Friday, May 1, 2009

Turtles and Toads and Kids.....Oh my!

We live on several acres out in the country.  I love living out here.  It is so quiet, peaceful and beautiful.  What I love the most is that the children are able to explore the natural settings around them.  

Our dog, Sam, is only 4 years old.  Up to our move 6 months ago, Sam spent his whole life in Alaska.  This means he had never seen a turtle or a frog among many other animals before we moved here.  Sam is insanely curious with every new animal he comes across.  

While on my way to the garden the other day, I notice something strange on the ground. Which, by the way, I am getting pretty use to living out here.  I won't even gross you out with what I have found.  Anyway, I see our dog drop this "thing" on the ground.  It looks gross.  It looks like a foot off a large, dead animal.  It looks dried and strange.  Our dog, Sam is excitedly running around it, salivating.  I am already trying to figure out how to dispose of it.  Then I look closer and realize it is an inverted turtle.  With a hole at the end of it's shell.  It looks like it has seen better days. 

 I call the kids to come look.  They immediately argue about what it's name will be and who's room it will sleep in.  I think to myself.....self, why didn't you just put it back in the woods and not say a word?  Um, no.  We are not keeping it.   We put the turtle in a box so we can observe it for a few days.  We got the laptop out so we could identify it and learn about the kinds of turtles that live here.  

While getting everything settled, I look up and see Sam drop something else in the grass.  I told Brandon to go see what the dog had now.  Brandon excitedly yells, "It's another turtle!"  No way.  I asked if he accidentally dropped the other one out of the box.  Surely there are not two turtles in our yard.  Yep.  It's another turtle.  The kids go nuts and try to plan out a rotation on how they will share two turtles.  I tell them 1,000 times we are not keeping the turtles.  Why don't they believe me?  

They spent the next hour reading about turtles and trying to identify the gender of each one. Turns out, we have a boy and a girl.  Brandon theorizes that Sam found them while they were mating.  Pleasant thought, eh? He is probably right though. Poor turtles.  Both turtles were hiding deep in their shell with the carapace/plastron completely closed up.  They speculated that maybe they were dead.  And that we should name one "Stiffy"  My kids are funny.  

Turns out, they were not dead.  They hid in their shell for a long time.  When they finally felt safe enough to poke their head out, the kids spent a while just watching and playing with them. The kids painted dots on their shells to see if the same ones would come back after we released them.  

That same night, Brandon found a warty toad.  Lexy helped him catch it and the toad squirted some kind of liquid all over her hand.  We were not sure if the fluid was the toad's toxic secretions or if it just urinated all over her hand.   It was quite amusing.  It was even more amusing to see her reaction when I told her she was now going to get warts all over her body just like the toad. I know, it is not true.  But it was funny.  I finally told her the truth.  Only because I knew she would go take a bath in Purell.  She is a complete germaphobe.  

The kids had a fun time observing and playing with the turtles and frog.  I love that they have such a hands on experience learning about animals out here.  We have also found lots of Green Anoles, a few shrews and mice.  Lexie made a comment while playing with the turtles that she loves home school.  That just touched my heart.  

I wonder what Sam will bring us next?  I just hope it is not dead and stinky.

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