Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Toxicology Tuesday, July 31

Here’s a slightly different format for Toxicology Tuesday – a multiple choice question. Which, if any, of these nuts are toxic in dogs?

  1. Macadamia nuts
  2. Almonds
  3. Cashews
  4. All of the above
  5. None of the above

Answer A. Too much of any kind of salted nuts can be a problem. The high fat content in nuts can cause mild vomiting and diarrhea, or possibly pancreatitis. Too much salt may lead to excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion toxicosis (salt poisoning.) However, only the macadamia nuts are truly toxic.

We don’t know the toxic principal in macadamia nuts, but we do know the signs: vomiting, weakness, ataxia (= incoordination), tremors, and hyperthermia (body temperatures reaching 105 or more.) Blood tests show increased triglycerides, lipase (fat-digesting enzyme), and white blood cell counts.

Dogs are the only species to date shown to exhibit macadamia nut toxicosis, and luckily, most cases resolve with supportive therapy only. Withholding food and water till the vomiting stops, maybe fluid therapy and/or anti-emetics in some cases, and close monitoring is usually all that is required.

If those macadamia nuts were chocolate-coated, then your little friend has gotten a double-whammy, and may need to be treated for chocolate toxicity, too.

As an aside, cashew nuts are quite interesting. They are related to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Their outer fruiting structure contains urushiol, a potent skin toxin, which is why you never see cashews sold “in the shell.” Harvesting cashews is a hazardous process, posing the risk of severe skin rashes among the workers.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Miscellaneous garden photos

There hasn't been much happening this week, and to tell the truth, I haven't been in the blogging mood, so here are some file photos of things from my garden in summers past.

Purple Coneflower with Tiger Swallowtail:

For butterflies and goldfinches, coneflower can't be beat.

Achillea "Fire King":

I like Achillea (yarrow.) It is easy, tolerates neglect, comes in several varieties, and is not invasive. As well as "Fire King," I also have
"Coronation Gold" (golden-yellow, tall, tendency to flop over) and "Moonlight" (shorter, pale yellow.)

Water Hyacinth:

This stuff self-propagates like crazy, and will take over a small water garden very quickly. NEVER toss it in a natural water feature, like a farm pond, always keep it confined. It dies back in winter, but it will take over if not controlled.

water lily Nymphaea "Helvola":

This is a really nice and popular miniature water lily, the perfect size for a whiskey barrel water garden. The flowers stay open later than many other water lilies, so I actually get to see the blooms some evenings after work.

And, from this season, two baby apples.

The freezing cold weather in early spring hit just as my four apple trees were in full bloom, and I despaired of having any to harvest this year. Luckily, a few buds survived, and I will have a small crop, but nothing like previous years.

Fresher posts next week. Till then, have a good weekend, all!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Clermont County Fair, part 2

After the animal barns, I took a stroll around the (admittedly small) midway. The rides weren't open yet, but the games were, all the same old cons that were being played when I was a kid - knock over the milk bottles, burst balloons with a dart, toss a ring around the fish bowl. Huge tempting stuffed animals dangle out of reach, and the only thing you win is a cheezy toy or a fish that will die within a week. The only difference I noticed was that the fish in question are now Bettas instead of goldfish. I by-passed the carnies and went straight to the fair food.
Once a year, I have to eat this stuff - corn dogs, greasy fries with malt vinegar and too much salt, and lemonade shake-ups that should really be called "sugar water with lemon flavoring."
Tastes great, but oh, so sick-making. Or, was it the ice cream in the waffle cone that did me in?
Anyway, it was now time for the main event - harness racing. If you are not familiar with this east coast and midwest style of horse racing, you really should check it out. Horses called Standardbreds are hitched to small carts called sulkies and pull men, sometimes old men and rarely women, called drivers around a small dirt track. The standard distance of a harness race is 1 mile. At the Clermont County fair, this means two laps around the half-mile oval.

Just like other county fair traditions, harness racing grew out of the farmer's desire to compete with his neighbor, to see whose horse and buggy was the fastest. No wonder county fairs still run harness racing to this day. As a child, the harness racing was always my favorite part of every county fair we went to, and I got pretty good at picking winners.

In the old days, horses used to have to run multiple heats to determine the winner, with the top placing horses of two or three races competing against each other for their share of the purse. Now each race is run independently of the next. Fillies (young female horses) and colts (young males) are run in separate races, for the most part, and Sunday was ladies' day at the track.

The first thing you need to know about harness racing is that the horses don't start in a set of stalls, like you see on TV when the Thoroughbreds run the Kentucky Derby. Instead, they take a running start, using a truck with folding gates attached to the rear to keep them in line.

The drivers try to get their horses' noses as close to the gate as possible without touching in order to start in front, but there is no such thing as a false start. If you are too far back when the gates swing away and the truck speeds on ahead, you just have to make up lost ground.

The next important piece of information is the two types of runners. Trotters trot. When they run, they have the opposite legs off the ground at the same time. Left rear and right fore, then right rear and left fore, alternating. This is a natural gait for the horse, and is very balanced.
Some young trotters wear a modified type of leg hobbles while in training.

Pacers pace. They run with the legs on the same side of the body off the ground. Left front and rear, then right front and rear, back and forth. This is an unnatural gait for a horse, and looks a little odd as she wobbles from side to side, but is faster than a trot. Pacers usually wear pacing hobbles to help keep their leg movements coordinated, although there are some natural pacers that run "free-legged."

a pacing filly in hobbles

Whether your horse paces or trots, it must maintain that gait for the entire mile of the race. If a horse "breaks" and begins to gallop, the driver must pull over to the side, slow down and get his horse back under control before racing on. Bettors groan when their pick breaks at the start of the race.

Horses and drivers wear all sorts of equipment for the race. Horses may wear blinders to keep them from being distracted by things behind them, like this filly, who is also wearing
pacing hobbles. The number cloth is her position at the start of the race, in this case, number 1, along the rail, and the color indicates which race she is in.
The color of the silks (racing clothes) belongs to the driver, not the horse, and drivers wear the same colors for the entire day of racing, rather than changing for each race, as with Thoroughbreds. Many drivers are also the owner and trainer of the horse, and are wearing their own colors.
Drivers wear goggles and safety helmets, but there is nothing holding them onto the sulky. If they fall off that tiny seat under thundering hooves, they could be in big trouble.
The horses race quite closely sometimes, and if they crowd the rail or each other, the sulky wheels can get caught, flipping the cart and dumping the driver.
This trotting filly has won her race, thanks in part to her driver, Steven Carter, who won all 5 of the races he was in on Sunday.

"trotting home"

Out of 12 races, I picked 6 winners, 1 place (second), 2 shows (third) and had 3 "also-rans." Pretty good for being out of practice.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Toxicology Tuesday, July 24

Dog owners with small children have likely encountered this week’s “Toxicology” situation.

Toxic or Not?

Answer: Not toxic. Crayons are non-toxic, but dog owners may get a colorful surprise the next time they scoop the poop!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Clermont County Fair, part 1

The Clermont County fair opened on Sunday, and I took advantage of the beautiful afternoon to walk around the fairgrounds, visit the animal barns, and take in a little harness racing. The Clermont County fair is one of the oldest fairs in the state, and was first held in 1846. It has been held in Owensville (previously called Boston) since the Civil War.
Dairy goats made for an interesting exhibit. According to the informational posters, there are 6 breeds of dairy goats, and I found examples of four of them:

Saanens are a common dairy breed. Saanens, which are all white, are popular for their large udder capacity and the quantity of milk they produce.

Alpines can be any color except solid white. They have upright ears, which helps separate them from Nubians.
Nubians, with their long, floppy ears, are distinctive. They can be any color or pattern, and have a convex nose. They are one of the larger breeds of goats, and can be stubborn. Their milk is prized for its high protein and butter fat content.

A Nubian goat, with a Saanen in the next pen for comparison.

I like Toggenburgs for their pretty faces. They are always light brown in color, with white accents, including these stripes.

Pygmy goats, while not a dairy breed, were also on display.

Of course there are sheep in this barn, too.
Sheep get a haircut just before showing, to help the judges appreciate their shape and condition.

After their trim, they wear sheep "pajamas" to keep themselves clean and neat.
The pigs are always fun to see. This face belongs to your typical "pink" piggy, really white with its light pink skin showing through. I'm not sure of the breed, Yorkshire, I think.

