Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I wish

From the 2012 archives.

There was a common misconception when we were on the book tour that the way Hanno and I live works best for older people who have the time for it. I've written here before about how that's not right, that this way of living would suit anyone living in the country, suburbs or city, whether single or married, straight or gay, young or older. It's here for all of us,

Napoleon's Defeat by Rabbits

Napoleon Bonaparte provides a tale of canned hunts as well as the power of operant conditioning.

It seems than in 1807, after signing the Treaty of Tilsit, Napoleon's trusted chief-of-staff, Alexandre Berthier, decided to organize a rabbit hunt for his Corsican boss. To ensure that there were plenty of rabbits to shoot, he bought thousands of rabbits from a local vendor. Unfortunately, they were not wild rabbits, but pen-raised rabbits.

As the Archie Archive web site notes:
Rather than fleeing for their life, the rabbits spotted a tiny little man in a big hat and mistook him for their keeper bringing them food. e hungry rabbits stormed towards Napoleon at their top speed of 35 mph (56 kph).

The shooting party – now in shambolic disarray – could do nothing to stop them. Napoleon was left with no other option but to run, beating the starving animals off with his bare hands. But the rabbits did not relent and drove the Emperor back to his carriage while his underlings thrashed vainly at them with horsewhips.

According to contemporary accounts of the fiasco, the Emperor of France sped off in his coach, comprehensively beaten and covered in shame.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The free Down to Earth Forums Home Journal is ready!

Hanno and I, and our family, wish you a very happy new year.


As the old year creeps silently to its end and the new year dawns, the 2014 Down to Earth Forums Home Journal is ready for your downloads.  This is the fourth year we've put this journal together as a free gift to our members. The journal will help you with your organising, it contains blank menu plans, recipe sheets,

Blackwater Falls

This is Blackwater Falls near Davis, West Virginia yesterday.  When you have an iPhone, you have a video camera and a way to publish that video all over the world.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gideon Is Six Years Old Today

Gideon was three and a half when he arrived on my doorstep thanks to Dawn Weiss in Missouri.  Dawn wanted a hunting home for her little man, and she found one!

The picture in the orange hat was taken yesterday on vacation at Deep Creek Lake.

Gideon remains a happy and relaxed little fellow, and he and Mountain seem to have genuine affection for each other.  I'm looking forward to many more years with him at home and in the field. Thanks Dawn! 

Jimmie Rodgers and Louis Armstrong

The song is Blue Yodel #9 and the pairing of Jimmie Rodgers and Louis Armstrong is a perfect pairing and not only a rebuke to segregation, but a shout out to commonality of the poor, regardless of race.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Walking the Dogs

When you have an iPhone, you always have a camera.

Mousing in the Mountains

Up at Deep Creek Lake with dogs and family. Went out this morning to walk the dogs. Extremely cold with 20 mph winds. Dogs on a tandem hitch, and I with no tools, but we found and checked groundhog settes anyway.

On the walk this evening, no wind and it felt a bit warmer, though we were in the dark. On tandem hitch, the dogs instantly changed their game to mousing, and apparently there was no shortage of those! I don't think they caught any, but not for want of trying!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Roadside Geology

Shot this out the window, while driving, using my iPhone. Perfect 45 degree lift at the cut near Cumberland, Maryland. The white stuff, of course, are icicles formed by water squeezing through cracks in the rock.

Power Boost

Something new for Christmas to add to the bag of things I carry.  The Jackery will power the phone through three complete cycles, so my search for electrical power will now be a little less frenetic.  It also has a LED light.  Bonus!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pepparkakor Cookies and Prayers

I've made pepparkakor cookies every year for over 36 years.
This year the smallest batch ever. I merely doubled the recipe.

I use every ounce of dough down to the last small bit,
making bears and trees, stars, moons, hearts and trees...
Large and small cookies for various appetites.
I was alone this morning while baking them,
 but I was not alone in my thoughts.

My dear friend Annie and her husband Ron
have been waging war against his cancer for
 some time now and he was doing so well
except for a nagging pain in his arm, what
seemed to be a nerve issue.

Yesterday it became severe enough
 to head to the emergency room 
and today, in a few minutes actually,
 he is headed to surgery to have a
 tumor near his spine removed.
They discovered it late last night.
As you can imagine they are frightened
and bewildered by this sudden turn of events,
and the seriousness of the location.

So I baked and I prayed
and I prayed some more.

My dear friends
please send some more prayers up
or out into the universe if that is where your beliefs lay.
For Annie and Ron.

