Posted in Great Outdoors

What’s a Hugelkultur?

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!
–Sitting Bull

I’m keen on experimenting in the garden.  My friend Mary says I’m a horticulturist.  I like that thought, but I’m not sure I’d use that word to describe myself.  Maybe just a goofy plant lady who gets bored seeding in straight lines.

Last fall I planted eight garlic cloves for the first time.  In their place, eight tender green shoots reach up through the otherwise neglected soil.  There is something about coaxing nature that satisfies me.  One year I tested straw bale gardening.  If I can find some good bales, I’ll try it again.  I’d like to give keyhole gardening a shot in the front yard.  The one thing I can’t grow is grass, but grass is on the way out anyway.

I’m just ahead of the curve.

My yard could also use a few rain gardens.  I live in the middle of a big hill and there is an underground river that would like to flow right through the middle of my basement.

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Bubba helped me fix the drainage.

Bubba helped me fix the drainage so we no longer see any water in the house.  But here’s the deal.  If I and all my neighbors up the hill would do our best to keep our water in our own yard, fewer homes would have drainage issues.

The old adage is to divert the water away from the house.  This is sound advice, but to most homeowners this means draining it from the yard and eventually to the street where it flows freely through underground systems to our natural waterways, fertilizer and all.  We now know this has harmful effects on both the environment and those of us who live in it.

When I moved into my home, it was April.  After some unusually long hard rains, I realized I was now the proud owner of lakefront property and a couple of ducks.  My first instinct was to dig a little trench on the downhill side of the yard and let it all drain away.  That worked great.  This was the year of the foreclosure, and the houses on either side of me were vacant.  The growing pond below me was a great solution.

Then the house uphill from me sold.  A builder came in to flip the house.  He had no interest in neighborliness, only profit.  He used my water hose without asking and parked his trucks in front of my driveway before I had to leave for work.  He pointed rain spouts right at my house, and all of the pavement drained my way.  A call to the city resolved nothing.  After the first good rain, there was a river through my basement, the garage, and the backyard.  The little trench I dug out to drain the yard was quickly eroding and becoming a waterfall.

What’s more, I now had a neighbor downhill from me too, and I was feeling really guilty about draining into his backyard.  But it wasn’t just his yard.  Mentally, I mapped the route the water on my property had taken.  Twenty houses uphill were all emptying their run-off downhill.  Once it hit my yard, it went on to reach other basements, garages, the sewer and eventually our waterways.

Wishing the uphill properties wouldn’t drain into my yard wasn’t enough.  I was a neighbor to those below me.  A change had to occur somewhere with someone.  And that was when I decided it might as well be me.

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Mandi Bunny with an i

I stopped using chemical fertilizer and pesticides.  What used to embarrass me, is now an emblem of pride.  My dandelions feed the pollinators in early spring when other foods are hard to find.  I also have a rabbit who loves for me to forage the chemical-free greens for her breakfast.  As the gardens take over the lawn, maybe someday I can even get rid of my gas-powered lawn mower.

I filled in the drainage trench.  Even if it means living lakefront once a year, I want to keep the water that comes into my yard from leaving my yard.  If we all thought that way it would be an easier task.  And we would be better stewards of our neighborhoods, cities, and the planet.

I built a hugelkultur.  A hugelwhat?

A hugelkultur.  There are right and wrong ways to say it.  I say it hoogle coolter.  That, I believe, is the wrong way, but I’m sticking with it.

I suppose there are also right and wrong ways to do it, and things to plant in it the first or succeeding years.  As I am a dubbed horticulturist and stubbornly self-sufficient, I will learn as I go.

The word hugelkultur translates to the term hill culture.  Typically, a hugelkultur is a raised bed with an inner filling of rotting wood and other composting materials.  I highly suggest, if you have more than a bizarre interest in the word hugelkultur, you do your own research, and not use my trial as your reference.

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Here, the small impression is retaining some of the spring run-off that would normally run quickly through my yard.

Last fall I scooped out some earth to create an indent that will eventually become a rain garden.  The sod and dirt, along with dead wood, was piled on the down side of the indent as a type of dam for heavy rains or spring thaws.  The dam doubles as a raised bed with fertile, moisture-retaining compost inside.

I’ll plant the rain garden this year, making it larger after seeing how well it performed this spring.  Once I add soil and prepare the hugelkultur for planting, I’ll share more photos and you can all watch from your armchairs without getting dirt under your nails.

