Sunday, May 27, 2007

Weekend Projects

Besides having a nice family get together yesterday; I kept myself busy this weekend - so far - with a few small projects.

On Friday evening I picked up a pair of Fire bellied Newts from a young lady who was having some trouble caring for them. While one was plump and healthy, the other was on the skinny side and was not eating properly. The young gal who gave them up for adoption figured that this was due to heat stress, her apartment being too warm for them. I took them home and put them in the basement where the temp remains below 72 degree Fahrenheit almost all the time. The skinny one has been eating black worms (live fish food) like a champ, and I am hopeful he will put on weight right away.
While these newts may not look like much from above, but they do live up to their names when you see their undersides. Sorry the pic of the belly came out so blurry but the little booger was squirming wildly as I held it for the photo. Still though you can see why they have their name. Now one of my projects will be setting up a suitable tank for these guys, which is not all that much work, if I keep it simple, which is one of the easiest ways to keep these guys. A tank, some dechlorinated clean water,, a rock or two on which to climb out, and a tight fitting screen lid. I may also add a power filter, but I think not because these guys are not the most powerful swimmers; so that will require frequent water changes. No big deal. They will get fed whatever they will eat, from black worms to tubifex worms, to freshwater shrimp (which I will have to collect locally), to brine shrimp, to chopped up red worms. Bear in mind the food has to be on the smaller side for these newts since they are only about 3 inches long. I also have to do some in depth checking to see if I can determine which is the exact type of newt I now have. There are a few species with the same common name, and all look similar.

On Saturday, I took a drive up to Sleepy Hollow, of Headless Horseman fame, and I picked up a Ball Python from a couple who were moving and would no longer be able to care for it. Ball pythons are fairly easy to keep snakes, but not the best for the beginner snake fancier. This one was in the process of shedding and had patches of dried out skin stuck all over its back. Once I got it home, I gave it a soaking bath inside a large plastic jar (top screwed on tightly) for about an hour. All that dried on skin sloughed off nicely. It should have come off in one piece, but apparently this python was kept too dry before this shed. Last night I got around to setting up a tank for it, and I kept it simple as I almost always do for my snakes. A tank, some substrate, two hide boxes, a water bowl. a heat pad, a screen top, a branch for climbing, and a light (also for heat) these snakes are tropical need it warm (low to mid-eighties ambient temps with the heating pad spot up to 100 degree Fahrenheit). The light is hooked up to a timer, but the heat pad stays on 24/7. As you can see, I need to get some clips to secure the top, but tape will work for now.

The folks from whom I got the ball python told me it was sometimes a fussy eater, but it would eat thawed out rat pups. I fed it a mouse last night, and it took it immediately - no problems feeding this guy at all - so far. I imagine it will eat the rat pups they gave me along with the snake, but I wanted to see if it would eat mice too since I have a large supply of feeder mice on hand. It took the mouse as soon as it got close to it. Now it has a nice bulge in its midsection, and will be spending a lot of time under the hide that sits over the heat pad as it digests its weekly meal.
These animals will be used throughout the summer in exhibitions put on by the Long Island Herpetological Society. I may keep them beyond the summer, but if not I will adopt them out to another society member or someone else whom I know will take care of them properly. Chances are I will keep them though, I have, or had, a little extra space in the herp room.
All the best,
Glenn B

Ammo Guess Contest Update

The winner was Jeffery Huong. of Atlanta, GA. He selected the holster for the semi-auto, and received it this weekend. Jeff, I hope you get a lot of good use out of it.

I still have one extra holster left over, so maybe I'll have to come up with another contest in the not too distant future.

All the best,
Glenn B

Summertime Not Quite...

...having set upon us yet, but nonetheless yesterday was a day to enjoy while sitting under the shade of a good tree, drinking a tasty beverage of your choice, and eating a good meal cooked over an open fire. The birds were singing in the trees and flocking to the backyard bird feeders, the squirrels were scampering about looking for a treat, the dogs were under the tables in the shade also hoping for a treat, as a good number of my family sat around those same tables to enjoy our first barbecue of the year. As luck would have it, my daughter's boyfriend decided to fire up the grill, and in no time the aroma of hamburgers and franks filled the air, and made tails wag. How I got that lucky, not to have to cook, is beyond me - but why question good luck!

