Pick Up Sticks

As a youngster growing up in New Jersey, I got to weed trees and pick up branches off the ground. I have no fond memories of picking up sticks. A hard-on-the-back, boring task, it ranked as one of my least favorite jobs.

So imagine my dismay when I saw, after a couple weeks of 20-40 MPH winds here in Kansas, that our yard was littered with sticks. The job is even more hard-on-the-back than I remembered, and it continues to be my least favorite thing to do in the garden. Honestly, I’d rather weed.

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I have only myself to blame. I wanted trees. I planted trees. And they have grown large enough to lose branches. Although, to be honest, some of these sticks were pruned, not picked up.

And while we were outside today in this wonderful 50 plus degree weather (it’s February in Kansas, folks), I decided to water. We have had neither rain nor snow for several weeks. It’s time.

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I just wrote an article for The Republic’s spring home special section on planting trees, which I think is coming out sometime in March or April. Here’s the bit on watering. “For the first year, trees need about 10 gallons of water every week. This takes some juggling with the weather. If it hasn’t rain or hasn’t rained enough, we use five gallon buckets with a hole punched in the bottom. This guarantees that every tree gets the right amount of water. The gradual flow – it takes about 20 minutes for the bucket to empty – aids absorption. After the first growing season, water every 10 to 14 days as needed.”

The interesting bit is that watering in winter, as long as the daytime temperature is above freezing, won’t hurt the tree even if the nighttime temperature drops below 32 degrees.

Once watering was done, it was back to picking up sticks again. Although here’s a conundrum. This branch is stuck way high up in the tree.

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Here’s a shot of the tree to give you a sense of just how high it is.

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I keep waiting for the wind to knock it out, but I think it’s tangled in the other branches. Darn. I need a bucket truck to get it down.

Middle of February – two hours of yard work – and I’m exhausted. Better start getting in shape for the spring season.

Runaway Dogs

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Gardening with dogs is a challenge. Gardening with Loki (the Vizsla) and Juno (the Black Lab) has turned into my worst nightmare. They see me dig and they want to dig too. They see me pull weeds and they don’t understand why they can’t tear out flowers. They steal my small tools, want to sit on my kneeling pad, and in general make themselves giant nuisances.

But okay. I can deal.

Back when we moved in, Jim installed an invisible fence around three acres of our property. We trained our ‘then’ dogs by walking the perimeter with them and teaching them ‘watch it’ when they got too close to the boundary. When Loki and Juno came to us as pups, we trained them the same way. For the past five years, we left them outside, absolutely certain that they would stay in the yard. Other dogs came to visit. Our dogs did not break bounds.

Until this year.

“Where’s Loki?” became our favorite question. Chasing cars, running with the horses across the street, playing in our next-door-neighbor’s field, chasing squirrels and rabbits and birds.
We put up flags along the fence line. We walked the perimeter with them – again. We yelled “Watch it!” No good.

Finally, Jim (and sometimes I) had to go outside with them all the time. Even then, they’d sit at the very edge of the fence line, looking longingly off into the distance, turning every so often to see if Jim was still there and still watching.

It looked like we would always have to keep our eyes on those two!

One stormy day, Jim started talking about building a dog run from the garage door to the workshop. Not a big area, but a costly project. I started talking about walking the dogs like everyone else – on a leash. A bit weird in the country but it would keep them from going totally wild.

Finally, we agreed on a large kennel, one that we could move around the yard for sun or shade depending on the season. Combined with ‘watching’ them while they ran outside, giving them a playpen was the only way to keep them from running off.

And shhhhh – here’s my secret. I plan to keep them kenneled while I garden.