Meet Finn ~ Our Sonoran Desert Tortoise

It has been one month since we adopted our Sonoran desert tortoise from Arizona Fish and Game Department. Meet Finn.

We don’t know if Finn is a boy or girl and will not know until Fin is about 10 years old. Fin is currently 1 year of age.

Finn is a super low key pet. Our tortoise lives in our backyard in an enclosure. Once it gets bigger, Finn will be able to roam freely in the yard.

In the first week of having our tortoise we found Finn flipped over upside down three times. This can be super dangerous especially for the baby tortoises. They will release their bladders when upside down and can quickly become dehydrated.

After finding Finn flipped so many times we decided it would be best to redo the burrow again and add extra dirt in the enclosure. I have lost count at this point how many times we have remade the burrow. And this last time we got it just right. It is the perfect size and after some pretty heavy rains also stays dry. Plus Finn has not flipped over again.

Finn is super low maintenance and is about to become even more low maintenance. From October to March, Finn should be in hibernation (in reptiles it is called brumation). Which is so crazy to think about.

Our tortoise’s diet consists of hay, dandelion greens, globemallow, and green leaf lettuce. I tired growing buckwheat in the enclosure which was a big hit and was devoured as soon as it started sprouting. Going forward I will probably need to grow it out of the enclosure and then I can add it in to the feeding mix.

Currently Finn fits perfectly in our hands. We are excited to watch our little tortoise grow.


Desert Tortoise Hatchling Burrow & Enclosure

We are getting ready to add another member to our family soon and will be adopting our desert tortoise hatchling this week! We are adopting through the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Under state law, desert tortoises are available for adoption for Arizona residents only.

Our family has been in full on research and learning mode for the last two months to prepare an enclosure and burrow. The kids were super eager and motivated to help prep the backyard space for our new little friend and we let them take shovels and rakes to clear the space for the desert tortoise enclosure.

Once the area was clear the construction began. This was a slower process due to the heat of summer. The burrow itself was the most time consuming to construct, mostly because we had no idea how to size it appropriately for a hatchling.

Inside the enclosure is the burrow, water dish, a globemallow and desert hibiscus plants. Our enclosure measures 4 feet by 4 feet. It is 2 feet tall and has a predator proof that Josh made with chicken wire and plywood. After several weeks the project was complete and our application submitted.

Once our application was submitted we received a response fairly quickly that all looked good but we needed to add more shade. This was an easy fix that included scissors, a sun shade, grommets, and zip ties. I also adjusted the burrow construction after watching this Hatchling Burrow Building and Care on YouTube that Arizona Game and Fish recently shared.

We are looking forward to welcoming our desert tortoise hatchling to their new home. And I am extra thankful that our kids will be able to have a pet that won’t aggravate their allergies inside our house.


Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Coolidge, Arizona

Last week we packed up our minivan and made the 45 minute drive to Coolidge, Arizona. We visited one of Arizona’s National Monuments, the Casa Grande Ruins. I remember going on a field trip in elementary school to the Casa Grande Ruins and was awestruck.

During our pandemic year of homeschooling the kids we have covered ancient history. We finished reading about the fall of Rome this week and they are asking to continue their history lessons into the summer. This totally surprised me but I am going to take that win and pat myself on the back. Since they have enjoyed history lessons so much this year, I knew they would all be excited to see what archeologists have discovered in Arizona.

The ancestral Sonoarn desert people who lived in Arizona developed irrigation, farming, and trade. Casa Grande means “the great house”. At the peak of the community Casa Grande was home to 2,000 people. There is a mystery surrounding what happened to the people who lived here. By the year 1450 the ancestral Sonoran people begin to leave. This is just one year after the main house was completed. One theory is that the network of canals that had been established for irrigation and farming within the community could no longer support the population growth.

In the 1880’s more people began to visit the ruins. This resulted in souvenir hunting, vandalism, and damage to the site. The government began to work towards repairing and protecting the ruins in 1889. In 1892 President Harrison set aside one square mile of Arizona Territory surrounding the Casa Grande Ruins. It became the first prehistoric and cultural reserve established in the United States.

The park rangers asked that masks be worn within 6 feet of another group. I am guessing that will change now that the CDC has released new masking guidelines. The bathrooms were clean and there were only 5 other cars in the parking lot when we arrived.

There is no fee to visit and if you go when the weather is nice you can pack a picnic lunch and eat at one of the many shaded picnic areas on the site. If you are in Arizona wanting to see a cultural reserve be sure to check out the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.