Geronimo’s hibernation adventure and BURROW RENOVATION. (Desert Tortoise Update!)

If you’ve been following along on Geronimo’s (desert tortoise) adventures, you may have noticed the absence of any kind of hibernation post this hibernation season. In fact, the last time I wrote about Geronimo was on June 23, 2022!

I haven’t provided updates since then, but now I can share the reason: Geronimo out-adventured himself almost to his demise and has consequently spent the winter hibernating in a large Rubbermaid container, which has now come to rest in the (outdoor) laundry room. Of all the things I could image Geronimo would do, the idea of hibernating artificially never entered my mind.

The short version of the story is that Geronimo’s continuous digging landed him in an underground garbage heap wherein he got himself into all sorts of trouble, and the vet condemned his burrow.

The long version, for any of you who are interested, is this:

In my last Geronimo post, I wrote about our first fancy monsoon storm of the summer, and how I looked out and spied Geronimo walking across the yard. What I didn’t tell you was that:

1). I was greatly relieved to see Geronimo, as he’d been MIA for nearly three weeks. It was worrisome. Desert tortoises do shelter in their burrows much of the time during the hot months, but Geronimo usually came out in the very early mornings and/or at dusk to graze. He needed to eat. He needed water! I was thrilled to finally see him out when the storm started.

2). There was something trailing behind Geronimo as he trudged forward. Actually, I saw the thing first, and didn’t realize that it was attached to Geronimo until Geronimo emerged on the other side of the patio. The thing was a very long piece of fabric, and it looked to be heavy, as Geronimo wasn’t sprinting along as he normally does – especially in the rain.

I went out to him immediately and found that the thing was made of stretchy brown nylon, kind of like pantyhose, but coarser, and it was shockingly substantial. It was at least six feet long, and the entire length of it was bunched-up and thick. It was indeed heavy, as it was soaked from the rain and coated in mud.

Geronimo was dragging it behind him because it was wrapped around his neck.

The fabric was caught in the crevice under his chin where his under-shell connects to his body, wedged so deeply in there that I had to tug and pull with effort to extricate it. Long, heavy, weighed down with dirt, and jammed into that space around his neck? He could only have gotten himself tangled up in it in the depths of his burrow… and that explained why I hadn’t seen him for almost three weeks. It was the force of his innate desert-tortoise need to be in the rain that saved him, I believe. The call of the storm aroused his will to live, and somehow (the vet was amazed) he managed to turn himself around down there in that cramped space with that thing attached to him.

He could have been strangled. He could have eventually died of starvation or dehydration, because who knows for how long he’d already struggled to free himself? But Geronimo is a survivor.

With this revelation came a realization: the tufts and balls of white fluff (like cotton, but not) I’d seen in and around Geronimo’s burrow – since the end of the previous summer – came from the same place as the thing around his neck. The constant appearances of these fluff balls had been an aggravating mystery that had me on the phone with the vet earlier in the season. I even took photos and sent them to the nurse, who confirmed that the cotton-like balls of fluff that I kept finding packed into Geronimo’s feces was synthetic stuffing. When I took Geronimo in to be seen by a vet following the incident with the thing, I brought in a sandwich bag full of some of the stuffing and Geronimo’s feces. The vet examined it and pointed out that in addition to the synthetic upholstery stuffing, there was also part of a thin sheet of foam of the sort that was used as padding beneath wall-to-wall carpeting.

“Looks like he dug himself into a pile of trash buried under the yard. He’s surely dodged some bullets. Keep him away from that burrow.”

We left the vet with artificial hibernation instructions in hand; thus commenced Geronimo’s extended stay in the house for the rest of the summer. He never set foot in his burrow again. We fashioned a makeshift crate out of a large plastic bin on its side, keeping it filled with hay. Geronimo chilled in there during the day, and he got set outside at dusk. I wanted to keep him on a schedule that would kind of mimic what his in-and-out burrow schedule would be.

When the time to hibernate drew nigh, we took Geronimo to my boyfriend’s parents’ house, as my Ex was going to come for 17 days to collect his stuff (there would be a lot of activity in the garage). The timing of this event worked well, as within a week, I heard from the Ex that he would arrive in a few days for an impromptu, preliminary stuff-gathering two-week visit. (I mentioned in a previous post that I spent much of November and December living out of suitcases. That was why. I stayed elsewhere while the Ex was here. Between those two visits and my trip to Utah with my boyfriend and his family, I barely saw the inside of my own house during those months.)

