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4: R + S + D + BT

arkofeden in ark_of_eden

More Gratuitous Animal Pics.

(Riss + some from the others:)
Because posting random pics of your animal friends and encouraging other people to care about them is what at least 50% of the Internet is for.

(I'm using the group account because the Dragon is my co-parent for Lil Thorn and S is my co-parent for Ensou, whereas the Swarm...is me co-parenting with myself, as if I had reproduced by fission somehow...and created a box full of larvae. Anyway.)

To start, here is a quaint Outside family photo featuring our meatself with both scalykids, which was taken by a vet tech that we roped in for the purpose during the kids' checkup visits. We are 5'4" and a bit squishy, so this gives an idea of the critters' comparative size.

To begin with, I decided to take a "before" picture of the large snapping turtle shell that we got a while back from the mountain man store, which was surprisingly cheap because it was very minimally cleaned. There are large clots of blood and dried meat stuck to it. At first, I was trying to clean it by swishing hydrogen peroxide around the inside, but gave up after it was clear that that would take forever. Thanks to lupagreenwolf's Skin Spirits Livestream, I learned that Oxyclean is sort of like hydrogen peroxide and went and bought a bucket of the stuff from Home Depot, along with a big plastic garbage can to do the soaking in.

...It turns out that what I actually bought was Arm & Hammer washing detergent with the Cleaning Power of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda and Oxyclean, which is Color-Safe and will therefore keep my whites whiter and my brights brighter. o_o;;; At least there's no bleach in it, I think...I put a few scoops of it into the turtle soup and will leave it there for 2-3 days. I'll go hunting for pure Oxyclean if it doesn't seem to be doing enough vs. the dried death. On the upside, it has a Springtime Fresh scent that might actually be strong enough to overwhelm the distinctive smell of reconstituted dead animal goo.

My ambitious plan for the turtle shell is to paint a version of the Buddhist Wheel of Life (sans Yama holding onto it) on the inside of it; one story I heard was that the Buddha was inspired to create the Wheel diagram after seeing the pattern on the back of a turtle.

Moving on now to The Swarm, the superworm (Zophobas morio) colony I started a while ago in order to create a reliable (and free) food source for Lil Thorn. Superworms, much like mealworms, are beetle larvae that look like up-armored maggots; when not being cultivated as prey for various pet species, they're pests in stored grain. Superworms are high in protein compared to most other types of worms.

The basic design for the main colony box has been a Really Useful Box from Office Max with airholes drilled into it. Because I care about all our animals, the worms' edible "substrate" is organic rolled oats and their current hydration source is organic baby carrots. (When/if I'm able to produce adult beetles, their box will be basically the same but with egg carton chunks added to give them more places to hide.) All the worms are kept in a dark room--the adults won't reproduce if there's too much light, and the larvae seem to survive better in the dark also.

The first version of the colony used Fluker's Cricket Quencher (water gel) as a hydration source, but it dried out too fast and got clotted up in dust from the food. Consequently, the worms got dehydrated and began dying off, with the survivors boring into the dead to get fluids from their innards. This was pretty damn horrifying--allow my failure to be a lesson for all readers. If you wake up one day and your colony looks like this and stinks much like other dead, rotting animals do, you probably need some carrots.

See how happy they look? :D (Watching superworms eat carrots is actually pretty cool. Individual worms have different styles of eating.)

With the addition of carrots (changed out every day because, at least in Colorado, the carrots get shriveled and dusty with oats after a day and worm die-off starts to increase) and a dark environment, the colony has mostly stabilized. There's still just the one colony box plus some hermitages.

Hermitages are necessary because superworms were hated by their creator and doomed to special suffering. Unlike mealworms, which will happily pupate anywhere and for any reason, superworms must undergo a period of spiritual trial and sensory deprivation in order to reach adulthood. After many long days (worm-decades) of isolated practice, the worms will eventually give up on the Dharma and hurl their microscopic prayer beads into piles of their own poo, at which point a tutelary dakini will appear, bolster their faith, and bless them with pupahood. ...Kidding, mostly. But I have actually been getting increasingly cruel with my worm hermits because they are apparently too comfortable to pupate--being severely stressed and deprived is a necessary trigger for pupation in this species. :|

The original hermitage design was a set of crappy Gladware with holes punched in the lids. Originally, I set each one up like a comfy private suite, with its own oat substrate and blob of water gel. When the worms still didn't pupate, I did more reading and learned that each larva needs to be completely alone, starving, and dehydrated, so I removed all the food and water.

