A plethora of pesto

Filed under: @ 5:06 pm

The last time I had any success at growing basil was…….. Golly 1997 or so. For some reason the combination of the funky ass planter that my then boss had made, the plain ol’ grocery store type potting soil, the heat on our side porch, and the freebie packet of basil seeds that I got off of a Costco package of TicTacs combined in the perfect chemistry to absolutely overrun us in basil that year.
I have had on and off years for basil ever since. Sometimes a little better, getting enough to at least have some dried over the winter, sometimes a little worse with all the plants succumbing to rot, drought, or slugs.

I managed to hit a perfect chemistry year again this year. Nice sturdy plants purchased at the Master Gardener’s sale in May, self watering planters, a spot right up against the house (and coincidentally right up against the dryer vent) and a nice combination of garden soil and worm poo…. Whatever I did, damn do we have basil.

We blew the first harvest making pesto for a specific dinner that is long eaten and I brewed some lemon basil simple syrup. I had visions of making basil lemonade over the summer, but since that never materialized I’m thinking about lemon basil mojitos (and probably lemon basil lemonade too, quite honestly, but the vision of an icy, sweating glass pitcher on a hot back porch with bright sunshine is absolutely gone for this year).
The second harvest was dried. I set up a drying line in the spare bedroom where the cats can’t chew at my herbs and let them take their own sweet time (heh, thyme). I’ve got dried purple basil, dried lemon basil, and dried genovese basil all of which knock the socks off of anything you can get at the supermarket.
The third harvest, and a little late at that, was today.

When we were at the Gatwick airport in London in 2006 waiting to see whether or not we’d be able to get a flight to Jersey, Andrew and I ran across what has to have been the best airport food EVER and what has become one of our hands down favorite sandwiches.
Nice chewy baguette. Brie. Basil. That’s it. Even mass produced and wrapped in plastic wrap scarfed down in a panic about cross-channel flights, it was a sandwich to beat all sandwiches.

We’ve created some variations on the theme. A slice of capicola or other cured pork, sundried tomatoes with the brie, some really remarkable variations on the basic brie theme, and to make said sandwich with pesto instead of leaf basil (spreads better doncha know).
And since we were in the mood to go to Big John’s Pacific Food Importers, one of the best remaining pseudo-unknown eclectic food shopping experiences in the Seattle area, we decided that what we really wanted for dinner tonight was the basil/brie sandwich.
So we went to Big John’s, we came home, and I harvested basil.
I spent the last 2 1/2 hours or so making pesto. I made two quarts of various types of pesto and IT FUCKING ROCKS! (if I have to say so myself) We have purple pesto, we have purple lemon pesto, we have lemon pesto, and we have straight pesto.
I’m seriously jazzed about being able to make something that we both love so well with STUFF THAT I MADE ALL ON MY OWN! :mrgreen:

And it means that one of these days over the winter we’re really going to have to trot out the pasta squishing machine that’s been lurking in the back of our kitchen cabinets for the last 10 years and make fresh pasta too.
I wonder how I’d go about growing wheat in this climate?


Rabies Rant II Who thinks this is a good idea?

Filed under: @ 7:56 pm

The (relatively) new head of King County Animal Services, a DVM epidemiologist who has been part owner of a multi-specialty practice in Chicago, but who has never practiced medicine in the trenches, has a proposal.

King County Animal Services, like much of the rest of the county, has been dealing with tight budgets and is looking for new sources of revenue. Or new ways to enhance current sources of revenue. Understand that I am fully in favor of KCAC being able to hire and pay the personnel that they need, I’m *absolutely* in favor of a robust animal control presence in this region.


Dr. Epidemiologist, the possessor of one of the slickest politician smiles I’ve ever been witness to, proposes that, to increase licensing revenues for the county, DVMs practicing within the county turn over the contact information of every owner of every pet that we vaccinate for rabies so that the county can compare those lists to the lists of people who have animal licenses. And if there is a vaccinated pet without a license, send a note to the owner saying “Hey! Your pet isn’t licensed! Give us $30!”

This strikes those of us practicing small animal medicine within King County as A Bad Idea!

Think…You take your cat in for a rabies vaccine. Your veterinarian is then obligated by law to give your contact information to the county so that they can see whether or not you’ve licensed your pet.
It means a breach in the confidentiality of your personal information.
It means that your $15 rabies vaccination now costs $45.

