I have certainly thought about blogging about gardening during the past season but that’s as far as it got. Thinking about it. Don Marquis, an American poet and journalist said “procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday” . And while it didn’t happen yesterday, here’s the story of our experience with a brand new crop this year. Sweet potatoes.
Our growing/hardiness zone is 4B in Ottawa, ON. We had talked about growing sweet potatoes in previous years before but had concluded we weren’t in the right zone. That changed when we learned that a local organic seed distributor sold sweet potato slips. They aren’t available until June here. You plant them only after the risk of frost had passed.
We had intended on buying enough slips to fill an entire 20 foot row but when I learned about the steps you have to take after harvest, I bought enough for a half row as a first try. Here’s the dirt on growing sweet potatoes this past season:
Tilled and mounded a 10 foot row. Laid a wide strip of black plastic over the row (sweet potatoes like warm soil) and secured it at the edges .
Make a slit in the plastic every 2 feet and plant a slip.
That’s it till harvest. How easy is that! Water and sunshine throughout the growing season and the vines grew and spread until you could no longer see the plastic. We were all very interested to see what, if any harvest would await us when the time came.
Harvesting must occur after the first frost when the vines turn black. Here’s where we started to wonder if sweet potatoes were all that darling or if they were just plain finicky.
Digging sweet potatoes is not that easy. We learned they grow vertically and try to find their way to the other side of the world. Down into the clay they went (some of them were 18-20 inches long). They bruise and break easily when bringing them out of the ground. There was a bit of exasperation when we started and found we had to scratch around a great deal with hand trowels to see if the potatoes had traveled hither and yon. We got better at digging with the garden fork after a hill or two. If the soil isn’t nice and loose the potatoes break. There were cheers when we removed potatoes in tact.
The potato on the right was on its way to China
We harvested 30-35 pounds of sweet potatoes from 5 slips. Not bad. But the story doesn’t end there. Sweet potatoes need to be cured. I looked for advice on how to cure then and found there were as many ‘recipes’ as there were advisors. Basically the potatoes must be kept in a place that is very warm (25-29C) and humid (85-90%) for 3 days or 7 days or maybe 21 days. What?? One consistent message was curing must occur-conversion of sugars and making it so they will keep longer. Avoid scaring or bruising the potatoes lest they start to spoil. I layered the potatoes between sheets of newspaper and put them in 3 containers in our downstairs bathroom. I covered each container with a garbage bag (thinking it would help with humidity) and then a blanket/quilt. A little heater helped keep the temperature up, as did having the lights on day and night. Once in a while I would turn on the shower to up the humidity. Such finicky darlings, sweet potatoes. I checked them regularly. The humidity never got as high as recommended (had a little temp/humidity gauge in the room). After 3 weeks we reclaimed the bathroom, wrapped the tubers individually in newspaper, storing them in a cool dark place and now hoping to have sweet potatoes for the next several months.
We haven’t decided if we will grow them again next year. By spring the effort of harvest and curing this fall will be mostly forgotten and we will be enthusiastically entertaining thoughts of garden bounty.
Back here at the family dog sitters, that is, me, Squidge the dog. I have been asking if there’s been any blogging since I last visited and understand there’s been none, really. It’s obvious that not only I am on this earth to receive belly rubs but I am also an inspiration in writing circles. If I were a girl I’d be a muse.
I’m just here for a few days but have things pretty much as I like ’em. All centred around me. At least there’s no snow and big rigamarole around putting on boots and doggie jackets. It is Halloween though and I have a costume but my owners forgot to bring it over so I’m not dressed. I was going to be a lobster.
I’m on high alert for the doorbell to ring. There have been about 20 trick or treaters here-a good number for this area they say. I bark when the bell rings but really am happy to see the people on the other side of the door. They have treats and I bark because I want them to give me a treat, I like treats but they just take treats and don’t give any. Sigh.
In the last group of 5 or 6 little people I was there to greet them, as usual. One little girl said “I like your dog!” (I get that all the time) and another smaller girl said ” I have a dog!!” and her brother said “You don’t have a dog, you have a cat.”.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my owners. They say it was 17 days and I have no idea how long that is but while these temporary minders are kind enough, they aren’t my regular peeps. I have been patient and mostly well behaved and it’s been a learning experience for all parties in this house (you know I am a party too). I will keep my exit blog brief for I am a dog of few words. I have three recommendations as a result of this visit (I believe in following project management principles, including looking back when the project is over and making recommendations for the future)
I recommend some clever thinker should invent affordable, warm, easy to put on, non slip winter boots for dogs. Believe me, there is a market. Dogs and owners would thank you.
