Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: 2016



September 6, 2016

Dress For Dinner

With Frankie Tortoise Tails, I only ever want to tell the truth about sulcata tortoises and give a clear warning to potential buyers and those ooging I-wanna-cute-wittle-big-eye-tortoise-like-'tis-wittle-pet-shop-baby-sulcata-dat-the-clerk-says-will-never-get-bigger-then-da-tank-I-put-it-in impulse buyer. Yeah.

Ya gotta know what you're up against when that cute baby turtle hits 105 pounds.

A friend told me that a storms blew over her fence and within a day her big adult male sulcata pushed through temporary fixes to the fence.  With some incredible good luck and attentive neighbors, the runaway tortoise was spotted and an animal rescue group quickly located Franklin's worried owner.

...storms, fence damage, tortoise rescue isn't the point of the story.  The point is the rescue group weighted big ole Franklin.....wait for it.....a whopping 150 pounds.

I always thought that reports of 150 pound sulcata were unsubstantiated guesses.  After all how many tortoise owners have a large animal scale in their bathroom?

I KNEW I should have underfed Frankie all these years!  Too late now.  I am doomed.

As I continue to creep around in my now six month depression Frankie...the future 150 pound Frankie...continues to keep me on my toes.

He is a force to be dealt with.

Last week he tore up the box turtle's outdoor enclosure who luckily were inside at the time.  It appeared that he just went full-out sulcata ram at the back corner fence area.  The long line of the fence was pulled away from the permanent cemented weather station pole, and area around front tumbled the stacked bricks that held it in place.

Really?  Is Frankie now ramming structures?  Do I need to worry about the shed?

After a little clean up and careful observation I discovered the truth of how that fence came down. Frankie didn't ram the box turtles fence after all.  Nope.  Frankie was enthusiastically loving on his orange bucket right next to the fence and consequentially the fence became collateral hump-damage.

Truth.  Nothing is safe in Frankie's yard.

Like wearing nice clothes or your best shoes around Frankie.  Don't.

I have this dress.  It's a gorgeous dress from my favorite clothing store, Clear Water Creek.  I cannot afford to buy anything at full price from the place so when I find a $150 dress for $20 (did someone accidentally mislabeled this?), I was thrilled.  It's a dress that I will never have occasion to wear: sherbet green eyelet cotton, sleeveless, scoop neck, ankle length, lined,...beautiful!  I've had it since last summer...never worn it.

At home, doing nothing, I wore it.  The dress really made me feel a bit better.  Went outside to see Frankie.  He liked the dress so much that I had to drop the carrot and run back to the house.

The dress required hand washing which means I put it in the washing machine anyway, but I was not going to put it in the drier.  I put it on a hanger and hung it on the fence out of Frankie' reach.

Just after dinner I went outside to bring the dress back inside.

Do you know how far a sulcata tortoise can stretch their neck?  Have you ever seen a sulcata tortoise stand up on tippy-toes?  Between an outstretched neck and tippy-toes the dress was just not high up enough.

I found the dress on the ground.  At first I thought it just fell on the ground and Frankie hadn't noticed it at all.  Then I saw the chew marks.

Go ahead and say it.  I already did.  Frankie had the dress for dinner.

The good news is Frankie couldn't shallow.  He just chewed.

The dress got washed again then hung in the shower to dry.

Really I was never going to wear that dress out in public anyway.  Never going to have an occasion to wear it when jeans and a tailored shirt will suffice just as well.

I am never going to install a clothes line in Frankie's yard. No, that clothes line would need to be high up to keep Frankie's inquiring appetite from eating more clothes.  I'd have to use a ladder.

Do I need to explain what happens to ladders when Frankie is around?

July 8, 2016

Therapy Dig

Fear not, Frankie and I still exist.  I'm visiting one of my Deep Depressions which occasionally stops by like an unwanted guest.  I'm pretty good at surviving them.  This depression is no charmer but it's not a record breaker:  The worse lasted two years.

I've developed a sense of humor about withdrawing into a hermit like existence.  There is the bonus weigh loss that occurs due to the absolute disinterest in food, and trimming outside activities so to concentrate on remembering to bathe, brush my teeth, and feed Greg and the cats.

[No worries.  Got a doctor who loves throwing prescriptions at me. Sorry doc, already tried that pill. Yep, tried that one too. I can do Hermit but don't wanna be a Zombie.  Can we just keep it simple?  I've been doing this since I was sixteen, You weren't even born yet.]

