Friday, July 21, 2017

This is Excellent, In My Unbiased Opinion

Snake Trapping

We have a few Black Rat Snakes in and out of the yard, and I wish them well and many mice. The song birds lose a few eggs to them every year, and I have no doubt they get the occasional chipmunk or two, but they are always welcome. Less so for the Copperheads which we occasionally get. In truth Copperheads are not likely to kill a dog, even a small Jack Russell. The standard care is a dog-sized dose of benadryl (1 mg per pound of body weight, given 2-3 times a day), and there is not much else you can do but wait for the swelling to go down.

That said, you can try to remove snakes from around the house, and in locations where rattlesnakes are a real problem this seems to me to be good practice. Karen J. posted a link to the above video, which shows how to use a commercial minnow trap to catch small snakes. In Malaysia and the Philippines, they use a much larger net version placed in the drainage ditches of plantations to catch large pythons.

Terriers Not Bred for Cup Hunting

The Reverend John Russell (no one called him Jack) was old, broke, and without dogs when the nascent Kennel Club reached out to him in 1871. Would he judge the terriers at the first big show at the Crystal Palace? Flattered, Russell said yes, but what he saw in the ring created sufficient alarm that he advised others not to register their own dogs, noting of his own working terriers:

True terriers they were, but differing from the present show dogs as the wild eglantine differs from a garden rose.
Gerald Jones (Dan Russell) with the Rev. John Russell's horn and a model of his dog Tip. 

Arthur Heinemann,
who was born after Russell had given up hunting, and who the Kennel Club "Parson Russell Terrier" folks claim as their standard-bearer (and never mind if Heinemann hunted badger, not fox) also had a caution about looking to the Kennel Club for dogs or standards. Heinemann sneered at the "cup hunters" who did not own a shovel and had no ideas what the dogs were actually meant to do. He told Dan Russell (aka Gerald Jones):

We are very much opposed to the modern show terrier and his type. Once you begin to breed it for show type, you lose the working qualities upon which you pride those terriers. I have been, I might say, the protagonist of the terrier bred for sport as against the terrier bred for show. I have no interest in cup hunting.

Fish on Friday

Is That Dead Hooker I Smell?

I came out of the woods on Sunday to be greeted by a collection of Search and Rescue dogs doing scent training. They were teaching the dogs to search for human remains in the river. I was told I might want to get upwind of the sample container. Nice people, diverse looking dogs -- GSDs, small Labby dog, shepherds. They had never seen working terriers, and I had never smelled human remains. Good times!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Origins, Schisms, and the True Church of Work

For all practical purposes, the story of American terrier work begins in 1971 with Patricia Adams Lent, who founded the American Working Terrier Association to promote working terriers and dachshunds.

The American Working Terrier Association (AWTA) was, and is, a modest organization with about 100 members last I looked. It has no headquarters or paid staff, and produces a simple newsletter four times a year. Its web site has no information about actual hunting or wildlife, and is focused almost entirely on go-to-ground trials.

That said, AWTA is an important organization in the history of American working terriers, not only because it was the first "club" devoted to the sport, but also because Ms. Lent invented go-to-ground trials, and the basic set of rules governing them.

Since 1971, go-to-ground trials have served as a kind of "on ramp" for actual field work. The basic AWTA format has been widely copied, first by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (1976) and then by the American Kennel Club (1994).

The origin of the American go-to-ground tunnel can be found in the artificial fox earths first constructed in the UK in the 1920s, but which came into their own in the 1950s and 60s with the collapse of so many ancient rabbit warrens under the onslaught of myxomatosis.

Artificial earths are generally constructed of two parallel rows of brick stacked three bricks high and topped by overlapping slates, or out of 9-inch clay or concrete drainage pipe laid end-to-end. The result is a very spacious and dry fox earth. If sited within 200 feet of a water source (it does not have to be large), far from residences, and on the edge of fields and small woods, the chance of a fox taking up residence is excellent.

