The giant rat(s) of Sumatra. February 27, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading.
Tags: killing rats, mouse traps, rat traps, rat traps that work, rats, rats in the house, Tomcat rat trap
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Fans of Sherlock Holmes may recall that the tale of the “Giant Rat of Sumatra” was one of those stories for which, according to his biographer, Dr. John Watson, “the world was not yet prepared.” (If you’ve ever heard the profane, bawdy version created and performed by The Firesign Theatre, you’ll know that he was right.)
However, our friend Ben is not, alas, referring to the adventures of the Great Detective, but to the giant rats that recently took up residence in our mudroom here in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. Surrounded by farm fields as we are, Silence Dogood and I expect that a few mice will venture indoors once winter arrives, and that our cats will make short work of the poor things. But we never expected rats.
Our mudroom is adjacent to the furnace room but is unheated, so it provides us with much-needed cold storage in the winter, staying at least as cold as our fridge but never freezing. We keep everything from canned, jarred and bottled foods and beverages to fruit and storage veggies like winter squash, onions and potatoes in there. It’s like having a pantry, root cellar, and extra fridge.
So you can imagine Silence’s distress when she noticed that something had gotten into the parrot treats, knocked over various items on shelves, and gnawed on some of the potatoes. “Ben! There are mice in here! We’ve got to set some traps!” (The mudroom is off-limits to our cats and dog; too many things to knock over and break.)
I dutifully baited two snap-traps, using only the finest sticky stuff, Brie and egg salad, and positioned them strategically. (Which is to say, within easy reach of mice but out of reach of nosy cats or a dog who might try to barge in there.) Like clockwork, the traps were sprung and the treats removed, but there was no sign of the culprit and the demolition of the mudroom continued.
“Ben, look! The thing ate through the cartons of almond milk and silken tofu, as well as the packages of quinoa and millet! Eeewww, you should see this mess! It’s even eaten into two of the winter squash!” Silence regarded me darkly. “I don’t think this is a mouse. We need a rat trap!”
If you think of rats as residing only in subways and on docks, let our friend Ben tell you that farmers’ corncribs are a rat’s paradise. It was because cats kept rats from ransacking the granaries of ancient Egypt that they were deified by the grateful pharoahs and priests. But rats in our house?!! Why would rats be in our house? (And needless to say, no well-fed housecat in its right mind would take on a rat.)
Needless to say, our friend Ben soon found myself in our local Tractor Supply looking for a suitable trap. Silence had given me strict instructions: no glue traps, which were cruel, and no poison, both because of our pets and because the rat could eat it, then go off and die in some inaccessible place like inside a wall, where it would stink to high heaven for months to come. A sudden and relatively painless death was in order.
I found a great, reusable mechanical trap, the Tomcat Reusable Rat Trap. Made of plastic, it had plenty of built-in safety features (which are necessary, since a trap strong enough to kill a rat can break every finger in your hand if you inadvertently trip it on yourself). You could bait it before you set it, and set it with your hand or foot. I put peanut butter in the bait cup, set it up as directed, and waited to see what happened.
As it happens, I didn’t really think the creature was a rat, despite Silence’s having taken to referring to it as the Giant Rat of Sumatra. Rats? Here? Nonsense! How would one get in? And the mudroom adjoins our bedroom, and though I tried to keep an ear open all night, I never heard a trap snap, and neither did Silence.
But in the morning, I was greeted with “Ben! The trap worked! Please come get this rat out of here!” Sure enough, the trap had worked like magic, breaking the rat’s neck when it went for the peanut butter. Its large, heavy body (a good 10 inches long) and long naked tail lay still on the mudroom floor outside the trap.
After disposing of the rat, I was ready to call it a day, but Silence insisted that I reset the trap and replace it where it had been. A day passed with no further sign—no dead rat, no disturbed shelves, no new attacks on food or even organic fertilizer (the rat’s final foray). “See? What are you worried about?” I asked.
Well, plenty, as it turned out. On the third morning, Silence informed me that a second rat was in the trap. Then, this morning, it caught a mouse. The trap is once again reset and in place. We’re hoping that this has taken care of our rat population and will continue to control the mouse population. Better safe than sorry! And if you find yourself in similar circumstances, we highly recommend the Tomcat Reusable Rat Trap.
