It’s not a basement suite, it’s an earth-sheltered home

I have never been so glad to live in a lower-level apartment as this past week. With temperatures in the mid-thirties, my upstairs neighbours are baking due to all the sun pouring in through their multitude of huge windows, while downstairs we’re cool and fine.

I experienced this phenomenon first hand this evening, sitting on the upstairs kitchen floor and sharing a jar of home-canned salmon with Gamin, the cat. Sum and Captain Pestou went away overnight, and Gamin’s in recovery from another abscessed wound, so he’s getting treated like royalty: I was actually holding bits of fish up to his mouth, because he wouldn’t eat them from the dish. Watching him chow down on the crunchy sections of vertebrae (my favourite part of canned salmon, I might add, to illustrate how invested I am in our patient’s health), it struck me how little I know about cat psychology. From the several dog training books I’ve read, I understand that hand-feeding Mo would tell him that he’s higher than me in the hierarchy, especially if he hadn’t witnessed me eating my fill first. With cats, though, and this cat in particular, I feel as though I’m so far below their standards of dignity that I barely warrant attention, let alone approval. When Gamin had had enough, he abruptly turned and walked several feet away, then sat cleaning himself while facing the other direction. So odd and detached, when I’m used to Mo’s focused attention.

We’ve been getting up at 5 a.m., to get to the farm before the heat gets bad. By we, I mean Mo and I: He is learning to be a very good farm dog, especially considering that he’s only 11 months old. I suppose it’s actually a pretty good age to do this sort of thing with a pup, though I’ve read so many varying things in training books that I don’t want to make any big claims.

Up to now, our expections of Mo’s behaviour have been fairly low, in keeping with his role as an urban dog: He needs to come when called, be generally polite, walk nicely on a leash, put up with being contained in a small room while his owners are away all day, and run his craziness out during twice daily trips to a park. With this new job of mine, the ante has really been upped: At work, I usually don’t restrict his movements with a leash, but I instead simply tell him to stay next to me or in a designated (shady) spot for upwards of an hour at a time… High demands, considering his short attention span and huge interest in the world! And certainly nothing like any of the training games we’ve played at the park or during our brief stint at puppy school.

Luckily, he seems to be getting it pretty quickly, and has impressed the many farm staff with his overall calmness. The biggest thing is getting him to understand that he can’t walk where crops are growing, which has been a consistent error that has gotten both him and me yelled at by one of the bosses. But really, try to think of that in dog terms… How the hell is he supposed to remember what plants we value? It’s all the same to a dog! So, we’re working on it.

And now on to the photos.

Do you buy organic spring greens salad mix from a smiling farmer at the market?  I’m the queer who cuts it from the field, and then washes it in a lavender-coloured bathtub.

Bird’s nest in a blueberry bush, also known as “Why I Love Working On An Organic Farm, Reason #183”.  Each of these eggs are the size of my thumbnail… and I have small hands.

The greenhouse, with some beans (at left) but mostly tomatoes (at right).  Even with the sides of the structure rolled up to let in the breeze, we can’t work in here past 10 a.m., because it’s too hot.  See the dark blob in the dirt aisle, just where it disappears into the distance?

Yes, it’s Mo, gracefully baking away.   But not for long, because the sun’s high and we’re done for the day.

A couple weeks ago, Mo suddenly took it onto his head to try swimming, and discovered that it’s awesome.  His webbed paws are no doubt a help, but so is the sheer enthusiasm with which he launches himself into a lake or ocean…  This, after a lifetime of water-induced panic.  Frankly, I’m relieved, especially now that we pass this lake on our farm commute.

Mo shows off his swimming/fetching prowess:  Two sticks, and a thoroughly wet dog.

Which brings us to the end of the day, and all poor Oats gets to see of our dog in the evenings:  Mo sleeping, in the cool of our home.


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