I really dread this time of the year for one reason – it’s time to put the tortoises into hibernation.

For regular followers, you will have seen the trauma we have been through over the years with this operation, so we are hoping this year will be relatively free from incident and that Fred and Ginger make it through the other side once more.

I bought a pair of tortoises for the wife’s birthday about 5 years ago – when we were in South Africa we used to see them all over the place in the Bush and she made some passing comment about having some one day…so the present idea was formed.

Nobody would ever believe that these seemingly docile and unassuming creatures would ever have brought so much pleasure to us all. I truly believe they have personalities and recognise who you are and react accordingly.

My favourite is the small male one – not that I should really have a favourite – but he is just very funny. Any visitor to our house will see them scooting all around the house – our house is a bit like a mental asylum at the best of times, but when all the animals are about … its mayhem!

Fred absolutely loves our white Labrador, Holly. He is always trying to climb up her – much to her disgust. She is a gentle dog and is very careful.. she just slowly moves away from him and goes an lies elsewhere, only for him to rush over and annoy her once more! One day she did actually pick him up and carry him to me – very softly but it was a bit scary!

So why  hibernate them? Well if you dont, you really put them in danger of death. Their metabolism has to slow down and stop to allow them to recharge. The process is long and slow, we start starving them about mid October, then bath them daily to remove toxins (they poo like made when you put them in water). After about a month, you then switch off their sun lamp for a few days and let them slow right down…then you place them in a cardboard box, cover them in compost and stick them in the fridge!

Well I actually put them in my meat chiller – this has 2 sections and so I can separate them from the working part of the chiller. We have tried specialist fridge units and god knows what else, but the chiller keeps the temperature in the safe zone 3-5 degrees and has a fan to circulate air around the box.

Now all we have to do is wait and hope the chiller doesnt break down / flood / burn down etc – we pretty much have had it all so far. After 4 months, we get them out, warm them up slowly, feed and re-hydrate them and hopefully all will be well for the next year.

It ‘s a pretty sad time – it’s like burying your pet alive and hope they survive…both me and Mrs Rapid Pest get a little upset by it all, but thats nature and at least we are doing what comes naturally to them.

I will let you know all is OK in March…but here are a few pics of the dog and tortoise just having a bit of fun in front of the fire last week…Enjoy!