Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ruby the puppy

The newborns
Ruby has been the reason for very few blog posts
over the past few months. Talk about having a baby
at the age of 60! Sleepless nights, disrupted days, being confined to the house - all these elements defined the arrival of this newcomer. The tranquility of the home was gone. My two other pointers were terribly put out, and are only now, four months later, starting to accept her. Rocco who doesn't like other dogs, was a big worry, but he has stoically put up with the ear pulling and biting inflicted mercilessly upon him, much to my relief. I have to referee these sessions as Ruby's energy knows no bounds. Her exuberance is delightful and exasperating at the same time.

Lila is the old girl, and has not tolerated any of this. Frankly I'm often grateful for her intervention with her angry growl being instantly obeyed by Ruby, whereas my hysterics have little effect.
At six weeks
"Silence is your best tool", says Cesar Milan. OK, so I'll practice silence and only use "shhh" to reprimand, I think as I set off on a walk. Thankfully as she is now older, the frantic pulling (which looked more like swimming), is under control most of the time. But I've had my legs excrutiatingly strangled in the chain, been pulled over onto my face, and had my hands and fingers pulled out of joint and made enough noise to alarm the residents of my suburb that a maniac woman is on the loose. When I get home I rate myself on a scale of naught to ten and usually get naught.
One of the worst aspects of having her, has been my disappointment in myself. I believed that I am now a calm and mature being who could handle anything with patience and dignity. Ha! All my adolescent emotions returned with a vengeance, as this scamp did all the usual things that puppies do - but that I didn't want her to do. "You must be calm and assertive to create a balanced dog" says Cesar. And here I am creating a delinquent in 10 easy steps! 

Taking a nap on my office chair
On the plus side, if it wasn't for Cesar she wouldn't have developed so well. When I was calm, I implemented his rules very nicely, and she is slowly turning into a quite obedient adolescent. She has wonderful spirit which needs nurturing rather than crushing, so I've learned to be reasonably tolerant.......

Eight weeks
Nothing is safe from her, from my underwear to the veggies I've prepared to cook that mysteriously disappear off the kitchen counter. I have never had a puppy that is so over enthusiastic about absolutely everything I do, from digging a hole to plant something, to watering the plants, her nose is right in there too. She's eaten six apples at a time, a whole packet of salted roasted broadbeans, and very strong ginger sweets. A whole bulb of garlic and a red chilli were also taken, but not eaten. In the garden she'll take a nibble of spring onion with relish. When she discovers a nest of eggs, I can forget about an egg for breakfast until the hen decides to find a new place. This obviously has to be a closely guarded secret.
Terrorising Rocco
Fitting in with the new family
I can't do anything without at least ten interruptions. Forget about a peaceful cup of coffee to read a magazine. She'll bring a ball, steal my biscuit, start a biting session with Rocco, steal something from the kitchen, chase the chickens, start chewing a hole in the carpet - you name it, she'll do it. There are a few holes in my lounge suite, in my carpet, in my clothes and my socks. There are quite a few holes in the garden, and the potatoes got dug out of the grow bags. She digs in her drinking water, food bowl, bedding and the carpet. In the garden she "helps me" by carrying sticks, trying to relieve me of a load of weeds, standing right next to the spade, broom or rake where I want to use it, and helping me dig the hole for the plant. Luckily she hasn't removed the plant once planted.This is one type of dog that needs people. If you leave a German pointer alone all day with no regular exercise, there will be major damage!
Luckily I am there to consistently correct her and there really is minimal damage. And in all fairness, she is so intelligent that she learns very quickly - it's her intelligence that makes her so curious and inquisitive.
At the end of the day when she snuggles up with me making her little grunting noises of contentment, I realise how worth it, all the effort is. She has so often made me laugh and  is utterly adorable.

On a walk
5 months old

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spring at last!

I'm not the only person who has been saying that this was a long and hard winter. Even my sister-in-law in New Zealand says the same. We are truly grateful that spring has finally arrived! This must seem very weird for those of you in the northern hemisphere who are now hunkering down for winter! But it does seem that global warming is causing chaos with our seasons, with extreme temperatures on either side of the world.

The prolonged cold and wet caused many repercussions for me. Firstly because our winters here in the Cape are very rainy, it meant that I spent half the winter mopping the floors. 12 muddy paw prints, morning, noon and night kept me very busy indeed. No need to go to gym, when you also have to take three dogs for a good long walk every day. The normally lush and gorgeous herb garden was a muddy, bare space for much longer than usual. Only stinging nettle provided verdant greenery. I didn't manage to prune all the trees, so now the olive trees are wildly waving about in the wind, full of flowers and minus the possibility of a bird flying through the middle without its wings touching any leaves, as they say it should be. The plum tree, and apple tree were only half pruned. It would be very funny if they had the best fruit ever! Usually the harvest from either tree is wretched - one or two plums and a dozen or so wormy apples.

Melissa in the vegetable garden jungle
Now that we have had a few really warm days all the plants have responded with alacrity and have burst into leaf and flower. I have never seen Melissa (lemon balm) with such big leaves, the nasturtium leaves are the size of side plates, Chelidoniums are at shoulder height, together with rocket plants in flower and the odd poppy, which makes for a lovely wilderness in my veggie patch! I had a francolin with a chick hiding in this lush jungle for a while, so to give them a safe haven, I avoided weeding for quite some time.
Needless to say I have been harvesting herbs to make tinctures from the fresh plants. From the soil to the alcohol takes less than an hour, and we herbalists believe that making fresh tinctures like this, captures the essence of the plant when it is at its peak. The results speak for themselves. For example, fresh tincture of Melissa is a superb remedy for those pesky cold sores that make us look terrible and feel even worse. Within minutes of application the burning and tingling are gone and the blister starts to fade.
Another herb I tinctured fresh was St John's Wort. Strangely enough I had reason to use it fairly soon and was astonished at what a powerful anti-inflammatory effect it had - relieving an agonising pain with minutes. (I don't keep pain killers in the house and resorted to taking this tincture out of desperation.) Tincturing this herb is like magic. The minute you add the alcohol to the fresh green leaves, blood red colour starts oozing out, and the final tincture is red.

I made many batches of my delicious nasturtium pesto. It freezes so well, that even six months later you would never guess it had been frozen. Have a look for the recipe in this blog if you'd like to try it. As I said the nasturtium leaves were huge this year....

I wasn't fibbing when I said how large my nasturtium leaves were.

Finally Spring was heralded by a swarm of bees that decided to make their home in the owl box that my neighbour Andy Vermeulen made for me and put up high on the wall of my house. Here they are with the swarm getting bigger by the day. I'm not too sure what to do about them and have been asking people for their advice. I believe that bees like a calm environment, and today the garden help must have made a noise dragging a garden chair around just under the bees, and he got stung by very angry bees.

Any advice will be appreciated. Happy spring everyone!!