Evidence based veterinary medicine
If there is a raft of evidence based veterinary medicine available, it’s hidden. Pet owners who are interested should be able to find that information on-line. I recommend a grad student or an information specialist put together a list of good places to look for trials and studies on animal care and treatment. I am sure some owners would pay a fee to access such information.
Pet minder course
It clear to me now that being well intentioned and being good at something are two different things. There are babysitting courses. Why aren’t there pet sitting courses? I recommend (it’s a business opportunity) someone offer a course that would help familiarize people with animal behaviour. These people here would have benefited from such a course. I would have given some of my treat allowance to pay for their enrolment.
It’s good-bye to you all from me now. I have really enjoyed meeting so many of you on-line. It’s a whole other world I did not know existed. You’ve been very kind and supportive during my hour of need when I asked you some difficult questions.
I was thinking of asking my owners if I could have my own blog site but I hear it can take a lot of time so it’s probably best to let sleeping dogs lie.
Thank you to everyone who sent in suggested answers to my riddle. I was going to post the solution last night but time got away on me. First there was a round of fetch and other rambunctious activity and then a nap and then the huge rigmarole to put on my boots and have my last walk of the day. By then I was pooped and just wanted to watch Poirot and then head to my kennel. I thought I’d need a clear head to explain this routine.
Thank you to everyone to tried to figure out the riddle. Unfortunately there was no one who was able to solve it but there were many creative responses. No matter, you are all winners and I will still ask my owners if I can come meet you some time. I’m sure they will oblige.
I’m not complaining but stating a fact that I had to live through 14 of my 17 days with poor boot putting-on technique. Fourteen days where I was very likely to blow a shoe and have a very cold paw or paws before getting back home. No wonder I don’t always want to go out. But now things are better. It eats into my nap time to get ready but things are better.
We are using the PAWZ booties. For a small dog it takes two humans to put them on, really and if there’s only one human available then it’s almost impossible. The boots have no insulation but at least they stay on and protect me from salt, ice and snow. (I bought a smaller size and that’s been helpful). Here’s what we do if there’s only one person around.
My minder cuts 4 rings from a cardboard tube and covers them with duct tape. (credit to YouTube videos for most of this idea) She used duct tape thinking it would give the tube more strength but it’s only been marginally helpful. They collapse after a number of times of being used. The next version might be little sections of PVC pipe or something else (got any ideas?). She stretches each of my four booties over one of these rings. They hold the boot open.
When walk time is nigh, my minder puts two towels in the dryer to warm them and starts telling me a bunch of hokum about how going outside is fun. She warms the towels because she thinks I like it. She picks me up and puts me on my back on a towel and covers my tummy with another. It’s warm and I lay quietly.
With less than remarkable dexterity, she puts my leg in and pulls the tube up and the boot is then on my paw. She slips the tube back down and off.
And finally I’m ready to go. I’m not really excited about it however I seem to forget all the preparation once out in the snow.
Well, it’s almost the end of my time here. I think I have one final blog in me. It will contain a few observations and recommendations based on my experience during my pet stay-cation. Is there anything in particular you think I should include in my exit blog?
I am nearing my last article as a guest blogger. I understand variety is important in keeping an audience interested so I thought I’d pose a riddle to you. Since the whole thing is pretty bizarre and you’d likely not believe it (I have trouble believing it and I’m in it), I’ll give you some clues along with some background.
If you’ve read my blogs during my stay-cation here you may have gathered these temporary minders are well-intentioned but not always adept. I hear they have gone to school and so they should have learned many things but you wouldn’t always know it. Especially if you were a pet staying on a holiday in their home. One of the things we’ve all struggled with is my winter boots. They thought they started to get the hang of it only last night when my stay is pretty much over. But it took two of them to get them on so they would stay and now one of them is gone for the rest of my stay here and I thought ‘Oh boy, we’re hooped!’ but then the remaining minder turned to some of her go-to invention building blocks. Usually she uses duct tape and a coat hanger and sometimes an empty tin can but this time she only used duct tape from that trio. It doesn’t always work though. Has she ever told you about the time she tried to devise a temporary plumbing fix with balloons and duct tape at her cottage. It didn’t end well. It was funny though.
