Winter housing/Prickly Pear blossoms: Can they be frozen for Sulcata?

Anna Westphal

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A change of seasons is in the air and I am only feeding Stella in her indoor area now, as some day time temps have been only in the 70's. I noticed a lot of blossoms on our Prickly Pear cactus are starting to fade, so I harvested several bowls of it. I am hoping I can freeze them for winter treats for Stella. Anyone have any experience on whether they will hold up to freezing and defrosting?
Also, I don't remember if I first saw this Youtube video on the forum or came across it on my own, but I built Stella one like this in her playroom for the winter, and am so happy with the way it came out it is definitely worth sharing.


With day time temps as they are, she can still come out into the yard to roam, but I am so pleased to have a comfortable environment for her this winter. It's really nice to have everything on timers and not have to worry about turning things off and on. I added a big water dish water and lots of coco coir as well as timothy grass, but the basic set up in the video is similar to what I put together as far as heating and lights. This will be Stella's second winter with us and I am thrilled to have a nicely insulated space for her.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions about the cactus blossoms. Anna
 

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wellington

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A change of seasons is in the air and I am only feeding Stella in her indoor area now, as some day time temps have been only in the 70's. I noticed a lot of blossoms on our Prickly Pear cactus are starting to fade, so I harvested several bowls of it. I am hoping I can freeze them for winter treats for Stella. Anyone have any experience on whether they will hold up to freezing and defrosting?
Also, I don't remember if I first saw this Youtube video on the forum or came across it on my own, but I built Stella one like this in her playroom for the winter, and am so happy with the way it came out it is definitely worth sharing.


With day time temps as they are, she can still come out into the yard to roam, but I am so pleased to have a comfortable environment for her this winter. It's really nice to have everything on timers and not have to worry about turning things off and on. I added a big water dish water and lots of coco coir as well as timothy grass, but the basic set up in the video is similar to what I put together as far as heating and lights. This will be Stella's second winter with us and I am thrilled to have a nicely insulated space for her.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions about the cactus blossoms. Anna
I have not froze the fruit but I have the cactus. I use the food processor grind it up then freeze in baggies. I would do the fruit the same way.
 

Anna Westphal

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I have not froze the fruit but I have the cactus. I use the food processor grind it up then freeze in baggies. I would do the fruit the same way.
What a great idea. I didn't think of doing that. It probably would be better that way than trying to freeze the blossoms whole. I appreciate your input.
 

Turtulas-Len

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They will last a very long time in the fridge if you cut them off the pad at the pad instead of twisting them off. When you twist them off it may open the end and cause the shelf life to shorten. We had a mild winter last year and I still had good fruit on the plants when spring arrived. Freezing long term turns them to mush.
 

Ben and Luci

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Thanks for sharing your post and your video. I loved it💚 I love seeing the older sulcata s it makes me so happy. I love getting new ideas or even just being able to compare sizes. You have very beautiful animals. Thanks for sharing🐢
 

Anna Westphal

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They will last a very long time in the fridge if you cut them off the pad at the pad instead of twisting them off. When you twist them off it may open the end and cause the shelf life to shorten. We had a mild winter last year and I still had good fruit on the plants when spring arrived. Freezing long term turns them to mush.
Thanks. I did have trouble getting some of them off without tearing the end off a bit. I'll feed those first and try refrigerating the other to see how they hold up.
 

Tom

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This video is full of misconceptions and problems. This is exactly how I started out years ago, with that exact same shed. They don't work. Too drafty. No door. Wrong dimensions for a tortoise, cold floor, etc... Anna, I'm glad you posted this so that I can point out all the problems with this design, and hopefully help you and other people to not make these same mistakes that I also made initially. I started out almost exactly like this 20 years ago. It didn't work, so I modified my design. I replaced this box with one made of plywood. I made it 4x8x4feet tall because that is the dimensions of plywood. After one winter I realized that 4 feet tall inside was ineffective and didn't make sense, so I built another one that was 24" outside and about 20 inches tall inside. BINGO! Then I built another and another and another. I learned things and refined the design each time. My boxes slowly evolved into what they are today, and I will keep learning and improving as time goes by.

Here are some notes for people reading who want to learn more without having to learn the hard way as I did.