The first artificial fox earths were constructed in order to guarantee that a fox could be found on hunt day, and to encourage fox to run along known courses away from roadways. That said, they also found favor because they proved easy locations for a terrier to bolt a fox from. Even an overlarge dog could negotiate the straight or gently curving unobstructed nine-inch pipes of an artificial earth.

The go-to-ground tunnels devised by Patricia Adams Lent were constructed of wood instead of stone, brick or clay pipe, but were equally commodious, measuring 9 inches on each side with a bare dirt floor for drainage and traction.

From the beginning, AWTA's goal was to be inclusive. Scottish Terriers with enormous chests were encouraged to join AWTA, as were owners of West Highland Whites, Cairns, Norfolks, Norwiches, Border Terriers, Fox Terriers, Lakelands, Welsh Terriers, and Bedlingtons. All were welcome, with the simple goal of having a little fun with the dogs, and perhaps giving American Kennel Club terrier owners some small idea of what actual terrier work was about.

In AWTA trials, wooden den "liners" are sunk into a trench in the ground. The tunnels are up to 35 feet long with a series of right-angle turns, false dens and exits. The “quarry” at the end of the tunnel is a pair of "feeder" lab rats safely protected behind wooden bars and wire mesh. The rats are not only not harmed, but after 100 years of breeding for docility, some lab rats have been know to go to sleep!

Without a doubt, go-to-ground trials have been a huge hit with American terrier owners. The interior dimensions of the den liners -- 81 inches square -- means even over-large terriers are able to negotiate them with ease. With nothing but a caged rat to face as "quarry," the safety of dogs is guaranteed, and since the dogs only have to bay or dig at the quarry for 90-seconds, most dogs end up qualifying for at least an entry-level certificate or ribbon.

Though the die-hard hunter may sneer, the increasing popularity of go-to-ground terrier trials is a welcome thing, for it has brought more people a little closer to real terrier work.

Owners of dogs that do well in go-to-ground trials should take pride in their dog’s achievements. Like all sports that emulate real work (lumber jack contests, bird dog trials, and sheep dog trials, to name a few), a go-to-ground trial is both harder and easier than its real-world cousin.

A dog that will exit a 30-foot tunnel backwards in just 90 seconds and on a single command (a requirement for earning an AKC Senior Earthdog certificate) is a dog that has been trained to a fairly high degree of proficiency.

Having said that, it should be stressed that a go-to-ground trial has little relationship to true hunting. In the field dogs are not rewarded for speed. In fact, if a hunt terrier were to charge down a real earth like it were a go-to-ground tunnel it would quickly run into quarry capable of inflicting real damage.

In addition, in a real hunting situation a dog must do a great deal more than “work” the quarry for 90 seconds! A good working dog will stick to the task for as long as it can hear people moving about overhead – whether that is 15 minutes or three hours.

And nose?  There is not much of a test for that at an AWTA trial!

The real division street between go-to-ground and earthwork, however, is size. And the real problem with a go-to-ground trial is not that it teaches a dog to go too fast down a tunnel (dogs generally understand the difference between fake liners and real earth), but that it suggests to terrier owners that any dog that can go down a cavernous go-to-ground tunnel is a dog “suitable for work.”

To its credit, the American Working Terrier Association recognizes the difference between a go-to-ground tunnel and real earth work, and implicitly underscores this difference in its rules for earning a Working Certificate.

AWTA rules note that a terrier or dachshund can earn a working certificate on woodchuck, fox, raccoon, badger, or an “aggressive possum” found in a natural earth, but that “this does not include work in a drain or otherwise man-made earth.”

In short, a drain is not a close proxy for a natural earth, and terriers that are too large to work a natural earth do not meet the requirements of a working terrier.

The American Working Terrier Association issues Certificates of Gameness to dogs qualifying at their artificial den trials. Working Certificates are awarded to dogs that work groundhog, fox, raccoon, possum, or badger in a natural den provided that at least one AWTA member is there as a witness. AWTA also issues a Hunting Certificate to a dog that hunts regularly over a period of a year.
Eddie Chapman and Ailsa Crawford

Six years after the American Working Terrier Association was created, Mrs. Ailsa Crawford, one of the first Jack Russell Terrier breeders in the U.S., founded the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA)

Ms. Crawford and the early founders of the Jack Russell Terrier Club put a lot of thought into structuring the JRTCA so that work remained front and center. Towards that end, the club decided that its highest award -- the "bronze medallion" -- would not go to show dogs, but to working dogs that had demonstrated their ability in the field by working at least three of six types of American quarry -- red fox, Gray fox, raccoon, groundhog, possum, and badger -- in front of a JRTCA-certified field judge.