It's Christmas Eve and my
friends are hurting, and I pray and pray,
for these good people and their family.

I will hug my children even closer today
and give additional thanks for my many blessings.

May your families be blessed 
and healthy
this Holiday Season

with great affection from me to you


Merry Christmas Gentle Readers!

Wishing all a happy, healthy, and prosperous holiday season.  Try to get out into field, forest and farm!


The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried is a collection of stories by Tim O'Brien about a platoon of U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam war.
I like the title, as those of us who have spent a lot of time carrying things in the field know that choices get made and sometimes, even as we are cutting the edges off of maps and snapping the tags off of tea bags, other weight is added that seems entirely illogical.
And so, it was with some interest that I read this piece about the items that the Ernest Shackleton Expedition decided to carry with them after their ship, the Endurance, got caught in the ice during the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. 
Their only hope was to travel west over extremely tough ice, and in bitter cold, to Paulet Island, where stores were cached.  Because they were likely to find open water between themselves and their final destination, they had to drag two, one-ton lifeboats with them.  Aside from the boats, food, group equipment, and 69 dogs, Shackleton informed his men that nothing but the bare necessities could be taken on the planned march. The men were only to carry the clothes on their backs, and two pounds of personal items. The plan was to eat the dogs along the way.  
So what did the men leave behind?
  • Money, jewelry, and gold
  • Clothes
  • Scientific instruments
  • Suitcases
  • Books
What did they take with them?
  • Toothbrushes
  • Photographs
  • Small religious items -- a few pages torn from a Bible, a cross, a medallion
  • Medical supplies
  • Diaries
  • A banjo
This last item seems crazy, but goes to the point, which is that what you carry is not entirely rational when looked at from the outside. 
Shackleton saw the banjo as spiritual medicine, and it seems he was right, as crew sing-alongs were vital to keeping up moral.
So how did it end? 
The Endurance got locked in the ice on the 19th of January 1915, and sank on October 24 with Shackleton and his crew less than a mile away. 
Initially thinking he could walk his men to Paulet Island, Shackleton abandoned that idea after several days of marching showed that his men had made less than a mile and a half of progress a day, on average.  Paulet Island was  346
miles away; they would never get there.
What to do? 
Shackleton and his crew camped for months on two large flat ice floes, hoping they would drift towards Paulet Island. 
On March 30, 1916, Shackleton ordered his crew to shoot the remaining dogs, and they feasted on the younger ones. 
A week later, the ice floe that they were camping on broke up, and the men took to the life boats and ended up on Elephant Island, about 346 miles from where the Endurance sank.
Now desperate, Shackleton and a few of his men embarked on an 800-mile journey in one of the 20-foot open whaling boats. Their goal was to reach the whaling station on South Georgia.  Twenty two of Shackleton's men where left behind on Elephant Island
After more than two weeks at sea, and after surviving a hurricane, they landed on the wrong side of South Georgia and traversed the island nonstop over 36 hours, arriving at the whaling station at Stromness on the 20th of May, 1916. 
Shackleton set out to rescue the rest of his crew on Elephant Island, which he managed to do with the help of the Chilean tug Yelcho and the British whaler SS Southern Sky
On August 30, 1916 all 22 of Shakeleton's men were evacuated from Elephant Island alive.
Today, you can buy a Shackleton banjo (made in the UK) and there is even a South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands coin featuring Ernest Shakleton.  
It's worth two-pounds.  Of course.

And what do I carry with me on a regular basis?  That changes around a bit, but this morning this is what is in my small canvas "coffee bag".

What things do you carry?

Kindle, iPhone 5 (in use taking the picture), two knives (Opinel and Leatherman with multi-tools), five pens, 5" note card case with cards, wallet, hat, gloves (only in winter), two solid glasses cases repurposed to carry small items, three ear phones to use with the Kindle and the I-Phone, car and wall chargers for the Iphone 5 (one each), 3 recoil charging cords for same, glasses, car keys, analog watch, and a flashlight with the battery reversed so it stays fresh. 

The Flock Iz Not A-Mused

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holly-days

Thank you for your visit here on Christmas Eve, I think it's the best one of the holly-days. Hanno and I wish you love, happiness and peace and a very happy Christmas with those you love. We hope all your sweethearts, whether they be large or small, gather close to you this Christmas. Thank you for being a part of our world and this blog this year. Your comments have made me happy, smile,

Performance Dogs

It is not an accident that Kennel Club greyhounds are not found at the track, that Kennel Club terriers are not found in the field, that Kennel Club sled dogs are not found on the Iditarod, or that Kennel Club border collies are not found on working sheep farms.
 -- Inbred Thinking, 2006

Migration Management on Christmas Island

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Yard Fox Last Night

Front yard visitor last night.  

