Wednesday, December 30, 2015


#1:  The most common sheep used in the U.S. to produce milk are the East Friesian.  This breed was imported from northern Germany and the Netherlands in the 1990s.  The sheep are all-white and yield from 1,100 to 1,700 pounds of milk yearly.  Sheep milk is mostly used to make cheese.  It has a higher fat content than milk from a cow or goat.

East Friesian ewe with lots of milk!
#2:  Black-faced sheep are most valued for their meat.  Suffolk and Hampshire rams are used as sires to increase muscling and rate of weight gain for most U.S. lamb production.

Suffolk sheep

#3:  The way you can tell a sheep from a goat is by the fact that a sheep has oil glands on its face and between its toes.  Four million years ago, there were only goats, but sheep gradually evolved to be a separate species.  Scientists have now mapped the entire genome of the sheep and found the genes that make sheep good producers of wool.  Also, there are genes that help sheep digest low-quality grass and plants.

Separating the sheep from the goats

#4:  Why does the Bible say that sheep are kosher for Jews to eat? Because sheep chew their cud and have cloven (two-part) hooves.  So do cattle and goats, which means their meat is also kosher.

Cloven hooves

#5:  Several centuries ago, the Navajo Indians domesticated and adapted Spanish Churro sheep so that they would do well in the arid conditions of the Southwest.  The resulting breed is called Navajo-Churro.  The ewes lamb easily and many have twins.  Rams often grow two or four horns in large spirals.  The sheep produce a coarse "carpet wool," which is used to weave the blankets Navajos are famous for.

Navajo-Churro ram
More Navajo-Churros

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Back in the old days, before pickup trucks were invented, lots of Europeans used dogs to pull carts loaded with milk, bread, and goods to peddle.  Many of these people could not afford a horse, mule, or ox to pull their cart.  And in places where the streets were narrow and crowded, it was easier to maneuver with just a small cart pulled by dogs.

Most delivery carts had two or more dogs hitched to them.  Peddlers sometimes used only one dog.  During World War I, dogs were used to pull small field guns.  And in World War II, the Soviets hitched dogs to carts with stretchers for wounded soldiers.  During the First Crusade, after the horses and mules had starved, dogs carried people and supplies on toward Jerusalem.

In the UK, the use of carts came to be thought of as cruel to dogs.  So a law was passed in 1839 banning dog carts within 15 miles of Charing Cross.  Part of the idea behind this prohibition was that when dogs were overworked, they were more likely to get rabies.  The medical journal The Lancet reported in 1841 that the number of rabies cases had indeed gone down, but no one could say for sure if this decline was due to the legislation.

Interlaken is a town and municipality in the Swiss Alps.

Parliament had previously passed other laws to limit cruelty to animals.  The first of these, in 1822, prohibited cruel treatment of horses and cattle.  And in 1835, bull-baiting and cock-fighting were banned.  Parliament's next act in favor of animals, in 1841, was to decree the use of dog carts illegal throughout the kingdom.

The Sologne is a region of north-central France.

The logic behind some of these laws was strange because the British saw no problem with using horses, donkeys, mules, and oxen to haul wagons, even if the animals were basically worked to death.  But because dogs were seen as beloved pets, their use to pull carts was called "cruel servitude" by the RSPCA.

This seems like much too big a load for those two dogs to pull!

Further legislation required a tax on all working dogs.  Sheepdogs had their tails docked to show that the tax had been paid.  Poor people who could not afford the tax were often forced to abandon their dogs or destroy them.  Instead of using dogs to pull carts, people used children, because there were no laws against child labor.

Zeeland is the farthest western province of the Netherlands.
It is made up of several islands and peninsulas.  

Anyway, even though dog carts were banned in the UK, their use continued on the continent, especially in the low countries.  Working dogs were quite valuable to the people who used them, and they were usually treated well.  In rural areas, dogs who pulled carts were often family dogs who served as guard dogs at home.

