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California Pumpkin Weighs More Than a Volkswagen

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  • Travis Gienger of Minnesota grew the prize-winning pumpkin during lockdown.
  • The pumpkin weighs 2,350 and earned him a $16,450 prize.

I’ve seen enough B horror movies to be suspicious of giant vegetables. Everyone knows that size is just the first step to sentience. But I’m not going to hate on anyone filling the hours of lockdown this year however they see fit. A horticulture teacher from Minnesota spent his time nursing a pumpkin to a truly gargantuan size until it weighed more than a 1969 Volkswagen. The prize-winning pumpkin tipped the scales at 2,350 pounds. 

Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Travis Gienger, the pumpkin-grower, drove the pumpkin 35 hours from Anoka, Minnesota, to a pumpkin contest in Half Moon Bay, California. Why? You’re probably asking. There’s got to be pumpkin growing contests in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. There are, but the 47th World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay pays out $7 per pound for the winning pumpkin. So Gienger walked away with $16,450 from his pumpkin adventure.

 

Giant pumpkins aren’t just a U.S. phenomenon–the 2,600 world record pumpkin hails from Germany. These pumpkins are just massive. But if you’re envisioning a pumpkin the actual size of a Volkswagen, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s a lot of water weight in the squash, so they’re usually six to eight feet across. They also grow in blob-shape because of their size. 

It’s Just a Matter of Time Until They Come For Us

If you’re a Goosebumps fan, you know that it’s only a matter of time before pumpkins turn on us for retribution for all the years of pies and carving. And a behemoth like this one will probably become their great leader, alá Mad Max: Fury Road.

 

For those of you who want to cultivate your own pumpkin overlord for the end of days, it takes some serious time and preparation. There’s a reason Gienger credits lockdown for his ability to grow the beast. But, if you’re career has suffered because of coronavirus, there’s some professional potential in the pursuit. Modern Farmer claims that if you win one of these world championship competitions, you can see the seeds from your prize-winner for up to $1000 each. 

 

You need to cultivate your seeds in late winter/early spring, so it’s the perfect time to shop around for a high-pedigree super seed. You don’t need to spend a grand; they’re available for anywhere from $10 to $100, but you’ll need to buy a few of them to cultivate the most ambitious seed. 

 

Is it worth it? Devoting almost 300 square feet of your yard to a pumpkin? “Oh my gosh,” says Gienger, “It’s been incredible.”

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Iowa Woman Has Her Dead Pet Cat Cloned

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  • Well, that’s one way to stick it to the Grim Reaper.

The loss of a beloved pet is a tough pill to swallow. Believe us, we at Oddee have collectively said our goodbyes to all too many of them.

Still, most people will eventually make their peace with it. We’ll bury our friends, feel bad for a while, but eventually, time moves on.

But it wasn’t so for one woman from Cedar Falls, Iowa. The retiree, who wants to remain anonymous, lost her precious Mr. Tufts some time ago.

Mr. Tufts was a cat with semi-long, black fur and coppery eyes. He had a small white patch on his throat, tufts on his ears and between his toes, and a glorious, fuzzy tail that was to die for.

And die Mr. Tuft did. The loss left his owner devastated and mourning.

“I had never had such a wonderful creature. It was harder losing him than any other cat I’ve ever had,” she told The Courier.

But if you were to visit this retired cat lady’s home, you’d think she’d gotten over Mr. Tufts. She has a new cat.

Mr. Tufts, Jr., is a cat with semi-long, black fur and coppery eyes. He has a small white patch on his throat, tufts on his ears and between his toes, and a glorious, fuzzy tail that is to die for.

Seem familiar? It probably does, because Mr. Tufts Jr. is a clone.

Harvesting Cat Essence

So maybe our cat lady didn’t quite move on. Instead of getting just any new cat, she decided to have Mr. Tufts immortalized through advanced biological science.

