Growing stuff, by Lee

I like it. Growing stuff, that is. Today I had a general tidy of the allotment, which meant:

  1. Squishing caterpillars. I used to relocate them from my cabbages in some right-on, hippyish vein, but I realised I had to relocate thousands, and got bored of being beardy. I now squeeze them between my gloved and ungloved fingers, their green gunk squirting psychedelically across the ground. First of all, I feel squeamish; something about their lack of skeletal anything and their vibrancy seems wrong. Then, I get gung ho. Look at the damage on my brassica! They’ve made lace and filigree of my purple sprouting broccoli! Die, you b’stards, die! After nearly 30 minutes of this, I begin to feel squeamish again. My hands, the plants, and the ground surrounding them are coated with slimy caterpillar remnant. Yuk. I desist, and do something different. As an aside, caterpillar poop, at least on green vegetables, looks almost emerald like in its clustered intensity. Sure there’s a gelatinous gooeyness to it to, but in the right light and the right mood, it has a strange beauty.
  2. Weeding. It’s a constant battle. The allotment was fallow for eight years, and when I took it over a year and a half ago, I cut swathes through brambles and nettles and bindweed. Those weeds still invade and threaten to take over if I turn my back for longer than a week. The allotment, by the way, is a portion of land 75 yards by 25 yards. It’s quite a lot! And there must be billions of annual seeds in that ground, a goodly portion of which germinate on a regular basis.
  3. Picking vegetables and flowers. I grow both there as I prefer my garden flowers to stay in the garden, mostly. The photo above is from today, and I pick about as much every day. Bells of Ireland, dahlias and zinnias (I love the rich colours of late summer blooms); courgettes/zucchini (every vegetable growers’ glut this time of year), three types of bean, pimientos de Padron (if you’ve never had them… man…), cucumbers (normally three a day), potatoes, summer cabbage. I could’ve brought more home (no carrots, tomatoes etc), and left the artichokes I cut there by mistake (always tomorrow).

And the rest of the time is taken up with Gracie – who delights, infuriates and licks her way into my heart more each day. She spent the first week with us overbonding and not sleeping at night. She lost her voice. It’s now back. Now she’s good, except for the occasional whimper, even if the not getting up in the night routine (doing so was an utter disaster) means the occasional poo in a place where it’s least expected (in front of the fridge, this morning). And now we’re working on leaving her home alone for short periods each day, to be ready for the three hours she’ll be left for by the beginning of September. She’s currently my shadow, my lap her favourite spot, and my return from sleep in the mornings an orgiastic, pee-herself, delight, no matter how nonchalant and non-committal I am. But oh, she’s soft and loving and playful and sprightly and impish and silly too.

I love the way she sits up during her daytime naps, groans prolongedly, scratches her ear like a wind up toy nearing the end of its clockwork, and slumps back into a sleep, the groan subsiding as she does so. I love the way she has already learned to sit and stay. I love the way wiry hair, still baby soft, is developing on the tops of her ears, her eyebrows, chin, shoulders, back and legs. I love the way she delights in the world around her, even if it leads to destruction in the garden. Her favourite hobby is chewing bamboo. I’ve put this to good use. I’ve got one that’s a vicious runner at the root. All I need to do is expose the runners and she sets to severing them from the main plant. It’s easy to find a job for her to do. She’s not yet taken fully to her crate, her kongs, or being in a room where I’m not. But we’re going slowly.

I love the way she’s learned to look at me, waiting for our short but sweet training sessions (she’s training me, I’m sure of it). I even love the way I’m finding it impossible to get her into a down position. She’s too full of wriggle energy for any lure. In summary, she’s a wonder and though my eyes are tired from less sleep than I’m used to in my pampered, privileged life, that’s more than compensated for by a wagging tail, play time, and those almond eyes, whose colour has moved from blue to green to grey in a week and a half.

I love the way she lives for fetch games, and will retrieve anything, anything from the garden. I left Matt and her alone the other day and returned to find a heap of leaves and twigs in the living room, piled outside her preferred nest. I didn’t mind.

In short, I love her. She’s my favourite growing stuff.

  • Gracie is as cute and her eyes are so beautiful! 😉

    • Lee says:

      She certainly is a stunner (until she barks at me to demand attention – that bugs me to death).