Many dogs played more than one role, since they could also guard the cargo they were transporting.  Rottweilers, for example, were originally known as "Rottweiler Metzgerhund," which means "Rottweil butcher's dog."  Butchers particularly favored this fierce type of dog for pulling cartloads of meat and other products to market.

The milk inspector is saluting the family, so he must think their milk is okay.

Most of the dog cart pictures I am using in my blog today are postcards that Mom bought on eBay.  As I have probably told you before, Mom tends to spend way too much money on eBay.  Usually, she buys things that are not very interesting to me as a dog, but I think these dog cart postcards are really cool.  Right now they are in Mom's antique booth, so if you want one, you should rush over there and buy it immediately!

And now, for a change of continents, this boy and his cart are in Quebec.

Monday, December 14, 2015


If you have been thinking that pasta started out in Italy, you are WRONG!  Of course, nobody knows, absolutely for sure, who invented noodles, but it wasn't the Italians.  Pasta might have come from Arabia, or maybe the Mediterranean area.  But the only ancient noodles that have ever been found were in China.

The ancient Chinese noodles which, in my opinion, look sort of like worms.

This discovery was made by archeologists in 2005 at the Lajia site in the People's Republic of China. They found an overturned, sealed earthenware bowl under 10 feet of sediment.  The bowl contained noodles made from foxtail millet and broomcorn millet.  Probably, these noodles date back about 4000 years, to the late neolithic period.

Long types of pasta

The first time noodles were mentioned in writing was in a book dating back to the Eastern Han period (25-220 CE).  Noodles were usually made from wheat, and they were a staple food for people in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE--220 CE).  During the Tang Dynasty people started cutting noodles into strips, and dried noodles were first made during the Yuan Dynasty.

Pasta specialty store, Venice.
Wikipedia; uploaded by Arria Belli

Meanwhile, in the 1st century CE, the Roman writer Horace talked about lagana, which were fine sheets of fried dough.  A 5th-century cookbook described layering sheets of dough with meat, but the way this dish was cooked was not really the same as our present-day lasagna.

The Jerusalem Talmud talks about itrium, a kind of boiled dough, that was common in Palestine from the 3rd to the 5th centuries CE.  It is also thought that the Arabs introduced pasta to Sicily in the 9th century.  Traces of pasta have been found in ancient Greece, as well.  In mythology, the Greeks believed that the god Hephaestus invented a device that made strings of dough.

Making pasta by hand

A legend says that Marco Polo brought noodles from China to Italy.  This might be true, since he did describe a food similar to lagana.  However, at least one historian thinks the story about Marco Polo was invented in the 1920s or 30s for use in a Canadian spaghetti advertisement.

Fresh pasta

The first concrete information about Italian pasta products dates from the 13th or 14th century.  Originally, pasta was eaten plain, with the fingers, because only rich people could afford eating utensils.  No one thought of using a sauce to flavor the pasta until the late 18th century.

At first, pasta was just eaten in small amounts, as sort of a side dish.  But nowadays it is served in much larger portions as part of sophisticated dishes.  Pasta is both inexpensive and easy to cook, and these facts have helped make it a popular food.  Another advantage is that pasta can be dried, and it will keep for long periods of time.

Originally, people had to make pasta by hand by rolling the unleavened dough flat and cutting it into strips or some other shape.  But as early as the 1600s, pasta manufacturing machines were being invented across the coast of Sanremo.  The machine made more uniform pieces of pasta by extruding the dough out through little holes.

Small pasta extruder for home use

There are now at least 310 specific forms of pasta known by more than 1300 different names.  In Italy, the name for a type of pasta might vary with the region of the country.  For instance, cavatelli is known by 28 different names.  The most common forms of pasta include long shapes, short shapes, tubes, flat shapes, miniature soup shapes, filled or stuffed, and specialty or decorative shapes.