Frankie showed up in my life at the end of that long two year record depression and he continues to challenge my keen ability to remain un-moving indoors doing absolutely nothing but wondering what day it is.  

He showed up on the porch the other day covered with dirt.  

Nothing spells trouble like a dirt covered sulcata shell.

 I know that sulcata tortoises dig.  Digging is part of who they are.  Digging long tunnels down underground sometimes eight to fourteen feet long is instinct.  Where else do you think a sulcata tortoise would live?  

Attempting to beat an animal's natural instinct is probably mankind's most arrogant trait. Long before Frankie moved into out lives, Greg and I have schemed and devised ways to keep our sulcata from digging. We've really, really tried.  Hence our elaborate Frankie Caves over 14 years.  

Real Important Point:  If a sulcata tortoise has a place to sleep where he feels secure and comfortable, he probably will not dig.  Key words there are secure and comfortable.

Check posts about Frankie's houses and you'll find we've been very successful proving Frankie with such places.  Mostly.  Until it gets hot.

Frankie showing up at the back door covered with dirt means he is digging to find a cool spot.  The hair on my neck stands on end and even though I am in a air conditioned room I break into a sweat.  I head outside urgent to find what Frankie's been into.

Right off I see the wood pallet set by the fence corner toss over like some kid has kicked over a stack of wooden building blocks.  Yep, Frankie started digging here.  Good news: He got stopped by the pieces of cement I put into the hole he tried to dig last summer.  Bad news is he moved on from here to find a better dig for The Spot.

Frankie has caught up with me, brushing against my leg.  I look down at him a bit annoyed.  He looks up at me like "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Farther on between the shed and the fence I find the area where I plant clover has now been all dug up.  But this isn't The Spot.  Frankie just test dug out all the clover.  So I proceed along the fence hunting for The Spot.  

Nothing for the entire length of the yard until I get to the fence by the house. I stood in silent wonderment at the carnage.  This spot wasn't just digging.  This is more wrecking and destruction.

I spent last fall excavating this particular area putting down bricks and wood all around a awkwardly placed railroad tie.  Frankie refuses to walk around this cumbersome object around but instead insist on walking over it.  He struggles to crawls over from below and in the reverse direction slides off with a PLOP to the ground.  I carefully landscaped bricks and wood to force Frankie to walk around the railroad tie.  

He dug all that up. Bricks and wood are scattered all around the immobile railroad tie.  Not sure what I am going to do about this mess.

Frankie catches up with me again.  I look down at him annoyed.  He looks up at me, proudly, "Huh? Whadda think?  Good job, huh?"

Still, this is not The Spot we are looking for.

There by the house, in a nook of the house it the Big Dig.  Frankie has dug a dirt pit to keep cool. It's not a tunnel.  It's just a place to dig into the cool dirt.

If it was a tunnel he would be digging under our house.

Good news:  no tunnel under the fence and into Greater Mobile.  

Still, I am going to have to keep a very close eye on this corner.  The Spot is "comfort" which the greenhouse can't provide.  Frankie gets to keep his hole.  A shade cloth is placed over The Spot to increase Frankie's feeling of comfort and security.  I'll go out daily and hose it down with water. It will be a mud hole. Frankie will like that.

That rascal, Frankie.  He got me out of the house.  I'm doing a little yard work.  Now I am writing.  

Frankie is better than drugs.

March 16, 2016

A Day In Frankie's Life (video)

Ever wonder what a day is like for Frankie?  What can a sulcata tortoise do all day?  The list isn't all that long:

Get some beauty sleep
Bask in the glory of sunlight till the shell hums with warmth
Walk everywhere
Drink as much water as you want
Check out the sky
Make sure the trees are in their place
Look for exotic foods
Get the daily carrot
Check out the humans
Inspect the yard for intruders and strange objects
Hump anything resembling another tortoise
Ram invaders
Inspect buildings and fences
Wait for a walk around the block..

Okay, so the list gets long once you observe Frankie and his shenanigans.  

Your turn to check our Frankie and his daily routine.....about four hours worth of Frankie business.

Video is three minutes and twelve seconds.  Enjoy!

 Comments are always welcome!

