The dogs and I are taking a great online class through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy called Stir Crazy. It’s taught by Donna Hill and focuses on games you can play in small spaces–like in your living room when it’s raining outside. Here’s a clip of Arlo, Katie and me playing one of the body awareness games. I thought it would be a good post for Force-Free Friday. The idea is for the dog to go around and through the cones without touching them. At nearly 4 years old, Arlo is still wiggly enough that this game is a bit of a challenge. But Katie is older, calmer, and more experienced, and she had no trouble at all. I cleared out most of the furniture in the living room and used ring gates to create an “audience” area for the non-working dog. (I had to revise that plan a bit after Arlo figured out how to get around the gate and ask whether it was his turn again.) One of the really nice features of the course is that the games are suitable for dogs with a range of abilities. My senior girl Katie who has some mobility issues has been able to do everything so far. You can see from the dogs’ body language on the video that they’re both having a really good time. Ditto for me.
Earlier this week I ordered oat and winter rye seeds for fall cover crops. It’s been a really good garden year, and I’ll be sorry to see it end. But I’m already making notes for next year. For instance, adding more raised beds was definitely a good move.
They make everything easier for me–including watering and weeding, the two most time consuming summer garden chores. The community garden has water, but in order to conserve our supply, which depends on rainfall, doesn’t allow hoses. And watering by hand takes a l-o-n-g time. We also had good success growing potatoes in raised beds this year. The plants were huge and healthy and it was really easy to keep the beds free of weeds.
Another big discovery this year was that when it comes to weed control on paths between the beds, I much prefer newspaper to weed block and straw to mulch. Last year I tried a few different methods, and I was pretty sure weed block plus straw or mulch would be most effective. But I discovered this year that some weeds grew on top of whatever I used, especially when topped with mulch. Rather than pull weeds from the weed block (which kinda defeats the whole purpose of weed block) it’s much easier to just put down more newspaper and straw. No weed pulling required, maybe just a little trimming if the weeds are high. It’s also more environmentally friendly–weed block eventually gets holes in it and has to be tossed out. Newspaper and straw decompose.
Two other things I will definitely do again next year: plant a buckwheat cover crop and grow lettuce under shade fabric. I’m weirdly proud of my buckwheat cover crop, which I planted in June in the recently harvested garlic beds.
This was my first attempt at a summer cover crop, and it was really successful. The buckwheat sprouted in about 10 days, and has done a fabulous job of blocking out weeds. Not only will it eventually serve as green manure, but in the meantime, it’s attracting lots and lots of pollinators.
And then there’s my summer lettuce–heat tolerant, heirloom varieties grown under shade netting. It’s way too hot here in the summer to grow lettuce in the open. This shade netting (from Gardener’s Supply) worked great and enabled us to have lettuce during the hottest months of the summer. I’m trying to decide whether I even need to plant fall lettuce, because the summer crop is still going strong.
And last but maybe my most favorite–I spotted this guy yesterday hanging out on the milkweed I planted at the beginning of the summer. He spent a long time there and didn’t seem to mind me taking photos.
I had a long to-do list yesterday which included a bath for Arlo. Fortunately, he’s a dog who enjoys his bath. I say fortunately because he can be sensitive to some kinds of handling (nail trims, for example). But baths–no problem. Not sure whether that’s luck or because before there were baths, there was his pool, which he loves. I.e., when we set up for a bath and he sees us fill the pool (maybe) he doesn’t think, ugh a bath, but yay! I get to play in my pool!
My favorite part of that clip might actually be Katie (who does not enjoy baths) quietly slinking away. If there were a thought bubble above her head, it might say Don’t mind me. I’ll just sit over here in the shade while you wash that other dog. He really needs it.
