The Horror of Ice Cream

I found this recent NY Times article twisted even by the standards of the Times. Entitled “When Parents Scream Against Ice Cream”, it details the efforts of parents in a number of cities to ban summertime ice cream vendors from parks or even entire neighborhoods. The basic premises are that ice cream is a sugary treat that is bad for kids and that ice cream vendors are “dirty” and “dangerous”. But the real bottom line is that all too many parents just don’t want to say no to their children when they’re asked to buy treats.

Ice cream is an innocent sweet delight, one of life’s simple pleasures and here come the scolds to try to take it away. I was going to turn this into a short essay on weenie parents afraid to tell their children no, but figured I would just sound old and cranky. So I have decided to take the more positive path of ice cream proliferation.


We make a lot of ice cream at our house using this new style machine that I got for Father’s Day a few years ago. It’s easy and works great with no ice or rock salt mess. In the warm months I’d say we average a batch a week. I’m putting in this recipe for dead simple no-cook vanilla ice cream that came with the manual (thank you, Cuisinart!). It’s so simple even I haven’t been able to screw it up yet.Simple Vanilla Ice CreamIngredients
1-1/2 cups whole milk1-1/8 cups granulated sugar3 cups heavy cream1-1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extractInstructions
In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the milk and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Turn the machine on; pour the mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.We’ve used half buttermilk/half whole milk for a richer taste. Go make some and give it to your kids! Give it to your neighbors’ kids!Take that, ice cream haters!

Prehistoric Environmental Destruction

One more nail gets driven into the coffin of the “ecological Indian”, you know that guy who lived in complete harmony with nature before the Europeans arrived here in 1492.

The NY Times summarizes a recent study by Torben Rick (Smithsonian Institution) and Jon Erlandson (U. of Oregon) that documents evidence of sometimes serious environmental damage by early inhabitants along the coasts of the Aleutian Islands, New England, the Gulf of Mexico, South Africa and California’s Channel Islands. In the New World, some of this goes back to Paleoindian times.

Though almost a generation apart, both Rick and Erlandson got their doctorates at UC Santa Barbara and their fieldwork is mostly on the Channel Islands. The article tells us what they’ve seen there:

“… Erlandson …, said people who lived on the Channel Islands as much as 13,000 years ago left behind piles of shells and bones, called middens, that offer clues to how they altered their landscape.

‘We have shell middens that are full of sea urchins,’ Dr. Erlandson said. He said he and Dr. Rick theorized that the sea urchins became abundant when hunting depleted the sea otters that prey on them. In turn, the sea urchins would have severely damaged the underwater forests of kelp on which they fed.

‘These effects cascade down the ecosystem,’Dr. Erlandson said.”

And as Erlandson points out later, remains of much of the Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene use (and abuse) of the coasts is hidden from us due to sea levels rising to their modern point.

In a similar vein is this study which indicates that carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by slash and burn agricultural methods, may have started altering the planet’s climate several thousand years ago.

Feeding Frenzy

The last couple of weeks, the hummingbirds have really been hitting the feeder hard. We’ve gotten up to a dozen at a time, but they move so fast that this is about as many as I’ve been able to get in one shot. It takes them about four days to empty the feeder. We’ve had Broad-tailed and Calliope hummingbirds but strangely haven’t seen any Rufous who were here in numbers last year. Their last chance to put on weight before leaving on their trip to Mexico.

Ponderosa Pines

I heard this interesting piece on Ponderosa pines on NPR on the way to work earlier this week. It was taped in that beautiful area in Arizona between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, which they say is the best place in the world to see Ponderosas. All I have to do is walk out the front door – don’t worry, that picture was taken last Winter. Though we are officially out on the High Plains, we have enough elevation (6300 feet) that we’re back up in the zone where the pines get enough moisture to grow. Even the school down the street is Ponderosa High School.

