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Tag: grapes

The Grapes of George (and other crops)

I’m not sure who’s behind it, but in the flatlands of eastern Washington — before the westbound traveler gets to the far more magnificent side of the state — someone has decided to label the crops.

“Crop names in fence lines next 14 miles,” reads a sign on Interstate 90, somewhere west of Moses Lake and east of a town named George.

I like this idea. For one thing, it turns a fairly boring drive into a learning experience. For another, possibly, it makes people a little more aware of/involved in the place they’re at — as opposed to the text they’re sending, the video game they’re playing, or the cell phone on which they’re blabbing.

It’s kind of like a picture book for kids: Here is the field corn, here is the alfalfa. You don’t even have to turn the page, just your head. On your left, potatoes; on your right, peppermint. Here is a field of … wheat. Here is a field of … grapes (wrathless variety, it appeared). Here is some Timothy. Timothy? (It’s a kind of hay.)

For 14 miles, on both sides of the highway, I got a lesson in agriculture — thanks to, I’d guess, the state or some agricultural commission. I wanted to learn more about crops, including why every state seems to package its hay differently. But the lesson came to an end; and as I progressed west, instead of crop signs, the only ones I saw in the fence lines — not counting those of politicians — said “For Sale.”

It struck me as a good idea, though, all this labeling and identifying — one that, if carried to extremes, could both create jobs and lead to a more informed public.

In addition to crop identifiers, why not farm animal identifiers: Sheep, goats, cows, llamas? Tree identifiers that would help us differentiate between our birch and our aspen? Factory identifiers that tell us what’s being made inside that big building? A much needed explanation of what silos (a) hold and (b) are for? The American public would get a better understanding of the importance of farming, and everything else we take for granted.

(Label this idea satire, but only kind of.)

Of course we don’t want drivers reading signs so much that they neglect their driving, but it’s nice to see signs that inform, instead of those that merely advertise, or give harsh orders — as if we were dogs or something: “No this … No that … Stay in lane … Right lane must exit … ”

I’m tired, too, of the signs that scare us: Dangerous Crosswinds Ahead, Watch for Ice, High Accident Area, Gas: $3.15.

We tend to readily identify dangers, we profusely post rules, we slap advertising everywhere — so why not label the run of the mill good stuff, like cows and creeks, steaming bowls of oatmeal and doers of good deeds?

My label-everything-on-earth plan could help the economy. Think of all the jobs. Think of the stimulus. We would need more signmakers, more sign putter-uppers, more sign repairers, more sign changers — for when the crops are rotated, or the landscape changes.

Maybe knowing what’s what would help us appreciate our Earth a little more, teach us to better “live in the moment.” Or maybe not. In any event, here’s the one I want to see:

A sign that the economy is improving.

Top 10 causes of dog poisoning

The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center has put together a list of the top ten poisons that affected dogs in 2008.

1. Human medications. For several years, human medications have been number one source of poisoning cases — both prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor. Keep them in cabinets.

2. Insecticides. Bug control products rank number two, and many of them involved misuse of flea and tick products—such as applying the wrong topical treatment to the wrong species. Check with your vet before beginning any flea and tick control program.

3. People food.
Grapes, raisins, avocado, onions and certain citrus fruit can harm dogs. One of the worst offenders is chocolate, which, if ingested in significant amounts, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures.

4. Rat and mouse poisons. Last year, the ASPCA received approximately 8,000 calls about pets who had accidentally ingested rat and mouse poisons. Many baits used to attract rodents contain inactive ingredients that are attractive to pets as well. Ingesting them can lead to life-threatening problems for pets, including bleeding, seizures and kidney damage.

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EV-uh-oh: Is Rachael Ray poisoning our dogs?

The quick answer is no. Despite a recent boo boo — actually a boo boo repeated from 2006 — in one of her “dog-friendly” recipes, Rachel Ray, whether you find her endearing or annoying, appears to be a true dog person, dog lover and dog philanthropist.

That one of her recipes — reprinted alongside a profile of Ray in this month’s Modern Dog magazine — calls for onions, which can be toxic to dogs, was an unfortunate oversight, a result of either the conflicting information that’s out there or a reflection of Ray’s learning curve when it comes to canines.

The recipe in question, “Isaboo’s Butternut Squash Mac and Cheddar,” originally appeared in Ray’s own magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, which runs a “pet friendly” recipe in every issue — a meal you can make for both you and your dog to eat.

The macaroni and cheese dish, which calls for half an onion, was the first of those to appear in the magazine, back in March 2006.

Ray also has her own dog food company, Rachael Ray Nutrish, some of the profits from which go to her own rescue organization, as she’s quick to point out on her website:

“There are no fillers.  No junk.  Just lots of good, wholesome stuff. How cool is that? And you know me.  I’m all about giving back, so some of the proceeds from Rachael Ray Nutrish go to charities that take care of animals who have no one else to look out for them.  Wow.  How good do you feel now?”

But back to poisoning dogs.

After the onion episode came to light, we went back and checked all the “dog-friendly” recipes Ray has published in her magazine, starting in April 2006 — all 27 of them — and we’re pleased to report that none of them are likely to kill your dog.

True, some of them call for avocados, which are toxic to dogs, and scallions, which are toxic to dogs, and nutmeg, high levels of which can result in seizures, tremors, central nervous system problems and death.

But almost always those recipes point out — either in the ingredient list or in the directions — to use those items only in the human portions.

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