Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

November 7, 2018

Sharing your garden with a tame dog

I like sharing my garden with my dog. I have a dachshund, and we've been together now for over thirteen years now. And my goal, from the time she was a puppy, was to tame her. And if that sounds strange, please let me explain.

Dachshunds are absolutely wild animals. In the dog world, they're about as far away from a naturally tame animal as you can get. I've known a lot of dogs in my life, and some are just naturally calm, and well-behaved, but dachshunds aren't. I knew that when I got her, so I began the process of gentling her, and I continue it to this day, every day, the way that I tame my garden and make it a calm and gentle place.

When it comes to my dog, it's just like my garden - I'm in control. Not in a cruel way, but in a firm way. I make it clear what I want, not with shouts, but with soft words. Soft words, combined with touch, is what gentling is all about. It's usually referred to when talking about horses, but it applies to any animal that you want to live with. And no, I'm not talking about people - this isn't how you treat people, and if you're confused about the difference between humans and animals, I'm sorry, but they're different. People are much more complex, and need to have things explained to them like "please don't dig in the garden". Animals can learn that too, but things that humans understand are usually just wasted on animals, frustrating both the owner and the dog.

And yes, I said owner. Make no mistake, I own my dog. I own my garden. They're mine, I care for them, they rely on me. I don't own people, so if you're trying to compare gentling and tending to a garden to caring for people, you've made a terrible mistake. People aren't dogs, and they aren't gardens.

I have a tame dog. She doesn't dig up the garden, she doesn't bark uncontrollably. She's still a dog, and since I know that, she and I get along just fine. There are limits of what she can do based on her natural doggy nature. She can't go into the house and make me a gin-and-tonic, but she can use her doggy door, and not "do her business" in the house. She gets tremendous praise for things that many people take for granted, like just "being a good dog". I never fail to praise her for that, and hug her in appreciation. That's gentling, or taming. When her little eyes look up at me I can see "what do you want me to do, dad?" in them. I don't hand her a clipboard with a list of things, I pat her tiny little head and more often that not I simply want her to go on doing what she's been doing, which is being a good dog.

October 31, 2018

Dealing with mosquitos in Phoenix, Arizona

One of the things I love about living Phoenix, as compared to Minneapolis, is that there are no mosquitos, and it doesn't rain. Except for when it does rain (which is rare), and there are mosquitos. If you understand what I mean. My friends back in Minnesota would scoff at the tiny number of mosquitos that I get here, but I don't like them, so I deal with them.

Now calm down here, my garden doesn't have standing water. Of course not! It's been a very rainy month, and after each rain I go out and double-check that there's no standing water for mosquitos to breed in. I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about adult mosquitos, who don't need standing water, but are searching for blood. My blood.

Even the best-kept garden will have mosquitos after the kinds of rain we've had recently. At the risk of overstating the obvious, they can fly. They may have bred elsewhere, but they can hunt in my garden. And it's like dealing with flies, the best I can do is to discourage them, and try to get them to go elsewhere. So I spray an insecticide, selectively.

If you're one of those people who doesn't read labels, and just goes and dumps chemicals all over the place, please don't do this. I read labels, I measure, I select where to spray. If that sounds reasonable to you, then I recommend that you do that. Caring for a garden properly including dealing with insects.

I use a diluted solution of insecticide in a pump spray gallon container. Then I walk around the garden and spray everywhere, the plants, the artificial turf, even the garden furniture. Smells kinda bad to me, and I hope that it smells bad enough that if the mosquitos get a sniff of it they'll move on. No, you're not killing mosquitos, and no you won't be able repel all of them, but it's the best you can do.

A gallon mixture is plenty for my back and front yard. I spray it all out, and there's only the very tiniest amount that needs to be dumped, which I do in my yard, and it soaks in. I don't over-mix, and I don't dump out a ton of it to be drained into the storm drains. Over-using chemicals that drain into storm drains, and ultimately into the ocean, is a mistake that many people make, and it's the reason that many people shouldn't even think of touching chemicals. If you understand it, and can use it selectively, it's fine. You can spray anytime that's comfortable for you, day or night.

My garden is a welcoming place, but mosquitos are not welcomed!