Tag Archives: dogs

soaking up the last drops of sunshine

We were ready to embrace fall after a few days of grey and rain, but apparently we’re getting some more summer.

A list:

one of us has a whole lot of homework
one of us is trying to become a morning person again (not going well, yet)
one of us had a mishap with the immersion blender
luckily, everyone still has 10 fingers
even if it is sunny, soup season has officially begun
we’re still anxiously awaiting our first egg
no loud noises have been reported from our rooster, yet
homemade hot sauce is fermenting on the counter
the kitchen is still full of tomatoes
so many plans, so little time

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Filed under summer

Are we there yet?

Less than two weeks until spring (technically) arrives! Temperatures might dip down to freezing nearly every night, but the hyacinth blooms are keeping the dream alive. I didn’t plant them, but I’m appreciating them.

I feel like this:

for

In all honesty, we need about another month to get some major work done, but I’d like to hit fast forward & have the extra daylight now.

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Filed under pets, spring

Putting the pups to work

Your garden might seem like it’s all the same climate, and the USDA Hardiness Map doesn’t give any insight on this matter, but there are a lot of factors that affect how a plant will do in a particular spot. Proximity/distance to buildings, foundations, pavement, slopes, types of soil, larger plants (esp trees), fences, and so on can all affect the microclimates of your yard. Some areas are exposed to drafts and breezes. A south-facing wall with a reflecting foundation and an adjacent heat-sinking driveway might be good for an early springtime start, but brutally scorching in the summer. If everyone cuts across the yard at the same point, your soil is going to quickly become brutally compacted. Dryer vents, downspouts, and temperature fluctuations can cause major Life Events for your plants, so it’s important to identify areas where you can get a little boost or avoid something gnarly. Moisture, temperatures and wind can vary wildly within the same small yard. Microclimates are an important idea in permaculture, which is the subject of at least eight books on my bedside table.

Since we haven’t lived here for a year, most of the microclimates of our yard are a mystery. Mostly, we are looking for the least shady areas with maximum heat — because our yard is in Olympia & has some mature trees – so we don’t really have enough sun or heat. What does our yard look like in the summer? The sun will move, the trees will leaf out, there will be a lot less rain, and I have no idea what to expect. This is a year that I anticipate we’ll do a lot of learning. Not to imply that I’m totally a lazy farmer, but if I can get microclimates to reduce my workload at all, it’s worth it to me.

While I often exclaim about the relative worthlessness of our pets, I have occasionally found a use for the dogs in the garden. Last summer, they did a remarkably good job of chasing the birds, squirrels and wildlife that would try to steal our garden’s bounty. This year, so far, they have dug up some plants I probably didn’t want to keep anyway, and helped me identify some of the most important microclimates in our backyard.

You see, we have two small, shivering, heat-seeking, under-the-blankets, “Get me a sweater PLEASE” kind of dogs. If you need to find the warmest spot in the house, unleash the hounds. The same principle applies to the backyard. From about 10am to 2pm, this corner is THE place to be.

Surrounded on two sides by heat-reflecting fences, this corner is sheltered from the wind, gets a lot of light and warmth, and would be a really great place to grow heat-loving plants…. if the dogs weren’t likely to kill anything I plant there by sleeping on top of them.

Clementine is giving me the look that says, “Yes, I HAVE always dreamed of napping on top of a watermelon vine, thank you for asking.”

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Filed under garden, pets, urban farming

Live Together in Perfect Harmony

Something has shifted in our household, not quite overnight, but almost. Now, when Cash & Elsa are near each other, he tries to lick her and she likes it. I would never, in my wildest dreams, want to lick a cat. Can you see his tongue sticking out of his mouth in this picture?

Occasionally she bats him with her claws so that she can maintain her image.

Please tell me they are going to cuddle some day. I need to see it so badly.

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Filed under pets

Under Glass

When you have an itchy green thumb and spring seems a long way off, cold frames start to look really good. Krista has long been an advocate of building some for our yard, although I have been a little lazy about it because I’m focused on other stuff. But during our visit to the NW Garden & Flower Show this weekend, I got a metaphorical bee in my bonnet about cold frames. We might be building some as early as this weekend.

