Monday, 5 December 2016

Gardening With Dogs and Chatting With Chickens

Chickens have been part of my gardening life for a few years now. They follow me around, listen to my ramblings, and rarely disagree with anything I say. They are an absolute joy! One morning when I was giving the chickens their daily weather update, I became aware that I was being watched. I turned to discover a mother and child scurrying away with unseemly haste from the scary chicken lady. Happily it hasn't put me off chatting to my chickens. They are mighty fine listeners - and it has nothing to do with the corn in my pocket.
Our dog is a ready listener too, although the kids insist that it is cupboard love. Unlike the chickens, he talks back to me because in the age-old tradition of dog parents, I have given him a voice. To the uninitiated it might sound as if I am talking to myself, but it is simple enough to work out who is speaking as the dog adds 'mum' onto the end of every sentence, because obviously I am the dog's mother and not the other way around. 
Gardening is just one of the many topics of conversation we have covered since Basil joined our family earlier this year. We share certain interests in the garden. We both like to dig, for example. The only difference between us is that I like to dig holes to pop plants in; he likes to dig holes to get those plants out again.
Basil and I are united in our love of lying on grass, but you won't see either of us for dust on mowing day. Basil is so anti-mowing that he has taken steps to hamper any attempt at grass cutting by storing his extensive collection of treasures on the lawn. 
We both deadhead flowers, although he doesn't think that it is necessary to wait until the flowers have bloomed; and his fondness for harvesting entire tomato crops irrespective of whether or not the fruit is ripe, is legendary. But the one thing he loves most is to see the garden filled with… well, filling.
He is adept at tidying up sticks. Sometimes those sticks might have fallen from a tree, although more frequently they are actually entire hedging plants which have been uprooted and taken for a few laps of honour around the garden before being filed away in his collection of treasures on the lawn. 
When I am planting I can always rely on him to pick up any empty plant pots. If he should stumble upon a pot containing a plant, he will remain unfazed and dispose of the plant and the pot together. He even saved me the effort of tidying away my pink gardening clogs by rendering them unwearable. What a thoughtful boy!  


Our garden was once a farmyard and the soil is very stony. Basil is a hero when it comes to digging out stones. He will never let a plant stand between him and his one-dog mission to improve the soil and create stoneless borders.
When it comes to training shrubs, he takes hard pruning to a whole new level. Here is what was left of a standard rose after it had been 'Basiled'. Admittedly it's not the cleanest cut I have ever seen.
If I’m honest, I would prefer Basil to be a little less boisterous in my borders, but he is still young. It’s his first birthday this week. I am looking forward to the day when Basil is happy to relax on the lawn and watch me nurture the plants he so energetically uprooted during puppyhood. In the meantime, we will celebrate his birthday in style by planting and removing a new hedge together. He’s really looking forward to it… or so he tells me.

40 comments:

  1. Awww, what a handsome boy he is. He reminds me of a dog we had when I was a child. Archie was very similar when he was a puppy, deadheading all my plants and eating my tomato crop before it even had a chance to ripen. He'd happily crunch on any stones he found and he even helped me get rid of the slug and snail population as he enjoyed having a munch on those too (beware if your dog does this as it can cause lungworm, it's very serious), but I'm happy to say that he's grown out of all of his bad habits now and he's happy to just relax in the garden and enjoys watching what I'm up to.

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    1. Thank you for this encouraging comment, Jo. Here's hoping that Basil grows out of his bad habits very soon.

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  2. Hi Sarah, what a lovely written post! Unfortunately I don't have chickens, but we have two young rescue Dobermans, which is more than enough for our small suburban lot. I can so relate to the "gardening fun" that you are having with your Labrador. Our older boy is now about three years old and calming down, but our little one is about eight month and "redesigning" the garden each time she is out. Sometimes I am mad at her, but my love of dogs even tops my love of gardening. And I hope things are getting better, I may just have to wait two more years for that ;-)!
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. There can't have been much of a gap between your two dogs' redesigning of your plot. You must have the patience of a saint!

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  3. Talking to animals isn't so daft, in fact the response can be rewarding for nutters like myself. My grandfather used to talk to the cockerel who attacked him everyday, I was very young it sounded like talking. but I didn't understand some of the words.

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  4. Once Basil leaves puppyhood behind, I'm sure he'll provide more constructive support in the garden. He's a handsome fellow and I'm sure he's entertaining to have around, even as you curse the mess he leaves behind. Cats aren't as good at listening as either dogs or chickens it appears - mine just walks off and does as she pleases until she's scooped up and put safely inside.

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    1. Oh I'm sure she's listening... she's just playing it cool so that you'll do as she wishes and carry her indoors. Clever cat!

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  5. Oh I so enjoyed reading this post, with Basil you never will have a dull moment. I also like talking to animals and I´m very sure they understand.

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    1. Absolutely. They don't always do as we ask, but this is not due to any lack of understanding.

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  6. This brings back so many memories of when our Spaniel was younger. I am not sure if they ever stop enjoying gardening ! We had to fence off our vegetable patch. Dear Basil looks so pleased with his job as Undergardener.

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    1. I don't blame you for fencing off the veg patch. I grow most of our food in an area which is fenced from Basil, but not from the chickens. Those girls have managed to dig up fruit bushes in their quest for bugs. I really can't win!

