What does summer mean? School's out? Lazy days poolside? Softball games and picnics? For me summer has officially arrived when Malcom can go outside. As some of you may recall, Malcom is a tortoise. He is my pet, my captive and a source of fascination and responsibility ever since 1975. And it is because of Malcom that I view summer not merely by when it's warm enough to plant Basil or when the pond Lilies bloom but when it is OK to put Malcom outside.
Being a cold blooded creature, Malcom's environment is more than just a matter of comfort, it is a matter of survival. Thus, his cage is outfitted with a warming/basking light and a heating unit that warms a section of the bottom. This way Malcom can easily move into the appropriate clime to keep his body at the right temperature.
Real sunlight is critical for good health too. So in summer Malcom spends time outdoors. Long ago, my dad made a containment unit with wooden sides and a top made of chicken wire. This keeps Malcom safe from predators and getting lost in the Peony patch while allowing him to nibble on fresh grass and to bask in genuine sunshine. A portion of the containment area is shaded by a piece of cardboard (we like things high tech around here). This way Malcom can alternate between sunning himself and chillin' in the shade.
Malcom may be a laconic and unaffectionate fellow but he has vast power over my plans and actions all year. As for what summer means, let's just say that summer is not measured by the calendar or even simply by the weather. True Summer is measured by whether it is warm enough for Malcom.