I always find it amusing when show dog people tell me how big a fox is -- not that they have ever seen one, touched one, spanned one, or dug on one, of course.  

Fox are built like house cats, and are not much bigger, just a little taller on the leg. If this fellow tipped 14 pounds I would be amazed!

Cash and Dylan: Girl from the North Country

This is a great vocal pairing.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Life Hack From the Dog

At this point in the world, ignorance is willful. What that means is don't just kick grass over it; kick it to the curb and out of your life.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Rocks, Roots, Raccoon

Sarah B. was back in the States, and we have been trying to get out for a day in the field. Weather derailed our plans twice, but I took off Thursday and it was perfect weather, if a bit warm.

As there was a deer hunter on the farm where I initially intended to dig, we crossed over the river to another spot and trudged up hill to a nice fox sette.  No one home, which was not too surprising considering the weather.

We walked down the field to a nice bit of structure -- a place in the middle of a field where stones had been pushed by plough and pulled by sledge. Trees had grown up among the stones, and fallen trunks were inside and on top of the rocks and dirt.

Both dogs marked right away, but there was no digging here so I laced up the dogs and we headed off to a more likely spot, which was soon found.

The dogs marked again on a four-eyed hedgerow sette, but they could not get in much farther than their body length, and a little probing with the bar showed why:  rocks and roots, and a lot of both.

The dogs were pretty adamant that something was home, however, so we downed tools and tucked in with bar, shovel, posthole digger, and saw. 

Pulled the dog to listen to the raccoon.

To make a long story short, it was a raccoon, albeit not the typical loud snarler that I am used to. 

We initially thought it was a very small raccoon, but when we finally winkled him out of his root-fortified fortress, he was an adult, albeit a very thin one.  Not much fat on this fellow!

We hunted our way back to the truck, rounding up through the forest and checking some other settes along the way.  All were blank. 

As the day warmed up, the ground thawed and the fields were now transformed into sucking mud. 

Time for coffee, which we set out to do.  Anytime is a good time for coffee!


Deer, Distance, and Discretion

To order the magazine.

Sarah B. and I hit a warm spot for coffee after a few hours in the field yesterday, and the topic turned to dogs -- imagine that! 

Sarah has Russian Laikas and now lives in Italy, at the foot of the Alps, and she has been to Finland, Norway, Latvia, Slovakia, and other places to run her dogs and watch others do the same.

She noted that in Europe pig dogs drive boar a long distance to the guns, and the dogs are not expected to engage and hold the pig until some cowboy or hillbilly rushes in, a few minutes later, with a bowie knife to lift a hind leg and slit a throat. This ain't Texas, and the dogs are not done up in cut vests made from old fire hose and Kevlar.  A dog that closes with a Russian boar may be a long way from a human, and in such a situation a dog may have a very short life if it does not exhibit a little sensible discretion.

Sarah said, however, that there were a couple of large Russian kennels breeding dogs for export, and that when these trial dogs were of age, they were put in five acre pens with Russian Boar and were expected to do "gladiator" work right out of the box.  The result were dogs that, whether due to nature or nurture, were a little too hard-charging for the kind of diversified hunting and field work that the Laika was actually supposed to do.

I noted that we have the same thing in the world of working terriers -- people creating "rip cord" dogs that are as hard as a cut nail, and which too often end up getting injured on the job as a consequence. 

The problem of over-caffeinated dogs is a complaint I have also heard from my friends in the bird dog world as well.  It seems the use of potted birds and stop watches at field trials has resulted in dogs that hunt too fast and too far.  Nature or nurture, or a little of both?  Either way, what people and dog are learning is not the way it was once done.

And is it much the same in the world of running dogs?  Apparently.  In the December issue of Earth Dog - Running Dog magazine, Dave Sleight has a nice piece entitled "Greyhounds, Gamecocks and Gangsters," in which he notes:

[I]t is by no means an easy matter to train a Greyhound to both race and work successfully in the field because you are asking the dog to do complete opposites.

On the track, a dog has to go flat out from start to finish, running as fast as it can for as far as it can. In the hunting field the dog has to think, pace and position itself to catch regularly. Uneducated track dogs taken from racing into the field will often kill or severely injure themselves pretty quickly. Unused to obstacles and conditioned to always run flat out, they are just an accident waiting to happen and I would strongly recommend that you don't give it a try just to see if I am right!