The hard part will be keeping the dog off of it.  The hugelkultur is in the direct line of Frisbee flight, and you may remember my past challenges with that.

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Peace . . .

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Posted in Furry Friends, Lore

Sometimes the Right Thing is the Hardest

This is a story that needed to wait until I was ready to tell it.  But time has passed, and with it, the deep grief I felt.  That is not to say I won’t drip some tears in the telling, but it is time for me to tell the story before I forget it.   We must all remember that sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest.

Barney had been coughing up phlegm for a couple weeks — congestive heart failure, most likely.  Sometimes, he coughed hard enough to lose his kibble, but mostly it was just watery, slimy phlegm.  Bubba, who was not his real dad, but his adopted dad, cleaned it up, led him outside, patted his back, and at least once caught it in his hand as if he was his real dad.  I know Bubba worried about me, who had loved Barney for twelve of his thirteen years, but he waited patiently for me to decide when the old guy had had enough.

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He had gotten so skinny.

As a pup, he was picked up at a local no-kill animal shelter.  He had a previously injured toe, and an ear that stood up more than the other.  He could run like the wind, and played hard.  While mannerly at mealtime, never begging or asking for attention, abandoned food was his for the taking.  He once ate an entire week’s raw meat out of grocery bags while I ran in to get a few copies made at the printer, and was in his seat looking innocent by the time I got back to the car!

It seems like he was with us such a short time, and yet forever.  When we knew it was almost time — he was getting skinnier and more lethargic every day — I texted the kids to come see him if they needed to.  The girls came and brushed him, the balls of fluff laying in the yard as evidence to their act of love.  One son lay on the carpet with him, breathing in his essence and remembering better times, tears streaming from his eyes.

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He had become a spectator.

Once I knew they had all seen him that week, there was one more thing to do.  We took him out to the dog park one last time.  We waited for him to walk our route, stopping for him to catch up, never letting him feel rushed.  He waded in the pools and drank from the muddy water.  His coat had become dull.  He laid down when we stopped.  He had become a spectator of the dog-sports he had previously participated in so passionately.

His appetite was almost nonexistent.  I boiled a chicken just for him.  That night he ate a piece and threw it up.  The next day he refused the chicken.  I think that’s when I realized there was nothing left for him.  During my lunch break, I called the vet and made his last appointment.  When I got home from work, we coaxed him to the car and lifted him in.

I chose a different vet this time.  The one my daughter had taken the rabbit to when she rescued it.  The one who told my daughter she saved a bunny’s life, and told me I should be proud.  The one with the old paneled office, and curtains on the windows, and gold linoleum on the floor.  We had trouble finding it, and passed the road a few times before we got it right.

It was a quiet ride.  Barney didn’t put his head out the window, or bark at the dogs on leashes as we passed.

When we pulled up, a couple holding a dog on a leash motioned us over, but they had the wrong idea.  They thought we were looking for the entrance to another building, and quickly redirected us next door.  Their young, strong Staffordshire Bull Terrier saw Barney and stood alert.  He pulled, and the man holding the leash was rendered off-balance.  The dog pulled harder, and the man fell, still holding the leash.  The woman commanded their dog to stop, but he didn’t, and the man was in danger of losing the leash.

Barney, in his last act of defiance, pulled at the leash I held.  I was surprised by how much strength was still left in him.  His ears propped up, and the hair on his back stood erect.  The stark difference between the two dogs in stature was alarming.  And so, Bubba, not his real dad, but his adopted dad, stood between the dog and Barney.  He put his hands on his hips and poised himself authoritatively and stared the dog down.  It was a loving act from a man to his dog.

Then I led Barney into the paneled office through the screen door with the homemade sign on it.  We were directed to a room with a gold privacy curtain.  Barney lay down on his side and watched the feet of people passing under the curtain.  There were decisions to make, and we made them all, and signed the papers.  Did we want cremation?  Yes.  Did we want his ashes?  Yes.  Did we want a clay paw print?  Yes.  In between each question, I asked Bubba, “Do we?”

Barney was hoisted onto a table.  Despite our encouragement, he would not lay down, so they let him stand.  A tourniquet was placed on his front leg.  I looked him in the eye and told him what a good boy he was.  It was the last thing I wanted him to hear.  “You’re a good boy, Barney.”

He always hated it when I cried.  While some dogs snuggle up to their humans, trying to comfort them, Barney would head downstairs to his den to wait out the tears.  It was so important I did’t cry at this time.  Breathe.  Silent tears felt down my cheeks.  “Good boy.”

