Thursday, 27 May 2010

Kenya smells lovely and has a new identity ...

Kenya went to the groomer today while I taught a lesson on rhetorical devices ... a local woman who breeds horses and dogs and showed her animals for years.

The lesson went well and the groomer loved Kenya ... said she put her head on her lap and just relaxed almost the whole time.  She gave her a bag of her homemade natural doggy treats for being such a sweetie.

She thinks (judging by her coat and size) that Kenya is definitely Flat Coat Retriever ... but that the other bits and pieces are Australian Shepherd and Akita.  The Akita is a big dog;  the females go around Kenya's weight, and the males up to 120 pounds.  And, like Kenya,  they have very dense double coats that keep them waterproof.  The Australian Shepherd and the Akita both carry the blue eyed gene, and the Australian Shepherd would account for the brindling on her legs.

This is Kenya's second professional grooming in 4 1/2 years ... of course I comb her pretty regularly and she has one of those outer coats that is silky and sheds debris easily.  The groomer was impressed by how healthy she is and how good she looks.

I am enjoying teaching but I am glad to have a three day weekend. Enjoy your weekend.

Oh ... this evening I ate a salad that was almost completely from my own garden ... only the tomato was bought.  It was made up of leaf lettuce, arugula, and a sampling of every herb I am growing.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Natural defense to the Rescue

It is stinking hot here ... even here ... and Kenya and I have both been swimming as much as possible this afternoon.  Now I have the dehumidifier on downstairs and a fan blowing 26 degree air around upstairs.

I was happily ensconced on my bed reading  a novel ... after doing some obligatory reading for tomorrow's lesson ... when Kenya set up a frantic howl and headed up the road to the mountain.  The last time she behaved like that she ended up with $300 worth of porcupine quills in her face.

I took off after her, barefoot, a Natural Defense bone in my hand ... I waved it around and told her I had something very special for her  ... and ... she turned her back on whatever she was chasing and came back to the house like a docile lamb.

The last time we were in that situation I used every wile I knew ... including raw beef ... nothing worked like this magic just did.

Congratulations, Natural Defense.

We are almost at the end of the trial ... just the breath tests left ... To be honest I don't really notice a difference in her breath ... but I will pay close attention and report.  What is absolutely clear though, is that both she and Remi thought these treats were to die for.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Finally ... over my first phobia ...

I used to be terrified of snakes ... all snakes ...

It began when I was four or five and chased into deep mud by boys carrying snakes  ...  not sinking sand but mud that sucked off rubber boots ... mud that required the other kids to get a Bell telephone repairman off a pole to rescue me ...  I think I would have run the mile in three minutes if anyone had chased me with a snake after that ... and did ... a couple of times ...

People have tried to teach me about them ... have taken me to places where I could learn about them ... used logic ... used my feelings about animals ... all to no avail.

I realized they were right ... but my gut reaction was abject terror.

I tried to control that terror in order to prevent my own children and theirs from inheriting it from me ...

One daughter was walked across half an acre of land, her tiny hand in mine, so that I could show her the nice garter snake.  I nearly broke the bones in her hand enroute.

A grandson was similarly introduced to a snake in the bottom of a canoe ... and it was all I could do to stay there with him as I encouraged him to admire its lovely colours and appreciate its role in the natural scheme of things.

But my own gut said "KILL ALL SNAKES, before they kill you."

Today I realized that I may have overcome that phobia.

Kenya and I were down at the shore where I put the kayak in the water.  I was filling a bucket for the garden.

A tiny water snake slithered past and Kenya was very interested.

I realized that it had a leech in its mouth.  I seldom see leeches on that side of the cottage so I was more interested than frightened or horrified.  I told Kenya to leave it be ... that it was cleaning up the shoreline of leeches.

And that is when I realized that I may have overcome the irrational fear I used to have.

I overcame my second phobia (fear of heights) which began during my first pregnancy, when, about a dozen years later I was living in a school house that was still being renovated and lacked a staircase to the mezzanine.  My sewing room where I made almost everything my children and I wore was up there ... and the only way up was via a step ladder.  I zipped up and down that ladder several times an hour some days  ... and without even realizing it I discovered one day that I was no longer imprisoned on the ground by an abject fear of heights.

Tomorrow I will teach all morning ... my teaching partner is very ill ... she suspects giardia ... and won't likely be in till Thursday. The news required an abrupt change of plans ... but that is not the sort of thing that terrifies me ... not the sort of thing that immobilizes me ... not one of my phobias ... thank goodness.

The Queen's Birthday

I find it odd that we Canadians celebrate the birthday of a monarch few of us care much about ... but nice that we do so by digging our fingers into warm soil, attempting to create gardens in our too short summers.

This summer promises to be the longest we've ever had ... or at least the longest I remember.

Nice that this is the one I decided to start gardening.

