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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!

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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.

 

 

Town of Sandwich, Kent, UK

My daughter and I just returned from a twelve-day trip to England to visit my mother, who has lived in the UK for about thirty years.  Usually the trip involves tours of local attractions.  This year we went to the town of Sandwich, located near the English Channel between Margate and Dover.  At one time Sandwich was one of the greatest ports in England and is still one of the five Cinque Ports designated by the Crown to protect the coast.

Sandwich is renowned for containing some of the most complete sections of medieval town.  Tourism to view the antiquities began in the 1700s and has not abated.  We stayed at the King’s Arms, an inn built in 1580 on Strand Street.  At that time the street fronted the Stour River.  Since then so much silting-in of the waterway has occurred that there are houses with large backyards on the river side of the street.  The inn was originally called the Queen’s Arms and named for Elizabeth I who visited Sandwich.  The name was changed in 1687, during the reign of James II.

The inn is a charming and largely original structure.  Features such as the cheerful common room with its giant fireplace, huge exposed wooden beams throughout, narrow, steep staircases, and door clearances under six feet high are all proof of this house’s nearly 450 year history.  Our room was number three and our window was the middle one with the orange glow above the parked car on the right side of the first photo.  The elderly single glazed window was quite drafty.  Luckily the weather was warm during our stay.  We had a large, comfortable room with a fireplace that has been closed up.  The included full English breakfast was very good.  The psychic in me is certain residuals of long-gone lives still remain in our room and in the entire building.

Many of the streets in Sandwich are like the one above.  It is single lane, yet accommodates two-way traffic.  Medieval buildings crowd close, their jetties overhanging the sidewalks.  The lane above, Church Street, runs between the King’s Arms and St. Mary’s Church to intersect with Strand Street.  Walking along the streets can be challenging as the traffic is sometimes heavy and the sidewalks are narrow or non-existent.  Many are roughly paved with cobbles.

Sandwich has a long history.  It began as a small settlement on an island in a large, deep harbor.  In AD 43 the Romans established Rutupiae (Richborough) on this harbor.  The population of the area rapidly expanded as the army used Rutupiae for their base in the conquest of Britain.  Sandwich, once known as Lundenwic, stood near the harbor entrance to the wide, deep, important Wantsum shipping channel that ran all the way to London from the sea.  Massive storms with tidal wave surges deposited so much silt with major flooding that the harbor was partially filled in, leaving Richborough high and dry and making Lundenwic the new port town.  After the Romans left, and the Saxons were invaded by Danes, the name was changed to Sandwic, meaning sandy town.  Over time the name morphed into Sandwich.

In the 900s, the town moved to higher ground as continued silting formed a peninsula from the original island.  The channel remained deep enough for large ships.  By the eleventh century Sandwich had become a major English port with a large population and great wealth.  In the middle of that century it was designated a Cinqueport with obligations to provided armed sailing vessels and fighting men for the king in times of war.  In return Sandwich received money from surrounding towns to help with the arming of vessels and men, and privileged trade with the continent free from customs and tolls.

Ever at odds with England, France staged several raids on Sandwich.  In 1217, they burned much of the town.  A toll ferry carried traffic across to Thanet until a bridge was built.  A version of it stands today.  The structure was originally a drawbridge but was rebuilt as the current single lane swing bridge.  Traffic approaches the bridge through the Barbican or David’s (Davis) Gate (photo above.)  The town had been granted the right to have its own municipal court as a cinqueport privilege.  A Guild Hall with a court room was constructed in 1359 that still stands today.  The town had a mayor and all the eligible men of voting age participated in town business including serving on juries.

The Great Storm of 1287 brought a devastating tidal wave storm surge carrying so much silt that the harbor was filled in.  The river remained deep enough for good sized ships to navigate so Sandwich continued as a port two miles inland from the sea.  A wide place in the river called Sandwich Haven provided safe docking for trade ships.  The French attacked several more times including in 1457 when the mayor was killed.  Since that time all the mayors of Sandwich wear black robes of office to signify mourning.  In the 1450s the king became so concerned about attacks by the French that he ordered the town better fortified.  More and higher walls were built and stronger gates.

The end of Sandwich’s days as a port city occurred in the late 1550s when Pope Paul IV lost a large ship. It sank right at the mouth of Sandwich Haven.  Soon silt and sand built up around the wreck effectively stopping up the entrance to Sandwich for large trading vessels.  Attempts to cut a deeper passage failed.

In the 1560s, craftspeople escaping religious persecution in Flanders and France came to England.  Queen Elizabeth granted the refugees licenses to set up shops and manufacture in different parts of England.  Several groups of Dutch weavers moved to Sandwich and began manufacturing broadcloth using wool produced in Kent.  They employed small vessels to carry their goods out to markets.  This created a boom for the Sandwich area.  The photo above is of the Sandwich Weavers building where the Dutch sheltered when they arrived in the area.  Over time many of these weavers became wealthy.

