Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Companion Animal Assistance Program

I am a member of a non-profit organization called the Companion Animal Assistance Program, CAAP for short.  We are dedicated to helping to reduce the numbers of unwanted and abandoned pets in our community by offering low-cost spay/neuter programs for those who need help in getting their pets sterilized. 

If you check our web site  www.caapok.org, you'll see that one of the ways we accomplish our mission is by offering "mobile clinics".   These are normally held four times a year at our county fair grounds on Saturdays.  We work with a veterinarian who has a mobile surgical unit that is housed in a large trailer which he pulls behind his pickup truck.  CAAP advertises, organizes and provides volunteers for the clinics. 

Our most recent clinic was held this past Saturday and I thought it would be nice to share some pictures and stories from it with you.


Bessie is one of the dogs that was spayed at the clinic.  She was brought in by the father of an American soldier currently stationed in Afghanistan.  He said his daughter had found a litter of 5 puppies in the road, picked them up & found homes for 4 of them, keeping the "runt" Bessie.  His daughter who is 20 had enlisted, gone through boot camp and was part of a big deployment from this area earlier this year.  After he left, several of us conspired to have CAAP pick up the entire cost for the surgery.  When he came back to get Bessie in the afternoon, he said they had gotten some bad news.  The humvee his daughter was riding in ran over an IED and the humvee was split in two.  Fortunately, no one was killed, but his daughter was hit in the head by a big chunk of concrete.   They had talked to her and she will be okay.   When we handed him his check and said that we'd like to waive all fees for Bessie, in honor of his daughter's service to our country,  he was shocked and very appreciative.

"Cimarron Sisters"

Cushing is a small town about 30 miles from here.  Cushing has a pound with 6 bays.  It operates as a hold & kill facility, with the holding period being 72 hours.  The Cimarron Valley Humane Society in Cushing is a shelter without a building.  In other words, it is comprised solely of people that foster the dogs at their own homes.  They try to rescue as many from the pound as possible.  Right now there are only 3 people providing foster homes.  Even though they are a small organization have placed 135 dogs since May of last year!  Right now they have 17 that are all female puppies - labs, lab/mastiff, doberman, boxer, schnauzer, etc.  Normally, they are able to work through the Oklahoma State University Vet College to get their animals spayed, but the OSU program is currently unavailable for 12 weeks.  So, CAAP stepped in to help get the puppies fixed. The above picture shows 4 of these dogs.

These stories and many more like them make me happy to be a part of such a wonderful organization.  Virtually all of the animals we help were given to their owners, were adopted from shelters or were strays that someone took pity on and took into their home.  So, I often joke that my dedication to recycling does not stop at glass, paper and cans, but goes as far as recycled pets as well!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Toads and Lizards and Frogs, Oh MY!

We have a variety of reptiles and amphibians here on the farm.  When we lived in town, I don't think I ever saw a frog, but out here we see them ever so often.  Here are pictures of a couple of different varieties of frogs I've seen.

This little guy was sitting outside on our window sill one day.  I call him "camo-frog" because it sure looks like he is dressed in camouflage.  As best I can tell, this is a Gray Tree Frog, although he looks more green than gray.

This frog is quite a bit bigger than camo-frog.  I found him in a tub of water that was sitting out on our deck. He had apparently hopped in there and could not get out.  I think this one is a Southern Leopard Frog. 

Toads are much more common than frogs, but they invariably startle me every time I find one.  In the fall, they burrow into the soil to find places to hibernate and spend the winter.  Last year, I brought some pots of aloe vera inside for the winter and was trying to arrange them by a window.  I picked one up and suddenly a toad stuck his head up through the soil and looked at me.   I almost dropped the pot!  I rarely move very fast any more, but you can bet I got that pot back outside pronto!  I also recall several years ago how I dug one up while digging in my garden in the early spring.  Scared the life out of me for an instant!  Poor toad.......I'm sure it was a rude awakening for him, too.

My granddaughters are NOT afraid of toads, though, and will pick them up with their bare hands.  They found one outside under the carport one evening this summer.  Both of them had to hold the poor toad before we let it go.  Here's how brave they are.

I think this is a Great Plains Toad.
We have several types of reptiles ..... turtles, lizards and snakes to be specific.  I'm sorry that I don't have any pictures of snakes, save for the one in my blog entry of April 30, 2010 called "Yikes! Snake!".  That one is a Rough Earth Snake.  I'm not sure if it were much bigger that I could have talked myself into getting close enough to take a picture of it.  So, you'll have to be content with the following pictures of reptiles.

This is an Ornate Box Turtle.  Notice the beautiful markings on his shell.  They look like star bursts.  And, he has yellow spots on his legs and head.

Finally, I have this picture of a lizard that I found the other day.  Like the, frog above, he had fallen in a deep tub on the deck and could not get out.  That is the only way I was ever able to get a picture of him.  Most times, when I see a lizard outside, they are gone before I can blink twice.

I was not able to identify this lizard, but I love his blue tail!  I found several similar ones on the internet, but could not decide for sure what kind it was.  In fact, I was surprised at the many different varieties of frogs, toads, turtles and lizards that I found while trying to identify the animals above.  It is truly amazing the wonderful variety of creatures with which we share our world.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Wildlife Pictures

It has finally cooled off and I am loving it!  A hint of autumn is in the air.  It is about time since the first day of fall is next week!  With the cooler weather, Tom decided to start putting out corn for the deer again.  He buys the corn at our local Atwoods store which is a chain that specializes in products for farmers.  They have everything from cow udder ointment to toys for kids.  I love to go there and look around.  But I digress.....

