Monday, April 30, 2018

More Dog Drama

The very best days, in my opinion, are those that are a pleasant mix of work and relaxation. I am happiest when I'm accomplishing something, but my weekend coffee breaks are sacred. These are about an hour and a half each Saturday and Sunday in which I read and knit or embroider and look at decorating or gardening books. Saturday was a glorious mix of work and play, but yesterday morning, our younger dog Phoebe launched an unprovoked attack on our older dog, Sancho. If you've ever seen a real dog fight, you know how distressing they are. To see your sweet and cuddly pet turn into an angry, snarling, wild animal is truly horrifying. Jon pried the two dogs apart, and after we reintroduced them to each other, Phoebe made apologetic gestures to Sancho, nose touching and tail wagging, while Sancho resignedly tolerated her. Sancho wasn't hurt, at least.

More than a year ago, they'd gotten into a fight and I'd read that younger dogs will sometimes try to usurp the older dog's position as pack leader. The book I read said to reinforce the older dog's precedence. So I made a point of always allowing Sancho out the door first, giving him his meals and treats first. That seemed to work for nearly eighteen months until yesterday.  And then, several hours later, they got into another fight, again, unprovoked, as far as we can tell, although the fights always start when we aren't looking. Still, there was no food and no toys in the vicinity. This time, Sancho has some superficial bites to his snout.

So now we have them separated until we decide what to do. Phoebe has the dining room and sun room to herself, where there's a comfortable bed and plenty of windows. Sancho has his usual space in the living room. We have always kept distance between them at meal time.

Jon and I both hardly slept all night, and he is going to call the vet today. We are wondering if Phoebe has an illness or something that's making her lash out.

I don't usually crowd source about problems, but let me know if you've had dog fighting issues in your household. I've read some articles online and one suggests that the attacking dog may be stressed, perhaps by an ear infection. We also had traps set for a ground hog on our property on Friday. The traps are baited with some sort of ground hog sexy times scent and we theorized that Sancho had gotten some of this on himself and smelled irresistibly of ground hog. So I bathed him last night, in case that is the issue.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Dog Shaming

The two pictures below sum up how the washing machine delivery went.

I thought I was so clever, putting a plate of chicken in the sun room with which to lure the dogs so I could lock them in for the delivery. Phoebe fell for it, but Sancho didn't and let me know that if I tried to make him go into the sun room, he would bite me. So I had to build a ridiculous furniture barrier between the living room and the hall. It looked like a child's fort with chairs turned sideways and tables and desks all pushed together to keep Sancho in the living room. And of course when you move furniture, you stir up a lot of dust, so the house became filthy. The delivery men were very nice, but they must have thought I was nuts. Both dogs barked ceaselessly the entire time they were here. It was mortifying.

Hastily constructed furniture barrier
Attempting to console Sancho during the process

When the men were walking to their truck, I followed them out with an envelope for each and asked them to have a beer on me.  After I released Phoebe from the sun room, she went upstairs and liberally decorated the floor in front of the washer with poop, to show me just what she thought about being locked up during its introduction to the household.

But it's lovely having a washing machine again - this time a commercial grade one that blasts through a load in twenty minutes. And now that I'm no longer spending hours each week at the laundromat, I'll have more time to work on my home and gardening projects. Plus, tomorrow I'm starting ballet class at the School of Richmond Ballet.  Oh! And, and, I finally got to the top of the library hold list for Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. I'm reading it now, but am only a few pages in.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Happy Friday

Just popping in for a quick update. It's Friday and I'll be working from home for the day because our new washing machine will be delivered today. Our "old" one (we bought it only seven years ago) has had multiple breakdowns lately. I've been without a washing machine for over three weeks now, so I'm eager for the new one to arrive, but also dreading the delivery itself since I'll be alone and will have to somehow control the dogs and gracefully pass tips to the delivery men. Jon is usually in charge of both of these things, but he can't stay home today.

Phoebe, I will probably be able to lure into a bedroom and shut her in. She is young and headstrong, but I know she won't actually bite me. Sancho is more difficult as he can't climb the stairs anymore and he will threaten to bite if you collar him and try to make him go somewhere he doesn't want to. Our usual method is to entice him into the sunroom and shut the door and then barricade the open entry into the kitchen with chairs. But he is deeply suspicious and even with treats as a motivator, it is extremely difficult to get him to go where he doesn't want to. Who could guess that the two sweet-looking dogs below are the absolute bane of my existence and have made us the outcasts of the neighborhood?

