Monthly Archives: May 2016

Goodbye Poor Pea Plants

Ac2XgdoI decided to toss the peas due to the aphid infestation.


My battle for them has been waging for a few weeks now. They need to be attacked daily with heavy rinses to get them off the plants. I can’t dedicate that time on my work days. I spent the first hour this morning hosing down the two pots of peas. The Sugar Snaps were bearing the worst of the infestation. They are dying from the base up as the plants try to throw their weight into their fruit. But even that isn’t enough. The fruit was stunted and curled and the leaves growing more pale by the day. Every time I rinsed them a flood of aphids fell from the plants. Due to the dense nature of my garden this puts other plants at risk. And so am I. The peas have lately collapsed and when I brushed against them my chest got covered in aphids.

We have a problem.

If I had them in ground they’d be more robust. The nature of the container makes for a harder task. The plants try but they cannot deal with the heavy infestation. It is frustrating but fort he sake of the rest of the garden I decided to toss them.


My mother keeps asking how they are stopped naturally. Predatory insects. Aphids are fragile and slow. Normally, lady bugs are a huge killer of aphids. As well as predatory caterpillars. But we live in suburbia and pesticide is everyone’s best friend. We couldn’t possibly have insects. This constant and indiscriminate poisoning means that a suburban gardener like me may have few to no natural predators.

After watching the rain of aphids threaten my peppers as well, I decided to bail on the peas. I can’t grow enough plants for a big harvest and by the time they are really producing it starts to get to hot. I think I’ll cross peas off of my list for next year. They are very easy to grow and very tasty. I think they are a great addition to the garden and if I had not had mine infested with aphids I’d be happier this time around.

Most of the rest of the plants are more robust. The cucumbers are furry and covered in spikes for instance. The tomatoes grow harder stalks as the age as do the peppers. I’ve sutured the area with DE and hopefully I can stop the infestation from growing before the heat brings out more insects.

It is pretty frustrating stuff.


A Puppy Spring


“Can we leave Sherlock up here while you go potty?”

Inty trotted past me with Sherlock in his mouth and down the basement steps. That means no. I could have argued and given him an actual command. Instead, I used it as an opportunity to encourage him to continue to carry his toys and not abandon them around the house. Sherlock does not have much longer for this world. His lapels are being consumed at a furious rate and his soft, body with its weird noise maker will soon follow. I’ll let him travel a bit before then. At the backdoor, after a pause, he released Sherlock on a ‘drop’ command and went outside.

Outside, the first thing that must happen is barking. Bark, bark, bark, he goes, head back and in the air as he trots out with a high step. He is listening for the mowers, smelling for the neighbors, and looking for the Rottie puppy next door who often stands on his deck and looks down at Inty.

Sure in his command of things, he trots around and sniffs. He was out only two hours ago but the world has changed. I watered and did things with the plants. The girls have been outside as well. He needs to check up on our tiny patch of backyard. But, Intuition is well trained when it comes to potty breaks. He quickly squats and releases poo into the wild. Then, head and tail up he charges back to the house to come inside.

“Go potty potty,” I say in as fim a tone as one can in that situation. He swerves into a circle and trots around. He smells where he just pooped as I roll my eyes. He then squats and pees. This time he is allowed back in and given his reward cookie as well.

A dozen times a day we do this. He does not poop every time. I do demand that he pee each time he goes outside. It is a far cry from rushing him out every thirty minutes as we did in the first weeks. He is in all intents and purposes, potty trained. The last three accidents he has had in the house have each been the result of my mother or husband letting the other dogs out first. Puppies cannot wait and each time I’ve been frustrated at the lapse. Sadly, we cannot have him out with the girls yet. He can’t leave them alone and focus on using the bathroom.

Now, we just have to let him get a bit older and wiser.

Would he only show this side in training class. The well balanced side that shows he has been taken care of. Instead, there he rages and bounces unable to keep his feet to the floor or his nose from anything. Everything is exciting. The dogs, the ground, the walls, the other rings, the trainers, the leash, the sky, and life in general is just to much for him to stand.

