From magnificence to mange

This just breaks my heart.

Refugee Lipizzaners a sorry sight in Serbia


NOVI SAD, Serbia
— The emaciated horses standing forlornly in a dusty field in northern
Serbia are all that is left of a magnificent herd of white Lipizzaners.

There were nearly 90 of the famous breed when they became war
refugees in 1991, losing their stables in the town of Lipik to shelling
as Croatia fought for independence from Yugoslavia and Croatian Serbs

Recent pictures of eight remaining horses at a farm near the city of Novi Sad have alarmed officials and animal lovers.

More: Globe & Mail

While a bunch of bickering jackasses argue politics over their skeletal bodies, and a greedy farmer tries to extort a fortune for the care of animals he has clearly neglected, these magnificent creatures are dying.

More: The Independant

I recall that Stan in Richmond B.C., who has himself rescued a few horses, once told me that of all the neglected and abused animals that share our lives, none suffer more than horses. I believe it.

Comfort amid the green growing things

A friend of mine passed away yesterday, far too young and not at all willing. He was diagnosed with cancer back in October and given 3 months to live, but he was determined to see another birthday. Norm succeeded in going out on his own terms and passed away on July 27th, his 48th birthday.

I’m not sure what this has to do with gardening, except that it’s out here – sitting amid green growing things – that I am comforted. Things grow, things die, and if left to nature’s careful handling, every part of it contributes to the regeneration of a soil that will support a new season of growth. Norm was quite pragmatic, describing his lot as “survival of the fittest”. But it’s not that way, not really. Everything that grows and blooms is better because of what came before.

Friends are like that too.

Rest in peace, Norm. I won’t forget you.

A great man

I’m sad that Steve Irwin is gone. Of course I haven’t watched the Crocodile Hunter since I left Toronto, but from the beginning I was a hooked. In fact, with digital cable and 80+ channels, the only thing I ever watched was nature programs. And Steve Irwin’s was the best – he was a such a goof, but a loveable goof, and his passion and enthusiasm was simply irresistable. He made me laugh, and whenever his show was on everything else stopped. For that 1/2 hour I was no longer sitting in front of a TV in a stuffy inner city apartment, I was transported to wherever he was, getting to know the animals along with him.

R.I.P. Steve. You did your job.

… But no one rescued Flipper

Two of the dolphins from a pod that protected swimmers from sharks have been killed by poachers, prompting some colourful reactions by New Zealanders:

An angry Mr Howes (one of the rescued swimmers) said whoever mutilated the dolphins should be castrated.

"In light of what has happened at Ocean Beach I would give them a taste of their own medicine," he said. "This is how we repay them for their help?"

Oh man, I’m with him. Though it might be more interesting to toss ’em in the water and let the sharks take care of matters.

On the bright side, the community is so angry that I don’t think poachers will find it easy doing business in that part of the world for quite a while…

Continue reading “… But no one rescued Flipper”

Mans Dies After Ingesting Common Garden Plant

Oh man… here is a tragic story. The Toronto Star reports that a young man from Toronto was back home in Newfoundland for a short break from his promising acting career, when he died from eating a plant called Monkshood.

While home, Andre hooked up with friends and former classmates, taking a short boat trip on July 30 to Silver Fox Island.

While they explored the foliage, it’s believed he ingested or came in contact with sap from the plant, his father said.

The group left the island for the mainland mid-afternoon. Then Andre took the boat by himself to nearby Fair Island, where the family had lived in the early 1960s.

There, Andre was to have dinner with his aunt at his father’s cabin.

“He ate half his supper and said he didn’t feel right. He said something wasn’t right,” Bill Noble related slowly, with obvious difficulty.

“His aunt called around 6 o’clock to say Andre was really sick and he had to go to hospital.”

An ambulance was waiting on the wharf when Andre arrived after the 15-minute boat ride from Fair Island.

They planned to take him to the hospital in Brookfield, about 25 kilometres away but, by 7 p.m., Andre was dead.

Jack Strong, a Newfoundland horticulturist, said ingesting as little as five millilitres of monkshood sap can be deadly.

“Only five millilitres, that’s a very small amount,” he said. “Cases of poisoning have been reported when the leaves were mistaken for wild parsley, or the roots were mistaken for horseradish.

“And even if you’re exposed externally, on the skin, a sufficient quantity can still cause poisoning. That’s why if you do come in contact, you have to wash your hands quickly, or I’d be inclined to wear gloves.

“If the contact was accidental, it could be that the stem or leaf was broken and the sap came out and got into a cut, or even through the skin.”

monkshoodMonkshood, or Aconite, which resembles the delphinium, is actually a common plant in home perennial gardens. It is known by many common names including Wolfsbane, Leopard Bane, Tiger Bane, Dog’s Bane, Friar’s Cap, and Friar’s Cowl, Garden Wolfbane, Helmet Flower, or Soldier’s Cap.

In older times, it was used to poison meat to kill wolves; it was considered a key ingredient in a potion used to make witches fly; and Claudius I was assassinated by his physician, who slipped him some.

The leaves are easily mistaken for other edible wild plants, and there is a long record of accidental death by ingesting them. According to this very interesting Website:

Somewhere around 1840, two Catholic priests arrived to dinner with other guests of the Provost of Dingwall. A servant obtained a radish from the garden for the guests to use as garnish on their meat, in consequence of which three at the table died, including Father Angus Mackenzie, Father James Gordon, & Father Gordon’s grand-nephew.

Aconite acts on the nervous system by first stimulating and later paralysing the nerves of pain, touch and temperature. Taken internally aconite acts on the circulation, the respiration and the nervous systems. It causes severe nausia, slows the pulse, caused the heart to beat erratically, and causes a dramatic fall in blood pressure. Death is usually caused by paralysis of the respitory system.

More information