IT’S SOOO COLD AND THE BIRDS WERE HUNGRY! – Marilyn Armstrong

The meteorologists said it was going to get super cold and it got super cold! I woke up early this morning. My back and I were having an unfortunate relationship. There was no point in fighting to sleep anymore.

I wasn’t going to sleep. I couldn’t find any comfortable position, so I gave up and got up.

It wasn’t all bad, though.

Our frozen woods

The early birds were up — the ones I usually miss because I’m asleep when they are around.

A Junco and the Cardinal

I finally got pictures of the Cardinal. I’ve seen him often but hadn’t gotten any recent shots of him. Cardinals seem to be early feeders and they move around a lot. He is easy to see, though — the brightest, reddest bird in New England!

Air battle – two juncos fighting over the feeder. Why when there’s more than enough room for both?
One more little battle. After that, they settled down. I think the boys don’t like each other. They are okay with other birds, not other male Juncos.

There were also a bunch of lady Cardinals lurking around, but they were too shy to come to the feeder and though they settled briefly on the railing, I couldn’t get them in focus fast enough. They are, in their own way, as pretty as the scarlet males. Bright green with a red tail and other markings. Otherwise, they look identical to their more loudly dressed boyfriends.

Cardinals are hard to miss in the winter!
Chickadee coming in for a landing!

Meanwhile, every branch in my woods was covered by a thin, shiny layer of ice. The woods were as shiny as a diamond. If I went outside to shoot it (and I’d probably wind up with frostbite as a result AND all the birds would fly away), the pictures would be better. I had to settle from shots through the glass, but I think you can see the gleaming branches.

Another bright red boy! You’ll never see two red ones together. They are very territorial and if they stray into the other one’s area, they fight in the air, like WW I fighter planes.
Shining like diamonds

Lots of shots of birds today. They were quite feisty about who got the feeder this morning, but they settled down after a while.

DOG DISCRIMINATION – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The TSA uses about 1200 dogs at airports to screen passengers and baggage. These dogs are from seven breeds, two of which have pointy ears, including German Shepherds. But four out of five of the recent additions to the canine corps have droopy ears. Why?

Because the TSA decided, purely anecdotally, that people generally view floppy-eared dogs as more docile and friendly and pointy-eared dogs as more aggressive.

Allegedly, floppy-eared dogs don’t scare children but the pointy-eared dogs do.

Floppy-eared Golden Retriever

There is some research that supports the idea that people view pointy-eared dogs as more intimidating. This is a totally unsupported prejudice and it’s unfair to dogs because many dogs with pointy ears have had their naturally floppy ears cropped as puppies. Others have been genetically engineered by breeders to look that way.

Let’s be clear – pointy ears do not indicate an aggressive or dominant temperament. Ear configuration has no relationship to a dog’s disposition. This fear of pointy-eared dogs has been called ‘canine racism.’

Pointy-eared German Shepard at airport

I know a lot about doggie discrimination.

My daughter, Sarah, works with a Pit Bull rescue group in LA called Angel City Pit Bulls. One of their missions is to fight breed discrimination, like breed specific legislation which prohibits Pits from certain buildings and even certain cities. London had a Pit Bull ban and Montreal is trying to enact one. This forces people to choose between living where they want and giving up their beloved pet or finding somewhere else to live with their dog.

Pit Bulls are the canine ‘bad guys’ du jour. In the past, German Shepherds were shunned as aggressive and dangerous but now are used as companions and seeing-eye dogs. Then Rottweilers became the ‘bad dog’ du jour — and they don’t even have pointy ears!

Rottweiler

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Pit Bulls were used as the ‘nanny’ dog – to protect children and be their early companions. They were considered the ideal family pet and many family photos from the period include young children with their Pit Bulls.

Old photo of Pit Bull with his child

What’s even more galling about Pit Bull discrimination is that ‘Pit Bull’ isn’t even a legitimate breed. It’s an umbrella label that encompasses dogs from at least four different breeds, including Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bulldog.

In shelters, dogs are labeled ‘Pit Bull’ if someone thinks they have some Pit Bull in them. The designation is totally arbitrary and subjective. And there are more Pits in shelters than any other breed and they are euthanized at a higher rate than any other breed.

Modern Pit and baby

To add insult to injury, the breeds that make up the faux category ‘Pit Bull’, are smack in the middle of the ratings for aggressiveness by breed. They are rated between Labs and Golden Retrievers! Clearly, these dogs are nowhere near being the most aggressive dogs.

In fact, the two most aggressive breeds are Chihuahuas and Dachshunds. But no one lodges complaints when attacked by a Chihuahua, probably because it would be embarrassing.