  • Debbie says:

    She only put the poo in front of the fridge because she figured you would definitely find it there. :d

    Drinking tons of gazpacho sounds so good! When we had a dog and tried to grow tomatoes, he would go out and eat the ripest one. Then he would bring one back for me and lay it at my feet. So sweet.

    I would have never guess you had nettles in England. I thought it was just a midwest US thing. They really thrive in Nebraska.

    • Lee says:

      She ate her first tomato today – it fell off the counter. Bemusement turned to play turned to rapid consumption. Gracie is currently a kitchen terror. It’s all well and good using positive training methods, but how the hell do I stop her bouncing off all the kitchen cupboards…?

  • Lucy says:

    What an idyllic life!

    What a beauty!

    Dante sends regards to Gracie…

    You can get used to working with a dog curled on your lap.

  • Just HOW precious are those shots!! Amazing! I can see that you’re quite taken with your new love and what a love she is: adorable! A beauty!
    All the best wishes 🙂

    • Lee says:

      Oh she is – except when she has a hissy fit if she doesn’t get her own way…

      Thanks E!

  • MarkDavid says:

    Oh darling, its far too much beauty for one post. And we are all the better for it.

    As a proud Pole, I see a head of cabbage and I go weak in the knees, really. Oh the things one can do with a head of cabbage. Its the vegetable that keeps on giving. and giving. and.

    The courgettes in my garden multiply over night, we’re simply over-run, I cant keep up with them. 2 weeks ago, I was craving them soo much, I was putting them in everything. Celebrating them. Making meals that were all about THEM. Inventing new dishes by the hour!

    Now? I can’t stand the little bastards.

    Today I moved into my new house and am so exhausted that I can’t sleep. I don’t even have the energy to fall asleep. I once had energy. It is gone. Transporting a large perfume collection will do that to you. I made the convoy move a lot slower than it should have because of my perfume paranoia.

    What if a cap came lose? What if Philtre d’Amour broke? Its exhausting.

    Its 6am your time, you’re probably up for poopsies and piddles. Dont forget to take the dog out. (G’Night!!)


    • Lee says:

      I share your courgette mountain pain, and add tomatoes and cucumbers to that list. It’s a veritable Mediterranean medley round these parts.

      Now, hope you’re resting up and taking it easy this weekend. Gracie sends and ear lick (watch out, she likes a nibble too).

  • minette says:

    that must be the sweetest entry in a “baby’s first year” book i’ve ever read. i’m similarly in love with my fur babies, so i totally get your love affair with gracie. she’s adorable, and she’s being adored. good on you both.

  • kate says:

    Hi, Lee,

    Wonderful family… She is adorable ! And you will see her growing… and you yorself will grow to. They teach us about love.
    I loved your post !:x

  • Tara says:

    Puppy breath!!! Those eyes and big floppy ears are so sweet. ::wub::

  • Lee says:

    I know! I hope I can live up to that look!

    Ask, and I shall enable. They are Galician, yes. Exactly right. I use Franchi seeds here in the UK and I see they’re now available in the US:

    And they have soooo many in one packet. Truly, the best seed company there is.

  • PlaysbyScent says:

    This was the best read, and with pictures! I envy you your allotment, I can grow nothing in my heavily shaded yard except squirrels and moss. I still persist in trying and when I am in an especially vile mood I tell hubby that gardening is the second most over-rated activity in the world. >:)

    You need some chickens. ~:> Then you can feed the caterpillars to the chickens and your conscience will be clear since you’re not doing the squishing.

    I wish I could have a puppy cuddle…sigh!

    • Lee says:

      Poor husband, you devil!:d

      We’re not allowed chickens on our plots, unfortunately (allotments are a peculiar European tradition of land set aside for small scale crop growing with nominal yearly rental. Ours doesn’t allow livestock of any kind).

      She’s looking particularly cuddlicious at the moment, alternating between making suckling noises in her sleep, twitching and doing little light barks…:x

      • Debbie says:

        Is there a committee or something that regulates the allotments? What about presenting the argument for chickens? Everyone here is so nuts about “green”, and you have to admit it doesn’t get much greener than chickens. Well, as long as there aren’t huge buildings full of them with runoff that’s ruining it for neighbors… but I digress.

