Well most every year I've done a flower post just to keep track of the evolution of my yard from dog sacrifice zone to stop on the Better Home & Garden Tour, which transformation will be complete any day now.
In the meantime, here are some scenes from the work in progress.
In the front yard are some things that I put in years ago and have somehow survived and thrived.
The Knockout Rose I put in when Fozzie was just a kid and still on Petfinder,
and formed the backdrop to his profile pictures that failed to get him adopted
This rose I also put in years ago,
and a few years after that I put a St. John's Wort--which is now huge!--in the large bare area next to it.
Notwithstanding these showy and obviously cultivated specimens, I'm going for a wild meadow kind of a look in the front garden.
and things for the pollinators to enjoy
like a nice butterfly bush,
some salvia and my favorites, agastache with their little tubular flowers and licorice-scented leaves.
There are a few kinds of mint, which took over but I don't care because it's a nice weed to have.
My aunt gave me some Gooseneck loosestrife which has also taken off,
and the spirea and the hydrangea are thriving despite relative neglect.
The front meadow garden makes me very happy, and it is for the most part even standing up to the dogs!
The back yard is what's really been keeping me busy.
Landscaping and gardening are truly an art form. My mom and my sister, both very gifted with the visual arts, have a knack for it.
I do not! But I know things look prettier when there are less weeds, more flowers so that is a place to start.
Wood chips are another great ally that you can put down in places where there was once dense weedy vegetation,
and they'll help keep down the weeds.
I also think they look really nice and help the mind relax and space out.
Which is what gardening is all about, isn't it?
That, and squash. I intended to have a vegetable garden with a few things, but it turned into pretty much just a squash garden.
I planted way too many and because they are squash, they all succeeded.
Yellow squash and zucchini so far but there may be some large gourds and winter squash to come as well.
Good thing Dahlia and I love squash, especially since Fozzie and Florian are picky eaters.
Having sampled quite a few of the treats on monthly offer from Chewy.com,
I've come to realize that the best treats are often the ones made of the fewest ingredients. So I was excited to try Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Gourmet Beef Liver Dog Treats.
They come in a generous 16 oz bag, and are made only of beef liver that has been slow-smoked for 15 hours.
I was not expecting this, but they are hard and crispy though they can be broken easily into small bites appropriate for training.
And let me tell you, training is a breeze with these treats.
They are apparently so high-value that the dogs were falling all over themselves trying to con me into serving them up.
Fozzie readily launched up into a supported stand with front paws on my arm.
Dahlia was happily doing a prison crawl, and front paws were offering shakes all over the place.
Sits happened in a snap.
And for what I think is the first time, Fozzie offered an enthusiastic Roll Over, almost without even being asked to.
They were just trying anything to get their hot mouths around these snacks.
That is, until the excitement got to be too much for Fozzie and the whole thing just degenerated into humping.
Which is a not uncommon outcome for our training sessions, and perfectly understandable when you consider just how exciting these treats were.
I also have been using them on walks, where I can sometimes interrupt Fozzie mid-lunge when he sees another dog just by sticking one of these in his face. No pictures, because you try holding a camera when you've got an 85-pound lunger and a 40-pound humper in one hand, and a smoked liver snack in the other hand. But it really shows you the power of high-value treats in training difficult tasks!
Thanks Chewy.com, for some absolutely mind-blowing treats!
Another weekend, another chance to spend time outdoors and in the water.
Saturday was a nice relaxing day at my aunt's pool. I generally don't bring my dogs as I want my aunt to invite me back, but I have been feeling particularly in love with Dahlia lately and couldn't resist bringing her.
She was actually really well-behaved, sitting quietly under my feet as we ate lunch then enjoying herself in the fountain.
She only harassed my aunt's dog Charlie when we went outside, so I leashed her up and used the opportunity for some make-out time.
Staying at my aunt's place is so relaxing, time easily gets away from you. Fortunately, my dad was there to keep us on task so I got home right when Florian got home from teaching, and we were able to head to a nearby reservoir for a dog-free date nite on the boat.
Really nothing better than getting out in the boat in the late afternoon, when the air is still and the sun is less intense. And yes, it's pretty amazing to have some dog-free time too.
