Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekend reading

There are so many inspirational and motivating posts around - all these innovative ideas and new ways of doing old things. It really helps keep me on track and to remain focused on our values and common goals. I don't always have the time to look around the blog world but when I do, from now on, I'll take a note of those posts that I think are particularly outstanding and share them with you on

Bulldogs as Mascots? Why?

The Mississippi State Bulldogs face off against the University of Georgia Bulldogs, and ESPN has this unfortunate title:

Only one Dog can survive this one

Actually with a face so brachycephaic there is no room for a tongue, and with an airway smashed and corkscrewed, I am not sure either of these two canine mascots will be alive too long. 

Why would anyone select an animal mascot that is deformed, defective and on the verge of being defeated before it even walks on the field? 

If an American team wants a dog that suggests speed, brains, fearlessness, tenacity and grit, kick the English Bulldog to the curb, and embrace the American Pitbull. 

A Theorist in the Forest

Animals, of course, are real animal trainers, and they are teaching all the time.

The skunk's stripe is there to remind all of the consequences of getting too close. Once sprayed, most animals are a thousand times shy!

The rattlesnake's rattles are there to remind all of the consequences of getting too close. Once bitten, most animals stand well back!

The Spitting Cobra's hood is there to remind all of the consequences of getting too close. Once sprayed in the eyes with venom, most animals flee as soon as they see a rising hood!

In the insect world, of course, there are so many species reminding all of the consequences of getting too close, that there are entire species which have evolved as mimics!

Ghouls and Goblins on All Hallows Eve

I am nearly ready...
the mystery is intentional..
Can't spoil the surprise.
All Hallows Eve Gathering is 
nearly complete.
The kits are ready, the work cart is stocked,
the table decorations are going up...
only treats await preparation next week.

And glory be, they say our temps are dropping next week.
I have not been a happy camper with this heat, 
well I've been a bit witchy (b) .

Have a wonderful weekend all you lovely monsters.
( Oh crap, now I'm channeling Ga Ga)


First time linking up with Mosaic Monday


Operant Conditioning 101 With Children

If dogs could talk, like this child, they too would tell you that rewards work to encourage a behavior and mild aversives work to discourage it.

Yes, there is a role for punishment ("time out" is the punishment here) in raising kids. 

Of course, there is another part of operant conditioning, which can be seen in the hilarious video seen below. This is extinguishing.


Now, here's a question: Is this mother being cruel to this child because she is not giving it a response?

Is this child being unnecessarily and dangerously stressed because the mother is ignoring the child?

Is this mother teaching the child to scream and cry hysterically in order to get its way?

If this mother succeeds in getting this child to stop throwing temper tantrums, will that child simply grow up to throw temper tantrums at other people?

Believe it or not, this is what some people believe might happen if you do not give in to a child (or the dog) and simply practice old-fashioned extinguishing.

No wonder so many dogs, and kids, are such a mess!

Yard Fox in the Rain

Maybe once a month I set out a camera trap in the front yard, toss some bit of leftover refrigerator content (sliced up hot dog, old bread) and a little Purina into the grass and this is what I get -- lots of fox and the occasional raccoon.

This night it rained like someone had zippered open the sky, but it stopped at some point and the neighborhood wildlife made its appointed rounds.

There are at least three fox here -- the two heavy-set adults in the first two photos are quite distinct from the lighter juvenile in the third frame. I think there is a fourth fox later on. Everyone seems to be in pretty grand health.

Terrierman In German!

Sprechen Ze Deutsche?  Not me!  But here's a few translated bits from the blog:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sagan or Snookie? With Video Goodness.


I Like Black Coffee With My Humble Pie

Humble Pie with the Blackberries, who were three of the best studio singers in the business and had backed Tina Turner as "The Ikettes" and Ray Charles as "The Raelettes." 

Steve Marriott singing.  This is the group after Clem Clempson replaced Peter Frampton. 

Marriott died in 1991 in a house fire associated with cigarettes and booze. 

On my mind ...

