Monday, March 19, 2012

Dog Hair and the Do-It-Yourselfer

My 110 year old home has a wonderful large pantry adjoining the kitchen.  The spring cleaning bug got me rearranging in that pantry.  Pretty soon, I resolved to paint the pantry walls and ceiling.  The kitchen you see, has a new nice coat of paint.  Well, pretty new, last summer it was new.  Or was it the summer before?

In any case, the pantry has the old yuck beige paint from the previous residents (is it really 17 years ago?!).  Soon the pantry will glisten in splendid bright green, just like the kitchen.  Mint green.  Yes, delicious spearmint chewing gum green.  Bright.  Cheerful.  Neat. 

OK.  Neatish.  Shop vac.  Sponge and bucket of suds.  Paint prep.  Drop cloth. 

Reality.  There will be dog hairs.  Just as there are dog hairs embedded in the kitchen paint.  Does anyone really notice them, besides me?  And if somebody does, why are they looking for trouble anyway?

Hair On the Drop Cloth 

Instead of letting it make me crazy, I've set it to music.  Mercifully, (trust me on this) the audio is not included here.

The pantry is going to look great when it's done.  Besides, the popcorn popper and the cans of beans will block the view of the occasional green dog hair entombed on the walls.  Should anybody remark on the hair, I shall tell them to stop looking for trouble.  I'll keep telling myself that too.  Till it sticks.  Till it sticks like that dang song I put in my head.

Happy Spring Everybody!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Oh, Possums are Opossums

Opossums are marsupials, which means they have no placenta- the babies develop in the mother's pouch.  The opossum, or possum, is the only marsupial in the Americas and Canada.  Other marsupials such as the kangaroo and wombat are found in Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania. 


There are 60 different species of opossum, ranging in size from mouse to house cat.  The Virginia, or common opossum, is the most prevalent and is house cat size. 

Possum Procreation

Like other marsupials, the opossum has a dual, or bifurcated, genital arrangement.  The female's vagina has two tunnels, one leads to the uterus, the other to waste storage.  The male has a penis with two prongs that fit neatly into the female's opening.

After fertilization, the male's role in the relationship is concluded.  Mother nests in tree holes or dens made by other animals, showing a decided preference for dark private places.

After a gestation of 12-14 days, the babies are born and immediately crawl into the mother's pouch.  Litters of twenty are not uncommon but most of the youngsters don't survive to even reach the pouch.  At birth, the young are the size of honeybees.  They remain inside the pouch for 2-3 months feeding from the conveniently located teats.  The babies begin to spend more time out of the pouch at 4-5 months of age, often riding on mother's back.  At this point, they are 7- 9 inches long and weigh 10-16 ounces. 

The female typically has two litters per year.

Assorted Possum Facts 

- lifespan 2-4 years
- diet:  carrion, grass, nuts, fruit, eggs, vegetables, insects, mice, birds, worms, snakes
- predators:  dogs, cats, foxes, bobcats, owls
- nocturnal
- fossil remains from 70 million years ago look like possums of today
- non territorial/nomadic
- very resistant to rabies and snake venom
- coat color ranges from white to black
- they have thumbs on their hind feet
- the prehensile tail is used as an additional limb for climbing and carrying things such as leaves for the nest

The solitary possum is a quiet creature but occasionaly will hiss when annoyed.  The well known playing possum reaction is involuntary.  When the possum is threatened it swoons, falls on its side, eyes blank and staring or closed, the anal glands release some fluid that smells like death,  the jaws fall open and the tongue hangs out.  Predators are befuddled by this show of sudden death and usually depart.  The opossum awakens minutes or hours later and goes on about its business.

Some folks eat possum, typically substituting the meat in recipes calling for rabbit or chicken. No, it doesn't taste like chicken but could be categorized as the other white meat.  Opossum oil (possum grease) is high in essential fatty acids and has been used as a chest rub or mixed with herbs as an arthritis salve.