Here is the riddle. It’s a picture of the components of what has been a successful (so far) method of one person putting my boots on and having them stay on for a whole walk. There is a prize for anyone who gets the right answer!! My owners will either drive me or fly me to your house and I will do there what I was put on this earth to do, be very happy to meet you, be petted and be your shadow. My owners haven’t been consulted yet as to this prize but I am a mixed breed and as the vet said last week ” Squidge knows how to get what he wants”.
Here’s the picture. I am very excited to see how many entries there will be!! The contest closes at 8 PM EST on January 15th. Oh, and there’s one thing missing from the picture-the clothes dryer. Good luck!!
It’s -35 with the wind this morning so what’s a dog to do but reflect on his stay-cation When I was on my short but efficient walk this morning (you know what I mean), I thought about what I could give the human for blog material. When we got home, I sat down and stared at her till she agreed to blog for me.
13/17-that’s how far along I am in this visit. 76% complete. Only 4 days till I see my owners! Of course I have no concept of time so here they tell me that I’ll see them really soon and I am satisfied with that.
44-number of walks (give or take a few)
176-number of boots that had to be put on my legs for those walks
40-number of walks where one or more of those stupid boots came off and coincidentally the number of times the humans talked about how they should invent something that works and I secretly thought perhaps it’s the humans who don’t know how to pull on the boots correctly
6-number of times the humans didn’t notice the boot had come off during a night walk and they had to go back out with a flashlight
31-games of fetch inside
1-a very exciting one!-I spotted a rabbit on our block last night! It was so exhilarating! I barked and pulled on my leash with all my might and wished for a leash malfunction. That rabbit was scared out of its wits. It kept running in circles. I think that’s because it knows I have the heart of a lion and am an intrepid hunter. Hands down, this is the most excitement I’ve had in all my time here.
20-number of meals where I was fed in that blasted yellow ball and had to chase it around till the food fell out. I’ve started to pick the ball up and bounce it on the floor and that usually produces some food. Rolling the ball over to the stairs and pushing it downstairs sometimes works but then I have to go downstairs and bring it back up. The past while she’s been hiding food in different places too and I have been hunting for it. I know the rabbit sensed my killer instinct, sharpened by hunting for food here in the house. Frankly, I’d rather they just put my food in my bowl.
This all said. The stay-cation has been okay so far. I have discovered I have a literary side (didn’t even know about blogging before I arrived here), I listen to CBC (I’ve learned there is a Canada Writes contest and think I will enter when I get home. Dogs are not prohibited from entering. I read the rules.) and I watch Hercule Poirot on PBS in the evening. I hear I am going to have a bath shortly. Given the lack of proficiency these people have displayed in putting on dog boots, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the bath scenario.
Yesterday I went on my first car ride since being dogsat. I let the driver know I was a bit apprehensive through whining a new tune on occasion. When we pulled up to Pet Smart I knew I was sunk. All 11 lbs of me was shaking. Big dogs, little dogs, noise and me thinking why do I have to be here. Something about a beard and…well they call it a “sani” trim but it’s really a beard and bum. It took all my resolve to be brave but I was and when it was over I wasn’t shaking any more. Here you see one end being shaved. I didn’t think you’d be interested in seeing the other view.
When we got home I was exhausted and some disappointed in these humans for putting me through the trauma. I wasn’t interested in fetch or much of anything. I may have been down in the dumps after all that adrenalin pulsing through my body. (I think dog’s have adrenalin, don’t they?). I’m glad to say the day ended in joy when company came over for dinner!!! New humans to meet! I enjoy that. I behaved pretty well but in the end I was just plain tuckered from the day and fell asleep in front of them.
And a new day has dawned now. I am being asked to help clean up and do laundry but I’m thinking a nap is more my style. The weather is getting better but this morning it was still -25 with the wind. This morning I tried to convince the humans that I am a dog that doesn’t have any bodily functions. I can sleep on this sofa and cuddle into this blanket all day, I said. No need to take me out. But they did. Back inside, I plan to encourage domestic chores from my special spot in the house:
I have now spent 7 full days on this so called “vacation” of mine. I am getting literally no outdoor exercise to speak of these days. It’s -37 with the windchill tonight. The humans are having some sort of lively discussion about whose turn it is to take me out. Oh, right, you two get to decide which ONE of you goes out while I can’t bring in a substitute. Nooooo, it has to be me who goes out.