Hard to argue with Katie. I wouldn’t want to get that heavy coat wet either. Although she did give me a heart attack once when we were walking on the beach by rushing headlong into the ocean and dropping out of site. At that point, I had no idea whether she could swim, so of course I followed her in (wearing all of my clothes). As it turned out, she was a great swimmer, and after a few seconds her little head popped up and there she was doggy paddling like a pro. So for Katie, swimming in the ocean–yes, please. But baths–no thanks. I honestly don’t know whether Arlo enjoys a bath, or doesn’t notice he’s getting one because he’s focused on splashing around in his pool. But, here he is post bath looking pretty pleased with himself. Meanwhile in the garden: it was a stormy week, and I appreciated the break from watering. Two weekends ago, I did a major clean-out of the strawberry bed, which is now prepped for next year. I actually hadn’t realized you can’t just let strawberries be. At the end of each season, they need to be “mowed” (cut back) and thinned out. I’m guessing my failure to do that was one reason why this year’s harvest was lighter than in previous years. And since my clean-out I’m seeing lots of new growth. Go strawberries! Except for peppers, which were a bust, this year’s garden has so far been really productive. We were eating peas and snow peas until this week. And kale and lettuce have been producing like crazy. And raspberries. Garlic is looking ready–maybe this week. After that beans and potatoes. And then tomatoes.
Last weekend Arlo and I traveled to Lancaster, PA to spend some time with one of my best friends (and my former college roomie) and her dog, a lovely black lab. We didn’t have a lot planned other than catching up, knitting, and hanging out with the dogs. As it turned out, the dogs had so much fun together that we spent a good part of the weekend just watching them play.
Callie was a perfect play friend for Arlo–tolerant and generous, and very clear about the rules (which she got to set because [a] she is older, [b] she’s a she, and [c] Arlo’s enthusiasm for play can sometimes be overwhelming). The video is 3 short clips from lots more play that I was able to film, but it’s representative of their interactions: lots of give and take, pauses to regroup, and two really happy dogs.
I recently started volunteering at the Center for Animal Health and Welfare. Once a week I head over to the Center and work with one or two of their dogs on basic manners. Yesterday was the fourth session with Ruckus, a young bully mix, who is a real charmer. As his Petfinder page explains, he LOVES his toys (a plus for training because we’re teaching him to work for toys). He also needs to learn some leash manners. In the video clip above, he’s learning to wait at an open door until invited to go through. (Apologies for the shaky camera–my fault. I was filming while Maria, who works at the shelter, was working with Ruckus.) You can see him figuring things out. He makes mistakes, but that’s part of the learning. He can’t learn that sitting works unless he sees that getting up makes the door close. You can’t see it in this video, but he’s also learned to check-in after going through the door.
During my visit yesterday I also had the opportunity to meet two wonderful senior dogs, Merida and Big Bear. You wouldn’t know Merida is 13–she dances around like a puppy and loves her toys. But she is very polite when she plays.
And if you’d like a swell guy to cuddle with you on your couch, Bear is your man.
Grades are in, graduation has come and gone, and even though I still have a couple reports to write and meetings to attend (and although my CWP responsibilities continue all summer), I am looking forward to the somewhat slower pace of the next few months. As any academic will tell you, we don’t get the summer “off,” but for some of us it does mean a break from teaching and so more time for other kinds of intellectual work. For me it also means more time for activities that, while they don’t qualify as academic work, keep me balanced–e.g. gardening, yoga, dog training.
I’ve been putting in a lot of hours in the garden lately–trying to get everything in and, at the Community Garden, set things up so that I’m ahead of the weeds. I’m keeping a photo log of garden work here.
I have a long list of dog training stuff planned, but the first two projects (in addition to weekly Rally class) are (1) taking this online class and (2) making a video for the Dog Trick Geeks challenge on Facebook. I’ll write more about the online class after it begins (on June 1). But if you like trick training with your dog then you should definitely check out the DTG group page and website. There are 6 levels of certification from “Dog Trick Geek” to “Supreme Geek.” The training is all force-free and in good fun (i.e., my kind of training). Arlo and I have been working on our tricks for the first level. For a preview, watch the video at the top of this post.
And finally, on the topic of dogs, if you’re friends with me on Facebook, you know that Katie was ranked #16 for 2013 in level 1 World Cynosport Rally. It was totally unexpected, and a very nice surprise. (It was so unexpected, I didn’t even look at the rankings when they first came out.) Kate has slowed down a bit in the past few months (she just turned 12), and we may need to retire from competition. But she has been the best partner I could ask for.