Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some Photos from Taj MuttHall Yard

SUMMARY: Spring! Sproing!
Momma dove cocks her head at the camera and tripod and oddball human balancing on the side of the hot tub.
Taj MuttYard has this old dying--well, ok, dead--apple tree that these big old bees just love. Bees bigger than the first joint on my thumb. They never sit still, never, buzz buzz buzz bumble bumble bumble. Need to figure out a better way to try to get a clearer shot. There are Big Black Bees--
and Big Yellow Bees. [Note added later in the evening: These appear to be The bees appear to be Xylocopa varipuncta (Valley carpenter bees), and the male is yellow, the female black!
And sproinging around in the yard--Human Mom is on a quest to get an awesome Tika With Favorite Toy shot. Not there yet, but this is kind of getting there.

Boost helps Human Mom figure out camera angles.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Life in the Agility Lane

SUMMARY: Dogs + class + car + yard + blahblahblah
For some reason, people seem to think that I'm into dogs. Go figure.

For example, my nephew gave me a lightweight fleece blanket with a picture of golden retriever (or maybe lab) puppies on it. Very nice blanket. But, see, dog stuff is not part of my *normal* life (in which I might use a blanket); it's part of my *dog* life. My house is decorated with dragons, not dog stuff. But, well, it gets cold around here with the heat turned down, so, nifty, a blanket. I take it down to my office chair to wrap around myself.

Also, here's a collection of greeting cards I've received over the last year. (Did I ever mention to anyone that I'm also known for things piratical? Apparently I did--)

Despite trying to keep my dog life and regular life separate, they all intertwine. Last night, backing out of the driveway to go to agility class, I broke off a sprinkler riser by the driveway. Eight and a half years in this house, backing out of the same driveway, and I've never touched it. Go figure.

Dogs did well in class last night. Tika's contacts were beautiful (sigh), very fast 2-on/2-off. Boost's weaves were beautiful. Boost still knocking some bars and not wanting to come in to me on serpentines. We were lucky: Tuesday classes were cancelled due to rain and it's supposed to be raining again today, so we just squeezed in Wednesday.

I'm trying to transfer out of the Wednesday night class because it's getting close to Real Hikes season with the sierra club Wednesday Night Hikers. But evening classes are very popular and at the moment there might not be any other openings. (My old Thursday night class was turned into a world-team class. Go figure there are enough people at that level around here for their own weekly class. Tough competition all the time at local trials.)

This morning the Merle Girls and I dropped off MUTT MVR at the dealer to take care of a few things. I set the alarm for 6:30 to be first in line, and the dogs were VERY excited because alarm always means going to dog agility. They were a little confused when I did a few things that I don't normally do on agility morning. (Yes, they did really look puzzled.) After dropping off the van, we walked home the two and a half miles. I remember making this walk back when i first moved here, and being exhausted at the end. Now? Piece of cake. I don't hike all that often at the moment, but when I do walk or hike, it tends to be more than a mile, so am I a studly hiker or what, doing my 2.5 completely level sidewalk walk?

At home, I'm sitting at the breakfast table, which on my split level looks down over my office, just a wrought-iron railing separating them. Tika comes over, looks through the railing, and starts growling, then when I say "What?" she goes into full offensive barking, looking down into my office. I look that way to see what evil she has detected (note that Tika is NOT Boost, who sees evil in many places, but not Tika ever). Go figure. Here's what I see:

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

SUMMARY: Bright blue skies, fluffy white clouds, sun sun sun!

After last night's rain, the air was so clear today that the sun streamed down with no interference whatsoever. All the plants look SO green, it looked SO springish--

The parking lot of the garden center was full.

Gotta love San Jose climate!

There are no standing puddles in the yard and not even goopy mud, just plain old regular wet soil. Today--first time in what seems like forever--set up jumps and tunnels in a huge loop around the yard and just ran ran ran with a few teeters, weaves, and dogwalks tossed in for good measure. YEEEha!

Boost knocks bars. Don't tell anyone.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Gotta Love January in San Jose

SUMMARY: Photos from my yard.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Focusing In--

SUMMARY: Camera and weaves.
Lenses arrived yesterday for my new camera! Yay! Started really playing around with things today. Getting a feel for the first nonzoom lens I've ever owned.

