29 January, 2013

I've got garden fever and I've got it bad

Our house last spring before the garden work we had done:
Front yard spring 2012. Notice hated juniper bushes.

The hated junipers covered the entire right side of the front of our yard. They were wild and unruly, and I did not like them. They annoyed me. They came out.

Picture taken from the front porch after we got rid of them.
We had that whole aread cleared out, a bunch of weedy things removed, including poison ivy (it makes me itch to type the words), regular English ivy (boo!), and other bits of garden blech. Lots of things that used to be beside the front door were moved out there and other ground covers and shade lovers were added. See those Akuba in the back of the photo (to the right of the tree trunk)? Those are where the bulk of the juniper used to be.

Back yard, right side, view from patio. I like the bench, but we need to fix it.

Left side of yard. That was the BEST the mulch ever looked.

View from composters of back of house and patio.

Moving over to the left, see patio. Right in front of patio I'd like to put in a herb spiral.That's Jim and Andy's dog Maggie. Hi Maggie!

Right side of back yard again, taken from next to the house. Patio on left just past corner of house. two raised beds.

What else would I like to do to the garden?

Currently reading Douglas W. Tallamy's book Bringing Nature Home - How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. I'm interested in getting a lot more natives in to sustain wildlife and because I have sneaking suspicion they will require less care/watering.

Also want to grow more food. Thomas and I've puttered around with our raised beds and growing in containers, but I'd like to plant some things that will be permanent - fruit trees, asparagus, raspberries and blackberries. Then I still want to have things like tomato, pepper, etc. We also want to figure out a way to get an arbor or pergola covered with hearty kiwi into the garden eventually. See this arbor thing with kiwi?

from debraprinzing.com

I want an herb spiral. Isn't this one beautiful?

from savvyhousekeeping.com

What nuts can you grow in Maryland? I think it's the time of year, we are entering my dead zone, February is always the worst month for me, the winter has gone on forever...and I want to plant something! To scratch my garden itch I am reading garden blogs, garden books, and garden catalogs. I have also discovered that the Youtube has many good gardening videos and am learning a lot from that!

27 January, 2013


This is Marty.

Photo: Marty is safe and sound and being an amazingly good pup! Thanks for saving him Jen and CSAC!
Marty - the day after his left rear leg was amputated.

 I cannot tell you why Marty was hurt, or how, but he came into a Philadelphia area shelter with a leg that was in a bad way. In cases like this, often the shelter chooses to humanely euthanize the dog. This time, someone from the Cocker Spaniel Adoption Center was there, and said, "If you can remove the leg and save his life, we will help him find a home and we'll pay for his care. The only thing that Marty has in common with a Cocker Spaniel is being a dog, but that didn't matter. What did matter is that he needed help. Other than the leg, he was in okay shape.

One of the vet techs at the shelter took him home the day after surgery. She was able to bring him back and forth with her to the shelter so the vet could continue to check on the surgery site.

Thomas and I were going to foster him for a week while they looked for a more permanent foster or an adopter. The vet tech decided to keep him for now, because he has an infection. Please think some good thoughts for Marty!

22 January, 2013

Hiding in a hiding place where no one ever goes...

I just read a book by Elizabeth George, called The Edge of Nowhere. Very enjoyable, and quite different from her bestselling series about English crime, featuring Inspector Lynley and Barbara Havers.

This book, the first of a quartet, is about a young girl who has inherited a gift (of sorts) from her grandmother. She can hear the "whispers" of people's thoughts. When her mother's latest husbands thoughts reveal he has murdered someone, she and her mother go on the run. Fourteen year old "Becca" goes to ground on remote Whidbey Island, and when she loses touch with her mother, she has to figure out how to care for herself.

Becca explores her talent, tries to figure out who she can trust, and how to stay under the police's radar when a local boy falls of a cliff under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Whidbey Island is a small community where strangers stand out, and everyone has their secrets.

