Produce: for growing, eating, and portraiture! Giuseppe Arcimboldo painted these crazy portraits/still lifes/reversible portraits that were simultaneously still lifes in 16th century Italy, including a series of the four seasons. Those four paintings were later turned into massive sculptures by Philip Haas, and they are now on display through October 27 at the New York Botanical Garden. Just look at Summer!

Amazing, right? Apparently some of the vegetables—like the eggplant and the corn, and is that an artichoke?—were brand-new to Europe at the time. Get more details at The Salt blog, and let’s go visit them and appreciate their massive scale for ourselves. When the rain lets up, of course.

[Photo courtesy New York Botanical Garden via NPR]


Why turkeys RULE!  »

Sorry guys, I didn’t have a good turkey pun for the title! My bad. But as it is the week of Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Turkey Day, I thought I would bust out some knowledge and tell you all about why turkeys are totally neat.

First of all, turkeys are not dumb, bumbling idiots like people say; on the contrary, they are AWESOME. They can see in full color, run up to 25 miles an hour, and turkeys that have not been genetically perverted can fly in bursts up to 55 miles an hour. That is not even the beginning! Just read what poultry scientist (I think that means bird-torturer?) Tom Savage has to say: “I’ve always viewed turkeys as smart animals with personality and character, and keen awareness of their surroundings…the dumb tag simply doesn’t fit.” But wait there’s more!: “If you throw an apple to a group of turkeys, they’ll play with it together…kind of like football.” Um, THAT RULES. I want to marry that anecdote.

Yes, turkeys are very social animals. PETA quotes Erik Marcus on his turkey experiences: “Turkeys remember your face and they will sit closer to you with each day you revisit. Come back day after day and, before long, a few birds will pick you out as their favorite and they will come running up to you whenever you arrive. It’s definitely a matter of the birds choosing you rather than of you choosing the birds. Different birds choose different people.” Awww, they pick you. Heartwarming. Except that ALL the turkeys would come running to me because I’m sure turkeys would love me. I’ve never met any but I said the same thing about goats and it turns out goats are super into me.

Now, guess what else? Turkeys are picky eaters! They won’t just eat what’s in front of them, they will hunt around—jumping up into trees—to find the food they prefer. What do they prefer? Raspberries! That’s what the Farm Sanctuary feeds them for the big Thanksgiving party FOR the turkeys. People, I have to admit, I find picky eaters so endearing. I’m sure partly because I was branded a “picky eater” as a child and always got crap for it. In my house, being a picky eater used to mean that for some wacky reason, you didn’t want to eat steak or pork chops every night. Meanwhile, I had to deep-fat fry tofu to get my dad to try it! But whatevs, I’m totally over it. I SAID I’M OVER IT. Besides, do you know what “picky eating” actually is? A goddamn discerning palate. Turkey, YOU GO GIRL.

Wait wait wait, there’s more! Turkeys are totally into music! Yeah dude, they like songs! In the ‘70s, San Franciscan Jim Nollman did, like, choral arrangements with turkeys. I’m not even kidding!:

The San Francisco resident had learned that wild male turkeys can gobble on cue—especially in response to loud or high-pitched sounds. So Nollman visited a turkey farm in Sonoma County, sat down among 300 adult male turkeys and serenaded them with the folk song “Froggy Went a-Courtin’.” When he raised his voice during the chorus, the turkeys joined in. His recording of the event, “Music to Eat Thanksgiving Dinner By,” became a local radio hit.

You can listen to the recording on the Smithsonian website! DO IT! Because that’s kind of the coolest thing I’ve heard of since turkey football.

To top things off, there are some super-sweet stories from various turkey adoptions and rescues. See, turkeys love to cuddle and hang out with their friends and follow people around. Like this turkey named Alice (R.I.P.) at the Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary in Maryland; she just loved kids so much! When the school kids would come to the sanctuary, she would follow them around and, needless to say, hilarity ensued:

Once when a group of students on a tour were misbehaving, their teacher ordered them to line up in single file in front of the bus. The children dutifully walked to the bus, with Alice in tow. When the teacher walked over to discuss the children’s behavior with them, he was quite surprised to see that Alice had taken her place in the lineup, directly between two of the errant youngsters, waiting patiently for the teacher’s lecture.

I know, try not to die from the cuteness! Yes, very cute but that’s not my favorite turkey! My favorite turkey is Lydia the hugging turkey (R.I.P. too) that used to live at the Farm Sanctuary in C.A. She doesn’t appear to be on Farm Sanctuary’s site anymore but basically, people would go visit her and wait in line for a hug! You would bend down and then she would come running over to you and throw her head over your shoulder. Um, KILL ME THAT’S TOO CUTE.

I’ll tell you, I can’t WAIT to get my own turkeys! One day, friends, one day. In the meantime, we can all adopt a turkey at the Farm Sanctuary! I also want you to spread the gospel about why turkeys rule! And finally, have a happy Thanksgiving everybody!

[picture from Farm Sanctuary’s celebration FOR the turkeys, 2008]



The finest cows, the genetically superior ones, are put on a different regimen. AbiGrace is the Browns’—and the breed’s—rock star in this category. She will be overstimulated for maximum egg production and inseminated with choice sperm. The resulting embryos, as many as a dozen, will be flushed and frozen. Donnell could sell those embryos for more than $1,000 a pop on the Internet if he chose, but usually they are inserted into surrogate cows—proven dams that don’t, let’s say, have the genetics to be worth breeding. AbiGrace can then be stimulated to make more embryos, and more still.

Without scientific assistance, a mature cow will produce one calf a year; with embryo transfer, AbiGrace can crank out 25.


You have got to read this article, “Breeding the Perfect Bull,” in the April Smithsonian magazine. It’s absolutely nuts. These cows and bulls are “free-range,” as in, they don’t live on feedlots and eat corn-offal composites; they wander West Texas eating grass and looking chill. Until of course it’s time for them to be fattened for slaughter, when they are sent to feedlots and the cowboys who bred them don’t have to deal with what happens to them there.

But, you know, whatever helps you sleep at night!

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