Monday, May 22, 2017

My Garage Door

The "Mexican" Workers in Britain are Bulgarian



From The Guardian comes this story of jobs no Briton will do:

On 24 June last year, the few hundred residents of a temporary village, hidden from view in the middle of a West Sussex soft fruit farm, received letters. They were signed by David Kay, the managing director of the Hall Hunter Partnership, a business that grows 10% of the UK’s strawberries, 19% of its raspberries and a whacking 42% of its blueberries across thousands of acres, of both glasshouses and polytunnels. The recipients were his seasonal workforce, some of the 3,000 pickers from Bulgaria, Romania and elsewhere who come here each year to get the harvest in, and without whom the business would simply not exist.

It seems the United States is not the only country in the world subsidizing low prices in the supermarket aisle by paying wages so low wages no native workers will do the job.

As it reported, around 20% of all employees in British agriculture come from abroad, these days mostly Romania and Bulgaria, while 63% of all staff employed by members of the British Meat Processors Association are not from the UK. Around 400,000 people work in food manufacturing here, and more than 30% of those are also from somewhere else. If free movement of labour stops, the British food industry won’t just face difficulties. Some parts will shudder to a halt. Shelves will be emptied. Prices will shoot up.

And it's not just pickers and packer jobs that are going to desperate foreigners, it's vet work as well:
[U]nder Food Standards Agency rules, an abattoir in England, Wales or Northern Ireland cannot operate unless the animals on the way to slaughter are overseen by one of their vets. This is work British vets don’t want to do. They would rather be out on the farm with livestock in the prime of their lives, or dealing with domestic pets. As a result, at least 85% of vets in British abattoirs are not from the UK. Apparently, the majority are Spanish. And if they couldn’t get into the country to do the job, the meat supply chain would collapse.

Insurance Company Facilitates Dog Dealers



Britain’s largest pet insurance company, PetPlan, has been awarding dog dealers the status of ‘trusted breeders’ without performing so much as a basic check. The predictable result is puppies born into squalid conditions and riddled with disease.

And the whole things is fueled by kick kabcks: Every time a new puppy customer takes out a Petplan insurance policy, the breeders who is signed up to the "trusted breeder" scheme receives a "commission’ in the form of shopping vouchers.

Petplan makes no checks when accepting a new breeder on to its register; it's simply a pay-to-play dog dealing scheme with absolutely no oversight, inspection, or safeguards.

Being registered as a "trusted breeder" (i.e. paying a small sum and having your check clear the bank) allows puppy farmers to list and advertise their dpgs on Petplan’s "Find A Pet: website.

The Petplan scheme has been used by criminal dealers who buy in puppies but pose as breeders.

A gang of six dealers from Greater Manchester, led by former escort Grace Banks, imported hundreds of dogs from puppy farms in Ireland then pretended they had been born at home to family pets.\

She and her brother Julian King raked in about £8,000 a week between them by selling puppies in poor health to unwitting animal lovers. When arrested, Banks, 29, was found to have dead puppies in the boot of her Mercedes. The gang were registered with Petplan and offered the insurance cover with their dogs, some of which had just days to live....

...The gang were selling puppies of various breeds, including chihuahuas, pomeranians, spaniels, shih tzus and Yorkshire terriers, for between £550 and £650 each. Yet 65 per cent were later found by their heartbroken new owners to have had life-threatening, congenital defects.

Anyone Home?



Misto watches as Moxie works her way through the pipe looking for life. There was no one home at this spot on this day.

The Great Atomic Power :: Louvin Brothers



From 1962 comes this Louvin Brothers tune that was released as the Cuban Missile Crisis was coming to a point.

Refrain: Are you (are you) ready
For the great atomic power?
Will you rise and meet your Savior in the air?
Will you shout or will you cry
When the fire rains from on high?
Are you ready for the great atomic power?

