The Nose Knows

The Nose Knows

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what about odors?  Why in the Sam Hill do some dogs think they simply must roll in what we consider the foulest-smelling substance they can find, and then trot, grinning from ear to ear, back into the house, looking for all the world like they’ve just solved the Mysteries of the Universe? I am darned if I can figure this out.

Bindi, the very good dog who showed up here at the farm on the day after Thanksgiving last year, and who has been a true Godsend for 99% of the time since, is one of those types.  She seems to think she’s applying perfume by flopping down onto her side, forcefully pressing one ear and the side of her neck into a particular spot on the ground, and pushing forward with her head and shoulder to smear who-knows-what substance deep into her otherwise pristine fur.  Sometimes she wears Eau de Catpoop.  On occasion it’s Eau de Cowflop.  But a few times it was–horror of horrors–Eau de Dead Raccoon.  Yecchh!

My dear sister-in-law Abby told me yesterday on the phone that her vet told her there’s a technical term for this, and that it’s called “scent ecstasy”.  This intrigued me, so I Googled it.  All I saw were a bunch of links pertaining to drug-sniffing dogs and something called MDMA.  No doubt the Internet Police will be keeping a watchful eye on me now.

Then I did a search for “why dogs roll in stinky stuff”, since sometimes the non-technical terms tell us just as much, and maybe keep us out of trouble.  All sorts of theories abound, with the most likely one being something about dogs–as hunters–wanting to disguise their own smell to make it easier to sneak up on potential prey.  An instinctual behavior, so to speak, that no amount of Purina products can completely overcome.

Thankfully, though, in all the years I’ve lived in the Boonies, only one of my dogs has been victim of the Ultimate Odiferous Offense: that of being sprayed by a skunk. I called the vet’s office, where Heather L. was (as usual) able to provide excellent advice.  She told me to mix a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda, and a bit of dish soap (the kind with degreaser) and apply that (outside, of course) to the area of the dog that had been squirted by the skunk’s oil.  After vigorous massaging of this solution into the dog’s fur, a warm water rinse, a regular shampoo, another thorough rinse, and a long airing out, the dog was actually able to come back inside the house that evening.  Amazing.

Now it’s your turn.  Leave a comment with your dog’s favorite cologne.  And here’s hoping he or she (or you!) never gets skunked!

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Mr. Tur-tell

Mr. Tur-tell

At last Sunday’s annual family reunion, there was–as always–enough food brought in to feed far more than the 76 people in attendance.  If there’s one thing we know how to do well, it’s eat. Another area in which some of us excel is in jokes, both the spoken and the practical. For instance, as we worked our way down the buffet line, I discreetly pointed out to my sister the warm crockpot filled with deep-fried, breaded turtle meat.  Call it a hunch, but I just sorta figured that Sis wouldn’t be hankering for any of that delicacy, yet she might not identify the crock’s contents in all the excitement of the day.  She waited until we’d parked ourselves at the table with her husband and our parents before casually mentioning that No, she really didn’t think she was ready to try eating turtle just yet.

With his fork paused in mid-air, my dear brother-in-law’s face was priceless.  “Turtle?” he rasped, in an almost choking voice; “there is turtle over there?” Then his eyes switched downward to his own plate of now partially-consumed food. “Is there some Here?”  Sweet as ever on the surface, but with just an undertone of orneriness, Sis let the question hang for just a moment, before assuring him that no turtle parts had crept their way onto his plate. His relief was obvious.

Some folks, however, actually look forward to a meal that includes snapping turtle, and apparently it’s been a long tradition in the May Clan.  (See last year’s post “Safety in Numbers”). When you’re struggling through the Depression with eleven kids to feed, you often eat whatever you can catch.  I know my cousin Jeffrey liked turtle, but I’ve never gotten up the nerve to try it, myself. I did stop the truck to snap the photo that I’m using with this post when I spotted one in the road on my way home recently, though, and looked up Snapping Turtles on the Missouri Conservation website. They’re legal to harvest (except for the Alligator Snapping Turtle, which is endangered and protected), as long as you have a fishing license. They consume fish, snails, bugs, birds, small mammals and some water plants, and have been known to turn up on the hooks of trot lines or jug lines instead of the catfish for which those devices are usually intended.

Getting back to the jokes, though, it’s difficult for me to look at a terrapin without thinking of a story my dad told us when we were kids, all gathered around the family supper table.  It involved three unlikely friends:  the proverbial tortoise and the hare (or at least cousins thereof), and a buzzard.  They were poor and barely scraping by, but they all got along just fine.  As time went by, the bunny was separated from his buddies, and was therefore not in on the windfall that resulted from their chance finding of some valuable commodity.  While the buzzard and the turtle moved onto a large estate with expansive gardens and uniformed servants, the rabbit struggled to survive by running a lawn care service. One day he was called upon to bring manure for the gardens at the residence of his old friends.

The rabbit’s knock at the handsome door was answered by a snooty butler. “Yes?” he drawled, looking down his nose at the humble bunny.