In my humble opinion as a dog, I don't care what shape my pasta is.  To me, the important part is the sauce, and the more meat that's in it, the better.  Unfortunately, Mom does not let us dogs eat pasta dishes, but if she did, I would eat beef stroganoff or spaghetti and meatballs every single day!

Beef stroganoff!  Yum!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


This is a breed with a very long history.  They were the favorite hunting dogs of the 10th-century Magyar tribes from the Carpathian Basin in the present-day country of Hungary.  There are ancient stone etchings in that area showing Magyar hunters with their falcons and their Vizsla-like dogs.

The aristocracy, who owned all the land, kept the blood of the Vizsla pure for many centuries.  The breed survived the Turkish occupation (1526-1696), the Hungarian Revolution (1848-49), World Wars I and II, and the Soviet Period.  But by the end of World War II, the Vizsla had reached near-extinction.  

By that point, only about a dozen dogs of true type could be found in Hungary.  These were bred carefully to bring the breed back to prominence.  Various strains of Vizslas were developed by people who wanted dogs to fit their own hunting styles.  Other countries where Vizslas were commonly bred included Romania, Austria, Slovakia, and Serbia.

Wire-haired Vizsla.
Photo:  Noveczki Katalin

Vizslas started arriving in the U.S. soon after World War II.  As the breed became more popular, the Vizsla Club of America was formed, and they began registering foundation stock with the AKC.  On November 25, 1960, the Vizsla became the 115th breed that the AKC recognized.

© Briantresp 

The Vizsla was used to help develop some other breeds such as the Weimaraner, Wire-haired Vizsla, and German Shorthair Pointer.  These same breeds, along with other pointer-type dogs, may have been used at the end of the 19th century to help re-establish the Vizsla breed.

Photo:  Noveczki Katalin

Vizslas are medium-sized, lean and muscular, and have a short coat.  Males are 22"-25" tall and weigh 45-66 pounds.  Females are 21"-24" tall and weigh between 40 and 55 pounds.  The standard coat color for the breed is a solid golden-rust or rust color.  Darker or lighter colors are disqualifications in the show ring.  A little bit of white on the chest, neck, or tail are permitted, but solid color dogs are preferred.

Vizslas have brown eyes and reddish colored nose and nails.  The dogs were bred to look this way so that they are better camouflaged when hunting.  In America, the tail is docked, but this is prohibited in other countries.

In general, Vizslas are healthy, and they can live to be as old as 10 or 14.  Because of their short coats and need to interact with people, they should not be kept outdoors or in a kennel.

Vizslas have tons of energy because that's what hunting dogs need.  If they don't get enough exercise every day, they can easily become bored and destructive.  However, when they are not busy running around, Vizslas want to be close to their people, preferably in someone's lap.  They are very affectionate and gentle-mannered.  They can be easily trained for hunting, both as pointers and retrievers.

Vizslas are also well-suited for sports such as agility, tracking, and obedience.  In addition, members of the breed have been trained for drug-sniffing, as guide dogs for the blind, and as service dogs for the hearing-impaired.

Anyway, the thing about Vizslas is that they are beautiful, really affectionate dogs.  But if you don't have the time or energy to give them lots of exercise, you should probably get a different type of dog, such as maybe a cute little chihuahua.  Just saying.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Maybe you remember that Mom used to work at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in Kansas City, but even though she worked there for more than a year, she was always just a temporary employee.  So when the Plains Indians exhibit ended last January, Mom's boss said he couldn't keep her on between exhibits, the way he usually did.  He talked like he would hire her back for the next special exhibit in February, but he didn't.  Which meant that Mom didn't have a job anymore.

She applied for some other jobs, but she didn't get hired.  Then she wrote a book of inspirational cat stories as a freelance writer.  Mom is not a very religious person, so she ended up not liking to write the stories, but she finally finished the book.  I think if she had written stories about dogs, it would have been better, but the editor people wanted cat stories, so that's what she had to write.