I have a to-do list for the garden that includes working away at the weeds in the gravel a little each day.  I figure a week to clean up the zany zen garden and then it will simply be upkeep.  Yeah, I know ... simply.  Nothing is ever simple.

My next big job (besides teaching for the next two weeks) is to finally get at the rest of the windows.  That is a job that I may have to call in help to accomplish.  But we will see.

Odin and Mark came on Saturday and took away a truckload of wood remains.  They will be back (with extra muscle) to move the old wood stove that is spoiling my view of the lake, and to complete the rest of the clean-up ... before the end of the month they have promised.  This is a really busy time of year for Odin's newly established company.

Remi is going home this evening.  His people miss him.  Kenya will be lonely when he goes.  So will Sadie.  Remi and Sadie play tag team wrestling, both of them ganging up on Kenya.  It is fun to watch.  She is remarkably patient with these two ... probably because she thinks of them as hers.  I will miss his warm body in bed every night ... but I won't miss the extra sand and laundry that result from an extra dog that paddles or swims in the lake and then trucks through earth before coming into the house.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

May 24 Weekend

This has to be some kind of record ... 33 degrees on the 24th!!!

I have changed my header photo to reflect the reality of this wondrous spring ... and my first real garden ...  but I will have to wait for Tammy to make it look good.

My radishes have started to sprout and I can harvest lettuce and herbs of all kinds now.

Today the neighbours are having parties and Kenya, Remi and Sadie have been playing in the water all day. The Alaskan Sled Dog came over and attacked Kenya ... and Kenya never backs down so there was a rumble.  I hauled Kenya off and crated her, and Juno's dad was pissed off  and sent him home with his son.  All the nice dogs just kept on playing outdoors.

Then I went and had lunch with Carlos, and after I returned Kenya was let off suspension and has been good ever since.

I planted lemon balm from Tom, and more basil from the store and also winter savoury and thyme today.  Someone has to stop me or I am going to be following in Rowboat Flo's footsteps ...I am going to have a garden (gardens) that will consume me and enslave me!

Tomorrow Sarah is coming out for the afternoon and will take Remi home with her. I think he misses his family ... but Sadie and Kenya have been good stand-ins for the duration.

I kind of hope that this summery spring is not an aberration but a harbinger of springs to come!

Happy May 24th to all of you, especially the gardeners.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Today's Labour of Love

Photos of my first real garden

If I get enough energy back ...

If I do find the energy again, I will post photos of my progess.  In the meantime words will have to suffice.

I completed the box with cedar and filled it with mixed soil.  Then I planted a real combination of things ... at the back the climbers ... zucchinii, cucumbers and pole beans.  In front, bush beans, both green and yellow, and sugar snap peas.Then I planted the rest of the nasturtiums in the tree trunks,  took a great big breath, and considered how to start the rock gardens of herbs.

When I had my courage up I began ... and five hours later had 8 different herbs planted in and around the big rock area.

Then I went in for a swim ... well I started to ... I waded up to my knees and splashed icy cold water all over myself.  I don't know how Kenya stands it ... probably the same way she and Sadie stay cool while Remi has to come in from the sun.  They have thick insulating coats.

I discovered that I have to shade the basil and the lettuce from the strongest sun ... used my mosquito pullover today but have to find a better way.  Some kind of movable screen I think.

It is an experience ... I have told you already that I am not a gardener, right?


Gardening Update

Gardening must be about as boring to read about as dog biscuits ... but that is my life these days ...

Jim made me two box frames 6 feet long, one foot wide, and the depth of a 1x8.  When I got them home I stacked them and went looking for nice pieces of cedar to hold them together.  All my cedar bits and pieces are different lengths so I will have to saw them before attaching them.  I hate sawing and am an incompetent hammerer, but this job is very straightforward so I hope I can't mess up too badly.

I didn't have enough soil to fill the box so off I went to the village to load up once again ... 9 bags of soil and one of sheep manure.

The trip down the two hills had to be done in stages ... but all of the bags are now reposing in the zany zen garden where I will mix and fill the box and the tree stump pots for nasturtiums ... they are the ones with the edible orange flowers and the peppery leaves ... and will plant the climbing beans and zucchini in the box and the rest of the nasturtiums in the stumps.

Then the really hard labour begins ... I have to create little gardens for the various herbs by digging down through the gravel to earth, filling each spot with good mixed soil, and then planting.  I will do it one herb at a time ...

I am a little concerned that this might not work very well because there is so much rock beneath the gravel ... that there will be insufficient room to give each perennial enough soil.  Oh well ... all I can do is try.  If it doesn't work I will resort to pots and next year I will have another square foot garden made.

I am doing this as a gift to myself to celebrate the completion of the house and my seventieth birthday ... but I must say that it is the least cost effective way possible to get fresh vegetables.

