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Bill's Best alternative to a pumpkin spice latte

Pumpkin spice has come to usher in the beginning of fall.

The fall season used to be in late September (Fall actually begins next Wednesday, Sept. 22. Time to break out the cardigans), but now happens about 20 minutes after the last firecracker pops on July 4 (or whenever the city can pencil it in).

That’s when grocery stores and pharmacies begin rolling out their Halloween candy and Thanksgiving greeting cards because it’s apparently never too early to stock up on candy corn.

Who eats that stuff anyway?

So, pumpkin spice has been with us for a while now and we have a long way yet to go.

Not everyone is a fan.

Many greet the pumpkin season with dread. They get all twitchy when someone in yoga pants ahead of them in line at the coffee shop orders a half-caff, skinny pumpkin spice latte with extra whipped cream and magic pixie dust.

To each their own.

While I don’t particularly enjoy drinking my pumpkin pie (I like coffee flavored coffee), I do love the comforting smell of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, which calls up happy memories of family, togetherness, and other things most of us remember from watching television.

The chief problem with pumpkins of any kind is that they’re tied to a particular season. This is why you don’t put pumpkin-flavored candy in Easter baskets or buy a slice of pumpkin pie at the ballpark.

That’s just weird.

Pumpkins belong to cool weather and we’re still in the I-don’t-want-to-cut-my-grass-in-this-heat, can-I-take-off-my-socks-at-work season?

I’m saying it’s too hot for a pumpkin spice latte.

So, what do you do?

Well, Bill’s best solution if you’ve got a fever for the flavor of pumpkin spice is to pick up some pumpkin ice cream. Sure, you could wait for the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival in a few weeks. They’ve always got someone slinging pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin milkshakes, and whatever else pumpkin you can imagine.

I am waiting on pumpkin dogs, but you don’t have to wait for great pumpkin-y goodness outside of a coffee cup. Pumpkin pie ice cream is available now!

I’m partial to the Turkey Hill brand. A half-gallon makes a great dessert for a family of five and is just the perfect size for numbing your sore feelings after a particularly trying day.

You can also get pumpkin ice cream at Ellen’s Ice Cream on Capitol Street in Charleston.

I checked the website to be sure. It’s one of the featured flavors, along with something called Banoffee.

I have no idea what Banoffee is. It’s probably great. Just about everything there is.

Anyway, I still recommend the pumpkin ice cream. I’d get it before everybody switches to peppermint and eggnog in a week or so.

No bull: Scientists potty train cows to use 'MooLoo'
Researchers in Germany have potty trained cows, all in the name of science

Turns out cows can be potty trained as easily as toddlers. Maybe easier.

It’s no bull. Scientists put the task to the test and 11 out of 16 cows learned to use the “MooLoo” when they had to go.

Just like some parents, the researchers used a sweet treat to coax the cows to push through a gate and urinate in a special pen. And it took only 15 days to train the young calves. Some kids take quite a bit longer.

“The cows are at least as good as children, age 2 to 4 years, at least as quick,” said study senior author Lindsay Matthews, an animal behavioral scientist at New Zealand’s University of Auckland who worked with colleagues on the tests at an indoor animal research lab in Germany.

What started with a half-in-jest question on a New Zealand radio talk show about the very real problem of livestock waste resulted in a serious study published Monday in the journal Current Biology. And it wasn’t just a “wow, this could be fun” academic question. Massive amounts of urine waste is a serious environmental issue, Matthews said.

Urine contains nitrogen, and when mixed with feces becomes ammonia, which is an environmental issue with acid rain and other problems, Matthews said. It can also taint the water with nitrates and create the airborne pollutant nitrous oxide, he said.

And cows do pee a lot. A single cow can produce about 8 gallons of urine a day, Matthews said. In 2019, nitrous oxide comprised 7% of all the U.S. greenhouse gases, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I am not surprised they can train calves to urinate in set locations, but I am surprised no one has demonstrated this before,” said Duke University animal cognition scientist Brian Hare, who wasn’t part of the research. “The critical question is can it and will it scale?”

If it could be done, toilet training animals makes it easier to manage waste products and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Donald Broom, a professor of animal welfare at the University of Cambridge in England.

At the lab is Dummerstorf, Germany, the researchers mimicked a toddler’s training, putting the cows in the special pen, waiting until they urinated and then giving them a reward: a sweet liquid of mostly molasses. Cows do have a sweet tooth, Matthews said. If the cows urinated outside the MooLoo after the initial training, they got a squirt of cold water.

Then in two sets of experiments, the researchers let the Holstein cows roam about the indoor facility. When they had to urinate, 11 of them pushed into the pen, did their business, and got their sweet reward.

There are a couple caveats to this experiment.

No. 1, they gave diuretics to the cattle to get them to urinate more because they had limited time to run the experiments under ethics guidelines.

And No. 2, they didn’t do No. 2. They only trained cows to use the MooLoo to urinate, not defecate.

Urine is a bigger problem, at least in Europe, Matthews said. But he predicted they could train cows to poop in a certain place too.

While dogs, cats and horses can be toilet trained, they already show the desire to go in special places, but cows don’t, Matthews said.

The biggest environmental problem for livestock, though, is the heat-trapping gas methane they emit in belches and flatulence, a significant source of global warming. The cows can’t be trained not to belch or fart, Matthews said: “They would blow up.”