In the show ring the JRTCA decided to ban professional handlers as it was thought this would keep the shows fun and less important than the essential element of work.

Instead of mandating the kind of narrow conformation ranges demanded by the Kennel Club for their terrier breeds, the JRTCA divided the diverse world of the Jack Russell Terrier into three coat types (smooth, broken and rough), and two sizes (10 inches tall to 12.5 inches tall, and 12.5 inches tall to 15 inches tall).

"Different horses for different courses" became a watch word, with overt recognition that the world of working terriers required dogs able to work different quarry in different earths, and in different climates.

Unlike the Kennel Club, the JRTCA also decided to keep their registry an "open" registry so that new blood might be infused at times. At the same time, the Club discouraged inbreeding and eventually restricted line breeding to a set percentage.

To balance off an open-registry with the desire to keep Jack Russell-type dogs looking like Jack Russells, the JRTCA decided not to allow dogs to be registered at birth or to register entire litters. Instead, each dog would be photographed from each side and the front, and admitted to the registry on their own merit, and as an adult. In addition, each dog had to be measured for height and chest span.

What this meant is that at the time of registration, the height and chest measurement of an adult dog could be recorded. Over time, both height and chest size could be tracked through pedigrees -- an essential element of breeding correctly-sized working terriers.

The JRTCA was not shy about their rationale for these rules: they openly and emphatically opposed Kennel Club registration, maintaining that time had show that dogs brought into the Kennel Club quickly grew too big and often lost other essential working attributes such as nose, voice, and prey drive.

Today the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is the largest Jack Russell Terrier club and registry in the world, and its Annual National Trial attracts approximately 1,200 Jack Russell terriers from all over the U.S. and Canada.

The JRTCA's small professional staff cranks out a solid bi-monthly magazine that is 80-100 pages long, holds a regular schedule of dog shows, and sells deben locator collars, fox nets, and a host of other items ranging from hats and jackets to coffee cups.

The web site of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is packed with well-presented information.

Perhaps the most important service work of the JRTCA are the ads that the Club routinely runs in all-breed publications warning people that Jack Russell Terriers are not a dog for everyone, are primarily a hunting dog, and are not like the cute dogs seen on TV.

Sometime in the last 1990s, following the appearance of Jack Russell Terriers in a host of TV and Hollywood productions ranging from "Wishbone" and "Frasier" to "My Dog Skip" and "The Mask," the American Kennel Club decided to add the Jack Russell Terrier to its roles.

As they had previously done with the Border Collie, the AKC ignored the strong opposition of the large existing breed club, and quietly assembled a new club of show-ring breeders to serve as their stalking horse.

The "Jack Russell Terrier Breeders Association" (later called the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America, and now called the "Parson Russell Terrier Association of America") petitioned for the admission of the Jack Russell Terrier into the Kennel Club and, despite the objections of the JRTCA, the breed was admitted in January of 2001.

The admission of the Jack Russell Terrier into the American Kennel Club was a contentious affair, with the JRTCA standing firm on its long-held rule that no dog could be dual-registered.

What this meant is that breeders had to chose whether to remain in the JRTCA or to "get in early" with the AKC before they closed their registry.

Some of the breeders that chose the AKC did so because they thought they could then sell their puppies for more money, others were eager to be the "big fish in a small pond" at the beginning of a new AKC breed registry. Still others were anxious to attend more dog shows,.

Whatever the reason, the Kennel Club required that the Jack Russell Terrier breed description be narrower than that of the JRTCA. The goal of a Kennel Club breed description is to craft a narrow "standard" -- the wide variance in size, coat, and look allowed and encouraged in the world of working terriers would not do.