The dogs are outside waiting for me to fuel up before attacking today's gardening chores.  More another time ... maybe I will even do something more exciting than mix soil ... and will actually have something to write about.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Quick and Dirty

I have mixed more soil mix, planted the impatiens in a chicken wire and perforated green garbage bag dish in the old well, moved the lumber Leonard and I are transporting to Jim's place, arranged for transport, finished planting the square foot garden ... and am about to fly to have the box for climbers created.

Remi took off with his Natural defense bone ... upstairs ... just in case Kenya might be interested in his ... Usually he just drops and crunches into treats.  This time, after assuring himself he was safe from interruption, he did as Kenya does, held it between his paws and munched away slowly.

Must run now ... today will be another digging and planting day with the occasional break to apply linament and throw a stick into the lake for Kenya and a tennis ball for Remi.  He is really funny when we play this way ... gets VERY excited every time Kenya jumps in to swim after a stick ... comes and tells me and forces me to watch everything she does.  Yesterday he let me throw a ball in the water and was willing after much cautionary procrastination to swim two strokes to get it.  He is a sweet boy but not a water dog.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Natural Defense

Natural Defense is the last brand to be tested and it appears to be the winner so far.

These "bones" are the largest of the treats and are intended for medium dogs.  The recommended amount is 2 per week.  I must say these look good enough to eat with their marrowy looking centres.  The ingredients, with the exception of salt and sodium,  read like a health food product for dogs, and there are 140 calories in every bone.  That is only 40 calories per day, the same as the Crunch'n'Cleans.  They also smell like something a dog would salivate for ... strong smoky sausage.

Ingredient List:
corn starch
potato starch
natural flavour
dehydrated myrtle leaf
sodium tripoliphosphate
potassium sorbate
a number of vitamins
rice hulls

Kenya agreed with my assessment.   First she sniffed cautiously ... then with enthusiasm.  Then she took the treat to her treat-eating carpet in front of the wood stove.  She took a long time savouring this one.  No worries about gulping down indigestible, intestine-blocking chunks here.  She licked for a few minutes and then held it between her paws the way a chipmunk or groundhog eats a treat and nibbled away at it for a very long time.

I haven't priced any of the products or compared their price and appeal to Dentistix, but so far this one is definitely a treat we like.  By the end of the test we will report on Kenya's breath and the appearance of her teeth.

Not part of the official taste test ... Kenya stole the smaller of my recently planted hydrangeas yesterday thinking it was a stick to play with ... Maybe she isn't as bright as I had thought!  She refused to give it back and tore off into the woods with it.  I have replaced it with a rosemary plant.  Good grief!

Other Doggy News ... Remi, who was supposed to come last weekend is now coming today.  He may be here for a couple of weeks.  Kenya will be in heaven.  And I can see if Remi is dumb enough to like the Crunch&Cleans.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

White Bites by Arm and Hammer, the Baking Soda People

I am cutting the testing of this one short ... not because Kenya hates them or because they are causing any bad side effects ... but because the sample I have is intended for a very small dog and the texture is so hard that I am afraid Kenya might swallow one whole and, like the Tasty Treats, this could cause a blockage.

Kenya chewed the Tasty Treats more than she does these little white bones with blue speckles.

She eats this one in the oddest way.  First she sucks the whole thing into her mouth and then slides it out.  It is a little like watching a kid eat a popsicle.  After doing this a few times she is drooling all over the carpet on which she is lying.  She finally starts to chew and the White Bite disappears far too quickly to have been properly masticated.

The ingredient list for this one is fairly innocuous:

wheat gluten
soy protein
rice flour
soium caseinate
calcium carbonate
titanium dioxide
potassium sorbate
sodium alginate
FD&C Blue #1
Baking Soda

So ... no more tiny White Bites.  She is going to start the fourth one tomorrow. 

And I am going back to filling my square foot garden with black earth, sheep manure and vermiculite ... and stopping every hour to rub linament on my aching haunch.

I will post photos of this lovely box soon!

Friday, 14 May 2010

An Eclectic Post

We are concluding the taste test of the Tasty Treats today.  The fishy breath was just an aberration ... maybe Kenya caught a fish that day and ate it ... after all she caught a mouse in a neighbour's garden  this week.  So ... the nubbly little Tasty Treats were a success ... clean breath and customer satisfaction.  Stay tuned for the next treat on the list tomorrow.

Today is a busy day ... Jim is coming to make my square foot gardening box this morning at eight,  and Dan is bringing Remi to stay for a few days a little later this morning.  Then I have to make a town run after that to shop at Costco for groceries and a new kettle.  If I continue to use a pot and wander off and forget it for much longer I will burn the house down.  And now is not the time to do that!

I will try to use up the Crunch'n'Cleans on Remi while he is here.  I have offered them to Kenya occasionally this week and she just leaves them lying wherever I have put them.  Too bad because I had a whole box of those whereas I have sample sized amounts of all the others.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Safe Post

I am discovering (or rather re-discovering after a long and peaceful hiatus) that it safer to be bland that to take a stand based on what you believe.

So ... here is my (almost) completely  bland post for today.

