Coyote vs Fox

March 19th, 2011

This will give an idea of size differences between the two. Click on the high light to see the video–it may take a few moments to buffer or you can just see both animals as stills.

This video was taken on Jan. 21, 2011 at 5 am of an adult coyote

This was taken by the same camera on Jan 22,2011 at 3 am. Note the coyote’s tracks are still there. It is a grey fox which would make it about the size of a beagle.

BTW, the coyote came across the pond whereas the fox came out of the woods below it. The fox seems to be checking the direction from which the coyote came. Our house is about 80 yds to the left and up the hill from this spot.

Sorry, But Chickens Die

January 30th, 2011

For the most part, chickens aren’t especially long-lived. This is just the nature of the species. Those who are trying to make pets of a few of these birds should realize this. Keeping chickens as backyard pets is like trying to keep most short-lived animals (goldfish and gerbils come to mind); under ideal conditions some live longer than others but it is more exception than rule. If a hen lives to 5 years of age—at which point it will have probably stopped laying—it is a ancient bird. There are a lot of reasons, singularly or combined, for chicken losses.

Start with the genetics. Chickens have been domesticated for in excess of 8000 years. Over that time period a small number of ancestors have produced a large population by breeding within a line. This is especially critical when it comes to each separate breed. In order to fix the different breeds and improve on their ability to either lay more eggs or grow to butchering size, a lot of in-line breeding had to have been done. These back crosses are a recipe for genetic defects. While fairly successful, there are breeds and individuals that have recessive genes that, when passed on, can lead to birth defects. While some, like size, odd feather growth or small combs are desirable, others, like crossed beaks, deformed toes, weak limbs, and the like are not. In addition there may also be internal defects that, while not evident to an observer, can lead to egg laying problems as well as other organ defects that can cause sudden death. It is not surprising, then, that a normal, healthy looking chicken can suddenly die with no apparent sign of illness. Only an autopsy could provide a clue to the cause of this kind of death and, often as not, it will show some anatomical defect as the cause.

Next, consider the method of reproduction. The external egg is not the best form for generating a new generation. If it were, evolution would have stopped at reptiles and I would be typing this with talons. Since the egg requires external incubation it is subject to many occurrences that can alter what is taking place inside the shell. While reptiles simply deposit their eggs and hope for the best, birds incubate them by providing body heat and humidity. This means the brooding bird has to be present almost constantly once the incubation process begins and any time spent off the eggs must be short. Should the eggs become chilled, too dry/wet or should the brooding bird not rotate the eggs at the right time problems can arise with the developing chick. Not only that but the egg shell can be either too weak, which will allow microbes to enter or the shell to be crushed, or too hard, in which case the emerging chick may exhaust itself trying to get out. Given all the variables, even when the eggs are carefully artificially hatched, it is no wonder that many chicks emerge with defects or life-threatening abnormalities. While, especially in artificial conditions, some defective chicks survive, they will always carry these abnormalities which can, later, lead to unexplained death.

Then, for the females, there is the egg laying process itself. In creating an egg laying machine from the original wild bird, we have sped up a process that was not designed by Mother Nature to produce as many eggs as it does. A normal, wild chicken, would produce, at the most, a single clutch of eggs per year, set these eggs and care for the hatchlings. Humans, because they want eggs not more birds, have short circuited this process through selective breeding and by removing the eggs so the hen lays more. This is hard on the hen, puts a burden on her reproductive system, and certainly ages her. It is little wonder that chickens are subject to such maladies as internal laying, egg blockage, peritonitis, “blow out” and other problems that may also be compounded by genetic defects.

Then there are diseases—a lot of them. While most birds are healthy enough to overcome and build immunity to most of the common ones, there are sneaky microbes that can get into a flock from outside sources that will take out one or all of the birds. Unfortunately, many common diseases only show symptoms once the bird is too ill to recover or are not easily and cheaply cured so the infected bird succumbs. Also, given that the chickens are confined in small spaces these diseases can spread very rapidly.

The above doesn’t even get into the physical problems that can befall chickens like impacted crops, broken limbs, and other injuries brought on by bad food or their environment. These kinds of things can happen with little warning in spite of the owner’s vigilance. Often too, the bird dies before the problem is diagnosed.

Finally predators take more than their share. Chickens seem to be on the lower end of the food chain where anything from rats to dogs find them either eatable or fun to kill. Because they have been bred for size, ease of handling and are, generally confined to yards or pens, most chickens have neither the ability to get away from predators nor can they fight them off. A chicken’s defensive reaction to predation is flight (that’s where “to be a chicken” comes from) or sacrifice of members of the flock to save the others. Often this behavior results in death itself without any sign of wounds or struggle and a determined predator can easily decimate a flock in a short period of time.

With a large flock and a lot of room all of the above do not, normally, present much of a problem. The loss of a few chickens in a flock of 20 or more is, while not something that makes the owner happy, understandable. However, if one has only half a dozen birds to begin with a loss of one or two is a tragedy of great proportions, especially if the owner is unprepared for it. It is important then that if you are keeping a small flock that you understand that this kind of thing is going to happen. It will better prepare you for the eventuality.

While there are things you can do such as cull any obvious defective chicks so as not to allow them to breed, select birds from proven flocks, watch for signs of disease, isolate sick birds, practice good biosecurity, and do the best you can to prevent predators from getting to your birds, they will still die unexpectedly. Just remember this is part of keeping chickens as much as enjoying those cute little fuzzy butt chicks.

Coyotes show up

January 1st, 2011

coyotes 12-29

These are the first pictures of coyotes on our property since I mounted the game camera in September. They are on the edge of our pond about 100 yds from the house at 4 am on the 29th of December. You have to click on the coyotes 12-29 above to see a video them.

New York State Government aka Whack a Mole

March 8th, 2010

Seems like every time someone sticks their head up in Albany the press and public takes a shot at them. Now it’s Cuomo. Who’s next? It would really be funny if it weren’t for the fact that with all this stuff going on not a damn thing is being done in the state legislature.

Why I Type Funny

March 7th, 2010

I want you to understand, the mistakes I make on my posts are not due to lack of spelling or typing skills. I learned both fairly well plus having spell-check helps. The reason for most of these errors can be seen below.

Left hand
Right Habd

It’s called Dupuytren’s contracture whereby the tenons in my hands become tight which has caused, in the last 10 – 15 years, my pinkie and ring fingers to slowly curl up into my palms. In the pictures I have my fingers extended as far as they can go. This means when I type I will inadvertently hit the wrong keys and, unless I proof carefully some words get misspelled. While most of the time the spell-check catches it, it will not when I hit an “i” for and “o” or “r” for “t” and end up with “our” for “out” or “hot” for “hit”. Often I just miss making these kinds of corrections.

There are several interesting things about this “contracture”. For one, it is inherited. Often called Scottish or Norwegian fisherman’s disease, it is found in populations that have Scandinavian ancestry. In fact, it is used to track the movement of the Vikings in their European conquests since it will appear only in those populations where they left genetic material. Second, it is fairly much incurable. While it can be repaired surgically the cure will only be temporary–one of the reasons I haven’t sought to have it done. Fortunately it does not prevent me from grasping a golf club so I can still pursue that form of torture. Aside from not being able to straighten out my hands, there is no other side effect unless I grab something that I cannot release–then it hurts like hell. I can no longer set a volleyball, BTW. Interestingly too, I seem to be the only member of my extended family that is so inflicted.

If any one else out there has this, I’d be interested in know how you are coping.

The Junk Drawer

March 3rd, 2010

My dear wife decided to clean out the junk drawer in the kitchen yesterday. Now this is the drawer everyone has, usually in the kitchen, where you toss little pieces of stuff that you may need at some point but never do. In our case, once she removed the assort tools, appliance instruction booklets, phone book and upper layer of things we knew were there, she unearthed a lot of interesting stuff most of which neither she nor I had an idea of what it was for.

To wit:

A black rubber thing that looks like a spacer between to wires but then could be a bumper for something in either the current refrigerator or refrigerator, dishwasher or microwave we long ago discarded.

A two-piece, inch and a half sliver tube with holes in one end and along one side—one piece slides inside the other. Looks like a whistle but isn’t—I almost herniated myself trying that.

A Kodak AA battery that is no longer has a charged.

A long light bulb that may fit in either our refrigerator or refrigerator freezer—the last time one burned out I bought an extra. Chances are if the current bulb burnt out I’d forgot I had it and go buy another.

A halogen light bulb that might go to the yard light over the garage door—or not.

A small battery and an empty package for a SR41W battery—they maybe go together but the numbers on the bottom of the battery are so small, we can’t read it and even if they do, we have no idea what they are for.

Half a dozen flashlight bulbs that may be good but we don’t have a flashlight that they work in.

Two small light bulbs that may be for the lights that used to be along the sidewalk between the house and garage that we tore out when we remodeled 12 years ago.

Six keys for luggage or brief cases—no idea which or whether we still have them—can’t lock luggage any more anyway.

A bunch of keys for locks or doors or whatever—since none are labeled I will have to try every lock on the place to see if we have someplace they work. Chances are pretty go that, once I toss them, I find one I missed.

A florescent light starter.

Sockets and extensions for a ratchet screwdriver handle that, since the ratchet no longer worked, I think I threw away—maybe.

Several rolls of tape that no longer could be unrolled since it had hardened.

Two tubes of glue that has hardened.

Eight circular key rings—no keys on any of them.

4 fancy key chains—one labeled “to house”—none with keys attached.

A bunch of chain type key chains, all unhooked.

Three ballpoint pen refills that may or may not work that were taken from discarded pens just in case we got another pen that uses the same innards.