A weigh in at the vet puts him at 63 pounds. That is on track for the pound a week he is gaining. I’d not want him heavier and some would feel he is to heavy because he is not skinny. Inty has never had a skinny, gangly phase. He is at his lankiest right now but even that has a lot of substance. He weighs as much as Autumn but he is taller.

And he is only six and a half months old.

Class yesterday went better. Not well. He cannot walk. He can only run, charge, and cause me two exhausted arms. I keep him on the edge of the class and we try to focus. He is not overwhelmed. He is over stimulated. Many dogs are overwhelmed and they fall back on their owners to support them. Inty sees me as a barrier towards solving his curiosity and satisfying his desires.

As we walked over to work on the restrained recall, I heard one of the instructors saying that they had expected him to go wild and visit with other dogs. Instead, his recall is perfect. This time, he proved again that I DO work with him. The recall is toy focused. The puppy before had to be given treats before she’d run to her person for a cookie. They have you show the treat and run away looking behind you and calling the dog.

I made it two steps and Inty snapped out of the handlers arms like a racehorse at the start. She almost lost her balance as she lost the dog. He was so thrilled. Running with mom! We went for our second try and she scolded me for showing him the toy to soon. I stared at her. But I was not to lure him with the toy until I was away.

Okay, I took off at a sprint and he snapped free again charging at my side.

Later, when trying to convince him to try the tunnel, they called my husband over to hold him. That went better. I expect he will be called in to restrain Inty in the future. The ladies don’t have the strength for 60 pounds of exuberant doberman.

He likes them. He likes most people he meets. He is not digressive. But, as one of the mother’s watching her daughter said to my husband, “If that came at me I’d not ponder or even think that he might only be six months old.”

Having a dog like a Doberman is a responsibility. Not just for the potential of the dog but for public perception. Lord knows I hate public perception. You are judged for your clothing, your makeup, your hair, and your job. I was reading a story about a lady who had to defend her diamond engagement ring from people. They wanted her to upgrade to a larger stone so that people could see she was successful.

We are built to nonjudgmental. It is a survival trait. People don’t see the dog that begs to get into my lap with no understanding of his size every time I sit at my computer. They see the large, predator.  One, who will hopefully stop losing his mind at class.

I can’t see putting him into any type of obedience class. We’re going to have to and I’m going to have to crack down and work on his public behavior. We have to get over this hump.


A House Full of Teens

Last night, as we returned home from dinner, I turned to my husband and said, “We have cats that are almost ready to go to collage.”

17, 17, 16 are the ages of three of our cats. My husband’s two oldest and my oldest. They have all been through numerous homes and relationships before we settled on each other. Even since we have been together, we have moved.

It is a fascinating reflection on time. I’m storming into year thirty-seven. It reminds me of when I decided that if I had not changed my mind about having children by the time I was twenty-seven, it was not going to change.

Why twenty-seven? That is how old my mother was when she had me. You see,  I never wanted children. It is something that I was once loud and open about. Over the years I expressed the opinion less and less. It was not shame. It was that I tired of the arguments that came with it. Not wanting to have children is not very accepted. I was called selfish by my own grandmother as a teenager. It still baffles me that she would have been more accepting of a teenage pregnancy then she was of my choice not to have children.

“Your biological clock must be screaming,” one of my co-workers said a few years ago when he discovered I did not have kids.

“I don’t have one,” was my polite reply. I do not. I’ve never had the desire to reproduce or hold a child.

Children are a huge commitment. My upbringing was not a smooth path and my mother very much wanted me. Having a child with the knowledge that I do have a desire to have that child seems irresponsible.

Aging is weird. I don’t feel much different now then I did ten years ago. A bit fater and a bit stiffer perhaps.


I did recover from puppy class last week but my work weekend quickly slurped up the rest of my time. The weather has been terrible but we may be peeking into warmer weather this week. Clear skies, bright sun, warm and heading into the 80s (26c) for the week. I hope some of my tomatoes may start to ripen with the warmth. I have plenty of full sized fruit. They just need the heat to move into the next stage.


