The Optimism of Spring

This is the first part of a three part series. The Optimism of Spring will be followed by: The Carnage of Summer, and The Wistful Regret of Winter.

We think of a garden “plot” as a bit of scraped earth with seeds carefully sown in a masterfully choreographed dance of nature and intent. The master gardener in the minds eye is a green thumbed wizard who is already planning recipes for the abundance of fruit that will be drawn out of the earth by his planning and labors.

Note that “plot” has more than one useful definition.

For me the garden plot is more a calculating scheme much like the planning of some felony robbery where little effort might return undue and undeserved reward. The plot begins about the end of November when the previous year’s garden plot lays failed, weedy, and unyielding, and waiting to be tilled under.

Some years ago I became an advocate of a scheme called “square foot gardening.” It’s an inviting concept designed to eek vegetables arranged in supposed compatible harmony from every square inch of available earth. I’m only now ready to admit that these gardens are almost impossible to tend, being densely plotted and incredibly labor intensive to weed. It might as well be called “square foot weeding”.

The gardeners’ scheme unfolds with careful calculations of square footage, the “footprint” of an individual plant, and the interval distance required between each and every until a picture unfolds like a pattern on a woven cloth, intricate and geometric. The plan must include engineering of irrigation and the distribution of water so that each plant will get its’ share, and none will be drowned.

My own diabolical plot hatched this past winter is to put a fair share of my garden in containers; and in the tilled earth I will give big expanses between each plant, making them easy to hoe. I will rely on some partnership with the almighty to water my garden when obligations of business and my favorite hobby carry me away from home.

Tending the garden becomes a matter for New Year’s resolutions. The idea of careful maintenance of these plants is in immediate conflict with my working schedule which might have me out of town for weeks on end during my busy season, which is predictably the very busy season of a garden.

I’ll let you know.

Circular Logic

While contemplating the silliness of World Team/International course design, I heard this wheedling voice at the back of my head… “Train, don’t complain.” Okay, fine then.

I immediately took my boy out into the training building and introduced him to a new command. I called it “Circle!” mostly because it has a distinct sound and seemed fitting for a distinct, new skill. The performance I’m trying to teach is for my dog to go around a jump, and take the jump coming towards me. This picture optimistically shows the handler at about 15 or 18′. To be very honest, after a couple of days I’m more at 15 or 18″.

Always uppermost on my mind is training my dog for an independent performance. So these blind/managed approaches might become, simply, blind approaches. The “Blind approach,” to my mind, means simply that there’s no natural or intuitive approach to the next correct obstacle, and so the dog cannot be released to work (which to me is the essence of dog agility.)

If I can actually teach my dog this skill I will not have to manage my dog through these moments of silly course design and can actually release him to work. The first essential rule of distance training is that the dog must understand his job. This then is a new kind of job.

I’ll let you know.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

2 Responses to “The Optimism of Spring”

  1. Wayne Says:

    I use to garden quite a bit. The weeds always resembled the plants I wanted growing in that area.. They then took over before I realized what was going on. I began to wonder if I cultivated the weeds would the plants I really wanted retaliate and take back the area.

    Just a query on this particular distance skill. Does our body language play any part in communicating to the dog this skill or is it all verbal? Much like herding dogs responding to change direction from a whistle?

  2. T.D. Says:

    I liked your idea of teaching the dog to handle these difficult approaches, I’m already teaching my Sheltie to do it.

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