Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Whose Tomatoes?

This year I decided not to plant a tomato plant in my yard because one was planted for me.  Back in May, a little weed appeared.  It looked to be a tiny tomato plant.  Instead of pulling it out and tossing it in the compost pile, I left it there -just for fun- to see if it would grow into a real live tomato plant.

This is not the ideal spot for growing tomatoes, needless to say.   The location is inches from the driveway, smack next to well used paths leading to the yard and the garage.  Dogs and people and who knows how many other critters stomp regularly through this area.  Still, the little weed proved to be determined and hardy.  Soon it was several inches tall with multiple limbs and many many fruit bud clusters.  Feeling protective, I put a couple of short stakes beside it and attached an old shoe lace to encircle this resolute weed.

Some tomato growers advise that you trim off all branches that lack fruit buds.  This keeps the plant  focused on fruit production rather than wasting valuable resources on leaves.  Allowing the plant to grow willy-nilly, as I have done in the past, produces plants four feet tall that must be supported by sturdy stakes and coils and gates and string and whatnot.   Using the trimming method on the little tomato weed has produced a small sturdy plant brimming with fruit and fruit buds.  

Alas, the fruit is not yet ripe.  As all gardeners know, patience is part of the game.  Furthermore, we must accept (or at least acknowledge) the reality that the gardener cannot control everything that happens out there.

The other day a squirrel sat beside the tomato plant.  In his hands was a mauve colored tomato.  Interestingly, cherry tomatoes are perfectly sized for squirrel hands. No doubt about it, the tomato weed is a cherry tomato plant.  The squirrel took a bite out of the tomato.  No wonder all the tomatoes on the plant are green.  As soon as they begin to ripen Mr. Squirrel plucks them. 

Whose tomato is it anyway?  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In and of the Vacuum/Brain Teaser, Part 2

Why IS the little bird unafraid of the vacuum cleaner while the big dog is afraid?

Imagine a flock of  birds scattered about in a half acre area.  Some are on the ground walking around, some are perched in trees and bushes, others are flying from one place to another.  When all is well they are active.  They sing and chirp and chatter.  If a hawk appears overhead the birds go silent and still.  Sound signals safe.  Quiet means danger.  Therefore, perhaps to a bird in a cage inside a house a vacuum cleaner is a reassuring safe sound.

A dog, on the other hand, is a predator.  He's a hunter.  He works stealthfully.  Picture a pack of dogs pursuing prey.  They follow quietly, waiting for a chance to leap in for the kill.  If suddenly a roaring snarling beast were to appear, charging at them, would they not flee in terror?  This is, I believe, why the vacuum cleaner frightens so many dogs.

So much for heady theories.

And what of onomatopoeia, you ask?  Such a fun word.  Onomatopoeia means a word that means a sound, the word is formed by that sound; imitates the sound.  For our purposes, we have tweet, woof, and roar. 

Echolalia is the process whereby a human baby learns to speak by parroting, or echoing, the words and sounds he hears other human beings making.  This may be how birds learn to sing.  After all, the canary breeder doesn't leave the young male birds alone in a room with a recording of Mario Lanza singing.  The birds are together in the room with other birds.  They can hear each other singing and are encouraged to sing along.  Echolalia is key to helping a creature learn the language of his fellow creatures, not creatures of a different species.  Or maybe not.

Which leads us to another Brain Teaser.  What language speaks the Vacuum?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Here's a Brain Teaser

Why is a little bird unafraid of the vacuum cleaner

while a big dog is?

--stay tuned for heady theories using words like onomatopoeia and echolalia !

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Breed Profile: Old English Sheepdog

Once upon a time, when there were wolves in England, shepherds needed a sturdy steadfast dog to defend the flocks.  The Old English Sheepdog was developed from the Bearded Collie and/or the Russian Owtcharka.  By around the mid nineteenth century, the Sheepdog's main job was to drive sheep and cattle to market.

According to legend, the sheepdog earned the nickname Bobtail because of a Tail Tax.  Working dogs had their tails docked.  If a dog had a tail he was considered a luxury item and was subject to taxation.  Some Old English Sheepdogs are born without a tail, some with a tail.  Today, even though Tail Taxes are no longer in effect, many modern Old English Sheepdogs born with a tail have it docked before they have a chance to miss it.

Some Old English Sheepdog Facts
- height:  22-26 inches
- weight:  60-90 pounds
- length is roughly equal to height
- life span:  10-12 years
- eyes are brown or blue
- some folks spin the hair into yarn for clothing (it's nice and soft)

Old English Sheepdogs get along well with children, other dogs and other pets.

Old English Sheepdogs are bright and learn quickly.  Very loyal to their people and animal family, they are not likely to roam.  This is a dog with lots of power and stamina, so it is important that they get daily exercise.  Over the years, the OES have gotten an undeserved reputation for bad behavior and meanness.  Most likely these dogs had pent up energy that their owners failed to give them appropriate opportunity to defuse.  You know the old saying, a tired dog is a good dog.

The Bobtail has a long thick coat usually described as profuse.  The coat color is white with gray.  Shades of gray range from dark gray to blue to silver.  As a puppy, the gray areas are black.

All that hair requires attention.  Those who are unwilling to do a great deal of brushing sometimes choose to trim the hair.

Old English Sheepdog Manifesto

- I am not silly.  I am jolly

- my herding and droving instincts are intact.  Prepare to be rounded up and driven

 my bark is sometimes characterised as "pot-casse".  I prefer to call it distinctive and beautiful

Next Breed Profile:  Greyhound!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fluffy/dog wisper, part 1

(if you click it, it will get bigger)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mallard Ducks

The Mallard Duck is probably the most well known wild duck.  The word mallard originated in the early 14th century.  Mallard means wild drake or duck.  In the old days, mallard likely meant any wild duck. 