This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. To take part, post a photo on your own blog, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here from your blog by saying you're part of "On my mind". Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When you've done that, come back here and add a comment below, with a link to your blog.

Today I'm thinking

Dog Penis Mushroom

The Elegant Stinkhorn fungus (Mutinus elegans) is also called the "dog penis" mushroom, and I had a small line of them yesterday morning in front of the camera trap next to the greenhouse. By evening they were gone. It rained buckets last night, however, so Satuday should be good mushrooming weather!


Your Dog Eats Shit for the Same Reason You Do

Why do dogs sometimes eat shit? Well, believe it or not, they eat shit (of a fashion) for the same reason you do: both dogs and humans are programmed by nature.  As Derek Mead explains over at MotherBoard:

The question then is: why eat shit? I mean, we can’t all be eating organic quinoa salads and Purina One (that’s the fancy stuff) all the time. But it does seem weird to have abject cravings for such terrible food all the time. As always, evolution plays a role.

Thanks to the laws of thermodynamics and bioenergetics, no biological system can ever be 100 percent efficient, including digestive tracts. That means that, of all the nutrients that go into something’s mouth, some of those nutrients will come out its rear....

... The Neolithic agricultural revolution (PDF), during which humans began to switch from being hunter-gatherers to farmers and herders, only occurred around 12,000 ago. Our modern diet has only really been around for at most a couple hundred years, and has fundamentally changed in even the last century, thanks largely to the increase in use of refrigeration systems.

Humans and dogs now have access to a nigh-unlimited stream of food but our physical centers for taste (tongue, brain, etc.) haven’t had much time to evolve beyond our former food-stressed lives. When we were stuck searching for food all day, our omnivore selves ate a lot of leaves and berries because they’re easier to catch than a juicy, meaty creature. Cravings can be a weirdly logical thing, as evidenced by some of the absurd things eaten by pregnant women. It’s like your body says: “The baby needs something found in sauerkraut and Sriracha. EAT A PINT OF BOTH.”

At their core, cravings have been shaped to fit our past food circumstances. Salt and calorie-dense fat were hard to find but incredibly valuable. When we found some, we pigged out, like we see now in nature when predators stuff themselves silly. It’s a basic concept: if something’s rare and essential, we’ll take it however we can get it, and our tastes will evolve to entice us to do so.

....The dog eating his turds most likely doesn’t see it as gross, at least not in our sense of the word. Rather, that poo nugget is a nutrient-dense plate of leftovers.

So next time you are scarfing down a big greasy, salt-laden chunk of meat, or a fat and sugar-soaked bowl of ice cream, just remember that you are biologically programmed to eat your shit every bit as much as your dog is programmed to eat his shit. 

And if you think the dog needs to stop eating his sheet, well then maybe that's also good advice for you to stop eating so much of your shit too!  Something to think about as this nation heads past a 25% national obesity rate.

There Are Worse Things

Patent Medicine

Cures Distemper, Jaudice, Worms

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Writing for the Weekly

About a month ago I wrote about a photographer coming to our home to take photos for the Women's Weekly. Well yesterday, the edition I am featured in, went on sale. I have to tell you I am very happy with the article and photos, and to all those Women's Weekly readers who come here this week for the first time, welcome!

I made my entrance into the Weekly in their budget edition, and have

Silver Offerings and Insanity

With so much to do, 
Gathering class approaching,
yard work in abundance...

Who in their right mind would sit
and paint silver the bottoms of wee little acorns for hours
because they required several coats?
What crazy ass person would DO THAT?

Oh yeah, duh.... mwah.

If I am this crazy when kissing 60, 
what will I be like pushing 70?
Don't answer that.


The same "nut ball" (hehe) who painted and sold dozens
of these boxes many years ago.

Now that I see them again, I am tempted to try my hand at some new color ways, or should I say "lack" of color ways?

My All Hallows Eve Gathering is in 11 days.
Cannot wait to play and create with good friends. If I don't get back to work and get ready, my friends may turn to ghouls and goblins.


Digging on the Dogs in a Land of Rabies

Today is World Rabies Day

I dig in the eastern United States, and we dig all year. There is no season here. All we have is the end of the calendar year.

