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Christmas 2022

I’ve been working Christmas at the Museum since 1993. (Click here to learn about Christmas 2021). Just like many folks this morning, I awoke to gifts… at work, and, to be honest, not really for me.  No, not Santa, but instead, Cara McDermott sent gifts from our Amazon Wish-list.

I am a HUGE FAN of temperature guns (IR thermometers). We use them most everywhere at work. To be honest, I have one at home. I am a bit infatuated with seeing the temperature differences all over my house (and my body).

Reflections at the start of the day:

  • This is indeed the coldest Christmas I have worked here. It is really cold! (17F at arrival and not getting much above freezing all day. I think it was almost 40 degrees warmer last year).
  • It is so cold, not only are the water troughs frozen outside, as expected, but the water spigot by the donkey/goat/alpaca barn is frozen shut. Cattle poop piles are also frozen to the ground and cannot be scooped up.
  • It is REALLY COLD. So cold, that Nicole is wearing long pants instead of shorts.
  • Really, it’s cold.

OK… what else to start the day besides cold:

  • It is also the latest I’ve arrived at work on Christmas. Because there are four of us here today, start time was a late 7 AM.
  • It’s been years since I’ve worked alone. So long, that it’s hard to even remember the last year I spent the day alone at the Museum.
  • Carolina Wildlife is without owls for the first time – ever. We have raptors (Kestrel and Merlin), but not owls. Furthermore, we have one mammal. I missed giving Florian his morning strips of peppers and sweet potatoes, but Milton will surely look forward to receiving his food (he gets meat to eat– mice and fish, mostly).
  • Little bear is more than double her size (solidly in the 80+ kg range right now, as compared to 37 Kgs one year ago).

The helpers this year are tried and true. Thank goodness for Nicole, Joyce, and Paige!!

Nicole arrived at 7 AM. She made sure the ferrets got their meds, and that I was set with everything I needed to head outside to Explore the Wild.


Volunteer Joyce, lugging water from the indoor barn, since the water spigot in the donkey/alpaca barn is frozen shut! Joyce also LOVES doing dishes, so once back in the building she’ll move immediately to the kitchen sink!


Volunteer Paige, after getting the Farmyard team a quick boost outdoors, spent much of her morning caring for our set of education animals.


The problems this year certainly begin (and end) with the temperature. You’ve (I’ve) got to wear more clothes to keep warm, which just makes it harder to move, and really hot when inside. It’s regularly putting on and taking off lots of clothes. But this was expected.

Due to the extreme cold, we also worked during the week to make changes to the lemur house heating system, which constantly brings in fresh air. To make a very long story short, we had to do a bit of MacGyvering to make sure the lemur house stayed warm enough in the extreme- and extended- cold temps. Our modifications worked, and we’ve been able to keep the Lemur House background temperature to 61F.


I can check the temperature in the lemur house remotely, and I’ve been checking it every few hours since Thursday. This is a picture of one of my many screen shots.


My first unexpected problem today: as a drove through Catch the Wind, my Little Bear medicine cup fell out of the vehicle. I retrieved most of her meds, but not all, so went back to the building to get more. My next problem, also related to Little, was that my spatula came apart while giving her meds to her. Half ended up in the yard with her. I decided to leave it and deal later. (I did come back, and it took me 15 minutes, using two snake hooks and one 18 inch long tweezers, to retrieve half the spatula. I think Little had a wonderful time “helping” me!)

Little greeted me on the bear cliff for her morning meds


Yawning, and stretching, was a theme this morning. I was able to catch a photo of Little yawning, but missed the yawns and stretches of our wolves and lemurs.


Niko slowly came out of the wolf den, covered in aspen bedding, stretched, and then continued to move away. (Made me feel good that he and Oak came out of the den together when I arrived).


The lemurs this year were calm and quiet through my cleaning. But once I started filling water bowls, it was as if they knew food was next. The house got a little louder, but they all calmly moved through the house, making their way to different feeding stations.

It is common every Christmas that the radiated tortoises just snooze through my morning visit. I will wake them this afternoon if they haven’t moved on their own yet.


Asleep in a cozy of pile sounds perfect to me. (Gus, Mimi, and Yona were also asleep this morning in piles of hay!)

We’ve got a few animals we are watching closely right now: Retro alpaca and Ichabod bearded dragon are high on the list. The ferrets, both on twice daily medicine, are always assessed.

Ichabod, our almost 11 year old bearded dragon, is slowing down quite a bit.


Retro is over 16 years old. She, like Ichabod, is slowing down in her twilight years. Last year, every picture I took of her on Christmas showed only three legs– I have all four legs for you to see this year! We’ve put out extra hay and heat pad for her, but she chooses to hang out where it’s colder.


We’ve also got a new chinchilla in quarantine. She should be out mid-January, and we hope our educators will start using her during programming around the Museum.

She looks a lot like Pepper!


All in all, the morning couldn’t have gone much better, especially given all the obstacles. The team is gone by noon, and I will be back at the end of the day to finish up. Have a good Sunday, and hope the Holiday Season brings you more than cold temperatures!