Can’t get that ring off? Try this. February 23, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: getting rings off, offbeat uses for Windex, rings, Windex
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Silence Dogood here. We’ve all done it: forced a ring we really wanted to wear onto our finger. And then, because it was hot and our fingers swelled or we were working and our fingers swelled or we’d gained a little weight or for whatever reason, when it came time to take the ring off, it either wouldn’t budge or wouldn’t go over the knuckle.
If this has happened to you, you know that if you just keep pushing and struggling to get the ring off, your finger will swell even more. Not to mention, it hurts.
I have generally managed to get stuck rings off by running cold water over my hand to reduce swelling, then lathering up with soap to help the ring slide off. I’ve also had success by slathering on hand lotion and slipping the ring off over the lotion.
But sometimes, it seems like nothing will get a ring off. (How on earth, we wonder in retrospect, did we ever get it on to begin with?!) This happened to me last summer, when I managed to get a favorite ring on, then couldn’t get it off no matter what I tried. Weeks went by. I was beginning to think I’d have to have a jeweler cut it off, and believe me, I wasn’t looking forward to that.
Fortunately, as it happened, before I resorted to this, I happened into a shop that sold both rocks and fossils and jewelry. I’d gone up to the counter with a few rocks I couldn’t resist (alas, passing up the $550 fossilzed turtle shell for some reason), when I had what a friend’s mother pricelessly referred to as “a rush of brains to the head.”
“Excuse me,” I said to the proprietor, “but do you know how to get stuck rings off?” I held out my hand to indicate the ring in question.
“Let me show you a little trade secret,” he replied. “It works every time.” Then, grabbing a bottle of Windex from under the counter, he sprayed my finger. Because the ring had been stuck on for so long, it took two sprays, but then, poof! The ring flew off painlessly. I was so relieved!
I’ve tried this at home when another ring got stuck and wouldn’t come off with my usual methods, and sure enough, one spray did the trick. I’m so grateful to know that a simple, inexpensive household product can work such a seeming miracle, saving both the ring and your sore finger. Try it and see for yourself!
‘Til next time,
Grab that lucky charm. February 20, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: brain function, brain function and charms, Katniss Everdeen, lucky charms, lucky charms work, talismans, The Hunger Games
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Katniss Everdeen was right. Fans of “The Hunger Games” may recall how Katniss held on to her lucky charm, a mockingjay pin, to help her get through the gladiatorial bloodbath she was forced to fight in. Well, brain science is backing her up.
Turns out, the secret to optimal brain function under stressful conditions—such as combat or, say, work deadlines—is a feeling of being in control. And the feeling is apparently as good as actually being in control of your circumstances, as far as your brain is concerned.
“Even a good luck charm can help—because good luck charms really do work,” says Eric Barker in “”The samurai secret to always being at your best.” He continues: “Good luck charms provide a feeling of control, and that feeling of control actually helps people perform better with them.”
He quotes The Courage Quotient: How Science Can Make You Braver:
“…people with a lucky charm performed significantly better than did the people who had none. That’s right, having a lucky charm will make you a better golfer…and improve your cognitive performance on tasks such as memory games.”
So go ahead and grab that four-leaf clover or evil eye deflector or piece of eight or even a mockingjay pin. Even if you’re not heading for the Hunger Games arena, it might get you through your next performance review.
Sochi’s strays steal the spotlight. February 19, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: animal shelters, dogs, homeless dogs, mixed breeds, mutts, Olympic dogs, pet adoption, Sochi dogs, stray dogs
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have never understood why the Olympics, or any sports for that matter, exercise such a fascination for the general public. If you’re not playing, what’s the big deal? (Admittedly, we feel the same way about watching musicians sawing away for hours at a symphony performance; why not just listen to the CD, unless you play yourself and are trying to pick up technique?)
But we’ve been watching with bated breath ever since we learned of the 2,000 stray dogs in Sochi that were going to be killed before the Olympics to make everything nice and tidy. As dog lovers, we were horrified by their casual disposal—just another trash pickup—and were delighted to read of the international outrage once the news got out, and of the stray who joined the opening ceremony and became an immediate viral celebrity.
While not even Sochi’s strays could make us actually watch the Olympics, we’ve been following their plight closely: How the construction workers who spruced up the city for the Games fed them. How Olympians like Gus Kenworthy are trying to adopt them. How Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska funds and has expanded PovoDog, a Sochi pet shelter. How others are trying to import Sochi dogs to the U.S. to place in shelters here, believing that they’ll have a better chance at adoption.
Ultimately, the fate of Sochi’s dogs remains unclear, and for most, as for most shelter dogs, not too bright. But their presence at the Winter Olympics has done more to showcase the plight of homeless animals, and the lovable nature and attractive appearance of mixed-breed dogs (“mutts”), than any campaign launched by the Humane Society, PETA, and all other animal-welfare organizations combined. Let’s hope more people start visiting their local shelters and really seeing the dogs instead of dismissing them if they’re not purebred. And let’s hope adoptions skyrocket.
This year’s Winter Olympics produced 2,000 stars.
The marbles of my dreams. February 17, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: collectible marbles, collector marbles, Dave McCullough, David McCullough, JABO, machine-made marbles, marble collectors, marbles, Sammy Hogue, Sammy's Mountain Marbles, toy marbles
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Our friend Ben and my fellow marble collectors are fortunate to be living in a renaissance of glorious machine-made marbles.
Unfortunately, when the first flowering of machine-made marbles, with the glorious slags, brilliant colors, and intricate designs of the M.F. Christensen Company, Christensen Agate, Akro Agate, and the rest, occurred in the early part of the 20th century, marbles were considered children’s toys. The equivalent of penny candy, they were played with, damaged, and discarded without a thought. (The same fate had befallen their predecessors, the fabulously ornate handmade marbles of the 19th and early 20th centuries.)
As a result, finding undamaged examples of early marbles, hand- or machine-made, is next to impossible, since the few that remain intact are mostly already in the hands of collectors, and are rare enough to be featured in books like fine antiques. The rest of us are lucky to find “lightly-played” examples without noticeable chips and cracks. Sob! It seems impossible to believe that such beautiful marbles were treated with such casual disregard, or that, alternatively, marble-makers put such time and talent into toys that they knew would be destroyed.
Today, however, high-end marbles have largely passed into the realm of collectibles. Some collectors value them as historical artifacts, others because they remember playing with them as children, and still others, like our friend Ben, simply because they’re beautiful. And those of us who collect because we simply love gorgeous marbles are in luck, since for the past decade and more, David McCullough, arguably the greatest maker of machine-made marbles who has ever lived, has been making special runs for us.
First at JABO, with famous runs like the JOKER series, and now with gifted marble-maker Sammy Hogue at Sammy’s Mountain Marbles, Dave has been producing marbles to rival anything the early greats produced: marbles with gold lutz, green and blue aventurine, oxblood, and innumerable flames and color combinations. Awesome!!!
Our friend Ben was thinking about what Dave, Sammy, and the teams at JABO and Sammy’s Mountain Marbles have achieved, and of course I couldn’t help fantasizing about my own perfect marbles. Could they make them? Could anyone? Could anyone ever? I don’t know. But I wish!
My dream marbles would be transparent/translucent, in jewel tones: rich ruby, deep sapphire, emerald, azure, purple, topaz, carnelian orange, amber, pink, jade green. Through them would run gold, silver, copper lutz; vaseline glass; blue, green and black aventurine; strands of glistening silk-white and garnet. (Not all in the same marble, obviously!) Picture a glowing red marble, looking slick and luscious like a candy apple, with strands of silver or gold or copper lutz and endless depth, maybe with ribbons of vaseline glass. Wow! Imagine some glistening version in emerald or sapphire or azure. Yow!
Will we ever see marbles like these, with the clear, brilliant colors of the very best slags combined with the bells and whistles of lutz, aventurine, fluorescent glass, and so on? Who’s to know? Maybe this is just my personal marble fantasy and nobody else would even be interested. But wow, to see a glistening candy-apple red marble, much less one with embellishments: Bring it on!!!
Dave, Sammy, are you listening?
What are your dream marbles?
Sherlock fans, watch this! February 16, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: best Sherlock Holmes films, Dr.Bell and Mr. Doyle, Ian Richardson, Joseph Bell is Sherlock Holmes, must-see Sherlock Holmes films, Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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Fans of “the great detective,” Sherlock Holmes, and his many film and television interpretations, including Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Sherlock,” you’re in for a treat. No, not yet another version of Holmes. Or, not exactly.
Holmes fanatics who know their history know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, got his inspiration for the character from one of his med school professors, Dr. Joseph Bell. You can now watch a fictionalized version of Doyle’s apprenticeship with Bell, including an encounter with a young Jack the Ripper, and how Doyle learned Bell’s deductive methods.
The BBC production, “Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes,” stars Ian Richardson, who played Holmes himself in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “The Sign of Four,” as Dr. Bell. It also features strong supporting performances, especially from Sean McGinley as the Lestrade-like Inspector Beecher and Charles Dance of “Game of Thrones” fame as an arrogant, hypocritical aristocrat. (We could expect no less from Lord Tywin Lannister!)
If you’ve missed this, we strongly suggest that you check it out—it’s at least as good as and more interesting than most Holmes interpretations we’ve seen. We first saw it on Netflix, and it’s available through Amazon. We enjoyed it every bit as much on second viewing, and plan to add it to our regular (extensive) rotation of Holmes DVDs. Great background, great plot, great acting, plus Holmes! What more could a Sherlock fan ask?!
What’s your favorite romantic movie? February 14, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: great romance movies, Princess Caraboo, romance films, romantic films, romantic movies, Valentine's Day
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Silence Dogood here. With Valentine’s Day upon us, I can’t help but think of all the great romantic films—films that celebrate love, be it love lost (“Gone with the Wind,” “Casablanca,” “Gladiator,” “Titanic”), love lost and regained (Jane Austen’s “Persuasion,” “Jane Eyre,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “The Return of Martin Guerre”), love unexpectedly discovered (“Pride and Prejudice,” “The Crying Game,” “Stage Beauty,” “Avatar,” “Somewhere in Time”), or simply love enduring (the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Tony Hillerman triad, the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency films).
But, much as I love these films, my favorite is none of them. It’s an incredibly obscure film, set, like Jane Austen’s work, in the Regency Period in England, after King George III was deemed too mad to rule and before he died so that his son, the Prince Regent, could take the throne as king.But unlike Jane Austen’s novels, this film was based on a true story, about a housemaid with a wonderful, exotic imagination who created a new life for herself and in the process even met and danced with the Prince himself, bowled over upper-class British society, and ultimately got away with it.
The film, “Princess Caraboo,” stars Phoebe Cates as the maid/princess, her real-life husband, Kevin Kline, in a marvelous role as the supercilious Greek butler to a wealthy family, and Stephen Rea (whose moving performance lit up “The Crying Game”) as the dogged journalist who falls in love, not with the princess, but with the maid who created her. Strong supporting performances, including Jim Broadbent and John Lithgow, incredible sets and costuming, and the richness of the story weave a magic spell that I find completely captivating.
If you enjoy nuanced romance, Jane Austen, the Regency Period, or simply fine acting, I hope you’re able to find “Princess Caraboo.” I was able to get it on DVD, so I haven’t checked to see if it’s on Netflix and etc. Good luck! It’s worth looking for.
What are your favorite romance films?
Happy Valentine’s Day,
The Conqueror Diet. February 11, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: blog humor, crash diets, liquid diets, William the Conqueror
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Silence Dogood here. We’ve all heard about crash diets, even if we’ve never been stupid enough to try them: The grapefruit diet. The cabbage soup diet. Any diet that restricts you to a single food at every meal for a week or so, promising fast weight loss, so you can squash yourself into that too-small bikini, too-tight jeans, or sized-down wedding dress.
Well, today I was entertained to read about the very first crash diet, going all the way back to 1066. Apparently, William the Conqueror had feasted and gorged until he’d gotten too fat to ride his horse, not a good thing for a warrior, or anyone else in an age when horses were the only means of transportation.
William realized that desperate measures were called for: a crash diet. So he abandoned food and went on an all-liquor diet until he lost enough weight to once again mount and ride his horse into battle.
Today, a lot of cleanses and fasts rely on liquids to stand in place of solid food. (Think green juices.) And we all know about the various drink-this-can-as-a-food-replacement diets. Eeeewwww!!!!
I don’t know about you, but in the world of crash diets, I think the Conqueror Diet could be the next big thing.
‘Til next time,