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.