I have, on numerous occasions, seen the result of a track dog hitting a barbed wire fence at top speed, and believe me, it is not for the likes of those with faint hearts or weak stomachs.

Greyhounds reared purely for field work don't take well to track racing because they are too cautious and some just won't have the artificial lure; you can hardly blame them when they have seen plenty of the real thing.

Of course, the pretenders will always claim the fake work is exactly like the real stuff, and besides you can't hunt with dogs any more in the U.K.

You can't? 

Well, don't tell the 300,000 people who will be turning out for Boxing Day next week, and don't tell all the folks digging on their terriers the world over, and for God's sake, don't tell the running and long dog men in the U.K. who are out day and night chasing things down. 

Digger and running dog man Jon Darcy does not seem to think his hunting world is too constrained.  It seems he has rabbits, fox, and roe deer enough.

Earlier on in the day when we’d been chatting the subject of deer cropped up and I was told that roe were ‘easy’. Fair enough, we’ve all got our own opinions, but I said that if they thought roe were easy then they hadn’t run enough of them. As we were getting ready to leave the field later on as dusk started to creep in we noticed a pair of roe had left a strip wood and were standing out on the crop, maybe eighty yards away.

“Go on then,” I said “give them a slip” at which the lad slipped his good bitch on the roe. The running dog was a fairly swift article with a pile of hares under her belt but she coursed that roe down three big fields and never so much as got the bend in before a lump of thick wood was found and that was the end of that. My argument was that if that deer had been a hare then the bitch would have been bending it all over, and it certainly wouldn’t have straight-lined her for three fields. A good roe is just that: good. We all argue about what we think is the fastest quarry in our lands and it’s a close call, but I think that a good roe is faster than a good anything else.

Ah well, what does he know?  All he has is a lifetime of experience!

Imported From Finland

Finnish hunters.  It's not all badger, fox, and raccoon-dogs!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Weekend reading

Take care of yourself over the holidays and stay safe. I want to see you back here next year. Merry Christmas everyone. I'll see you soon.  ♥

Bella is a magazine for teenage girls. Here is a free sample of the online magazine. I think you'll agree that the images and ideas presented there are age-appropriate, endearing and very different to the sadly sexualised photographs and topics often in

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Last Night's Visitors

One of these two is significantly more robust than the other.

Nuttin' Funny About Dogs and Testicles

Full applause to Katherine Heigl who adopted a special-needs daughter from Korea and whose sister is also adopted from Korea. Katherine Heigl also has a domestically-adopted daughter. Win-win, which is what winners do!

Full applause to Bill Burr who knows that it is human population growth that is the number one environmental disaster on this planet, and has found a funny way to put that topic front and center!  Another winner, and without a doubt one of the funniest people in comedy today.

Cookie Time

First holiday Batch
Peanut Butter Blossoms
A Classic Holiday Cookie around here

My favorite part?
I race to see if I can unwrap the kisses
 before the cookies come out.
Silly I know, but it's part of the tradition for me.

Tomorrow I make the dough for my
 Mexican Chocolate Hearts
which I'll bake Friday.
Friday I'll make the dough for 
Pepparkakor ( a gingerbread type)
which I'll bake Saturday.

Tonight I have another bar cookie to make. 
The name escapes me.

(Snickerdoodle Bars - came to me 12 hours later)

I used to make 8-12 varieties  for many years
and drive myself crazy with  
multiple cookie exchanges etc.
Now I make the 4 types my family enjoys 
and we gobble them all up. 
Well, maybe a few go to friends here and there.

Thursday is Darling Daughter's B-Day,
so no baking.
Remember that young girl I dropped
Thursday she is 23
Graduated, Working, In Love, 
Living in NYC

Turns out I will have a house full of 
young folks here after Christmas as well as before.
Seems Hannah and her beau have several 
friends coming in for New Years and I am
already out of bedrooms.
Time for the blow up in the living room.

 A loud and busy full house...
Time for soups and chili and casseroles..
I'll go easy on myself and buy the breads...

Lord knows we'll have enough cookies
and how happy this mama will be.