The irony here is that Lil Thorn went crazy with a bowl of worms in her tank at around this point and spilled some of the larvae, whereupon they naturally burrowed into the substrate and just started living there. Some of them later reappeared as beetles, which showed me that the pupation process shouldn't take very long and also that it couldn't be that difficult to do if it could happen by accident in Lil Thorn's tank. :/ After moving the hermitages into the dark room along with the main colony and still seeing no progress, my next try involved changing to opaque containers in order to shut out more light and to prevent them from even seeing each other (previously I'd thought that they just shouldn't be touching each other). Thus, the current hermitage collection is a crappy plastic ghetto made of miscellaneous containers that I scrounged up; I haven't taken a picture because it looks so...sad. One of the worm-yogins is doing its practice inside an Advil bottle with holes drilled in the sides. c_c;

If there's still no progress after another week, I may pull some of the bark substrate from Lil Thorn's tank to put in the hermitages so that they have something inedible to burrow under. Mostly I'm trying to figure out how to recreate the conditions that produced pupae "in the wild." If that doesn't work, I'll switch to even smaller containers to make them even more miserable. (How the hell was this a useful evolutionary trait??)

Finally, I discovered that using a plastic fork to sift the worms out of the substrate was doomed to failure because superworms have an intense will to live and will thrash like crazy and turbo-boost themselves if disturbed. Thus, I enlisted the aid of Nature's perfect utensil--chopsticks. There is really nothing more handy. It even looks as if chopsticks may be the way to go when feeding rodents to Ensou, because the giant tweezers (feeding tongs) I bought just seem...inadequate for the purpose. Chopsticks also work on other types of worms, such as earthworms/nightcrawlers. (Yes, the tagline on the bait bucket really is "Our worms catch fish or die trying!" I wondered how they got away with something that soulless until I remembered that most people don't give a shit about their bait's suffering. ;_;)

So that is the current story of The Swarm. I actually find them pretty fascinating and like to watch them, but I am sort of easily entertained like that. They manage to make me feel like a complete bastard for torturing them so that they pupate...why is Nature so cruel?

And now for some more wholesome pics of Ensou, the recently-arrived, 5-month-old pied ball python, and more pics of Lil Thorn being weird and adorable in her hardcore PTSD wild animal sort of way.

Ensou--whose name is Japanese for "circle" in reference to the Zen calligraphy practice--got here a little less than two weeks ago. I have to confess that I don't have many pics of him because I'm still getting a feel for him. He's still pretty nervous and because he has even less of a capacity for facial expressions than Lil Thorn I can only think of taking pictures of him when he's climbed up on something weird. Time will tell how photogenic the little guy ends up being.

Ensou is five months old and is not quite two feet long. When we pulled him out of his insulated shipping crate, he was so out of it that he forgot to roll into a ball to defend himself and thus set himself up for a handsome vanity shot. Something that doesn't show up so well on our camera is that some of his blotches have a nifty greenish tinge (unusual in ball pythons), as if his bronze was tarnishing.

Here is the most obvious lolsnake/meme pic possible; feel free to spread it around, because when I did a Google image search I found lots of cat pics with this reference, but no actual ball python morphs, which seemed strange to me. I can only assume that the same people who make lolanimal pics are not interested in gourmet snakes. :P I HAVE CORRECTED THE INTERNET AND ALL IS WELL.