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  7. Oh dear Sarah - your patience knows no bounds - labs are known for their destructiveness and Baz has proved them right. He is adorable though and I can see why you forgive him his misdemeanours.

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    1. I have to confess that had I not read a couple of books on labs when we got him, I would have been shocked by his behaviour! As it is, I have deemed him to be a textbook lab, and trust that one day he will calm down and behave impeccably.

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  8. Your post is hilarious to me. This brought back so many memories about my chocolate lab, Mishka. He was a terror in the garden the first two years. I am offering encouragement in that after 3 years these dogs are great garden companions and they eventually realize, after much scolding, they are to protect boundaries and not dig them up.
    I have always wanted chickens yet have not taken the plunge. I can imagine you walking around with the chickens clucking along behind. And yes, my neighbors know I talk to my dog, plants and of course to myself.

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    1. Oh you must talk to plants - it's compulsory! When you finally get some chickens, you will wonder why you didn't have them all of your life. The girls are under cover at the moment because of the avian flu risk. I do miss them trailing around after me and I can't wait for them to be allowed out again (nor can they - one of them is on a mission to escape).

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  9. Reading this adorable post brought a smile to my face. Your lab Basil is precious and quite the helper in his own sort of way. I have a cat that is two years old and she doesn't go outside in the garden, but helps me around the house. I put the nice potted plant on the table and she knocks it off or I water the plant and she climbs into them because she want to help! You have the patience of a saint and it is amazing how much we love our animals like children. I love all the photos, but the with your lab and the watering can just made my day!

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    1. I didn't realise that cats could be so helpful around the house! Our pets are very much part of our family. We miss them when we're away and we get exasperated with them when they don't behave, but my goodness, we love them!

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  10. Very amusing post. I have a friend with a large back garden but she can't plant anything because it either gets chewed to the ground or dug up. Judy and I stick to cats, though we don't have one at the moment. Our last cat, Phoebe, liked to follow us around the garden. Whenever Judy tried to take a photograph of a plant, Phoebe would pose in front of it, thoughtfully ensuring that we had enough pictures of her.

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    1. How selfless to provide a sense of scale while ensuring that you have photos of her. Multitasking at its best.

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  11. I read you post in work today, it did make me giggle. Gardening with dogs certainly has it's moments. Before we inherited Rocky hound I used to look after my sisters then puppy. She chewed her way through a row of asparagus fronds in their second year of growth. No chickens here yet x

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    1. I would be upset about the asparagus fronds. It's bad enough that they are attacked by beetle! Reading a post in work? How naughty!

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  12. Aw Basil is adorable! Dog conversations are definitely real, we're just translating for them :D

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    1. Good thought. I have never felt so multi-lingual.

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  13. I had to smile at Basil's behaviour. He is a gorgeous dog. Harry, my border terrier, has always loved running around with plant pots, too - soil, plants and all! Love your chooks, as well, - their gentle clucking noises are always so comforting.

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    1. Border terriers are gorgeous. Clearly though, like labs, they need to improve their gardening skills!

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  14. Absolutely loved this post. I love dogs and seeing you love your dog in that way has melted my heart indeed. Simply lovely -- the post, the post-writer and her dog

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  15. Happy Birthday Basil! Animals bring a new dimension of appreciation to a garden. I have always held conversations with denizens of my garden. A friend once looked at me strangely when I was talking to a plant. I defended myself, but then she pointed out that I also talked to worms! I could tell garden/doggie stories all day long. I loved yours! We have never had chickens, however. Unfortunately, out city bans them within the city limits.

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    1. Nothing wrong with talking to worms! I endlessly apologise for unearthing them when I am weeding. The one niggle I have about chickens concerns worms. When they get hold of one, they run around with it while being chased by the other chickens who want the worm too. I feel so desperately sorry for the worm that I spend more time protecting worms from hens than I do weeding.

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  16. Young Labs can be very destructive, yet adorable! A broken standard Rose must of tested your patience.Basil is a great name. Our Murphy is twelve now, he still occasionally leaves a trail of distruction when chasing cats or the foxes and badger that visit the garden!

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    1. The rose has started to sprout from the stem as you might expect. It no longer fits in with the standard rose scheme, so I plan to dig it up and move it elsewhere so that it can continue life as a shrub. Is Murphy a lab too?

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    2. He is a rescue dog that looks like a yellow lab, but there is I think a little collie there. There are some pictures on the blog under The Team.

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  17. Hello Sarah, this post is hilarious, but I hope Basil isn't being too much of a hindrance and I hope he grows up quickly and learns what can be dug up (weeds) and what should be left (plants), as well as the proper technique for pruning. Will you be teaching him the Clematis pruning groups?

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    1. Judging by the state of my Clematis collection, he has redefined those groups!

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  18. What a lovely post, I did enjoy it, Basil is absolutely gorgeous!xxx

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  19. Ha ha ha! Loving Bail's gardening style! My Basil is a Gus, and he too has his very own voice! Thought I was the only one daft enough to do that! :-)
    Gus, Like Basil, loves (un) planting, and we have a delightful game we play where I plant the tulip bulbs and he pulls them up, so I plant the bulbs and he ... well , you get the idea ...
    A very happy Christmas to you Sarah, and , of course, to Basil! xx

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    1. Thank you, Jane! Ah... the tulip bulb hokey cokey. Hours of fun!

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