Tuesday, March 09, 2010

People are on the internet for cute animals and porn

It's only be accident that they learn things while they're here, and a good deal of what they do learn, it probably wouldn't hurt to forget. And so, I'm going to show these pictures and videos of my sulcata tortoise, Avicenna:

So, now that I have you all entranced with pictures of my adorable tortoise, it's time to do something bordering on doling out wisdom.

This is a sulcata tortoise, a desert tortoise from Africa. They are the largest mainland species of tortoise, though you might not be able to tell that from looking at my little guy. They're rivaled only by Galapagos tortoises. The live on a diet of grasses. Fruits are too acidic and can damage their digestive system.

They thrive in temperature ranging from approximately 80-100 degrees. They like to burrow, soak in shallow pools of water, munch on weeds, and push through anything that gets in their weigh. They can get up to 100 pounds (the largest on record is over 200 pounds) and 2-1/2 to 3 feet long. They need to be outside and have open space to explore.

I am a human being, native of the Pacific Northwest. I find 80 degree weather tolerable, but much warmer than that and it becomes uncomfortable. I love fruits and vegetables and would never dream of subsisting on a diet of things so tough and fibrous as grass. I enjoy being outside, but I'm much partial to trees than to open savanna.

What does this mean? Both myself and my tortoise are better suited for very different environments than the other. One solution people have come up with is to get heated dog houses for their tortoises to keep them comfortable during cold weather. Alternatively, some people up an move to a warmer location and invest in air conditioning. And then there's always the group is forced to give up their tortoise because they don't have the space or resources to care for it.

For now Avicenna is content to munch on the weeds I grow for him, and to go outside and play during the warm summer months. But as he gets older he'll need more room and he'll need to roam around outside more. It will always be like trying to put a square peg in a round hole: if you damage the hole and you damage the peg enough, you're bound to make them fit haphazardly at some point.

And that's what we're doing with our agricultural system. We fight the weeds. We fight mother nature's attempt to get back to beautiful forests. If we'd leave well enough alone, then we'd be provided for without all of the extra work. Of course, forest gardeners nudge mother nature in one direction or another, but forest gardening is very Taoist in nature: let the garden happen, let the food grow, let us be taken care of, as opposed to making the garden happen and making food grow, which is how so many of us are trying to do it now.

I know I repeat myself a lot, and sometimes I wonder why, but then I remember that repetition is one of the most powerful teaching methods there is. Maybe if I tell you about forest garden after forest garden you'll one day be telling me about yours.

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