the polite dog and the buttercups

Rocko is the most polite dog I've ever known. He refuses to eat until there is food in the cat's dish too. Even if George isn't in the house at all, Rocko waits until I pour something in George's dish.

It's funny, really. After I fill Rocko's dish, I make the open-handed gesture that means "go ahead" to Rocko, and I reinforce that by saying "go ahead" out loud. Rocko goes to his dish, looks at George's, and stops. He turns and looks at me. I get the bag of cat food, carry it over, and Rocko puts his muzzle down into his dish - but doesn't eat. He's looking at the cat dish. Once the cat food hits the dish, Rocko starts to eat. Then I praise him for being the politest dog in the world.

This happens every day, and it is a real bright spot for me.

Today I went out in the yard early on. I saw a slug and said, "Hello, slug!" It wasn't in the act of eating anything I care about, so I let it be. I talked to the house plants (which are deck and porch plants for the next few months) and complimented them on how happy they all look. Yesterday evening I topped up most of their pots with some cheap potting mix. It appears to be mostly composted tree bark. Anyway, it's dark grey, almost black, and it looks nice.

I watered them all well and tended to my tomato and sage seedlings. The two surviving tomatoes were in the same planting cell and have both put out their first set of real leaves, so it was time to split them up. I did just that and put them in their own cells next to the two sage seedlings. All four are now in one flat, in their own cells. I have several other four-cell flats with a bunch of other things: basil, catnip, peppers and okra. I don't remember which is which since none have come up yet, but that will get sorted out.

Now I'm going out to thrash at the hillside. I have let the undergrowth go wild; the massive amounts of rain we received recently could have weakened the hillside and I felt that the undergrowth would help hold things together. But the rain is gone and if I hack away the unwanted stuff (there are a few things I like and protect) it will rebound before the next big rain.

Besides, I have to plant those herbs and veggies somewhere, and mini-terraces on the hillside are my best option. Gotta hack down the undergrowth before it gets woody and hard to cut. No power tools here, and that's how I like it. I have a drill, of course, but as far as landscaping, the landlord cuts the lawn and I only use hand tools for the portion of landscaping that I tend, i.e. the wilderness. Scotty, the landlord, was impressed last year that we were doing anything at all with the hillside; "nobody has cared about it at all before," he said. We had plans for a terraced garden. That didn't happen last year, but we both felt that we should spend one year learning what was growing where, and where the sun shone the longest. We have a lot of shade, which is nice, but gardens want sun. The hillside outside the bedroom window is the best option.

I got to know the terrain over the last year and a half, and learned what grew where, just as we planned. I was ready for the bloodroot and Jack-in-the-pulpit, but the trillium surprised me. I went back to my photos from last year and found that they were right on time.

One thing that really surprised me was the explosion of buttercups. As I said before, I hadn't cut down the undergrowth; a lot of it turned out to be buttercups. Last year (to the best of my recollection) I kept the weeds down and they didn't have a chance to bloom like this. In addition to looking nice, they cover the layer of trash on our southwest corner. There's a steep slope there by the road, the scar left over from a mudslide 8 or 9 years ago, and people used to throw trash there. We cleaned up some of it but I'm leaning toward letting nature entomb what's left. The buttercups are a good start; they are "opportunistic colonizers" and I think I'll let them colonize that ugly spot. There is only one other plant in that area that I like; some kind of big-leafed thing that puts up a pole with flowers later in the year. But it's a big, strong perennial and the buttercups don't seem to be bothering it.

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