A few months ago, I packed up the dogs, the mead, and various fish and houseplants for a work move to western Washington. Instead of snow six months a year… well, who am I kidding? There’s some places out here that have snow year-round. But we moved from 8,000 feet to near sea level, so I drive to see snow now instead of living in it.
This area has some choice hiking.
Some seriously choice hiking. I can get to mountains, beaches, forests with a couple hours of driving. The Pacific Northwest is a friggin fantastic area of the country to live in. Both the dogs think so too.
This is also one of the best areas for berries. I’ve got plans to shift over to some berry meads: blackberries (my house is full of them), huckleberries, salmonberries, raspberries. Apples are everywhere too, and it’s proving easy to barter for them. Some of the brewers and brew shops will rent cider presses, so it might be time to branch out a little.
And now, it’s time to get some mead started. I have an empty 5 gallon from the hibiscus mead, and four more batches that are ready to bottle. It turns out moving, with all the associated shenanigans that go with it, is good for your home brewing. My batch of coffee mead benefited from being left to sit for three months, and so did the blueberry and killer bee honey batches.
I was talking to a friend on Skype and got reminded of this job I used to have, working at a pet store.
It was one of those family run pet shops that sold all sorts of animals, most of which were very poor choices for people to actually take home as a pet. Being that I was in college and needed the cash, and had poor ethics about supporting certain aspects of the pet trade, I filled out an application.
The store sold fish, parrots, puppies (those stories about puppy mill dogs? True. 100% true. Don’t buy a dog from a pet store, people), small animals, lizards, snakes, and kittens. We had a few animals that were store pets, either because they couldn’t be sold, they belonged to the owner, or they were too big or nasty for a rational person to want to take home. Like Tokay geckos. I worked in reptiles because I like them, and wound up with the friggin’ Tokay hanging off my hand on more than one occasion.
We had one pet store. A bunch of college aged employees. A manager who was sometimes drunk (that’s another story). The general public. And this fish:
This, for anyone who’s not familiar with fish, is a Redtail Catfish. They usually show up in the aquarium trade as adorable little six inch long baby fish. If your local pet or fish store is clueless, you’ll be told they don’t get that big and you’ll be fine keeping them in a 20 gallon or whatever you’ve got at home. Just hand over your Visa and we’ll send you on your way.
Well. It just so happens that they do get big.
People fish for those things, and have caught ones that are over 70″ and 150lbs. The one we had at the store wasn’t 150lbs yet, but still clocked in at about four feet. He lived in a display tank and we fed him mice, fish pellets, and the occasional pepperoni slice.
We also had a sign that said ‘Do Not Stick Your Hands Into the Tank.” The fish ate mice by sucking them into his mouth and drowning them. It seems obvious that you’d not want to put your hands into the same tank as a giant catfish. But hey, people did, so we had the signs.
Anyway, we’re at work one evening and we hear someone yelling. ‘IT’S ON MY HAND GET IT OFF HELLLLLLLP.”
Everyone likes a good animal bite story, so off we went. We all suspected what happened, because it wasn’t the first time. Usually we’d just hear a scream and a lot of splashing as whoever it was dodged the catfish, but not this time. We get to the fish section, and sure enough, there’s a guy with his hand in the catfish’s tank and the fish is hanging on for dear life.
We stood around and watched until the manager showed up to deal with things. None of us wanted to stick our hands in the tank at that point. Good boy, catfish. The customer wasn’t hurt, but I bet he never did it again.
Still, a word of advice: don’t buy a Redtail Catfish unless you have the Taj Mahal of aquariums and don’t mind a fish that thinks your hand might be dinner.
That time of the year when, where I live, we have less than 9 hours of daylight. I actually don’t mind, although it’s harder to fit in snowshoeing with the puppy when I’m at work for most of it.
There’s something pretty darn nice about having more night than day. It makes curling up with the dogs and a good book (or a movie) even better. More time for walking at night, checking out stars… and the bears are all snoozing too.
I’ve got plans to get together with people, eat food, drink mulled wine, and have a good time. A combination solstice, Christmas, holiday, festivus thing. I wish some of the mead would have been ready, but the one batch of cyser I’d been counting on flopped big time. I have a bottle of not-my-mead that I’ll probably bring instead. Perhaps I’ll crack a bottle of the terrible buckwheat and see how that tastes mulled.
And I’ll make darn sure to put aside some of what’s brewing for next year’s solstice.
Bonus post because today’s the day they traveled to in Back to the Future.
It’s very fucking strange to look at 2015 now, vs. when I first saw the movie.
Same deal with these two. It’s an experience watching a movie when you’re a kid and then living long enough to hit the year that it was supposed to take place. I was a kid when Back to the Future and Escape from New York were released. Now I realize we still don’t have flying cars and NYC/LA (thankfully) haven’t been walled off into prisons.
I still want a flying car, damnit. And I still like Kurt Russel.