And so it was that Geronimo began his hibernation elsewhere in Phoenix. After the Ex left (for the last time) in the third week of December, we brought Geronimo home, where he’s finishing out his hibernation in the laundry room.

Geronimo’s burrow was history. The canopy over the burrow had disintegrated into tatters, and I didn’t have to deal with it. Heavy early-winter rains caved in the entire back of his burrow, and I didn’t have to deal with that, either. (What a bullet that would have been to dodge if he had been in his burrow when it collapsed.)

What I did have to deal with was the construction of a new burrow for Geronimo. Spring would arrive, and Geronimo would need a home-base after coming out of hibernation!

The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Desert Tortoise Adoption Program offers instructions for three approved burrow styles. I decided to go with the 5-gallon buckets style, which consists of two 5-gallon buckets joined together with the bottom cut off of one. The idea is to create a large pipe with a dead end. The whole name of this new burrow game is “Geronimo Shalt Not Dig Beyond the Burrow.”

For this project, I went to TaskRabbit, and I was fortunate in hiring someone who turned out to be perfect for the job. His name is Vidal Curiel, local friends. If you’re considering adopting a desert tortoise and you live in Phoenix Metro and you need someone to dig you a tortoise burrow, Vidal is the man!

Burrow demo and renno went down last weekend. I took pics of the process, of course!

I went to Home Depot and picked up two 5-gallon buckets. An employee in the lumber department agreeably sawed off the bottom of one of them.

Funny story: When I explained what I needed done with the buckets to the first employee (who escorted me to the guys who could help), the older gent asked, with grandfatherly warmth, “Is this for a school project?”

I also got super-serious duct tape, which we used to join the two buckets together.

After filling in and packing down the caved-in back part of the burrow, Vidal set the conjoined buckets inside the old burrow’s existing external structure. In accordance with the instructions, he measured the depth of the back end to make sure that it would be 16 inches deep. The buckets had to slope down at a 20-degree angle.

Geronimo won’t be able to dig further, nor deeper. The back of the bucket is the end of the line!

You can’t see it here, but we set the old burrow’s sheet of plywood over the cinder blocks to make a roof for the buckets before piling on the dirt. Vidal made sure to pack dirt around the buckets, underneath and on top, as well, to insulate them and make sure that they wouldn’t move.

He also packed dirt into the buckets to fill them half-way, as directed by the instructions.

We needed a minimum of eight inches of dirt on top and around the whole burrow, so…

…Vidal took some dirt from the other end of the yard. Eight inches of dirt all around and on top of the burrow is a lot!

He stamped down each layer of dirt to make sure he was building a solid structure, and I sprayed the whole thing down with water in between layers, as well.

Getting there!

Here you can kind of see the opening of the bucket.

As well, we purchased a new pavilion for the burrow to help shade it, as the old one was trashed. Vidal helped with that, too! He followed us to Lowe’s to pick up the pavilion, and the three of us put it together.

Finished product – Geronimo’s new crash-pad, comfy and cozy!

Aaaand, it wouldn’t be a Geronimo update post without a pic of the little dude himself:

“Hello!” ~This was when the weather had cooled down enough to move Geronimo from the house to a box under a table on the patio.

That’s the story, my friends. This is where we are now. Geronimo will come out of hibernation, go to his burrow, and get pissed off (he’s going to hate it at first), but he’ll be safe, and that’s the important thing.

I’ll be sure to post more Geronimo updates as the season changes! I’ll report on his reaction to his new burrow. Heheh.

With that, I wish you all a good day or night. I hope this finds you all doing well!

First monsoon activity of the year. (Desert tortoise update!)

Our desert is a flashy drama queen in the summers, and it never fails to delight me. Late this afternoon we had a sudden burst of weather, classic Arizona: dramatic wind and blowing dust with thunder, lighting, and rain all at once, the humidity pushing the heat down into the upper-90’s. The rain really started pouring down a minute after I got home – fortunate timing for me – and that was when I looked out and saw Geronimo walking across the yard. I’m convinced that few creatures on Earth are happier than desert tortoises in the summer rain.

