If you've been a frequent reader of this blog, then you may remember a post from mid-July in which I talked about a freak monsoon hail storm that completely flooded out my pet tortoise's burrow, nearly drowning the poor baby animal. I've since had the burrow blocked off to keep little Koopa out of it until I could modify or reconstruct it to be a little bit safer. In the meantime, I've been bringing the tortoise in the house to sleep during nights with heavy rain to protect the little fella from being left out in the elements and getting sick.
The dirt of the original burrow eventually compacted and sunk into the ground, and the path through the rocks ended up causing water to drain directly into the burrow opening. These proved to be nearly fatal mistakes!
I've been debating with myself about whether or not the existing burrow could be retrofitted to be more safe, but I've finally decided that I want to just reconstruct the whole thing to make sure it will be safer. This week, I broke ground on the new burrow.
I took a trip to the local STAR Nursery this weekend to get some dirt and ground soil, some bricks, work gloves, and other various supplies. I had to ask a friend to take me to the store with his truck so that I could buy a large, 1/2 ton bag of dirt. For liability reasons, the store wouldn't sell the dirt to me when I came with a van. The big bags of dirt require that you have a flatbed truck.
I started by trying to move as much of the rocks out of the way of the planned construction site and then dug up and filled-in the original burrow, reclaiming the bricks and wood board used to construct it.
Nothing like a mere two hours of physical labor in the early evening desert sun to make me appreciate being a software engineer who works inside with a computer, instead of outside with a shovel.
My new plan involves building a similar burrow with the opening on a mound to keep the opening elevated well above the ground should more rains flood out the back yard. A half ton of dirt should be more than enough to create a sizeable enough mound! The burrow itself will be lined with bricks and filled with a small amount of loose dirt to give Koopa room to dig, then covered with the wooden board to prevent the ceiling from collapsing. The opening will be covered with a large, landscaping rock and will have a raised lip to keep rain from falling directly into the opening. I will then put more dirt over the burrow to provide insulation. The mound will then be covered with black plastic landscaping liner to prevent rain water from soaking through the dirt, then it will all be covered with rocks.
Koopa burrow v2.0 plan.
The opening cover and lip should prevent water from draining off the mound and into the burrow. I will also be digging out a drainage ditch along the wall to give water a route to drain out of the area around the burrow mound (rather than towards the burrow as before).
Finally, I will be planting some dandelions and other desert plants in the area around the burrow mound to provide Koopa with some food to eat as well as some shade to prevent the sun from heating up the underlying dirt and rocks so much that they burn Koopa's feet (a problem I noticed earlier this summer). When the burrow (soon-to-be a full habitat) is completed, I'll put up a locking gate on the side of the house so that I can keep Koopa safe from being stepped on whenever people are over.
This revised burrow is going to require a lot more work, and will be considerably more expensive, but I want to make sure I get it done right this time so that Koopa can safely enjoy it for years to come!