The good news is that red fox are extremely plentiful.

The bad news is that unless you are running them with hounds (and I am not), they only go to ground in my area between January and February due to our relatively warm weather.

Of course, we have more than red fox. We also have grey fox, an animal not closely related, but quite similar in appearance, but with a dun-colored coat and a rather surprising ability to climb trees if pressed. This animal tends to den in rocky escarpments, and is more common in the mountains than in the farm country I normally hunt.

Groundhog are common all over, from mid-February to the first of December. They are a large and solitary marmot weighing 10 to 15 pounds, and they hibernate for a few months in winter, losing perhaps a third of their body weight during these lean times.

Though their jaws are short, their bite is more powerful than a fox, and their teeth are like sharpened chisels. Groundhogs do not look like much, but this animal can away dig like a badger, has no neck to throttle, and has a skull as thick as a frying pan. They are tougher than they appear, and I have seen more terriers punished by groundhog than by fox.

Possum can be found all year long, but I do not count them for much. They are an ugly and smelly creature that looks like a large rat, and they weigh anywhere from 9-15 pounds. Though this marsupial has more teeth than any other mammal in the America's, its teeth are small and they have light jaws and cannot do much damage to a dog.

Skunks are generally located to ground in late Fall, and are not a game species, but a small nightmare on legs. Yes, they can carry rabies, but this is not the main issue; it's the spray. A dog sprayed by a skunk underground may be dead in only a few minutes. Even if the dog is gotten out alive, skunk toxic shock may set in as red blood cells explode inside the dog due to the peculiar chemistry of the offending mist.

Finally, there are raccoons. Most raccoons den in old trees, but they will also go to ground and I often find them jungled up in old groundhog holes when the weather begins to turn cold. There is nothing quite like this animal in the U.K. -- it has hands almost as nimble as that of a small monkey, relatively powerful jaws, and can weigh up to 40 pounds, though in my experience those found underground rarely weigh over 20 pounds.

I dig on 25 to 100 animals a year, most of them groundhogs, and most of the time there is no drama to report.

The variation in numbers is a reflection of my work and family schedules, the weather, and my changing style of attack in the field.

When I was younger, I wanted a big bag at every outing, and so I would spend nine hours in the field making that happen. Now I am happy to bag one or two in a day, and trundle home a little past noon for some family time.

This year my count was 34: 19 groundhog, six raccoon, five fox (all let go), and four possums. A light year.

I mostly dig alone, not because I am a recluse, but because it's a long way between diggers in the U.S. If you dig very much over here, you learn to dig alone and to carry all your tools.

Looking back over the last year, I am happy to report no serious harm came to the dogs. There were a few muzzle rips, of course, but these were of no concern -- mere "shaving cuts" in the vernacular of American terrier work. The only thing that required a veterinary staple gun was when one dog was ragging a dead animal and, in its enthusiasm, it ran up against my sharpened machete which was stuck in the ground after the dig. Stupid me! The dog was stuck back together and out in the field two weeks later.

I do not count drama a mark of success in the field, and I am happy to report I have never had to call anyone else to help get a dog out of the ground, not have I ever had to call out heavy equipment. Knock on wood!

I am also happy to report I have never had a dog killed underground, though in the interest of full disclosure, I will say I did have one dog paralyzed for six hours after a Black Widow Spider bit her underground on a blistering hot day. Months later that dog later had a heart attack or embolism above ground after successfully working four earths earlier in the day. She would have died that day regardless -- I am happy when she went, she was out in the field, above ground, running down a freshly mowed field, and generally doing what she loved more in life than anything else. We should all be so lucky!

Did the spider bite weaken her heart? I do not know for certain, but I have always thought so. She was a much-loved dog, and I received condolences from four continents such was her fame. She was not much to look at, but she was the light of my life.

The ground where I dig is complex and the geology variable. Rocks and roots are common, sand almost unheard of.

The good news is that most settes are less than four feet, and two-foot "pop holes" are common enough to keep me happy.