So of course I took a few pic to share with you.

Rain parade!

As usual, Geronimo took me on a tour of the backyard. He always does this as if I’ve never seen the place before.

Where are we going, Geronimo?
Fresh flower snacks!
Dried flower snacks!
(He wears a crushed flower poultice on his mouth like lipstick.)

My beautiful boy.

I missed you last week, friends. Stuff happened, mainly a water heater leak that flooded my laundry room. I’ve since managed to clean up completely in the aftermath, and now I can take pleasure in going out to the laundry room to admire my shiny new water heater. This has to be it for a while, though! Sheesh.

I love my house, but it’s old, you know? Things happen. It’s normal.

May this find you enjoying a peaceful Friday eve, or whatever it is where you are.

Once… twice… three times a (Desert tortoise update – out of hibernation!)

The first time Geronimo emerged from hibernation this year, he looked around, said “eh,” and went back to sleep. That’s how it went down, my friends. It was March and he was unimpressed with 2022.

The second time he came out, he stayed out for a few days. I tried to soak him, but he wasn’t having it. He clambered out of his large plant saucer and made his way across the lawn, bee-lining to his Preciouses, the hibiscus bushes.

A few days later, the weather turn a turn for the cold, and I saw no more of Geronimo until the cold lifted.

By mid-April, he was out and cruising the perimeter of his yard, eating everything in sight, it seemed. He ate wild grasses, a variety of young spring weeds, hibiscus buds on the ground, and hibiscus flowers from my hand. As far as he was concerned, it was a smorgasbord for all of the divine in the Universe!

I don’t see him nearly as often as I’d like, but we do walk around together and get some mommy/baby bonding time, especially over the ruffly petals of pink and red hibiscus flowers. He gets cuddles and back-rubs, too. I’ve been accompanying him here and there, taking pics while I’m at it, of course. It’s good to finally share some of them with you. Consider me to be that eccentric lady whipping out a picture card-slot accordion out of her wallet in order to get everyone’s eyes on her beloved child.

And Geronimo loves it.


Why hello.

(He’s still saying “Hello” all over the place, yes.)

Hello, other kind of hibiscus.
Hello, hibiscus leaves.


And lots of pets and scritches.
Hello! I’m hot, are you?
Look at my pretty toenails.
Look at my pretty scales.
Hello hello hello.

Of all the cute things he does these days, I think the cutest thing is napping with his face on the wall in front of his burrow.

Hitting the snooze button.

I’ve been taking pics for a second desert tortoise play post, so look out for those in one or two months!

Have a wonderful day or night wherever you are, my friends. I’m sending out some gentle Geronimo good-wishes vibes to encompass all of us. I don’t know about you, but I feel that we need it.

Until next time, then.

Geronimo’s gone into hibernation, but before that, we had an impromptu professional-grade photoshoot! (Desert tortoise update!)

My friends, you know that I’m wont to take pics of Geronimo with my phone cam and then impose them on you. You’re very gracious about it. They are not good pics, but they’re the only ones I can offer… usually. Until today. Because today, I can show you some professional photos of my scalebaby, along with a few of us together!

And when I say “impromptu,” I do mean “totally unexpected.” I knew that these family friends were coming over, but I did not know that Kyle was bringing his camera. Thanks to him, you’ll finally be able to fathom the extent of Geronimo’s handsomeness and adorableness!!

May I present my darling majestic spectacular reptile kid:

Amber nebulas in his green eyes. I can lose myself in the wonders of them.

This next photo, now: If there’s a mother/son photo in existence that’s more adorable than this, it must exist on another plane of reality:

I mean, are you kidding me?! He’s looking at me and smiling!

Geronimo isn’t smiling in this next photo, though. This was several hundred shots later, and he’s over it. He wants to get down so he can resume eating and being loved on by everyone. He was such a good sport during the photo-shoot. He just loves company, this one.

Here he’s emerging from his burrow after I coaxed him out:

Then we have a vanity shot of Geronimo’s exquisite scale pattern.

His gorgeous shell:

Hibiscus blooms were no longer in season, but Geronimo loves hibiscus leaves, too!