  • Olfacta says:

    Oh, that puppy is so sweet. Makes me want a dog. Those eyes. Such trust.

    Where do you get seeds for pimentos de Padron? Aren’t they the ones that are a specialty in Galacia, northwestern Spain? Some are hot and some mild and you never know? I’ve never seen them for sale in the U.S. I’m assuming you live elsewhere (not sure why, maybe “courgettes”). If you have a commercial source for them, would you post it when you get a chance? I’d love to grow them. Thanks!

  • Carol Sasich says:

    I can feel her soft fuzzy chin and smell her baby-puppy smell…
    If you get tired of the caterpillar squishing , you can sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the plants and the microscopic razor-blade diatomes kill the worms , no poison .
    woof !

    • Lee says:

      Thanks for the tip, Carl. I saw that at my organic gardeing suppliers. A definite must for next year. I returned today and there were more of the buggers chomping away.

  • Melissa says:

    Oh, gorgeous little splay-legged sweet-faced puppy! Made my day! Reminds me of grinning stupidly at the 5 lb windup toy of a Shiba Inu pup who ate the arm of the living room sofa, the corner of an Oriental rug, the trim off of two antique dressers and countless shoes. Each act of destruction took all of about 30 seconds with those little piranha teeth. I never even batted an eye, I was so in love. Six years later, I still gaze at her adoringly and she returns the favor, without gnawing through all of our worldly possessions.

    • Lee says:

      Ours is already ‘checking out’ what’s gnaw-worthy. As a gundog (sporting breed), she’s likely to go gnaw crazy when teething. I just hope she’s addicted to her Kongs by then…

    • Francesca says:

      My first Japanese Chin pup was the source of a home-made proverb: “No dog is so small that it can’t destroy something.” We had one of those “Gee, the puppy’s awfully quiet” moments and found that our three pound baby had pulled out a charger-sized area of tufts from an antique handmade rug.

  • Disteza says:

    GAH! Puppy too, too cute! Must get one soon, but I know the cat will protest….

    • Lee says:

      Maybe they’ll end up happy together though!

      • Shelley says:

        Two cats and one dog in our house…one of the cats grooms the dog and vice versa…it’s all peace and love in our house. (Though, I must say, the intensity of the co-grooming starts to feel a little weird at times….especially when we have guests…)@-)

  • Linda says:

    Oh, Lee, you heartbreaker. What a wonderful post. My garden has been just flowers this year and is dwindling (except the nasturtiums, which are glorious, and the lemon balm, which is taking over, and the immense sweet potato vine that I planted listless and rootless and thought would die… and is now shouting “feed me, Seymour” if I come outside. Your doggie Gracie is precious. Thanks for sharing her!

    • Lee says:

      My actual garden is vegetable free, and just coming into full glory now. I might write about that another time, but maybe I should give perfume a go!

  • Nava says:

    Lee, Gracie is adorable. Best of luck with her and your garden!

  • Musette says:

    One other thing – does she still have Puppy Breath? That is the stuff of LIFE! Breathe it in while you can.

    • Lee says:

      Puppy breath 2d4…:x

    • Debbie says:

      Someone once said the CB should make a puppy breath fragrance, didn’t they?

      • nikkou says:

        Arcana Soaps has a ‘Puppy Kisses’ perfume oil. I have it, it’s sweetness and comfort in a bottle. 😡

        Arcana Soap’s description of Puppy Kisses: “The essence of pink sandpapery tongues, silky ears, and sleepy little sighs. A batter of rich cream, soft coconut milk, rice syrup, copaiba balsam, massoia bark and milky pearl musk is gently licked with sweet peppermint, sugared bayberry, and the tiniest smooches of Oregon lavender and Dalmatian sage.”

  • Musette says:

    You two are absolutely adorable! Your veggies are, too! We are inundated with tomatoes right now, from our neighbors. I was a bit upset that we didn’t get the garden in this year but it turns out I needn’t have worried. People are BEGGING us to take tomatoes! I just browbeat my young farmer into growing some young garlic for the fall (he forgot to plan for that but my intake of breath (the one that presages a really scary response) caused his mother to scramble to find some young cloves to plant for me. I’m such a 8-x but young garlic is the stuff of life for me – and I NEED IT!!!