While the original Mr. Tufts was still alive and kicking, she brought him to the clinic of Dr. Kevin Christman at the Cedar Valley Veterinary Center. Dr. Christman extracted living tissue samples from the cat to preserve its genetic blueprint.

“We had to sedate him and take a little skin, fat, and hair – tiny pieces of tissue, like taking a biopsy sample,” Christman explained.

He had never in his 10-year career taken part in cloning an animal. The prospect seemed exciting, so he decided to offer his assistance.

“Obviously, I’m science-minded, so it was very interesting and kind of cool. He was an awesome cat, so what better cat than Mr. Tufts?” asked Christman.

So, the recipe to making another Mr. Tufts was safely secured. But neither the cat lady, nor Dr. Christman, could clone him themselves.

For that, they needed an expert.

Defying Death… At a Price

They found that expert in Cedar Park, Texas. Lots of cedars going on with this cloning business.

ViaGen Pets is a pet cloning and genetic preservation company. They have extensive experience in cloning animals. The firm’s helped preserve the endangered Przewalski’s horse through cloning, for example.

Christman and the cat lady contacted ViaGen after Mr. Tufts had passed, asking about the possibility of cloning him. The company said that they could definitely do it, but it would cost the cat’s owner dearly.

Sounds like a deal with the devil, but no eternal souls were exchanged in this transaction. Only cold, hard cash. A total of $35,000 worth of it.

Apparently, no price was too high for our cat owner, since she coughed up the money. Christman sent the extracted genetic material over to ViaGen, and their experts got to work.

Melain Rodriguez, ViaGen’s client services manager, said they replaced the nucleus of a female cat’s egg with one of the frozen cells from Mr. Tufts. Then, they joined the egg and cell together and transferred the whole shebang to surrogate cat mother.

After a normal feline pregnancy and birth, Mr. Tufts Jr. entered the world.

Same, but Different, but Still the Same

Despite his artificial origins, Mr. Tufts Jr. is no different from any other cat. Rodriguez explained that the copycat is a genetic twin of the original Mr. Tufts.

ViaGen does no genetic modification on the animals it works on. Mr. Tufts Jr. is identical to his progenitor in looks, temperament, and intelligence, said Rodriguez.

She did say, though, that it was good that his owner had Christman extract the cat’s essence before he passed.

“It’s much better to have samples from living cells. We recommend pet owners let their vets know that they’re interested in cloning or want to clone their pet, so they can be proactive about getting a tissue sample, such as when the pet is under anesthesia for a dental cleaning or spay-neuter, to be prepared for when that time comes,” Rodriguez said.

Although Mr. Tufts Jr. is supposed to be identical to the original cat in every way, his owner has noticed one difference. The clone is much healthier.

“The original Mr. Tufts had been found on a forest trail and had a very bad respiratory illness,” she said. The clone has not developed this condition, probably due to never having been a stray.

Guilt, but Is It Warranted?

She does, however, feel kind of bad on putting all that money into an essentially selfish endeavor. She could afford it, sure, but the cat lady still felt she needed to make amends somehow.

To begin with, she adopted Mr. Tufts Jr.’s surrogate mother. The young kitty gets to live with his mama and an eerily familiar-looking picture of his dad.

She has also donated money to the Cedar Valley Veterinary Center, is paying for her great-niece’s college education, and has pledged another $35,000 to Habitat for Humanity.

She’s clearly not hurting for money, and it seems to be going to good causes. Whether she needed to go those lengths, though, is up to your own judgement.

But who wouldn’t want their dear pet back from the dead? And cloning seems a safer option than finding your nearest Pet Sematary.

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Man Named Crook Gets Arrested Twice in One Day

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  • Geez. Maybe it’s a better idea to go hide out after your first arrest of the day?

How is it even possible for a Crook to get arrested more than once in one day? We’ve seen it before and clearly, we’ll see it again.

Well, let them show you how. Because apparently not everyone “feels really bad” and goes home to hide out after they get into trouble (much less arrested.)

