide and attempt to walk up to the top and then slide back down. He would do this for twenty minutes at a time. Eventually he got so good at walking on this plastic lid he used it as a tread mill. If you don't believe me I have videos.

Certainly the Purple Pooper Scooper and the Old Bale of Wire learned they had very different roles than they expected when they showed up in Frankie's yard.

So I haul the Dogloo (which comes into two parts: flat bottom and the igloo top) into the yard. The igloo bottom I place near the porch and the igloo top near the gate. I return into the house to change into causal clothes.

When I return about ten minutes later the igloo bottom is still near the porch but the igloo top is now in the middle of the yard and seems to be moving by its own volition,  farther away from the porch by the moment.

You guessed it: Frankie is inside the Dogloo and is pushing it around the yard. He thinks the Dogloo is a tank. What would Frankie know? He doesn't know tanks have forward looking windows. Frankie is maneuvering wherever and is completely blind. I dash in front of the moving Dogloo tank to save the lawn sprinkler from ultimate destruction.

"Frankie!" I yell.

The Dogloo tank comes to a halt.

Bang! Slam! Bump! Frankie emerges from the Dogloo's open side.

"What!" Frankie looks at me incredulously.

I shake my head. What does Frankie know? I shrug my shoulders and return to the porch.

I just hope he doesn't take out the solar panels.

(Note to readers: There are days I wonder if I can come up with something to write for Frankie's Tortoise Tails. I shouldn't worry. With Frankie, things just happen.)