A Gathering of Dwarf Woodland Hippos

Hippo Edited

Well I must say, this post was a long time coming!  I first heard about dwarf woodland hippos from a small article in a National Geographic magazine, at the very end of the magazine, not a top story or anything.  Actually, I think the author was probably amazed that they even published his article at all, what with all the skepticism that these illusive little hippos even exist at all.  It was sort of a “Big Foot” or “Loch Ness Monster” or “Snipe” sort of thing.  They were beings of folklore and tall tales passed down through generations.  Grandparents would sit their kids down for story time, and what makes a better story than miniature woodland hippos!  The kids all had a laugh and the grandparents pinky-swore that they actually existed.  “Sure, grandpa, whatever you say”.  But really, there were a few people that claimed to have actually seen them, and I am always up for an adventure, so I set out to find proof of the illusive dwarf woodland hippo!

I quickly learned that you can’t just go tromping through the woods in hopes that you’ll come across something.  They have exceptional hearing and have the ability to stay perfectly still, even slowing their breathing to go undetected.  They could be inches away from you, huddled in the bushes, and you’d never know it.  I had to be one step ahead – find somewhere that they might gather and be ready for them with my cameras rolling.  I learned a thing or two from watching the Planet Earth series and their behind the scenes segments that show how they capture rare images of hard-to-spot animals.  I went to an area that looked promising – a water hole for the hippos to swim in and drink from (they are excellent swimmers) and some mushrooms (they particularly like the red & white mushrooms – poisonous to most other animals, but the hippos love ‘em).   There was a break in the trees that would allow for unobstructed views of the hippos (if they showed up at all).  It took months, but I found signs of hippo activity: footprints.  They were near.  I felt it.

I decided to keep the cameras rolling and leave the site unattended, with motion detection sensors to turn the cameras on if they were tripped. I think the hippos could sense me nearby and were avoiding the water hole.  After one week, I came back to the spot to collect my camera equipment.  I could hardly wait to see if my footage captured anything!  My film showed nothing at first, but then there it was, a perfectly clear photo of the hippos enjoying an afternoon at the water hole!  Not only is this the first documented footage of dwarf woodland hippos, but it also confirmed a long standing theory that they are not only good swimmers, but amazing climbers also!  Who knew!?

So, finally, after months of tracking them down, here you have it.   The dwarf woodland hippos.  I am hoping to see them again someday, and hopefully with my own eyes.  For now, this image will have to do!

 

 

 

How Nintendo Saved Thanksgiving (true story).

Well, it has been a few YEARS since I did a blog post so hello again everyone!  This is a story I wrote a few years back about a Thanksgiving dinner I was hosting when living in Colorado.  It ended up being a hilarious situation, witnessed by no one (thankfully), so hopefully I paint a good picture of what happened in the few hours leading up to dinner that night.  Enjoy!

Four years ago I almost caused a massive Thanksgiving disaster… well, it wasn’t exactly me who caused it, but try explaining that to 12 hungry guests.  It could have been avoided… the whole thing could have been prevented days earlier if I had only noticed something important when I was at the store purchasing my turkey, and none of what is to follow would have happened.  I would have pulled my turkey out of the fridge on thanksgiving morning, prepared it for baking, and popped it in the oven to fill the house with the familiar aromas of an impending food coma.  But that’s not what happened.  My fate that day was sealed by a simple yet important thing: a sticker.  You know, the one with the cooking instructions and turkey weight and USDA stuff on it.  It was one of those things that wasn’t important until it was critical because as I would later find out, this sticker was missing entirely.

And had it not been for Nintendo, Thanksgiving dinner would have been ruined.

The whole day was organized and timed perfectly, with each side dish planned so that there would be enough space in the oven and on the stove to allow for them all to emerge right before dinner, like a grand reveal, all still steaming hot.  I had a good system, but there was no room for error.  And the morning went as planned (cranberries = cooked, potatoes = peeled, etc) until it was getting close to lunch and time to think about putting the turkey in the oven.  I counted backwards: dinner is at 6, we need the turkey out by 5:30, and that means I need to put it in at what time?  hmm… cooking time is dependent on weight… 15 minutes per pound and so that means… wait… how much does this bird weigh again?  Let me check the sticker.  THE STICKER.  And this was the moment that time stopped for what felt like a lifetime.  No sticker = unknown turkey weight = unknown cooking time = impending disaster.  You see, there is a small window to cook a perfect turkey… undercook and everyone gets sick and they never come back to your house.  In fact, they tell everyone they know and yelp about it and you will NEVER throw another dinner party in this town EVER.  Overcook and it’s dry and tasteless and everyone will have to pretend it is good to be polite but really they will all talk after about how awkward it was to pretend it was good while suffering through another bite of turkey that is really more like eating a dog biscuit.  Cooking this turkey was not going to be left to guesswork.

