Petty Larceny, Vegetable

4864648444_3f02419f1d_bI may have stolen my neighbor’s tiny cherry tomatoes right off the vine. They were so glowingly red, so warm, how could I help myself?

Maybe “stolen” is a little harsh because I didn’t have to go onto her property to get the tomatoes, we share-crop them in pots in my back driveway.  And after all, she was going away and asked if I would harvest any that came ripe while she was gone.  And I knew she was gone but I have to be honest now, I didn’t know when she was coming back.  For all I knew, she was back already.  I’m in the realm of putative petty larceny here. Continue reading

The Last Word

tadpoles on my fingerJuly 27 – 31, 2015

Christie’s dog continues to live life as stupidly as possible, this time involving a skunk; and Christie solves the problem with the power of science.  This post is a public service.

Guest Chris Arnade’s pond is drying up; he saves the life of a one-eyed spring peeper but those tadpoles might never graduate into frogs.  He’s got heroic, heart-rending pictures.

In yet another public service, Helen squarely faces the dilemma of the CSA and her frig, applies her superb mental abilities, and shares the solution.  Except for beets, she hasn’t solved beets yet.

What if Cassie didn’t obey the doctors and before she went into the  hospital, she ate a cherry scone? What would she risk?  Would they even know?

The week ends with the latest in LWON’s preoccupation with hapless animals: guest Emily Underwood’s hamster, Hamlet, may well have committed suicide.  He was prone to that kind of thing.

Guest Post: I Had a Hamster. I’m Pretty Sure He Killed Himself.

Golden Hamster
This week, while working on a little story for Science about hamster emotions, I decided to do some hard-hitting journalism, so I called my mother.

“Mom, I want to know what happened to Hamlet,” I said over the phone, interrupting her dinner party in California.

A pause. “Really?”

Hamlet was my childhood hamster. He looked a lot like the tawny fluffball pictured above. I named him Hamlet because, well, I was a pretty melodramatic kid.

The official story was that Hamlet disappeared. I remember my clever mother speculating that he had escaped into the black widow-infested crawlspace under our house by slipping through a vent. After learning the truth about what really happened to one of our dogs, however — a story for another time — I harbored suspicions.

Hamlet had always seemed pretty depressed. He didn’t appear to enjoy his colorful cage, complete with a tunnel, wheel, and ramp. He was sullen and ornery — a biter. He was a pretty lousy pet.

My mother confirmed my childhood impressions. The only thing he did with any enthusiasm was gnaw at his plastic cage in an attempt to escape, she said. Eventually, he did. “One morning, I came in to wake you girls up and he was not where he belonged,” she said. “Then I found his body.”

Hamlet hadn’t been obviously mangled or chomped on by our two cats. “Maybe it was old age,” she said. “Or a broken heart.” (I come by my vivid imagination and emotional flair honestly.) “Do you think that Hamlet committed suicide?” I said. Continue reading

Forced Fasts and Surgical Risks

A week ago, I found out that the baby I’m carrying is breech. Instead of being head down, she is stubbornly head up, not such a good position for birthing. Since I am only a few weeks away from my due date, it’s unlikely she’ll flip on her own. And if she stays breech, I’ll likely have to have a C-section.

So yesterday morning I went to the hospital to have a doctor try and manhandle her into the correct position, a procedure called external cephalic version (or “version” for short). It’s a fancy name for a rather brutish procedure: A doctor clasps the baby’s head, a nurse grabs the baby’s butt, and then they try to thrust her into the right position. This works about half the time. And there are risks: The baby’s heart rate can fall, the umbilical cord can get squeezed, the placenta can tear, the amniotic sac can rupture. Once in a great while the doctor has to take the baby out right away. Continue reading

How I Eat My Veggies

A big old pile of green vegetablesI’ve done it.

I figured out how to eat vegetables.

Maybe everyone else figured this out a long time ago. But it took me until this year to figure out how to stuff myself with plant parts all summer long.

It’s a two-step process. One, a service. The second, a device on my refrigerator door. Continue reading

Guest Post: On Being Pro-Frog

frog 1
Northern Leopard frog in marsh on my land

When my first daughter started getting teased for her obsession with sharks I comforted her by lying that everyone had an animal they especially loved. When pressed I randomly choose frogs (I was hung over and just wanted quiet), which started a pro-frog avalanche: Walls filled with frog paintings, desks with frog playdoh figurines, and my birthday cakes with green and yellow frosting and frog-related presents.  It worked. Five years later I was decidedly pro frog. My Brooklyn apartment had three terrariums and each month I received both Reptile Magazine (under Dr. Jumpy Arnade) and a shipment of live crickets.

A year ago when I moved upstate, I hit frog jackpot. I hadn’t chosen my house based on its frog potential, but I couldn’t have done much better. It is on ten wet acres, has a small pond, and is surrounded by forest and wetlands. At night the house fills with the remarkably loud white noise of frogs sexing, punctuated by the sound of two bullfrogs in the pond sexing. After a rain my long driveway, lined by marshes, becomes a checkerboard of frogs hoping to sex.

My pond, besides being home to the two bullfrogs (since named Mario and Luigi), is filled with small frogs that live on the edges. On warmer nights I sprawl in the mud and bush, taking long exposures as they hunt beneath the moon. It has cost me a bevy of tick bites and my first case of Lyme disease.

This summer, until three week ago, was wet, and the noise at night especially loud. When the rain stopped, the noise also dropped, and my pool started filling with desperate frogs. Continue reading

The Last Word

July 20-24, 2015

A Saturday puzzler for your amusement: see if you can spot this week’s loose theme.

Abstruse Goose (and Ann)—each a superhero of LWON–lament that being a mad scientist (or a mad writer) is not as fun as it looks in the movies.

Helen has a number of brilliant ideas for Ant-Man sequels; we hope she remembers the little people of LWON during her Academy Awards speech. On the dung beetle as a superhero: “But now the thaw has come and everywhere there are piles of poo. What will the residents of Snowville do? The Dung Beetle to the rescue!”

In chronicling the ants in her Brooklyn apartment, guest Brooke Borel experiences the full range of human emotions, and time as a flat circle. On Thursday eveningMake videos of lone ant struggling to pull smaller dog food chunk up the wall. Fist pump when it lifts dog food over small ledge at top of baseboard. Question life choices. Or at least today’s choices.”

I write about coyotes. Related to the theme: It turns out both coyotes and ants are showing up in strange places because of the drought in California.

And Jennifer creates a dream zoo of animals she would like to keep (but yes, she knows she can’t). On octopi: “I’d want these guys as my going-out buddies. We’d have wild times, indulging in all kinds of practical jokes and high jinx. And there would be lots of good hugging.” Oddly, there are no ants on her list.



Image: USGS Denver Microbeam Laboratory, via Wikimedia