May you be as blessed this Holiday Season


bet you can see my grin from 
wherever you are

Coffee and Provocation

Cat Shit is Killing Marine Mammals:
A six-year study published  by the National Institute of Health in 2011 found that that monitored marine mammals in the Pacific Northwest. in the Pacific Northwest more than 5,000 dead marine mammals (dolphins, porpoises, sea otters, seals, sea lions and three species of whale) had been  observed with encephalitis (brain swelling) long associated with Toxoplasma gondii, a single-celled parasite common to cats and possums, neither of which are native that part of the country.
Rats May Have Killed Easter Island:
Easter Island may not have been denuded by human overpopulation, but by rat overpopulation.
Pennsylvania Bounty On Coyotes?
Pennsylvania may soon offer a bounty for coyotes.   Virginia already has one.
Segregation By Costume:
During the filming of Planet of the Apes moves in 1967 and 1969, the actors instinctively self-segregated by costume, with the chimpanzees eating with the other chimpanzees, the gorillas eating with the other gorillas, the orangutans eating with the other orangutans, and the humans off eating by themselves.
America Powered by Russian Bombs?
For the last two decades, Russia's old nuclear bombs have been providing the U.S. with 10% of its energy needs.

New Species Found by Teddy Roosevelt!
Scientists say they have discovered a new species of Tapir.  Tapirus kabomani is known from several specimens obtained by local hunters.  A partial skull and skin collected by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 (and today residing in the collections of the American Museum of Natural History in New York) belongs to this species.
The Money Is Blowing in the Wind:
Warren Buffet has just bought a billion dollars worth of wind turbines, moving his stake in wind power to $1.9 billion.
The U.K. Kennel Club is a Basket Case:
The Kennel Club in Britain proves, once again, that they are a thoroughly corrupt group of incompetents.  The "Accredited Breeder' Scheme" is all scheme and almost no inspection. 
Anti-Bacterial Soap Is Not:
The FDA admits that anti-bacterial soap is bullshit and nonsense.  "There currently is no evidence that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soap products are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water... Moreover, antibacterial soap products contain chemical ingredients, such as triclosan and triclocarban, which may carry unnecessary risks given that their benefits are unproven."
Interfere With Legal Hunters and Go to Jail:
We Jail Interfere with legal hunting in the U.S., and you may end up going to jail.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Is Your Dog A Cane Toad Junky?

Some dogs in Australia are becoming addicted to cane toads toxins. Drug abuse. The continuing crisis.

Taking a break

Most of you know I'm writing for Penguin again and hope to have that series of six ebooks published from March next year. They'll be sold internationally this time. :- ) In the past few months we've undertaken the mammoth job of moving the forum to a bigger and more stable server and now we've upgraded the software to a new and improved version. The forum has grown a lot in the past year and

Word Origins and Hunting

A repost from 2005.

Anything that has been around a long time will generate a few words and phrases, and that's true for hunting as much as sailing ("posh", "pay the devil", etc.) or market trading ("pig in a poke", "cat out of the bag", etc.).

A few phrases derived from hunting in general and fox hunting in particular:

  • To be "in the pink" originally meant to be in the swankest possible fox hunting gear, designed by the London clothier, Mr. Pink.
  • The term "flying start" originally referred to a horse speeding up after the fox was spotted, with the idea that the horse was already going at some speed before it switched into an even higher gear to keep up with the hounds.
  • "Staying power" is a term used to describe a hound that will pick up a scent, not lose the scent, and stay up with the fox.
  • "To toe the line" meant a hound following a hot scent and not casting about too far while looking for it.
  • "Red Herring" is a term for deliberate misdirection and may come from poaching and/or dog training. One story is that poachers were said to rub herring on their feet to mislead dogs put on their trail by game keepers. Another, perhaps related story, is that a red herring was chosen because dog trainers often used the pungent fish to create a trail when training their hounds. A "red" herring, by the way, is simply a smoked version of the fish.
  • "Soho" a section of London, is named after a term derived from a cry once used in rabbit hunting. The term dates to around 1307 and was yelled when the hunters had sighted the rabbit, equivalent to "Tally Ho" in fox hunting. The areas where Soho now occupies was once pastureland where hunting took place. The place name, which dates to 1632, derives from this hunter's cry. The "Soho" section of New York City is a mimic of the London place-name area, but is actually shortened version of "South of Houston Street. North of Houston street, of course, is called "Noho."
  • "A Fast Woman" is a woman who did not ride side-saddle, but straddled the saddle like a man.
  • "Hello" has only been used as a common greeting since the advent of the telephone. The first recorded use is from 1883. It does, however, have earlier origins in other senses. It is a variant of hallo, which dates to 1840 and is a cry of surprise. That in turn is related to halloo, a cry to signal that exclamation used by a hunter to signify that a fox has been seen breaking into the open. Halloo dates to about 1700, but a variant, aloo, appears in Shakespeare's King Lear about 100 years before that.
  • "The brush off" refers to removing a fox's tail as a trophy at the end of hunt -- a signal that it was time to pack it up and head back to the barn.
  • "A Majority Whip" is a term that originated in Parliament in the mid-19th century and is a shortening of ‘whipper-in,’ who is the huntsman’s assistant in charge of keeping the hounds from straying by driving them back with the whip into the main body of the pack.
  • "Go to Ground" refers to a fox that takes to a hole to avoid the hounds that are pursuing it.
  • Corduroy is derived from the French ‘cord du roi’, and was once woven from silk and was used exclusively by the kings of France as part of their hunting costumes

Wanda Jackson is Still Kicking It

Wanda Jackson's "Tore Down," directed by Seth Graves.

Wanda Jackson is 76 and still the First Lady of Rockabilly.   That's her in all her glory at 0:50.  This is the same gal in 1958, a year before I was born.  And yes, that is Ron Jeremy is a cameo.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Brian LIVES!

Brian, the dog on the "Family Guy," is back!

It seems his death was a message from show creator Seth MacFarlane that life is short and we should never take those we love for granted, as they can be gone in a flash.

Message received!

Rats Prevent Plague?

Rat collection station, Philadelphia, date unknown but shortly after 1900.

Whatever happened to the Bubonic Plague?

Like so much that is fundamental to history (Whatever happened to the Dust Bowl? Why did the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor?), this question is sidestepped by most grade-school teachers.

The simple truth is that RATS ended Bubonic Plague pandemics in Europe -- an odd but true story that, no doubt has been suppressed by public health officials uncomfortable with such inconvenient truths.

First, a little history. Plague has probably swept through the Old World time and time again. Plague-like pestilences are mentioned in the Bible (the so-called “scourge of the Philistines”), and at least five great outbreaks are noted by historians.

For modern purposes, however, the "big plague" was the so-called "Black Death" that swept through Europe beginning in the 14th Century and carried forward, with fits and starts, until the middle of the 17th Century.

The first wave of this plague killed off one-third of the population of Europe within two years of its arrival in the port of Messina, Sicily in 1346.

The vector, or transmission agent, for this wave of Bubonic Plague was the black rat Ratus ratus, which was host to the black rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis, which in turn was host to the bacterium Yersinia pestis that actually causes the Plague.

Large-scale incidents of plague in Europe ended with the arrival of a very aggressive new immigrant -- Ratus norvegicus, aka the Brown or "Norwegian" rat.

In fact this rat is not Norwegian. It probably originated in Asia, and got to Europe through the Middle East, first arriving in England on a load of timber from Norway (hence the name given to it by the British)

The Brown Rat and the Black Rat look somewhat similar, but they have very different temperaments.

A Brown Rat is not only larger that its Black Rat cousin, it is also far more aggressive. When the Brown Rat arrived in Europe and began to multiply, it quickly pushed the smaller and more mouse-like Black Rat out of buildings, alleys, storage sheds and sewers. In fact, over time, it pushed the Black Rat almost totally out of existence in the temperate world.

Though fleas and lice are opportunists, they tend to gravitate towards, and specialize in, certain hosts. Different species of bird lice, for example, specialize in different species of birds. In fact, many species of bird lice can only be found on very specific bird species. The extinction of a bird species may, in turn, result in the extinction of one or more species-specific types of bird lice.

Many types of flea also gravitate towards, and special in, certain kinds of hosts. Though a species of flea may theoretically be able to draw a blood meal from a wide variety of mammalian hosts, most thrive on a specific list of hosts and generally fail to thrive if these particular hosts are not around.

So it is with Xenopsylla cheopis, the oriental rat flea, which is the flea most likely to be implicated in transmission of the Bubonic Plague.

The oriental rat flea thrives on a few species of rodents, and the Black Rat is far and away the most common of its rodent-host carriers.

With the rapid spread of the Brown Rat in Europe, the Black Rat was bullied and beaten into extirpation across most of the civilized world.

Today the Black Rat is commonly found only in the tropics. Even there it is most likely to be found high up (running along roofs and feeding at the tops of date palms) in order to avoid running into the neighborhood bully, the Brown Rat.

Bottom line: the Bubonic Plague was brought to Europe by fleas riding on Black Rats, while Brown Rats largely drove that species of rat out of Europe (and much of the rest of the world), thus eliminating the oriental rat flea and the Yersinia pestis bacteria that brought with it the Bubonic Plague.

