Guest Blog Post: Steve writes about his turtle Raphael

This is Raphael; he is a Red-Eared Slider Turtle. He got his name from the red spots on the side of his head; they look like Raphael’s headband from the Ninja Turtles, thus the name, Raphael.

We got the turtle off of cheapcycle from a guy who had rescued him and then was selling him. At first Raphael was in a 10 gallon tank, but then we were able to get him a 30 gallon tank. He has grown a lot since he has been in his new tank.

He now has an algae eater named Tiger in his tank too. At first Raphael ate feeder goldfish, but when we started giving him turtle food, he stopped eating the fish, and now he only eats the turtle pellets.

At one point the pump in his cage stopped working, so we had to take the whole cage apart, clean it, and then put it back together. The pump needs to be fixed every week or so, but we haven’t had much of a problem with it since.

Guest Blog Post: Steve writes about his gerbil Achilles

** Steve enjoyed writing about his rabbit last week, so he decided he would like to write about a different one of our pets each week to post on the blog. This week is our gerbil’s turn. We have had several pet gerbils over the years, but I would have to say that this one has been the most handsome.

Current picture of Achilles the gerbil

Current picture of Achilles the gerbil

This is Achilles. He is a gerbil, and he’s getting very old and not getting any younger, so I chose to write about him today. He has very shiny black fur, but it is starting to lose it’s shine, and it’s turning gray.

We got him from a pet store called Two Turtles, and we actually thought something was wrong with him at first because he was laying there like something was wrong. Turns out that’s just how he lays down when he’s being really lazy; he does it all the time. On the car ride home he chewed the bottom out of the box, so we had to flip the box so the bottom was in the air.

Achilles during his younger days

Achilles during his younger days

He never really eats treats, but he LOVES carrots and broccoli. He chews like crazy and makes crazy tunnels and burrows. It’s interesting seeing him make the burrows and tunnels and seeing how they turn out.

Recently the water bottle fell off because it has sticky stuff that holds it to the side of the cage. All of the dust in the air from his chewing cardboard must have caused it to wear off, so now we just use a water bowl for him, but he’s always kicking bedding into it, so I have to change the water 2 or 3 times a day.

Guest Blog Post: Steve writes about his rabbit Salem

**I was feeling very tired this evening, so I asked Steve to write up a little something about his latest pet for our blog. I think he did a great job. Enjoy!

Salem

Salem

We got our rabbit from the Summit County Fair. He is a Netherland Dwarf which is the smallest breed of rabbit; once he is full grown he will only weigh about 3 pounds. His name is Salem. I spent all week at the fair since I was in 4-H, and my group head ran the rabbit barn, so we spent all week there in the barn. I got to hold a lot of the rabbits, but I picked Salem from them all. He likes peaches and carrots. He will be 3 months old on September 9th.

First day home

First day home

Salem refuses to be litter trained. He will poop everywhere but the litter box, and somehow it even gets under the litter box. So I just gave up.

He LOVES running around on the back porch and playing with boxes, plastic containers, and anything he can rip up or throw. Our back porch is closed in so I gate off the doorway and leave the door open so I can easily look into the room. He spends about 3 to 5 hours a day back there. I put his food, toys, and a bowl full of water back there for him. When he gets tired he sleeps on a stand which has the top then a little lower level. We used to put animal cages on it but then we rearranged all the cages.

Playdate with Bean the hedgehog

Playdate with Bean the hedgehog

He is very tame, and he will lay down with you on the couch, and he loves pretty much everyone.

Chilling on the couch

Chilling on the couch

Our toad, our temporary pet

Poseidon

Poseidon

On Sunday, hubby decided that it was a good time to drain our pond and clean out debris that had built up over fall and winter.  As he was draining the pond, he noticed what he thought was a frog sitting on one of the ledges.  He called Stephen outside to see the critter, and I wandered over to see what all the fuss was about.  I told Stephen if he could catch the little guy, he was welcome to bring it inside for a while, at least until dad was done with whatever he needed to do with the pond.