1.    I have been working with glass and metal and here is what I have produced: a funny little table that catches the light and creates mirror images on the stone ... and holds a wine glass very nicely.

2.   I start teaching again the last week of May ... same young German student as last year ... 3 hours per day for two weeks  ... I am delighted ... and am sharing the teaching load with a travel writer.  The meeting to confirm all the arrangements should have been non-controversial ... except that I was given hell by someone with an absolutely empty (and it always is) parking lot because he "pays the taxes there and the owner of River Echo doesn't. " Good grief!

3.   The #2 biscuit (the nubby toothbrush TT) is still one of Kenya's favourite treats ... BUT ... today her breath smelled fishy ... EWWWW!  Still have to see if the TT is the cause ...

4.   Just got a call from Jesse.  She had another ultrasound and Lily is doing fine ... and starting to squirm around enough for Jesse to to feel her movements.  So ... my next project will be the high chair suitable for a Lily.

And that is it for today.  I will try not to get into any more trouble ... but SHEESH ... it ain't always easy!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

A Modest Proposal

Loons are black and white but the problem of the Canada Geese is not as simple ... and it seems to be one that has the potential to split apart our little lake community.

This lake is a beautiful spot for wildlife and, as a result, for humans too.

Most of the lake is very natural with grasses and bushes near the water line and forest behind that.  At one end of the lake is Betsy's beach with its manicured lawn that could rival a golf course's greens.  This is where all the community parties take place, where the bonfire is built, the barbecues happen, and horse shoes are pitched.  Betsy is generous to the community and she takes great pride in keeping her property beautiful ... and manicured.

And therein lies the problem.

Geese are not like the merganser ducks or the loons or the giant snapping turtles which thrive in secluded spots among reeds and near forested shores.  Geese love lawns.  Not because they offer them superlative food, but because geese feel secure only where they have a clear line of sight so that they can see the approach of enemies.

Betsy's beach is a Canada Goose magnet.

The other day Samuel shot one or two of the Canada Geese leaving only a single mother with about a dozen goslings.  (The exact number changes daily as the mergansers like to nibble on the webby toes of the babies, and pull them under.)

Walter was very upset.  He feels we should share our planet with animals, and he was also concerned because the shooting took place very close to his home.

When I heard about it from Walter, I went on-line to find out about the federal laws governing the hunting of Canada Geese.  One story in particular concerned me.  Last year, an Ontario man was fined $4500 for shooting a migratory bird out of season and within a mile of houses.  I was also concerned by the fact that Natural Resources posts a snitch line number on their site.

Samuel has been living on this lake longer than any of us.  All of us value him as a neighbour, a friend, and a source of local natural wisdom.  No one on the lake would want to see Samuel face that kind of fine for doing a favour for a neighbour.  He had shot the goose or geese at Betsy's request.  She was tired of stepping in goose poop.

I don't like goose poop much either, to be honest.  A grown goose poops about a pound of loose green stool every day in shots that happen every 7 or 8 minutes.  A couple of geese can make an awfully big mess in a very short time.

I guess what bothers me is not that people don't want to have the geese around in their neighbourhood.   That is understandable.  I don't think anyone on the lake would be happy to have a colony of geese living here and polluting the lake.

No.  What bothers me is the automatic assumption that the only way to solve the problem is to kill the geese.

I have asked the secretary of the lake association to bring this matter up at our annual meeting.  She has spoken to the three people concerned ... wisely and openly.  They are investigating the possibility of getting a special licence from the Ministry of Natural Resources to shoot the geese out of season because they are destroying property.  That would solve the problem of Samuel doing something illegal, and would rid Betsy's lawn of goose poop.  Seems like the best solution, right?

I don't think so.  I would rather see us, as a lake association, find an alternative solution, one that protects the cleanliness of the lake, the sensibilities of all lake residents, and the geese.

We are people who love living this close to nature.  Our grandchildren are lucky enough to still be able to hear and see wild life.  We should be protecting wildlife, not killing it simply because it is a nuisance.

Although I just read that goose poop is a wonderful natural fertilizer that could be used in our gardens and placed in our compost bins, I don't think that we should encourage Canada Geese to choose this lake as their new home.

So how do we rid ourselves of Canada Geese in an environmentally sensible, humane way?

We discourage the geese.  We make the lake unattractive as a nesting area.

Geese would find Betsy's lawn far less attractive if she grew some tall grasses close to shore, or if she planted shrubs or anything that would block their view of predators.  She could put flags or other waving things on the lawn if she really needed to keep it manicured.  She could put a sprinkler on the lawn. They hate being sprayed.  Geese also hate coyotes, border collies and other herding dogs, and swans.  We could do what they have done elsewhere where they have twenty or thirty unwanted Canada Goose visitors; we could use decoys.  The coyote ones seem a little over the top to me, but I wouldn't mind a couple of swan decoys floating around the lake.