Do you fear this man's invention
That they call atomic power
Are we all in great confusion
Do we know the time or hour
When a terrible explosion
May rain down upon our land
Meting horrible destruction
Blotting out the works of man

Refrain

There is one way to escape it
Be prepared to meet the lord
Give your heart and soul to Jesus
He will be your shielding sword
He will surely stay beside you
And you'll never taste of death
For your soul will fly to safety
And eternal peace and rest

Refrain

There's an army who can conquer
All the enemy's great band
It's the regiment of Christians
Guided by the Savior's hand
When the mushrooms of destruction
Fall in all it's fury great
God will surely save His children
From that awful awful fate

Refrain

Den Repair






Den repair is part of proper terrier work.  Dens, after all, are not just used by groundhogs, but by raccoons, possums, and fox.

This dig was shallow, but a bit of a mess as it was almost in a cave of wood under a fallen tree.

If you just put the dirt back in the hole, you fill the den pipe and leave a big divot where water collects -- a very bad situation for future occupation. I branch over den pipes, as shown, and try to put vegetation, old feed bags, big flat rocks, or bark over the branches to keep the dirt out, with a water-shedding mound  of dirt on top.

Big Coyotes, Seen and Unseen



While driving out to hunt the dogs on Sunday, the biggest coyote I've ever seen ran right in front of my car. It was approaching 50 pounds, and I actually weigh animals, so that's not hyperbole.

Later, while repairing a groundhog sette on the edge of a field, I spotted this coyote turd. That's a #8 Opinel Knife for comparison purposes, so this is not a fox. And it's not a larger dog either; notice the fur in the scat.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Water Is More Expensive Than Gasoline


I stopped to pick up a gallon of water for the dogs, and quart for myself, and the total was nearly $6.

At $2 per quart bottle, water at the gas station is $8 a gallon, or more than three times the price of gasoline.

Basic Tools of Terrier Work



I took this picture today while resting after a dig. These are my basic tools for terrier work.

My pack is a bow/rifle pack and the shovel and long pieces (snare, machete, long handled trowel) fit as shown. The double pockets on the right fold over what you see here. Leashes, an extra set of gloves, two knives, scraper, water bottles, saw, and stake outs are in the body of the pack.

Ghetto Palms In the Hedge


It's a long way from "Tree of Heaven" to "Ghetto Palm," but that's the linguistic path that Ailanthus altissima has taken in this country.

Like so many invasive weeds, such as kudzu and multi flora rose, the Tree of Heaven was first imported as an ornamental. A small easy-to-grow tree, it lent a slightly tropical-air to 19th Century American gardens.

Of course it soon got out of the garden, and has been spreading malevolence across the world ever since. About like Adam and Eve, truth be told.

A mature Ailanthus tree will produce several hundred thousand seeds a year. This little tree is truly invasive -- not only along the edges of fields, but also on median strips, driveways and even the cracks of sidewalks.

The Ailanthus can grow in almost any kind of soil, from clay to hard pan, from swamp to sandy rock, and it is not fazed in the least by thick, oily smoke from the exhaust of a passing bus. This is a tree that thrives on neglect, lack of water, and even physical abuse. They don't call it a "Ghetto Palm" for nothing.

This tree is a living monument to the tenacity of life in a harsh urban environment, and is, in fact, the star of the children's book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

That said, its hardiness is its only redeeming value. Ailanthus produces no wildlife value at all. Deer will not eat it, and unlike the Staghorn Sumac and Black Walnut, both of which it resembles in appearance, it produces no seeds or nuts of any interest to even the smallest creature, not even a mouse.

The Ailanthus, Staghorn Sumac and Black Walnut have long, palm-like compound leaves but the Ailanthus has little white dots on its new branches and a vertical white stripe or ridge on older trunks, while the dots on a Sumac's young trunk and branches are darker. Sumac leaves are light-colored underneath, and this little tree rarely grows much taller than about 25 feet. In winter, the new buds of Sumac look like they are covered in velvet, a little like a deer antler (hence the name), while Ailantus are simple hard points. Ailanthus branches are arrayed in whorled tiers, while a Sumac has Y-shaped crotches. While Ailanthus leaves turn brown or tan in the fall, Sumac leaves turn bright red -- a very nice display. A Black Walnut tree is easy to identify if it has nuts, of course, but also because this tree develops a very rough and dark craggy bark at a young age-- the easiest way to differentiate it from the other two species of tree.

Though an Ailanthus tree can grow to 80 feet in 10 years, the wood is terribly weak, and so light in weight it burns away in minutes. The branches are spaced in such a way they cannot hold up a bird's nest.

While averse to deep forest shade, Ailanthus commonly dominates forest edges and field hedgerows where it forms a weedy understory when mixed with pokeweed and multiflora rose.

A particular problen with Ailanthus is that the roots can run deep and wreck water and sewage pipes. And while a Tree of Heaven in the side yard may looks pretty in summer, in the dead of winter its trunk is stick-like, and only accents the dreariness of the season.

In Virginia, where I live, some folks call the Ailanthus a "stink tree," because if you crush almost any part of the plant, it has an off-putting odor. The scent is not just offensive to the nose -- the plant is a proven allelopath as well, which is just a fancy way of saying the plant seeps chemicals into the dirt that discourage other plants from taking root. Black walnuts and rhodedendrons do the same thing, of course, but they have at least a few noble properties to serve as a counter-weight, such as nuts and flowers and wood. The Ailanthus, truth be told, is good for nothing but sheer tenacity. This is a tree that cannot be killed by merely hacking it to the ground and plowing it under-- you have to put Round-Up on it,and probably do it more than once.

After everything else on this earth is gone, the Ailanthus (I am quite sure) will be thriving. The weedy will inherit the earth.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fox Attacks Fawn



Watch the whole thing. Terrible violence from a top-end predator.  Or not.

And if you want more gore, watch what happens when a fox attacks a cat.

Finally, we have fox predating on sheep. You can tell the animals are terrified. More mayhem can be seen here.  Steel yourself; it's not pretty.

In the City Primeval




We are all surrounded by dinosaurs. This fellow was hanging out with me and the pups this morning.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Donald Trump and the Sound of Silence


When you are out in the woods, you listen for noise... and for silence.

A groundhog's whistle will let you know a "whistle pig" has seen you, while loud knocking will let you know your old friend, the Pileated woodpecker, has returned to this forest patch.

And what about the sound of silence? A sudden hushing of birds lets you know a Cooper's Hawk has just entered the arena, and that every bird within a stone's throw knows it.

There is a great deal of noise
in Washington, D.C. these days, but it is the sound of silence that may tell us the most.

As anyone with a cable connection or a cell phone knows, the burn rate on Donald Trump is hot and fast. I have never seen anything like it, and I do not see how he gets to October. There is a new explosive revelation almost every day (sometimes two or three times a day), and everyone is paying attention to the noise, smoke, and ash.

But one arena is quiet. A little too quiet.

If you want to bring down John Gotti, it will not be his recent friends that will have the best information. Oh, to be sure, you work these folks, but your goal is to "ladder up" the chain in order to entrap "Sammy the Bull" Gravano. He's the guy who knows (literally) where all the bodies are buried.

And so while everyone's eyes are turned to Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort these days, I do not think they are the key to breaking this whole thing wide open,

I think the key is Michael D. Cohen.  Cohen is Trump's personal lawyer, and the person who has been part of his business transactions for more than a decade. It was Cohen who drafted Trump's will, i.e. the person who Trump entrusted with the financial security of his children.

In The New York Times of February 19, we find this paragraph:

A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.

Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Bingo.

Cohen can, and no doubt will, say he had no idea what was in the sealed envelope. Indeed, he denies he even received it. He saw it, but he did not accept it. Right. Could be. But color me skeptical. This is not a White House with a long track record of telling the truth. The fact that this is the one part of the story that Cohen is pivoting away from is important; this is the one part of the story that makes Cohen complicit in a likely crime.  And whether he took the envelope or not, he knows what was in that sealed envelope.

But we shall see
. It could be that I have it all wrong, and Michael D. Cohen is just the wrong guy at the wrong location. It could be that he has done not a single thing wrong. It could be.

That said, if you see a lot of smoke over a long period of time, it's safe to assume there's a fire. At the very least, bring a fire extinguisher.

I have always said the key to the Trump-Russia story is money.

Trump has bailed on enough U.S. banks and small business contractors that there are not many U.S. banks left that are eager to lend him money, which is why he has turned to less transparent partners from the old Soviet Union, many of which are known to be washing vast sums of Russian money stolen by Putin and his cronies.

And what's one of the best ways to wash a lot of money?

By investing in American real estate.

It's a historical fact
that Michael D. Cohen first came to Donald Trump's attention because he and his extended family of Ukrainian in-laws were buying up Trump apartment units in New York, New Jersey, and Florida.

Nothing wrong there, but where did this money come from and how big is the river of money behind it?

One clue comes from Talking Points Memo:

Cohen was by all appearances already a very wealthy man. He had already compiled an extensive New York area real estate portfolio, mainly tied to New York City residential properties. But the original source of his wealth appears tied to a series of non-real estate business partnerships. The one common thread connecting these partnerships in businesses ranging from taxis to gambling to energy is that each involved a partnership with immigrants from Ukraine....

We know from public records that in the last decade Trump became highly dependent on money from the former Soviet Union, both to finance mega-projects like Trump SoHo but also as a source of buyers of apartment units at Trump high-rises in New York City, Florida and other locales (The Cohen brothers and their families are purchasers of at least 12 apartments in Trump buildings – 11, according to a 2006 article in The New York Post and one owned by the Oronovs, according to Florida public records.) Donald Trump, Jr. said famously in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia”.

Cohen and his extended family appear to have been part of that flow of luxury apartment purchases from people from the former Soviet Union. And Cohen himself joined the Trump Organization in the period when Trump’s reliance on investment capital from the former Soviet Union for projects like Trump Soho moved into high gear.

As for Michael D. Cohen's in-laws in the United States, I can imagine the Department of Justice, at some point saying: "Nice family you have there. It would be a shame if something happened to their immigration status."

Which would truly be a shame.  But it would also be terribly, terribly ironic shame.

Does Michael D. Cohen have a lot to lose?  Maybe.  We shall see.


A Song About Poke Berries

A reader of this blog emailed to ask whether pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) was poisonous.

Well, as is so often the case, the answer is "yes and no." As Paracelsus, the father of toxicology, noted, "Everything is poison, there is poison in everything. Only the dose makes a thing not a poison."

Which is a nice way of saying that it depends on how much pokeweed you are intending to eat, when you are picking it, what part you are eating, and how you intend to prepare it.

Birds routinely eat the berries without harm as their gut cannot corrode the shell of the seed which contains phytolaccatoxin (a fancy latin word which means "pokeweed toxins").

Cows and horses also eat some pokeweed, generally without harm if they do not overdo it. That said, it is generally recommended that pokeberry be chopped out of fields where horses and cows are grazing.

Raccoon and fox will eat pokeberries, and do not seem to be any worse for the wear, though humans are warned off of the berries, as the seeds inside contain the toxins.

Warning off, of course, is not the same as not eating; there are scores of country jam and pie recipes for pokeberries which simply say "remove seeds." Seems simple enough.

Younger leaves are less toxic than older leaves, and it was once common to eat them. The recommended recipe is to boil the leaves, drain the water, boil them again, drain them again, and then boil a third time before serving. The triple boiling draws out and drains off the toxins. The result is a bit like cooked spinach, and is called "Poke Salette," salette being an old English term for cooked greens. The leaves are supposed to be quite good if picked young, but no, I have never had it. I dislike all cooked greens.

So how toxic is pokeweed? As you might have gathered, not very.

Symptoms of pokeweed poisoning include sweating, a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, a severely upset stomach, and possibly vomiting and bloody diarrhea. I can find no reported human deaths, but no doubt they have occurred somewhere sometime. Basically, no one is eating that much of this stuff who does not know how to cook it. Perhaps that will change after the apocalypse.

Pokeweed is sometimes called "ink berry" and in colonial times up until the Civil War it was sometime used for that purpose. In fact the Declaration of Independence is said to be written in an ink made from a mixture of iron gall and pokeberry juice.

In 1969, Tony Joe White wrote and recorded a song by the name of Poke Salad Annie, which was promptly picked up by Elvis Presley who sometimes played it in concert.

The version below features Tony Joe White and the great Johnny Cash. And how about them sideburns?!!


The Dog Learns to Wait


The impulse to eat or resource guard
is pretty strong, but somehow this dog has learned its place. A skunk has its own way of teaching NO.

The problem with skunks as dog instructors, is not that the spray does not work to push a dog off; it's that the dog is still rewarded when chasing almost anything else.In addition, skunk encounters are quite rare. What that means is that chasing an animal is almost always rewarded, or at least not discouraged, while the strong NO signal sent by a skunk is very rarely applied because 99.99 percent of the time the animal being chased is not a skunk.

If every animal a dog could chase was armored like a skunk or a porcupine, would dogs still chase? 

Or to put it another way, how often does a cow rest his head on an electric fence? 

Not All Dogs Are the Same?


Over at The Collared Scholar, Meagan Karnes has a very nice piece about the high cost of Pit Bull denial and the broken canine lives that too often follow:

I happened to choose a little roly poly pit bull pup with drive – and lots of it. At just 10 weeks old, this little heathen walked into my life and completely turned it upside down.

For a while I blamed myself. There were no bad dogs, only bad owners after all. And as I gazed upon the labs, the border collies, and the hounds who behaved like superstars in our group classes, I felt inadequate. I felt like a bad owner, watching my dog’s eyes bugging out of his head, alligator rolling at the end of his leash, trying desperately to get at any dog he saw.

He was friendly and overzealous at first, completely overstimulated in any new environment. But as he matured, he developed some more serious behaviors including a pretty hefty dose of dog aggression.

I felt fully responsible. And no matter how much help I sought, I couldn’t get a handle on his behavior.

Read the whole thing! Then, if you have time, read this piece, if for no other reason than to see the graphics.

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.  Maybe discount coupons could be a sweetener.
  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 these simple points. 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, breed and dog-activity clubs, and dog trainers.

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.

Fish on Friday

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chupacabra Hunting With Terriers


This is a picture of a fake Chupacabra. The dogs caught a REAL one!

The photo, above, is a not-very-good model of a Chupacabra. We sometimes hear of El Chupacabra, but it's very rare to know anyone who has actually seen one in the field, much less been lucky enough to bag one. But that is what the dogs and I did back in 2006, and I have the pictures to prove it.

But I am getting ahead of myself. What, you may ask, is a Chupacabra?

El Chupacabra is an animal that is known to inhabit rural areas of Mexico and parts of Central America. Its name, translated literally from the Portuguese and the Spanish, means "goat-sucker" for its habit of attacking and killing lifestock and draining them of all their blood.

It is not clear when the Mexican Chupacabra first came north to the United States, but by the mid 1990s, it was here. Mexican farmhands in such diverse places as Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, would periodically come across dead livestock in the fields with torn windpipes and every ounce of blood drained from their carcases. "El Chupacabra," the migrant workers would whisper. "It has come El Norte with us."

It is easy to write such things off, and, in truth I have always done so myself. Where are the pictures of El Chupacabra? Where does it live during the day? Why does it only come out at night? Where is the proof? There were never any answers. Until now.

On that Sunday, I was walking the edges of a cut-over corn field with the dogs in tow, when Mountain slid into a hole and opened up to a full bay. A few minutes later, this thing came barreling out of the ground.

Mountain followed it out of the hole and gave chase, and soon caught it by the rear leg. Pearl, still young and full of herself, piled into the scrap too. Both dogs had it above ground and on its back. I ran over and put my boot on the creature so it could not bite the dogs. But ... what the hell was it?

And then, I knew. It was El Chupacabra -- the infamous Mexican goat-sucking blood beast of legend.

By God I had one, and it was not going to get away. And it didn't.

Now there are some who may doubt my story, but I have appended pictures of the Chupacabra below, for anyone to see the horror of this thing.

Clearly, this is not an animal found on earth. This animal is the work of the Devil. This is El Chupacabra.




The Wee Ones Are Not the Wild Ones

A Great Hunter Never Stops



Moxie hunting frogs.

Dog Training the Leopard


Are Those Fantail Pouters?

Audrey Hepburn being Audrey Hepburn

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Traveling Man

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Devils Bush Is a Friend of Terrier Work


The multi-flora rose is starting to bloom.

I was at a conference a few years back, and it was hot inside the room. All the panelists had long since abandoned their suit coats, and I finally rolled up my shirt sleeves, exposing two arms lacerated by multiflora rose bushes the day before.

The gentleman next to me looked at my arms, raised his eye brows and asked: "You have a pet bobcat?"

Of course, the answer was no. It was just multi-flora rose bushes. There were two raccoons in a den underneath them, and a baying terrier down below as well.

I waved it off and made it sound like I had been planting out a lot of rose bushes in the back yard rather than hacking them down with a machete. You never know how a government lawyer from New York City will react if he finds you spend your weekends with dogs, raccoons and machetes. I have learned to let some mysteries be.

If you dig much in the eastern U.S., and you follow the dogs into hedges, as I do, then you are going to end up with a certain number of embedded thorns in your arms, hands, and shoulders. I even have one at the very back of my neck, right at the hairline, that seems to be permanent.

Some thorns work their way out, but a lot do not, and some end up going in so deep that skin closes over the top leaving a small hard knot on top. If the thorn went in at foot or hand, where the muscle moves a lot, it would work itself out quickly, or be pulled out quickly, but the ones that jab you in the forearms are more likely to remain if not found, and skin will eventually close over them if they are deep enough. You would think the body would eventually absorb them somehow, and maybe it does, but it takes months and months, and by then I have a few more thorns augered in, so the load seems to stay about the same.

Multiflora rose originated in Japan and was imported to Europe around 1862 to serve as a root stock for "rambling" roses.

Rambling roses became a craze with the creation of "Turners Crimson Rambler" in 1893, and this craze lasted for about 30 years until the modern, repeat blooming, large-flowered climbing roses were created.

The first multiflora roses to "go native" in the U.S. were rambling roses that originate during the rose craze of the very early 20th Century. In truth, these feral roses were not much of a problem.

The problem started in the 1930s
and extended into the early 1960s as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and various State highway departments promoted multiflora rose as a "cure-all" for many public and farm landscaping problems.

In truth, multiflora rose did seem to be a good solution
for a lot of difficult areas. Multiflora was cheap, easy to propogate from cuttings, and was rampant with vigor. Long, arching and pliable canes with thorns were perfect for shielding car lights from oncoming traffic, discouraging humans from entering fields or crossing roadways, and keeping cattle out of riparian areas.

Rose roots seemed to thrive in a large variety of soils, tolerated both drought and wet reasonably well, and they did a commendable job of stablizing creek banks and slowing erosion on slopes. Rose hips were also eaten by a wide variety of song birds and animals, providing a needed food source in winter.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and its various state analogues vigorously promoted multiflora rose as a low-cost alternative to barbed wire. Barbed wire had made its way East several generations earlier after first being established in the West.

Unlike western wire, which was typically strung from post to post, eastern wire was often strung from existing trees around the edges of woods, creeks and fields. In time, these the trees grew and absorbed the wire into their trunk. Embedded wire was difficult to remove and made the trees worthless as timber since wire and nails wrecked commercial saw blades and had the potential of turning a chainsaw into a lethal weapon.

Like so many good ideas, the promotion of multiflora rose has unintended consequences. A mature multiflora rose bush can put out half a million seeds a year, and these seeds are easily spread by birds and can live in the soil for 10 years or more.

Farmers found that getting rid of a rose hedge required ripping it out with a bulldozer and then plowing and mowing the areas multiple times a year for several years in order to destroy the existing root and seed stock in the soil.

The good news with multiflora rose is that has truly been a boon to wildlife. Rose hips are consumed by robins, grouse, cedar wax wings, pheasants, wild turkeys, fox, chipmunks, white-tailed deer, possums, coyotes, black bears, beavers, rabbits and raccoons. Thick rose breaks provide shelter for deer and bear, as well as groundhogs, possums, fox, rabbits, and raccoons. Rose hedges along stream banks have worked to keep cattle and horses out of riparian areas, resulting in less erosion, cleaner water, and excellent denning sites for raccoons.

Next time you find yourself digging a hole in the middle of a multiflora rose bush with broken barbed wire snaking along the ground, remember that these stabbing obstacles are, in a very real sense, a significant player in the vigorous return of wildlife we see in in the Eastern U.S. today. Though they may be the enemy of the moment, they are the long-term friends of terrier work.

A Life of Lives and Deaths

From Endangered Species to Pest in 50 Years


The Canada Goose went from near extinction to common pest in 50 years. This fellow was handing out in the marsh on Sunday all alone.  Geese can generally defend themselves against raccoons, fox, and possums and they have massive clutches of eggs and young.

On Guard from Predators



A metal cone predator guard is placed below a wood duck nest to protect it from this meso-predator.  The swamping ground where I sometimes run the dogs has hundreds of wood duck boxes like this, with predator guards, courtesy of the Izaak Walton League right up the road.

We do what we can to protect nest birds in this country, but the skyrocketing number of raccoons, possums, fox, and feral cats have an impact as can be seen from the predator guards on every blue bird nest.

Back in 2009 I noted that some state wildlife managers suggested baiting fox traps with feral cat

Researchers have found that areas with the most coyotes had the fewest cats and the most songbirds.

The reason for this is pretty simple: Coyotes prey on cats, raccoons and possums, all of which prey on songbirds and songbird nests. Feral and domestic cats alone kill over three billion birds and small mammals each year in the U.S.!

Me? Just Digging on the Dogs Officer.

Meet the Beetle


This is a male Hercules Beetle. Below is a female I found in my living room a few years back.

The Rat Race

Even if you win the Rat Race, you're still a Rat.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Empty Pots Make the Most Noise


David Brooks writes about Donald Trump in The New York Times this morning:

[Trump] is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Trump thought he’d be celebrated for firing James Comey. He thought his press coverage would grow wildly positive once he won the nomination. He is perpetually surprised because reality does not comport with his fantasies
.

I have written, in the past, about the Dunning-Kurger effect in the world of dogs:

The Dunning-Kruger Effect means the least competent and least experienced are often the most certain they are right, and that they are also quite certain they doing a better-than-average job at most of the tasks they are doing.

What's that mean for dogs?

Well, for one, it means the least competent breeders are often the ones who are most certain they are quite excellent.

Conversely, the most competent and most knowledgeable dog men and dog women are often filled with self-doubt to the point they may go a lifetime without breeding a litter.

And so it goes, round and round, in an almost never-ending circle of dysfunction.

Is it any wonder the world of dogs (and the world in general) is in such a mess?

And it does not stop at dog training and dog breeding, does it?

Dog Training the Lion




Mother Nature knows how to control prey drive.  "Give the lion a treat" will not save that zebra.  "Give that lion a Tap or a Zap" will save that porcupine.

What Kills Sheep?


The debate on fox hunting is about to start up again in the U.K. I am all for hunting, and for a simple and easily documentable reason: it is less cruel fox than what Mother Nature had in mind.

Let's start with the simple: fox are at biological maximum and so too are badger. Ask the Mammal Society.

Second, fox die in droves every year and HAVE to, because they whelp large numbers every year. Mange, distemper, round worms, cold, den collapse, and starvation account for massive mortality and none of that is fun or quick or painless or not cruel. Neither are the deaths from infected wounds gotten from barbed wire and fights, or vehicle impacts.

The quickest and best death for a fox is that offered by a hunter. Death by a bullet to the brain is how most suicides kill themselves, and no one I know would rather die without pain medication from an infection or starvation, or with broken bones in a water ditch. But killed by a pack of tigers? That would be pretty quick and, in the very rare occasion that a slow or sick fox is chopped by hounds above ground, that's the comparable scenario.

