Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

22 posts categorized "Animals" Feed

September 17, 2012

Blurt Is No More. Here's Where to Find New Seven Days Content

You may have seen the new blogs that we've been launching here in Seven Days-land in recent weeks. Now that those are up, it's official: We're retiring the Blurt blog. R.I.P., Blurt.

Our dear friend Blurt, in all its green-tentacled, drooling glory, has served us well since early 2008. But it's changed a lot through the years — from odd photos and video clips from all over the internet in the early days to its recent life as a place primarily for longer stories that popped up outside of the usual weekly publishing cycle of our dead-tree edition. There's nothing wrong with that, but, being an internet-friendly, 21st-century news organization, we want our blogs to feel like, well, blogs. 

So that's why we started two separate blogs dedicated to two of our most popular areas of coverage: the news-and-politics blog Off Message, and the food-and-drink blog Bite Club. On both blogs, expect a more frequent publishing schedule, more photos and video, and more links to stuff our staffers are reading around the web.

Content that used to be on Blurt that doesn't fit in with those two blogs, such as arts news and the Movies You Missed DVD reviews, will be posted on our main website at There's now a big widget for web-exclusive stories outside the usual weekly publishing schedule on the website. And the best way to make sure you don't miss any Seven Days content is to subscribe to our email newsletters and follows us on Twitter and Facebook.

It's important to note: no content is going away! Old links will continue to work here, and future posts in longtime Blurt staples will have a new home — Grazing and Alice Eats are both now on Bite Club, for example. We're just doing some reshuffling to make our web structure more sensible and, we hope, better.

We'll miss the little green monster, though. Sleep well, little guy.

June 27, 2012

More on Toxic Clover that Burned an Essex Horse's Face

Alsike clover flowerhead a 7.17.08 Randolph aVermont horse owners are breathing a collective sigh of relief today upon news that the facial injuries sustained by "Nellie," a 13-year-old paint mare in Essex, were caused not by some wanton act of animal cruelty but by the animal consuming a type of clover (photo right) found throughout Vermont.

As Seven Days reported in this week's Animal Issue story, "Whoa, Nellie! Essex Equine got Burned By Unlucky Clover, Not Battery Acid," on May 16 Nellie's owners went to their barn and discovered the horse’s face covered in a gel-like substance. They assumed someone had attacked the animal with a caustic chemical that caused its skin to peel and permanently blinded its left eye.

However, a vet at Vermont Large Animal Clinic Equine Hospital in Milton later determined the burns were the result of a photosensitivity caused by the horse consuming a toxic plant: a common variety of clover that often grows in New England horse pasture called alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum), a close relative of both white and red clover, the latter of which is Vermont's state flower.

After deadline, we learned more about the toxic clover (and got these helpful pictures) from Sid Bosworth, an Extension agronomist and instructor in the plant and soil science department at the University of Vermont. 

Continue reading "More on Toxic Clover that Burned an Essex Horse's Face" »

May 07, 2012

A Moose on the Loose in Winoos'

MooseIf you spotted a long-legged ungulate on the loose in downtown Winooski this weekend, don't worry — it wasn't the ghost of Pete the Moose come back to haunt you. It was just your average confused adolescent moose, out for a ramble through the Onion City. 

I made a few phone calls after Seven Days associate publisher Cathy Resmer came to work this morning with stories of a moose sighting on Green Up Day. Cathy was picking up trash on Weaver Street and says she was almost run over by a "frantic" moose that bolted out of the police station parking lot.

The moose turned onto West Allen and headed for the river. When Cathy called home to tell her wife Ann-Elise about the sighting, she learned that Ann-Elise had spotted the same moose just a short while earlier, hanging out just beyond the fence in their neighbor's yard. Soon after, the couple's young son, Graham, saw the moose running down the street and exclaimed, "Mom, I just saw the biggest dog I've ever seen in my life running down the street!"

The sightings didn't end there. After Cathy posted on Facebook, other reports trickled in: of a moose running alongside 189, of one dashing across Williston Road and into the Staples parking lot (and dodging traffic as he went).