The talk was light, and festive, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood with one possible exception, but I really should not go there, so that is all I will say about the one possible lone dissenter. Everyone except for me was enjoying a non-alcohol beverage like iced tea, root beer, diet Pepsi (yech) and the like. I instead decided to let the back lawn have a drink, lest I forget later in the day, so that it wouldn't turn yellow as we sat and watched it wither in the heat. In almost no time, as if by the same magic that had turned it into such a nice day, the food arrived at table and was served. I hastened the self assigned chore of watering the grass, then rushed inside and grabbed a beverage, and when I came back outside I was surprised to see my neighbor Jim manning the grill. Keven was already feasting and had abandoned chef duties. I sat down with the small assemblage and had a dripping red centered burger and a couple of Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Biers; E. Coli be damned! The stoneware stein kept my biers cold as I drank, and I hoped the higher than usual alcohol content for a beer would kill any E. coli in by blood dripping burger. Despite the temps in the high 80's, maybe even into the low 90's, those biers kept me chilled.

Everyone but me feasted on burgers, franks, homemade bean salad, homemade German potato salad, pickles, and whatever else my wife had put out. I kept it to a burger ad a hot dog, saving some room for dessert. Suddenly I realized the main course was finished, and the table was cleared, more or less; and the talk went on. Just family and neighborly chit chat, as I relaxed and watched the Purple House finches eat from the bird feeders. Bold little creatures indeed they are to come to feed while within mere feet of a throng of festive party goers. On and off I would take my nephew Daniel to look at a tortoise, or see a snake, or the hamsters - all to keep him from getting too bored what with no other young ones around. Then we dug for worms to feed the turtles, and instead of a worm he found an old beer bottle buried in the soil. I wonder how that got there??? By the way, I don't mean old as in yesterday either, I mean really old from a long defunct brewery in New York; my guess would be from at least 75 years ago. It had a light aquamarine sheen to it, funny color for a beer bottle nowadays, but I guess more common back then. It was as if treasure had been uncovered; you see the little one's dad (who sadly had to work and did not attend) has an old bottle collection. I hope he remembered to take it home to add to dad's collection, I'll have to take a look around later this morning.

In almost no time it was time for dessert. Out came a cheese cake of multiple flavors, a homemade chocolate layer cake frosted in white icing, a couple of boxes of Dunkin Donuts, and some other goodies. All of these good treats were accompanied by a pot of coffee from which the aroma was heavenly. No it was not Chock-Full-Of-Nuts that heavenly coffee of years ago, this was coffee I had picked up at the Porto Rico Importing Company a few days before, a Guatemalan Maragogipe. I had mine black, others as they please, and then we dove right into dessert. Mmmm, mmmmmm goooood!

All too soon after dessert it was time to do the dessert dishes, which I gladly got out of the way since my wife Linda had done so much already. Luckily there were no dishes from diner, since we had used paper plates for the main course. Once finished it was back out to the gang, for a bit more talk. Then suddenly it was as if the clock had struck midnight, and everyone was heading for the door in a mad dash of gotta get out of here to beat traffic home. That left me, the wife, my son Brendan (who had spent the whole time in the basement trying to get over tonsillitis), and my mother-in-law at home. Even my daughter Celina, and her beau Kevin had beat feet. Well, I was left with a bit of tidying up, and once done, I had plenty of time to relax or so I thought. My next door neighbor Nick, as me to give him a hand putting up the tented portion of a sort of tented gazebo he had just erected. I helped him out, and in about an hour or so we had it finished. I am only hoping my wife does not ask him where he got it, because if she does I anticipate putting one up at our house. Rest came after that.

All in all it was a great day. Hopefully you all are having a great weekend too. Lest we forget, one of the reasons it was a great day, and one of the reasons we were all there to enjoy it in safety and comfort, was that we have had, and have, a strong military protecting us. The men and woman of the U.S. Armed forces who have given there lives, or been injured, or who have served, protecting our nation and all of its people should never be forgotten, especially on Memorial Day weekend. My thanks to them for the good time we had. I hope they know at least, that they are in our thoughts, and in our prayers too; and we support them and there efforts 100 percent.

All the best,
Glenn B