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Pigs, Domestic and Wild
Published on January 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about pigs, both domestic and wild.

Here's an excerpt:

"About nine years ago, a small pig was seen wandering around the streets near Round Lake and Mechanicville. It was October, and the foraging was slim. Despite searching through corn stubble in farm fields, the pig got hungry and was easily caught by a motorist, who lured her with a stick of celery.

My husband had always wanted a pet pig. Being more practical, I vetoed the concept; my husband doesn’t eat mammals and pigs don’t lay eggs or produce milk or wool, so I couldn’t see any reason to keep one.

'But pigs are so smart, and it would eat our scraps, and it’s as good as a rototiller if we let it root through the garden before we plant.' That was his argument. I was not swayed.

That is, until the lost pig showed up in Mechanicville. No one could find the owner. No one wanted her. And a colleague who was related to the Mechanicville dog catcher ended up temporarily hosting the pig in her backyard dog kennel, and naming her too: Tulip."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Baby Sloths!
Published on January 12, 2012 by Sara Foss

Courtesy of Grist comes this adorable video of baby sloths taking a bath at the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica.


Tuning In
Published on January 10, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the rewards of using all your senses to observe the natural world in her weekly column Greenpoint. 

Here's an excerpt:

I stepped out into the dark on the coldest morning of the season so far, and looked at the sky.

"It was around 5:30 and about 4 degrees. The big dog was already shivering, and the little dog had stayed inside, in bed. The sky was shiny black, like obsidian, and busy with stars. And then one shot across the sky.

'Nice, huh?' I asked the dog. 'We didn’t miss it.'

Tuesday night into Wednesday morning there was a big meteor shower. But with temperatures predicted to be near zero and general family exhaustion, I knew there was little chance of my getting anyone out of bed — myself included — at 3 a.m. for prime viewing.

But I had heard the showers would last until 6 a.m. and I was lucky. The dog and I stopped in the yard for a while, where there are no lights and a good northern view, and saw four big streaks before we took off for our walk. Even with the lights of passing cars and the narrower view of the sky as we walked down the hill toward the lake, we caught sight of three or four more."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Fighting About Pets
Published on January 10, 2012 by Sara Foss

According to a recent study, the average dog causes three fights a week, as owners argue over where it can sleep and who should take it for walks.

For some reason, I found this study absolutely hilarious. I don't remember having a lot of fights about the family dog growing up, but I can believe that a pet that demands constant care and attention could cause some friction.

I own two cats, and I'd be interested in seeing a study looking at whether cats also spark family fights. They can be fairly devious little creatures, and it wouldn't surprise me if they had a similar ability to cause strife and anxiety.


Beware the Circus
Published on January 4, 2012 by Sara Foss

The holidays gave me some time to catch up on magazine reading, and I finally finished up the November/December issue of Mother Jones. The highlight of the magazine, in my opinion, was an article, titled "The Cruelest Show on Earth," examining the way Ringling Bros. treats its elephants.

I wasn't that keen on reading the Mother Jones article, figuring it would just be more stuff I kind of already know, about how terrible it is to keep animals in captivity and make them perform for audiences. And since I eat meat and have been known to visit the occasional zoo, I sometimes feel a bit hypocritical when chastising others for their treatment of animals. Like, I'm sure I often eat chicken that was processed at some horrible factory farm. But I found it impossible to read the article and not feel outraged, because the treatment of the elephants is simply beyond the pale. And I think it's safe to say that I'll never go to a circus with elephants again in my life.

Anyway, click here to read the article.


Wetter, Warmer Weather
Published on December 13, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about all the wet weather we've been having lately.

Here's an excerpt:

"My friend Tom is convinced that 2011 has been the wettest year of his life, and he might not be too far off.

In Albany, where we measure all our weather, 2011 was on record, as of the end of November, as the fourth wettest year. (The top three were 1871, 1870 and 1850, according to the National Weather Service.)

But it’s raining as I write this, and the year’s not over yet.

In New York City, there’s some argument over whether 2011 or 1983 is the wettest in history, the argument being over whether the rain gauge in Central Park was functioning properly in 1983.

In Ohio and in New Jersey, 2011 surpassed all previous (recorded) years in terms of rainfall about a month ago. In our own backyard, we’re still seeing the effects of the massive flooding that came after Hurricanes Irene and Lee.

So we all know it’s wet. Really wet."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Oldest Dog Dies
Published on December 6, 2011 by Sara Foss

A friend of mine used to have a really old dog.

"How OLD is that dog?" people would ask.

This was a bit rude, I thought.

Although I often wondered the same thing myself.

The dog came to my friend late in life, and lived much longer than anyone expected. "I don't think she has much left," my friend Bruce remarked after a visit where the dog seemed particularly doddering. But the dog lived for at least four more years. One theory is that the arrival of a younger dog helped prolong her life. But eventually her time was up. As my dad once put it, dogs are kind of like balloons - you know it's not going to end well.

This week the world's oldest dog died in Japan at the age of 26. That's definitely older than my friend's dog, although not too much older than the other old dog my friend once owned, who lived to the ripe old age of 22.

I own two cats, and I'm expecting them both to live into their twenties. Or maybe forever!