March 11, 2016

A Seedy Problem

A reprieve....I have a day's reprieve.  It's raining outside, Frankie is hanging out inside his greenhouse, I get to sit and write a Frankie Tortoise Tail.

New problem in the Frankie's Backyard Paradise.  

Two years ago when we moved here our neighbor let us know we had a fruit tree in our yard. The excellent tree that shades the back porch is some sorta exotic fruit tree that I had never hear about.  I kept an eye on it that first year yet no flowers or fruit every appeared.  

Frankie loved eating the non-toxic year round green leaves that fell in the yard.  Pretty much, except for the excellent shade and delicious leaves I quit paying attention to the tree. 

.....until this December.  Tiny lovely white flowers began adorning the tree.  What tree blooms in the middle of the winter?

The Loquot Tree does.  

Not only does it bloom in the winter, it's one of the very few trees that produces fruit in the winter.  

Curiously I watched as the fruits begin forming.  By January the little green fruits were thumb size. In February they begin to ripen into yellow luscious fruits.

Fruits are a no-no for sulcata tortoises.  The fruit sugar wrecks havoc with the tortoise digestion system evolved for a scant grassland diet.  Sugars cause intestinal bacteria imbalances, and contributes to the dreaded bladder stones.   

Just say, "No," to fruit Frankie.  Just say, "No!"

Frankie camps out under that Loquot Tree like a beggar.  

First thing in the morning I head out to the tree and pick up anything fallen from the night before.  

Doesn't matter.  Frankie haunts the tree like a Florida retiree on a beach.

Frankie under the Loquot Tree

Took just a couple of days to realize I was missing all the "pre-nibbled" fruit dropped to the ground by birds.  Bits of fruit fall the ground hidden by grass and dirt and only the sharp nose of a tortoise can find the little sweet morsels.

And then there were the seeds.  For barefooted me its like stepping on Tic-Tacs.  I know they are there.  I can feel them.  The panic came when I realized that Frankie was eating the seeds.  

An internet search reveals the seeds may or may not be poisonous, depending on the source. Thanks, Internet.   

Time for Poop Patrol.  I dissect three previous days' poop.  Yep.  Frankie is eating the pits.  

Good news:  Frankie doesn't chew.  Bad news:  Frankie swallows.

It's been wait and watch.  

Fruits been falling for three weeks.  Frankie isn't dead yet.

Still not taking chances.  I am outside sweeping, raking, picking up the fruit all day long.  I have to be vigilant.  Frankie is.

Frankie does his morning bask and a quick walk around the yard, He skips grazing and heads straight under the Loquot Tree skulking about for bits of fruit dropped by birds.


He doesn't find any whole fruits.  I've grabbed those.

I even recruited neighbors to check for fallen fruit under the Loquot Tree while I was out of town.  

I thought the small Persimmon tree in our yard in Birmingham was trouble.  It's nothing compared to the full grown Loquot Tree.  I hate to consider chopping it down.  The Loquot fruit is delicious!   Like a pear only much sweeter.  

Frankie thinks so.  

Free Loquots to anyone who wants to come over and harvest it themselves.  Bring a carrot for Frankie and help yourself to free Loquots.


Special thanks to neighbors Denise and Renee, vigilant Frankie guardians.  

February 8, 2016

The Levitation Solution

Frankie and I used to go everywhere.  We would go to the park, Petsmart, Petco, to pet parades, to schools and day care centers, and libraries, more parks, art festivals, around the block, down the street and wherever we wanted to go......when Frankie was smaller.

I would pick up Frankie, toss him into the car and off we went on many adventures.

When Frankie got bigger, about 45 pounds or so, we still went places but I had to use more muscle to get Frankie in and out of the car.  The bigger he got the more difficult he was to lift so I relied on more and more on genius and ingenuity to get him places because let's face facts, a woman over 50 has a few physical limitations.

I got lucky meeting a fellow turtle lover and near-by neighbor, Greta, who became a fellow tortoise traveler and partner-picker-upper of Frankie.  Frankie above the 50 pound mark was bigger and heavier but Greta make it possible for Frankie and me to get to our favorite destination.

For better or worse, when Greg, Frankie and I moved our household to Mobile things changed drastically.  Frankie broke the 100 pound mark and I found without a close-by Greta or the always-working Greg, Frankie and I were just not going to very many places. Since I couldn't just float Frankie into the car we just couldn't go anywhere.

