Litter Box Blues.

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It’s pretty clear by now that I am a dog person. There are cats living throughout our neighborhood (which my dog has earmarked for his next escapist adventure) but it wasn’t until a new family moved in that we started having . . . ahem . . . regular . . . problems. She’s a very sweet kitty, and her family is very nice, but she uses our garden beds out front as massive, luxurious litter boxes. When this all started, I had already sowed some seeds and transplanted some starts. Where plants are present, she doesn’t seem to go. I thought the twine would help, but she must fit perfectly inside a square foot.

I know it’s counterintuitive to go out and spend money on horse, cow, chicken or worm manure, when dog and cat feces is readily available. Permaculture enthusiasts are all about the mantra, “Find the solution IN the problem.” It’s not a bad philosophy, but the main difference is the composting process. When you buy manure for your garden at the nursery, it has already been processed (don’t even get me started on the vilification of that word) to kill harmful bacteria. “Raw” poop is not the dressing you want on your farm-to-table organic salad.

I was distraught over the time lost. My carrots and beets had just started germinating in their perfect little (Yay OCD!) square foot gardening grid, and Piddle Kitty not only kicked the crap out of the sowing pattern to make room for her buried treasure, but also ruined the wholesome dream of pulling a carrot from the bed and gnawing away. Grief was a necessary process. (Ha! There’s that word again!)

My next move was chicken wire. I first tried cutting small squares to place over the unplanted areas, but brazen little Piddle Kitty felt comfortable kicking the squares out of the way.

I finally made peace with the necessary ordeal:

1. Say goodbye to all of my progress in that bed.

2. Find some gloves and a bag, some tin snips and the roll of chicken wire.

3. Dig through each square, letting the soil fall through your fingers, searching for clumps.

4. Toss all the clumps into the bag.

5. Cut a panel of chicken wire to cover the whole bed. Try not to curse too loudly as the sharp edges twang up and attack your exposed skin while attempting to recreate the roll shape they prefer.

6. Do what your can to flatten the panel.

7. Plan to sow the next round through the chicken wire.

8. Potentially transplant through the chicken wire, but that will involve more time with the tin snips, cutting out openings in specific spots.

9. Accept that animals do what they do.

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2015: Tomato Progress

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They are a bit taller than I’d like, but I’m using the indoor lamp and heat mat. The light is most likely not low enough, which causes the seedlings to put effort into reaching up, rather than bushing out. They have gone out for a couple of “field trips” on sunnier days, but it is much too early to transplant them. They will need a long hardening off period with those wispy stems.

Learning to Embrace Dirt.

Well, maybe not quite embrace, but more than tolerate.

I now have two pairs of overalls to go with my garden clogs. I may spend more time changing clothes than ever before, but I find I’m actually doing less laundry. I pretty much have six categories of activities / clothing: Yard work, Dog Park, Errands, Working Out, Occupation, Social Engagements. I used to wash every item of clothing every time I wore it, which might’ve been only for a couple of hours. Now, I put on my overalls and get filthy, then put them away as is until the next day when I need them again. My dog park boots are the same – absolutely caked in (what I’m hoping is mostly) mud. I still wash these things, just not every time. Learning to get right with dirt . . . ? I’ll keep trying.

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The dog absolutely loves to roll his brow, cheeks, shoulders and back into especially odiferous areas of the yard. On warm days, he has also decided that digging down a tiny bit before laying down creates a cooler bed. Between his tricks and the human-powered footwear that tracks in mud & mulch, there is a daily need to clean up.

I used to get super frustrated with the constant mess on the floors, but it seemed like there were only a handful of options:

1. Suck it up and . . . well . . . suck it up. (Use the vacuum myself, while fostering resentment.)

2. Super patiently request help of one’s family / housemates. (Whine, nag, blame, negotiate.)

3. Hire a housekeeper. (Feel slovenly, guilty about spending money, and judged by total stranger.)

SUPER SECRET OPTION 4. Make a robot share the work.

Let me throw a disclaimer out there that we are ridiculously lucky, and had an old roommate who was no longer using his Roomba. When I heard of this last Fall, I began strongly hinting to my husband that it would be the most life-changing Christmas present he could ever get me. (BTW, last year he got me a SodaStream, which I use for shrubs and other naturally-flavored fizzy delights.)

Granted, we did not pay full retail for the robot, but I’ve now had the little guy for three months, and I don’t want to live without him / it. By the way, I am totally aware that a robot vacuum is not alive, but anthropomorphism is inevitable. Every time he bumps into a wall, I feel a little bad for him, and when he gets stuck trying to hurdle the divider between the hardwoods and the linoleum, I give him a boost. The dog has never even batted an eye at it, so much so that he sometimes won’t notice that the vacuum is about to run into his leg. He always looks a bit surprised when that happens.

I love that I can set up little gates that keep the Roomba in a dedicated area, and that he can find his way back to his charging station before running out of battery. I especially love it when the washing machine and the dishwasher are also in on it, and I’m dusting or scrubbing the bathroom. I’ve got a whole team of helpers that don’t take a paycheck, and won’t judge.