A 10-foot dig? I do not count that a bonus!

The last dig of the year was a bit memorable.

It was, in most ways, a typical dig. I was walking the edge of a field, checking possible fox settes with my little bitch Pearl, when I noticed Mountain, my slightly larger bitch, had disappeared.

I found her a few minutes later, just inside the woods line. She was underground and baying up a storm.

I laughed, as I always do, and downed tools. I love to hear to code explode inside the dogs!

The sette was on a steep slope below the field, and there was a fair amount of loose rock at the hole -- a sette dug by a groundhog, without a doubt.

I staked Pearl 12 feet from the entrance, and located two possible exits. I slid a rock over one, and left the other one open -- a possible exit for the dog should a skunk be found to ground.

Mountain sounded, and from her baying, I could tell she was right up on it. I listened, and then I heard it -- the rumble of a big wooden table being pulled across a floor.

A raccoon!

I boxed with the locator, and was pleasantly surprised to find Mountain only three feet down. Excellent.

I started to take the first foot and a half of dirt off the top.

Dirt? What dirt? This earth was a jumble of shale and cobble. No doubt the stone made the dog sound deeper than she actually was.

I popped into the sette at only two and a half feet. Excellent. This was going to be an easy one!

Mountain was right where I dropped the hole, but my digging had caused a few stones to slip out of place. I pulled her out by her tail, gave her the harsh grunting sound that she understands to mean "let the man do his job," and I reached in to clean out the pipe.

She wanted back in, of course, but I pushed her away to shine a small flashlight up the hole.

Looking back at me was the face of a raccoon. Excellent!

I let Mountain back into the pipe to hold the raccoon at bay while I pulled a small pole snare from my pack.

I encourage the use of a pole snare at the end of a dig, as it saves the dog a lot of damage and allows an animal to be pulled, photographed and released without harm, or dispatched with a minimum of fuss.

If you dig as often as I do, your goal is to keep your dog healthy enough to work next weekend as well as this. There is also the little matter of rabies, which is endemic in the eastern U.S., especially in the mid-Atlantic region where I dig. The dogs are vaccinated, of course, but I am not.

My goal here was to pull Mountain, slip in the shovel, tie up Mountain, and then pull the shovel, and snare out the raccoon. Standard stuff. What could go wrong?

Of course, Mountain had not read the play book! While I was getting the snare from my pack, she grabbed the raccoon and pulled it clean out of the pipe.

Whoops! The battle was on!

Now to be clear, hunting with terriers is not animal fighting, and a dog is not supposed to be engaged with the quarry outside of the pipe.

Such is theory.

Of course, in theory, practice and theory are the same, but in practice they never are!

It all happened very quickly.

With the raccoon free of the den pipe, Mountain and the raccoon were a rolling ball of fur and teeth.

There was no place to put in a boot to pin the raccoon, so I reached in to pull the raccoon's back haunch, in the hope of seeing, and getting hold, of its tail.

Like a flash, however, the raccoon spun around and sank a canine tooth through my leather glove and into the base of my thumb.

A few second later, it was all over; the raccoon was tailed out, the boot was on, and the animal was humanely dispatched as quickly as it takes to say it.

My thumb did not hurt, and I was not even sure the raccoon had bit me. When I pulled the glove off, however, there it was: a single puncture and a spot of blood.

Now what?

You see, rabies is endemic in my area, and it is particularly common in the raccoon population. I know that, and act accordingly. As a consequence, I have never been bit.

Up to now.

Still, what were the odds? This appeared to be a healthy animal.

I washed out the wound, let it bleed, and washed it out again.

I thought about the options. It was Sunday. Even if I took the animal to be tested, that would not happen until tomorrow, and they would still require me to get rabies shots while the testing was being done.

I was conflicted. The chance of this animal being rabid was very low, but it was not zero.

If you Google "rabies" in this country, you find a couple of articles a day, and a lot of them are from my area and involve raccoons.

On the upside, there had been only one fatal case of rabies in the U.S. in the last 10 years.