What those of us in the trenches are concerned about is a couple of things.
One, people will start assuming that we DVMs are representatives of the county government. Bad or good, that’s not what I signed up to be.
Two, people will be more reluctant to have their pets vaccinated for rabies if it means that the county is going to nose into their business. Dr. Epidemiologist isn’t concerned about a decrease in the number of rabies vaccinations in the county because Washington doesn’t have a very high rabies rate. *I* care about a decrease in the number of rabies vaccines in the county! *I* think it’s probably a public health concern!
And what Dr. Epidemiologist doesn’t take into account is that while a decrease in the number of vaccinations might not be a big concern to the overall public health, a decrease in vaccination revenue is a big concern to those of us who run a small business. Veterinary medicine is not a high profit type business, the profit margin is _very_ slim and getting slimmer due to the loss of pharmacy revenue that is happening because big box stores are now carrying veterinary prescription medication (don’t get me started on that). If a 10% decrease in rabies vaccinations (the number that Dr. Epidemiologist is throwing about) is acceptable in regards to public health, a 10% decrease in my vaccination revenue is NOT!
Three, if people can’t get their pets vaccinated in this county without the county getting all up in their faces, they’ll take their pets to another county. For vaccinations, for sick pet visits…. Less business income in this county means a decreased tax base in this county. And people very much are willing to take their pets on rather extended drives to get to a veterinarian who agrees with them. I work in Renton and I do have clients who bring me their pets from Black Diamond, North Bend, Samammish. It’s not uncommon.

I took an oath.
Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

Dr. Epidemiologist, you tell me where in that oath I swore it says “I will improve the revenue stream of King County Animal Control by giving my clients’ personal information to the county so they can be policed and harassed for no good reason” and I’ll do it. Otherwise I think the county will have to find another way to increase their revenue stream. This is a hill on which I am willing to die.


Rabies Rant I “Don’t Touch The Bat!”

Filed under: @ 2:20 pm

Bats are cool. Bats are cute. Bats are an important part of our ecosystem, helping to control pestilential insects and helping to pollinate night blooming flowers.

But don’t touch the bat!

A quick word on rabies virus in Washington state. Our ground wildlife don’t carry rabies. Washington is a “ground rabies” free state. We do have a resident population of bats that carry their own subspecies of rabies virus. The subspecies doesn’t really matter however, unlike other viruses that can be spread amongst mammals. While there is some debate on whether or not arboreal rabies is as acutely infectious to ground dwellers as other subspecies of the virus, you really don’t want to try it and find out, do you?

A sometime client called my office a couple of weeks ago. They had one pet on record, a cat that we’d not seen since he was adopted in 2009.
The client was calling, she said, because they’d found a dead bat in their front yard and they were wondering whether there was anything that they should be concerned about if their cat had been in contact with it. They didn’t


, she said, that the cat had killed the bat, but it was an indoor/outdoor cat.
Immediately my infectious disease alarm went into high overdrive.

“Tell her to lock the cat inside, keep everyone out of the yard around the bat, and to call the health department. They’ll need to test the bat for rabies. And make her an appointment to have the cat’s vaccines updated. We don’t have any history of rabies vaccination for this cat.”
My new, and rather inexperienced, assistant went back to the phone to relay my message.
The client’s reply?
They’d already thrown away the bat, they just needed to know whether or not there was anything they should be worried about if the cat came in contact with the bat.

“Tell her NOT to let that garbage can be taken away! And have her call the health department ASAP! The bat needs to be tested. And make her that appointment! The cat will have to be quarantined.”

So long story short…..

They’d found, and disposed of, the dead bat

    two weeks

previously. The client was sure that the cat couldn’t have been infected with rabies because it had been two weeks and the cat, who bites people by the way, was “fine”.

We pause while Margaret says words that blister paint and is fervently thankful that she doesn’t work for the state, nor for King County Department of Health.

I called the state, I called county health. And I unleashed a shitstorm.
Because the bat couldn’t be tested we have to assume that the bat was rabid (20% of the bats that are tested in King County are rabid).
Because the bat couldn’t be examined, we have to assume that the cat killed the bat.
Because we have to assume that the cat killed the bat and because there is no history of rabies vaccination, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve just won your cat a SIX MONTH quarantine. Two weeks, in terms of rabies, is piddly shit.
And because we have to assume that the cat was exposed to rabies and because there is no history of rabies vaccination, CONGRATULATIONS!! Everyone, that is to say every. One. That has been in contact with the cat in the last two weeks now has to go through post exposure prophylaxis.

A quick word on rabies vaccinations and post exposure prophylaxis. The urban legend that everyone bandies about about the twenty five huge injections that have to be given into your stomach is way, WAY old news. If you’re exposed to rabies and you haven’t been vaccinated (I have) you get a HUGE WHACKING DOSE of rabies hyperimmune serum. Basically somewhere between 12 and 15cc of serum shot into your backside. Then you have to get a series of rabies vaccinations. When I was vaccinated it was three subcutaneous vaccines over a period of 10 weeks. It may be different now, but that’s the basic pattern.
The kicker on postexposure prophylaxis these days is that many insurance companies don’t pay for it. And it costs, or it cost one of my colleagues whose staff had all been exposed to a rabid kitten last year, somewhere in the range of $12-$30,000 apiece.

Bats are cute. Bats are a valuable part of the ecosystem. But if you see a bat during the day it’s a sick bat. And if it’s a sick bat you have to assume that it’s rabid.
For the love of God, DON’T TOUCH THE FUCKING BAT!!

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