I've been thinking about the book ever since I finished it. To me that is the sign of a good story. Now I have another three books to look forward to.

15 January, 2013

In which our heroine skips to the end

That's the back of Ginger's head, and the dog in the distance (next to Thomas, reading as if a large black dog is not looming over him) is Samantha's dog, Bear. This picture was taken last February in a little house on a hill in Virginia, where three humans and three dogs had a nice rest.

It's been a long, sad week. It has had its lighter moments, but I've spent a lot of it just wanting to curl up in a cave and sleep until winter is over. I'm watching youtube videos about gardening and planting and reading garden blogs. It's a cold and rainy night in Baltimore, and I have the winter blues, but angrier. The winter Mean Reds maybe?

I checked out a handful of books at the library, read two of them, and then fell apart on the next two. I got in, decided I wanted to know whodunnit without having to do the actual work of reading. So I did something that snotty 16 year old Amanda would have disapproved of thoroughly. Well stuff it, sixteen year old me, I turned to the last three chapters, found out who did it and have moved on, satisfied with my bad behavior. I am not counting those as "read," since I didn't actually, you know, FINISH the book.

10 January, 2013

The Cocker Spaniel Who Wasn't

The rescue posted a second or third plea for someone to foster a poor, sick dog that had come into rescue with heartworms. Thomas and I had plenty of dogs at home seven years ago (two, but that seemed like enough) and weren’t looking for another, but I kept thinking of this sick dog who just needed “a quiet place to get better.” We discussed it, and decided that we could foster until the dog was well and could be spayed and go on to a permanent home.

Picture me, driving to the Animal Hospital, with my do-gooder hat on. In my mind I was going to pick up a dog that was the canine equivalent of someone who had recently had surgery and could walk, with the aid of a walker, but was very slow and sick. Possibly, in my imagination, the dog was wearing a ratty bathrobe and had to stop every few steps to cough weakly, leaning on her (imaginary) walker.
I arrived, gave the receptionist my name and sat down to wait for my new Cocker Spaniel buddy, the sad, sick doggy. The reception area was busy with people, dogs, and cats in carriers so there was a lot to look at while I waited. I heard someone call out “Cocker Spaniel Rescue,” and looked around. Seeing no Cockers, I sat back. A few minutes later, a somewhat peeved sounding voice shouted, “Is anyone from Cocker Spaniel Rescue here?” I stood up and identified myself and was presented with something that was...well, that was not a frail Cocker Spaniel. No, I was given Ginger, who bore no resemblance to:
a.     A Cocker Spaniel or
b.     The poor, sick puppy of my imagination.

Ginger was a medium-sized red and white dog with a soft, double coat and the floppy ears and full tail of a Beagle. She was surely some sort of Beagle mix. Her tummy was sort of loose and hung down almost to the ground, making me wonder how many puppies she had before being rescued.
Ginger was also not weak and sickly - she was cheerful and SUPER! DOOPER! EXCITED! to meet me and get to leave the vet hospital. She hauled me all over the parking lot, sniffing at everything she saw. She also “talked” constantly, making happy little yips and woofles and whines. She talked to me the whole drive home, as I did my best to keep her in the back seat and get us home safely.

Ginger didn’t get the message that we were going to be her “rest” home. She was a go, go, go girl. If we left her in the backyard for a few minutes alone, she tunneled under the fence. If a door was left open, she made a break for freedom. On walks she wanted to go miles. We learned to manage her, although not without some bad moments. Once she went walkabout just after she had come into heat (she was spayed as soon as that was over). She was gone for a couple of hours. I was thrilled to find her safe and sound, trotting across the road toward the house, but I was worried about possible consequences. I told Thomas and our friend Christine, “It is going to be so embarrassing if I have to tell the rescue that I let this dog get knocked up!”
Thomas fixed the fence so she could not burrow under. We started taking longer walks. We updated her bio on the CSAC homepage with glowing descriptions and waited for her forever family to contact us. Weeks went by. Months passed. Ginger was still a happy girl. She got along well with Jake and Dru.
I suspect that the reason no one ever applied for Ginger is that when someone finds their way to the Cocker Spaniel rescue page, they are looking for a Cocker Spaniel or some dog that has Cocker Spaniel roots like, a Cockador or a Cockapoo. A red and white Beagle mix with a full, white tipped tail, maybe doesn’t appeal to those people. In the end, the two people who were not looking for a third dog realized that they had one anyway, and she was home for good.