I am trying a new tactic. It’s quite clever really. You see my coat is a sandy blond colour and that’s just the colour of the carpet on the stairs going to the basement. If I am called to go outside and don’t want to go (which is pretty much all the time) I go down a few stairs and sit. I think they won’t see me. Thing is, though, I look up at them and my dark eyes and nose show. But I’m a dog and don’t realize it. I heard them say if I was a polar bear I’d learn how to cover my nose and fit more into the surroundings.
I just tried to tear up a paper napkin and that got taken away. I am at loose ends. This place is boring.
It was a busy day today. Not so much for me as the humans here.
I might be only 10 lbs but I punch way above my weight. The humans in this house are very surprised at how much of their attention I take every day. This blasted winter weather adds to it all too. Today there were calls to check about my new food and dog booties and then there’s the time it took to dress me when going outside. Which made me wonder why I was born and live in central Canada and not in Florida. I bet small dogs in Florida don’t have to stand still to put on a winter coat and four clumsy plastic boots to go outside. Dogs in Florida don’t slip and slide on the ice with those booties making traction and balance near impossible to the point where I had to pee like a girl. I just knew the three-legged stand wouldn’t do it. Let me tell you I don’t stay outside one more minute than necessary. It’s minus bloody 30 out there!!
Even now I am demanding attention. The man in this house has some sort of male gathering upstairs this evening and I am stuck in the basement with her. It’s all fine and well that they are drinking beer and scotch up there but it’s the food. I can smell the meat they are eating! AArrrgghhhh! I am penned down here and longingly looking upstairs. The only thing that helps is if I lay down on the sofa right next to her and get petted. She is, therefore, one-handed blogging on my behalf.
My biggest accomplishment today was chewing the nose off my pet dragon. The stuffing started coming out and then it got taken away. The dragon supposedly had “Chew Guard Technology”. Told you I punched above my weight.
As a small dog, well puppy, really, I had no idea I had so much to say when I first started this guest blog. I thought I might blog once or twice. On the other hand I have a short attention span and this might be the last of my insights before I go home. What I’ve really enjoyed and been so surprised by in the past few days are the numbers of comments to my blogs from humans and dogs. I am thinking if dogs are this friendly online then perhaps I should consider being more sociable when I meet them face to face.
Today I want to write about eating (again), clothing design for dogs and evidence based veterinary medicine and my incredible assistance around this house. I haven’t really thought a lot about these things but being in this new, temporary environment has brought fresh thinking.
Eating: my breakfast was served entirely in this ball affair, a kong they say. I have to roll the thing around until the kibble falls out. It’s not easy as the thing rolls under the sofa and down the stairs. Humans don’t need to chase their food around on the floor until something falls out. Not fair. On the other hand I seemed to be full afterward and didn’t whine for more food. Maybe it’s because it took me longer to eat.
Clothing design: who in the world designs dog clothing? Well humans of course but do they ever consider things from a dog’s perspective. Take dog boots for example. I can see why they’ve been made but really did anyone consult a design engineer or an ergonomics specialist? I have 4 boots and they are hard to put on and the humans never do them up right for they come off after a few minutes. They have poor traction. Haven’t you guys ever heard of Yaktrax?
Evidence based veterinary medicine: one of my temporary masters has a bit of knowledge about evidence based medicine (EBM) for humans and she was asking me if the same existed for animals. I was looking around and it seems that there is nowhere near as much EBM in veterinary medicine. And that’s plain wrong, on so many levels. For all the resources that go into animal care in the developed world, you’d think somewhere there would be a push for information that is evidence based and gives the straight good on cost effectiveness. I may start a campaign. There should be databases where veterinarians and owners could look up things and know how much objective evidence exists for a certain treatment or intervention.
Helping around this house. It snowed a great deal last night and I did enjoy a romp in fresh snow but today I am mostly napping. I did help with the Globe and Mail Crossword. They say I wasn’t all that much help but I think keeping someone company is always a help.