We put him into one of our empty 10 gallon aquariums and added some big rocks to provide a nice spot for him to get out of the water and just hang out.  We filled it with a few inches of water and dechlorinated the water. Once the tank was ready, Stephen plopped the guy into the water, and we stood around waiting to see what he would do.  He swam a bit and then headed over to the rocks to climb out and chill a while.

Once it looked like he wasn’t going to do anything terribly exciting, Stephen headed over to the computer to research frogs on the internet.  He quickly realized that it was in fact a toad, and not a frog.  I am a city girl and can easily excuse myself for not knowing the difference between a frog and a toad, but you would think my farm boy husband would have known.  <wink>  I shall certainly remind him of this the next time he refers to me as an ignorant city girl.  LOL

After reading through a few entries that popped up from a Google search, Stephen discovered that toads generally eat all kinds of bugs, worms, and possibly feeder type fish or pinkie mice.   (Ick!)  We don’t keep pinkie mice in the house, but we do keep decent quantities of feeder fish around for our turtle Raphael, and we keep lots of crickets around for our leopard geckos Felix and Zeus.  We figured we’d throw one feeder fish into the tank and a  cricket and see if either of those sparked any interest.  The toad, who during the course of the afternoon acquired the name Poseidon, completely ignored the fish, and the cricket kept jumping into the water, and I kept thinking it was stupid and was going to drown itself.  As it turns out, crickets are perfectly capable of swimming and climbing back onto the rocks to get dry.  I don’t remember Disney covering that aspect of crickets in Pinocchio.  🙂

So, Poseidon didn’t eat a darn thing we gave him on Sunday.  On Monday morning we headed out to the garden and dug up a few small worms, some ants, and some pill bugs.  Stephen does not particularly enjoy touching worms but managed to do it anyway.  We turned over the herb garden and found some nice smallish wormies.  Little brother Tobin was completely fascinated by the pill bugs, which by the way, I remember calling potato bugs when I was growing up.  (But then I am an ignorant city girl…)

Tuesday came and went and the fish was still happily swimming around the tank, the cricket had still managed not to drown itself, and the worms were hanging out underneath the edge of one of the rocks.  I have no idea where the ants or pill bugs might have gone.  The mesh on the lid of the tank is large enough that it is likely that the ants crawled on out and are plotting to take over my kitchen as I type this.

Wednesday morning came and Stephen was starting to get a little anxious that Poseidon wasn’t eating and that we were in danger of starving the little guy.  (We went through this whole same anxiety thing last year when we brought a salamander from the yard into the house for observation.  We never could figure out what he liked to eat, so we let him go.)  As much as Stephen had been enjoying observing Poseidon, he thought it might be time to let the toad back out into the yard.

I started looking all around the tank, under the rocks and such, and realized that the cricket was definitely gone.  I pointed it out to Stephen, so he headed over to our cricket keeper to we could throw a few more into the tank.  We had both been hoping that Poseidon would immediately pounce right on the chirping nuisances, er…I mean, crickets, but he just sat there and didn’t even pay any attention to the them.  He didn’t even seem to notice when one of them proceeded to sit on his head.  Stephen and I both sighed, and I told him we’d give it one more day, and then we’d let him go the next morning.

I suspect that toads don’t need to eat all that often.  He probably just wasn’t that hungry.  Toads seem to be fairly lazy, so I don’t imagine that they have super fast metabolisms.  Stephen wandered off to play on the computer, and I headed back to the kitchen to pack my dinner for work.  A little while later, I meandered back to the back bedroom to see if anything had changed in the tank.   All but one of the crickets was gone!  Poseidon and the last cricket were sharing a rock.    I stood there for a moment, and then all of a sudden Jiminy was gone! The toad ate him up, and I got a little chill down my spine watching it because it happened so darned fast.

