Saturday, June 29, 2013

SUMMER DAYS



The day started out with a storm sky, but the weatherman stuck to his forecast for a hot afternoon, and he wasn't wrong.  You know how it is – there’s always heat in the summer sun. But – we received so much precipitation this past week that we still see wet spots in the fields and the water runs freely in the ditch by the lane.

Yesterday morning I set about weeding the bed at the south end of the front porch. It should have been done four years ago, but I’d rather do something else. I really don’t like to weed, but I identified something that was holding me back. We had planted three woody ground cherry bushes there, and I just couldn’t pull the grass and weeds out from under the heavy ground-hugging branches. I insisted they should come out, and Mike obliged me. I never could have done it without him. The bushes are history now (I hope), and I can remove the rest of the weeds and grass by myself and then plant something else. Yes, I already have daffodils and iris, and it would be easy to do more of that, but I think I need some summer bloomers. Daisies might do well – or coneflowers -- or maybe sunflowers! Sunflowers would be fun, don’t you think? And they would fit in with the hollyhocks which have been slowly but surely making themselves to home on that side of the house for the last 15 years. Well, it’s a work in progress.

At 8 ½ weeks, little Bess the Pup is now a member of the family. She’s lost her timidity and is obviously right at home inside and out. You know, it seems to be the great fear of the hunter that he could pay big bucks for a hunting dog that doesn’t want to hunt, but we’re happy to report that Bess has all the signs of making an excellent field dog. Apparently she comes from a line that’s supposed to have a lot of stamina, and we’ve seen evidence of that, too. Yesterday she followed Mike and Nellie on the practice hike. Then she took a long nap.
 
Bess isn’t much of a cuddler, but she’ll sit on our laps and play. Her favorite game with me is “nip the flab.” Of course, she doesn’t play that with Mike, but if you can “pinch an inch” anywhere, you’re in trouble with this pup. As for Nellie and Bess, I see less pestering and more camaraderie, though at 3:30 this morning Mike had to arbitrate another dispute.

Bess’ training is going well. We haven’t had an accident in the house for several days, but I suspect that’s because we’re trained. If it’s been 15 minutes, we know she should go outside. Training sessions occur several times a day wherein the trainer (Mike) uses a clicker and rewards with little bites of weiner. However, “guess who” didn’t bring the wieners, so Thursday Mike betook himself to town on his dirt bike to buy another package. He can carry very little, but he did agree to stop by the quilt shop, “The Wild Hare,” and buy some 505 spray for me. He was rather taken aback at what it cost -- I try to keep him from knowing these things -- but I was glad he could do it because it enabled me to finish another “Fourth of July” wall hanging.
 


That’s enough for now, but let me show you one last thing. During the rainy days, Mike created this lined leather holder for his iPhone. KW

 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

RAIN, RAIN . . .



As Mike pulled on a sweatshirt this morning, he wondered if he slept through summer and fall. Tough to believe that we should be bracing for highs at 90 by the weekend – and that’s here at Gilbert at an elevation of 3,000 feet!

When we came to the farm on Sunday, Mike mowed the lawn while I did two loads of laundry and checked out the gardens. The next three days would be rainy according to the forecast, and the forecast wasn’t wrong. We’ve had storm after storm and sometimes the rain just pours from the sky.
 
Mike looked out to see water spilling over the gutter above the cistern, so at the first break in the rain he cleaned out the pine debris that was clogging the downspout. The difference it makes is water to the cistern, and we need to collect it while we can. We might need that water in August – maybe even September.

Right now the garbs and my gardens are enjoying the rain, but one has to think that it’s been enough for now. At some point the vegetation is going to need the sun’s warming. I think Mike needs it, too.

We finally have a hummingbird population here. I saw about eight of them arguing over the feeder last night. Their nectar consumption really picked up in the last couple of days. “Herbie the Hummer” presented himself at the window this morning. “Yo the house,” he called. “We need nectar out here.” I assured him I would see to it immediately, but first the solution had to be cooked and cooled.