The garden is coming along. The radishes got off to a slow start, but they are growing. It has been a cold spring this year. I sawed many limbs off the trees along our back property line and also pulled up miles and miles of Japanese honeysuckle and English Ivy. I also successfully uprooted many wild grapes. Now the poison ivy is starting to appear and I pulled up all I could find, and even after careful scrubbing, the rash is coming out on my arms. Hopefully it will be confined to the arms only. And honestly, if I achieve a pesticide-free poison ivy eradication, the rash will be well worth it. Our property hasn't seen a drop of chemicals since before 1990 and I don't want to break the record.

I read an excellent book, Farm City by Novella Carpenter. This is the book about the urban farm she created out of her rented upstairs apartment in a bad neighborhood of Oakland, California. She didn't have enough land and squatted on a next-door vacant lot. This wasn't just a big vegetable garden with a few chickens. She kept bees and raised animals for meat - turkeys, ducks, geese, rabbits, and even two pigs right in downtown Oakland. The pigs, she and her boyfriend fed by dumpster diving from the finest restaurants in the bay area. This is a fascinating read, fast-paced and also very funny in parts. Sometimes you encounter an author who feels like a kindred spirit and I sense that with Novella Carpenter. I love her determination and her ability to thumb her nose at convention. I think I shared that my long term goal is to turn my own property into an urban farm of sorts. (Although I have no intention of keeping pigs. They sound exhausting.) And I'll also be squatting, on the city-owned hill on the other side of our driveway. It gets the best sun. But for this year, I'm sticking to one cautious bed in the back with my radishes and chard.

Oh, and finally, I'm starting the process of switching to Wordpress. I've bought a domain name and have a host. Now I'm working on setting up the space and eventually migrating all my content here over to there. I'll let you know as this develops. The new site is nowhere near ready to be launched yet.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Reading Lately

I've been plowing through books this year. Here's a selection of what I've read lately.

Country Chronicle by Gladys Taber (1975) Taber was well-known for her books about Stillmeadow, her farm and 1600's house in Connecticut. This book consists of musings categorized by the four seasons, with recipes interspersed. One such thought, which I wanted to quickly write down before I forget, concerns the many tourists that come to New England in the summer. Taber observes that you always take yourself with you when you travel. In other words, the way you behave when you travel is a reflection of who you really are, since you are away from the constraints of the community that knows you. This isn't the first of Taber's books that I've read and it won't be the last.

The Headmistress, Growing Up, and Miss Bunting by Angela Thirkell (1940s) There's a comforting sameness to Angela Thirkell's novels and while I can't reconcile myself to her classist and sexist world view, there's still something endearing about these books. She's adept at portraying awkward social situations and difficult people and you can't help laughing at some of her characters. On the other hand, Thirkell makes it clear that women should be content to accept men as their superiors, the serving classes are happiest if they are being subservient, and that social mobility is anathema. But what are these books about? Thirkell herself pokes fun at herself through her Mrs. Morland character who writes novels that are "all the same." All three of these novels are about small communities in the fictional region of Barsetshire, dealing with World War II, and the vagaries of human nature, with bits of romance thrown in as well.

Thank Heaven Fasting by E. M. Delafield. (1932) A deliciously cynical, although somewhat somber, novel about Monica Ingram, a young girl being groomed for the marriage market. Her upbringing is both impossibly sheltered and cynical. All people are gauged according to whether or not they are "useful." A young man who's attracted to Monica isn't a marriage prospect because he doesn't have enough money, but he's deemed useful because his presence helps prove that she is attractive and will thus attract more eligible men. Monica's parents, on the one hand push her into adult society, on the other, treat her as a child and leave her utterly unequipped to deal with men. And so, because of the very innocence her parents try to preserve, Monica does serious harm to her chances.

Goat Song by Brad Kessler. (2009) Another back to the land book; the most satisfying of the ones I've read so far. Kessler and his wife Dona buy a farm in Vermont and raise dairy goats. The book is a pleasing mix of the down and dirty details about animal husbandry and cheese-making, and a poetic celebration of the goat and the special relationship between a herdsman and his animals. I like Kessler's voice; lyrical without being pretentious. I was surprised to learn how many of our words come from goat behavior. Capricious, for example, from capri, comes from the finicky way that goats eat. There's also a frankly shocking description of goat sexual behavior which helps one understand why the image of a goat is associated with sexual depravity. (The description also raised my hopes for what might be revealed in the Steele Dossier. Ahem.)

Happy reading! Feel free to share what books you've enjoyed this winter.