The American Kennel Club breed standard stipulated that an AKC Jack Russell terrier could not be under 12 inches in height nor over 15 inches in height, and further stipulated that "ideal" dog was 14 inches tall and the ideal bitch was 13" tall.

Ironically, this breed description effectively eliminated about 40% of all the American dogs that had actually worked red fox in the U.S.

More importantly, this narrow standard eliminated the small dogs necessary to "size down" a breed -- something absolutely necessary in order to keep working terriers small enough to work.

Of course the American Kennel Club has never been interested in working terriers and the breed club they created has shown no interest in work either.

Under continuing pressure from the working Jack Russell Terrier community in England and the U.S., the British and American Kennel Clubs decided to jettison the "Jack Russell Terrier" name to more easily identify the non-working show ring dog they favored.

Now called the "Parson Russell Terrier," the AKC dog is quickly getting too big in the chest to work -- though not many dogs are actually taken out into the field to try.  For more on the convolunted and contrived history here, see: A Wrench That Doesn't Fit
After just three years in the Kennel Club, the "Parson Russell Terrier Club" tried to modify the show ring standard so that the dog no longer had to be spanned. In fact, many Kennel Club judges do not know how to span a terrier and many do not do it as a consequence.

In 2001, the United Kennel Club started an "earth work" program modeled after that of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. The UKC working terrier program remained small, with relatively few judges, it did not grow rapidly, and it has now been consigned to the scrap heap of history since it did not turn a quick and ready profit (the UKC is for-profit and privately held by a single individual).

In 2005, The Kennel Club in the UK added a bit more confusion to the story by changing the standard for the dog they were now calling the Parson Russell Terrier, extending it to encompass dogs ranging from 10 to 15 inches tall at the shoulders.

The American Kennel Club did not follow the U.K Kennel Club in changing the standard, instead choosing, in 2012,  to create another breed of dog called the "Russell Terrier" which they said "originated" in the United Kingdom, but which was "developed" in Australia -- a country which John Russell never so much as visited, which had no Jack Russells at all until the very late 1960s, and where the dog in question remains a pet and show dog that never sees a moment's work. The AKC "Russell terrier" standard calls for a dog standing 10-12 inches tall at the shoulder. As with the AKC Parson Russell terrier, almost no dogs are ever found in the field.

How to sort it all out then?

I think simplicity is best. In my opinion, there are only two types of terriers in the world: those that work, and those that don't. The white ones that work are called Jack Russell Terriers, and they are called that out of respect for the working standard that the Reverend John Russell himself honored throughout his life. Many of these white-bodied working terriers are not registered, but neither were any of the Reverend's own dogs.

What are we to make of the Kennel Club dogs? Simple: None of them are Jack Russell terriers.

They are not Jack Russells in name, nor are they Jack Russell terriers in terms of performing regular honest work.

They are simply another white terrier being combed out, powdered, and fussed over by people chasing ribbon

I Bless the Rains Down in Africa

Toto was a terrier who exposed chicanery and flim-flammery.

It's all connected

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

There Comes a Time For All Things

I have made my peace with death, and most people have not.

All I can tell you is that there is more to living than longevity, and sometimes the best gift we can give those we love is a dignified end that is free of pain, confusion and fear.

And so now we come to the old dog, the ancient hound who now lies arthritic and deaf.

What do we do here? How will we know when to say when?

There is no clear answer, other than to keep your eyes open.

If the dog refuses water, it is time.

If an old male dog has blood in its urine, it is time.

If a dog cannot stand on its own due to failing joints, it is time.

Do not let the dog live in pain.

Recognize that dogs are natural stoics, and what looks like a little pain may be a great deal more than that.

Which brings me to the most important point: Be early, not late.

A week early, and not much is lost; your much-loved dog slides off to sleep still free of anxiety, pain, and fear. It is a gentle thing, I assure you.

A week late, however, and you have needlessly tortured your best friend because you were unwilling to face the inevitable.

In the end, it is your job to stand for the dog, and to put the dog first.

This is your last duty.