Spider has a brand new web that's much neater than the previous one. Yesterday morning she was showing me her underside.

Today, no sign of Ms. Spider at all. Trying to get a dark background to view the complelte web, so it's at an angle here (instead of looking roundish when straight on).

Autumn--cyclamen are blooming!

And the rain lilies.

Have been working on proofing weaves. For about a week, I ran them straight into an area between a tree and a bench to make sure dogs would keep going even if I didn't and even if there was nowhere (obvious) to go after that.

Now I've got them sideways along the far side of the yard, with jumps lined up more or less towards either end, about 18' from tunnel to jump, 18' to jump, 18' to weaves to get a good running speed (and that's about as far as I can get in this yard). This way the dogs approach the weaves at a right angle or even greater than a 90-degree angle at full speed and have to make the turn into the weaves.

It has been an interesting couple of weeks. Oddly, Boost who has trouble managing these things in competition (and in class last week), is doing great. Tika, whose weaves have almost always been lovely, has been popping out early or missing her entrances. Not often--but I think more often than Boost.

The training never ends!

Random pollinator on rose, violating rules of macro: hand-held in shadow with a plant swaying in the wind. Wonder why it's not perfectly sharp?

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Olio a la Canine

SUMMARY: Dog Day, rats, computers, lawns, cameras, ballet, agility, and anything else I remember to stick in here.

Ballet: Canine freestyle keeps advancing in wonderful ways. Plus this is a blue merle working border collie. Let's see your jumping horses do this.

National Dog Day: Who knew? Check it out.

Rats: Returned to my attic shortly after we thought that they were eradicated and sealed out. Apparently gnawed a new hole. Didn't I vow live traps after my last trauma? There's a reason why you wire the traps to something large or immobile when you set them: Yesterday, a young rat caught just his rear leg. Dragged the trap as far as the wire let him. Tika is an avid rodent hunter and slayer, so I figured, take it out to the yard, release it, and Tika will make quick work of it. Boost was intrigued, especially at the squeaky-toy squeaking. Tika? Turned tail and ran into the house. Came out when I insisted but wouldn't come within 5 feet of the rat and backed off as quickly as possible. Boost, who apparently has a soft mouth, thought it was a great toy--picking it up, carrying it around, tossing it in the air. This was a cruel way to treat the poor injured thing, and when neither dog showed any interest in completing the task that I really didn't want to do, I got a shovel and dispatched it with one quick slice. Sorry. It was traumatic for me, too. I am definitely in the market for a live-capture trap. I have no idea how effective they are. Dang dogs. Dang rats.

Camera: Still haven't decided for sure what to get. But it might be postponed even longer. Because--

Computer: Have been putting off buying a new Mac for as long as possible. Bought this one in January 2001. Invested in an upgrade processor a year ago, plus new internal disk drives. The processor died back in April, but it cost me a goodly sum of service dollars to get to the root of the problem. Went through 2 replacements under warranty until we got a 3rd one that finally worked. This week--all the symptoms are starting to reappear. I am close to not having a working Mac anyway. Jeez, I hate computers. I would really LIKE to get a new one, but it's all about the $. However, I'm starting to get into a negative time & $ flow on the existing one. Sort of like having an old car--when you start paying more on repairs than you'd pay monthly for a new car, it's time to switch. Sighhhhhhhhh--

Lawns: Mine. Infested by grubs. Last year they killed a small section of grass before I figured it out. This year lots being killed, but I kept checking and didn't find any grubs until last week, when suddenly all very visible. Applied grub poison yesterday. Labeling is very scary. Kept dogs off lawn all day yesterday until it had been watered in twice & dried (label says once/dried is enough). But can't afford to keep resodding lawn, either. Maybe too late. Much dead grass.

Agility practice for this weekend: Ha.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bloomin' Yard

SUMMARY: If you like flower photos, this is for you.

I tried to do a complete inventory of everything blooming in my yard on June 15 (oops, didn't get to it until the 27th) and today, July 15.

Browse the photos, with very brief comments, here for June, here for July.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Remembering Weaving Poles, Flowers, Birds, and What Else Anyway?

SUMMARY: A little yardwork, a little practice, new neighbors.