Continue reading "A Moose on the Loose in Winoos'" »

April 24, 2012

Meat Repeat: Another Vermont Farmer Looks to DIY Butchering

SugarmtnfarmWhen I reported on LaPlatte River Angus Farm last week for our cover story on the local meat industry, farmer Jim Kleptz told me about plans to fire up a family-owned slaughterhouse on recently acquired land in Milton. The reason? Kleptz and his sons want complete control, from raising a calf to slaughtering the steer to, finally, packaging and selling the meat. 

Well, add another farmer to the roster of those considering the DIY-approach. Walter Jeffries and his family (pictured) have been painstakingly building a butcher shop and abattoir from the ground up at Sugar Mountain Farm, the 70-acre farm in West Topsham where the family raises pastured pigs and other livestock. The family's been at it — slowly but surely — since 2008. Back then, a series of slaughterhouse-related headlines prompted them to build their own facility. A Rutland slaughterhouse burned to the ground. A Grand Isle plant shuttered its doors after being outed for inhumane treatment. The family's St. Johnsbury butcher was talking of retirement. For Jeffries, who had turned a homestead hobby into a family farm, the trend didn't bode well.

"We were looking at that from the point of view of, 'Wow, we've got all these pigs in the field, and if we can't find a place to slaughter them, we'll be strung up,'" Jeffries said.

It's been slow going. In 2009, the family tore down an old hay shed, poured the insulated slab foundation, and began putting up walls. Construction was piecemeal, because to a very large degree the family has funded the operation upfront. They pulled $32,000 from a savings account they'd set aside for a future greenhouse. They routed the cash flow from their pork sales toward the project. A community-supported agriculture "pre-buy" drummed up capital from customers, and friends and neighbors pitched in with personal loans. Had a bank been willing to loan money for the project, Jeffries would have taken it, but the farm made do without. In the most recent bid for funding, Sugar Mountain Farm has taken to Kickstarter to rally the troops. With the help of more than 230 contributors, the farm has already raised more than $20,000 of its $25k goal. 

Continue reading "Meat Repeat: Another Vermont Farmer Looks to DIY Butchering" »

April 12, 2012

A Cause for Paws: A Vermonter Rescues a Stray Dog From Mozambique

Carmen today2From how far away are you willing to rescue a stray dog? From across the county? Across the state? Perhaps you'll even adopt one through, which lists hundreds of thousands of homeless animals rescued from kill shelters all over the United States. Many travel to their new homes in New England via livestock trailers that make scheduled stops along the interstates in a process resembling a modern-day underground railroad.

But even Artie, the cockapoo mutt I rescued via from a Nashville, Tenn., kill shelter in 2008, had a short trip home compared to Carmen. Next week, the 5-year-old street hound (pictured above) will make the journey of her lifetime from her native home in Mozambique to Jay, Vt., where a local couple are eagerly awaiting her arrival.

The intercontinental canine connection is the work of Claudia Neto, a Rice Memorial High School grad now living in Mozambique. Two years ago, Neto and her partner founded that country's first and only known animal rescue organization, called MAPS, or Mozambique Animal Protection Society. To date, they've "rehomed" nearly 100 dogs and puppies and 90 cats and kittens, mostly to expats living in the southeastern African nation.

"Carmen had been stuck at the shelter for over a year, seemingly with no hope of a future," Neto writes via email from Mozambique. "When I shared her story and situation on Facebook, a friend in Vermont found a couple up in Jay, Vt., who were willing to give Carmen a forever home." Thus began the arduous task of figuring out how to get her there — in particular, covering the expense, estimated at nearly $2000.

Continue reading "A Cause for Paws: A Vermonter Rescues a Stray Dog From Mozambique" »

March 12, 2012

Vermont Senate Scheduled to Vote on Bill Banning "Torture Pens" for Pigs

Pigs_gestation_crate_270x224Most days it's easy to forget that a civilized society still allows cruel animal-husbandry practices to occur in the name of cheap, abundant food — that is, until you spend a few minutes with an animal welfare advocate. Thankfully, one such abysmal practice could soon be ended for good, at least in Vermont.

This week, the Vermont Senate is scheduled to vote on S. 239, "an act relating to ensuring the humane treatment and slaughter of animals." The bill, sponsored by Sen. Harold Giard (D–Addison), would outlaw housing pregnant pigs in so-called gestation crates, a practice the Humane Society of the United States calls one of the cruelest, intensive confinement systems used in factory farming today.