Kenya keeps the geese away from my shoreline.   I would be willing to take her on a wild goose chase a couple of times a day.

But really the two simplest ways to solve the problem without shooting the geese would be to:
a)     discourage them by making Betsy's beach area less perfect for them by planting shrubs
b)    install a couple of swan decoys in the lake.

Every year we each put $25 in the Lake Association pot and use it for stocking the lake and buying hotdogs and corn for the annual corn roast.  No one ever catches the fish.  We are feeding the loons, mergansers and turtles.  For one year we could buy decoys and shrubs instead of hatchlings.  And for one year we could bring our own food to barbecue together.  And while we are together we could plant the shrubs and grasses.

It is not a problem that should split a community.  It is not a problem that requires rocket scientists to solve.  With a little give and take we could keep our lake Canada Goose poop-free and help preserve a part of a very important natural heritage.

Kenya's New Best Friend

One of my neighbours, Dan, has a six month old puppy ... a Border Collie Shepherd mix.  She is adorable ... friendly, active, a regular pogo stick bouncer ... and she absolutely LOVES Kenya.

Dan has been working on his sister's cottage next door and Sadie comes with him whenever he comes to work.  I always know when they have arrived because Sadie comes to the front door and knocks.  The first time it happened I thought it might be one of the workers I have been trying to hire.  But no ... there was Sadie, all bright eyed, bushy tailed and still dry.

Kenya is always delighted to see her and the two of them play for hours.  For a while Kenya would get fed up with the puppy antics and energy after an hour, but now she is just plain happy to see her buddy.

They are fun to watch.  Kenya will not share her stick and she says really ferocious things to Sadie when the puppy teases her for just a little nibble.  Sadie's reaction is that of any youngster who knows damned well she has nothing to fear; that her foster mom really loves her no matter what she says.  She kisses Kenya's nose and ears.  She bounds right over her prone body.  She teases some more.  And Kenya accepts it all with equanimity.

Sometimes they play in the lake ... Kenya swimming, Sadie wading.  Other times they chase one another up and down the hills and through the woods.

Kenya has taught Sadie not to jump up at the windows, and scolds her when she jumps up on me ... so she is strict ... but she is also awfully glad that a good buddy lives nearby.

So am I.  Especially these days when I don't have the energy to walk Kenya far.  A puppy provides way more exercise than any human, especially an old lady human, can possibly provide.

Monday, 10 May 2010

A little of this 'n' a little of that ...

First the new dog treat testing ...

I decided to end the trial run with the C&Cs as they were causing a smelly bum ... likely the result of diarrhea and long feathers ... I know ... more information than you need ... but also because Kenya so obviously did not enjoy them ... and a treat ... even a healthy one ... should be a treat.

#2    Iams Tartar Treats (TTs)

These look like little brown nubbly tooth brushes and Kenya spent a lot of time chewing and drooling the first time she ate one (Monday, May 10, 2010).  I suspect this is healthy for her gums and for the stimulation of teeth cleansing saliva.

The recommended amount for dogs 10-20 lb. is one per day.  I think I will give my 90 pound dog 2 per day ... one each morning and night.

I was a little concerned about the cautions regarding size of treat.  Kenya doesn't gulp down large objects so is unlikely to be in danger of the "harmful or fatal" results of swallowing the thing whole ... but if I had a Lab ... or that Mountain Dog puppy ...

No mention of calories on this one ... I like to know.

Here are the ingredients:
wheat gluten ... uh oh
sodium caseinate
tapioca starch
corn oil
pea protein
natural chicken flavour
calcium carbonate
potassium sorbate (a preservative)
potassium chloride
titanium dioxide

Basically a cookie made from fairly innocuous ingredients that give it the consistency of hard rubber plus those last few chemicals which I will check out ... I suspect they are teeth cleansers.

I don't like the fact that the first ingredient is wheat since Kenya gets diarrhea from too much wheat.

Titanium Dioxide is a fine particulate produced mainly in China and used in almost every sun screen, name brand vitamins, and most anything requiring whiteness.  It has been listed as a possible carcinogenic, but not for those who ingest it, rather for those who inhale it.  In other words, all those Chinese workers are likely to get lung cancer from inhaling it by mouth so that the dust goes down the trachea to the lungs or by breathing it in as they work in not-too-well-controlled factory conditions.  Kenya is unlikely to be in danger as this is not a cookie that crumbles, but I am not overly impressed by the addition of something that could be toxic for anyone.  Just how important could whiteness be?

Potassium Chloride is saltpeter, and the calcium is the same thing found in bone strengthening pills for osteoporosis.  Not too worrisome.  I don't think she has a sex drive to diminish, and strong teeth and bones are good, right?

The sodium caseinate is just milk with acid added.

Next ... glass work ...

I had trouble controlling the little tube brush that dispenses the fake lead lines.  It was all right on the smaller test piece, but long flowing lead lines are hard to manage.  My first little table top has blobby lead lines.