Don’t fail him now.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Few Notes on a Modest Predator

I have dug on fox, measured them, released them, and photographed them.  These two pictures are from my yard last night. Here's the short story as far as size and food: this is a very small predator.

Fox mostly eat mice, but really will kill your free-range chickens and ducks if you leave them out at night or fail to maintain a fox-wire surrounded coop (not chicken wire, fox wire!).

Fox will generally ignore a cat, cannot kill a sheep, and outside of mice, they mostly live on scavenged berries, bird seed, roadkill, frogs, snakes, and the occasional bird (they are called a cat-like canid for a reason).

Fox have a chest size of about 14 inches or less, and larger weight fox tend to be longer, but not much bigger in the chest.

A dog that has a 14 inch chest will be about two inches shorter in stature than a fox, which is mostly leg, with a bone structure closer to that of a bird than that of a dog.  Look for a small-chested 12 inch tall terrier (or less) and you will never regret it.

The far-and-away biggest killer of fox is disease (distemper, mange); parasites (roundworm, hookworm, heartworm); exposure, flood, and respiratory illness (as kits); starvation; and happenstance (ripped by barbed wire, caught in brambles, accidental poisoning from antifreeze or rat bait). Encounters with farm dogs prune of some fox, and vehicle impact kills many others. Trappers and hunters have almost no impact on fox numbers at the national level.

Man as Terrier Down Under

Watch This for the Surprise

Meanwhile, in Russia...

The bear actually looks like it's having a good time.

Trust me -- if a bear is riding in your motorcycle, that bear is trained, loved, and well-managed. Should bears be in the wild? Sure. How many acres of the wild will you be buying today? How much have you ever bought? How much have you donated to conservation? Want to put your money into habitat for bears? Great! I have a terrific organization that will accept your dollars for that cause. Mention my name and they will throw in a T-shirt for every $5,000 contribution.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Future is Coming, But I Look to the Past

I found this Chevy electric Bolt getting charged at one of the two new charging stations that were recently put into my 40-year old office building; proof positive that if you put down food and water, it will attract wildlife.

The Chevy Volt runs on a lithium-ion battery, which will be recycled at end of life. Though lithium (a very common element) fetches very little, other components in lithium-ion batteries, such as nickel and cobalt, make the batteries far too valuable to send to the landfill.

Most batteries coming out of cars, however, will not be recycled -- at least initially. Instead, they will have a secondary 10-year life as home energy storage units coupled to rooftop photo-voltaic solar panels. Just two car batteries could power all of the needs of a typical home.

By the time my hybrid C-Max car is ready for the scrap heap, all-electric driverless cars may be the norm, at which point I will get a 1946 Chevy "Waterfall" truck.  How cool a dog vehicle would this be?

Box Turtle and Ancient Guardian

The second box turtle of the day. The tree behind it is in one of three or four very large White Oaks that I believe once lined a farm road that has been been swallowed by the forest. One of these giants has collapsed since I was last here, its dried leaves still on the branches, the trunk an enormous thing with perhaps some still-good wood inside.  It would be hard to get the wood out, but it would make an incredible table.

Mushroom Hunting

Moxie slides into a sette topped by Crown-tipped Coral Fungus growing out of dead wood. It's edible, but so is a lot of stuff in the forest if you know what's what. It's amazing that smart people starve in the forest, while dumb animals get fat.

Below, Misto is happy in the field with another large summer mushroom at her feet.  Most mushrooms fruit in fall after a heavy rain, but there are spring and summer mushrooms too.

The Architecture of Burrows

From a post on the architecture of burrows:

Rocks, roots and barbed wire at the entrance:
This is so common that it is clearly a planned design feature. It is not uncommon to find dens exiting inside a stump or hollow tree, or to have a strand or two of barbed wire running along the lip. Groundhog dens frequently start on one side of a barbed wire fence and exit out another. If there is an abandoned vehicle on the edge of a farm, a groundhog will invariably makes its home under the chassis -- a nice shelter from the rain, but also from predators who will have to slow down to a crawl to avoid beaning themselves on the I-beam and suspension. Hard structures not only makes digging out more difficult, it makes a mad dash at the den hole a dangerous and maladaptive strategy for large predators. In addition to hard structures at den entrances and exits, there are "soft structures" such as thickets of multi-flora rose, bramble, poison ivy, and thick wild grape vine.

Hard Rock Mining With Wildlife and Dogs

This groundhog was a bit of a rock miner. When I repaired the sette, after the dig, I used a few of these small stones to cover the crack between the logs before I piled the dirt on top. Good as new!

A Nation Groaning With Wildlife

As I loading up yesterday morning, I looked down the hill of my driveway, and there was a red fox lying down in the cul de sac like he was in a perfect down-stay. He was watching me and the terriers up top. The dogs did not see him -- they were too focused on me.

As I stopped to get gas, we passed these three deer at the entrance to the CIA as they waited to cross the road. A real family group!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

First Box Turtle of the Day

A forest full of box turtles is too rare a thing these days.

A Forest Loaded With Spider Webs

The Wee Ones Between Holes

Tongs and Snares Allow Wildlife to Be Moved

Badger Tongs are an ancient way of dealing with angry badgers at the end of a dig, and though they look primitive, it's worth remembering that they are actually a way of  moving a badger rather than using a gun or poison to kill it.

Here in the U.S., we use two slightly different tools.

Some years back, Bill Boatman invented "raccoon tongs" made of soft steel and with a cantered locking handle. Much shorter and lighter than the very long-handled iron badger tongs used in Europe, these still weigh more than the solo terrier digger wants, or needs, to carry.

My own pair of raccoon tongs never leaves the garage any more, and with the death of Bill Boatman and the demise of the Boatman Catalog, they are now a bit of history.

I never go out into the field hunting with the dogs without a lightweight pole snare.  I tell how to make those here.  These things weigh less than tongs, and allow the creature to be moved and released with ease.  This raccoon, pulled from a cistern next to a house, was released unharmed.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Copperhead on the Driveway

Last night let the dogs out for their last pee before bed, and Misto alerted on something in a dark corner by the water tap. I figured it was a toad until I heard the soft rattle of the tail. I shooed the dogs back, and made them do a "down," scooped them up, and crated them inside. I then moved this FAT copperhead into a deep pail with the help of an old pair of coon tongs in the garage, and put a bigger pot over the top with a couple of bricks on top.

This morning I slid the snake into a bag and transported him to a small patch of woods . He'll be fine, but he's too venomous to be around the wee ones. Copperheads are not rattlers, but they vibrate their tails enough that, if you are familiar with snakes, you know what the sound means.

Copperheads top out at about 3 feet in length -- about half the length of a black snake -- but they pack a punch. Though it's unlikely the dogs would be killed by a  bite, the swelling would be considerable and there might be some tissue loss at the strike point.  There is not much a veterinarian can do for a copperhead bite, other than bill you.  The standard remedy is to put the dog on a low dose of Benadryl, make sure it has plenty of water, and let it rest until the swelling goes down.

First Gas Station of the New Era

I work in a 40-year old building in Washington, D.C., and we are hardly "cutting edge". And yet, two new electric car charging stations have appeared in the building.

This is akin to the first gas station in town. Sure it's still surrounded by horses and carts, but the future is coming!

Friday, July 14, 2017

An Inventory of Working Terriers

Back in 2007, this web site and blog did a survey of over 355 American working terriers and determined that their average size was just over 12 inches tall.

Of the workers surveyed, 200 were bitches and 155 dogs were male dogs -- a skew towards females due to the fact that getting a really small male working terrier was relatively hard to do. Of all the working dogs counted, only 37 males were 12 inches tall or smaller.

The survey, in and of itself, was a useful thing as it helped identify working terriers in the U.S. and flagged the sparsity of small working males to which female dogs could be bred to.

Because time and health has taken many of the dogs from a decade ago, I am redoing the survey but opening it up to include European dogs in recognition that travel has never been cheaper, and that different countries, geographies, and quarry may yield different results, which in and of itself may give us interesting and perhaps useful information.