This next pic is kind of strange and wonderful. We were trying to get my face closer to Geronimo’s, so my head was tilted down toward him as I tilted him up toward me, and the result is Geronimo looking like a cobra with his face appearing at the top of his under-shell. You can also see what a wide Humvee of a guy he is. My knees fit beneath him with his legs on either side. Haha!

Proud little dinosaur! Stately winsome cobra!


What makes this photoshoot especially meaningful is the fact that this day (October 3rd) was the last day that I got to spend time with Geronimo this year. I wasn’t able to catch him while he was out after that. Toward the end of the month, I assumed that Geronimo had gone into hibernation.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I received this text from my neighbor’s father (who was rebuilding the fence that divides our yards):

“I saw ur tortoise from 11:00-2:00. He was all over the yard foraging. It was hot that day… fast little guy”

The first thing I thought was, It’s not just me! Other people can see how fast Geronimo is, too. The second thing I thought was, Oh. He hasn’t been in hibernation all this time. I’ve just been missing him.

Thus, my neighbor’s father got to be the last person to see Geronimo this year. That would’ve been on Monday, October 25th. Perhaps that was actually Geronimo’s last day out.

Now begins the longest time of the year… the months spent waiting for Geronimo to emerge. I know it’s just 4-5 months, but that’s a long time under the circumstances. I’ll survive. [::flails helplessly::]

Happy Weekend Eve, my friends!

A timely post. (+Desert tortoise update! – sort of.)

I have nothing, and yet, I have everything. If I have nothing to write about, I have, at least, the means to write. I have this laptop. I have pens, pencils, paper. If I have “nothing to eat,” at least I do. If I have “nothing to wear,” well, same… I do. If I have “no time” to work out, I actually do. There’s a big difference between mismanaging time and actually having no time. I’ve found that there’s a bizarre little trick to this: If I pay attention to time and maintain motivation, I do have time. I can make anything happen! It’s like magic!

I’ve been motivated to get to bed earlier, so suddenly, I have time to do whatever I was doing or wanting to do… tomorrow.

In a few weeks, an annual project will start at work at the same time it did last year, mid-October. The project involves extended work hours for a couple of weeks. I was thinking “I won’t have time to work out,” but then I remembered my knack for mismanaging time and thought of a workaround: come home, eat dinner, work out before bed. I used to work out after dinner routinely. It wouldn’t be unheard of. It would be a temporary return to that schedule. I just have to be motivated to do it, right? (Last year, I worked out when I got home, I believe, and just ate dinner super late. I’m not doing late dinners anymore.)

The annual project, though, means that I truly will not have time – here we’ve arrived at the Geronimo part – to see Geronimo during the week. I simply won’t be here during his weekday waking hours! The sun will have gone down by the time I get home, and Geronimo will be tucked away for the night. I realized the other day that this was the reason why I missed the last part of his pre-hibernation last year. By the time the project was over, he was already hibernating, and I didn’t even know it. I missed it completely.

Geronimo is so social and affectionate; he so looks forward to spending time with me. Through the window and the sliding-glass door, I’ve seen him going around the yard and the patio looking for me. I’m guessing that he went into hibernation in October last year instead of in November, as he’d done in previous years, because he had no interaction with me or with anyone at all in those mid-fall days. It was like he figured there was no point in staying out. I wasn’t there and I kept not being there and so he had nothing to look forward to.

I remember checking the weather forecast (after the project ended last year) as I looked around the yard for Geronimo, thinking it hasn’t dropped below 56 degrees three nights in a row yet, so he can’t be hibernating already! I just keep missing him.

But it didn’t matter that nighttime temps were still above 56 degrees three consecutive nights. What mattered was that Geronimo was alone for five consecutive days. He’d aligned his hibernation schedule with a social interaction barometer, not a weather one. And realizing this made me sad, because the same thing could happen again this year. I won’t see him for days on end… except for the weekends. I’ll be here on the weekends.

I know that I spent weekend time with him during the project last year, but I can’t remember whether I spent every possible weekend moment with him. So this year, I’m going to try to do that. And I’m going to ask him to please wait for me while the project is in progress.