I called Stephen back into the bedroom and told him to bring more crickets.  I told him what I saw, and he was relieved to hear that we were now absolutely sure Poseidon was eating, but I could tell he was bummed that he didn’t get to be the one to witness it.  I was bummed for his sake too.

The pond of course isn’t ready to go yet.  Weather permitting, Ken hopes to have it ready to go on Friday or Saturday.  We’re keeping Poseidon until then.  I really hope Stephen gets a chance to see him snacking on a cricket or two before we let him go.  He’s already decided that after Poseidon heads back to nature, he’s going to write up a little report describing what he’s learned from our temporary pet.

Part of what I love about homeschooling is how much *I* learn right alongside the kids.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1) Frogs and toads really do look different.

2) Crickets swim.

3) Toads, at least some, co-exist well with goldfish.  This is good news for when we add fish to our pond.

4) Toads are actually much more tame than I would have ever guessed.  Stephen had no problem catching it in the pond, and the toad does not hop away when he tries to pick him up in the tank.  I really thought toads were more jumpy than that.

5) I love homeschooling more and more every day because of these little experiences.  We are just finishing up our third year of homeschooling, and I really think that because we do homeschool, that I am much more open to these kinds of little learning experiences that happen spontaneously around the house.   A few years ago, I would not have imagined myself the sort of person to bring random wild critters into the house so we could observe them.  Something in me has changed…change is good.

family pets

Our pets are a very important part of our homeschooling life.  I think keeping the pets around makes a great ongoing science lesson, besides encouraging responsibility and such.  We have quite a few pets, so keeping up with food, water, playtime, and tidying the cages is quite a bit of work.

My youngest, who is four years old going on twenty,  is allergic to cats and dogs, so we have to stick with smaller caged pets.  My 11 year old son is great with all the animals and makes sure to spend cuddle time with each of them nearly everyday, with the exception of the fish and the hermit crabs, who I can say are not big on cuddling.

Here are a few of our pets.  I will have to make a point of getting pictures of the rest of the gang soon.

This is either Felix or Zeus, one of our two leopard geckos.  My son seems to be the only one who can tell them apart.

This is either Felix or Zeus, one of our two leopard geckos. My son seems to be the only one who can tell them apart.

We have had our two leopard geckos for over two years now.  They are picky eaters and will only dine on the finest crickets.  Yum…LOL.

This is Achilles the gerbil.  We've only had him for a few months.  He is the fourth gerbil we've had.

This is Achilles the gerbil. We've only had him for a few months. He is the fourth gerbil we've had.

Achilles’  favorite hobby seems to be chewing cardboard.  He also enjoys running on his wheel while we’re trying to watch TV.

This is Porky.  He is our newest pet.  My four year old son received him as a pet from his aunt for Christmas.

This is Porky. He is our newest pet. My four year old son received him as a pet from his aunt for Christmas. We love dwarf hamsters and have had quite a few.

Porky is a baby dwarf hamster.  He seems to greatly enjoy eluding my grip when I try to get him out of his cage.  My eleven year old son is great at taming our pets to enjoy being handled, so I’m sure Porky will calm down soon.  Last night my husband called our son “The Hamster Whisperer.”

This is Bean our hedgehog and the mascot of my blog.  He is about five months old.

This is Bean our hedgehog and the mascot of our blog. He is about five months old.

Bean has been an interesting pet so far.  He’s litter trained which I think is really awesome.  We are looking forward to next spring when the weather starts getting warm again, so we can take him outside.  We took him outside during the warmest fall days, and Bean really seemed to enjoy it.  We have also found that giving a hedgehog a bath is a lot of fun.  It’s very cute to watch him swim around in a sink full of water.

We also have two hermit crabs, a Betta fish, and a rat.  I hope to get pics of them up soon.  My kids and I would really like to add another pet some time soon.  I particularly would love a turtle, but my eleven year old son would really like a poison dart frog.