Shhh! Did I say that?
Well don't worry, dog-free time never lasts for long around here. Sunday it was time to bring the dogs for a hike. We chose Tuckahoe State Park, not too far once you cross the Bay Bridge in Maryland.
We took a nice trail for a while, but there was no water on the trail, the dogs were thirsty, and it was hot. Plus, we were both exhausted ...Florian has for some reason been teaching an insane number of classes lately, and I've been pulling weeds and rearranging plants and rocks with a vengeance.
We saw that near the trail there was a lake and a place where they rented canoes. We thought, why not?
We've been thinking a lot about boats, fantasizing about getting a boat that the dogs could go in, like a canoe or like the porta bote that our boat-savvy friend Pamela told us about.
And we learned something, namely that it would take some doing to get our dogs comfortable with riding in any boat.
A canoe looks pretty stable from the outside, but try riding in one with two big dogs who are constantly shifting around, leaning over the edge, and occasionally humping one another.
It was fun, but maybe not as relaxing as one might hope.
The canoe was very unstable and responsive to changes in weight. When the dogs sat or lay down in the middle of the boat all was well, but they didn't do that often. When they shifted, they tended to shift to the same side, both at once, and I was pretty sure we were going to capsize more than once.
So after a while I disembarked with the dogs and had a nice walk around the lake while Florian explored in the canoe.
That was more relaxing for everybody, though of course Fozzie got anxious that his people were separated.
They both relaxed once they could go in the water, especially Fozzie as he is an old pro. Dahlia usually tries to avoid deep water, as I don't think she knows that she knows how to swim. When she unexpectedly went into a deep part though, she seemed to do just fine!
Seems to me that all dogs know how to swim, they just need some practice to realize that it comes naturally to them.
Even if they are terrible at canoeing.
How does YOUR dog do on the water?
Much as I love spending every moment of every weekend with the dogs, there are some watery activities that are just easier without them.
After buying an inflatable boat, then selling it, buying another inflatable boat, then selling that one, then borrowing our friend's kayaks for two summers, then being gifted an inflatable kayak, which he also sold,
Florian has finally settled on an inflatable zodiac as his favorite toy in the world.
It is actually pretty cool because two people can fit in it,
and you can paddle or use the motor that Florian also bought.
But sometimes a girl's gotta have her own toys, especially since I never know how long Florian's toys are going to stay around. We found an incredible kayak, lightweight and almost small enough to fit in my Honda, but big enough to put Dahlia in it should I ever decide to.
Had to go to several Dick's Sporting Goods to find one where they hadn't already sold out,
but finally found the perfect little kayak to enjoy all by myself.
And found that there are really few things more relaxing than going kayaking solo.
That being out on the water in the middle of the afternoon, alone in the midst of a still, silent expanse of water, surrounded by trees and sky and with boyfriend and dogs and even Uncle Johnny off doing their own things, is a great unheralded pleasure.
Love my new kayak! Now just have to find a way to keep Florian from selling it.
I don't know about you, but for me the best outdoor adventures are the ones involving water.
For dog-centered activities, there's just nothing better than watching those things swim around and get nice and wet.
This past Sunday, I really wanted to go to a place we went a couple years ago around this time of year, where we'd found vast numbers of incredible raspberries. I grew up picking berries in the Adirondacks so it's something I just can't pass up.
Florian didn't really want to drive that far though, so he took me to Liberty Reservoir.
Huge, beautiful, peaceful reservoir that supplies water to Baltimore, so no swimming for humans. But there's a trail going around it, and while there were a number of people boating and fishing, the trail was pretty empty.
So lots of opportunity for the dogs to be off leash
and run and swim like little lunatics
There is something so peaceful about large expanses of water, especially when there are few people and the ones there are don't care about you and your dogs.
And the best part - the trail was covered with raspberries!
Apparently they just grow like mad all over Maryland in the woods in the vicinity of Baltimore. The dogs and Florian patiently waited while I indulged my childhood compulsion.
On the way back, we stopped at a sweet little produce stand and got some beets,
and learned that beet greens are yet another food Dahlia enjoys.
Who knew? Truly something for everyone on this trip. Sometimes listening to Florian really pays off!