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Rooting Lilac

There is a lovely late lilac that perfumes my entire yard this time of year.  Long after the other lilacs have finished, this one is going strong.  The fragrance is so powerful that only one spray of flowers is necessary to scent an entire room.

I would love to have more than one plant so I can space them around the property.  Usually lilac is easy to propagate by digging up the rooted shoots that emerge around the base of adult plants.  This particular lilac sends all the shoots off the main branches.  I decided to try potting some shoots to see if they would root.

Lilac is rooted from new shoots, not year-old wood.  Choose the new, green growth right after the plant ends blooming.  As you can see, my late lilac is beginning to fade so I figured the time was close enough to harvest shoots.  I cut several about 8″-10″ long.  I stripped all the leaves except the ones at the tip.  Roots will emerge from the nodes where there were once branches.  I trimmed the shoots to leave a node at the bottom of the shoot and one extra along the length.  This gives the plant two chances to root.  I also trimmed most of the area of the remaining leaves.  The plant puts a lot of energy into maintaining leaves so reducing the leaves will allow the plant a better chance to root.

To increase rooting, the shoots show be dipped in rooting hormone.  I was fresh out of this, so I substituted by dipping the shoots in honey then rolling them in cinnamon.  Both these substances are natural antiseptics.  They should help to head off growth of fungus until the shoots start to form roots.  After coating the entire length of the shoot that would be under dirt, I used a small stick to form a hole in the potting soil, then inserted the shoot in the soil to cover the highest node intended for rooting.  Finally, I gave the shoots a good drink and covered the entire pot in clear plastic.  The plastic will retain humidity, helping the shoots to keep hydrated until they root.  With any luck, I will have some baby late lilacs to plant next spring!

 

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New Baby Fig

My beautiful four-foot high fig tree died because it got too chilled during winter storage so I bought a baby that arrived a few months ago.  The the tree was about a foot high.  I potted it and put it in the south window of my kitchen.  After a month or so the baby had established roots and started to sprout leaves.  Then it did what figs do, it set tiny fruit.

I figured the fruit would wither and die on such a small plant.  But, no.  They are getting larger and more fruit are setting!  It is so exciting to think of growing fresh figs right in my kitchen.  I’m considering making this into a bonsai tree so it stays small and can grow in the house.  It is one of the smaller-sized cultivars so perhaps keeping it in the house will work.  The lengths I’m willing to go to just to have fresh figs in Maine!

First Brood in the Incubator

And we’re off!  The first brood of Silver Ameraucana eggs went in the incubator on 4/1.  I expect chicks to start hatching on 4/20, or even a bit earlier.  These Silvers always seem to start a day early.  Can hardly wait for the first little peepers!  Chick hatching season is one of my favorite times.

Here are some of the moms and dads of this year’s eggs.  There are a total of 20 hens and 3 roosters in my breeding flock.  Fingers crossed that I get some nice babies from these birds.

Blue Eggs

Just wanted to share the beautiful eggs my Ameraucana pullets are producing.  They started laying in late December and average four to eight eggs per day.  We have twenty hens.  Only the oldest are laying right now.  More will come online by the end of this month and by the end of March they all should be laying.  That will be just in time to start collecting eggs for setting.

I’m really liking some of the egg color.  My ideal is a robin’s egg blue.  I raise Silver Ameraucana, a variety that has had a lot of trouble with egg color.  The shade is often too pale and too green.  I have my fingers crossed that a good number of the younger pullets will lay nice color.  I’d like to have as many hens as possible for breeding.  So far there are four or five of the oldest pullets producing good blue color.

Personally, I like the variety of shades represented above.  They look lovely as Easter eggs, no dyeing required!  My customers who buy eating eggs really enjoy the brightly colored eggs, as do my young granddaughters.  They are fun for everyone!

Crescendoe Gloves

These gloves were found on a recent trip to a local thrift shop.  They carry only an inside tag identifying the lining as 100% silk and giving a WPL number that corresponds to Crescendoe Glove Co.  The gloves appear unused and were in their original plastic sleeve.

They are made of fine, thin, cream colored leather with hand crocheted detail.  The size is not marked but they measure 6.25″ around the palm and would be a size 6 or Small.  They are 10.5″ long.  When worn they would cover about half way up the forearm.  The material is Crescendoe’s special washable leather.  This pair of gloves is as supple and wearable as the day they were made.c4

WPL numbers were changed over to RN numbers starting in 1959.  These gloves can be dated to that year because of the confusing use of an RN number for a WPL number.  The last WPL number issued was 13669 in 1959.  For some reason Crescendoe used this odd label.  I suspect it was a temporary problem, probably fixed within a few months.  Because the gloves appear very clean, unstretched, and still contain this lightly applied label, I believe they are unworn.