A small tack hammer whose head it so loose that it can no longer be used—unless someone fixes it which wasn’t to happen since “someone” didn’t remember it was there.

Two small springs.

Assorted screws, nuts, bolts and small nails—nuts did not necessarily fit bolts.

Two note pads each with a couple of sheets of paper.

Two bicycle pants clips—not something you see every day.

A package of assorted O-rings.

A pad lock with, miracle of miracle, the key attached.

A kitchen cabinet hinge.

A black plastic, T-shaped thing that looks like it belongs on the end of something like a faucet.

With exception of the glue and tape, and because “Hey, you never know.” all of the above were returned to the drawer. I figure in the next millenium some archaeologist is going to be really confused.

Railroad (Double) Crossing–a new novel

February 1st, 2010

Railroad (Double) Crossing

My second novel to be published in a year is now available. Like the first one it is set in a fictitious area of NYS and is wrapped around factual events. This time it is the toy train hobby, something I was/am involved with. There is a lot of inside information about the hobby besides the story itself about a brother and sister put in peril because of a toy train they inherited. Warning, however, there is some adult content.

As with Minimum Competency, this novel is available from, or can be ordered by your neigherhood bookstore. I’ll have copies of the new one available, along with the other of my two books in Bartles in Oxford and First Edition in Norwich.

Catharine’s Diary Ready

October 9th, 2009

I’ve finally seen and approved the proof copy so they are ready to go. If you want information about the book see the link in the previous blog entry. The price is $12.95 plus tax and postage from or Amazon. I’ll have copies in about a week for $15 each including postage/tax. Also there will be a few copies available locally–First Edition in Norwich and Bartles in Oxford.

Catharine’s Diary

October 3rd, 2009
Front cover

Front cover

This book is at the printers and I expect to see and approve the copy next week so it should be ready in another week or so. I’ll post when this happens.

To see a bit about the book click here.

NYS Commission of Education

September 12th, 2009

This last summer the NYS Board of Regents appointed a new Commission of Education, Dr. David Milton Steiner. Below is a quote from Dr. Steiner in re to the topic of my Sept. 9 blog.

New York has consistently led the nation in raising academic standards, and it may well be time to do it again,” Steiner said.

He also targeted the state’s 92% average passing rate on a teacher certification test, which state schools chancellor Merryl Tisch highlighted in a recent Daily News op/ed. “Now, we have extraordinary teachers in New York, don’t misunderstand me,” he said. “Nevertheless, it seems to me that a gateway certification test that has that high a pass rate should give us pause, and we need to take a look at that.”

Sounds like more of “same old, same old”.

Of course Dr. Steiner comes with impeccable credentials.

First he was, primarily, raised in Great Britain where he went to private school excepting for one year when he attended PS41 in NYC. Therefore he never had to put up with bullies trying to steal his lunch money or unruly classmates that required his teachers’ attention thus taking away from classroom instruction time. (Unless, of course it was Hogworth’s in which case he will need all the magic he can muster.) He then graduated with his BA and MA in philosophy, politics and economics from Balliol College at Oxford University and finished up by getting his PHD in political science from Harvard University. All of which certainly qualified him for absolutely nothing but further work in academia and allowed him the credentials to apply for grants. Additionally, like all academics, he published a few books to survive in the hallowed halls.

Then from 1999 to 2004 Dr. Steiner was a professor at Boston University’s School of Education where he taught in the Department of Administration, Training and Policy Studies and the Department of Curriculum and Teaching. I wonder how many of his students were forced to take his courses in order to graduate, how closely he had to hew to curriculum set forth by an outside agency, how long he spent creating lesson plans, writing and correcting tests, and explaining his grading to parents? He then moved to Hunter College where his main concern seems to have been in teaching prospective teachers to teach. I assume these were not any of the 8% that failed the teacher certification test.

(This latter position seems to have been one of the strong points in gaining him the Commissioner’s job since Steiner developed a curriculum at Hunter from 2005 to 2008 that supposedly improved teacher training. Inasmuch as it takes at least 5 years for a new teacher to “prove out” I would be interested to see if this methodology actually holds up and how many of those trained by it are, in fact, good teachers. Since education innovation takes time to work or not, only time will tell whether this experiment is a real breakthrough or just another of those failed novelties dreamed up in the Ivory Tower of academia. Likewise, this “experiment” was, like most of done in the field of education, hardly scientific in that there were no control groups or blind testing.)

My main point is this: Steiner is just one of a long line of educational administrators who are in charge of NYS education and have never spent an iota of time in the classroom. Or, if they have, have been either unhappy in their role of teacher or dismissed from their position. As such they and their ilk have absolutely no idea what is it like to teach. Nor do they realize the problems that teachers have to overcome; from poor parental support, apathy on the part of students, and asinine administrative directives just to being to impart knowledge to their students. Until those in charge of education realize that they need input from teachers in the field, the system will flounder and only succeed in spite of the people at the top, not because of them.