Yesterday I didn't go for a hike, didn't go for a walk, didn't even really practice any agility. I did split, plant, and/or repot some hostas, mondo grass, western bleeding heart, redwood sorrel, impatiens, begonias, lobelia...and some other stuff that I've already forgotten.

Also trimmed dead or rangy bits from some lettuce, pothos, ferns, more mondo grass, irises, mint, and those large white daisy things that come back every year. Plus some other stuff that I've already forgotten.

In between, Boost lay next to The Toy, off on the lawn in the shade somewhere, and waited for me to offer to throw it. So I did, sometimes. And sometimes we played the Find The Weavepole Game. Don't recall where I learned it. Basically, you play with the dog like crazy, get her all het up, then take the toy away and say "Weave!" and let the dog find the weave entry.

You start out easy, in a location close to an easy entry with the dog alongside you and you're both facing it. The you move to various distances and various angles away from it, with the dog maybe facing you when you take the toy away.

The idea is that my job is to identify the obstacle. The dog's job is to find the correct obstacle and correct entry and do it. Boost does OK if it's not too hard. I should do more of that; used to do quite a bit of it but it's just one of lots and lots of clever agility training stuff that over time I've already forgotten.

I'm just tired of Tika having pretty dagnabbed good weave entries--and always has--and Boost just dagnabbed doesn't, and she's well over 4 now, what's her excuse? Plus I'm tired of having raggety looking plants lounging around like reprobate rejects from the plant factory. Plus tired of empty or half-empty pots. It's almost summer, fer crying out loud!

Plus I had to avoid the TWO birds who now think that nesting in my potted plants, which I water regularly, are ideal places to raise a family. The mourning dove conveniently took the apartment that I filled with soil but left unplanted specifically for mourning dove nesting; how clever is that bird? How clever am I?

But until I watered the last litter of finch teenagers (see here and here), I didn't realize that finches had moved in down the hall from the dove. Apparently the complaints about the overzealous shower caused mom to move one pot down the hall this time to raise the next litter. Both pots contain plants. Hope they can go a while without water.

What was I talking about? I'm afraid I've already forgotten.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stretching...or Not

SUMMARY: Cramps, stretching, fruit in my very own yard.

Last night as I dozed off in bed and changed position, the muscle inside my right thigh and halfway down the side of my calf started to spasm/cramp like crazy. Man, those things really hurt. Tried to massage it and keep the leg stretched to make it go away. Sometimes my lower spine compresses the nerves and I get some of that, but usually in the sciatic nerve, and usually if I can get to a position where I can do some relaxing stretches, it eases off. This time, every time I moved, it went again.

I finally got onto the floor to try to do some stretching, and it went again. Repeatedly. Then, as that eased, it shifted to the top of my thigh. I'm sure the dogs thought I must be rabid, rolling on the floor and moaning and cursing and begging for it to stop. I think they were looking for the shotgun already. Then, after it taunted me with several repeats and then eased off and I moved slightly, it started on the inner thigh in my other leg. When that finally eased, it moved on down to the shin and foot of my first leg. Every time it would start to ease, I'd move, and it would start up again. Over and over.

That was 20 minutes of abject pain. I was ready to tell anyone where the treasure was and betray all my fellow double agents to make it stop.

When it all finally decided to quit, and I was able to do some stretching of the spine (hard to tell which came first), I hobbled downstairs to research about leg cramps. Yeah, I worked very hard the last 2 days, hauled a lot of agility equipment that I don't usually haul, sweated a lot when I don't usually sweat. Could've been the weight on my spine. Could be mild heat stroke--I did feel unnaturally cool in the evening before bed. Could be dehydration--I drank 4 sodas, a glass of milk, a bottle of water, and had a bowl of ice cream and some fruit between getting home and going to bed 5 hours later. Could have been I lost salt and potassium. Could've just been the unusual type of exercise. OK, so much for research. But everything said, drink more. And some said, bananas and orange juice are good sources of potassium. And some said add a tsp of salt per quart of water and drink that.

I was still thirsty, so grabbed another soda. (These are all diets, BTW, no calories.) Having had my fill of bananas for the day (2 already), I stood there in the kitchen at midnight peeling oranges (fortunately I had a huge bowl sittign on my table from the tree in my yard). Couldn't deal with drinking salty water, so I had a couple handfuls of salty pretzels instead. I'm sure that's VERY healthy.