Thanks to the marvelous nature of the internet, collecting data and information has never been easier.  A simple online form can be found here, and I encourage folks to add the working dogs in their kennels, as it's a small way of helping to preserve and protect working terriers for generations to come, while noting the accomplishments of individual dogs, and helping establish the names of kennels that are breeding genuine working dogs.

The new form allows uploading of pictures, and I have tried to collect a few more pieces of information (age of dog, chest size).

Data, without any contact information, will be aggregated and reported out when compiled and the survey has been closed (a month or two from now).

New Breed for the AKC?

The Secret to Life

Electric All Terrain 2-Wheeler

I am enthralled with where the world is RAPIDLY moving in the transportation arena.

Lithium Cycles has brought down the price of its all-terrain electric bike to $995. This is a rugged cruiser with fat tires, a comfy seat, and a removable battery pack.  It gets 20 miles at 18 mph, and there's a version that get 40 miles at 20 mph.

Want to tour the farm with terriers and tools? Need to go down a long and tiny trail at first light in order to photograph a waterfall at the end of the trail? Want to check fence lines? This might be the ticket.  

Fish on Friday

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Throw Back Thursday

This was filmed in 1934, but it was not terribly different in 1967 when I first landed in Morocco as a young boy. The voice-over is dated and hyped, but most of what you see here was the country of my youth, albeit one we considered normal and not exotic, romantic, or mysterious.

A Working Terrier Sperm Bank?

Time hunts us all, and it hunts the working terrier too, as well as its gene pool.

Eddie Chapman was a great believer in the value of small working terriers, and he was also an advocate of "breeding uphill," or having a smaller male dog cover a slightly larger bitch to avoid whelping problems.

Because small male working terriers are rare, and because they are of great value to the working terrier world, more needs to be done to preserve the very best seed from these dogs for generations to come. Fifty years past, it was not possible, but with modern crowd-sourcing for funds, I think this could be done. The farm world has certainly proven the technology.

What do you think? Is there a way to make the best healthy small working dogs immortal, or at least to bring them back so they re-fortify and stamp news generations going forward?

Coffee and Provocation

This Is How Big Oil Will Die
With the rise of solar cells and electric cars and home batteries, the Keystone XL pipeline will be sold for scrap.

Vicious Monkey Bastards
Thousands of wild monkeys occupy the federally-controlled Morgan Island in northern Beaufort County, South Carolina. They will "steal your lunch, ride your mules, eat your corn and kill your hunting dogs."

Coffee as Health Care
Scientists have found that people who drink coffee are associated with a lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease, and that the health benefits occur with or without caffeine in the coffee. More information here.

My Uber Driver is an R2D2 Unit
Self-driving taxis are being tested this year in Pittsburgh, Phoenix, and Boston, as well as Singapore, Dubai, and Wuzhen, China. When Self-driving vehicles are combined with the capital savings from the improved lifetime of electric vehicles, the cost of electric self-driving cars will be so low it will be cheaper to hail a ride than to drive the car you already own. This is how big oil will die.

They Need to Turn That Stuff Into Diamonds
Today, over half of coal is being mined by companies in some form of bankruptcy.

Foreign Goats Stealing Union Jobs
AFSCME is mad that Nubian goats are stealing jobs from their workers at Western Michigan University. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has filed a grievance complaint against the university, claiming that hiring a team of goats to remove poison ivy is unfair to union members.

Coming and Goings With Central Park Wildlife

From The New York Times of 2003:

Central Park is New York's Twilight Zone -- and not just at dusk. Noirish things happen there. A dog can be murdered by a swan. When Donna Karan's Jack Russell terrier, Petey, swam too close to a nest on the lake island three years ago, the panicked mother swan forced the dog's head underwater until he drowned. (The swan and her mate both died last month, one of old age, the other, apparently, of heartbreak.)

''Central Park has a strange edge because New York has a strange edge,'' said Kenneth T. Jackson, president of the New-York Historical Society.

Henry J. Stern, who led the Parks Department from 1983 to 1990 and from 1994 to 2002, had just taken over when torrential rains flooded the sea lion pool at the zoo. ''The sea lions took off and were making their way to Fifth Avenue when the keepers caught them,'' he said.