But the last few days, boy-oh-boy, we got to go places.  Frankie and I packed up and drove to B&B Pet Store, and then we drove to the park, and then we drove to the park again!  Frankie spent time basking in the sun and grazing on some tasty green grass and weeds, and walking all over the pet store....over and over and over.  I kept by Frankie's side and answered the top 20 Frankie Questions.

So exciting!  I am already planning more outings.

You are asking just how this 55+ woman is getting Frankie in and out of the car.  No, the State of Alabama is still not allowing me to marry a second husband who can pick up Frankie when ever I need, and of course, Greg still works a lot.  It's not a neighbor stepping up as Frankie co-carrier.

Nope, Frankie is getting in and out of the car all by himself....with a bit of clever thinking, lots of measuring, hunting out some good sales, two dog ramps, and a bit of woodworking.

.....voila!  Frankie Ramp!

Returning home, Frankie heads down the ramp.
The added wood platform keeps the ramp from separating or sliding.

Frankie's getting really good at using his ramp.

The ramp should last another 15 Frankie pounds before I have to make adjustments or add supports.  I may have to rethink the whole thing again if Frankie gets too big.  Always possible with a growing sulcata tortoise.

I subscribe faithfully to the number one successful sulcata keeper rule:  Anticipate the next pound.

Right now its time to make some travel plans:  visit the new PetSmart and Petco, take a trip to the downtown historical park, and attend the Mobile Walk for Autism.  So many places to travel, so many grasses to graze, so many Frankie questions to answer.  We can't wait!  

February 1, 2016

Sherlock and the Case of the Red Foot Tortoise

The Internet story of the red foot tortoise found alive in a box 32 years after it disappeared is so amusing to me that I thought I would add a bit of logic to in Sherlock Holmes logic.

Hold on to your shells. We are going to use some smarts.

The story of the turtle is a riddle that today may need a genius thinker to solve because, regretfully, a lot of people think that what they read on the internet is true. Um, let me just repeat that: a lot of people think everything on the internet is true.

A lot of Internet stories are written as enhanced reality, or something fixed up to be more interesting. But let's let Sherlock look at the facts.

A family had a red foot tortoise. It "ran away" or "disappeared." The turtle was not located nor re-appear for the rest of the time the children lived in the house. The children grow up and move out of the house. These are accepted as fact.

Other facts: Dad died. House was left to the children. House had a lot of stuff left inside. All accepted as fact.

Children clean out the house but there is no mention of any turtle husbandry equipment when they clean up the house. A neighbor makes mentions of the turtle in the trash the children toss from the house. A turtle is found mingling within boxes once inside the house.

Now, here is the jump to fiction. Child says turtle must be the one lost 32 years ago.

Sherlock would say, “Well, first, let’s look at all the facts.”

Sherlock would ask, "Where is your proof that this is the same turtle? Do you have pictures to compare it to? Did a veterinarian attest that this turtle is 32 years old? Can a herpetologist verify that this turtle is the same species you had before? Can either the veterinarian or the herpetologist verify that the turtle’s physical condition is that of a turtle that lived in a house unseen for 32 years without any care?

Sherlock would then say, "You are an idiot."

Okay, Sherlock wouldn't say the kid was an idiot. That was me saying the kid was an idiot. Sherlock would be kind and say, the turtle is not the same turtle you saw when you were a child thirty-two years ago.

“First, the children said they did not see the turtle anywhere in the house during the years they lived there with their father. Records kept on the longevity of the species Chelonoidis carbonaria ssp. estimate that they can live from 30 to 50 years, depending on scientific literature and amateur observation. It is also obvious that this family were but amateur keepers.”

“At this point,” Sherlock said, “I would turn the conversation to Julie Maguire at Long Island Turtle Rescue to attest to the condition of turtles who are kept in captivity by amateur keepers. She would, as would any turtle expert, I am sure, attest that less than optimal conditions greatly shortens a turtle’s life and renders gross physical proof of inadequate husbandry.”

“Looking at the photos attached often to this Internet story, one can clearly see that the turtles in the pictures are not of the turtle lost 32 years ago. A turtle kept with inadequate husbandry would not look healthy. If the present turtle is a different turtle, as I believe it is, it still would not look very healthy as they children did not report the presence of any turtle husbandry equipment.”