Answering the questions

A week or so ago I said I'd answer any questions you had. I got two questions, both set out below. I hope both ladies are still reading.

Kate J  December 09, 2013 7:51 am

I wonder what you and hanno would do if the power went out for a long period of time. Just curious, as that seems to be the thing people plan for if they see storms or other large scale events coming. Would simple living

Homeland Granola

Ya gotta do something while waiting for Homeland to air

Home Made Granola

Running and Digging For Real

I finally got around to reading the November issue of Earth Dog - Running Dog magazine. As always, some good, informative, and interesting articles, but particularly amusing to see the title of Dave Sleight's piece on poachers and pretenders. The piece was about the lifting of bunnies and pheasants from professionally keepered estates, but I got to wondering what a serious running dog man like Sleight would make of Americans in Penny loafers showing up to chase plastic bags next to gravel parking lots. Sure it's fun for dog and owner alike, but is it "work" under any definition that a true working dog man might salute?  I suspect not.

Other articles in the November issue of the magazine are on lamping rabbits, coursing fox and deer, and of course there's always a piece or two on terrier work in the U.K.

"Oh, but there's a ban on hunting with dogs in the U.K. don't you know."

Right. Apparently the ban in the U.K. is such an effective deterrent for pretenders that it has become a global excuse for those who have never hunted to stay at home.  

As for real working dog folks, they can be found in field, forest and fen, in the U.K., in the U.S. and the world over, same as always.  No laws need be broken.  You do, however, have to get off the couch!

Those interested in ordering Earth Dog - Running Dog (an excellent Christmas present!) can sign up here. Those who are interested in digging their dogs in the U.S. can learn a bit about that here.

The "R" Word No One Wants to Talk About

Reposted from Feb 2009

Fundamentally, the dog debate is a collision between rights and responsibilities.

The dog-owning community screams that they have RIGHTS. And YES, they do.

But do they have responsibilities as well?

Well sure, but . . . well . . . we don't need to articulate those too well right now, do we? After all, weren't we talking about RIGHTS?

This kind of dance occurs in a lot of debates, and folks on both the Far Right and the Far Left are equally guilty.

People claim (sometimes simultaneously) that they have a right to guns, and a right to be free from gun violence.

People claim they have a right to shoot heroin, and a right to free drug treatment.

People claim they have a right to smoke, and a right to be free of cigarette smoke.

And now these same "rights rhetoric" people have come to the issue of dogs.

What an odd thing this nation is!

It took 169 years -- from Jamestown to Philadelphia -- to develop America's greatest product, the Bill of Rights, but it seems that today Americans are discovering a new set of rights every 15 minutes.

We have grandparents rights, computer rights, and animal rights. We have the right to know the sex of a fetus, the right to own AK-47s, the right not to be tested for AIDS, the right to die, and (if we are a damaged fetus) the "right not to be born."

Airline pilots have a right not to be tested randomly for alcohol or drugs. Mentally ill persons have the right to treatment, and when they are dumped on the streets, they have the right to no treatment and, therefore, the right to die unhelped in alleys.

What too few people seem to be asking is whether a society as crowded and diverse as ours can work if every personal desire is elevated to the status of an inflexible, unyielding right?

Can America work if our defense of individual rights is unmatched by our commitment to individual and social responsibility?

And if we give a small nod to that idea, what does it really mean? How do we encourage, enable and, if need be, force the shouldering of personal responsibility?

Of course, good people will come up with different answers. Right now one side denies there is a problem. The other side, perhaps too easily, marches in with authoritarian answers like Breed Bans and Mandatory Spay-Neuter laws.

But is there a Third Way? Can we encourage responsibility and/or mandate it?

Dogs live a long time -- 15 years is common. How big a deal is it to require that every dog owner take a Canine Safety and Responsibility course, once in their life, as a condition of owning a dog?

We require a once-per-lifetime hunter safety course for a hunting license, and we require an up-to-date driver's license to drive a car.

Swimming pool owners are required to fence their yards in order to own a pool, and falconers are required to undertake an intensive and extensive apprenticeship program in order to own and fly a bird.

I will let others hash out who teaches the course and what the State mandates as part of the course. However, let me see if I can offer up a few quick answers to some obvious question off the top of my head . . .

