A September Update on My Garden

This season is the one where we begin to see transition into fall. In September I’m still gathering a bounty from this year’s harvest but I’m also preparing for fall cool season crops and beginning those end of year chores. At this point the only foods I’m actively harvesting are tomatoes and green beans. I have carrots but when I checked them they still did not appear ready to be picked. I planted spinach in early August only to have it sprout and be destroyed by deer and rabbits. My plan is to re-plant some more spinach in my cold frame box for fall.

Right before Labor Day my garden was ravaged by deer. Something had to be done. I ended up concocting my own strong mixture of eggs, chili powder and garlic and literally basted all the tasty plants. Yes, I was in the backyard with a mixing bowl and a baster.

The good news – it’s working! The putrid smell must have been so bad that the critters immediately tried to find a new breakfast spot. The smell actually isn’t bad after the mixture dries. I had to reapply it after heavy rain too – just to make sure there was still enough to deter the deer.

I know going into the 2015 garden season I have to plan better for this. Whether I continue to make my own mixture, or stock up on something mass-produced, I now know and believe the deer are unforgiving to gardeners. Spraying for deer may just become a weekly chore just like mowing the lawn and doing the trimming.

green beans
Other chores this month include seeding bald patches in the lawn, fall pruning, dead heading blooms and covering garden boxes for the winter to deter spring weeds and prevent soil erosion. I already covered one with some grass clippings. Last year I tried a cover crop but I found the upkeep to remove it in the spring to be too much work.

Pursuing Master Gardener Certification

So you all know how much I like talking about my garden, right? Well earlier this summer I decided to try taking it to another level. Back in June I applied to become a Master Gardener for Cuyahoga County. It was an item on my personal “bucket list” and I decided, why wait? I went through the application process, an interview, reference checks, a criminal background check and then in early August I received a formal letter in the mail – I had been accepted into the class of 2014!

I am now in the midst of completing an 11-week training course. Basically it’s like night school. It’s pretty hardcore and my training binder is about 3-inches thick. I’m excited though. I’m looking forward to learning a lot more about gardening, to sharing my new found knowledge with others through volunteer work.

master gardener training manual

There are 36 people in my class so we have a full house. What is a Master Gardener? Basically a trained volunteer. After I complete the coursework I will need to volunteer 50 hours in the next year before “graduation” next fall. Beyond that I will take part in ongoing training and volunteer work to maintain my certification.

Master Gardeners volunteer in many different ways, from working on community gardens, to answering questions in person at events and via phone, to helping children, seniors and developmentally disabled adults learn about gardening. I first learned about Master Gardeners in college. As an newspaper reporting intern in Fostoria, Ohio I remember taking on a few stories where I needed to talk to a plant expert. I called the Ohio State University Extension office near there to talk to an expert – a Master Gardener!

I’m happy to be a part of this program and look forward to sharing a little bit more about my journey and what I learn. I have to be honest though, the time commitment over the next two months is pretty intense, so I may be sharing more once I’m actually done with training!

Tips for Writing Pet Sitter Instructions

Usually when we go on a short trip we take Lulu to the kennel. This works well for anywhere from one to three nights away from home. While we believe she is under responsible care at the kennel (which is under our veterinarian service), we know she doesn’t receive much one-on-one attention, does not receive walks and spends most of her days in a crate.

While this is safe for her I’m sure she is isn’t too happy while she is there. Typically she refuses meals or will only eat half her normal food. There are more expensive kenneling options, and ones with socialization, walks and doggy daycare under camera – but a hefty price comes with this luxurious service.

So this summer when we decided to take a week long vacation, we asked family if they could watch Lulu. We asked family members who have pet sat before, have been around Lulu a lot and who Lulu seems to enjoy. They do not have a dog of their own but have had them in the past – which was also reassuring.

In preparation for Lulu’s stay I wrote up guidelines on how to care for her. Today I am sharing a few ideas to include on your tip sheet. This can be helpful for pets staying overnight, for an extended period of time or even a pet sitter who agrees to come to your home to check on your animal – instead of taking them under their own wing.

tips for writing pet sitter instructions

Tips for Hiring a Pet Sitter

• Include Directions on Any Commands or Training Your Pet Has. Written explanation of commands is important, especially if there is an emergency and your pet needs to “come” back to the pet sitter. Showing physical hand signs in person is also helpful. If your pet sitters follow some of your routine commands your pet may also feel more at home hearing familiar commands during your absence.

• Provide Guidelines on Feeding & Amounts. You may also include hazardous foods, feeding times and typical routines.

• Share an Outline of Your Pet’s Daily Routine. Dogs in particular, are creatures of habit. While it wasn’t necessary for her normal routine to be followed exact, following it at least somewhat would provide Lulu comfort.

• If Your Pet is Traveling to their Caretaker, Bring Familiar Surroundings. From your pet’s crate, to bedding and toys, bring objects they are familiar with and use during daily life. This will also help keep them in their routine and feel more at home in a strange place.

• Include Contact Information for Your Veterinarian. Include the vet’s name, address, phone number and hours of operation – just in case.

• Stay Accessible. Because we have a pet, we didn’t feel comfortable leaving town for a full week and turning off our phones. What if there was an emergency or question? We decided to take one cell phone with us and keep it on for emergency only.

• Include Information on Allergies, Special Needs, Etc. If your pet takes medication, has allergies or any other special needs, be sure to communicate them as well.