I thought when I finished that it might be fun to actually make a top out of bits and pieces of stained glass ... and my lead or solder lines would be neater.  However I would have to learn to use lead if I wanted small pieces because solder only works if you can wrap the edges in foil.  Tiffany glass lamps shade, for example, are all made with channeled lead and the other , less finicky, modern types of construction join copper wrapped pieces by soldering them with lead (speaking of toxic products).

Something to think about.

What I am reading ... 

I have almost finished Khaled Hosseini's newest book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and can recommend it without reservation.  I find it hard to put down.

  I have been trying to read Birth of a Nation, the story of Kenya's biggest and best newspaper, but it is heavy going.  The author doesn't know what to leave out .  So, while the history is accurate and interesting, the flow is like my lead lines ... blobby.  It is an easy book to put down.  I am sending it on to a friend who is younger, more academically inclined, and even more interested in Kenya's socio-political history than I am.  Like me, she read The Nation every day while living in Kenya ... and continues to read it on-line.

I enjoyed Twenty Chickens for a Saddle and would recommend it to anyone interested in Africa, simple alternative life styles, and home schooling.

I am also picking away at the square foot gardening book ... chock full of good ideas.

And that ... for today ... is that ...  Have a great week.  I think I will finally go to town this week to get new frames for my glasses ... and make the trip a Costco run as well ... My tummy is finally feeling as if it might hold up for a trip to town.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Mother's Day 2010

It's a good thing I haven't got around to changing my heading picture yet.  The hermitage looks exactly like the photo.  Snow blankets everything.  Thank goodness I was feeling too ill yesterday to shop for impatiens to plant in the strange attempt at a well that sits in a large patch of tiger lilies that also had the sense to wait till it was really spring before blossoming.  And thank heavens I am still nurturing indoors the basil plant I bought last week.

A strange year, this one.

Unseasonably warm this spring.  Far less snow and frigid temperatures than is usual this past winter.  And now this ... a real snowfall on Mother's Day.

Kenya was very sweet this morning ... and she finally broke her mother's heart.  Here is your Kenya story ... or is it the Crunch'n'Clean story?

Kenya went out to pee, and returned expecting a cookie.  I handed her a C&C which she tossed on the rug with a dismissive fling of her head.  I retrieved it.   (Yes, I know, she is the retriever, not me.)   We did the shake-a-paw trick thing.   She shook my hand and then went over to her food dish and rattled it loudly on the slate floor.  I said she had a C&C there, and pointed.  She gave the canine equivalent of a shrug and tossed the C&C around for a minute or so.  Then she ate it and went straight back to her food dish.  The message was clear to any mother.  "All right.  I've eaten my damned carrots.  NOW can I have dessert?"  I fed her, and went back to the fire and my tea.  When I came back she was sitting under the treats shelf looking up longingly.  She noticed me and gave that groany "PLEASE" thing she has perfected.

It worked. I gave her a Dentistix.  She took it with a look that can only be described as joyful and bounded off to her couch to savour it.

To all you mothers out there ... and to any dads, single or not, who play the role ... have a great day, even if it is snowing where you live.  Enjoy your children.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Kenya's Choice

Before getting rid of the obviously less-than-palatable first test item, Crunch'n'Clean, I decided to do an experiment.  I laid down four treats and invited Kenya to partake.  The one closest to her was Crunch'n'Clean, the next, a no-name from Costco with the same ingredients as her kibble, , the third one a Marrow Bone, and the fourth, a piece of a dried chicken breast, also from Costco.  I made sure that all four were roughly the same size so that she would not be lured by gluttony.  All four were approximately the same dull tan colour so she would not have been tempted by what might have looked good.

Kenya sniffed each one in turn and then picked up the one furthest away (the chicken), and ate every crumb.  Then she chose the next furthest away, the Marrow Bone, and ate it up completely as well before moving on to the third choice, the Costco biscuit,  She looked around for a few minutes snuffling and vacuuming up all stray bits of cookie. 

Finally she sniffed the Crunch'n'Clean and licked it.  She put it down on the rug for a moment and then bit into it and ate each of the pieces.

I decided to continue till the end of the week in view of the fact that she may not like it very much but it isn't something she refuses to eat, so her teeth are probably getting their daily cleaning with it.

Also ... she eats fewer treats when that is the one I offer most often.

I suspect that a gluttonous dog might behave differently.  Most of the Labs I know don't care what they eat as long as it is edible, and there was that Bernese Mountain Dog puppy who didn't even care whether it was edible.

Kenya has never been a glutton ... but she does like her treats she is probably a very good taste tester.

Gardening is stalled ...

Odin, the young man who is supposed to clean the property, may come today since it is supposed to rain ... or snow.  It is a good day to evaluate the job.

I have to call  Jim and see when he is going to come to build the box(es).

This weekend I will likely test-drive the glass painting equipment I bought at Michael's ... and wait to do all the outdoor parts of the job when the temperature rises again and we are not expecting precipitation of either type.

