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My Interior Decorator is a Tortoise! by Elaine A Powers Author

Because tortoises are free-roamers, they help with designing interior décor. Their specialty seems to be rearranging.

My desk chair is on wheels, a very practical design for me.  However, sometimes I’m typing on my laptop when I feel the chair moving away from the table.  Myrtle Red-foot Tortoise has put her head underneath the wheel frame and is pushing. She’s strong enough to move the chair with me on it! If I’m not sitting on the chair, I see it moving across the room.

A Red-foot tortoise pushing a desk chair on wheels away from table
Myrtle Red-foot tortoise can push my wheeled chair even when I’m in it!

And it’s not just my chair that moves. The iguana enclosure in the front room is also on wheels. I find Calliope rolled across the room.  She probably enjoys the change of scenery.

The red-foots are reasonably sized tortoises. Sulcata or African spur-thighed tortoises (Geochelone sulcate) like Duke tend to fall on the large side of the scale.  He’s currently 120+ lbs. The impressive spurs on Duke’s forearms are used for protection, but also for digging through hard ground to create underground dens. Those spurs are also very effective in digging through dry wall, doors, and pretty much anything he wants to get through. Sulcatas can dig dens that are 30 feet long and 20 feet deep.

Looking down at a 120 lb Sulcata Tortoise that takes up the whole bathtub
Duke is so big (over 120 lbs), he takes up the whole tub!

Duke lives in the reptile room along with iguanas housed in wire enclosures.  I have put the enclosures on wheels so Duke can roll them around as opposed to knocking them over. People wonder why the stuff in the room is arranged as it is – because that’s the way Duke wants it.  He has created his own den areas and even cleared a basking spot.

A silver-colored metal plate is installed across the bottom of a red-brown wooden door (to keep a Sulcata tortoise from digging through the door)
Metal panel placed across bottom of door. So far, Duke hasn’t dug through it.

I love the adventures (and the occasional mystery or two!) and wouldn’t have it any other way.

LPP NOTE: Because Myrtle’s name rhymes with turtle, she was often called Myrtle the Turtle. One day, she asked Elaine to write a book about the difference between turtles and tortoises. The result is a favorite rhyming book of little ones, Don’t Call Me Turtle! Did you know there are at least ten differences between them?

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60 Tried and True Iguana Foods by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A list of iguana foods, showing a salad illustration, an iguana and the list of vegetables and fruits

Ever since I operated a reptile rescue center, I’ve had a good number of iguanas. Over ninety percent of newly purchased iguanas die within the first year, so their good health is very important to me. Fresh Vegetables and fruits are important to their survival.

I use a potato peeler to make long slices of zucchini and carrots and chop the other veggies into small pieces.

Above is a list of basic vegetable and fruits and the special treats that can be given on an occasional basis.

Their basic salad in the morning includes Collard Greens, Red Bell Peppers, Zucchini, Carrots, and Bananas or Grapes.

To learn more about these fascinating big lizards, see our 30-page downloadable Supplemental Workbook, My Unit Study on Iguanas.

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Stalking Chile, the Red Green-Iguana by Pam Bickell

I’ve taken care of Ms. Powers home and reptiles when she travels for a couple of years now. They all answer to their names and I know each of them personally, though I’m closer to some than to others. Chile, a reddish green iguana is young and pretty skittish. He was very nervous about me when he first came to live with Elaine, but after a while, he realized I was delivering daily deluxe salads and he stayed in one place as I set his salad plate inside his enclosure.

Though he ate his salad every day, I never saw him eating. It didn’t matter how many times I walked into the room, he was never near his food dish—but the food had disappeared.

I’m thinking, “Gumby arms?” And I decided to become a stalker.

Chile, the stalkee, however, did not cooperate, EVER. Food gone every day with no chewing action witnessed by me.

One day, I crept around the corner and HE HAD GREENS hanging from his mouth. I spun and ran for my phone camera. I KNEW I would be too late, but he was in the same spot. I slowed, acting casual, pretending like I didn’t see him. Then I snapped his picture! I was so proud of my stalking, I texted it to Elaine. She was proud of me, too. 😊

A reddish green iguana inside a cage, standing at a salad plate, with greens in his mouth.
Got ya, Chile!

A few days later, I walked into the room and Chile was chomping away at his salad. I thought of my camera, he looked up at me, and improbable as it sounds, he sent me a thought: “I LET you see me eating. You’re a really bad stalker. Take another picture if you want.”

So, I did.

a reddish green iguana standing on a log in his cage, chewing on salad greens
“I LET you see me eating. Duh!”

But never again will I stalk an iguana. They’re just too dang smart.

Lyric Power Publishing offers student workbooks and activity sheets for teachers, tutors and home schooling parents. One of them is a workbook all about the amazing creatures we call iguanas.

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Trevor the Turtle has a Crush on Myrtle the Tortoise by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Trevor is a male Eastern box turtle and Myrtle is a female red-foot tortoise. Myrtle is at least four times bigger than Trevor. Being a tortoise, she has a dense shell, while Trevor’s—though domed—is very lightweight. Trevor has a crush on Myrtle: She’s older, gorgeous, interested in what’s going on around her and interesting.

A box turtle approaches a red-foot tortoise, on a tile floor
Trevor, a box turtle, approaches his crush, Myrtle, a tortoise.

Trevor may be small, but he is determined. He seeks Myrtle as his mate. Myrtle, of course, cannot be bothered. He’s a small box turtle, for Pete’s sake! Trevor apparently believes that persistence will pay off and likes to follow her closely. When he gets too close, Myrtle usually wanders off, but if Trevor really annoys her, she turns around and flips him onto his back. And there he rocks with his flailing legs.

A red-foot tortoise faces an Eastern box turtle, on a tile floor.
“Back off, Trevor!” Myrtle says.

Now, Myrtle could just walk away, allowing Trevor to right himself, but she doesn’t. She enjoys spinning Trevor around and around, like he is a top!

A red-foot tortoise has flipped an Eastern box turtle onto his back. Then she spins him.
“I warned you, Trevor!”

This slows Trevor down for a while—but, as we all know, the heart wants what the heart wants. 😊

For supplemental information about turtles and tortoises, please see our 23-47 page Workbooks for children, grades Pre-K through 4th.

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Hangin’ Around with My Green Iguanas by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Green iguanas are tree dwelling lizards. They are very good climbers and will climb on anything to get to a high location, like book shelves, windows and heads—and by heads, I mean mine. People often ask me why I don’t have pierced ears. It’s because when climbing to the top of my head, the iguanas use my ear lobes as convenient toe holds.  My lobes have been ripped open three times by long claws attached to strong leg muscles. I don’t want them to have an existing ear-hole for better ripping.

I often find my iguanas hanging out on top of window blinds, display cases or on my piano. When I want to find them, I know to look up, since the iguanas are usually nestled among the display items.  Interestingly, the green iguanas can climb over breakable objects without disturbing them, but if they know you are coming to pick them up, they’ll send everything flying with a swoosh of their tails!

a green iguana looking out from a tree trunk
Green iguanas like my Algae are top climbers.

The most impressive climbing was done by my iguana, Algae. Being a young iguana, she had sharp, pointed claws. One day, I looked all over the house but couldn’t find Algae.  Had she gotten out or slipped down a vent somehow?  After searching everywhere I thought she could possibly hide, I looked up.

She was hanging upside down from the ceiling! After the surprise passed, I have to say that I was very proud of my young friend, Algae.

For more fun information about iguanas, see Lyric Power Publishing’s 30-page Iguana Workbook.

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Ever Seen Salt Shoot Out of a Nose? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Snalt

window shade with salt sneezed on it from an iguana
Window shade has been “Snalted”

Have you ever seen a video of marine iguanas sneezing?  They’re usually perched on rocks after their feeding swims, basking in the warm sun. Suddenly, iguana after iguana starts sneezing.  A narrator explains this is how the marine iguanas rid their bodies of salt.  Humans get rid of extra salt in their urine, but iguanas, all kinds, expel extra salt by sneezing it from nasal salt glands. Now you know: When you see an iguana sneezing, he doesn’t have a cold.

The sneezed salt is called “snalt.” It comes out as a spray that covers everything in its way. It dries as crystals around the iguana’s nostrils and is easily brushed off—of them. On other surfaces, however, it can be quite difficult to remove. Glass requires a glass cleaner, soapy water, and sometimes, a sharp blade to scrape it off. Snalt corrodes metals just like saltwater!

One of my favorite iguanas, Algae, would stick her nose into my ear to sneeze.  (I think she was trying to clean the wax out of my ears.)

One more cool fact: It’s not only iguanas that sneeze salt—roadrunners do, too!

Display case with salt sneezed from an iguana
Snalt is very hard to get off of every surface but the iguanas themselves.

Lyric Power Publishing offers workbooks for teachers, parents and tutors to supplement student education. Here is a link to our fun and interesting Unit on Iguanas.

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Our New Category: Living with Reptiles

We’re starting a new category for posts at Tails, Tales,Adventures, Oh, My! today. We’re calling it Living with Reptiles.

I Live with a Menagerie of Reptiles, by Elaine A. Powers, Author

People think living with mammals or even birds is perfectly normal, but tell people you live with reptiles and they look at you strangely. I don’t understand this. Dogs bark, cats meow, and birds squawk. Fish might seem quiet but then you have the noise of the bubbler. Reptiles make the perfect, quiet pets and most sleep through the night right along with you. What could be better than that?

I do have stories to tell.

Tortoises Noises are Targeted—At Me!

I know I just said reptiles make quiet pets, but there are always exceptions to the rule.

I have a creep of red-foot tortoises roaming around my home. (Creep is the collective noun for tortoises.) You can hear the slik, slik, slik sound of their feet moving on the tile, but red-foots are known for being noisy breathers. And I don’t think it’s just breathing—I think they are talking to each other. When I get home after along trip, when I’m travel-tired and trying to fall asleep, they gather beside my bed and whisper to one another for . . . hours. I’ve decided that means they’re happy I’m home. I am happy to be home—I miss them, too!

On a typical day, they allow me to sleep peacefully through the night—until dawn, that is, when they decide to scratch their apparently itchy shells on the metal frame of my bed. Back and forth, back and forth. This is a very effective way to encourage me to get up and prepare their breakfast salads.

A Red-foot tortoise crawling around inside a paper grocery bag
Myrtle the Red-foot Tortoise at home

The other day I was on the phone for an important business call.  I hear this loud, scrunching sound behind me.  Myrtle Tortoise had knocked over my paper grocery bag filled with other paper bags. She crawled inside, crunching the bags, crushing them, sliding them about, etc.  Needless to say, it was quite noisy. Because I had to focus on the call, I couldn’t go and grab her until the conversation was over.  As soon as I hung up the phone, Myrtle ceased her excavation of the bags.

“Just a coincidence,” I thought I heard her think as she strolled away. 😊

Elaine A. Powers is the author of Don’t Call Me Turtle, thanks to Myrtle, who asked her to write the book.