boy with hatchling turtle

accidental turtle farmers

Recently  I uncovered a copy of the Sycamore,* a neighborhood newsletter (vol. 1, issue 1) dated June 10, 2011. This was the first of only two limited editions of this beloved paper because the young amateur publishers – ages 10, 8, & 5 – quickly moved on to other things that summer.boys' newsletter

As I reviewed this childhood treasure, I was reminded of the importance of sharing our kids’ passions, whatever they may be. Each of my boys had a designated role in publishing this 2-page newsletter and took their responsibilities very seriously. Among their memory stash was a thank-you email, a handwritten note and, surprisingly, still tucked between a reporter’s interview notes was a fresh $1 bill “to help with expenses.” Our young boys were eager to try something new and this tired/busy momma was likely pretty motivated to keep them busy during those long summer days! The bonus was our neighbors embracing the boys’ ambitious efforts, and the unity feeling stronger around our little cul-de-sac.

Within that original newsletter was my son’s story about how our family became accidental “turtle farmers.” (We never could quite agree on what term we should use for ourselves, but this one stuck.)

Our turtles are awakening now from their winter slumber and sleepily searching out food scraps like voracious teenagers. With their shells encrusted with dirt and bits of crunchy leaves, their eyes blink slowly in the bright spring sun.

Every March when they come out of hibernation, I’m impressed that they’ve survived the winter in self-made shallow dugouts and equally amazed that our family is still “hosting” them 7 years later.

3 amigosSo… here’s our story about becoming accidental turtle farmers according to our 8-year-old son:

Our Turtles: A Quick History

Our family found Zippy, Zee, and Rocky on an empty gravel road surrounded by forest in Missouri. The turtles got their names from what they did while they were trying to get away.

Zippy was so named because he was zippy in getting off the road. Zee was named Zee because we found him on Highway Z. Running headfirst into a rock was how Rocky got his name.

On the way home, we went to Texas to visit our aunt. Now the turtles had been to Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri; where we found them. When we came back to Kansas, the turtles were living in a large tub, instead of a tackle box and two boxes. Also on the way back, our turtles were in the Bixby, Oklahoma Turtle races (they didn’t win).

We have had the turtles for about a year. After we had built a nice pen for the turtles, Zippy got away (and we never found him). We got another turtle with almost identical markings at the Harvey County State Fair Turtle Races. We named him Zippy Jr.

The turtles are still living in their area and not one of them have gotten out since, even after hibernation and a year in the same nice big pen (a turtles paradise!!!).

Turtles Favorite Foods: Bread,  Strawberries,  Blueberries,  Snails,  Ham,  Apples,  Mangoes,  Broccoli Stems, Worms

baby turtles
Turtle hatchlings

Ironically, we now live only a few miles from where our turtles competed in their first Turtle Race.  Our turtles have had babies that have grown into sturdy “adolescent” turtles. A few years ago on St. Patrick’s Day we were fortunate to discover them during their hatching process, witnessing these delicate miniature turtles crack through their shells and emerge into the world. A lucky day, indeed!

When we moved to another state, the turtle contingent came with us. They got a new habitat and change of scenery out of the deal.turtle parade

My hubby and I never had big dreams of growing up to be turtle farmers some day, but here we are. Our boys have observed the life cycle of one of God’s “lowly” creatures and have learned some responsibility along the way. We have enjoyed watching the process unfold.

As pets go, turtles are extremely quiet and low maintenance. We even get a caretaking break during the winter. 😊

turtle inspectionLast year a wandering turtle actually crawled through our fence and joined our little turtle family, so I guess we’re officially kid-tested and turtle-approved!

turtle artworkThese little turtles have interwoven themselves into the fabric of our family. They have been featured in our children’s artwork and have served as a great ice-breaker at backyard parties because of their novelty. Smiles appear as our visitors connect with their own memories of encountering turtles in unlikely places.

turtle at 4th of July swim partyTurtle farming and boys…all in all a pretty good combination.

And to think this began simply by me stopping the car on a gravel road and letting one of the boys rescue a box turtle from getting run over. We had no idea how that one small gesture would blossom into a long-term family adventure.

UPDATE JUNE 2017: Check out this time-lapse video of Mama Turtle burying her eggs! 

little guyFollowing a child’s passion can lead to a wonderfully unexpected family storyline.

 — What might your family adventure be?