Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's Puppy Love

Image via Healthy Pet Food Guide

She was supposed to be a German Shepherd. I mean, just look at that gorgeous dog. I have long told myself that my next dog, and she would be MY dog, was going to be a German Shepherd. Female. I already have her wonderful name picked out, for goodness sakes!

After my beloved Senor Poquito passed away last fall, I was surprised by how much I missed that cranky little guy. I don't mean for a couple of weeks but well past the new year. Truth be told, I still miss him. But the German Shepherd lurked in my dreams and even though I'm not sure I would pay big dollar for a registered dog, I always thought a German Shepherd-black lab mix would be nice. Then one day last week, there it was in the newspaper: German Shepherd mix puppies-free. When I called I was told they were Germans Shepherd-black lab mix. Eureka! And free!

Call me a softie, but all of my dogs have been runts. They make the best pets. Even as my husband headed out the door to check out the Rat Terrier puppies for our daughter a couple of years ago, I called out, "Get the runt." So when the woman on the phone last week said there was a female runt in this litter, I got pretty excited. She emailed a photo.


No, my heart was set on a German Shepherd and if it was a mix, it was going to be a very German looking mix. I was determined. This gal looked too heavy on the black lab genes. No.

Because life has been inexplicably and insanely busy the past few weeks, it was two days before I could get out to look at the puppies. By then there were only three of the original six puppies left. And yes, there was a very German looking female puppy running around, the one I would have most likely taken. Until the woman said, as she roughly ripped the top off of the igloo dog house, "Here's that little female."

It was all over with. I desperately wanted and was determined to take the German Shepherd looking female- I was committed to it- but there she was, this itty-bitty runt. Pitiful. I even called my husband to see how he felt about getting two puppies, even though we already have one dog. Bless his big teddy bear heart, he never said no. Funny thing, my daughter and I fought over turns holding the runt and I never even picked up the German-y looking female. We went home with one puppy. The runt.

Like I say, I have a fair amount of experience with runts but this gal was the most pitiful one I've brought home. She looked markedly worse than the picture we had gotten two days earlier and I was afraid I was going to lose my first runt-puppy. From what I can find out, a German Shepherd weighs on average seven pounds at 1 month and a black lab pup hits about five pounds. This is highly variable, of course, but our girl just barely touched two pounds. Once we got her home and really checked her over, I don't think she would have lived another week. I would have given her five days, tops.

The living conditions were horrible: muddy and heavily soiled with feces, as the mom and another dog were chained to a tree with only three feet of chain each. The puppies were roaming around loose in all of this mess, next to a very busy road. I was assured that all the pups were eating dry food but our little girl had no idea what to do with dry food. I've never had a runt I couldn't get to eat. She could barely stand. Like most puppies, she had worms but this little gal was FULL of worms. Her eyes had a good bit of goop and we were concerned about distemper or parvo. And when we bathed her--- I have never, never, NEVER seen so much dirt come off one dog much less a puppy. But then again, she had been living in a literal poop pile, in the rain and mud, for five weeks. And we, like so much of the country, have had some terrible storms this spring and more rain than our ground can handle.

She washed up nicely that first night and she was sparkly-pretty for her trip to the vet. Weak, but sweet. Fluids, vitamins, de-wormer galore, and advice. We love our vet, dear Dr. S. I once made an emergency trip after work to a local vet with a runt kitten and he guy took one look at the kitten and said, "That cat's gonna die tonight. I'm surprised she's alive now." Outraged, I picked her up, left without paying, and made the thirty mile trip to Dr S. He gave us advice, vitamins, free food and supplements, and encouragement- and now that kitten is the Alpha Dog at our house. I know, she's a cat, but at our house she's Smudgie, the Alpha Dog. Fourteen years old.

Anyway, six days after bringing our sweet puppy-girl home, she is not only eating and drinking, she is also following Remy the Rat Terrier around, exploring, snuggling, and beginning to play and frisk. She's still pretty weak but she has gained a pound.

The story about her lineage and that of her mother evolved as I talked with the woman who had the puppies (well, the woman didn't give birth to the puppies but you know what I mean). I'm sure our little girl has German Shep in her, but how much......?

Oh, who cares. We have our girl, our Miss Gracie. She no longer runs in panic-striken circles every waking minute (a total of two hours that first day), whining desperately. In fact, she's a very quiet little girl. We're on the hunt for jingle bells as she really is cat-quiet.

