Category Archives: Educational

The Swarming (of Ladybugs)

Every fall since we’ve been here we have experienced an increase of activity in “lady bugs”.  Early on it was so slight we barely noticed but in recent years it has been increasing in intensity.

Why Do They Bite?

My guess on this is that because all forms of ladybugs feed on aphids and the larval stage of several insects (thus earning them the status of beneficial garden insects) at this time of year these large concentrations of ladybugs cannot find enough to eat and turn to biting other creatures (like me) trying to obtain sustenance.

Actually the American Lady Bird beetle is not known to bite, but the Asian Ladybug does.  It is not toxic,  but not only is the bite painful, some people are allergic to it.

What’s the Difference?

Visually, the two are very similar and the untrained eye may be fooled. Both are similar in size (though the Asian beetles tend to be a bit larger than the American) and shape.  Both can be from yellow to red in color.  Both have black spots.

But there are some consistent differences that make it possible to tell them apart.

  1.  The Asian beetles have variable spots: anywhere from 0 to 20.  The American beetle has 9: 4 on each side and 1 spot just behind it’s head that is centered and bisected by the split in its elytron (wing covers).
  2. The Asian beetle has a black and white “head” with the black part forming an “M” or “W” shape.  The American beetle’s is primarily black.
  3. The Asian beetles are known to bite, the American beetle is not.
  4. The Asian beetle seeks shelter by invading our homes in fall, the American beetle is more reclusive and seeks shelter by clustering in sheltered locations outside.

Why Are Asian Beetles Here?

The Asian ladybugs were brought into the United States by the USDA and Forestry Commission to relieve the hardwood forests of many disease carrying aphids, mites, and scale insects.  But, the Asian species of beetle proved to be hardier and stronger than the American species.  The two compete for the same food sources, and the Asian species carries a parasitic fungus that kills other species of ladybugs.  Now the American Lady Bird Beetle is on the endangered species list as, once again, something imported is killing off the native species.

And from the looks of things lately, they’re gunning for us next!

The Airplane That Flies At the Edge of Space

There are only a few airplanes (that we know of) that can fly at 70.000 feet or above. The SR71 Blackbird has logged at least one flight at just over 85,000 feet (July, 1976) [1] and the The X-43A flies at 100,000 feet while still using an air-breathing engine (not a rocket) [2].  But only one plane routinely flies to the edge of space and back, and it’s actually a relic from the 1950’s.   Although each plane is periodically stripped completely, x-rayed, and refurbished, the design has remained essentially the same over all these decades.  Why? Because it works. Continue reading The Airplane That Flies At the Edge of Space

Summertime Danger to Your Dog’s Feet

I was working a tent at an event one day.  A woman came along and stopped to talk with an acquaintance in front of our tent.  It was summer, quite warm, and we were set up on asphalt.  As their conversation continued I noticed that the senior Boxer the woman had on a leash was “dancing” a bit.  I waved to get the woman’s attention and asked if she’d like to move over so she and her dog could cool her feet in the shade of our tent.

is it safe for dog feet“Oh, no: I’m fine.”  She responded from under her sun hat.

“Yeah,” I thought, “YOU’RE fine but your dog is suffering.”

THIS POST HAS BEEN MOVED TO THE PINEY MOUNTAIN FOSTER WEB SITE:

Summertime Danger to Your Dog’s Feet

 

Using Epsom Salt in the Garden

Most people are aware that Epsom salt makes for a soothing bath if you have itchy skin or sore muscles, but did you know it’s also beneficial to some of your garden plants?

Why Epsom salt?

Epsom saltEpsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is high in magnesium.  Magnesium promotes the uptake of nitrogen and phosphorous from the soil.  Magnesium also promotes the creation of chlorophyll, the stuff that gives plants their green color and is essential for photosynthesis.  By improving photosynthesis the plant feeds itself better and stays healthier.  Magnesium also aids a plant in the production of more flowers, which in turn become fruit.  Boosting photosynthesis also boosts sugar production, so fruit trees and vines will produce sweeter fruit.

Before using Epsom salt it is recommended to have your soil tested for magnesium content; amending it may not be needed.

What Plants Benefit?

Most flowering plants can benefit from the use of Epsom salt.  This includes flowers such as roses.  But my focus is the vegetable garden, so I’ll confine my discussion to those plants.  The primary benefactors are the nitrogen hungry plants like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, squash, and zucchini.  Do not use it on beans (which are nitrogen fixers) and leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, chard, and kale.