On the downside, it had occurred just 20 minutes up the road.

I washed out the wound again, checked over Mountain (she was fine), and examined the raccoon. It looked healthy.

I thought about the production and drama that would be made if I took in the raccoon, or told my wife I had gotten bitten. I would never hear the end of it.

Of course, on the other end of the stick there was the prospect of dying from rabies. Would my son have to go out to the wood shed and shoot me like the rabid dog in the Disney movie, Old Yeller?

I repaired the sette and removed the stone from the blocked hole.

I packed up the tools, and swung the dead raccoon up high into the fork of a small tree to get it out of the way so the dogs would not rag it.

And then I left.

I fretted about my decision for the next few days, but my decision had been made by my actions, not by rational calculus.

I read up on rabies. It was slow acting. An early symptom was a headache that would not go away.


If that symptom occurred, I would take drastic action. By then, of course, treatment would be too late. I would have to choose my own exit.

In the interim, there was nothing to do but go about business as usual, which I did.

But of course, I still worried.

Two weeks later, and with no headache, I began to make a private joke. If I said something out of line, to a coworker, I would laugh it off. "Don't mind me; it's just the rabies talking."

Everyone laughed. They had no idea.

I seemed to be passing for normal, which is better than most days.

I relaxed, and the worry orbited out of the front room in my mind.

Now, four months later, I am in the clear.

No worries.

Angry Little Monkeys in Their Hives


Yesterday I wrote a bit about teaching operant conditioning to monkeys.

I think it's important, if you are teaching an animal, to remember the nature of the animal!

Double Dipped in Stupid

Here's a person who is double dipped in stupid, and her life is out of control as a result.

I have written in the past about the fact that Dogs are Not Kids, but I suppose I should also mention the corollary:  kids are not dogs.

Where are kids and dogs alike?  They both need exercise, they both need discipline, rewards and consistency, and they both need your time.  So put down the phone, turn off the television, and step away from the computer once in a while.  Six hours a day looking at little video screens is quite enough!

Want to read more?  Along with the link, above, you might enjoy "Your Dogs are a Mess (And Your Kids Are No Prize)"

Next Time Someone Talks About Jobs

Next time someone talks about jobs... ask them if they are wearing anything made in America.

Ask if illegal aliens clean their offices and do their lawn, and whether they repair their Japanese car with parts made in Korea.

Ask if they think America was great when unions did not exist and everyone had minimum wage jobs, or when unions were strong and wages were enough to support a family while you held your head high in church and put folding money in the plate.

Ask if America was great when we had small stores and a main street, or when we replaced it with a massive parking lot at the WalMart.

Ask if they will support a candidate whose core platform is Made in America by Americans.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Green cleaning recipes - version 2

I did a post on green cleaning recipes in 2007 and over the years since then I've changed some of the things I do with my cleaning and altered some of the recipes. I give out those recipe in several of my workshops and every time I cut and paste them I tell myself to do a new post. It's time to review, edit and add a new green cleaning post.

You should be able to buy the ingredients for

Suburban Camera Trapping

From The New York Times (hat tip to Kim Bates for the link!) comes this nice article/blog post, with video and venn diagram, on suburban camera trapping, showing the difference between "wild" and "urban" (i.e. suburban) locations.  Notes the author of the post:

I love camera traps because they are easy to use, and it is fun to look at the results. Lock a camera to a tree, write down the GPS coordinates, and walk away for a few weeks.

Come back and you get to look at new clips of animals running around. It is rare to take a walk in the woods and actually see a mammal like a fox, but put a camera trap out and you’ll get them....

We found higher diversity and overall higher activity of animals in our camera traps set in urban forests than in those out in the wild areas.

Of course, you may "walk away" only to find your camera stolen!    Set up in haste, and regret in leisure! 

That said, if you are interested in camera trapping on your own property, Moultrie has a "two-for-one" sale going on right now for their Game Spy D-50.  $120 for a pair.  Check it out!



Does she have something?

Guess Not

See Ya

Joining Faded Charm for 
 White Wednesday

Training the Owner is 99% of the Job