So what have we been doing during this spell of inclement weather?

Between storms Mike works with little Bess – you know, the whole sit-stay-come routine as well as wing training. I think that wing-on-the-rod thing just reassures the hunter that his expensive new pup really will hunt when the time comes. And, of course, when Bess is in the house we’re both watchful of where she is and what she’s doing. She’s not the most affectionate puppy we’ve ever had, but she has to rate amongst the most fun-loving. She has quite a collection of toys on her pillow – a slipper, an old shoe, a squeaky toy.  She loves to play, and her eyes seem to dance with mischief as she pesters ol’ Nellie – or ol’ me.

Nellie gets her share of attention. She and Mike practice backpacking every morning with a walk out to the mailbox. They might enjoy a hike around the fields if it weren’t so wet. They’re getting in shape for the annual Warnock “all comers” backpacking trip scheduled for the weekend of July 13.

Other than that, it’s reading, sewing, baking, leatherwork – those things one does in the house. KW

Monday, June 24, 2013

TURNING CORNERS



Last Thursday evening (Day 6) I could hear the dogs rumbling out in the pen as I got ready for my shower.

“Yap yap yap,” said Bess.

“Grrrrrrrr,” came a low rumble from Nellie. “Grrrrrrr.” "Yap yap yap."

“Mike,” I called, “the dogs are having a disagreement. Can you see to them?”

Then I heard him out in the pen negotiating with them. “Bess, stop barking at Nellie. Nellie, come on . . . can’t Bess come in there?”

They settled down and the night was quiet, but the next night I suggested it might work better if we put Nellie to bed before Bess. That’s why Nellie was already tucked away in the dogloo when I took little Bess outside. I thought perhaps we would play for a few minutes, but she ran right over to the pen, squeezed her small self in between the post and the gate, and disappeared into the dogloo. If she can squeeze in, she can squeeze out, but that hasn’t happened.

Saturday morning (Day 8) Mike ran errands while I sat on the patio watching Bess. She was in the pen with the gate open when I left my post for a few minutes. When next I checked – not five minutes later -- she was not in the pen and not in the dogloo. She has learned to run up the hill to the field, but I decided not to search in the tall grass until I was certain she was nowhere else. Just then I saw her. She had again squeezed her small self between the gate and the fence post but this time at the neighbors’ where Roland the Great Dane lives. Roland was nowhere to be seen and Bess was cautiously exploring along the walkway, her demeanor suggesting that she knew she had strayed into unfamiliar territory. (Roland is a house dog / couch potato and seldom out. He’s probably a gentle giant.) I retrieved our little pup and life went on.

Watching her again that afternoon, Bess ran up the hill to the field where Nellie keeps her stash of special items. Somehow Bess managed to roll a golf ball down the hill, and in a split second the chase was on. Near the bottom she tumbled, righted herself and continued after the golf ball. She caught up with it halfway across the driveway and brought it to me. When I rolled it, she chased it again before losing interest. Mike said he had watched her do the same thing in the morning.
 
Next thing I knew, she was on Nellie’s big cushion playing with a piece of bungi cord she found outside. Three minutes later she was asleep. It seems like she sleeps at least an hour for every half hour of vigorous play.
 
 Customarily I / we take Nellie for a late afternoon walk. It was hot on Saturday, so Mike sprayed Nellie with water and gently sprayed Bess, too. Evidently she was put off by that and refused to come, showing us her disapproval by several dogly means. She went to the dogloo and stayed there through the supper hour, but as we settled down to watch tv in the evening, she scratched at the door. “Look at her wag her tail,” said Mike as I let her in; “she’s glad to see you!” She sat on my lap and played for a while. KW

Sunday, June 23, 2013

GARDEN NOTES, JUNE 23



We arrived back at the farm this morning, startling a small doe and her little fawn in the yard. They vanished into the south field. Mike is out mowing the lawn and I have already picked another three cups of strawberries from the tire. I baked a white cake last night in anticipation of this pick.
 