What strange weather ... from summer to winter in a week ...

I have been feeling ill since Wednesday ... tummy troubles ... not sure whether my water, my holding tank, my diet, or my aging body is to blame ... but I had to cancel an engagement last night ... one I was really looking forward to ... dinner with friends followed by a modern dance performance at the Shenkman Centre.  I was all cleaned up and dressed in nice clothes, even wearing jewelry ... and due to leave within the half hour ... when I realized with absolute certainty that this was a mistake.

My plans for this next while are being downsized to match my energy levels, the weather, and the whims and other commitments of the people I need to help.

BUT ... the garden has to be ready soon to receive my birthday gift to myself ... a garden fireplace and barbecue ... one of the round fairly flat ones ... it will nestle into the rocky gravel of the zany zen garden beautifully, I think.   I told them I would pick it up in two weeks.

On finding cookies everywhere ...

I am afraid that this day will tell whether Kenya continues to test the Crunch'nClean.  She seems to have gone on strike. 

First thing this morning I asked whether she wanted her cookie or whether she wanted to go out and pee first.  She made it clear that the front door was her goal ... not the treasure trove of treats above her crate.  When she came back in out of the damp cold I offered her the treat.  She allowed it to fall to the floor.  I played her game where she has to let a treat sit on her paw till she is told to take it.  She picked it up in her mouth and I went off to make tea.  Later I discovered it sitting on the floor and Kenya sat looking longingly at her food dish.

I fed her and she ate her breakfast ravenously ... as if kibble and yogurt was the best possible taste in the world.  The Crunch'nClean  lay on the floor nearby.  Rejected.

Friday, 7 May 2010

First Taste Test Report on Crunch'nClean

The first one we are trying is made by Hartz, the people who make all those products for birds.  If they can sharpen birds' beaks with cuttle bones, they should be able to create a doggy tooth brush, right?   I examined the big box of Crunch'nClean for dogs under 20 pounds ... maximum for that size: 2 per day ... Kenya can have 8 per day.  There are 35 calories in each biscuit so 280 calories worth of this treat for teeth in a day.

Then I read " not for human consumption".  That led me to check out the ingredient list.

wheat flour ... not an auspicious beginning for my dog whose digestive system is not good with wheat.
ground whole wheat ... hmm ... or this ...
chicken meal
wheat germ meal ... more wheat
sodium hexametaphosphate
poultry fat
salt ... as well as sodium?
poultry digest
malted barley
brewer's yeast
sodium metabisulphate ... more sodium?
ferrous sulphate
vitamin e
2 zincs
vitamin b
vitamin a
2 coppers
calcium proteinate
manganous oxide
vitamin d
another 2 sources of vitamin b
calcium iodate
sodium selenite ... yet another sodium
folic acid

That seems to be it ... an awful lot of wheat and sodium ...but  only 35 calories ... just a little for a 90 pound dog.

Kenya's reaction to the taste of #1: 

She liked the taste, but the next morning she stuck her nose up at this substitute for her Dentistix. As the day progressed I tried her again and she actually left it sitting on the staircase despite my attempts to convince her that it was a tasty treat.

Her breath is still okay ... perhaps not as nice as with Dentistix but not unpleasant.

Other effects noticed: She has farted a couple of times and Sadie (the puppy)  has been very interested in the smell of her bum.  Kenya is not a farter usually, likely because she has yogurt with every meal. In fact she looks shocked and turns around to sniff her own bum when the unexpected does happen, so this might be the result of the  Crunch'nClean, but I doubt it since she is so reluctant to eat any of them and they are intended for such small dogs.

By the end of today she had actually chewed and ingested 4 of the 8 permitted.

She prefers the taste of her regular treats, and her regular food wins paws down over this treat.  (Her regular food is usually way down on the list ... a mix of two types of Kibble: Gastro from the vet and lamb or chicken without wheat from Costco.)

We have been asked to try each dental treat for a week so we have 5 1/2 days to go before we try the next one.  Either Kenya will acquiesce and accept this one or she will stop eating it entirely if it is bad enough, I guess.

Will keep you posted.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Optimistic Gardening Neophyte

This post has become as scattered as my thoughts and efforts related to gardening are. Sorry, but here you are ...

Yesterday I bought my soil and sheep manure and called Jim who is going to build my first raised square foot gardening box . He is a competent and reliable carpenter (rather than a fine craftsman) whom I know and trust.  Today I  will arrange for him to use my account for all the hardware necessary.  I hope that I will be able to start  mixing soil and manure and planting on the weekend.

I am very much an amateur at all this, but I am excited by the thought of actually producing food in a manageable garden that just requires a little care and attention. Boxes, pots and planters seem more manageable than plots, even though I know that weed seeds are ingenious travelers that move about as often by air as any other way.  With the raised box there will enough depth of soil for the veggies as well as manageability.

