Our puppy, Cody, is sweet and tries so hard to be obedient. He’s pretty good about not going into the gardens to play, mostly. But he’s developed a bad habit that is having unpleasant consequences. He likes to take shortcuts across the corners of the flower beds, or take flying leaps across the raised beds next to the house. Sometimes he plants his back legs mid-garden for extra leverage, rather than going up and down the steps that are conveniently placed at intervals through the beds. Occasionally he likes to explore the garden beds with less exposed soil and more plants, especially the ones with bark mulch — maybe he thinks of them as belonging to a different, non-garden category. And his big, strong puppy paws are churning up the soil, tearing up plants, and leaving muddy paths across the corners. Not a good thing.

So I researched “puppy deterrent” and discovered that dogs really dislike citrus scents. Who knew? Not me. I considered what I could do to make the gardens citrus-scented. I was also making slug deterrents at the same time, including a cornmeal trap, and I thought: Aha! I can make scented cornmeal and scatter it around. It shouldn’t hurt the garden, and it just might keep Cody out.

I poured about three cups of cornmeal (all I had left after making slug traps) into a plastic leftovers container, and added all the citrus-scented things I could find in my cupboard. I sprinkled about three tablespoons each of TrueLemon and TrueLime powder, several drops of orange flavoring, a couple of drops of OnGuard (an essential oil blend from DoTerra with orange oil as its first ingredient), and some squirts of lime juice. I have a glass container of orange zest that I collected to use for extracting essential oil (no, I haven’t gotten it to work yet, but they make GREAT garnishes for cosmos), so I tossed some of those in. Then I sprinkled handfuls around the perimeter of all the garden areas.

It worked. Cody would trot down the gravel path, pause at the edge of the garden, sniff, and continue on his way without venturing into the garden. He still took occasional flying leaps over the raised beds, but didn’t take any more leisurely strolls through the middle of any gardens. As a helpful bonus, the slugs loved the mixture, so in the evenings I could walk along with a jar of salt water and just pick them off. Yes, it was disgusting. But it was worth braving the foulness in order to rid the world of another dozen or so slugs.

And then it rained. And Cody stopped caring about the smell, and resumed taking shortcuts through my tender crocus shoots.

I’m out of cornmeal and ideas. And after nearly a month of everyone in this household being sick, one after another as well as all at once, I’m also out of energy. So, dog people: Help! What are your tried-and-true pet deterrents that are also safe for small children? Yes, I do realize that the most logical answer is to buy a bunch more cornmeal, make a big batch of my amazing homemade Bad Puppy mix, and sprinkle it after each rain. But I’d love to hear laziness-friendly ideas, also.

Frost Flowers

Yesterday I went for a bright, cold walk with Niko, Sofia, and the puppy, Cody. Usually I carry Sofia in my Ergo carrier, but this time I thought I’d save my back and push her in our big rough-terrain stroller. I’m glad I did, because it turns out I can see a lot more when she’s not strapped to my chest.

We walked across our big lawn, past the row of cypresses, down the hill to the little creek that runs across the bottom of our property in the winter. Cody promptly made a dash for the creek; Niko tried to ford the creek, too, at its widest part, but I threatened him with immediate return to the house if he fell into the creek, and he prudently took the bridge instead. (Later he found a stone ford that I’d been hoping he wouldn’t notice, and I relented and let him cross there. What’s the point of a creek if you can’t at least cross it?)

I was about to follow him when I noticed something odd. A patch of ground near the creek was covered with curving, shining ice crystals pushing up out of the ground. I’d never seen anything like it. I snapped a couple of photos and kept walking — and kept finding more. At first I wondered if the patches of ice were the tops of a mole’s sleeping chamber, but there were just too many of them. It turns out they’re something called crystallofolia, which translates as frost leaves — commonly called frost flowers. When certain plants freeze in previously unfrozen ground, the water inside the stems comes fountaining out in the form of ice crystals. They can get a lot more complex than the ones I saw, but mine were still pretty amazing.

Just for good measure, here are a few pictures of our walk: