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RIVIERA DOGS

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I’m going fishing again

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I caught this bass at a private pond in South Carolina a few weeks ago. It was one of several I caught on a Zebco Omega Spincast.

I am, however, going again for trout this weekend, and I have to say, I’ve caught one of those in ten years.

Every time I ask for advice on trout, I get told to get a spinning reel. I cannot use one of those reels without getting so frustrated with it that break it into many pieces.

I have to use the spincast technology. No discussion.  I am stuck using the reel that gives me the least amount of grief, because I cannot go down to the trout stream and have a wild cussing fit at a tangle every three to five casts. It’s supposed to be relaxing. It’s not supposed to be a war.

The Zebco reel I have comes with red “Cajun” line that is about 10-pound test line. That’s a bit much for trout, so I am thinking of just doing a leader on it. I’m not taking that 10-pound test off, because it’s much easier to get on a bass hole than a trout stream in this part of the world.

The odds of me catching a trout are extremely low.  The only way they could be lower is for me not to go or to throw rocks in the creek before I cast.

So I’m going down to play in the creek and dumb around with a stick and some fake worms that look like giant sperm.

Probably to catch jack again.

I wish this stream had other species in it, because then I could try for a smallmouth or a bluegill when I get bored and frustrated with salmonoids.

I am not much of a waterman or an angler. I’m a ridgerunner, landlubber sort.

So I am off again. Waste some time. Deposit a few yards to the miles of line that I can’t retrieve out of a snag, along with my hooks and sinkers,

And watch people who don’t even know that a rainbow trout is a Pacific salmon or that a brook trout is a char catch over their limit and hide from the game warden.

There is no meritocracy in fishing. It’s not like hunting deer, where you figure it out over the trips you take. I can call a white-tail right up to my feet,  But every time I got to the fish, it’s a different hell. The primitive rayfins with minuscule brains have me outsmarted.

I don’t mind hooked a nasty largemouth bass and hauling in it, but that’s not something I’d want to eat.  They come in all spikes and green rage, like some sort of water monster that you’ve roused from the depths.

The one trout I’ve caught fought beautifully and angelically, like a cherub wheeling in the water before landed it. It was a rainbow, the transplanted Pacific salmon whose ocean going form is called a steelhead. It was a native to this land as people with German last names, pale skin, and blue eyes.

But it was more native than I was, more at home in the water than I ever could be in my terrestrial existence.

So humbled by a damned fish.

Who knew?

 

 

 

 

 


Natural History

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Grandpa’s Bird

aududbon wild turkeyIf you were to travel the back roads along the wild border between Calhoun and Gilmer Counties and mention my name to some well-worn local, you would probably get “You mean that guy who kills all the turkeys?”

I am Scottie V. Westfall III.  Junior is my father. The elder has passed on.

I have never killed a turkey, though I’ve certainly seen the birds slinking along on gray November days, the sort of days when you hope against all hope that a white-horned stag might come slinking out of the thickets and into rifle range.   When the bipedal fantails come trudging out of the gray gloom, I’ve been sorely tempted, but I’ve held my fire.

Not in season. Let them be.

My grandpa killed 8 turkeys in one season. The limit is 2.

He saw them as the Holy Grail of wild game.  He made his own calls and spent hours scouting and “chumming” them.  “Chumming,” of course, meant the copious dropping the “yellow call” in the March woods,  and “yellow call” was cracked corn. Baiting turkeys was illegal as taking more than the yearly bag limit.

He and often argued over conservation issues, but he liked playing the scofflaw, a sort twentieth century version of the old European poacher who loved to flaunt the king’s edicts about the king’s game.

Turkey hunts in spring begin before the sun rises.  The birds start moving and then start courting once there is just enough light to see, and the big tom birds drop from their treetop roosts and go about the business of fighting and fanning before the often reluctant hens.

The trick is to hit the woods before the birds come down and begin the process of “talking turkey.”  The talk a man gives the tom bird is supposed to be that of a dopey but receptive hen that is looking for a male company but just can’t make her way toward him.

If a tom is “henned up” with plenty of female company, he’s not likely to leave them to look for the yelping idiot on a distant ridge. He’s going to be content to stay with his harem and fan and puff  up for them.

The best hunters have strategies for the birds, but the very best– the ones who shoot 8 birds in a season– use the yellow call. They risk the game warden’s fines, but if he really wants the bird, it’s a risk that some will take.

Before there was ever a turkey season, my grandpa set out a bunch of game-farmed Eastern wild turkeys in the back country. The dumb things were too tame to be sporting birds, so he took to harassing and harrying with sticks.

And they soon learned to fear man, and they thrived in the backwoods.  When their numbers were high enough, my grandpa opened his own season and shot a tom.  He was totally flaunting the North American model of wildlife conservation. He’d set out private birds on private land, and now he was opening his own private season.

I can’t say that I approve of such things. I’m more or less in love with public wildlife model that has served our game species so well. I don’t hate conservation laws, which are mostly based upon the most rigorous science available.

But a few days ago, I saw a few big toms out fanning in a pasture. The greenness of the new April grass painted a pastel promenade ground, and the bird’s iridescent feathers were shining in the April sun.

I saw in them the beauty that had so beguiled my grandfather. They drove him into the scofflaw world of sniping turkeys with a .243.  They were what led him the regular haunts in the March woods with buckets of yellow call.