I can't even describe how horrified I was by the living conditions of these puppies, as well as the mother and whoever that other dog chained to the tree was. The woman who had these puppies didn't even know about our Gracie for the first week and then didn't know how small she was until just over a week ago. I still struggle with going back for the others just to save them, whether we keep them or not. The only dog that lived a clean, well-feed, attended-to life was the male German Shepherd on the premises. And all I heard about was how this woman wanted to get a female registered German Shep so she could breed and sell the puppies. Isn't that a mini-puppy mill? Honestly, I really am trying not to be harsh about how these dogs were being cared for but the facts are the facts.

Listen people, I'm just gonna say this straight out and not with nearly the gentleness that I should: we are responsible for those little lives. If you do not have a dog that you plan to breed in a responsible manner, get it spayed or neutered. And yes, I understand that sometimes "things" happen, but if they do, you are still responsible for those little lives. Take care of them- or don't get one. Yes, yes, I'm ranting (and venting) but you know I'm a dog lover. We are responsible to take care of them with gentleness and grace.

Just ask Miss Gracie. Oh, and Remy? He's coming around to his little sister.

Here are some links related to spay and neuter programs and other issues related to saving our little runts. Maybe I should start a national campaign--- Save The Runts!


American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has partnered with PetSmart Charities to develop a searchable database for low-cost spay and neuter programs.

The Humane Society has a page on their site that discusses the top reasons to spay or neuter your pets.

 VetInfo also has a very good list of reasons to spay and neuter.

  The Daily Puppy offers information on caring for runts.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's A Butterfly Birthday!

Image via Wordlicious

The Butterfly Jungle is one year old today! Wow- that hardly seems possible. I had hoped to have a nice birthday cake recipe to share with some really neat chocolate lace butterflies I found but life gets busy and suddenly I slapped myself on the forehead and exclaimed, "Oh, man! Tomorrow's the birthday."

So I'm simply not going to sweat it. We'll catch up later, because even though we suddenly have triglyceride issues at my house, sometimes you just gotta have simple carbohydrates. Can I get an "A-men"?

Monarch Butterfly Transformation Cupcake Tower
Image via The Cupcake Blog

This past year has been a blast! It's been a hoot to learn some of the neat little tricks of blogging and to create and share posts on a variety of subjects.  The Butterfly Jungle is about celebrating life's sudden and unexpected joys, the neat little things that make up the days. Click on the About-Expecting Butterflies tab at the top of the page to read more. More importantly, I've loved meeting a bunch of great folks and gazing into their creative minds.

Image by Mr T in DC via Flickr

I've also shared a couple sad events from the past year as well. But I believe that the joys and the sorrows mix well together to give life a rich, complex bouquet. Like the fruit salsa that goes with the grilled angel food cake, life has sweetness as well as fire and together they make for a deep and delicious experience. It's the big picture that counts and the big picture is made up of tiny little dots and strokes, a vast palate of colors, and more textures than we ever imagined.

Image via

So Happy Birthday to The Jungle and thanks for sharing the past year with me, all of you wonder butterflies who visit here.

Image via Emma's Cakes

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Precious Fruit Salad

It's been some time since I've posted a Fruity Fun Friday and even though today is Saturday, let's go with it.

I was in the produce section of the grocery store this past week and I guess it was the one day of sun we've had since March but I was feeling all spring-y. The outcome of that was that I was throwing fruit into my cart like a greedy, gluttonous maniac. Oh, we like fruit at our house but this was different. I was like Gollum, from Lord of the Rings, cradling fruit to my heart, hissing "Yes, my precious. My beautiful precious berries. They can't have you, my precious." Seriously, not kidding. It was pitiful but the fruit and the weather were so good that to be honest there were several other folks there whispering sweet nothings to the cantaloupe and strawberries.

Once I secreted my precious fruit in the refrigerator at home, it was time to mix. Mixed fruit salad, that is. This is so easy-

Cantaloupe- one half, cubed

(Cantaloupe is one of those things that I never think will go with berries, but oh...)

Blueberries- one pint

Strawberries- one pound, leaves cut off, quartered

Blackberries- one little package (what is that, half a pint?)

Bananas- two, sliced

A splash or two of lime juice to preserve the bananas.

Rinse, cut fruit, mix in a bowl.