  Jim says he will be trying to convince me to build a second box.  I am not so sure I want to bite off too much this first season.  I will be planting other things like climbing green and yellow beans and  herbs in the zany zen garden. 

Someone said that a gardener is an optimist, a person who believes there will be a future.  At almost 70, I guess I am a cautious optimist.

In other gardening news ...

I will also be asking Jim's advice about getting my composter working again.  It has stopped and I have been chopping up orange peels and such in the blender before adding them, in an attempt to get it going properly.  I was told yesterday that I should place the bin in the sun where the heat can help the action.  I have had the thing for years but have never used the compost.  Probably the richest soil on my property in under this thing.

I have laid a perimeter of broken eggshells around the hostas to discourage the slugs that have already begun to appear (often on Kenya's face ... she does find other species fascinating), and the mint I planted a couple of years ago on the hill is beginning to sprout anew, along with the indomitable oregano which thrives in a tiny patch of dappled sunshine nearby.

Last fall I transplanted  the chives and lavender to a new spot in a corner of my grey water field  because the lumber for the siding had to be piled where they grew.  Despite the fact that it is not the sunniest place, they seem happy enough too.  I want to have them in the zany zen garden, though ... and also the oregano ... not sure whether I will start new ones there or transplant these again.

Last fall, my friend, Sharon, planted nine little Mungo pines along the laneway and up by the parking lot.  All but two survived.  This year she is going to give me some low growing evergreens (the name is escaping me) for the lower garden ... and also some rocks and gravel from their gravel pit for the road. 

Rowboat Flo gave me several large pails in which to store lake water near the garden.  It will let the lake water warm up before I use it for watering.  She has also started some herbs indoors that she has offered to share.

So I may be a neophyte, and a very cautious optimist, but I am surrounded by inveterate gardeners who are knowledgeable and generous with their time, expertise, and energy.   These two gardens will produce good things.

Today I am going to buy two different types of paint so that I can turn a little garbage picking find into a useful piece of garden art.  It is one of those little glass topped tables ... with an ugly black metal frame and removable glass top.  When I am finished I hope it will look like a piece of abstract stained glass art.  And that it will hold a tea cup or wine glass with a bit of whimsical flair.

Enjoy your day whether you are gardening or not, and join me in believing in a future in which all growing things can thrive and provide happiness.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Kenya has a job ...

Of course, Kenya often has a job ... after all we dog sit here and she knows the rules and passes them on  ... not always graciously, I might add.  And Dan's puppy, Sadie, has some rules to learn when she visits ... specifically not to scratch with muddy paws on my doors and windows.

But now Kenya has another real job, one that she was sought out to do.

We have been asked to do some taste and breath testing on four different brands of oral hygiene treats.

Her current favourite ... the one she gets every morning ... and the one I can always retrieve her with ... because she LOVES them,  is DENTISTIX,  which is not part of the test.

She will be testing four treats as soon as they are delivered: one week per type ... and we will report on her desire for the treat, the effect on her teeth/tartar ...and her breath ... which incidentally, with Dentistix, is lovely.

Here they are ... stay tuned ...

-          Natural Defense Oral Health Treats
-          Iams Tartar Treats
-          Arm & Hammer White Bites
-          Harts Crunch + Clean


Sunday, 2 May 2010

Spring is here ...

Yesterday I began one of my favourite warm weather weekend occupations ... garage saling.  A good friend tells me I am crazy not to want more money ... not to want great luxury when I travel or entertain myself ... can't believe that I honestly have more fun my way. 

I spent a lovely sociable morning starting with a garage sale where I bought nothing but chatted about inconsequential things like the warmth of the day. 

Then I spent $2.50 across the road where I bought four tiny floral boxes for my lavender crop, a lovely deep turquoise glass bottle for a single flower for my bathroom, and a sky blue bottle painted in a nautical theme in which to serve water with outdoor meals.  They threw in a small brass milk jug for my collection.  All for $2.50! 

Next I moseyed on down to the Anglican Church sale where I bought a gardening knife, a DVD and a book by a local author for  $1.50.  There I had a long chat with the old gentleman at the cash about something I had read about using garage sale serrated knives for cutting roots and dividing plants.  He told me that the same knife I had just bought sold for over $20 when it was called a gardening knife. 

Outside, a very elderly lady was selling house plants and perennials and enthusiastically dispensing free gardening advice with every purchase. I bought a healthy ivy plant for $6 and learned that old fashioned hairpins are excellent for encouraging plants to send their roots into the soil. 

Imagine!  A whole morning filled with happiness and treasures for $10!

On the gardening front ... my zen garden is becoming more zany than zen ... but Kenya lies on the hilltop each evening for hours contemplating the solar lights that change colour ... and I hope to spend a lot of time reading, writing and reflecting ... as I drink wine in the evenings ... once the black flies die off.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Special for Irish Girl

Irish Girl wanted to see close-ups of the harlequin table.  Here they are: