Monday, April 23, 2012

That Squirrel Takes the Cake

A few days ago I made a simple cake.  It's the sort of cake you might serve for brunch, not too sweet.

Just for fun, here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups all purpose-flour
 3/4 cup sugar
 1/2 cup sliced almonds, save a handful to toss on top 
2 teaspoons baking powder
 1/4 cup milk
 1/4 cup melted butter
 2 eggs
 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine, pour into 9 inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray. Scatter the handful of almonds the top of the batter.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.    

This morning a chunk of that cake was still sitting in the cake dish.  Not a fan of stale cake, I flung it out the front door.  In no time, Sparrows, Starlings and a Gray Squirrel had the slice surrounded.

Later, when I peeked out the back door I saw two Sparrows in a tug of war over a marble sized piece of that cake.  Still later, I opened the back door and stepped outside.  A squirrel dashed from the flowerbed located beside the door. 

My dogs joined me outside.  Soon they gathered around that flowerbed.  Remember that chunk of cake, the one with a marble sized piece removed from it?  Well, it was nestled in the far corner of the flowerbed next to the house behind a Spirea bush. 

Now, circumstantial evidence tells us the squirrel put it there.  Why would he put this wonderful find right next to the house, inches from a door where dogs and people come and go?  It seems a foolish hiding place.  But think about it.  That squirrel lives here.  He knows the goings on around here.  It is a brilliant place to temporarily hide such a treasure!  The birds won't go into such a dangerous corner to get it.  And since Mr. Squirrel had acted quickly when the cake first appeared on the lawn, maybe he's the only squirrel who knows about this bounty.  Maybe Mr. Squirrel and those few birds are the only ones who know about the piece of cake.  So he hid it a place that isn't likely to get much traffic from the competition.  Then he waited for a chance to reclaim the prize. 

An hour later when I looked in that flower bed, the cake was gone. 

Thank you for sharing the squirrel picture.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fluffy and the Cataclysm

The following comic strip contains shamelessly bad puns and alliteration.  This may be shocking to some readers.  Caution is advised.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lady Bugs

The insects that most of us call Lady Bugs are Lady Beetles or Ladybird Beetles.  The Lady Bug is found all over the world.  There are some 450 different species of Lady Beetle in North America.

Ladybird Beetles eat aphids, mites, scales, and other pest style bugs.  A pest bug is one that eats plants, particularly plants that humans grow for food or show.  This is why Lady Bugs are considered "good bugs".  A few thousand Ladybird Beetles can control the aphid population on an acre of land.

Typical insects, Lady Bugs have a head, thorax, abdomen and six legs.  The head is usually black, or black with white spots.  The Lady Bug has a pair of eyes and a pair of antennae.  The head is attached to the thorax which is attached to the dome shaped abdomen.  This dome consists of hard wings in red, orange or yellow with an assorted number of black dots.  Under this shell like dome are another set of wings that are used for flight.  The  Lady Beetle has short legs, much shorter than most other beetles.

Some Ladybird Beetle Facts

-  lifespan 2-3 years
-  able to retract their head into their thorax (visualize a turtle)
-  secrete a foul tasking fluid from their joints to discourage predators
-  adults range in size from 1/8th to 3/8th inches long
-  some species eat plants 

Most Lady Bugs lay their eggs in clusters near aphid populations.  The larvae emerge and eat the aphids.  In the typical larvae's 3- 6 weeks they eat up to 5,000 aphids.  The larvae are black and bristly in appearance and are usually found clinging to leaves with a belly full of aphids.  Ladybird Beetles lay several batches of eggs per year.

Why do you sometimes find Lady Bugs in your house?  These insects hibernate in groups, generally in places where aphids live.  Therefore, Lady Beetles hibernate in plant brush, under rocks and in buildings.  If they are in your house, this may mean you have aphids in your house.  Or you did, before the Lady Bugs came in and ate them.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Breed Profile: Kerry Blue Terrier

The Kerry Blue Terrier is a unique colored, medium sized dog of the terrier style.  By terrier style: think squarish body and rectangular head.  The Kerry is similar in appearance to the Airedale, Irish, Welsh or Lakeland Terriers.  The Kerry does that distinctive Terrier Strut found in the longer legged terriers to which he adds his own special brand of cockiness and panache.

What is most striking about the Kerry Blue is his coat.  Born black, the Kerry's coat changes to blue-gray between 9 months and 2 years of age.  The coat is soft, dense and wavy.  Trimming is required to keep the hair on the body tidy.  A chunk of hair is left long on the forehead which hangs over the nose.  These bangs tend to be a little darker in color than the rest of the body, giving the dog a bold tough guy look.


 There is some disagreement on the origin of the Kerry Blue Terrier, some versions have taken on a legendary quality.  What is most probably true is that the Kerry Blue was originally developed in the county of Kerry in Ireland, as an all around farm dog.  He kept the vermin in check, herded cattle or sheep, served as a guard, and helped with hunting by retrieving game in water and on land.

One version of the origin of the Kerry goes something like this:  the Irish nobles and their Irish Wolfhounds hunted on the noble hunting grounds.  These hunting grounds were off limits to the peasantry.  Determined to hunt on these fertile grounds anyway, the peasants developed a clever stealthy dog to poach noble game.

Another version of the origin of the Kerry goes something like this:  there was shipwreck in Ireland's Tralee Bay.  A Russian Terrier swam ashore turning blue in the process.  This dog mated with a local terrier and the Kerry Blue was born.

How about this version?  Among the goods other countries traded with Ireland, were dogs.  The Spanish brought the Poodle.  The Portuguese introduced the Portuguese Water Dog.  (Many say the Kerry's personality is very much like the Standard Poodle.  And there is the compelling matter of the coat similarities of the Kerry, the Poodle and the Portuguese Water Dog).

Still another explanation may be that the Kerry Blue was developed from the Irish Terrier, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, the Irish Wolfhound, and some now extinct terrier.

Kerry Blue Manifesto

- I'm not big on playing well with others, so go easy on the dog parks, please

- remember, I'm a terrier.  So if you want me to live peaceably with little rodent style critters you better tell me up front before my natural hunting prowess takes over

- I love to do things with you, then sleep in the house with you when we're through 

The personality of the Kerry is mischievous, stubborn, energetic, curious and independent.  Kerrys are athletic, high energy dogs.  They are protective and exuberantly affectionate with their people.  Fond of children, the Kerry is an eager playmate and guardian. The Kerry Blue has been successful not only in herding and hunting, but also agility, obedience and conformation competitions.

Some Kerry Facts

- lifespan 12-15 years
- weight 30-40 pounds
- height at shoulder 17.5-19.5 inches
- also known as Irish Blue Terrier

see some nice pictures at

Next Breed Profile:  Kuvasz!