(Also, I have tried my damnedest to not scare Ensou badly enough to make him turn into a Ball of Sad, so this will probably be the only pic celebrating his defensive posture, regardless of how insanely cute it is. He's palm-sized! :D)

About a week after Ensou got here, I can only assume that he picked up some prison tricks from Lil Thorn after communicating with her using coded tapping on the water pipes. Instead of hiding in his actual hides, he began burrowing under the substrate as best as he could, given that the substrate I'm currently using for him is paper towels. Thus, he spends most of his days mysteriously vanished--here is a pic of the standard view of his tank in the daytime, with helpful hints added by the Dragon to help everyone find the sausage snakebaby.

It's ended up being very nice to have both a skink and a python, because the former is active during the day and the latter is active during the night. Thus, if I ever go back to being a complete night owl, at least one of our animal friends will not be put out if I want to play at some ridiculous hour.

Now for more pics of Lil Thorn being herself!! (I'm pretty well resigned now to her being a her. If you look close, it seems like she's even got breeding scars on her back. Somehow, renaming her "Honsou" still doesn't feel too wrong...but then again, she's used to her name. ^^) These are out of order and thus not narratively connected, but screw that--behold her savage reptilian cuteness!

* Lil Thorn being a substrate ninja again!
Yes, it's another pic of her totally hidden except for her head. She's set to ambush the worm bowl as soon as it comes back with victims inside of it.

* Lil Thorn is a WIENER RAPTOR.
And here she is digging into her worms. She takes a terrifying amount of glee in crushing their chitinous little bodies in her jaws, and she goes through a daily portion with a quickness, which is why it's hard to get decent pics of her massacring the innocents. She gets a magnificent predatory gleam in her eye when fighting superworms (which do fight back).

Here's Lil Thorn in the Blue-Tongued Ranger grave she dug one evening. She cuddled down into her little bark ditch and made herself monstrously adorable to keep the terrorists away while she was sleeping. She's even got digging residue left on her head~~! *^_____^* Squee!!

* Lil Thorn is a Skink from Mah Hood.
Lil Thorn does not really like the pet carrier I got to take her to and from the vet's office. For whatever reason, she vastly prefers hiding in the hood of our windbreaker, which is just the right size for convenient skink storage. After the latest trip to the vet, I took the obligatory crappy mirror photo of her head peeking out while in transit.

* Lil Thorn is conveniently self-cooking.
Here is a gratuitous LOOK AT MY ANIMAL pic which is just Lil Thorn curled up on her basking rocks, fueling her internal organs with heat.

* Lil Thorn is crazy flexible, Proof 1.
In the process of being really squirrely one day, Lil Thorn crawled up between the side of her pool and her log hide and then twisted more than 90 degrees to slide under the substrate inside the log. Her head is far back to the right.

* Lil Thorn is crazy flexible, Proof 2.
Dissatisfied with being in the log, Lil Thorn circled around to the same spot and twisted the other direction, sliding underneath the swimming pool in a nearly 180-degree twist. That's a legit motion blur on her tail--I was almost not fast enough to catch this.

* Warsmith Thorn confuses the fuck out of a bunch of Imperial Fists.
Iron within, iron without! This shot takes a little explaining. When I got Lil Thorn, the guy at the pet store said that I had to get her a big soaking pool, so I did. Then it turned out that she was trying to avoid the pool and was having a hard time moving around her tank in the process, so I took out the big one and got her a smaller one with a convenient ramp. After some weird shenanigans in which she remained buried under the swimming pool for days on end, I finally just took the pool out and left her with a small water dish. It turns out that she hates being in water.

After the pool was gone, she went on this berserk trench-building binge which was something like: 1) Thorn dug a ton of trenches that made no sense, then 2) Thorn dug another ton of trenches that had nothing to do with the first set of trenches but intersected them in some vague way, then 3) Thorn attempted to improve sections of the trench network, but ran out of steam in the middle of it and had a sudden nap attack right out in the open.

We think she might have been trying to deceive the enemy regarding the actual location of the front line. Either that or, in the near future when the stars are right, the geometrical figures formed by the intersecting trenches will summon Yog-Sothoth. (We hope not.)

That is all the pics I have for now. I need to be around more online, as there are still a few things I need to do. This long weekend has been helping me to catch up on sleep nicely. Everyone, have a good night.