Other than the fact that Ginger was a dream dog, what can I tell you? She liked all people. She loved the vet and all the ladies in the vet’s office. She liked our neighbors and friends. She loved Christine’s dogs, and all other medium, and small dogs. She did not like Labrador retrievers (especially the black ones) and she did not like groundhogs. She once fought and killed a groundhog and came away with only a few puncture wounds.  The vet told us Ginger had been lucky, that an adult groundhog could kill a dog.
She loved snow, and would burrow around the yard, creating a maze of stomped-down snow. She wasn’t a swimmer, but rain didn’t bother her. She never met a lap she didn’t want to sit in, or a hand she didn’t want to pat her. She slept with us most nights, and for a 35-40 lb. dog she was almost impossible to push over in bed.
We called her our “hair farmer,” and she was. Her thick coat shed constantly, and when we brushed her we got massive amounts of red and white fur. Our house, our car, our clothes were sprinkled with red and white hairs. When I swept, I joked that I got small piles of fur that I could have knit into a new dog.
She was healthy. Her stomach, skin, hair, and ears were delightfully free of the problems we were used to with Cockers. She could, and would, eat the most revolting things she found on the road or in the ditch, with no upset tummy to follow. She would whine until we followed her into the kitchen, where she’d look meaningfully at the treat jar.
Months ago she started coughing. We took her to the vet. We took her to the vet again and again, and they tried lots of drugs. X-rays showed an enlarged heart and fluid build-up near the lungs, probably a result of the heartworm damage from her earlier infection. We had her tested to make sure there were no new heartworms. There weren’t. We found a combination of drugs that seemed like they were helping some, and figured that the coughing was just something we’d all have to live with.
Last Saturday she and I took a walk in the morning. She was maybe a little slow, but she walked a long way, and danced in circles when I was putting her food down. She slept most of the day, and when she got up, she wasn’t right. She had urinated on her dog bed, and she would not eat. She tried to walk a little and did her business, but could not really walk or stand well.
She died at about 1am. We'd been watching her and thinking that we would take her to the vet in the morning, but when we realized that she was unconscious, we loaded her into the car and drove like maniacs to the Vet ER. It was no good, she was dead when we got there.

Thomas and I are both shattered. Ginger was the shedding, silly, demanding, loving heart of the house and we miss her so badly. Many tears have been shed.
Ginger, you were a good, good girl. We love you.

01 January, 2013

Easing into 2013

Thomas and I got up early this a.m., happily sans headaches or upset tums, since we didn't exactly party hard last night. We did get together with friends for an enjoyable evening with some good food. We were home in bed when the New Year was ushered in with fireworks. That would be LOCAL fireworks...as in our neighbors going out and creating the sounds of a small war. Lucky for them they didn't wake Ginger up and cause her to have a canine hissy fit. But really, the booms, crashes, and explosions went on for about 30 minutes. It seems like overkill to me, what happened to drunkenly singing Auld Lang Syne and kissing your loved ones and then staggering off to bed to prepare for your New Year's Day hangover?

I was sober as a judge last night because I was the designated driver. It has the benefit of no headache this morning, so Yay me! We got the dogs walked early and have spent the rest of the day puttering around, taking naps, reading books, playing online Scrabble, and now are getting ready to go out to dinner with Katy and Peter, our friends from Gettysburg. I love this kind of day.