We left here Tuesday (6-18) and during our absence it was cool and rainy. It amazes me to see the progress my gardens made in the interim. These are the best gardens I’ve had here.

“To what do you attribute this success?” you ask.

Well, I used time release 10-10-10 fertilizer. And then – remember the horses that were here a couple months ago? Well, as we cleaned the yard, I saved the manure. Some of it went into the composter and when that seemed enough, I saved a washtub full. (The horses had been here a while.) When I planted the gardens, I packed manure around the edges, being fearful that it might not be aged enough, and as it dries I work it in around the plants. They seem to love it.

I’ve always been cautious when it comes to fertilizer, preferring not to rather than suffer the consequences of perhaps overdoing. I guess it’s because my dad told me when I was a young gardener that I had over-fertilized the strawberries and they had “gone to leaf.” Mother, too, used fertilizer judiciously, worrying that she would burn her plants. But, Hallie has encouraged me to experiment, opining that the soil here just isn’t that good.

There’s one area where the soil is quite good – where the old chicken coop used to be. That’s part of the yard now and Mike says it’s the best lawn we have. I can tell he doesn't want to part with it.

Anyway, I'm growing peas, beets, radishes, spinach, carrots – and lettuce. Instead of planting a row of lettuce, I sprinkled seeds from a package of Italian salad blend seed mixture (14 varieties) over the top of the beds – all three of them. The seed mixture was old and I didn’t care if the birds ate it. I figured some of it would germinate, and I was right. I have some nice leaf lettuce in my garden. In fact, last trip here I forgot lettuce and we made do nicely with baby spinach and lettuce from the garden. But the problem is – I don’t recognize 14 varieties of salad greens. “Is that a salad green or is that a weed?” I ask myself.
 
And the peas. I have never provided support for the peas. I figured they could just trail over the soil. But, this year I put a certain frog ornament in the tire . . . 
 

 and noticed that the closest pea plant attached to it and was growing more vigorously than the others. 

 
So, on our last trip, I placed some of that flimsy wire fencing in the tire, and it’s amazing how quickly the rest of the peas rose to the occasion. In the regular raised bed (see second photo, top right), I placed small trellises for the peas, and they, too, are happily growing up.


But the beans didn’t germinate and another planting of peas didn’t do well. Perhaps I’ll try again with the beans.

We’re supposed to see a spectacular moon tonight, but alas! -- it’s overcast here and I fear we won’t see the moon at all. KW

Thursday, June 20, 2013

WISING UP (DAYS 5-6)

Mike ordered a smaller pet carrier because he wanted one that would take up less room. The new carrier was here when we arrived at the town house on Tuesday. Some assembly was required and he got right to it. He put the carrier in the pen for little Bess, but she snuggles into the dogloo with Nellie, and that seems to be the one place Nellie tolerates her.

Yesterday it rained all day and we were mostly confined to the house -- us humans and the dogs.It's tough to keep the frisky young pup from upstaging and disrupting the sedate Nellie. Sometimes it feels like we're choreographing a dance. Nellie eats the puppy food; Bess eats the senior food. Give each dog her food in turn and she won't touch it, so the other dog eats it. Nellie won't stand up to the pup and just dejectedly gets to her feet and moves when the pup comes near.


Early this morning Mike took both dogs for a walk to the top of Cassell Hill (a mile and a half), and Bess walked all the way. On the way back she had some leash training, and I guess that went well. I wasn't there. I slept in a bit.


And then Mike decided to bring the new carrier into the house, and that was an inspired idea. Being able to confine Bess from time to time is good and gives Nellie a break. (Me, too!)

Mike and I agree that at Day 6 Bess is showing increased mobility. She can already access the field on the hill behind our house and feels free to do so. We think she's making a good adjustment. Mike devotes a good bit of time to her training, and she recognizes that she's his dog.KW