I am much more on top of the pruning game this year. I still do not advocate the advice to strip all leaves off the plant under the first fruit. I have heavily thinned all of the plants around the base. I continue to go through them and snip off the branches filling the interior. These branches twine around each other and create murky spots for insects, bacteria, and dampness to cause issues. And know that they will do their best to have an unlimited host of issues anyway.

The peas are surviving their aphid infestation.

The red currant cherry is still fighting its bacterial infection. The bleach spray seems to be working. It is just a few ounces of bleach in water with a bit of dishsoap to make it stick. The bleach concentration is very low but it helps kill the spores from the bacterial and fungal infestations that try to attack. Powdery mildew wants to make friends with the cucumbers and a light misting of bleach spray once a week is working nicely.

People panic about bleach. This is the same type of concentration used in your tap water or to clean in medical situations. It evaporates instead of oozing into the plant to give the nasty yuckies while people scream organic and collapse. The goal is  not to use a bunch of chemical and metal based fungicide.

There are so many things that want to eat the vegetables


I can’t blame them. I want to eat them as well. My mother’s war against the cabbage moths is going well. She goes days without finding anything. The broccoli has started to produce heads and the brussel sprouts look as if they may too. Both are a lot of work for a small garden and I’m not sure I will add them in another year.

Each year I’m trying new things. It is a lengthy process to learn what does well in containers as well as the local climate.


As always, I am densely planted. I have started to find more container gardeners who are restricted to balcony’ and decks as I am. We fight the good fight with the space we have.

Puppy Class 2 and 3

The second puppy class went well. I forgot to finish writing about it but it was mostly, “Wow. He calmed down and started to get it. He performed wonderfully.”

Puppy class 3 hit and I had a sinking feeling. I always do with him. He is rapidly showing me that he is not the type of dog that is going to be able to work young. He is also to smart to not be forced to work on the basics. But, class isn’t exciting for me. I’m not looking forward to it. Instead, I roll my shoulders and pray I’ll make it through.

It doesn’t help that my work schedule isn’t really one that fits having things to do every week. Yesterday for example, I had to be up at seven to get to work by eight. I left at six and was tired before I even got home. But, I work 12 hour days. So the day before I worked 10-10 as normal.  Inty is normally in bed by 10. We’ve been trying to have him up later and he just turns into a raging jerk.

The problem is the puppy has not developed an off yet. These come at various times. Some puppies learn them for reward based reasons. Most dogs learn them as they age. Some learn them later then others. Inty has no off button unless you put him in his crate. He will immediately pass out almost every time. But, he cannot do this for himself. We’ve been encouraging it with high reward chew toys but anything and everything breaks him out of his calm.

He is a very busy dog.

Cue the third training session. Getting there went well. My husband is back from his trip so came with me. Inty drooled but did not get car sick. We’re doing good. We got there and while he is still a bit barky and excited upon seeing other dogs, he is calming down faster. Maybe we will be okay.

Go inside.

He loses his shit. I have him by the collar. He has leaned to duck his head so that the collar slides down his throat and doesn’t bug him. He will not walk. Hes leaping forward and hopping like a frog. You’d think I was choking him by his collar but I was holding it at normal height.

I frankly, drag him across the room to an empty area. He then spends the entire start of the class trying to lunge for the other dogs. There is no aggression. He wants to play with them.

And that is mostly the entire class. He wants to play with the other dogs. He wants to jump on people. He does not want to look at stupid things on the floor and touch them. He just runs over them or kicks them out the way. He wants to play, play, play, play, play and not with me. I’m boring. He has me all the time. He wants those other dogs. PLAY PLAY PLAY.

But this isn’t a play class. I’ve reached the point where a slack lead means he goes for another dog. Treats are not but so interesting. They are nice. He likes treats. And he is hungry. So he just bites my hand. Then tries to play with another dog.

“Have you thought of a no jump harness or head collar?” They ask me.

No. Because I don’t like ether tool. The head harnesses I hate. The no jump harness is a danger waiting to happen. Nether will teach him the one thing that he has to learn. To do what I say on a regular collar.