“Hey, is Ol’ Turtle around?” the rabbit asked.

“Mr. Tur-TELL is down at the well.” the haughty servant replied.

“Huh.  How ’bout Ol’ Buzzard, then?”

“Mr. Buz-ZARD is out in the yard” spoke the butler.

“I see” said the bunny, who by now had suffered just about all the pretention he could tolerate.  “Then would you be so kind as to inform Mr. Tur-TELL down at the well, and Mr. Buz-ZARD out in the yard, that Mr. Rab-BIT is here . . . (and here Daddy made a quick glance toward Mother, who had almost imperceptibly stiffened in anticipation) . . . with the Fertilizer!”

Thanks, Daddy, for always keeping us laughing.  You still know how to tell ’em.  Happy Father’s Day!

Hibernation

Hibernation

Turtles are a common sight on the country roads around here during the summer.  In fact, one of the ways I discern the bona-fide Arrival of Spring is when the box turtles start their meanderings.  In late June, I spotted this one while traveling a gravel road on the county line, and had to stop and take his (?) photo.  I put a question mark there, because my abilities in identifying terrapins by gender is 100% nil, and this large example literally clammed up upon my approach.

There are more than a dozen types of turtles native to Missouri, including a few snappers, some water-lovers, and several different kinds of box turtles.  Children often beg to be allowed to bring home and keep these last varieties as pets, which seldom bodes well for the turtle.  My eldest grandchild (as a three-year-old) once gave us the silent treatment for all of an hour after I responded in the negative to such a request, and that was back in the day when she spoke practically non-stop!  The Department of Conservation website has an online Field Guide that provides detailed descriptions and photos.  The turtles are shown in the same category as the frogs, toads, and lizards–which don’t bother me in the least–but also with the snakes, which do.  Gives me the willies just to see them on the screen.

What struck me as unique about this particular turtle was his size.  I picked him up for a closer examination, momentarily forgetting to hold him head-up and at arm’s length, lest he have the pee scared out of him by this treatment.  Alas, I was quickly reminded.  After the Deluge, so to speak (big turtles evidently have big bladders), I was able to get a look at his lower shell, which was yellow with brown markings, and much prettier than the top part of his case.  Since I was alone, however, it wasn’t possible to get a photo of that, as it goes against my moral code to lay a turtle upside down, even temporarily.  Poor guy had been frightened enough already.

Before leaving him to his business and getting on about my own, though, I did snap a picture of him from above, with my sunglasses nearby for comparison of size (see below).  Impressive specimen, isn’t he?

This morning there was frost on the grass here, and in the coming weeks that will become more and more frequent.  Mr. Turtell  will undoubtedly be finding a place to hibernate for the winter.  And with the first blanket of snow or glaze of ice that covers the roads, I’ll be wishing I could do likewise.  Wake me when it’s Spring again!

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Do You See What I See?

Do You See What I See?

Here’s a guest post from my friend Melissa Yost.  It was meant to fill in while I was gone to Scotland, but I failed to follow through on pre-loading.  Thank you, Melissa, for contributing!

“Do You See What I See?”

Please do not be alarmed. This is not a big box retail store premature ejaculation of Christmas before the end of October, let alone Thanksgiving. I am a believer that Christmas begins with    Advent. This post could have easily been titled ‘You Say To-may-to, I say To-ma-to’. I am shamelessly taking advantage of the title to make two points. Bad me. But I digress.

I direct your attention to the photos above and below:

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Now, I ask you. What do you see? Fields of wild flowers or weeds. Nature in all its splendor and diversity or a blight on the face of a respectable suburban neighborhood worthy of numerous citations from local government agencies. I did not catch any photos of the Gold Finches taking advantage of the seeds nor the Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies sipping nectar. However, I think you can see where I’m going with this. I am proud to say, this is my yard.

By happy accident, I was unable to keep up with the demands of my large garden. I had no choice but to let some beds go wild. As a result, I have never had so many colors or drifts of blooms, the likes of which gardeners spend years cultivating. I did not water. I did not spray insecticides, fungicides or herbicides. I did not fertilize. The result is a pantheon of color and variety of huge proportions. My yard has never seen so many feathered or winged visitors.

As to those pesky village inspectors who have repeatedly cited and tried to fine me?  I finally put them in their place with two simple words:  Wildflowers and Nature-scaping. And as a daily reminder of nature’s bounty, and my own self-admitted contrary nature, I am rewarded with the sight of sunflowers gone wild on the sides of highways and roads, along with the thistles, chickweed and choke vine in my yard. And truth be told, even the rag weed is beautiful.