Mmmm, my precious fruit salad.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Photo by beautifulcataya via Flickr
When I moved to this part of the world many years ago, I went backpacking that first spring with a college church group that I had joined. We hiked out pretty far that first day, up and down the hills, and spent a very windy night in our tents. I had heard a few comments about "getting to the ramps tomorrow" and figured it was some sort of bridge feature of the trail we were following. The second night was less windy and much more peaceful. Then I woke up. An incredibly pungent aroma drifted through the tent flaps and there was a good bit of commotion and stirring around outside the tent. Now, when I say pungent, I mean that my sinuses were clear and my eyes were watering. I stumbled out of my tent and gasped, "What are you cooking?"

Everyone laughed. They knew I had lived in Texas for several years. They knew ramps don't grow in Texas. It was good sport for them.

Photo by Kari Kilgore via Flickr

Ramps, Allium tricoccum, are a perennial member of the onion family. They look very much like the leeks and green onions you get in the grocery store. They are, in fact, sometimes called wild leek. Or ramson, spring onion, and wild garlic. They grow in dense stands on hillside slopes of the Appalachia Mountains of northeastern United States, over even to Illinois, down to North Carolina, and up into Quebec. Ramps don't grow as- um- rampantly in Quebec as in Appalachia and conservation efforts have begun, even in some of the fringe areas of their US range, such as in Tennessee.

Photo by hbakkah via Flickr

They are a way better predictor of spring than that unreliable, lying groundhog. In mid-April, when the redbuds and trillium start blooming, you know it's ramp season. You might even see a fella, or a bunch of fellas, heading up the hillside with burlap bags. Time to harvest. And harvesting is no casual matter. Local volunteer firemen and any other group you can imagine, host ramp dinners as fundraisers and make a fair profit on a few hours spent on the hillside with a shovel. Ramp festivals are all over Appalachian in the spring. After a hard cold winter, a pungent little vegetable with lots of lore and history makes a good excuse to get out and stretch, look around, and welcome spring. By early May the leaves die back and the plants flower.

Photo by milesizz via Flickr

But how do they taste? What's with that smell?

Photo by Kristin Brenemen via Flickr

Well, there's just no getting around it- ramps are aromatic in the extreme. Now some folks will tell you that there are no worse than onions or garlic cooked in the same quantities in which ramps are usually cooked. They probably have a point since ramps are generally cooked in big batches. Or maybe their nose hairs have been singed off.  But still- they are strong. Way back on my backpacking trip, my fellow hikers explained to me that they waited until the second say to eat ramps because the odor can linger on one's breath and body and they didnt' want to fumigate the tents at night. In other words, the ramp aroma will be evident in your sweat and body for a day or so especially if eaten raw. Actually, it might not be your breath the day you eat them as your sweat (and farts, let's just be honest) the next day that signals you were at a ramp feed. Much like beans at our house, if one person eats ramps, everyone eats ramps. It just wouldn't be fair. There are tales of kids being sent home from school after having eaten ramps the night before. Who knows if that's true but ramps are- aromatic. Garlic and onions with a bit of dirt. Some say funky foot smell.

Photo via
So the morning of my introduction, the guys had crawled out of their tents and gone ramp hunting. The ramps were being fried up right in the pan with bacon, eggs, and potatoes. Supposedly, boiling them briefly before cooking will take the edge off of them. The entire plant is used, bulb and leaves, like green onions and chives. Ramp pizza, which I like, makes an appearance around here in a few places, as does every kind of way you can think of cooking them. But the eggs and bacon thing seems to be the most popular. Ramps have begun to be noticed by gourmet chefs. Ramp soups, ramp casserole, pickled ramps, ramp pesto, ramp biscuits, ramp dumplings, roasted corn and ramp salsa, ramp jam, and ramp wine. Even a drink- the Bloody Stinkin' Mary. The King of Stink has a nice page with links to recipes if you're interested. I would guess, perhaps scandalously, that green onions could be substituted- but that would not be authentic and you didn't hear it from me.

I've had ramps a few times and can't say as I anticipate spring ramp season. Guess I'm just sort of neutral on them. No ramps in my genetic code, because I'm pretty sure that if you eat alot of ramps, some part of them adhere to your DNA.

Photo by melystu via Flickr

Want some but aren't in the right neck of the woods? No roadside stand in the truck of a car or back of a truck. No ramp feed at your local fire hall? Never fear- it's a new era and you can order online. Check out G-N Ramp Farm or Earthy Delights. Ramps go for $21 upwards of $35 pound when you order online. I'm not sure what they go for out of the trunk of a car.