Cold frames are a good way to extend your growing season – either into the fall/winter, or starting earlier in the spring. They generally have sides that block the wind, and some kind of lid made of glass that can be propped open for ventilation. Place the cold frame facing south if possible, and put the glass on an angle to capture the most sunlight. I most often see old windows repurposed into cold frames. Open the cold frame on warm, sunny days to avoid cooking your plants. We’re fortunate to live in a place with a relatively mild winter, so a few cold frames might be the answer to our need for year-round, garden-fresh produce. The idea of a cold frame is so basic, I’m not sure why we haven’t built a bunch already (oh, just sheer laziness).

This lovely, flowery cold frame came from the Arboretum Foundation’s Winter Garden ( i think), or maybe it was the First Breath of Spring garden from the Puget Sound Flower Growers. I can’t remember, unfortunately. This cold frame looks pretty sturdy, and that device for propping it open is fancy – I would probably use a stack of old bricks or a mossy stick from the apple tree. This is the type of cold frame you could lift off when freeze danger passes, and put in the garage until next year. The construction is fairly simple – if you can cut a diagonal line, and handle a hammer, nails, screw driver and some hinges, you could probably make this in an afternoon.

Seattle Tilth & Jessi Bloom build a great “little farm in the city” in their demo garden, and it included this cold frame. I love that it’s painted a bright cheery spring green. Fancying up a garden is highly valued in our house. An old wheel props it open, instead of a custom propping device. It’s hard to see from this angle, but this cold frame is full of dirt – this is the kind of frame you need to leave in one place, not pick up and put away. The dirt is close to the glass. I love that it is a highly functioning container. Since there’s not a lot of headspace, once those seedlings get going, the glass should be open to let them grow. This would be most useful with slow-starting spring plants, who need help getting starting but can handle being open to the elements pretty quickly. You might make this so that the glass comes off completely in the summer but reattaches next spring.

This style of cold frame was assembled entirely from recycled materials in the RE Store space. Old bricks, cinder blocks, and an recycled window are all that’s used to piece this together. Even I could make one of these! There are some gaps around the edges, so be more careful with the corners if it needs to stay warm in the winter. This is ideal for early spring and late fall growing. It would be more of a pain to re-locate than a solid wood frame, but you could theoretically move all those bricks to any location you desired. The best thing is the price tag… this could be assembled for free if you can scavenge the materials.

And finally, branching out a little from the cold frames, we spotted a propagation bench in the RE Store exhibit space. This is basically a cold frame on legs used to start seedlings. This is also made from recycled and reclaimed materials. This might help us bridge the gap between now (no all-season outdoor growing space) and the day when we buy/build our dream greenhouse. Krista suggested that we build a series of propagation benches to serve as a mini dog run / roofed dog area, and I thought that was brilliant. Have you met our dogs? They hate precipitation. Since we live in the PNW, this makes for miserable little dogs 5 months of the year. A dog run+propagation bench could bring harmony and joy to our household, in so many ways.

Do you any cold frame gardening? Do you have any advice for me?

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Filed under urban farming, winter

a very special birthday

Today is the birthday of our precious land shark disguised as a chihuahua, our dog-shaped vacuum cleaner, my little squirrel-chasin’, compost-snackin’, foot-warmin’ princess. For her birthday, we spent the day at Grandma’s house, and she probably ate too many treats. Happy birthday, Clementine. I hope your next year is the best yet.

(p.s. we are not the only people who remember/celebrate pet birthdays, right?)

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Cats Versus Dogs

For the past year, our household has been waiting and waiting for the dogs and cats to reach their own dysfunctional equilibrium. Their relations have been pretty chill for a while now, but my heart’s desire has always been to see Cash & Elsa cuddling. They are both heat-seeking cuddlebunnies who are a little slow on the pick-up, and they would just be the sweetest pair if they curled up together on the couch.

I might be waiting for a while…

But, in the meantime, I will settle for the on-going entertainment of Elsa on the dining room table swatting Cash every time he gets within paw’s reach.

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Filed under home, pets