    Sending you some info (and a Bruno photo) that may help you a LOT on crating/down position. Feel free to ignore it


    • Lee says:

      I too am tomato swamped though our crappy summer means lots of them are still green. By lots, I mean hundreds.

      I’ll be drinking gazpacho til Christmas…

      I love young garlic too, though I only have the drying stuff now (and about 150 onions and a heap of shallots).

      I await your missive with bated breath. She’s slowly finding her crate her home, but is not quite there yet… In spite of all food, treats and strokes being based around that location…

  • Kelley says:

    Lee, what a wonderful post to read first thing in the morning. You really cheered me up! It’s a pleasure to read something so full of excitement and love over simple things (like veggies and puppies)! Keep up the good work.


    • Lee says:

      Kelley – every day I tell myself the importance of living an ordinary life filled with the riches of nothing special. That to me is truly special. I have to be careful here, or I’ll end up sounding hokey like some pseudo-guru.:d

  • Dusan says:

    You two sweeties are made for each other. Love that last photo! And that you’re back… Hugs!

  • Billy D says:

    That first pic is such gardening porn. (A little more artfully arranged, and you’d have a perfect modern Dutch still life.) And the next two are puppy porn. The last one…well I guess that’s in the eye of the beholder 🙂

    Normally, I hate going to my perfume blogs and reading non-fragrance posts, but this one just makes me happy. Mostly because I now live in a city and am without a car, meaning it’s near impossible to get to the country without spending an arm and a leg and an eyeball too. I’m so anxious for Fall, and to me, that means playing with the cats outside at night in the cool air, going pumpkin/apple picking, and generally frolicking. I miss the frolicking. This is why I am currently determined to try Black March or Burning Leaves.

    • Lee says:

      Lol. Thanks Billy, I think. The arrangement was totally artless, except for the ‘spill’ of potatoes!

      There is something special about the autumn – I think so too. I love the summer, but generally the best days here are in September anyway and October crisp (but not yet frosty) mornings – it’ll be dog-walking paradise to me.

  • kathleen says:

    How incredibly snuggly

  • Shelley says:

    Wonderful! Grace in the garden….I am impressed with the “dog as bamboo tamer” concept. You and Grace are creative types to have worked that out together…bamboo can run quite rampant, can’t it?

    I fear I may spend my day of training day-dreaming about what caterpillar poop looks like…


    • Lee says:

      This one is especially rampant. I have a handful of different types in the garden, but none of the others pop up in unexpected places in quite the same way. She loves the succulent growing shoots for eating, the canes for tooth work and the leaves for general ruminating. I’m wondering how much she shares genetically with the panda.:-?

  • So Sweet! Really adorable

  • Elle says:

    How nice to see another post from you! And Gracie! OMG! What eyes! A face of pure, happy, innocent hopefulness and expectation of love. How could anyone see that and not instantly smile and feel better about the world? We feel the same about Bubbachka as you do about Gracie. It doesn’t matter what havoc he wreaks or what he happily pees or poops on – I can’t help but smile and be grateful he’s w/ us when he looks up at me w/ that “Surely I haven’t done anything wrong, mom…you do still adore me?” expression. Fortunately, a trainer told us that it’s useless to try to discipline Maltese. They are super sensitive to any sort of negative commands and basically respond best to incentive training. I’m sure someone may disagree w/ this, but it’s what I’m happiest doing, so that’s how it is. And he *is* peeing in the right place most of the time now. And teething *will* eventually end. Maybe?
    Oh, and caterpillar poop – you’re right, it is oddly gorgeous. I even tried to photograph it a couple of times, but the pictures didn’t really do it justice.
    And, finally – a photo to go w/ the posts! I assume you waited so long to post one to make sure we appreciated you for your brains and not just your looks. 🙂

    • Lee says:

      Like you, I have a sensitive breed. I felt cross once, and said nothing. That was enough – body language? Smell? – to send her hiding under the sofa. Though she is oh so demanding. However, a couple of minutes of yapping (who am I kidding – I mean high decibel barking, whining, yowling and howling) is worth it if she learns some impulse control and accepts that she can’t always get what she wants (though she always gets what she needs).