And then I slept just fine, thenk yew. But the muscles that cramped *hurt* today--not ache from the work they did, but like they were yanked in the wrong directions. Bleah.

Meanwhile, back at the dog training arena: I've been working for many months to try to get the dogs to stretch on command. Susan Garrett says it's easy, just have a clicker and treats with you when you get up in the morning and are doing your morning rituals. So mostly the dogs have learned to stretch in my upstairs bathroom. Every time I go in there, night or day, for any reason, the dogs show up to stretch. But only their front ends; I can't catch them stretching their back legs out often enough for it to have registered, although I'm thinking that Boost is starting to do it more often.

Boost has also converted her front end stretch into more like a play bow, although her elbows are straight and it's better than nothing. Tika does actually get the shoulder and neck muscles stretched when she does it. Obviously I didn't hold my criteria well enough with Boost.

I've been putting a command to it, and they've responded really well...in my upstairs bathroom. Have recently been experimenting with it in other locales. Was just out in my side yard, thinking about how much the muscle in my inner thigh hurts, when the dogs wandered over. I had no treats or clickers, but I did have my camera, so thought I'd give it a try. Tika did a perfect front-end stretch, but danged pocket camera wouldn't focus fast enough to take the shot. And she wouldn't do it again when she realized there were no treats.

Boost, however, did it after my 3rd or 4th request... VERY quickly.... and then had to be coaxed to try again, and DID! Long enough for a photo.

And the reason I was in the side yard was to scout out my absolutely favorite yard-grown fruit:

Blackberries! This is apparently the season, RIGHT NOW! Got to get out and start pickin'. I'm SURE they're jam-packed (ha ha?) with potassium and salt and electrolytes and muscle relaxants and all like that. I can just tell!

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

TaJ MuttHall Yard and Local Deities

SUMMARY: In which we take a camera tour in our very yard to prove that lacking an SLR doesn't mean that we can't take quick unartistic snapshots anyway. Plus an inventory of yard deities of many persuasions.

Visit here for a lot of fun photos like these, but with captions, to see what kinds of activities and lives go on in the Taj MuttHall yard.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Spring Color

SUMMARY: Iris and roses in Taj MuttHall's yard.

These and a few more roses are here. (As of the moment of this posting, they're still uploading.)

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Random Things in April

SUMMARY: The mind wanders. The life wanders.

  • Last week it was so cold that I ran the space heater under my desk on several days. Yesterday we beat the all-time temp record for this date, which was set over100 years ago. Hey, people, this is supposed to be April! Dogs don't much care--still wnat me to Throw The Toy--except that when they fetch it, they run and drop it in the shade and wait for me to come get it. This weekend--when we're doing agility again finally, mind you--it's supposed to be cool and very rainy. Unsettled weather: Unsettling.
  • Last summer I bought a brand new purple Jolly Ball for the back yard. (Well, really, for the dogs, but it lives in the back yard.) The dogs love that toy. Shortly thereafter, it vanished. I looked everwhere, even underneath the miles of shrubbery lining my fence. Nada. Finally gave up and bought a new one.

    Last week I got to work finishing that trimming job I started...uh...a while back. Guess who's been overwintering 6 feet up in the shelter of the shrubbery? Yes! Mr. Jolly Ball!

    Reminds me of the time that Mr. Red Jolly Ball vanished from the yard and I gave up and bought a new one. Came autumn, fruit trees dropped their leaves--and there was Mr.RJB nestling in the branches of the apple tree 15 feet up. (Thought I had a post on this but can't find it. Sorry; know you're disappointed.)

    Now--*I* would notice if I tossed a JB into a tree or a shrub. Renter claims that he'd notice, too. OK, you guys, fess up: Who's been sneaking into my yard and tossing JBs into mysterious places?
  • Huh--this horrible nasty way overgrown privet, once stripped of its branches (my intention was to remove it entirely--maybe there's be more room for another tunnel?), has apparently self-grafted like crazy. He never listened to Mom Privet saying, "If you keep wrapping your branches around each other like that, they'll freeze that way!" Makes me want to stop sticking my elbow in my ear all the time. Fortunately it did not self-graft itself around Mr. JB. The real problem here is that now I think that this is so cool that I don't want to take it out after all. Sigh. The price one pays for one's art.
  • Naming dogs: I take forever to come up with dog names. That's why Jake stayed Jake as he was before i got him, and Remington stayed Remington as he was in his pre-TMH life. Keep threatening to name my next dog Spot or Fido or King or Queenie. ...So...how come no one ever names their dog Kingie or Queen? Is this sexist?
  • Just lounging around in the yard, watching the Graf Agility Zeppelin float by.
  • Painted Ladies recently migrated northward through our area in massive quantities.