You see, I’m cursed with a smart dog. He understands the collar. He understands that he cannot do things on one collar vs another. He will behave like a dream because he HAS to. But we cannot always use this tool and I want him to behave because he is supposed to.

And he is six months old. A six month old dog is not mature. Not even a little bit. In fact, this is the exact age I didn’t want to bring him to class. 4-5 months, the class I didn’t get into, would have been perfect for foundations. Then keep him out till eight or nine.

Instead, he is in class during one of the worst periods he could be. His teeth are in but not settled. His hormones are starting to kick on. That doesn’t make him sexual. It makes him notice more things. The flooring at the school is more interesting then me for instance.

Did I mention he keeps trying to kill himself? It has become a battle to stop him from finding the most random things and consuming them. He figured out how to shred his rope toy with his incisors and ate the entire end. That produced vomiting until it all came up. I think he ate plastic the other day but he swallows it down so fast. He also get my slipper sick, buzzed it in half, and I wound up dragging it out of his throat.

He will eat cardboard. He will eat dirt. I’m not sure I’ve had one that was this mouthy. Nox nipped. Inty just wants everything in his mouth and he wants to eat.

That’s the other thing. He is growing and growing and growing. His weight is good. Dare I say hes a touch to heavy? But he could use more. He’d like more.  He doesn’t understand that if he grows to fast it will be devastating for his body.

Because, he is six months old. Nothing changes that but time. And while, halfway through the class I was fighting back sobs of embarrassment while his behavior escalated, I still know he is six months old. And as upsetting as I find it, it won’t be forever.

But, I’m tired. I’m tired of waking up in the morning to his screaming because hes awake and its time to do stuff. Autumn just lays on the bed and stares at us as if it confuses her too. It looks like I won the battle about what time we wake up. For a week he started to get up earlier and earlier and start screaming and barking. I ignored him and he never had an accident and after a solid week of cutting an hour out of my sleep, he stopped.

I enjoy dogs. He is a bigger challenge then most I have had. I’m not going to say there are not hard times and exhausting times. I don’t want to get rid of him or give him up. But he is not an easy dog. Oh, he is house broken. Hes good with the cats. He is a sweet dog. He catches on quickly. He isn’t even that destructive. But he has made me doubt myself. The test of wills is on going. Until I convince this dog that the only way forward is through me, we’re going to be at this.

The funny thing is that I think we’ve created this monster by doing the right thing. My mom’s home with him all day. He gets a steady stream of attention and interaction. Most of my other dogs have had to deal with my work schedule from a young age. I actually think that it has made us, the people and the attention we bring, cheap. He wants to play with other dogs more then he wants to please people.

But, phases. I’m convincing myself of that anyway.

A few days of sunshine

We’re making it through the poor weather. Searches have led me to decide that my spots on my leaves are bacterial spot or speck. I also have aphids but not in any large number (yet).

For the bacterial infection, I decided to use bleach. Not straight bleach but diluted bleach. The same amounts that hospitals use to kill virus. In a spray bottle with a bit of soap to make it all sticky and I have given the leaves two treatments. It seems to have worked. Most of the spots stopped in their tracks. The aphids we can just hose off. I’m hoping that as it warms up we will get some lady bugs. I already have parasitic wasps. It is a situation I will monitor.


Sunlight is almost familiar. Yet, we’ve had it for two days in a row. Rich, bright sunlight that causes my plants to arc up into its warmth and fuel. New leaves unfurl with a rapidness that causes them to stay curled for the first day.

I’m pruning away. My plants are more naked this year then they have been in prior years. I’m trying for a good balance of foliage and  airflow. I only take the ancillary branches that won’t bear fruit.


These are large branches that provide sunshade and gather light. In the close confines of my deck they are often in shadow or tangled in with the neighbors. This is also the junction that ‘suckers’ grow from. Suckers are normally a new fruit growing branch. Those, I want to keep.


That is how removal looks. Still plenty of foliage for the plant. The new sucker branch creates more leaves as well. The plant doesn’t put energy into a branch that cannot repay that energy due to the logistics of my setup.