Crescendoe Gloves were a division or brand name of Superb Gloves, both companies being located in Johnstown, NY.  Superb registered the Crescendoe name in 1942.  Johnstown and nearby Gloversville once formed a center for glovemaking in the US.  The area had many tanneries.

In the 1800s glovemaking became a cottage industry in this region.  The leather was processed and cut out in factories by men and the gloves were sewn together in homes by women.  By the early 1900s, glove stitching also moved to the factories.  A booming industry grew up in the area and continued into the final quarter of the last century.  As fashion moved away from the daily wearing of ladies gloves, the industry died.  Just a few glove manufacturers remain.

Crescendoe was a very popular brand from the 1940s into the 1970s. The wearing of fine, dressy gloves when going out was de rigueur for a fashion conscious woman. The right glove “made” a lady’s outfit, especially for evening. The use of gloves was also good hygiene and it protected hands from the weathering effects of sun, cold and wind. I bet chapped hands were less of a problem when glove wearing was common place.

Crescendoe ran a very successful advertising campaign in fashion magazines. This illustration from 1954 by Rene Gruau highlights the attractiveness of the gloves. The company touted their product’s ability to slim the hands. Gruau was a famous fashion artist of the time. Use of his artwork represented an impressive investment by the company. Rene Gruau’s work can be found in museums today and he is acknowledged as a major contributor to haute couture.

image by 1950s Unlimited  link to use

The significance of small discoveries in thrift shops, at yard sales, auctions and secondhand shops always amazes me.  This pair of gloves was lost, jumbled amid a motley collection of worn-out hats, gaudy scarves, old hosiery and cheap fake-leather wallets in a bin.  I knew when I saw them that they were something special and I was right.  The gloves are listed in my eBay Phoenix Farm shop.

Sad News About Otto

Our big, beautiful, seven-year-old German Shepherd Otto is dying.  We learned this in November when he went to the vet due to excessive drinking and urinating.  All the tests we ran showed very little was wrong, except his ability to concentrate urine.  Otto’s kidneys are failing.  To look at him then and even now, you would think nothing was wrong.  He seems healthy and active.  He eats well and looks in great condition.  But something is very wrong.

In early December his first morning urine specific gravity was 1.030.  The normal range is 1.050-1.060.  The vet said at that time his kidney function was at about 25%.  Since then we put him on a low protein, low sodium diet.  There is very little else to be done for failing kidneys.  He loves his new diet that includes lots of vegetables and senior moist food mixed with dry senior kibble.  It took some searching to find a diet that didn’t aggravate Otto’s chicken allergy.  After a few weeks he stopped drinking and urinating excessively.  We actually thought the urine test was a fluke and he might be getting better.

I got a veterinary refractometer so I could test his urine specific gravity at home.  Five days ago I checked his first morning urine and the specific gravity reading is down to 1.010.  The only indication of anything being wrong is that he occasionally vomits a little.  Otherwise he seems perfectly healthy.  Kidney failure for Otto is an insidious process.

The vet has no real explanation for the failure.  Otto could have gotten into poison, destroying the nephron cells in his kidneys.  These cells do not grow back once they are killed.  We have no idea where the dog could have gotten poison.  He doesn’t stray far from us.  The other dog, Max, goes everywhere with him.  Max does not have any problem.  There is a condition found in German Shepherds called chronic kidney failure.  It is a genetic issue.  We don’t know if this runs in Otto’s family.  The breeder certainly didn’t mention it when we bought him.  I suspect this may be what is causing Otto’s demise.

I plan to start administering subcutaneous fluids to help keep Otto hydrated in an effort to extend his life.  Once his kidneys reach a critical stage, Otto’s health will rapidly decline and we will be forced to lay him away so he doesn’t suffer.  It would be good if he could make it to spring so we can bury him in our pet cemetery.  It will be a very sad time on the farm.

Feb 2 Update:  Since writing this blog two days ago, I’ve had more discussion with the vet.  He was interested to learn that Otto’s urine dilution had increased while his drinking and urination had decreased to nearly normal.  Although Otto does not show any other real symptoms, the vet wants to check the dog for Addison’s disease.  So in two days Otto will get an ACTH stimulation test.  Fingers crossed that he has Addisons, the first time I’ve wished a disease on a dog.  Because it is treatable with steroids and he could have a long, regular life, instead of succumbing to kidney failure.

Feb 6 Update:  The ACTH Stim test was performed yesterday and the results came back completely normal.  For $300+ we learned Otto does not have Addisons disease.  Still no idea what is wrong.  Today we are performing a urine concentration test.  No water for Otto for most of the day and every few hours I collect urine and test the concentration with my refractometer.  So far his urine continues very dilute.

Why’s My Cat Fat?

Most owners know that their cats are obligate carnivores.  This means feline bodies do not produce all the essential amino acids for survival.  Cats must consume meat to obtain taurine or they will die.  Taurine deficiency can result in various conditions including blindness, tooth decay, enlarged heart and lowered immune response.