Lawrence Crook, 37, from Jersey City, was charged with first-degree larceny, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia for the first incident and third-degree burglary and first-degree criminal trespass for the second incident. 

According to Lt. Antonio Granata, police were called to a condo complex after they got reports of a suspicious male October 8th. A witness told officers that they saw the man remove a small dumpster from a fenced-in area within a parking lot and that he parked a black SUV back there.

“He was seen loading several blue and white striped bags into the vehicle,” Granata said. “When he was confronted by the witness, a brief conversation ensued, and the male quickly fled on foot which prompted a call to police.”

The SUV was reported stolen from a Bayside Queen car dealership, Granata said. A male matching the description was found thanks to a witness at the 300 block of Pequot Avenue. He was identified as Crook.

“Officers later confirmed it to be the same suspect through surveillance video, a police K9 track, witness identification and suspect admission,” Granata said.

Granata said that Crook was found in possession of suspected methamphetamine along with drug paraphernalia. The suspect was also seen loading blue and white striped bags into the stolen SUV. Turns out they were stolen laundry bags from a nearby hotel.

Crook was arrested and then eventually released after posting $300.00 bond and signing a promise to appear in court as scheduled on October 29th. 

Then, less than an hour after being released, he was arrested again. 

This time, a lieutenant for the Fairfield Fire Department saw Crook in the fire department headquarters of Reed Road. He was walking around the apparatus floor and rummaging through fireman’s property. 

“Police were called, responded and arrested Lawrence Crook,” Granata said. Crook has two separate bonds, each set at $25,000 and is awaiting  disposition for the charges. 

 

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Hero or Villain? Man Releases 100 Eels In Brooklyn Lake

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  • Witnesses saw the man empty plastic bags filled with slithering eels into a Prospect Park lake.
  • Wildlife experts are unsure if they’ll survive the winter.

Anytime the words “big pile” are found describing slithering animals, I usually nope my way right out of the conversation. But this story about the addition of eels to the NYC park system piqued my curiosity. Andrew Orkin, a jogger, spotted “quite a big pile–fully alive,” while enjoying the view in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. That’ll show him.

Both Slithery and Potentially Invasive

It turns out the story freaks out quite a few people, but not because they have issues with piles of wriggling snakes. The eels are native to south-east Asia, which makes them an exotic species in New York. Their impact on the environment is, as yet, unknown. But the wildlife officials in both the city and state of New York are apprehensive that there can be dire consequences.

Invasive species aren’t native to an area but come in and reproduce unfettered, often because they have no natural enemies. They can cut off resources to native species and cause actual damage to an area’s ecosystem and infrastructure. Right now, spotted lanternflies are ravaging the trees of the Northeast. At the same time, the west loses plant life to vast populations of Japanese beetles.

Image by Sheri Lei from Pixabay

It wasn’t a criminal mastermind hellbent on wreaking havoc on the NY park system who released the eels. The live eels are found for sale in Chinatown markets, and kind-hearted individuals buy them to liberate them from their fate of becoming sushi. So far, people have released south-east Asian eels in eight states in the United States.

A ‘Big Pile’ of Eels Released

Photo by Tyler Goodell on Unsplash

Bystanders who witnessed the liberation at Prospect Park Lake believe there were at least 100 animals in plastic bags put into the water. They’re hard to track once in a body of water. The species is nocturnal and buries in the sediment at the lake bottom for most of the day. Officials don’t expect the eels to survive the winter, but they’ll search the lake come spring.

Until a species lives in an area for a while, there’s no way to know the impact they’re having on the environment. Even if most of the eels die during this winter, climate change may warm New York enough that a few survive and even thrive in the coming years. The parks of New York have become a kind of catch-all for unwanted pets in the city. A short-list of some species that have overrun native populations: European starlings, red-eared sliders, and northern snakehead fish.

According to witnesses of the Great Eel Dump of 2020, the man offered this explanation while walking from the shoreline of the lake, now chockful of eels, “I just want to save lives.”

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