A few pics from last Saturday:

On the path home.
(Imagining that this is his last return home until spring and feel strongly motivated to basically live outside with him during the weekends)

All of this winding around to say that this year, I’m going to be keenly aware of time this entire upcoming month and throughout the duration of the extended work project. I’m going to manage my weekend time to the fullest extent possible to spend many moments with Geronimo, and I’m going to plead with him to understand that Mommy will be home on the weekends.

I just want to be able to tuck him in this year, as I’ve done every year before last year. I want to know that he’s gone in to settle for the winter, and I want to be able to wish him a good night.

On that note, good night, my friends. It’s past my new getting-ready-for-bed time!

Geronimo’s milk mustache. (Desert tortoise update!)

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ll have guessed that with such satisfying days of rain in our desert this summer, SOMEONE outside has been very happy, indeed.

Geronimo closes his eyes when he’s happy. We have this new thing where I kiss my fingertip and put it on his nose. He loves it when I touch the tip of his nose!

Fingertip-to-nose kisses after the rain.

He’s been blessed with plenty of opportunity to drink rainwater this summer. I love to watch him drink from cracks in the walkway, but my favorite thing about this pic is HIS SWEET LITTLE TOES.

Drinking in the rain!
Rain time is the best time!

It wouldn’t be a Geronimo post without a hibiscus pic, now, would it?

I’m full. I’ll just have 5,000 more.
(Must not forget to patrol back here.)
All clean from the rain!

And after the rains, the weeds go wild, the backyard alive with various types in patches on the gravel and in the lawn. They’re an important part of Geronimo’s diet, and he loves most of them. It’s been a grazing party out there!

His favorite weeds are the soft, delicate, milky ones, like these:


He keeps his head down as he chomps on them, then comes up with a milk mustache. Geronimo loves plant milk as much as I do. (Like mother, like son, as they say.)

Why hello.
Milky weeds all day!
More is not enough.

And then he goes around the yard with weeds, milk, and flowers plastered all over his face.


Going home.

It’s grown hotter again as of late, so I still only see Geronimo very early in the morning and late afternoon/dusk. We’re fast approaching the time he’ll be out more during the day, though. Pre-hibernation season is afoot, and Geronimo will be out there chowing down in preparation for his long winter nap. I can’t believe it’s this time of year again already!

Merry new week to you, my friends!

Mini Dinosaur in Candyland. (Desert tortoise update!)

‘Tis the time of year my ankles are covered in angry, itchy ant bites and stings, because Arizona Monsoon 2021 is well underway, which means that Geronimo is out quite a bit at dawn and dusk, and I’m out with him (at dusk). Desert fire ants nest here and there in my yard, particularly along the fencing where the hibiscus are lined up. Nuisance they may be, I’m fine with the ants. Fire ant season means Geronimo season, stone fruit season, long-day season, monsoon season, all of the seasons I adore!

I’m filled with gratitude that I can spend so much time with my sweet, scaly baby. Geronimo has taught me to recognize, respect, and cherish the seasons of the desert. I think of them as: hibernation season (no Geronimo), post-hibernation season (lots of Geronimo), heat-sheltering season (scarce Geronimo), monsoon season (lots of Geronimo, depending), and pre-hibernation season (lots of Geronimo).

One thing he does starting in the middle of a good monsoon season is he sleeps outdoors at night, tucked away beneath a hibiscus bush. We’re having such a season this year. Pre-hibernation season will begin in another few weeks, and Geronimo will be even more active!

So I’ve got a plethora of pics that I’ve taken since April, and I’ve narrowed the collection down to around 30. Some of these were taken on weekend late-mornings, and some were taken just after a rain.

Enjoy! As always, Geronimo says HELLO!

Geronimo playtime!

Dirty jeans mean that Geronimo’s already crawled over my legs from both directions multiple times. It’s one of his (our!) favorite games.

Little lap tortoise

Geronimo’s favorite summer treat: cool, crisp, juicy lettuce.

Geronimo blowing bubbles through his nostrils in the water

Where are we going, Geronimo?

Weeds hanging out the side of his mouth like a cigarette
My beautiful boy
He just loves to be hand-fed!

Geronimo loves to eat of the abundance growing in the yard, but he loves it best when it’s fed to him by hand.