  1. No, the course is not for the dog, but for the owner. This is the course you take before you get a dog.
  2. The course might involve three hours of classroom instruction and a multiple-guess test at the end, with perhaps a short video in the middle about the consequences of selecting dogs for exaggeration and the problems associated with inbreeding and puppy mills. A small booklet about dog training, feeding and health would be the "take away," along with a prospective cost sheet detailing life-time costs of dog ownership.
  3. Folks who already own a registered and/or licensed dog would probably be "grand-fathered" in.
  4. The course would stress the need for socialization, training, and proper communication.
  5. Lesson One would be that a dog is not a child, nor is it a potted plant, and that about half of all dog problems are due to a confusion on this simple point. Because dogs cannot speak for themselves, and are too often hidden for most of their lives in backyards and basements, they are often subject to long term serious abuse, which is why this course has been mandated by the State. By the same token, dogs are not children, and the failure of humans to communicate with dogs as dogs is a primary cause of most dog-human conflict.

In short, this course would not be a big deal in terms of time and money, and would be designed to get people to think about costs, breeds, acquisition, training, communication, and lifespan.

A simple Canine Safety and Responsibility Course could also be a significant job-creator and money-maker for sponsoring groups such as the ASPCA, American Kennel Club, pet supply stores, and breed and dog-activity clubs.

How many folks would rethink dog ownership if they were told what fencing their property would cost, how much fixing a dysplastic hip might cost, and how few landlords are OK with dog ownership?

As a result, how many fewer dogs would end up in shelters?

Would a Canine Safety and Responsibility Course solve every dog problem in the world?

Of course not. The goal is progress, not perfection.

But if progress is going to occur, it will require more responsibility injected into the ownership equation.

Responsibility remains the "R-word" no one wants to talk about.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

A labour of love

I was hoping to have Johnathan's cotton cardigan finished for Christmas but it is not to be. I foolishly mis-read the pattern twice! and I had to unpick a sleeve when it was almost finished, twice. So now I'm doing a bit of cardigan knitting most days and since the cricket started, it's been what I pick up when I sit down to watch. What a pleasure it is to watch cricket, knit and snooze.

Ain't Gonna Play Blackfish City

SeaWorld is paying a heavy price for the capture and imprisonment of Orcas, with musicians and bands canceling their performances at the venue after seeing  the movie Blackfish.

This is an "Ain't Gonna Play Sun City" kind of response.

Among the performers that have canceled:

  • Willie Nelson
  • Heart
  • Trisha Yearwood
  • Cheap Trick
  • REO Speedwagon
  • Joan Jett
  • Martina McBride
  • Barenaked Ladies

SeaWorld's attorney is Eugene Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and a lawyer for the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the first name in legal help for liars, cheats and thieves. 

Scalia was in court last week arguing that despite three trainer deaths at the hands of their captive Orcas, SeaWorld should still be allowed to have trainers get in the water with the animals.  Why?  Because it's part of their business model. 

Right.  And slavery was once part of the business model of the American South, and apartheid was once part of the business model of South Africa.  SeaWorld and Scalia need a better argument; that one's not going to work.    

The Continuing War on Saturnalia

A happy and blessed Winter Solstice to all my Pagan friends.

For those who are wondering, Winter Solstice (coming up on December 21) is the shortest day of the year and the ancient Pagan day of celebration to which Christmas conveniently attaches its sleigh.

What? Christmas is older than Jesus?

Yes, it's true.

In fact, it's older than Judaism as well.

Surely, you did not think the world began with Moses or Jesus? Dinosaurs once roamed your back yard. I promise you this is true.

Winter Solstice is the the darkest day of the year, and Winter Solstice is celebrated as the beginning of the return, or rebirth, of the Sun.

In short, Winter Solstice is the beginning of the REAL New Year, and it pretty much always has been celebrated as such.

The Roman holiday held at this time of year was called Saturnalia, and it lasted from December 17th to the 24th, with the Winter Solstice itself being (incorrectly) celebrated on December 25th (Sol Invictus) after Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar in 45 B.C.

Groundhog Day, February 2nd, is the halfway point between the true Winter Solstice (December 21) and March 21 (the Spring or Vernal Equinox)..

It is not an accident that February 2nd is also 40 days after Christ was born, as in Hebrew tradition mothers were required to purify their children in the temple 40 days after giving birth.

February 2nd then is not only Groundhog Day, but also the "Feast of the Presentation" otherwise known as Candlemas. In the ancient Pagan world, Groundhog Day was known as Imbolc.

So where did the holiday we know as "Groundhog Day" come from? For that story, read the previous blog posts on that topic.

Bottom Line: Today is a great day to celebrate "that old time religion".

And yes, all you New Age Pagans should feel perfectly free to call it Festivus.

In fact, please do!

Seinfeld - The Festivus Story