The Plight of the Bees
Published on December 5, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley considers the plight of the bees.

Here's an excerpt:

"Last week the winter-loving boy and I spent some time doing yard cleanup, in hopeful anticipation of some ski-worthy snow. We try to get the lawn mowers, rakes and garden implements into the shed before we need to pull out our collection of snow shovels and cross-country skis.

We couldn’t help noticing the old beehives by the shed are listing to one side and showing signs of dry rot.

They’ve been empty a long time.

When my husband first moved up north from Florida, he brought his expertise as a beekeeper with him. Happy to leave his Southern worries about Africanized bees behind, he quickly set up bee yards in farm fields in the region, fencing off small corners of borrowed fields for a handful of honeybee hives and paying the farmers rent every fall with 5-pound jars of honey."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Overlook Mountain, December 4th
Published on December 4, 2011 by Sara Foss

Overlook Mountain is a nice little hike in Woodstock, N.Y. The trail is an old road, and it's pretty easy to ascend. At the top, you can explore the ruins of an old hotel destroyed by fire, and climb a fire tower.

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Carol of the Beasts
Published on November 29, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about animals and their fondness for the holidays, and what you can do to help them enjoy the holiday season.

Here's an excerpt:

"Our old beagle Buddy liked Christmas as much as any kid. In the days leading up to Christmas, he’d run around sniffing everything, begging for gingerbread, nosing out presents hidden in boxes or under beds and unwrapping anything under the tree.

After a few years he learned to wait, and on Christmas morning he’d be rewarded with something rolled up in a piece of tissue paper — usually a little red ball. The first year, he shredded his present within a few minutes and hid pieces of it around the house to find, with great joy and much bellowing, in later months.

After a few more years he learned to be more careful with his Christmas ball, carrying it around in his mouth from the living room to his bed to his dinner bowl. Sometime in the spring we’d find it, behind a radiator or under a dresser, wash it and save it for the next year. He probably got the same ball for the last five Christmases of his life.

Our replacement dogs have never been quite as crazy about Christmas as Buddy, just as our later flocks of hens have never been as festive as our first flock, who we are pretty sure loved the song 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing' more than most birds."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Prout's Neck, Maine, Thanksgiving Weekend
Published on November 29, 2011 by Sara Foss

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Who's The Boss?
Published on November 27, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my manipulative cats.

Here's an excerpt:

"My cats were both strays when I acquired them about 12 years ago, and I carefully set about erasing the outside world from their memory.

Restricted to my apartment, they gradually forgot about their life on the streets. Sometimes they would dart into the front hallway, but then a look of terror would cross their faces and they’d turn around and dart right back in again. This was, in my opinion, a pretty good arrangement: They were too domesticated to torment me by escaping.

When I moved into my current apartment, I decided to ease up on the cats a bit. I’m the only tenant; my landlord lives upstairs. During the warmer weather months, I began leaving the door to my living room open, which allowed my cats to roam around the hallway and hang out in the hall closet, if they so desired. Occasionally my cats encountered the upstairs cats, whose owner also permitted them to venture out into the hall, but nothing particularly worrisome happened. The whole situation seemed like a win-win: The cats expanded their territory, while I felt magnanimous and kind.

Then winter came."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Thankful for the Harvest
Published on November 21, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about Thanksgiving.

Here's an excerpt:

"It’s been pretty warm for November, warm enough that people are commenting on it. 'It’s just weird,' one friend said last week, adding she was anxious to pull out her cross- country skis.

A neighbor called a few weeks back to go hiking, saying, with a hint of desperation in his voice, 'this might be the last nice weekend.' We hiked our favorite mountain, with five kids between us, but that was two warm weekends ago now.

Despite the warmth, the harvest season is well over, and we’re already eating off our winter stores. Some of our butternut squashes took a little more frost than they should have, so we’ve been throwing one in the oven every night, eating it with dinner or putting it in freezer bags in the deep freeze for later use as a vegetable side dish or hearty soup.

Or for pumpkin pie, which the daughter promises to make herself this year for Thanksgiving."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Women More Likely to Suffer From Broken Hearts
Published on November 16, 2011 by Sara Foss

A study has found that women are more likely to suffer from "broken heart syndrome" than men. I didn't even know there was such a thing.

Here's an excerpt from the AP story:

"Females are seven to nine times more likely to suffer 'broken heart syndrome,' when sudden or prolonged stress like an emotional breakup or death causes overwhelming heart failure or heart attack-like symptoms, the first nationwide study of this finds. Usually patients recover with no lasting damage.

The classic case is 'a woman who has just lost her husband,' said Dr. Mariell Jessup, a University of Pennsylvania heart failure specialist who has treated many such cases.

Cyndy Bizon feared that was happening when her husband, Joel, suffered a massive heart attack in 2005. 'May God work through your hands,' the Maine woman told the surgeon as her husband was wheeled past her into the operating room. She later collapsed at a nurse's station from 'broken heart syndrome' and wound up in coronary care with him. Both survived."

Click here to read more.


Farm Life
Published on November 15, 2011 by Sara Foss

Old high school classmate Bailey Hale and his partner Thomas McCurdy have started blogging about their new farm, located about 30 miles from Albany in beautiful Schoharie County. Click here to check it out.


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