“You gobble. You die,” said the vanity plate on my his Ford pickup.

And for the turkeys he took, it certainly meant death.

But in their gobbling, he truly lived. He was a wild beast of the woods as his ancestors were, hunting hard the wild game without any regard for such artificial abstractions as law and conservation science.  It is the way that our kind lived for much of our 200,000 year existence. It is a way that has brought down many species, including the passenger pigeons which used to fill the skies on warm spring days.

The pigeon died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914, more than 19 years before my grandfather was born. They died off as the wild turkey nearly did. We just couldn’t stop killing them.

The turkey was saved, though, and is doing well.  And the bag limits and seasons get more liberal every year.

I think of my grandpa when I see these birds on clear April days. I know that he would be out there questing for them, yearning for them, coaxing them, ready to harvest as a wild hunting man should.

And I can only come up short. I’m an ersatz hunter-gatherer, wet around the ears, domesticated by the post-industrial world.

Yet still seeking that essential wildness that lies in gray woods of my people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Natural History

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Individual Mexican Style Layer Dips

Individual Mexican Style Layer Dips
Individual Mexican Style Layer Dips

Cinco de Mayo is next week, and while this holiday is actually a commemoration marking Mexico’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla way back in 1862, here in the U.S. the date has become more of a celebration of Mexican-American culture, music, and food. And we all know that I have a profound love for (okay, maybe even a slight obsession with) Mexican-inspired cuisine. So I say that a day that includes consuming it (along with other delights like fresh Margaritas; yes please) as a form of fiesta is something pretty freaking wonderful, and I always find a way to take advantage.

In preparation for a little Cinco de Mayo gathering, I decided to put together a recipe for one of my favorite Mexican-American snacks (7 layer dip) in a way that was a little more party-friendly in terms of serving than a big old casserole dish. I also wanted to make it (just a tiny bit) healthier by switching out a few ingredients in exchange for others (but I’ll get to that in a minute). These individual layer dips are so easy to make, incredibly delicious, and they look pretty too.

Individual Mexican Style Layer Dips
Individual Mexican Style Layer Dips
Individual Mexican Style Layer Dips

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

1-1/2 cups Rojo’s Salsas (I like to use 2; usually Homestyle and Restaurant Style, or their new Organic Traditional)
1 can (16 oz) vegetarian refried beans
1 large ripe avocado
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2-1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
6-8 black olives, slicked
small bunch green onions, sliced
a few pieces of cilantro
chili powder
cumin
salt
2-3 limes

In a small bowl, mix the refried beans with chili powder, cumin, and a little salt to taste. In another small bowl, make the guacamole by mashing up the avocado in a bowl with a couple dashes of salt and some fresh squeezed lime juice. Now start layering! Set out 6 medium sized glasses and evenly divide the beans, followed by the guacamole, the Greek yogurt, and the Rojo’s Salsa. Top that with a sprinkle of cheese, some black olives, and some green onion slices. Then sprinkle on a little chili powder and a squeeze of lime on the top of each glass, and garnish with cilantro and a tortilla chip. Fiesta in a glass!

Individual Mexican Style Layer Dips
Individual Mexican Style Layer Dips
Individual Mexican Style Layer Dips

In addition to the fact this layer dip is perfect for celebrations (and let’s face it, cuter and more fun too) because of the individually sized servings, it’s also healthier than traditional 7-layer dips, which are loaded with sour cream, cheese, and salt. Swapping out sour cream for plain Greek yogurt not only makes for a creamier, more flavorful dip, it also increased the protein and cuts back on the calories. I also like to use shredded cheese as more of a garnish than a layer. Cheddar is a great choice because the flavor is strong so you need less. And I always choose Rojo’s Salsas because they are made with premium, fresh-cut ingredients in small batches with, and are refrigerated instead of jarred. It’s no secret that, like Mexican inspired food, I’m a big fan of Rojo’s. (Two of my favorite recipes use their salsas – Healthy Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Vegan Black Bean and Salsa Soup.) We grow tomatoes in our summer container gardens and I used to make salsa with them all the time – but now I just buy Rojo’s. They taste just as fresh and even more delicious than our home grown salsas, and (major bonus) all I have to do is open the container.

Are you doing anything to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year? If you’re making a special dish for it, I’d love to hear your recipe!

This post is in partnership with Rojo’s Salsa. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.

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Dog Alerts Owner to Stranded Dolphin – Saving the Sea Creature!

Leia the dog saves baby dolphin

When most of us go walking along the beach with our dog, we might come across some cool sea shells or beach glass. One man came across a stranded baby dolphin!

According to NTD.tv, the unnamed man was fishing and taking photos of his dog, Leia, along a beach in North Whales on the day in question. He was near the mouth of the River Dwyfor when, as he wrote on YouTube, “I heard my dog barking at me from further down the beach….clearly she had found something!”

When the man got closer he saw that she had found a stranded baby dolphin. The shore there was rocky and the waves were crashing hard. Normally if one finds a stranded dolphin on a beach, it’s recommended to call the local emergency services for help. “Unfortunately,” the man wrote, he “didn’t have a mobile signal” that day at the beach and “there was nobody around for miles” to help.

Read more about Leia saving a baby dolphin.

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