Anyway, after that, Mom applied to lots and lots of places, like maybe 20 or 25.  She had a couple of interviews, but she didn't get hired.  Then she got a call from Noodles & Co., and they wanted to interview her.  And the very next day after the woman from Noodles called, a man called from Toys R Us, but it turned out that Toys R Us paid about a dollar less per hour than Noodles, plus it was lots farther to drive.  So when the Noodles people offered Mom a job, she snatched it up.

Mom's official title is "Noodles Ambassador," which means she is mainly supposed to greet people and take their orders and also take their money.  Mom has a whole list of other things she is supposed to do, including:  wipe off all the tables and chairs every morning, cut up and wrap the rice crispy treats, wrap the cookies (chocolate chunk and snickerdoodles), clean and restock the bathrooms, restock the condiment station, restock the bottled drink station, bus the tables, wipe off the tables after they are bussed, take food out to customers' tables, bag up to-go orders, wrap silverware, plus anything else the manager asks Mom to do.

Mom in her official Noodles outfit

This is the first time Mom ever worked in the food business, so it is a totally different sort of job for her.  Mom likes her hours because she works from 10:00 to 2:00 on Monday through Friday, and she doesn't have to work in the evenings or on the weekends.  Also, she is almost always busy, so the time goes by fast.  And she doesn't get sleepy or bored, like she did sometimes while she was standing around at the art gallery.

It turns out that a lot of people around here have never eaten in a Noodles restaurant, so when Mom says she works there, they say "What is it?" or "Is it a pasta factory?"  Other people have eaten at Noodles and know all about it.  Some people eat there every week or more than once a week.

Japanese Pan Noodles

So now I will tell you about Noodles & Co.  It was founded in 1995, and the idea was to provide fresh, healthy food, made to order and served quickly.  But instead of being a "fast food" restaurant, it is called "fast casual."  The chairman and CEO is a man named Kevin Reddy.  He started out cooking burgers at a McDonald's when he was a teenager.  Later, he got into the business and management end of McDonald's.  From there, he moved on to be the COO of Chipotle.  He helped Chipotle grow from 13 locations to 420 in 7 years' time.  Mr. Reddy was hired as president of Noodles in 2005 and has since moved up to his current position.  There are currently more than 380 Noodles locations in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

Macaroni and Cheese

When you eat at Noodles, you can choose from a variety of pasta dishes, salads, soups, and sandwiches that are based on food from many different places such as Asia, Italy, and America.  You can order a dish the way it is usually made, or you can add meat, change the vegetables, garnishes, or types of noodles.

The sign-in screen on the computer

When Mom first started working at Noodles, she thought she would never learn to use the cash register very well because there are so many buttons you can click on to indicate the customers' choices.  But she is getting better, and sometimes she can go a whole day without making any major mistakes!

A lot of days, Mom eats lunch at Noodles after her shift ends.  She can get 70% off her meal, so it ends up being really cheap.  Mom has tried many of the dishes that the restaurant offers, and some of her favorites are Pad Thai, Japanese Pan Noodles, and Stroganoff (with tofu instead of steak).

Pad Thai

Sadly, Mom does not usually bring doggy boxes home for us doggies.  Except that last Friday Mom brought home some spaghetti and meatballs.  She started eating it and then she decided she didn't like the meatballs.  Also, there wasn't enough sauce to suit her.  So Mom started putting the meatballs in the garbage disposal, and Latifa grabbed one of them and ran off with it.  Tristan tried to get it away from her, but she guarded it very fiercely until she had finished eating it.  Meanwhile, Mom got rid of the rest of the meatballs and opened a jar of spaghetti sauce to make the spaghetti more the way she likes it.

Chicken Caesar Sandwich

Anyway, we dogs and cats don't like having Mom gone so long every day, but it's really not as long as she was gone when she worked at the art gallery.  And I guess it is worth having her gone if it means she is making extra money to buy dog food!