Happy spring eats everyone!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May Emeralds, "Nothing Gets Greener"

Image via Mad Mariner

Hooker Emerald Brooch, set by Tiffany. 75.47 carats
Image via Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

17th century carved emerald and diamond brooch.
Image via Palagems

The Chalk Emerald, 37.8 carats.
Considered one of the world's finest emeralds due to it incredible clarity and color.
Image via Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Hm? What?

Oh hello. Guess I was just kind of lost there for a minute.

I can remember being at the Pecos River in West Texas when I was a kid, thinking that it was the most beautiful green there could possibly be on the face of the earth. I was young and naive then and believed that I had seen it all at age eleven. I knew nothing about emeralds.

I have lost the source for this incredibly beautiful photo. Please let
me know if it's yours as I would love to give you credit. Thanks.

Emeralds get their name from the old French word "esmeraude" and the Greek "smaragdos" which simply means "green gemstone." The oldest finds are from the Red Sea in Egypt but these mines, active between 3000 to 1500 BC were depleted by the time they were rediscovered in the early 19th century and now only produce lesser quality emeralds. These mines later became known as the Cleopatra mines and were thought to be the only source of emeralds in the world until 1558 when the Spanish discovered emerald mines in Columbia.  Some of the gems found there by the Spanish remain the largest stones ever found.

Cleopatra Mine. Image via Tour Egypt

Emeralds from South America are now highly sought after, particularly gems from the famous Muzo mine. Muzo emeralds, with their rich bluish green color, are considered the finest emeralds in the world. Emeralds are now mined in several locations through the world, including Brazil, Pakistan, Russia, Australia, South Africa, India, Norway, and the United States.

In 50 AD, Pliny the Elder wrote of emeralds, "Nothing gets greener." Emeralds may range in color from yellow green to the highly desirable bluish greens and it is an emeralds color that will influence its value more than other consideration.

Image via AZ Emerald

Image via Gehna Bazaar

Let's be perfectly clear on this- emeralds are green. Yellow emeralds, heliodor, are yellow beryl, colored by iron. Pink emeralds are morganite- beryl colored by manganese (Mn2). Red emeralds are beryl colored with a more intense manganese (Mn3) and while fairly rare, they are not emeralds. And on it goes. Emeralds are green. Don't fall for any other marketing ploy. Emeralds are green.

So what is an emerald? Well, emerald is composed of the mineral beryl and while pure beryl is colorless, emeralds get the lovely green color from trace amounts of chromium. In the early 1960's, the Geological Institute of America included vanadium-bearing beryl as an emerald though these stones are not recognized as emeralds by the UK or Europe. Vanadium emeralds are more of an apple greenish color.

Image via Molecular Expressions

Emeralds are actually fairly hard but nearly all emeralds contain surface fissures, inclusions, and other flaws referred to as "jardin", meaning garden, which describes the silky web-like or mossy appearance of the tiny inclusions found within the emerald. Inclusions and flaws are expected in emeralds and do not necessarily detract from their value. Flaws are so evident, in fact, that emeralds are generally graded by the naked eye instead of with a jeweler's loupe as say for a diamond. They are considered flawless if there are no flaws visible to the naked eye. A flawless emerald is very rare and would be way out of my budget. Because of these internal features, emeralds can be rather fragile. In fact, nearly all emeralds are oiled, a process that introduces a clear oil, usually cedar oil, into the stone to make the inclusions less pronounced and increase clarity. By industry standards, there is nothing wrong with oiling but it is an enhancement and should be fully disclosed. You should actually assume that your emerald has been oiled but it doesn't hurt to verify, especially when you're dropping a fair amount of green for your stone. Green-tinted oil is not acceptable.

Inclusions in an emerald. Image via Geminary

So you probably think that a gemstone of such beauty and rarity as emeralds, often considered more valuable than diamonds, would have a ton of lore and mystery accompanying it. Well, you would be right. Oh, where to begin.....

The emerald has always been seen as a symbol of fidelity and during the Middle Ages it was believed that it would keep a woman chaste. The emerald was believed to change to a dull hue if the wearer had been unfaithful. Mysteriously, emeralds did not seem to have this effect on men. Hm- interesting. In various cultures it was also stated that emeralds enable people to foretell future events if put on the tongue or worn on the left side of the body. It has long been associated with love, devotion, and adoration. It was also once believed that emeralds would change the depth and hue of its color to alert the wearer of impending danger. Kind of goes with that whole infidelity thing. Emeralds are supposed to make the wearer unconquerable but also friendly and likeable. It is said to cure laziness, which could help with being unconquerable.