1. She has two males. Shelly is a male and the secondary sexual characteristics have been suppressed by the presence of the more dominant male. Someone should tell her. Along with this, they should NEVER be kept in pairs.
2. Timothy hay is not the best hay for them. Orchard grass hay or Bermuda hay is better.
3. Don't use carpet runners for door flaps, and door flaps need to overlap to be effective. I can't believe they actually cut all those spikes off one at a time. And with a chisel? Just do a search for freezer door flaps. Its smooth, clear, and much heavier duty than carpet runners. Its also more effective at holding the heat in. And cheaper.
4. By the time you spend all that time, money and effort, insulating and modifying a shed like this, you could have just built a better one that is better suited to tortoise needs, from scratch, and for less money.
5. Sheds like this are too tall inside. Your are heating a 5 or 6 foot tall air column, but the tortoise will only occupy the bottom 12 inches. Its so wasteful and ineffective. To get the floor in something like this warm enough, the air near the ceiling will have to be ridiculously hot.
6. The wooden runners inside are not tall enough. When those tortoises start pushing and shoving in there and climbing over each other, that insulation is going to be shredded, and then the pieces are likely to be eaten. Plywood should cover all of the insulation all the way up the walls, and that will make the inside even more insulated.
7. Lights should not be used in a sulcata night box. The night box simulates their burrow, and the only light coming into a burrow comes from the door hole. Best to leave the shed dark for a tortoise that lives outside.
8. You can NOT use hay over a pig blanket. This is NOT safe.
9. Spot bulbs should never be used over tortoises. THAT is what causes pyramiding in smaller growing animals, and in larger animals like hers, they burn the top of the carapace.
10. Neither the UV from her "spot" bulb or that 36" tube is reaching the tortoises. The bulbs are much too far away to be effective at all.
11. Tortoises living outside do not need UV bulbs. Its a waste of money.
12. Good diet and UV bulbs have NOTHING to do with the pyramiding that they caused in their tortoises. Pyramiding is CAUSED by growth in conditions that are too dry.
13. CHEs should never be used over larger tortoises for the same reason as spot bulbs. Not effective, and they will burn the carapace.
14. Her heat mat and CHE should be on a thermostat, not a timer. Those will need to be running on a cold winter day to keep the box temp up.
15. No colored bulbs for tortoises. Not at night and not during the day.
16. They need a drip loop on their incoming power cord, or water is going to run into all the electrical stuff.
17. There is no DOOR! She's got flimsy thin carpet runner for door flaps with big gaps between the flaps, and there is no door to hold in the heat when temps drop into the 40's or 30's or lower! Tortoise boxes NEED a door.


She is right that there is not a lot of good info on the internet. Her bad info adds to this problem. I wish she had found us before making all these mistakes and then teaching other people to make these same mistakes. This is how bad info gets perpetuated around the internet. I just had to spend two days retro-fitting a tortoise box of similar dimensions for a friend out of state. They made many of these same errors, and probably watched this same video, or a similar one.

Here are two examples of effective night boxes. A single and a double:

If anything I've said here isn't clear or doesn't make sense, please feel free to ask questions. I'm happy to explain any of this in more detail.
 

Maro2Bear

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Cactus blossoms also dehydrate very well - in the “sun”, but much easier in a food dehydrator if you have one. Many folks on here dehydrate & store the dried blossoms for feeding throughout Winter. In my experience, freezing & rethawing didnt work too well. Freezing yes, but a bit mushy on the defrosting & feeding end. Either way, yes, pick & store & feed.
 

Anna Westphal

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Dolores, Colorado
Thanks Mark. I had not thought of dehydrating the blossoms.

Tom, thanks as always for your significant input. I didn't mean to post something that was not considered correct. It seemed to me that the system in the video was a good solution for the larger Sulcatas that spent most of their time outside.
I built a 3 foot high indoor habitat in my heated workshop using 2 inch think coated cheese boards (actually used in the past by Kraft cheese to store their product). It is enclosed and fully insulated for heat/humidity, but has a slide open section for Stella to exit through when it's warm enough for her to go out and I can open the top sections to clean.
I guess I wasn't clear, but what I gained from this video was the system of various day and night heat sources going off on timers so that everything was automatic. My Zoo Med heating pad is on a thermostat and timer, but not my CHE, which stays on all night. I also have a small ceramic heater in one corner which does have a thermostat on it and is on a timer. In the winter I'm sure it will be on all the time. I'm thinking I should just get rid of the CHE altogether? Maybe add another heat panel on the top instead of the CHE. The current temps in the box run 88 to 95 right now with humidity at about 80.
When I go to the feed store, I am not sure if I got orchard hay or timothy grass. I bought a small package of timothy grass from a pet store, as I thought I read on the forum that Sulcatas would eat they eventually when they got older. The bale of hay I got at the feed store does not look anything like the timothy hay, so maybe it is orchard grass. I asked for timothy or orchard and just bought what they gave me. I will pay more attention next time.
I appreciate your time and advice. Thanks again. Anna
 

Anna Westphal

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Location (City and/or State)
Dolores, Colorado
Tom,
Here are pictures of my winter set up for Stella. The enclosure is about 4 feet wide by 10 feet long. I have the ability to continue to add on to it as she grows. I put in a middle wall panel in a section of the box which provides a darker, moist area with just coco coir (no hay) and gives Stella something to do laps around. There is a heat mat in one corner and water in the other, DSC03635.JPG DSC03262.JPG DSC03258.JPG DSC03816.JPG DSC03841.JPG DSC03843.JPG which are not pictured. With the sliding door opened she can leave the box and walk out the door of the workshop to go outside. She is very clever. When she wants to go to bed she will wait at the door for me to let her back in.
The hanging light at the far end near the oil filled radiator is a 65 watt light bulb which is over her feeding dish and on during the day. The closer light you see is a solar bulb, which you said is unnecessary. I can see that it might be too low, even though I have it pointed at an angle. Stella will not be able to have outside time in the winter. Do you still suggest that I get rid of it? Should I just put in a regular light bulb for daytime light? The box stays at the right temperature at night when the lights are off, so I don't really use them for heat but she needs light with the box closed.
When I got Stella she was 10 pounds and had a lot of pyramiding and is now 26 pounds, and it seems to me that her new growth is pretty smooth. The outdoor pictures are from a few months ago and the view of her rear end in the box are recent. Do you think she's developing correctly?
Lots of questions, but I very much appreciate your thoughts or suggestions when you get a chance. Thanks for being so available to help. Anna
 
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