The Salamander Room


A boy finds a salamander in the woods and imagines the many things he can do to turn his room into a perfect salamander home.

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For those who have always wished they could bring all the outside indoors; an imaginative conversation between a nature love and his mother.  – Five In A Row Manual

First of all, we placed our story disk on the edge of our map, which is the spot we have designated to be “the land of make-believe”.



We learned about the life-cycles of frogs and salamanders, using this sheet in the manual…


And read a few more interesting facts about salamanders from this print-out I found on-line…


I created an animal classification poster-board for our school room and the boys got busy cutting out of magazines all of the different animals we have learned about in our previous “rows”.





We found a salamander for this row, but we also found an owl, a sheep, a jellyfish, a rabbit, an ant, a bee, and a duck.

And we put them on our board under the correct classification.


Now we can just add to it as we come across new animals in the future.

We read a few go-along stories from the library with the theme of nature…

A Pocketfull of Cricket

Crinkleroot’s Guide to Walking in Wild Places

And the boys (especially Logan) were inspired to find bugs in our backyard.


I found them out there one morning, discussing something very important.

Then they came running back up to the house…


to show me their new creature, a caterpillar.

They made him a home.


And filled it with grass clippings and leaves.


For a while, Logan was carrying him around in this little toy treasure chest…


And he did a good job of feeding and loving his “wormy”.

He showed it to everybody.



It eventually died.  We’re not sure why, but I would guess the poor little thing probably could have used some water or moisture of some sort.

We had ordered those catch and release caterpillars before, which was a great success.  And of course there were the ants, which were fun.  So it only seemed fitting to move on to the next creature that could be ordered…


Ah, the tadpoles.  If I’d only known.  I originally sent in for the tadpole embryos back in February, thinking it would be fun to have something to keep the boys preoccupied after the baby was born.  They didn’t actually get here until the first week in April because the tadpole factory in Wisconsin or Michigan (or somewhere cold like that) had a rough winter and they were having trouble keeping up with the orders.  They are technically not supposed to ship to my state from April through September, but they squeaked my order in just around the deadline.  Lucky me!


They’re here!  We got to work setting up the little tank with the special water (not tap water, but not purified either).  We let them acclimate to the new water temperature for an hour, by floating their travelling bag in the new water.


Aren’t they cute?  This is going to be so much fun!


Daddy got to work releasing the embryos into our tank while the boys watched.


There they are!  The pamphlet says that about half of the dozen embryos will hatch…wait…I count 13.  Sweet, they threw in an extra one for all of my troubles!  The more the merrier.


The boys observe intently.


And pick their noses.


And make funny faces.


Now we wait a few days for them to start moving and swimming.

Finally, about a week later, we see movement…


Oh my gosh, they are so cute!



Wouldn’t you know, all 13 of them hatch…must be something in our specially formulated (but not too chemically) water!

Now the real fun begins.  We didn’t take many pictures of the early days because we were too busy keeping the little Prima donnas alive.

Because there were so friggin’ many of them, we had to change out their water daily, although as you can see below, it should have been changed multiple times daily.


But you can’t just dump them into a new tank with fresh water either.  NOooo, you have to constantly be sure that you are keeping 50% of the previous batch of water so that you don’t shock the poor dears.  And as you were trying to dump out half of their old stinky water, they would swim up to the surface suddenly and jump at your face like little attack dogs.  One would inevitably swim out, so you’d have gather it back up and wait patiently again for them to move to the bottom so you could dump some more water out.


So creepy.  (But you can see that one on the top right is starting to grow his/her little leg buds!)

After about a month, we finally found some people who were willing to take some of the little creatures off of our hands, which thankfully reduced our population down to 5 or 6.

By now they were forming legs, so we had to provide a way for them to have land AND water so that they didn’t drown.

We also needed a bigger home.  We bought this aquarium (along with a bunch of gear that used to belong to a snake named squiggles *shudder* off of Craigslist).


We came up with a solution that we thought would work for giving the froglets land and water.


We put some rocks in that large, shallow, tan-colored water dish and filled it half-way to the top with water.


(Always careful to keep the mixture at 50/50 of course!)  Have I mentioned yet how badly they smelled?!


Unfortunately, the froglets kept managing to jump out of the water dish and couldn’t get back in.  We kept finding them in the mornings all dried out and stuck to the bottom of the aquarium.  Once or twice we heard them flop out and we put them back in (slimy!).  When we were down to two or three froglets, Raphael came up with the idea of putting a tennis racket over the top to hold them in.  Somehow, amazingly, they still escaped.  We were down to two of them when we found one floating belly-up in the water one day.  The last lone survivor finally lost his tail and became a frog and I snapped this picture of him that afternoon…


But we found him dried out on the bottom of the aquarium the next morning.  He somehow managed to escape the tennis racket as well.  We are clearly not cut out for frog ownership!  To be honest, I was a little relieved when the last frog died.  They are so high-maintenance and we have enough things to keep alive around here…chickens, dogs, KIDS!

So imagine my excitement when Raphael came home one day with a new pet to use our aquarium for…

A Gecko!

Actually, the gecko is pretty cool.  It does still require live food, but he/she has been pretty low maintenance so far.


And this type of gecko will eat baby scorpions, so it’s a keeper and we need to get more of them and release them around this ‘hood!  It has been a rough year for scorpions, I tell ‘ya.  The chickens we have will also eat scorpions, but they free-range around our back pasture only because we don’t want them pooping on our patio, so they are no help for the scorpions that have set up camp near our house.


Anywho, back to Mr. Gecko…  Raphael decided it would be nice to make the aquarium feel a little more home-y…





Moving to his new home…


See him up there?

Here’s a closer look after he made his way to the log tunnel…


We (and I use the term “we” very loosely here) feed him crickets a few times per week and he otherwise needs almost no attention.  The aquarium is so large we haven’t even had to clean it out yet.  We got a heat lamp for him, which we turn on during the day and back off at night.


And the boys are completely fascinated by him…when they actually catch a glimpse of him, anyways.  He’s a pretty shy fellow.

FOOD:  Bug Picnic!

I couldn’t let the opportunity to do a bug-themed picnic pass me by.  It isn’t exactly outdoor-picnic weather here now, though, so we did an indoor picnic lunch and invited family to join us.

My inspiration:


My execution:



Frog apples and a grape caterpillar!


Ladybug cheeses and ants-on-a-log!




Peanut butter sandwiches with beetle’s wings.


Family!  My sister and my mom joined us, along with my nephew Cody, and my step-dad!


And my sister brought dessert…


She went to the store thinking she’d pick up stuff to make “dirt cups”, but once she was there she couldn’t remember all the ingredients so she got stuff to make ice cream treats instead…


Works for us!

Another fun and memorable row.  🙂


    • J@cque says:

      Thank you Cassandra! I’ve been following your blog for about a year now and love your posts as well. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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