 

 

Curse of the Sphinx

Curse of the Sphinx

Sure, we’ve all heard of the Curse of the Mummy, but who ever knew there is also, right here, real-life-as-I-type-this, a Curse of the Sphinx?! The Sphinx Moth, that is, which looks benign enough as it hovers around the honeysuckle vine that twines over and through the wrought iron railing by my front porch steps. In fact, it acts quite a bit like a hummingbird, flitting from blossom to blossom, siphoning out the sweet nectar in much the same fashion. But then the blasted thing lays eggs on the underside of a leaf somewhere, and those eggs hatch into larvae, which immediately look for the food on which they grow the largest and the fastest. Today, that food source happened to be my tomato plants, of which I have only two, but those two growing in five-gallon buckets placed on the concrete front steps just mere feet away from (you guessed it) the honeysuckle vine.

What looked like a reasonably healthy tomato plant just yesterday, complete with little green fruits promising a delicious treat in the near future, had become–before noon today–a spindly, spiky, collection of stems, at least on the north half of the thing. And there, blending in discreetly on the undersides of the few remaining leaves, the larvae of the Sphinx moth. FOUR of them! Never having seen these before, I snapped a quick photo with my trusty phone, and showed it to my good friends Peggy and Bert at lunchtime. “Tomato worms!” they exclaimed. “Mash ’em flat, or they’ll strip the entire plant to nothing!” I told the girls that the little stinkers had already made a good start of that job.

When I arrived home from town I wasted no time in plucking the worms off my poor unfortunate tomato vine, but put them in a plastic container with some of the already-damaged leaves and fruit, to save for a few hours. After work, I did a quick internet search to learn more about them. As it turns out, these particular specimens are most likely tobacco hornworms (manduca sexta) as opposed to tomato hornworms (manduca quinquemaculata – easy for them to say!). The diagonal stripes on their sides are slightly different, and the pointy “horn” on their back ends is reddish colored on this type, rather than black as on the other. But they both devour the leaves of the tomato or tobacco plant indiscriminately, and with a rapid pace that will amaze, leaving dozens of little green and black caterpillar turds in their wake. I know for a fact that those weren’t scattered all over the edge of my porch yesterday!

So, if anyone knows of an organic remedy to discourage the blighters (also called goliath worms, for obvious reasons), let me know, and I’ll keep it in my files for future reference. For now, however, I’m not going to stomp these jolly green giants. I’m going to cradle their little plastic temporary domicile in my hands, and walk it carefully up the hill past the orchard, where I’ll ever-so-gently open the lid . . . and introduce the contents to my chickens.

Things are Humming Right Along Here

Things are Humming Right Along Here

Each year about this time, I listen for the telltale “buzz” around my flower garden that signifies the annual arrival of one of the most fascinating creatures:  the hummingbird.  Yesterday afternoon, while pulling a few weeds (yes, I do try to guilt myself into a little manual labor now and then), I heard it.  Not quite a “buzz”, actually, maybe more of a “whir”.  It’s the sound made by the wings of a hummingbird as it zooms in and then hovers, looking for an acceptable source of food to fuel its rapid flight.  Well, that sound gave me an instant excuse to stop the weed-pulling, which my allergies fail to appreciate anyway.  In the kitchen, I put one cup of white sugar into a small pan, added 4 cups of water, and set the stove burner under the pan to medium low just long enough to melt the sugar into the water for a syrup.  Then I retrieved one of the hummingbird feeders from the mudroom where I’d hung it up last Fall, after washing it out.  As soon as the syrup was cool enough, I filled the feeder and hung it at the edge of the porch roof overhang, just a couple of feet above the not-yet-blooming honeysuckle vine.  A quick glance at the clock:  3pm.

Fast forward to 6:42pm.  The son-of-my-house is mowing my lawn (bless him!), my daughter and grandchildren are on the front lawn, practicing volleyball serves and spikes, and in between joining the fun and retrieving a drink of water from inside, I saw it:  the First Hummingbird of the Year!  At least, the first one to show up at my place, that is, and that I actually saw.  Wary of the fact that I was standing just seven feet away, the tiny bird jetted in from the Bald Cypress tree to the feeder, grabbed a quick sip, then sped away.  “Aha!” I told the kids.  “Not even four hours after the feeder is up, that hummingbird has already found it!”  They took a break from their game long enough to sit on the porch swing and the box that houses the cat triplex to watch for the bird’s return.  Ice cream bars all around helped mark the celebration of the hummers’ return.  From as near as I could stand without scaring it away, I focused in as close as my camera would allow and waited to click the shutter.  We were not disappointed, and the hummingbird seemed to enjoy his treat as much as we liked our own.  It was difficult to discern in the shadow of early evening, but we think it was a female.  No glint of the ruby throat of the male that summers in this part of the country was visible, anyway.

Today, the mini-blinds on the front windows of the house are all open, and I find myself stealing hasty glances out toward the feeder.  Two hummingbirds are busy zooming back and forth, so maybe it’s a mated pair.  The honeysuckle is setting on some buds, and when it goes into full bloom, they’ll be busy for sure.  But just in case, I’m going to find that other feeder from winter storage.

Got a hummingbird story?  What’s the highest number of hummers you’ve counted at one place?  Share a comment!

 

Wordless Wednesday #1

Wordless Wednesday #1