Signs of Need

Continue reading Using Epsom Salt in the Garden

Sneaky Ways to Medicate Your Dog

If you provide care to a canine, you know there are times when you must medicate your dog .  Some medications: like their heartworm prevention tabs, are flavored so most dogs will gulp them down like a treat.  But when you have to get them to take a pill, that can be harder.  Fortunately, most of us are smarter (or sneakier) than most of them.

Small Pills

Small pills like Diphenhydramine  and Prednisone can be hidden pretty easily in a glob of peanut butter, cheese, or pumpkin puree.  I can put a pill or two in a half-teaspoon of peanut butter and drop it on top of their kibbles and the dog will usually scarf it down without ever knowing.

If the dog is the suspicious type and will “search” the glob of peanut butter for alien objects, roll the glob in their kibbles.  The kibbles sticking to the glob make it harder to detect your deception. Continue reading Sneaky Ways to Medicate Your Dog

Members of the Homebrew Computer club

Apple 1: A Home-brew Computer

Here’s an interesting bit of computer history: the Apple 1 home computer.  This was the brain child of Steve Wozniac, who later became the co-founder of the Apple Computer Company.  But that came later.

Steve Jobs (left in image above) and Steve Wozniak both worked for Atari at the time and met in a friend’s garage in the late 1960s.  The two of them bonded over their shared interest in electronics and practical jokes.  Wozniak was a wizard at designing compact, efficient circuitry.  Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs debuted their prototype Apple 1 at the Homebrew Computer Club in 1976. Continue reading Apple 1: A Home-brew Computer

The Tax Reform Bill:
What It Really Says

For some time now I’ve been seeing some folks gnashing their teeth and tearing hair over this tax reform bill that just passed.  All manner of apocalyptic scenarios are being painted.  There are three issues that I see lamented most often.

Charitable Giving

One is charitable giving.  Some (even some news outlets) are saying that charitable giving is no longer income tax deductible, so people will stop giving.  First off I think that concept is just silly: people don’t give to charities solely to avoid paying taxes on that money.  But, getting that deduction is a nice perk for being generous.  Curious about what the real deal is, I started searching for credible reports on what the new tax bill says about charitable giving. Continue reading The Tax Reform Bill:
What It Really Says

Smile: Simple Giving to Favorite Charity

If you are a regular reader here, you know I serve as a foster care provider with Steele Away Home – Canine Foster and Rescue.  Being a charity, we are (always) raising funds to keep doing what we do.  We have a new way for you to help … and all you have to do is — SHOP!  You like shopping right?  Do you shop on Amazon.com?

Steele Away Home is an all-volunteer run 501(c)(3) and is now GuideStar accredited and registered with Amazon Smile.  If you select us as your beneficiary, Amazon will donate a percentage of THEIR profits from your purchase to us as your chosen charity. Continue reading Smile: Simple Giving to Favorite Charity

your dog's poop

Your Dog’s Poop Tells a Tale

Talking about your canine friends excrement may not be a glamorous topic, but there are some things that all dog owners should be aware of and watching for.  Yes, that’s right: you need to be looking at your dog’s poop.

Why Examine Your Dog’s Poop

With dogs, as with people, what is excreted can give clues to problems that are building inside.  Watching for signs of trouble as you clean up after your dog can give you warning well before severe symptoms set in.   Here’s what to look for:

NOTE: To be as effective as possible I have included photos.  To be as inoffensive as possible, I have made the on-page photos very small.  Click the photos to view them full size — or skip that if you’re squeamish. Continue reading Your Dog’s Poop Tells a Tale

pit bull

Pit Bulls We Loved Before They Were Feared

According to nationalpitbullawarenessday.org, Jodi Preis of Bless the Bullys, a non-profit rescue and education effort in Tennessee, introduced the idea of National Pit Bull Awareness Day in 2007 and it took off like wildfire.  Now, the entire month of October is known as National Pit Bull Awareness Month, while devotees of pit bulls recognize October 27th across the country as National Pit Bull Awareness Day.

pit bulls
Am. Pit Bull Terrier

National Pit Bull Awareness Day (NPBAD) is a day of appreciation and education designed to change perceptions and stereotypes about pit bulls and their responsible owners.  NPBAD was established to educate and foster positive communications and experiences in the communities in which we and our dogs live, and it is an initiative dedicated to restoring the image of the American Pit Bull Terrier.

It is well known that pit bulls, and pit-mixes, are at the current target of breed specific legislation, discrimination, and negative bias among the nation’s media and government.  Despite continued efforts by supporters, much of the general public is overwhelmingly misinformed about the breed and hold to a fear-filled image created by humans who exploit the dogs, not the breed itself. Continue reading Pit Bulls We Loved Before They Were Feared