The Mogul Emerald from India- 217.80 carats. Carved with Islamic prayers and flowers.
Sold at auction for $2.2 million USD in 2001 to an undisclosed buyer.
Image via Gemstone Universe

Emeralds were considered a holy stone and were worshipped as such by the Incas. They were believed by other cultures to protect from epilepsy, give eloquence and intelligence to the wearer, and sooth illnesses of the eyes. Emeralds were once crushed into a fine powder and made into an eye lotion. These healing properties were said to help with almost every part of the body, from skeleton to skin, from the kidneys to the liver. If a mother-to-be wore emeralds her child would be kept safe during childbirth.  A mixture of ground emeralds and laudanum, derived from opium, would cure fevers. The list of ailments that emeralds were believed to cure is a long one: colic, burns, ulcers, headaches, tension, influenza, high blood pressure, heart disorders, cancer, dysentery, syphilis, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, asthma and anemia. The excuses some people won't use to get an emerald!

$50,000 emerald crystal
Image via The Ganoskin Project

OK- hold onto your hat ...

Image via Jewelry Expert

A trapiche emerald is a very rare kind of emerald found at only three mines in Columbia. In short, a trapiche emerald is one with black impurities that form a six-rayed star within the stone. Unlike astrecism, the spokes of a trapiche emerald are carbon impurities that grow from a central hexagon of beryl, sometimes colorless, as the gemstone forms. These are rare and intriguing stones and you're gonna pay a big wad of bills for one of these. Almost never do you see a faceted trapiche emerald but rather the cabachon shape.

Trepaiche Emerald ring by Paul Farmer.  Image via Paul Farmer, Goldsmith

Once you get your emerald, you must take good care of it. Don't wear it when you are playing sports or doing other tough physical work. Even knocking an emerald ring against a stainless steel sink can damage the stone. You'll need to either remove your ring or not wash dishes.  Due to its fragile nature,  great care should be taken even when cleaning. They should not be soaked as water may seep into the inclusions and dissolve the oils used to treat your emerald. This will cause your gem to become more brittle. Never immerse your emeralds in an ultrasonic cleaner as they could literally shattered before your eyes. How sickening would that be to see happen? At the very least, ultrasonic cleaners can remove the oils and weaken the stone. Do not use steam cleaning or expose to sudden or high temperatures. Don't use strong cleaners with petroleum or any organic solvents, even jewelry solutions, as the chemicals are not compatible with the oils used in the stone. Use room temperature water and a mild dish soap with a SOFT toothbrush. Rinse well and pat dry. Clean your emerald(s) only when necessary, never more than a few times a year. It is possible to have a competent jeweler re-oil you emerald after 2 -5 years of wear though I have seen it stated that you should re-oil after every cleaning. Supposedly the non-jeweler like myself can do that if the right oil and a cotton swab. I'm not making an recommendations here.

Just in case you need an excuse, emeralds are also used for the 20th, 35th, and 55th wedding anniversary.

Let's wander through some emerald green on this lovely spring day ...

The Mackay Emerald. Great excuse to go to the Smithsonian.
Image via Travellers Point

Those incredible trapiche stones agian. Image via Emerald Passion

Image via C. Ostrovsky

Image via XYZ Stones

Image via Tiara Time

Um .....  I want a tiara. OK, there-- I said it. Because, you know, it would look so pretty on my fuzzy head while I washed dishes or weeded the garden. They're just so, you know- pretty and extravagant. And even though Harry is still single, I've already found my prince. But, well, farm boys don't often have royal titles so my mother-in-law didn't give me a tiara when we got married and now here I am, all sparkle-lusty, without a tiara. At this point I would even settle for the cheapie little $4 million dollar doggy tiara. Look- emeralds!

Image via Tiara Time
Edwardian bracelelt. $3,4000. Image via The Three Graces

My sister has a May birthday. So does my mom. Mom is a gardener to the core and her favorite flower is Lily-of-the Valley, with its gorgeous emerald green leaves. So I think of her when I think of emeralds. Sort of appropriate since I think a good mom is a precious gem, though none as priceless as mine. I do hope you feel the same about your own mom or someone you've found to stand in for her.

Image via Awesomeology

I must admit that emeralds aren't necessarily my favorite gemstone- I'm just funny about green (throw some pink beside it, we're good). But in a pinch I could learn to tolerate them. Especially with emerald green butterflies in the world.

Happy Birthday to all of you lush, gorgeous May babies.