So fox hunting is LESS cruel than Mother Nature, death is inevitable, fox hunting is a huge economic driver, and as far as cruelty and animal welfare go, there is no argument against fox hunting.

Fox limitation can have other local benefits. For example, in small areas such as bird shoots or in areas where there are wild ground nesting birds needing protection, fox (and feral cat) extirpation is a positive good. Ditto in those rare instances where true free-range (not in tractor-cage) chickens are about.

And what about sheep? Fox have almost no impact on sheep.

One of the more interesting bits of almost-nonsense in the world of working terriers is the notion that red fox kill a lot of sheep. 

Can a fox which weighs 15 pounds, on average, kill a sheep that weighs 120 pounds or more?  No. 

Can it kill a lamb?  Not easily, especially as ewes tend to be quite protective.  I have been knocked on my ass by a sheep or two, and I can tell you that sheep are tougher than they look.

So what are we seeing when we see red fox with sheep parts?  Mostly, we are seeing fox with bit of already-dead scavenged lamb.  A fox eating an already dead lamb is doing no harm, no matter the emotional shock of seeing a dead lamb and the urge to blame the nearby fox for the situation.

What most folks miss is that sheep mortality is always jaw-dropping, in part due to the fact that lambs tend to be born wet, at the cusp of marginal weather, and lambs have coats with poor insulation value. Add in the fact that most sheep pastures offer no protection from wind or rain, that feed is often poor due to over-grazing, and that many breeds of sheep are genetically selected to have twins and triplets, and you have a great deal of sadness occurring on the hill, even when no predators at all exist, as has been demonstrated on coastal islands without predators.

As I noted back in 2008, in a post entitled Fox From a Shepherd's Point of View, fox have almost no impact on sheep and goat populations, while feral and loose dogs of all kind are major stock destroyers (as are coyote, wolf, and bears in certain parts of the U.S.)

Back in 2005, citing the research of fox biologist David MacDonald, I noted that foxes do almost no damage to sheep populations.

After spending countless hours observing fox in sheep country, often at night and through infra-red goggles, MacDonald concludes that fox are not very fond of mutton and that they do very little predation on live lambs. Given almost any kind of alternative food source -- rabbits, bird seed, worms, baby birds, fruit or roadkill -- a fox will give sheep a pass. When fox do eat sheep, they tend to focus on already-dead detritus -- sheep testicles that drop off into the field after castrating bands are applied (MacDonald notes that he often finds fox feces containing these same undigested rubber bands), after birth, and even sheep dung from young lambs -- the latter loaded with still-undigested milk products. MacDonald does not deny that fox may kill a few very young (and perhaps already fatally weak) sheep, but such attacks are so rare they have never been filmed and are statistically negligible. MacDonald notes that in the fell and upland regions, where fear of fox predation is highest, sheep mortality is often 25% with many lambs born starving due to over-grazing abetted by a government policy that subsidizes overly-dense sheep production. With ewes in poor feed, and lambs borne wet on cold and windy slopes without shelter, lamb mortality is very high without any fox participation at all. The fact that fox, on occasion, scavenge the already-dead does little harm to the living.

In a world where less than 1% of sheep are killed by fox, and 15-25% of all lambs in some areas are dying from exposure to weather, perhaps the solution is not to shoot more fox to preserve sheep, but to construct more turn out pens, sheds and hedges where lambs can tuck in to get out of the weather? 

The terrier and hound hunting world does not make this point, because to do so would be to admit that fox are not really the fierce lamb killers that they are made out to be. 

The animal rights world does not make this point because to do so would be to admit that ending fox hunting is actually a pretty small cause compared to ending sheep mortality from bad weather.

Vegans can organize protests and send cash-generating direct mail to oppose fox hunting but it's not nearly as lucrative or as fun to start a Kickstarter program to build 100,000 turn out sheds on private property.

And so the pantomime goes on, in which hounds men claim that fox are killing loads of sheep, and animal rights lunatics claim hounds are killing loads of fox.  Never mind that neither statement is actually true!

The Dogs Find Something New



Found this little fellow doing walk about. He was closed up tight as a box.