The range of the Mallard includes North American, Europe, Asia, Central American and the Caribbean. They migrate north to breed and winter in the southern part of their range.  Preferred habitats include marshes, ponds, small lakes, bays, tidal flats, mountain lakes and streams.

Mallards are omnivores.  They eat water plants, insects, fish, amphibians, land plants, grains, worms, spiders and tiny creatures they obtain by filtering water through the serrations located along the inside edge of their bills. They have a sort of nail at the tip of their beaks which is used to skewer prey.

Mallard males, or drakes, have a distinctive green head trimmed with a white band at the neck.  The chest is reddish brown, the sides gray, the back brown and the rump is black.  The speculum (a specially colored lustrous area on the bird's wings) is violet-blue bordered by black and white.  The drake's bill is yellow to yellowish green in color, and his feet are coral to red.

When he speaks, it is a rather nasal sound something like, "kreep".

The female, or hen, is mottled brown with violet speculum bordered by black and white.  She has a black stripe on the side of the head running on either side of the eye.  Her feet are orange, her bill is orange with brown splotches. 

When she speaks it sounds like the classic, "quack quack".

During the winter, the drake chases a female, impressing her with assorted manley displays.  Once he wins her, he stays close by.  This keeps other males from making moves on her.  Typically, in early spring, they build a nest on a riverbank.  The hen incubates the eggs.  They hatch in 23-29 days.  At this point, the male leaves the scene, his role in the relationship is concluded.

Within 24 hours of hatching the youngsters are led to water to swim and eat insects.  The young stay with mom for protection.  By the time they are 50-60 days old, the ducklings are independent.  Even though they could survive on their own, they don't necessarily leave their mother and siblings.  Most Mallards tend to hang out in flocks unless it is breeding season.

Assorted Mallard Facts

- lifespan 5-10 years
- most domesticated ducks are descended from the Mallard
- length (from beak to tail):  20-26 inches
- weight:  2-3 pounds
- wingspan:  32-39 inches
- clutch:  6-14 eggs, cream to greenish in color
- during summer molt the ducks cannot fly, the feathers grow back in time for fall migration

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cut the Old Dog Some Slack

Lester as a youngster.  Back then, his greatest crime was a bad attitude about getting his nails done.  A couple of nail sessions wearing a muzzle cured that.

Nowadays Lester is just a little slower to react, even to the offer of a cookie.  Habits that were once tidy, have become lax.  He misses crumbs in the bottom of his bowl.  He whines if he isn't promptly released from his crate after a meal.  Around my house, dog elimination is called "dirt".  All good dogs do dirt outside.  Dirt in house is NO.  

Dirt in house.  Not only did Lester do dirt in house, something he hasn't done in over thirteen years, but after doing so he laid down next to it!  He was all of six inches away from dirt in house.  He even fell asleep!  My first thought was oh no!  Lester has lost his mind! He must be senile.  Poor Lester!

We were scheduled to see the vet a few days later, springtime means heart worm check.  While there, I mentioned Lester's transgression.  Let's rule out a physical cause, suggested Dr. W.  She slipped on a rubber glove and had at it.  Results:  good anal integrity. 

So, there is no apparent physical reason for this crime. 

Alright then.  Lester's butt is fit.  Good, we won't have to buy diapers.  Could he be senile?  There are other symptoms besides bathroom mishaps to qualify for senility, such as getting lost in familiar places, not recognizing loved ones and staring into space.  Lester has displayed none of these behaviors.  I know this for sure because for the next few weeks I watched Lester closely.  I watched him as though he was a scientific experiment requiring constant monitoring.  Several times, he stared at me, pointedly, as if to say, "what is your deal lately?"

I observed that Lester sleeps deeper than he used to, he sleeps more than he used to, he has to go potty more often than he used to.  And he still has the clarity of mind to notice when his darling owner is being a ridiculous worrying lunatic. 

OK Lester.  You are an old dog who had an accident.  That's all.  One day you did dirt in house and bizarrely plopped down beside it and took a nap.  It was an isolated incident.  An anomaly.

We'll just put it behind us. 

("Dirt is an inherited term. My grandmother was very proper, some words were just not used.  See: 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Matching Style, Interspecies Version

Last week one of my facebook friends shared an article on matching jewelry for you and your dog.  There was an invitation to Enter and Win a Beautiful Necklace/Collar Set containing Real Gems!

The accompanying photo showed a garish wide grayish colored collar sprinkled with blueish colored stones, alongside a thick silver necklace laced with similar blueish colored stones. My first reaction to this was not as positive as the comments that followed the article.  Here are some highlights to give a general idea of the enthusiasm contained in those comments.

"It's soooo beautiful!"

"Me and my sweet Poopsie DESERVE to win this!"

"Everybody should want to wear this unbelievably fantastic jewelry and show the world how glamorous a girl and her dog can be!"

"I can't believe they are giving this away!  I want it so bad!  My dog wants it so bad!"

"Where can I buy a set of matching jewelry for me and my Precious?!"

By now, someone has won this Matching Set of Gal Pal, Human/Canine Edition Fashion Nirvana.  Even if I wanted to decorate myself and my dog thus, it is doubtful that I have enough money in my trinket budget to purchase any such ornamentation.

Guess I'll stick to my old ways.

Matching Rubber Bands

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fluffy and His Majesty

(If you click it, it will get bigger)