But did a sea lion really once rise from its pool with a gun in its teeth, as the New Yorker writer Eugene Kinkead wrote in his book ''Central Park'' (1990)? Mr. Stern and a predecessor, Gordon J. Davis, can't recall that, but Mr. Davis, who served from 1978 to 1983, was there when two chimpanzees broke out to lead police emergency units on a merry chase. ''Unless you deal with loose chimps, you have no idea how strong they are,'' said Mr. Davis, who afterward laid down the law: ''Either we get stronger locks or dumber chimps.''

A gray wolf once escaped from a kennel and found refuge in the park. Coyotes have been caught there. Two years ago the myth of an alligator in Central Park took form when a two-foot caiman was pulled from the Harlem Meer. Jellyfish have been found in the sailboat pond. People secretly plant personal shrubs in the park -- and bury small pets there.

''It's pretty harmless,'' Mr. Stern said.

The park's most ubiquitous mammal is the Norway rat, impervious to all eradication schemes, including the construction of owl houses to attract the birds to prey on the rats. The owls didn't give a hoot.

In 2001 a serial poisoner attacked pigeons at the northern end of the park. The Parks Department issued leaflets calling on the perpetrator to stop, and he or she did. Old trees in the park are lovingly trussed up. ''People have canes and walkers,'' Mr. Stern said. ''Why not cables for the trees to see them through their senior years?''

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Happy 200th Birthday to Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau was born on this day in 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 44 in 1862.

Thoreau was a bit of a fraud, as well as an economic basket case. He nearly starved, bought almost all his food in town (which he visited often), and he was never in the wilderness at all -- he was camping in a borrowed hut at the edge of town!

The 1850 census shows the 33-year old Thoreau living with his parents at their home.

David Henry Thoreau (his real name) worked for most of his life for his father in a pencil factory, apparently being unable to hold a job anywhere else.  He moved to Walden Woods the year after he and a friend accidentally burned 300 acres of it to the ground.

Thoreau operated out of romantic theory rather than practical reality, and he was emotionally volatile and not too intellectually stable.  Not terribly good-looking he appears to have lived an asexual life, producing a book that is sometimes quoted, and frequently mooned over, but almost never actually read.

In Walden, Thoreau spouts off about fish and woodchucks, hunters, trappers, and woodchoppers, but there is never a sense he actually knows anything about any of it, because he almost certainly did not.

His was a cotton-candy mind -- full of bright words, but without much thought, substance, or self-discipline behind them.

But have I quoted Thoreau before?  Oh yes!  He wrote some beautiful stuff, if only we could understand what it meant.

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."

Who Knew Dingoes Could Climb Fences?

Killing It at Amazon

So you have pests and you think you need a terrier?
No, you probably don't.  

What you need to do is clean up your barn and outbuildings, remove food and water sources, rip the dens and fill them in with liquid manure which will lock up hard, mow neighborhood grass and vegetation as flat as a putting green, and then gas and gas bomb every den that you can find.

After you have lifted up the stacks of boards and buried the ripped and rotted feed bags, and burned that stack of moldy hay, follow up with a regime of poison bait stations in plastic boxes, switching bait types every 3 months.

Don't misunderstand me: I love ratting and ratting terriers, but if you have a rat problem and don't already have the dogs and a 15-year commitment to care for the dogs, which involves feeding them, socializing them, training them, and providing them with veterinary care, don't pick up a permanent liability to solve a temporary problem.

What you need to kill on the farm is as close by as a farm store or catalog, and even Amazon is very helpful if you look up exterminator or pest control: 

Manning UE-12 Underground Exterminator
Hook your car exhaust up to a garden house and kill groundhogs and rats around your barn. Also works as a suicide system, I am sure. :: $17.52

Gopher X Pest Control and Extermination
This looks to be a serious bit of equipment for burrowing rodent extermination.  A ridiculous price for a small engine, though :: $1,746.90

Giant Destroyer Gas Bomb
Gopher, Mole and Rat Killer - Pack of 2 4-packs (8 total) :: $17.20