Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Update 2 of ?: Garden

It’s been a long while since I wrote a blog post and there’s a lot to catch up on. But rather than get dragged into one long, neverending story, I’m breaking it into several little bits, a la John Grey, Earl of Bwythn-y-Llan. Who knows how many I’ll accomplish before the day wraps up?

The big news this week around these parts is the weather. After weeks of spring deluges, the rain has trickled off, and we’ve had only one good shower in the past month. It was dry enough before that for me to have drained my 40-gallon rain barrel, one 2-gallon watering can at a time. I was relieved to get a refill before Mother Nature turned off the spigot for good.

So, with occasional watering, this was my garden last week.

Garden 06 (1)

Not overwhelming, but the right-hand pea trellis had finally turned into the lush wall of vegetation I was looking for, and the pods were starting to fill. Sadly, last year’s pea-eating pest was back at it, and I didn’t know how to dissuade it. The damage was too high for rabbits, so I assumed the lately-arrived squirrel population (our neighborhood is still developing a tree canopy, so we’d been squirrel-less until the past year or so). I sprinkled cayenne powder, tucked onion tops and garlic scapes into the vines, and tied shiny bits of paper and ribbon onto the trellises. The onions seemed to work for a day, but nothing else had any effect.

Then Miss Chef happened to catch the thief red….feathered.


Yes, she saw a cardinal eating my precious peas! Now, I’ve been very conscientious about creating a little bit of habitat here for wildlife: no chemicals for lawn or garden, a little patch of wildflowers I let grow in the backyard, avoiding invasive plants, and of course the birdfeeder and birdbath. I stopped filling the feeder after spring had turned and I deemed it easy enough for them to find natural food sources. But after Miss Chef’s report, I filled both the feeder and the birdbath…however, I’ve not been diligent about it, so it’s hard to tell if it helps.

In the meanwhile, this week’s forecast looks like this:


And according to Mr. Weatherguy on the tv, there’s no relief in sight. It’s only been a few days into the heatwave thus far, and here’s how my garden looked this morning.

Garden 06 (17)

The deep shade makes it look darker and lusher, but take a second look and you’ll see signs of stress. The peas and nearest tomato plant are turning yellow from the ground up. For the tomato, that’s a common virus which will eventually kill the plant, but I can still get a little harvest from it. For the peas, that means it’s too hot and too dry. I haven’t been getting up early enough to water as frequently as I’d like, and frankly I’d rather save my dwindling supply for upcoming crops like my beans, peppers and squash.

But darn it, those vines keep putting out new sprouts and flowers amid all the yellowing leaves.

Garden 06 (19)

So I was out there this morning, trying to at least get them through the week. But since checking the 10-day forecast, I think it may be time to stop kidding myself.

The garlic and onions have been indicating they’re ready to come out, too, and while my onions have been rather pathetic, I did pull out some handsome heads of garlic.

Garden 06 (12)

Dirty, yes, but handsome to my eyes.

While those plants are gasping their last, the resilience of my squash plants entertains me. This is what they look like in the heat of the afternoon. You’d think they were toast.

Garden 06 (21)

Yet once the shade rolls on in, they look like this within an hour:

Garden 06 (16)

Amazing, eh? And even better, they’re working diligently on growing me some squash.


Heck, if I can get just one crop through the next couple of weeks, I’ll feel like a successful gardener.

Update 1 of ?: Rosie


Sometime this year Rosie turns 11.

Rosie 06 (3)

You’d hardly know it, short of looking closely at her eyes, which have developed the typical cloudiness for an older dog. She’s as energetic as ever when she grabs a toy and does her “I want to go outside” dance (which closely resembles her “I’m hungry” and “I want some attention now” dances.) And while she’s developed at least one white whisker and the little patch on her chin nobody ever sees has grown a bit, by all appearances she hasn’t aged a day since she walked in the door almost 9 years ago.

Rosie 06 (4)

So fierce

Yet one telltale change is marking her time on Earth. Over the past several months I noticed her hearing seemed to be diminishing. Her ignoring of my “c’mere”s seemed a little beyond passive stubbornness, and it was obvious from her startled waking growls that she was no longer able to hear the cat’s plaintive greeting meows. I mentioned this to the vet during her annual checkup in May, and she confirmed there was nothing outwardly wrong with Rosie’s ears, so it was surely age catching up with her. She’s such a sweet, responsive girl it didn’t really matter; she rarely used “I didn’t hear you” as an excuse.

But one morning last week at breakfast, Rosie was looking me right in the face when I gave her the “ok” to eat. (I make her sit and wait when I place her bowl on the floor. I told you she was a Good Dog.) After I gave her the command she just continued to smile eagerly at me, awaiting permission. I tried again louder, then a third time, at a shout. It wasn’t until I added a swipe of the hand in the direction of her bowl that she jumped up and dove in.

She’d done this before, hesitating as if she weren’t sure I really meant “ok.” But usually that was accompanied by a false start and some tail swishes. Not today. It was as if she’d forgotten to turn the volume up in her world.

Over the next few days Miss Chef and I repeatedly tested the dog’s hearing, calling her loudly from right behind. It became apparent from Rosie’s startled reactions whenever we touched her that she had no idea we were anywhere nearby. Seemingly overnight, her hearing had gone from “poor” to “practically nonexistent.” Thank goodness she’s such a calm dog and never reacts aggressively when we frighten her. I’ve been searching for gentle ways to awake her from her naps—waving my hand in front of her nose worked once, and tapping the floor if she’s not on the carpet works too.

Though it may seem like “aw, such a shame,” I’ve actually been kind of enjoying this new adjustment. I guess it’s the scientist in me, testing new ways of communicating and interacting with her. Fortunately I had already taught Rosie many hand signals—come, sit, stay, look over there cover most of our daily needs. Oh, and the “Where’s your toy?” shrug. Yes, I taught her that! I’m glad she’s such a quick learner, and had picked them up almost effortlessly along the way.


This is not me. Also, crazy eyes are not part of the signal.

The only thing I wish I’d developed a signal for was “good girl.” Because I can tell she misses the balm of verbal praise. She often comes over just for a little pet-pet, seeming to want that reassurance that she used to get so frequently via tone of voice. I’m trying to teach her a “good girl” sign now, but it doesn’t seem to have clicked yet. That’s ok, pet-pets are a nice substitute, if a little hard to achieve when one’s hands are full.

And then there are some other benefits. Like when I want to go from bed to bathroom to bed again without a dancing, huffy escort who thinks any post-sleep movement means it’s time for breakfast. Or when I let her in the backyard, she no longer hears me close the door and turns around with a look of betrayal; she just goes on about her sniffing and peeing business.

So, all in all, I’m content that it’s her hearing that’s gone, rather than sight, mobility or general well-being. And aside from missing her “good girls,” she doesn’t seem to care at all. As long as she’s still able to hang out in the front yard and sniff the world wafting by, Rosie’s a happy pup.

Rosie 06 (6)


In case you were wondering, that second picture is her yawning. Not so fierce, actually.