For most of their evolutionary past, cats were busy little rodent killers.  They earned a place beside man’s hearth by keeping the mice and rats under control.  Consuming rodents and other small animals provides cats with the taurine they need.  While the modern house kitty may catch and even eat the occasional mouse, most cats subsist on commercial diets.  These are supposed to be balanced foods that meet the nutritional needs of felines.

Unfortunately, far too many house cats are overweight.  I worked for eleven years as a veterinary technician and saw an inordinate number of over-weight kitties.  In the photo above of my own cats, the cat at the bottom, Toby, is quite hefty.  He started out at an optimal weight and body condition and stayed there the first seven years of his life.  His weight gain started when he developed bladder infections and began receiving moist food every evening.  Because I have a multi-cat household, I always have dry food available free-choice and Toby really pigged out.  He is a large-framed cat anyway.  With the extra weight, he topped the scales at nearly 19 pounds.

Over the years I’ve owned many cats.  Most were within fairly normal weight ranges with a few exceptions.  Some just ballooned to overweight as they reached senior age, about 7 years old.  Perhaps the gain was due to lower activity levels.  Or maybe something else is going on?

A review of the guaranteed analysis of the nutritional content of commercial cat food reveals that most dry food provides about 0.1% to 0.2% taurine.  This includes many high end brand names and even prescription diets.  Moist cat food has a taurine content of about 0.05-0.2% with more expensive brands generally having more of the amino acid.  Semi-moist cat foods are in the same boat.  Sometimes the taurine levels in cat food are not even provided on the package.  The consumer must make an effort to find the information.

Taurine is highly water soluble.  It is not possible to over-feed taurine since excess is excreted.  Most cat food is supplemented with taurine due to a significant loss of the amino acid during the cooking process.  Studies indicate the average cat requires 75-100 mg of taurine per day.  Experiences with my own cats leads me to suspect the requirement is actually higher.

For most of Toby’s adult life, he ate only Purina Complete Cat Chow, a dry food.  This was available free choice.  Then at age seven he also started getting 1/2 can of moist Friskies pate per day.  The taurine content of Cat Chow is 0.15% and Friskies canned is 0.05%.  Within a few months the cat’s weight gain was obvious.  It just got worse and worse.  At 16 he was that very heavy cat in the photo.  He also had serious problems with chronic yeast ear infections.

One of my dogs had very itchy skin with chronic yeast in the ears.  After he was switched to a non-chicken diet, his itching and grungy ears all went away.  He had a chicken allergy.  I wondered if my cat had the same problem.  Chicken is a cheap and easily obtained protein that crops up in a majority of commercial pet foods.  During my search for a dry cat food without chicken, I stumbled across Farmina Natural and Delicious.  Beginning in mid-January of 2018 (about one year ago) I changed all my cats to dry Farmina and also cut out as much chicken as possible from the moist food I offer every night.  I also feed about 20% Science Diet Dental Care (a dry food with a large kibble size to encourage chewing) to help keep the cats’ teeth clear of tartar.  This food contains chicken.  We’ve tried to go without Dental Care, but the tartar tends to build up.

Within a few months of the food change, Toby’s ear infections cleared up.  No more scratching at his ears, no more heavy build-up of dark, thick waxy discharge.  He was a happy cat.  The small amount of chicken in the Dental Care didn’t seem to affect him.

Then I began to notice another change.  He was losing some weight.  Another of my cats, Chloe, a female of 5 to 6 years, also had lost some weight.  She had been getting too chunky around the middle.  Now she looked great!  One of my younger cats, Kai, a three-year-old, had been gaining weight and losing the tucked-in waistline of his younger days.  On the new diet he had slimmed down.  All my cats’ coats were looking more sleek and shiny with less shedding and they seemed to have more energy.  What was going on here?

I studied the Farmina label and discovered it contained 0.4% taurine, almost four times the level found in most cat food brands.  The cats were consuming less food, lowering their caloric intake.  My hypothesis is that cats over-consume and gain weight in an effort to ingest sufficient quantities of taurine.  With lowered food intake, all my overweight cats reduced their weight.  Today Toby is about 15 lbs and actually has a waist!

In June of this year we acquired two tiny kittens.  They have grown up eating only free-choice Farmina, moist Friskies pate and Dental Care.  They have the most exquisite, silky, shiny coats and amazing muscle tone.  Their little arm muscles fairly bulge!  These kittens have great body condition, as do all the other cats in the house.  At age 18, even though Toby has arthritic hips, he is active and often playful.  I believe he is feeling much better than before his new diet.  I wonder if other owners of over-weight cats tried increasing taurine levels that they would discover the same results?  It’s worth a try!

Disclaimer:  I do not recommend any particular brand of cat food, do not make endorsements, and have not received benefits or consideration from any cat food manufacturer.