The Dutch influence in Sandwich can also be seen in architecture, ditches, drainage works and farm fields.  Because the area was once part of the sea, it is low, flat and damp.  The Dutch had experience with such conditions.  They drained fields to create farmland and grew crops such as grains, carrots and celery in the sandy soil.  A ditch called the Delf (Old English for ditch) and connected sluices were added in an attempt to bring better water to the town.  It was notorious for unhealthful conditions due to fouled drinking water.  Today the sluices can still be seen, stagnant water filled with duck weed and looking like tiny canals standing below street level in front of homes.  The Delf did not improve conditions as people continued to foul the open waterways and contract illnesses.  An attempt to pump in clean water failed in the 1620s.  The town didn’t have reliable clean drinking water until the late 1800s.

Prosperity brought by the Dutch began to fade in the early 1600s when King James I set up a company of merchants and granted them sole rights to trade in Europe.  With its commercial life strangled, Sandwich faded as a port for anything but the superior crops produced in the area, including its famed carrots.  Poverty became a problem for the locals until tourism began to restore some employment.  The town drew visitors to its quaint, narrow streets and blocks of antique houses.

The fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montague (1718-1792) is fabled to have eaten meals made of slices of meat between pieces of bread while gambling in the Guild Hall around 1762.  The sandwich is named for him.  In 1759 Thomas Paine lived for about a year on New Street in a small brick house.  He had settled in Sandwich after marrying.  His wife died a year after the marriage.  He later departed for the American colonies and found fame there as a patriot.

Today Sandwich has much to offer visitors.  Experience the adventure of staying in a medieval inn, take a leisurely stroll on the walkways by the Quay, enjoy a meal in one of the many fine establishments, amble through the ancient streets or hike along a segment of the well kept Coast Path which passes through town on its way around the entire southeastern seaboard.  Sandwich has something for everyone.

 

 

 

A Couple of Caterpillars

This has been a good year for butterflies and moths in Maine.  I’ve seen over two dozen monarch butterflies or caterpillars so far.  Much better than a few years ago when there was a dismal year with no sightings!

The other day I found three monarch caterpillars on one well-eaten milkweed plant.  I moved two to a different area that wasn’t being fed on at all.  The little guy above is one of the relocated insects.  It is amazing how fast caterpillars grow!  This one has doubled its size in three days!  I hope to catch one in the chrysalis stage.  I think monarchs have such beautiful chrysalises with the gold colored detailing.

As I was searching for monarchs, I happened upon this beautiful caterpillar.  It is the brown hooded owlet moth.  With such a gorgeous immature stage, one would expect the adult to be stunning.  However, the adult is a fairly drab brown moth with a hump over its head, hence the “hooded” part of the name.  Looks like the species puts all the effort into the caterpillar.

This species is also frequently preyed upon by parasitic flies that lay eggs on the caterpillars.  The developing fly larvae consume the caterpillar.  I hope this caterpillar escapes that fate!  It was happily chomping a golden rod, good job little bug!  We have way too much goldenrod on the farm.

Foster Cat Moon and Kittens

This pretty kitty is Moon, she is a feral cat I am fostering for the Humane Society shelter.  Moon is a very young animal and this is likely her first litter.  She has two adorable babies just 2 weeks old. Because I work socializing the feral and barn cats at the shelter, I met Moon right after she gave birth.  She was living in a small cage to separate her from the other cats.

Moon was certainly hard to approach and having kittens made her even more defensive.  I worked with her for awhile, scratching and stroking her with the long wood dowel I use to touch feral cats.  She stopped her growling and hissing and actually started to rub back and purr.  Under her prickly exterior I could tell there was a gentle, loving cat.

The shelter is pretty much filled to capacity with cats.  Mother cats with litters are usually fostered out to volunteer homes where the babies are raised in a friendly environment.  Poor Moon was too wild to go to a foster home.  The shelter can’t let people take feral cats due to the risk of injury.  Luckily, I am an expert at handling feral cats.  With over 2.5 years of volunteer work at the shelter socializing barn cats, the personnel realized I was up for the job.  I volunteered to give Moon a comfortable room at my house for the duration of raising her babies.

She came home with me today.  At first she was very shy and hid behind the toilet in our upstairs bathroom where she will be living.  Finally I coaxed her into the box with her kittens.  The box is about the size of her cage at the shelter.  I think Moon will be pleased to have so much more room to stretch out.  I plan to socialize her and her kittens so they have chances to find good, indoor homes.  They will be staying with us until the babies are 8 weeks old and ready to leave their mom.  Then Moon will be spayed and made ready for adoption.

I’ve already begun handling the kittens.  Their eyes are just barely open.  They have had minimal human contact.  While mom was distracted I held and patted each of them.  One is black with a bit of white and the other is a yellow tiger.  They both initially hissed and spit at me.  So funny to see such brave ferocity coming from tiny balls of fluff!  By the time the first socializing lesson was finished, both kittens were relaxed, cuddled in my hands asleep.

I love cats and especially adore kittens.  I cherish the opportunity to make a difference for these sweet animals.