T-5 hours to dinner:

I snapped back to reality: time was ticking away.  This was a big turkey and based on other years, it could take at least 4 hours to cook.  Or MORE!  (or less?)  I needed to weigh that bird.  It would have been a simple undertaking if I owned a scale of some sort, but I did not.  I needed to find one FAST.  The logical option was to walk next door and ask my neighbor if I could use theirs, take it to my house, weigh the bird, return the scale, and then finish cooking my turkey like nothing happened.  So that is what I did… kind of.  In the panic of the moment, I didn’t stop to think, I just reacted:  I grabbed the turkey out of the sink (still wet from being rinsed off and slimy from bacon fat being smeared on it) and wrapped it in a “too-small-but-it-was-the-closest-one” dishtowel and ran out the door towards my neighbor’s house.

 

T-4.5 hours to dinner:

No one was home next door.  No one was home next door to next door. No one was home across the street.  Uh oh.  Me and the turkey proceeded down the block, but all our neighbors must have been out of town or for a walk or at their families house.  The situation was dire, but no so dire that I was willing to knock on an entire stranger’s door with a cold wet turkey cradled in my arms.  So when none of the neighbors I knew answered, I thought that for sure I was going to have to cancel Thanksgiving and just try again next year.

 

T-4 hours to dinner

Question: Do I have time to go to Target to buy a scale?  Answer: No

 

Still T-4 hours to dinner - back in the kitchen

I had to figure this out fast.  I tried finding things that I knew the weight of to compare to the turkey – cans of soup, bag of potatoes, 5 gal bucket of water – I would hold the turkey in one hand and the other things in the other hand to see which one weighed more.  It was more than two bags of russet potatoes and less than a bucket of water.  But it was all too relative and unreliable…  I put the turkey in its pan and sat at the table feeling defeated.  I thought about how I had been so busy that morning that I hadn’t done my Wii Fit workout for the day.  Since I was giving up on the turkey, I figured I could at least go do something productive and suffer through half an hour of Jillian Michaels yelling at me “COME ON, TRY HARDER, GIVE IT ALL YOU’VE GOT” which always results in me collapsed on the ground, exhausted, just swaying the remote back and forth so “she” (the Wii) still thinks I’m still doing the exercises.  Ugh.  But the thought of self-torture must have been just what I needed because then I had the best idea I have ever had in my life.

 

T-3.5 hours to dinner

The Wii Fit, as it turns out, is a great workout tool because it measures your weight and height and all that stuff and creates a program for you based on your goals.  Did you catch that?  It can measure your WEIGHT.  If it can measure my weight, it can measure a turkey’s weight.  So I hurry downstairs, turkey in tow, and fire up the Nintendo Wii.  This was going to be a piece of cake!  I load up the program, but it was immediately evident that you can’t just put something on the balance board and weigh it.  The entire system is set up with avatars who are supposed to represent real people.  My turkey needed an avatar… an unexpected extra step, but no harm there.  I made it a little face (that part is surprisingly time consuming – it needed to look just right and I couldn’t just rush through it), then chose him an outfit, named him, and “Turkey” came to life.

 

Now time for the weigh in, right?  Nope.  The program then wanted all sorts of stats and personal background: birthday, height, favourite food, activity level, bio, etc etc etc.  I filled out a lengthy form: Turkey, as it turned out, became a 1 year old boy whose birthday is November 26th (thanksgiving day) and who loves eating turkey.  He is 17″ tall (i measured) and is a quiet kid.  He goes to bed at 7:30pm each night.  He likes playing in the yard, and especially likes birds.  Ok, time for the weigh in.  I was planning on just plopping the bird down on the balance board, but there were strict instructions: “step onto the scale and weigh yourself.  Next, pick up your baby (or turkey) and hold them in your arms securely.  Baby’s weight will then be calculated”  So there I was, alone in the basement with an image on the screen of my smiling avatar holding Turkey’s avatar, while in real life I am standing there holding a dampish, cold turkey in my arms just wanting this ordeal to be over.  The weight came in: 16lbs. At last!  Time to go cook.

I was just about to abandon the Wii and get back to the kitchen when a new avatar dressed like a nurse popped up on the screen.  In a large text bubble, she gently informed me that the average weight for a boy Turkey’s age is 24lbs and the average height is 30″.  Turkey, at 16 pounds and 17 inches long, was severely behind the growth progress of most 1 year old children.  There was even a nice little chart that showed him compared with the normal growth curve of young children.  He was in about the 1 percentile, meaning that only 1 percent of all children his age experience growth progress like him.  I looked over at my turkey and it made me laugh a little bit.  Thanks for the advice Wii nurse, but I think we’ll skip the doctor visit.  I took Turkey back upstairs, popped him in the oven, and set the timer for 4 hours. With a hot cup of tea to relax with, I sat on the couch and waited for the house to start smelling good.  Dinner would be late, but thanks to Nintendo at least it was still happening.