“My conclusion is thus: the turtle was not the turtle the children knew 32 years ago. They had neither the expertise nor experience to claim that it was. If the children had some experience with reptiles or turtles they may have recognized if there was reptile equipment in the house like lights, vitamins, food or substrate.”

“We can reasonable conclude the father had a turtle in his possession before he died. The neighbor seems to have knowledge of the turtle because the neighbor asked if the children were throwing away the turtle.”

Just because there are pictures attached to an Internet story doesn’t mean the pictures are actual pictures of the actual people or animals or place. In some of the internet article the photos were "stock" pictures. Picture are attached to a stories because people are more likely to read the article. That’s a journalistic fact.

Just because someone THINKS something happened, like the children in this story, doesn’t mean they came to scientific truth. In the case of the 32 year old turtle living in a house without the benefit of correct husbandry (food, water, light, humidity, heat, exercise, security), it’s just not scientifically possible. The children’s own story backs up those facts.

This last weekend a Rapper claimed to have photographic proof the world is flat. Oh, please!

Be smarter than the internet. Be like Sherlock. Use logic.

January 19, 2016

Grand Gent of the Greenhouse

Because I can, this morning I walked outside and across the backyard in 30º F. weather, a cup of coffee in hand, so I can check on Frankie snoozing in his warm 72º F greenhouse.

That's right.  Frankie sleeps in his new greenhouse...outside, not in my house but in his new Frankie shelter, even on really cold nights when otherwise I would haul his huge shell into my house to sleep in the bathroom.

Frankie is no longer the King of Cardboard.  Frankie can now enjoy the winter in his own outdoor abode, his new greenhouse, in warmth and security.

He no longer snuggles with cardboard.  Frankie is nestled shell deep in insulating hay.  His Kane Livestock pad attached to his back wall, an oil heater near the front of his cave, and most important, a heated floor that keeps his toes toasty.

Frankie is the now Grand Gent of the Greenhouse.

Since the greenhouse was installed a month ago, the beginning of December, Frankie has only spent two nights inside our house and only because the greenhouse had not proven itself in freezing weather. After a few modifications last week, Frankie's greenhouse keeps him safe and warm into the 30's.

The greenhouse solves so many problems.  We can now open the guest room to real humans as Frankie no longer lives in the bathroom during the winter.  Greg can visit the gecko room with no fear of stepping in Frankie poop.  No more mopping up gallons of Frankie pee off floor tile.  The bathroom and laundry room don't smell like a horse barn.  Carpet cleaning with our Green Steam Machine is reduced to a couple times a year.

But I miss Frankie.  Many days it's just too cold for Frankie to walk around the yard.  He spends many hours tucked up inside his greenhouse.  Luckily, the greenhouse is big enough for me to sit in my own chair and enjoy the warmth with him.

So, cup of coffee in hand I head out to visit the Grand Gent of the Greenhouse.  The low last night was 30º F, and confident as I am in the greenhouse, I still want to see how Frankie is doing.

Cup of coffee, and a camera in hand.  Of course.

Walk gingerly across the lightly frosted grass.  Open the greenhouse door and immediately I am greeted with a flush of warmth.  I can't see Frankie because he is deep within his box.  An electric oil heater covers the open space into his box.

The temperature gauge on the wall says its 71º F.  I grab the heat temperature gun so I can check to see exactly how warm Frankie is.  I pull the oil heater back so I can peek at Frankie.

Awe.  Frankie is so cute when he is sleeping.  Hi, ya, Frankie!  Frankie's shell reads a toasty 74º F,

Frankie peers out at me through barely open eyes.  No, he is NOT happy to see me.  What his eyes say to me is:  "I Am TRYING TO SLEEP Here!"

Go away.  I am trying to sleep here.
Always good news, bad news.

Good news is Frankie is warm and safe in his new greenhouse.  Bad news is I have to traverse the cold and rain and wind to go see least in the winter.

Good news is Frankie no longer sleeps in cardboard.  Bad news is I forgot how very allergic I am to hay.

Good news is I don't have to mop up Frankie pee on the bathroom floor.  Bad news is I still may step in Frankie pee if I don't look down when I enter the greenhouse.

Best news is Frankie likes HIS greenhouse.   I can't argue with that.

(If you haven't seen the epic greenhouse build here is a link:  Frankie's New Luxury Condo