The needle was pressed and inserted on a bulging vein on his leg.  “Good boy, Barney.”  His rear legs slowly sank to a sit.  “Good, good boy, Barney.  You’re a good boy.”  Slowly his front legs slid down the stainless steel table, and his head drooped low, finally resting on his paws.  “Good boy, Barney.”

The life left his eyes, and the vet listened to his chest.  “He is gone now.”

We stayed with him and petted him a few last times.  We thanked them.  They said they were sorry.  And we drove away.

What do you do after you have released one you love from his misery?  Bubba drove us to the meat store and we picked out the biggest, juiciest t-bones in honor of Barney, and grilled them up for dinner.  We cried a bit, and cried a bit less the next day, and less yet the day after that.  We cried again at the dog park, his favorite place on earth.  How lucky we are to have had a companion such as Barney . . .

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He really was a very good dog.

Guardian of the Mailbox, Chaser of Frogs, Best Friend of Man.

Peace . . .

Posted in Furry Friends

Dog’s Eye View

Me:  You know what is nice about cats?  They don’t beg you to throw a ball, or ask to go in and out and in and out.  They can sit and stare out the window for hours at a time.
Bubba:  Yeah, I got a pet rock that will do the same thing.
Me:  Really?  Well, if it picks up its own poop, I might be interested.

So if they aren’t amused staring out the window all day, what DO dogs look at all day?

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Hhhmmm . . . so this is what Sabbath sees when she wakes up under the bed. I don’t know how she fits under there. She literally claws her way out when it’s time to wake up.
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We are usually on our walk before the sun has climbed over the horizon.  They like to spook me by seeing things in the dark that I can’t.

I’m pretty sure this is all Barney sees while we are out.

This is always an exciting view!
From the dogs point of view,                                          wildlife is the best part of any walk.
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I have to admit, breakfast looks awful!  I wonder why they get so excited about this stuff?
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But when Bubba finally gets home and retrieves the stray Frisbees from the garage roof . . .
 . . . it's time to PLAY!  Hey this look like fun!
. . . it’s time to PLAY!  Hey this look like fun!  See how Sabbie turns the Frisbee upside down before she carries it back?

I wonder what I look like to them as they wait for something to fall off the counter while I’m preparing dinner?

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WHOA! I’m a GIANT!

On weekends, they like to go outside early in the morning . . .

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 . . . and bark at anything that moves!  Then I have to haul their butts back in the house before they wake up the whole neighborhood!

The best part of any weekend is the dog park!

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The dogs actually get a pretty nice view with their head out the window. I might have to try that sometime.
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This is like clubbing for dogs. Except better, because they don’t have to ask all those silly get-to-know-you questions. If you like someone, you just go up and hump them.

 

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See how silly bubba looks making Sabbath settle down before she chases the ball? It works for like 5 seconds.

When we get home, Barney is exhausted and collapses in the yard . . .

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 . . . and watches Sabbath catch her second wind . . .

Peace . . .

Posted in Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

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The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.
~~Henri Cartier-Bresson


Weekly Photo Challenge:  Fleeting / The Daily Post

Other favorite interpretations you might enjoy:

hierophant
Wildersoul Rainbows
That Chick Piggy
Spotted Feather Farm
A Beautiful Epiphany
Emilia Brasier Photography
wordsvisual
ExpatZac
Someday I Will Learn
Great Follies  How CUTE!

Posted in Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Phoneography Challenge: A Day in the Life

Better late than never, as they say.  March is done.  Phoneography month is past.  But dammit, I’m going to see this through because that’s how I roll.

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
~~Robert Frost

Weekly Photo Challenge:  A Day in My Life – The Daily Post

These are a few of my favorite interpretations:

One Day in Zanzibar / The Human Rights Warrior
NYBOD Photography
The Wish Factor
Wildersoul Rainbows
The Sprightly Walker
Jacquie Just Doing Life
Phoneography Favorites / The Daily Post
A Rainy Day of Spring / Live a Thousand Lives
PragueByKaty
A Day in the Life of Rara / Rarasaur  (Yay!….Circles!)
Wind Against Current
Tricia Booker Photography

Posted in Room and Board, Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Phoneography Challenge: Lunchtime

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“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
–Orson Wells

In my case, white beans with brown rice, tomatoes, and salsa with a half sandwich of lettuce, smoked turkey and avocado on whole wheat.  I am fortunate to work close enough that I can come home at lunch, kick off my shoes for a few minutes and let the dogs out.