Sweet-faced Pit Bull

The most dominant traits in Pit Bull breeds are their gentleness and sweetness, their friendliness and their desire to please their humans. They got a bad reputation decades ago when dog fight promoters started training Pit Bulls to fight.

Remember, any dog can be trained to be aggressive and fight. And Pits are especially trainable because of their desire to please. Many Pits who have been rescued from dog fighting rings have been successfully rehabilitated and have been adopted as family pets – even after being trained to be aggressive.

So there is no basis for the widespread perception that Pit Bulls are more dangerous than other breeds. There is also no basis for the perception that pointy-eared dogs should be feared more than floppy eared dogs.

People seem to need to discriminate. They discriminate against people and dogs. We should fight prejudice and discrimination wherever we find it, even when it’s dogs. Mostly, dogs are nicer than people anyway.

Support dogs!

THE DAIRY FARM AROUND THE BLOCK – Marilyn Armstrong

As 2019’s first major winter storm closes in, memories of summer seemed in order, not to mention a recipe for one great and classic cake.


Garry wanted pound cake for which I needed eggs. Our half-and-half was going “off.” With pound cake, we obviously will want coffee, hence we need fresh half-and-half. I wanted new pictures; Garry needed a photo airing too.

We accomplished it in one fell swoop (click here for a history of fell swoop), merely by driving around the block.

fresh eggs at the farm

It’s a dairy farm. Milk, eggs. Sometimes local honey. Today they had homemade jams and organic lip balm. The eggs come from the chickens wandering around the yards and are often fertilized. The milk is from the happiest bunch of cows I’ve ever seen. They loll around the green pasture which lies along the Blackstone River.

farm an windmill

There are several pastures. The pasture further down the road has a small creek running through it. They take the cows there in very hot weather so they can wade in the cool stream and graze on the wildflowers and weeds along the banks. It’s shady there. The calves have a pasture of their own and graze together along a hillside on the other side of the barn.

The milk isn’t homogenized or pasteurized, which means it’s very close to half-and-half, but you have to shake it before using because the cream rises to the top.

cows in pasture on the farm

I splurged on a jar of homemade elderberry jam. They had fresh corn, but I don’t need corn today. Maybe I’ll go back Monday, get some corn then. We don’t eat a lot, so I try not to over-buy things that will spoil and end up getting thrown out.

elderberry jamAnd we got pictures. I haven’t downloaded most of them yet. These are the first batch.

Here’s my recipe for pound cake. I’ll be baking as soon as the butter softens.

  • 1 pound (3-1/3 cups) flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 sticks softened sweet butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use the real thing)
  • 9 large eggs, lightly beaten.

It makes two cakes in standard loaf pans. I’ll freeze one. We will happily devour the other. I can feel my hips expanding as I write.

The elderberry jam is delicious. And 2 pound-cakes are baking in the oven. The smell is … wow.

READING THE SERIES AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

Many of my favorite authors aren’t writing much these days.

In some cases, like Jim Butcher, they seem to be trying to figure out where to go with the series. In others, they ended a series and haven’t quite found another that works. Yet.

And some of them are getting on in years and aren’t as prolific as they used to be. I can understand that. I’m not writing any books these days either.

Given that so many of my favorite authors haven’t been writing a lot recently, I’m rereading their existing series. It has been quite a while since I originally read the books in these series, so reading them again isn’t a big stretch. Although I remember the plot and how the story begins and ends, I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff that happened in the middle.

I’ve reread the “Lord of the Rings.”

I’ve reread Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series.

I’m rereading all of Jasper Fforde’s “Thursday Next” books, though not in order. To be fair, I didn’t read them in order the first time, either. I started in the middle and read backward and forward.

In between, I also reread Jodi Taylor’s “St. Mary’s” time travel series.

James Lee Burke, bless his heart just wrote a brand new Dave Robicheaux which I finished a couple of nights ago. It’s a good one, the best in a while. I always say that about his books, though because every book somehow seems better than the last. This probably means they are all great.

Finally, in two months, Jasper Fforde has a new book coming out. New characters, new plot. I hope I love it.

Gretchen Archer also has a new book coming out in March, right around my birthday. That will be the eighth Davis novel: “Double Agent.” She also thinks there will be one more by next November. You go, Gretchen!

My collection of Gretchen Archer’s books and cup, if you please

Jodi Taylor is prolific and I think she’ll have something soon. I wonder if she does anything but write? I don’t know how she can … and she does it so well.

Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison has a new one — new characters and story — just about ready for production. I’m reading it slowly and lovingly, a couple of chapters each night, but I’m also listening to Jasper Fforde’s “One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing.” Because listening is what helps me fall asleep. So I read Kim Harrison, then, I close the book and listen to Fforde.

What in the world would I do if I didn’t read?