Pruning – First Round

I had hoped to have some clear, dry days before I pruned. Instead, I have at least another 10 days of clouds and rain. My plants are growing and producing. It is the start of May so I am far from frantic about the weather. But the dampness is a breeding ground for things we do not want.


Tomatoes like to keep their leaves dry. Wet leaves grow fungal infections and are prone to bacterial infections. The constant rain is worrisome for that reason. Soil contact at these times can also be damaging. That is why the pruning must start there.


Cherry tomatoes are prolific growers. Mine are happily growing as wild as they can. I don’t mind but their interiors start to become a mess as they grow branches between branches. The soil area is so dense we cannot see into it.


Note the yellow edges and damaged pieces. These are all branches that were deep inside or under the edge of the pot.


The same plant with a fewer lower leaves. They will compensate for these open spaces quickly. What I want is leaves on the outside.



I went through everyone. Cleaning up the bases and opening interiors.


There is something amusing to me the relationship we have with our plants foilage. We celebrate their leaf creation as seedlings. Each leaf gives them more energy and ability to grow and survive. Then the tipping point happens and we have to strip away what we once celebrated.


Intuition at six months


He is looking like a dog sometimes. It depends on his interest. Most of the time it is more like this:


He is a good dog and a bad dog. He is smarter then he needs to be. He will lay in my lap and try to snatch food from my plate. He is always hungry because is is growing and when I say growing I mean growing.

We got him a new collar with a nice collar riveted name tag.


His puppy collar was to small and his adult collar to big. We got a middle size and I picked up a name tag that self rivets. I cannot stand jingling tags. I really like this collar. It is a snap collar but the snap connects through the link for the leash.


The way this connector is set up, the pressure from the leash will pull at the collar. The buckle will not take that direct pull until it has been distributed across the collar. I tend not to like snap buckles because they are made to give way with pressure. This should be a bit more secure. I only use this for class. I use martingales for regular walking.

We’ve already had to let this out twice in a week thanks to someone’s growth spurt. I measured his neck this morning. 17 inches at the base. 15 in the middle.

This is not a small dog.

Weird Flowers

I used Jobe’s Tomato Spikes for the first time this year. I believe its giving me a ton of flowers but I have some funky things going on.

The tomatoes normally create a trellis of tomatoes. It extends from the stem and contains the flowers. The flowers pollinate and turn into tomatoes.


But, I’ve had some weird results.


There are leaves growing from the same stems the flowers are growing.


This one came from the Brandywine Pink. The pale color and weirdness of the flowers told me that it was not a healthy set of flowers. This is one of the plants I got from the local nursery. It is a bit young and small for flowering. I pinched this set off as the flowers had not developed properly and looked as if they were going to drop off anyway.

Other plants have started to develop flowers and tomatoes. Some are stalled but appear healthy. Due to the youth of my plants and the cool, wet weather, I’m not flustered. I have a lot of healthy tomatoes growing.



Pests: Saving the cabbage family

Last year I grew some broccoli. It went reasonably well. This year I decided to try again in the raised bed. Cabbage and broccoli in the back where they could take up room and get the most shade. Brussels sprouts in the front.

My sprouts sprouted at the end of February.


They’ve been outside since early March and doing okay. Large, leafy plants that have slowly started to develop the classic column look and hint that they may one day give me Brussel sprouts.


The weather this spring has been rain. Lots and lots of rain. The plants are chugging along. It is only the first part of May. I am not expecting but so much. Still, the brussle sprouts have been growing. I finally gave them stakes to help them stand.


But something has been eating them. I noticed a few holes a few weeks ago. Those holes have been growing steadily. Today, we went outside and it the plants looked devastated.


Cabbage moths. The moths are pretty white things that drink nectar and pollinate. Their babies are green, the exact same green as the leaves and eat the plants to death. I knew we had a load of them. I could see their worm excrement at the base of the plants.

This is the yucky part of gardening. Creepy crawlies. The natural aversion to them is enormous. My mother was bolder and braver. I went to look for them and as soon as I read them described as the same color of the plant and that they look like leaf veins, my mother called that she had found them.


We went leaf by leaf through the Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli. She plucked them into a tub of soapy water.


Now we know what we are fighting.