Thursday, July 24, 2014

Remembering Mickey: Couches and Bones

Mickey taught me about herding sheep.

I taught her about couches and bones.

She mastered couches and bones in days; I'm still working on sheepdog handling, though I've made progress thanks to her.

When Mickey arrived at our farm nearly three years ago, she was an expert in sheep. She'd traveled the country collecting accolades for her sheepdog abilities. But she'd also been a kennel dog, and was a novice at being a house dog.

On Day 1, she discovered the couch. And she wasn't going to give it up. The only time I saw her bare her teeth was when another dog walked near her couch.

On Day 1, she also discovered the box of bones we kept in the corner of the entrance way.

Our other dogs would go to the box, select a bone and settle in for a chew. Not Mickey. She collected bones and stashed them in her crate -- and in her couch.

Every few days, I'd collect the bones and return them to the box; and she'd hoard them once again.

Months later, while we were working sheep on a farm in southern Ohio, I knew she'd mastered bone detection and collection.

After working sheep, her previous handler and I were riding in the back of the Gator. The other Border collies were happily running along.

But I didn't see Mickey.

I called and called.

And then we saw her, running to catch up with the group. In her mouth was a deer leg.

"She never did that when I owned her," her previous handler said.

All I could do was smile.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Volunteers of the Year

Each year, I appreciate the volunteer tomato plant, dill weed and parsley.

Their seeds lie hidden under winter's snow until, under the spring sun, they sprouted and grew, often a little faster than the weeds.

Sometimes, I pluck them before they have a chance to mature. Other times, I leave them and spend the summer wishing they weren't growing in the middle of a row.

The volunteer garlic is already curing for winter -- and the onion has been sauteed and eaten with the planned spinach.

But one group of volunteers really outdid themselves this year.

I was late tending the garden this spring. When I found them, the sunflowers were a few inches tall.

So I let them grow and grow and grow.

They grew taller than the fence.

And then they bloomed, adding their sunshine to the morning sky.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Watching the Zucchini Grow

I noticed the two thumb-sized green fruits a few days ago.

Ah, the first zucchini of summer. I must watch them and pick them when they are six inches long, with tender skins and few seeds. I'll saute them with a little onion in butter and olive oil.

While zucchini is easy to grow, it takes constant vigilance. Those summer squash grow unnoticed under the cover of leaves until... BOOM! They're ginormous. Zucchinis that grow past a foot long are only good for chicken food.

Every year my chickens eat a lot of zucchini.

So twice a day, I inspect the zucchini vines.

The fruits don't seem to be growing.

Could it be that "a watched zucchini never grows?"