The corn is dried and comes in big bags like dog food.  Hunters buy it and put out for the deer in hopes they can entice them to come to the same place each day in order to shoot them.  Of course, the only "shooting" we'll be doing is picture shooting!

Anyway, so Tom puts the corn out a ways from the house and rigs up our wildlife camera to point toward it.  This summer we used the camera mostly to take pictures of the wildlife that was eating our cat's food at night.  See the "Thief in the Night" post on June 19.

I was not expecting to see much action at the corn feeder for several weeks.  However, the first night the corn was out there we caught the following animals checking out the corn.

I was surprised to see the coyote appears to be eating the corn.  I wonder if that means the drought has taken its toll on the small game animals that are usually its prey.

The deer appear to be a mother and her fawn who was probably born this spring.  And, the crows are cleaning up what the deer and coyote left behind.  I like crows.  They are amazing birds and I could write a whole blog entry on them alone!  

We still have not had much rain to speak of, even with the cooler temperatures, but at least we are not suffering with high temps in the 100s now.  Life is good and I feel rejuvenated.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Repurposed Computer Diskette Storage Box

Do you remember those old 5.25 inch floppy disks that computers used to use?  I'm sure a lot of younger folks don't remember them.  After these big floppy diskettes, external computer storage evolved to 3.5 inch diskettes that had hard covers, then to CDs and finally to flash drives that fit in any USB port.  It's pretty amazing how quickly computer technology changes.

But, back to those old floppy disks.  There were plastic storage boxes especially made for them.  The boxes generally had a clear plastic lid (so you could see what was inside).  The lid was hinged at the back and lifted up so you could get at the floppy disks easily.  Eventually, these old floppy disk storage boxes became obsolete as other storage media came along. 

I ended up with several of these boxes and, as usual, hated to throw them away.  So, I looked for other ways to use them.  One of the best ideas I came up with was for recipes.  Here's my recipe box made from an old floppy disk box.

These days I tend to look on the internet for recipes more than I do in my cookbooks.  But, I still keep special recipes on cards and store them in this box. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dead and Alive

If you live around here and tried to grow tomatoes this year, you were probably very disappointed. It turned so hot early in June and stayed that way until just recently that tomato blossoms would not set fruit. We got a few scrawny tomatoes for a couple of weeks and nothing after that.

Last spring I planted some of our extra "Sweet 100s" tomato plants in large pots and set these on the south side of our new little greenhouse just off our patio. I love these little bit-size tomatoes and envisioned myself stepping outside on our patio and having them right there to eat by the handfuls. As the weather got hotter and hotter, I tried to make sure that I watered them every day, hoping that it would cool off and I'd get some tomatoes.

I had 4 plants to start with.  But, they died one by one as we suffered through day after day of 100+ degree temperatures.  Then the other day  I noticed one of them was beginning to put out new growth.  Here is a picture of it.  It's the one on the right!  :-)

I am amazed at the resilience of this one plant.  It definitely has some drought tolerance that the other ones did not have, even though they were all the same variety and from the same packet of seed.

If this plant produces fruit before it freezes, I will be sure to save some of the seed and plant it next year.  It was by noticing desirable traits in plants that early man was able to domesticate wild plants.   And, over the next 10,000 years, humans created a vast biodiversity in our food supply by selecting certain plants and saving seed from them just like I hope to do with this tomato plant.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fall Arugula

Up until about 10 years ago, I thought all salads consisted of iceburg lettuce, carrots, radishes, green onions and cucumbers.  Then I read a gardening book about growing "mesclun" greens.  Mesclun is a salad composed of tender young greens along with a variety of leaf lettuces.  It apparently originated in Provence, France.  The book opened up a whole new world for me.  It listed all these exotic, mysterious sounding salad greens I had never heard of.  Things like endive, mizuna, radicchio, m√Ęche and arugula.

I decided to try growing some of these.  For the most part they are all easy to grow in cool weather.  But they all go to seed and die when it gets hot.  It turned out that my favorite of these is arugula.  Arugula is quite spicy and many people don't care for it.  I think it tastes sort of peppery-mustardy and I like it a lot.  But, because it is pretty potent, it is usually mixed with other greens to give a nice balanced salad.  It can also be sauteed in olive oil.

Every year I plant a patch of it.  This year I planted it on one end of the raised bed where my basil resides.  As usual, I harvested it week after week.  As long as you don't pull up the whole plant, you can cut most of the leaves off of it and it will regrow leaves again and again until the weather gets hot and it goes to seed and dies. 

One year I was too busy to pull up the old plants and just left them.  Then a few weeks later I noticed tiny arugula plants coming up under the old growth that had died.  I guess the dead plants shielded the ground from the sun enough that the seed could germinate and produce new arugula.  So, I've been letting it go to seed like this ever since and then I have a new patch of arugula to harvest in the fall.  Here is my fall patch this year.

Notice there are even a lot of plants that have regrown in the cement blocks that make up the edges of my raised beds.  Today, I harvested enough to fill about 15 sandwich bags which we will sell at our farmers' market booth tomorrow. 

Here is a close-up picture of what it looks like.

As far as nutrition goes.  Arugula is a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Zinc and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Manganese.