Hibiscus buds
Hibiscus in bloom!
Second variety of hibiscus!
Hibiscus drenched in rainwater is the best
He loves to eat from the vines if I hold them down for him to reach!
Flowers and leaves in the same bite, oh yes.
I don’t release the branch until he’s gnawed off all of the leaves. He loves that!
Hello Hello Hello
Those Geronimo moves!
Hello, yummy grass.
Hello, yummy weeds.
Heading in for a nap….

Merry day to you, my friends. Until next time!

He’s got the look. (Desert tortoise update!)

There was a morning a few years ago on which I gushed about my scale-baby to a small audience of friends and friendly acquaintances. One of the latter (warmly) asked me how a tortoise could be cute. I thought about it for a quick second and then replied, I guess it’s a face only a mother could love! But I’m here to refute my answer, because I never believed it, even when I said it. Geronimo and all tortoises are cute. I have pics to present as evidence that Geronimo is adorable by anyone’s standards.

Onwards with the exhibits!

Resting in the weeds.

G: This is where my face belongs… in the camera.
I’m not sleepy. You’re sleepy.

Going in for the kill!
This is my sultry look.
This is my sultry look in the grass.
Legs up to my neck!
Trademark look: hibiscus petal stuck to mouth
Dance moves.
Just going to sit here for a minute to make sure that Mommy notices me.
Hey guys! As you can see I have here a new backdrop for my filming room….
I can do neckshots AND headshots.
(Run to Mommy!)
Welcome to my sweet, sweet digs.
I can do profiles AND neckshots AND headshots.
This is my good side.

The End, and Happy Friday from both of us!

Healing like a boss + selfies with Geronimo! (Post-op update 3!)

Today was a largely wonderful, magical, splendiferous day for two major reasons:

1). My doctor was very pleased when he examined my healing progress this morning! This surgery’s one-week, post-op scenario proved to be the complete opposite of November’s. Despite the hydroxychloroquine I’m continuing to take, everything is healing and knitting together “beautifully” and right on track. I go back next week for my two-week post-op. That’s when I might get my stitches removed.

Thing 1: The doctor said it’s possible that my healing took longer in November because my body simply wasn’t eager to accept the cadaver tissue. We used my own tissue this time, so my body’s like, oh, okay, I know YOU. Come on in.

Thing 2: I’m still at pain levels that involve looking at the clock every other hour to see when I can take another dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but it is getting better.

Thing 3: I haven’t weighed myself.

Before my home workouts, I weighed 115. After five weeks of lifting heavier weights and doing more cardio workouts at home, I weighed 121 (pre-surgery weight). If anything has happened to those gains in the last week, I don’t want to know about it. I mean, it’s inevitable that I’m going to lose some weight, but I’d just rather not see it on the scale, you know?  I’m confident that I’m not going to end up with another 7-lb loss! I’ve learned. I’m making a much greater effort to force down more substantial food this time around, even though it hurts and it’s gross.

Speaking of working out, I still can’t. I thought I might be able to do Pump this Saturday, but I have to wait another week, and I’m totally okay with that. The doctor explained that elevating my heart-rate would disturb the progress of the little blood vessels that are busy growing and connecting, and if that happens, the transplant could fail. I’m feeling confident that I’ll get back to Pump next week Saturday! It’s not going to take over a month, as it did last time. Resuming my workouts sooner rather than later is going to help a lot with maintaining my weight, too, obviously.

All told: Things are going well, and I’m feeling confident.

2). I got some selfies with my son this afternoon!!!


I’ve got that tortoise-mom glow going on


He’s smiling!! I love, love, love being a tortoise mom, a reptile mom, Geronimo’s mom! I have this other pic wherein Geronimo’s looking straight at the camera:


My baby boy


I can’t with this guy. My heart can’t contain the love that I have for him.

For lighting contrast, here’s a selfie that I took in my office this morning:


Hi from my office


The vagaries of lighting, right?! I’m wearing the same make-up and everything in these pics that were all taken today, but morning/indoors/daylight face looks totally different, hue-wise, than afternoon/outdoors/shade face. (Photographed in bright, direct sunlight, Nenette’s fur is amazing. You can really see it. I wish I could capture it more often.)

Happy Friday Eve, my friends!

OH! Wait! I wanted to share this video with you, because it’s made me so happy all week:



Okay, now I’m out.