The red Duroc is a handsome pig. The drooping ears are a breed characteristic.

Most of the pigs I saw were flat out on their sides, snoozing, like these Hampshires.

For cattle, we had beef breeds, dairy cows like these Jerseys (or Guernseys, I always get them confused)

and for a "wow" factor, Watusi. Look at those horns!

The junior fair exhibitors, mostly 4-H'ers, were busy prepping their animals for the week's upcoming shows. The wash stand line was waiting-room only.

These farm kids work hard all season, raising and training their animals, then camping out in an empty stall in all weather during fair week, caring for their charges. The lessons they learn, and the money they earn when their exhibit is sold, are invaluable. When you go to the fair, if you only visit the midway you have missed the best parts. County fairs were established to show off the farmer's work - his cattle, his vegetables, and the equipment he used to bring food to our tables, like
these old tractors.
So, take in a county fair near you. Wander around the animal barns or watch some cattle or sheep being shown. You will come away with a new appreciation for farming.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Funny Friday Photos

Grace, nice girls don't sleep like that!

"Hang in there, baby, Friday's coming!"
Sing, in her poster girl pose.

Holly, using her hands like a person.
Too bad there's no sound with this one.

Tugger gives new meaning to the phrase "Bird Feeder."

Check out this blog!

While trying to identify this caterpillar (It is a cat of an Eight Spotted Forester Moth, by the way) I stumbled across the Burning Silo blog. Bev Wigney, the author, is a nature writer and photographer in eastern Ontario Cananda, and her macrophotography of bugs will make you weep, they are so perfect.

I thought I had my caterpillar identified from my Golden Guide to Butterflies and Moths, but wanted a photograph to confirm my suspicions. Searching the Internet, I came across this photo and post about a summer project raising caterpillars.

Bev has issued a challenge post, to count the number of Phymata (Ambush Bugs) on a Common Yarrow flower. Click the link below to participate. Try it, it's fun!

Take the Great Phymata Challenge.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

In Scotland, the ordinary is extraordinary.

Robert Louis Stevenson said "The mark of a Scot of all classes [is that] he ... remembers and cherishes the memory of his forebears, good or bad; and there burns alive in him a sense of identity with the dead even to the twentieth generation." It's true.

My family history is Scottish. My great-grandfather, John Dallas, was born and raised in Cawdor, Nairnshire, before emigrating to the United States. Cawdor is a small village near Inverness, the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. I have visited Scotland twice and love it. When I saw the house where my great-grandfather grew up and when I visited the gravesites of his parents and grandparents in a kirkyard in Cawdor, it just felt right. In fact, when I told someone that my family came from the area, they said, "Welcome home," with no trace of jest or mockery. They were serious. In their mind, as in mine, I had come home.

While most of my pictures of those trips are of the wild, the unusual, or the exotic, some of my favorites are photographs of ordinary Scottish people and places. Image living here and taking these sights for granted:

The village store and licensed grocer in Cawdor is also the post office, a source of Kodak film, tourist information, a public phone, a bulletin board with local notices, and all day tea. A lot of resources tucked into this tiny building.

The red Royal Mail phone box is an iconic British symbol, sadly fading in the modern age of cell phones. In the Highlands, cell towers are few and far between and some homes still don't have regular land lines, so the local phone box may be their only connection to the outside world. This box, in its little niche in Cawdor, spoke to me.

My family laughed at me when I took a picture of this fire station, part of the Highlands and Islands Fire Brigade. I liked the crisp clean lines, the bright red accents, and the way that even modern buildings are designed to blend in with the old. A sense of history and continuity seems to be essential in Scottish architecture.

A Scottish lad, learning the trade of wall building. This boy was waiting with his grandfather for the ferry to take us back to Kylesku after a visit to Kerrachar Gardens.

An ice cream shop in Inverness. Aside from the bright blue paint accenting the putty gray stucco, what primarily impressed me was the name:

No photo tour of ordinary Scotland would be complete without a picture of a Scottish vet's office, like this one in Ullapool. If you can see the street sign on the end of the building, you will notice it is both in English and Gaelic, not uncommon in the western Highlands and Islands.

As they say in Scotland, "Haste ye back."