Continue reading "Vermont Senate Scheduled to Vote on Bill Banning "Torture Pens" for Pigs" »

February 10, 2012

Movies You Missed 25: Project Nim

Project-nimThis week in movies you missed: Once upon a time, a scientist decided to raise a chimpanzee just like a human child. Bad idea.

What You Missed

Call it the real-life version of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, except without the "rising" part. James Marsh's documentary retells the story of a radical experiment undertaken by Columbia professor Herbert Terrace in 1973: He wanted to find out if an ape could talk (via sign language, of course). The ape in question was named Nim Chimpsky — a pun on Noam Chomsky, who argued that humans alone are hard-wired to use language as a means of expression.

The film doesn't address the fascinating context of this experiment or the other attempts to prove that language isn't unique to humans (more info here). Based on Elizabeth Hess' biography of Nim, it focuses on what the experiment did to Nim himself — and how a bunch of well-meaning people, all eager to prove an ape could cross the human-animal divide, ended up doing some very cruel things.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed 25: Project Nim" »

January 31, 2012

Johnson Center Rescues Rare Historic Horse Breed

IMG_0649A horse is a horse, of course, of course — unless that horse happens to be a rare breed called the Colonial Spanish. In that case, says horse enthusiast Stephanie Lockhart, don’t mistake the hardy little steed for just any old pony.

These were the mounts first introduced to the then-New World by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. The horses were later adopted by some American Indian tribes, and raced across the West carrying Pony Express mail carriers.

“These were the first horses in America,” says Lockhart of the horses, also called Spanish mustangs. “They’re like old souls. You look into their eyes, and you can just see the history involved.”

For the five newest horses at Lockhart’s nonprofit Center for America’s First Horse in Johnson, more recent history was a hard-knocks affair: Until earlier this month, the horses were living in New Mexico, where record-breaking drought conditions meant hay, grazing and water were expensive and hard to come by. The horses were thin, and their aging owners — who had been raising the Colonial Spanish for 60 years to keep the historic breed alive — knew they couldn’t keep them any longer.

Continue reading "Johnson Center Rescues Rare Historic Horse Breed" »

January 27, 2012

Vermont Company to Supply Cat Toys to the Stars

Classic_w_LogoLast week, Milia Bell of Burlington packed up 300 Tickle Pickles and shipped them to California. The squishy green tubes, redolent of catnip, will go in swag bags offered to attendees of the 84th Academy Awards on February 26.

If any A-listers actually own cats rather than handbag-sized dogs, those Pickles will eventually end up where they belong — being clawed and embraced by frenzied felines. That could be a stroke of a luck for a two-person Vermont business.

Bell is the owner of Tipsy Nip Organic Catnip Products, which used to be PupCat Bakery. She's been baking treats for cats and dogs and selling them at local farmers markets since 2004. Since 2009, when Suzanne Podhaizer interviewed her for Seven Days, Bell and her partner have shifted focus — from dogs to cats. They changed their name and now sell only their cat toys and catnip wholesale, with 15 to 20 accounts around the country. (Their canine baked goods are still available at farmers markets.)

Continue reading "Vermont Company to Supply Cat Toys to the Stars" »

Sold! Middlesex Farmers Snap up Mobile Slaughter Unit

Resizedimage300225-rabbitsIt’s official. The that mobile poultry processing unit we first wrote about two weeks ago has sold to the highest bidders — in this case, Lila Bennett and David Robb of Tangletown Farm in Middlesex. Bennett and Robb logged the winning bid in an online auction at $61,000. That’s a pretty penny, but it's also 65 percent of the original $93,000 price tag that the state paid for the mobile slaughterhouse in 2008.

Bidding on the slaughterhouse ended on January 13 but the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets announced the official sale Thursday after mulling over the final bid. In a press release, Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross said the agency is happy with the selling price, and will be reinvesting the money earned through the sale into the meat processing industry in Vermont. Farmers have long identified meat processing as a weak link in the growing local foods industry in Vermont, saying that the few inspected slaughter facilities in the state are overbooked or too far away.

Continue reading "Sold! Middlesex Farmers Snap up Mobile Slaughter Unit" »

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