      Oh, there was a photo somewhere once before. This one makes me look particularly vague and slightly lobotomised (puppy bliss, what can I say?).

    • Debbie says:

      Clicker training is incentive based, and it is such a wonderful way to train any animal. Have you checked into it by any chance? It really works. We used it for a PTSD GSD from Iraq. (That and some help from one of our University’s best animal behaviorists.)

  • Devon says:

    I really enjoy your posts. Gracie is such a cute little baby and that description about the sleepy groan n’ stretch was priceless. And, I love the garden pic. BTW someone once told me to put dirty old sneakers around my garden to fend off the bunnies. Duh I tried it and duh it did nothing !

    • Lee says:

      My garden at home is safe, as it’s surrounded by a minimum 6 ft brick wall (I only wish there was a portal or two for some lovely hedgehogs). The allotment abuts open farmland and it’s access all areas. I’m sure not even the potent blare of my trainers would ward off the fluffies.

  • chayaruchama says:

    Oh, my boy- you’re SO in love !
    I adore your garden reveries and Gracie raptures.
    You and Matt need to be fathers, I swear.

    Long may your loves endure.
    [I love you always, my pet]@};-

    • Lee says:

      Feeling’s mutual, as well you know.

      I think my love has been a little intense for poor ole Gracie, that its careful management now feels occasionally like a void to her!

  • Anne says:

    Thanks for such a great post. An amazing way to start a Friday, what you give to us…… 😡

  • MattS says:

    What beauty! Such a noble beast. And the dog ain’t bad either.

  • Bryan says:

    I’ve missed your poetic posts terribly. I am so happy for you. Life is truly beautiful, huh? I battle depression constantly and nothing forces one to live in the present like an animal…one that is completely dependent upon you.
    Beautiful post, beautiful author. Take care.

  • carmencanada says:

    Hi Lee. Thanks for taking us with you into the current delights of your life, says the city dweller/kitten owner… Aren’t those young’uns touching? Just permanently curious and playful, like they’ve invented perpetual motion! Enjoy…

    • Lee says:

      Permanently curious, playful, and in Gracie’s case, in need of constant contact. In fact, that has become the over-riding principle of all her reward-based training.

  • Louise says:

    What a gorgeous still life today’s harvest makes! I love the balance of cabbages and courgettes

    Only you, Lee, could write so eloquently about the details of caterpillar squishing, and the glorious color of their poop :d/

    Gracie is a marvel. Who cound blame her for favoring your lap 😡 ?

    • Lee says:

      Cabbages and courgettes, eh? You smutmuffin!

      She is a marvel, but dealing with the quotidian aspects (poop shovelling, toilet-training, managing outrageous attention seeking behaviour – oh these loving, clingy gundog breeds) takes the edge of just the right amount.

      She’s just fallen asleep in my lap, and I’m about to move her (quick sniff of her earthy paws first though).

  • Francesca says:

    Hi, Lee, I started following the Posse regularly just about the time you went on hiatus. Gracie is beautiful. I don’t do much gardening as my weekend place is pretty much all woodlands, but believe it or not, I envy you your nettles. Ever cook them in early spring before the stems get woody? Really delicious.

    • Lee says:

      Those nettles are the bane of my existence. I should try eating them really.

      • Francesca says:

        seriously, when they’re about 9 inches or so high, put on gloves, snip them with scissors. Wash them off and boil for about 15 minutes. Save the cooking liquid to drink, full of vitamins. You can add some sauteed onions, or just a little butter and salt. When you cook them, all the sting goes out. They have a wonderful, delicate, nutlike flavor.

  • tmp00 says:

    Those groceries would be like $50 at Whole Foods, you know…

    Gracie is as cute as a button- such pretty eyes!

  • Janet in California says:

    She is a doll! Her eyes are gorgeous. So is your writing Lee.

  • violetnoir says:

    Oh, Gracie is so adorable, Lee.

    Congratulations on your bundle of fur and joy!

    • Lee says:

      Thanks, though her attention seeking was driving me crazy when I was typing this yesterday. She’s currently sat on my lap, quietly, watching me type and a fly bash and buzz on the windowpane.