This time of year is probably my favorite. The changing colors in the trees. The leaves falling, leaving me plenty material for bonfires on the nights when the temps are cooler. The grass starts growing back in the back yard, after dying off during the hottest of the summer. It's just a great time of year.
Of course when you share your life with sulcatas nothing will be purely simple. The temperatures aren't too bad yet. Our shell babies tend to come out of their winter room during the day with 30 degree temps, full sun and no breeze. So with night temps in the 50s we're still plenty safe with them. But at the same time of course it means it's time to start getting things cleaned out and fixed up for those winter months.
In the past we've allowed them to spend the coldest part of the winter inside with us. Sherm doesn't mind too much. She seems to thrill in moving furniture and terrifying the dogs. Bradley goes into almost a depression. He stays in the same place, same position until you make him move. His appetite drops off significantly.
But Panz, oh dear Panz! That boy makes life TOUGH! He absolutely HATES being in the house. He doesn't care if it's below zero and there's a foot of snow on the ground. He wants out that door and any human that refuses to allow it is subject to his attempts at ramming your ankles.
Now I know every study you read tells you that animals aren't capable of complex emotions like humans. They don't experience jealousy, sorrow or anger. Hogwash! Panzer gets mad, and he knows exactly who in the house brought him in and is keeping him in and he will physically track us down in his attempts to ram us. Luckily, all ankles are still intact. I was fortunate enough to read a lot about this species before bringing one home, and that included a blog by a lady that had one kind of dumped on her. While hanging clothes on the line in her yard one day, hers rammed hers as well and she thought she broke her ankle and wound up in an emergency room trying to explain to the doctor that her injuries were sustained as a tortoise attack. So I was always very aware of where ours were at, and thanks to Panzer, I'm even more aware now!
The difference in these torts reminds me so much of the difference in children raised in a home. They've experienced the same things and yet, somehow, they each have their very own personality and sometimes those are polar opposite personalities. You may have the 'perfect child' so easy to raise, great in school, and kind hearted to a fault. Then you can have your challenging child, always in trouble for something, not happy unless they're giving you heart attacks by jumping off the roof and the school quickly learns you and your spouses first names and can recall your cell phone numbers by heart. Then there's the withdrawn quiet child, you never hear from them, seldom see them. They do things at their own pace, their own way and spend time in their own place. They're often over looked because you never really worry about what they're doing or where they are; you just know.
Sherman is our 'perfect child'. She follows us around the yard and always wants affection. Every other sulcata she's met she's been perfectly fine with. Not at all the species aggressive tort that sulcatas usually are said to be. Bradley is our quiet withdrawn boy. The only one of our shell kids that's a digger. He has dug his own very impressive 'man cave' and he spends every night in there and naps there when it gets too hot or too cold for him. Then there's Panzer! Yeh, if he were human he'd be the reason the Principal could recite our phone numbers from memory. Always in trouble, trying to go through walls and fencing to escape, chasing off poor Bradley (thus the new pens to keep them apart), and as a typical young man, the only thing on his mind is sex. I can't even count how many times we've gone out and had to pick him up and move him and just stand there shaking our heads.
All this to say, this year the shell kids are spending the winter outside, barring any freakishly cold weather. We have a large shop attached to the back of the house that's never been used for more than collecting clutter. The first couple winters we were here we put them out there. The winters were pretty mild. Got into the teens at the worse. A couple dustings of snow. With the 'tent' we set up for them with heaters and lights, they did just fine. They could come and go as they pleased when it was warm enough. But the third and fourth winters were just too cold. We decided to bring them in and it was just chaos. Cleaning up after 250 pounds of angry tort isn't really my idea of fun!
So this week we're working on emptying that shop. There are some old benches and tables that have been built into different parts of the room that we'll be taking out, save one table for their hay and straw bedding and Mazuri, extra UVA/UVB light storage, extra heat lamps and surge protectors. The rest of the room will be emptied and swept out and we'll start building two separate 'rooms' to house them this winter. I think we'll have an electrician come in to drop extra lines in there to handle more heat. I always worry their heaters or lamps will blow the circuit in the middle of the night.
After we finish that little project this week, the weekend of October 8th will be the big weekend. We've got an area that's probably half an acre in size and the entire thing is being sectioned off for Sherm and Panz. Just looking at it I can tell it's going to be much too big and will wind up causing us to have to go cut grass during the growing season here. At some point we'll probably cut off a quarter of it for Bradley and move his pen over there. Of course that will leave that small pen behind the barn. I've already started wondering what species of smaller tort I can bring home to put in that pen............