  • We're starting agility class again this Thursday, after a 9-week absence for R&R Woo hoo! Dogs will be much happier. We're just starting some practice again in the yard. Boost is still knocking bars. I've been perhaps less than faithful in doing everything that was recommended during our hiatus. But we did have a good time. Mostly.
  • Unemployment rate in Silicon Valley popped up to 11.2%. California overall 11%. Fourth highest in the country among all 50 states. Wasn't high tech supposed to be recession-proof? Agility trial entries are down. Is it the economy, stupid? Or the stupid economy?

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Things To Do When Not Doing Agility #83

SUMMARY: Go to the garden center.

Having large, active dogs and a not very big yard don't mix well with having lush gardens like we used to like having before we had, like, large, active agility dogs and most of the yard cleared so we could have large, immovable objects like Aframes and dogwalks ensconced. So any pretty kinds of plants that we want (vs. large shrubs that can handle themselves in a scrap with an agility dog) go into pots, not beds.

Taj MuttHall especially likes hanging plants because they are mostly out of the way of the Squirrel Patrol. But inexpensive plastic planters, after they've been hit enough times by flying Jolly Balls or flailing agility handlers practicing their moves, plus being too busy to actually water the pots, makes them start to look less than optimal.

Plus the big houseplant that's eating the desk needs a bigger pot, since no one is eating his roots any more.
So off we go to the garden center. Now, the dogs don't go into the garden center, but they inspire me in terms of not buying delicate plants that won't last more than one direct hit of the Jolly Ball. What a surprise to be greeted at the garden center with a sign for dog food! Apparently gardens and dogs DO go together.

In fact, there is an actual genuine dog department here in the garden center with toys and leashes and beds and clothing for dogs who don't like to be completely in the buff when out in the garden, and like that.

If you're light on actual dogs, you can even buy your own, complete with breed-appropriate accoutrements, if you like them on the stony side.

Uzza wuzza wuzza, how could you almost not take those faces home with you?

If you want to know what your setter or maybe springer spaniel looks like surrounded by hummingbird feeders, this is pretty much it.

I note that there are no CAT sections in the garden store. Cats are not really friends to gardens. Obviously Mr. Garden Center knows that. Too bad for you, cats. But if your agility dog selection isn't sufficient to make your garden feel occupied, you can purchase a wide variety of additional occupants.

But, OK, on to the pots. Wow. I love looking at pots. Wonderful colors.

Today, though, we are looking for indoor pots. OK, not quite as bright, but still catches the eye.

We make our selection (a couple of the bluish ones) and start to head out towards the flowers. But look who has come in to the garden center to decide on her next stage of exterior decor: Daisy! Daisy is very busy examining everything in the store, too busy to have her picture taken by paparazzi who admire her little wire-haired dachshund eyebrows.

Fortunately, Daisy brought along Bob and Pam--apparently the chauffeur and the gardener--and they positioned her on a convenient table for some portraiture with a cheap snapshot camera that likes taking photos of pots, which hold still, but not of actual animated beings. (The SLR camera is too snobby to go to a mere garden center with me; it consents only to go along to actual, say, actual conservatories, where it can take artsy photos.)
Then daisy moves along--thanks, Daisy!--and we do, too, to the actual plantage area--and wow again, Taj MuttHall always has trouble deciding from among all those alluring colors. Easier pick: Which ones will die the slowest?

We had hoped that, since our lawn needs mowing again already, there might be some spring/summer plants. But no, it's still winter annuals. Which we decide is OK. But how come I'm all of a sudden craving coconut sorbet? Weird. Huh.

We pick from among the violas and the primrose and head home to throw the Jolly Ball for our own dogs into a pot or two of daffodils or maybe hyacinths.

And maybe someday soon I'll post something about agility again.

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