Saddling Up

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This saddle is quite complicated to clean, and was really a mess before! Behind it is a glimpse of the Australian style saddle. We still need to polish up those old silver conchos!

One of the things we do here at the Hermits’ Rest (and our “sister” ranches, the Wild Hermits and Wild Type ranches) is hang out with our equine friends. My neighbor, Sara, has had horses most of her life, and is a great rider. I always wanted a horse, but didn’t get the chance to own one until Sara gave me Apache, my Quarter Horse/Arabian cross, since she needed a more spirited horse to ride. I was in my late 50s, but my childhood dream came true!

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Apache not looking thrilled to be saddled up and eady to go. My saddle is a Parelli “hybrid” model. It’s neither English nor Western. It IS comfortable as an easy chair. And lightweight, for my bad shoulder.

We’ve been to clinics together, but recently we have just been riding around the ranch whenever Sara is in town on the weekends. We work on new skills and explore the area. I’ve been working with Apache “at liberty” in the round pen, and we’re making great progress trying new things on trail rides, too.

Sara’s horse has a lot more training, so she works on opening gates, cantering, and doing complex maneuvers at liberty.

We each have the “right” horse for our skills and inclinations. I just love riding around the ranch with a friendly and kind horse, so Apache is great for me.

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Shrooms Are Not on the Menu

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A fully expanded example, taken by Lee Bruns, at night.

Nope, this isn’t about the shrooms Michael Pollan talks about in his incredibly excellent new book How to Change Your Mind (read it now!). Today I’m talking about the most common poisonous mushroom in the US, the green-spored parasol mushroom Chlorophyllum molybditesThey are coming up all over the ranch right now, so I decided to learn more about them.

We have these every year around this time, which means there are some happy underground fungi networks (mycelia) here. This  year, a lot of them fruited this week. Interestingly, it’s right after a nearby lightning strike (in which our gate got knocked out and I got tingles running through my body). I was interested to read this in the Wikipedia article on mushrooms:

It has been suggested the electrical stimulus of a lightning bolt striking mycelia in logs accelerates the production of mushrooms.

I’ll be paying attention the next time we get a lot of mushrooms mushrooming up, and see if it follows a storm. By the way, in this same storm, a limb was knocked off a nearby tree.

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These are some that came up right in front of our porch.

So, what about it?

I had trouble identifying this, because I really don’t know much about mushrooms. But a kind person in iNaturalist set me straight, which led me to read all about the green-spored parasol. It turns out it is very common, and loves to pop up on suburban lawns.

It won’t kill you, but it sure will make you sick. One of its many other common names is the “vomiter” mushroom. “The nature of the poisoning is predominantly gastrointestinal,” dryly notes the Wikipedia article on this one.

Hmm, Brody the cattle dog sure has had the runs the past day or two. I think perhaps we’ll remove all those lovely mushrooms in their prime playing area.

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That’s a quarter in the middle of this one. Big!

As you can see, these things can get big! Of course, they are often even bigger underground:

Though mushroom fruiting bodies are short-lived, the underlying mycelium can itself be long-lived and massive. A colony of Armillaria solidipes (formerly known as Armillaria ostoyae) in Malheur National Forest in the United States is estimated to be 2,400 years old, possibly older, and spans an estimated 2,200 acres (8.9 km2). Most of the fungus is underground and in decaying wood or dying tree roots in the form of white mycelia combined with black shoelace-like rhizomorphs that bridge colonized separated woody substrates.[15]

I still have more to learn about this simple, but not-very-tasy fungus. I’ve never seen the green spores, so I’ll be looking for them.

I do know that if I get hungry, the similar-looking parasol mushroom would be a better choice. It’s cap looks more like there is snakeskin on it. Who am I kidding? I’m not going to eat a wild mushroom. I can do without gastric distress. As a great Huffington Post article on the “vomiter” points out:

Whatever you do, don’t eat that big white mushroom in your yard, just because it looks good.

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I look delicious! Don’t eat me!

 

A Digression on Dog Genetics, Part 2

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Here’s Carlton, really wanting to get out of the doctor’s office. This photo is the best one to show he has pale tan ears.

Yesterday, I shared some information on Carlton the puppy’s “weird eyes.” Today I’d like to document some of the things I learned about how he got to be “the world’s whitest dog.” (And, FYI he weighs 31 pounds now, which makes me think he will probably end up the size of his companions Brody and Harvey, though perhaps less bulky.)

I think that he has a whammo combination of THREE genes that make him pale. I learned a lot, thanks to a great collection of information on dog color genetics by Jess Chappell for a lot of this, along with the doggie eye problem reading I did from the veterinary opthalmomogist’s textbook (see references).

Carlton is not an albino

Nope, he is not an albino. Albinism is not found often in dogs like it is in bunnies, rats, and humans. There are a LOT of genes that can make a dog white, though. I won’t go into detail (you can read it in the links below), but I’ll share some ideas.

Is he a double merle?

At least two veterinarians who have examined Carlton have posited that his coloring is due to being a double merle. What’s that, you ask?

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This is a cute little merle dachsund named Maggie, owned by my friend Mandi.

First, merle is a beautiful pattern that occurs in a number of dog breeds (I list some at the end of this article). The base color of the coat is beautifully dappled, and people like it a lot. It will show up if just one parent has the gene (it’s dominant).

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A Digression on Dog Genetics, Part 1

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You can see Carlton’s markings in this photo. The very pale markings around his ears are hard to see, but there.

My lovely puppy, Carlton, is 6.5 months old, as far as we can tell. He weigs 31 pounds, and is all legs and teeth at this point. He loves other dogs, warms up to people, and is generally the best puppy ever. He also has “weird eyes,” as one of our veterinarians put it. She advised that we check with a veterinary opthalmologist as soon as possible.

That visit came on Tuesday, and it’s sent me down a long path of figuring out exactly how Carlton got to be who he is, and why. I wrote up some of this on Facebook, but since then I’ve been doing a lot more research, and as a person who once considered majoring in biology, I found it really fascinating. In fact, writing up my findings is so complex that I am going to break it into more than one post.

Vet visit findings

The regular vet had diagnosed Carlton as having some kind of eye abnormality, in addition to being blue, so she sent me to the veterinary ophthalmologist to see what’s up. This is the same woman, Dr. Yu-Speight, I went to when my corgi, Gwynneth’s eyes went bad (she ended up having them removed and lived 4 more years). We had a wonderful visit.

First of all, Carlton was quite the little man through the whole appointment. He even jumped into the car on command, finally! I am so proud of this dog. He was incredibly well behaved until we got back home, when he went bonkers.

There was a great deal of eye prodding and dropping involved, but they tested everything from tears, to pressure in the eye to the insides. So, he dealt with many substances and implements. I was amazed at his patience, even though he was obviously not enjoying the process.

Sure enough, his eyes are not “normal,” which we knew. But he CAN see, better in darker light, which we also knew.

Continue reading “A Digression on Dog Genetics, Part 1”

New Avian Friends?

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Hmm, why was this nest so easy to see?

Hi folks. Sorry for the inadvertent hiatus; I had some technical and scheduling difficulties, but I am back now. I’ve been thinking a lot about birds, so I’ll just share a bit about what’s going on with them here, and write more later! More posts! Yay!

Nests, Part 1

This week I came across more bird nests, including the one in the photo above. It’s a very small nest, though you can’t tell that in the photo, with such pretty little eggs in it. I spotted it while riding my horse, Apache, around a hay pasture we usually don’t ride in.

It was really easy to see the nest, which had me confused. Don’t birds who nest on the ground usually hide the nests? As “Patchy” plodded around the field one more time, I realized what had happened: our ranch helper had mowed a path around the edges of the pasture so my neighbor and I could ride. The mower probably went over the nest, didn’t harm it, but DID reveal it. The rest of the pasture has lush grass about a foot high.

Anyway, I am sad that these eggs probably won’t make it, but I know we have plenty of sparrows here, so plenty of nests. By the way, I’m pretty sure these are lark sparrow eggs. We have plenty of those, plus savannah sparrows, and house sparrows (around the houses).

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