I enjoyed the discussion on the smell of the bark. Some said it smells like butterscotch and others said cinnamon, but I firmly believe it smells like vanilla. I’ve encouraged a number of people to smell the bark on our tree, and several have looked at me like I lost my mind.

Lane Batot on Trailhounds: Part 2

Although growing up around relatives’ and neighbors’ trailhounds, I did not acquire my own first hound until I was well into my 30’s, and even then, quite by accident. A horribly starved, wretched little Black-And-Tan hound showed up at the place I was employed at the time–a small game farm/zoo in Tennessee, where the bossman tended to shoot any dogs that wandered onto the property on sight. We several employees had an underground system where we cooperated to smuggle any dogs off said property before Mr. Trigger-Happy could plug them. Having a soft spot for hounds especially, I ended up with this one, but it wasn’t a simple matter of calling the owner(no collar; no I.D.), or just getting her off the property–she was very close to death. I have seen a lot of starved, pitifully abused dogs in my day, but this little hound was in the WORST condition I’ve ever seen. Every rib, every knob of her backbone stood out in stark relief. She was so weak, she could only stand for a moment, and would then keel over sideways. All four feet were bloody raw–pads worn right off–this poor hound had come a long way. And of course she was eaten alive with fleas and ticks. Despite her wretched condition, she still managed to look up at me in a hopeful manner with those imploring hound eyes, and manage a weak thump of her tail in friendliness–that characteristic coonhound good temperament to the last.

When I got her home, I was afraid to give her solid food right away–she was that bad–so for a few days I fed her soups and broth. During her first night at my place, with a wide variety of choices for dog houses to shelter in, she went straight to one of the plasic barrel doghouses I had, staggered inside, and collapsed in the straw with a big sigh of relief. Obviously a “barrel dawg!” She recovered rapidly from her starved condition as soon as she was on solid food. She is still a neurotically, crazed, and ravenous eater–more so even than a typical trailhound! I have always been lenient with her about this food obsessiveness, even when she managed to jump fully on my kitchen table and bolt down several of my own meals when I would foolishly turn my back for a second!–as I remembered her shocking condition when I first laid eyes on her. She filled out quickly enough on her two meals a day, plus whatever else she could steal from the rest of us, and in good condition and not overweight tipped the scales soaking wet at 50 lbs. However it took MONTHS for her raw, pitifully worn feet to heal completely. Meanwhile, I had been advertising for her owner(in case she had been lost or stolen) in the local papers, but there never were any responses to the adds. That she had once been someone’s hunting dog was obvious–her ears had even been notched for identification just like a hog’s or horse’s ears used to be notched by old timers–a rare sight these days, even in the isolated locale in the Appalachians where I was living at the time. And they were definetely I.D. notches–not hunting injuries(also common in hunting hounds), and this unusual, old-fashioned quirk had me calling her “Notches”–which inevitably became her name.

When Notches’ feet were up to it, I began to let her accompany me and the rest of my pack that I had at that time(6 sled dogs, 1 Catahoula, 1 Saluki, 1 Azawakh, and 1 Basenji) on our daily runs in the mountains. She dearly loved this, baying in excitement, but, very unhoundlike, staying glued to my side, not wanting me out of her sight for a second! One day, my pack jumped a raccoon out foraging, and ran it up a tree. Despite the frenzied jumping and excitement exhibited by all my other dogs, poor Notches cringed in terror–literally cowered on the ground–she wanted nothing to do with that raccoon! I shook my head at the sight: I had wanted to try and pawn her off on one of my coon hunting cousins, but this behaviour would never be tolerated by him. But by this point, I had had her for quite awhile, she had gotten along perfectly with all my other pack and been accepted by them(not an easy thing for another adult dog to do with my eclectic collection of canines!), and I had(sigh) grown terribly fond of her. So I wasn’t exactly too disapointed to reach the conclusion that I was stuck with her!

Next; training a raccoon phobic coonhound! To be continued………

Quiet night

Everything was quiet in the pasture this morning, with no signs of further predation during the night. The animals were all calm, and the guardians all seemed content.

Although some may see the fact that two lambs were killed as some fault of the guardian animals, Jim and I disagree with that view. We shudder to imagine what the carnage would have been had the guardians not been there.

We could have had a surplus killing event, as a fellow sheep producer in the county experienced a week ago. She had 11 ewes killed, with the wolves eating just a little on each one, and mauling the guard dog. Another sheepman had a wolf pack come into his herd during the first week of August, killing 13 lambs and 2 ewes, and two guard dogs. I hear of these events and always remember it could easily be our ranch and our animals. While it’s two guard dogs belonging to someone else, it could just as easily be my Rant and Rena, beautiful dogs you all have enjoyed here on this blog. The last we tried to tally it up, eight guard dog pups I raised for other sheep producers have been killed by wolves. I’m not asking anymore, because I don’t want to know.

Predation

I swear any time I change my schedule, something goes really wrong. I drove my son Cass to Laramie yesterday to move him into a dorm for his freshman year at the University of Wyoming. It was a fun but stressful day as I tried not to think about the fact that my son just moved out of my house. I missed him terribly before I even completed the five-hour drive home. Jim fed the dogs for me since I was gone, and I didn’t see my animals all day.

This morning when I entered through the pasture gate, honking my horn to alert the dogs, the dogs did not appear. They usually come bounding out, meeting me alongside the ditch where I feed them every day. Not today. Instead, I could see about 20 ravens swirling and flying along the hillside, not in any one spot. Anytime I see a big group of ravens, I start getting nervous because it usually means a carcass is present.

I couldn’t see any cattle at all, but I could see the sheep along the bank of the river where they were watering. I drove toward the river in a hurry, and as I approached the willows, the two guard dogs came racing out, huffing and agitated. Obviously something was wrong. They didn’t want their food, and didn’t want me to enter the willows where they had just emerged. Rant kept getting in my way, crying and throwing the weight of his body against my thighs. I shoved him away and went through. I saw spatters of blood, part of a sheep rumen, and handful-sized tuffs of bloody wool. I searched and searched, with Rant barking and being aggressive next to me, keeping the sheep and burros away from the area, fussing about me being there.

About 100 yards away, I found a similar kill site – a rumen, tuffs of wool, and a lot of fresh blood. No head, no spine, no ribcage. Two lambs had been killed – I’m guessing each weighed 40-60 pounds. When I breathed in, I could smell blood in the air, but not the smell of a decaying carcass.

And where were the cattle? I realized I was in a willow thicket without a firearm, so went back to the truck and to look for the cattle. I started driving through the pasture, and the cattle (cows and calves) came stampeding out into the open, running for the truck. What the heck? They were glad to see me, but there were about 10 head missing. I realized I needed some help, so I called USDA Wildlife Services. I got lucky, as one of the specialists I know was only about an hour away, and he would stop in to look over the situation as he went by from addressing a wolf predation issue in the northern portion of the county. This was really lucky for me, as Wildlife Services specialists are short-staffed here in western Wyoming, trying to address six different wolf depredation problems at once. We are being over-run with wolf problems in this area, and we thank heavens when Wildlife Services can provide assistance to stop the killing.

By the time the specialist arrived, I had found where the stampeding cattle took out a span of barb-wire fence, including five wooden posts. Something had got those cattle to run through the fence and into the river. I found the missing cattle on an island on the river, and got them put back with the rest of their herd.

With so little to go on, the verdict from the specialist was this predator event was caused by either a bear or a wolf/wolves – something big enough to scare the cattle, and consume two entire lamb carcasses, bones and all. My assumption is that the lambs went to water early and were killed there. When the main herd went to water, accompanied by the dogs and burros, the killing was already history.

Wildlife Services will fly the pasture tomorrow, and search for predators from the air. Here’s hoping for a quiet night.