Garden Life

Perennial Tree Collards

After some extensive searching I finally found a place to buy tree collards in my area.  For years I have watched you tube gardeners John Kohler from growing your greens  and Jake Mace the Vegan Athlete talk about them, but wasn’t confident enough to try a mail order source for cuttings.  I found Michael,  a Master Gardener in phoenix with rooted plants available  He is a very knowledgeable and generous man.  He had about 100 plants in various sizes.  I bought 3 1 gal. plants from him and as we were leaving he gifted me the huge one in the picture above. Exciting huh?  It is a beauty!!  We haven’t come up with a name for him yet.DSC03863

I learned a lot from Master Gardener Michael.  The plants take a lot of water and shade in the Arizona sun.  It is only April, but he said it is too hot to put them in the ground now.  His advice is to leave them in the pots until fall and then move them to shady spot in the garden.  Finding a shady spot in my garden is going to be a challenge, but I have 6 months to find a way.  It is probably because I live in the desert, but these plants are more particular than I imagined they would be. All the info I found said they were easy to grow.  Day 3 I didn’t water the big boy enough before a warm day and he wilted.    It was scary.  With water and sunset he perked up and is doing fine again.  They will need to on a drip system with a twice daily schedule this summer. My larger plant will probably out grow his 15 gal. pot soon too.  Michael had ground planted about 10 of his bigger plants in full sun and mulched with a foot of straw.  His garden looks like a tree collard forest!  He said it was an experiment, but hoped they would do well since he put them out when the weather was still cool and they have time to acclimate before the temps in Phoenix hit 110+. He also told me to pinch off the new top growth to encourage side shoots to make cuttings for propagation.  There are quite a few videos on you tube demonstrating how to take and root the cuttings.  I will try this later in the season and let you know how it goes.   For now, I will just let my big boy grow.  Remember Hey, Hey, Hey….. Fat Albert?  I think the big guy has a name!

Tree collards are Brassica oleracea, like cabbage and broccoli.  The 3 types I am familiar with are the Green Tree collard (like mine),  The Purple Tree collard and Tree Kale or walking stick kale.  The Green and purple tree collards don’t bolt very often and when they do the seeds may not be true to the parent plant.  Planting these seeds is a gamble.   The Walking stick kale flower and seed every year, the seeds grow a true walking stick kale.  They grow straight and tall, perfect to make a walking stick with after the season is over.  Several seed companies offer the seeds online.  Maybe next year, I will try some.  There may be other varieties that I haven’t come across yet.

Perennial  Tree Collard leaves are rich in calcium (226 mg per cup, cooked), vitamins B1, B2, B9, and C, as well as beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A).  They are high in soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties: diindolylmethane, sulforaphane and selenium. The leaves are very fleshy, almost succulent like.  At first the taste didn’t impress me.  The smaller tender leaves taste like cabbage and the larger leaves are tougher and bitter.  It feels and tastes like chewing on the core of a head of cabbage.  Either the flavor improved now that Albert has had a few days to settle in, or I am just more tolerant of the bitterness.  I munched on a larger leaf as I worked outside today and actually enjoyed it. The gardeners on Jake Mace”s Facebook group had lots of suggestions and recipes for me to try.  Tomorrow for lunch I plan to stir fry a leaf with some garlic and see how it tastes.  If I think it will pass as food for my husband, then next weekend we will have a corned beef and Tree Collard feast.





Euthanizing an Aggressive Dog

In a previous post I mention Sugar my rowdy St. Bernard Mix.  The truth is that she is aggressive.  Yesterday my husband and I had her put down.  If you are reading this, then I must have found the courage to post my story.

Last summer my daughter asked if I could help by taking a dog.  Sugar was a year and a half old St Bernard mix.  She belonged to a long time friend that needed to re-home her.  She had bitten a child and was being quarantined at the pound. My daughter and Anna (Sugar’s mom) were very upset that if they couldn’t find a home the dog would be put down.  I discussed it with my husband and being the soft hearted suckers that we are, decided to rescue her.  We met Anna at the dog pound in phoenix and picked up Sugar.  She was an excitable, loving big puppy that instantly wormed her way into out hearts.  She was a bit unruly, but smart, confident and trusting.

Her first day here was rocky.  Upon arriving home, she immediately tried to attack my bull mastiff through the fence.  We let everyone calm down and introductions went fairly well.  She took the dominant role and Gabe submitted.  Rosie, our 12 year old female Shar Pei mix wanted no part of her and just kept her distance.  That first night Sugar found a Sonoran Desert Toad and got a major dose of toxin.   Incilius alvarius is a desert toad with hallucinogenic excretions.  They are common here during the monsoon season.  The poison is fast acting and can kill a smaller animal.  Larger dogs will get sick but it is usually not fatal.  It’s a great defense for the toads.  In the past my dogs have dropped the toad instantly and left them alone after that.  Sugar must have been persistent and gotten a huge dose….foaming at the mouth and convulsing.  We live in the middle of no where, closest vet is 30 minutes away.  Getting him out of bed in the middle of the night and meeting at the office would have take at least an hour, more likely 2.  The toxin comes and goes very quickly.  Best way to deal with it is to get as much out of the dogs mouth as possible.  So that is what I did,  just repeatedly flushed her mouth with water and crated her.  She was fine.  But that damn dog never did learn.  The toads come out in the evenings to mate and hide during the day.  So, I had to keep sugar on a lead at night and walk her outside.    Even that didn’t keep her from the toads, she was obsessed.  She must have built up a tolerance, because later reactions were never as bad as that first night.  She liked the high and spent the rest of the season hunting down toads. I spent the rest of the season trying to stop her.20160712_115812

Sugar had no manners or discipline, she was food aggressive, bossy with my other dogs and always trying to get to the chickens.  She was also very smart, loyal and eager to please.  Over the next month she learned the rules and got over her food aggression issues.  We still had to separate the dogs at feeding time, but I could take her food away without any growling. We took baby steps with training and she responded well.   She learned no, out and leave it really fast.  She was still too excitable and had bouts of jumping on my other dogs without provocation. An example would be visitors at the door.  She would become excited barking and jumping….then just pounce and attack the dog next to her.  This was new to me.  I have dealt with fearful aggressive dogs.  The no warning attack is much harder to handle.

After one of her nastier attacks, my husband and I did discuss getting rid of her.  Separating a Bull Mastiff and a St Bernard mutt during a viscous fight will leave even the strongest dishearted.  I asked my daughter and Anna to find another home for her.  She really had no where to go, this was her last chance.   We carried on.  With calm and consistent correction she seemed to improve.  I burnt off her excess energy playing fetch and she even learned to return the toy instead of running off with it.  For the most part she was interacting well with the grand kids.  If she growled at a child she was immediately either crated or put outside.  I supervised her visits with children and she had to go outside if the kids had food.  We sectioned off part of the property to use as a dog run and the 2 big dogs were confined when I was away from the house.  Leaving my Shar pei either inside the house or to wander the back yard in peace.  I am retired and mostly just a home body.  Sugar stuck to my side, constantly under foot.  She was always curious, sticking her nose into anything that I was working on. Loved fetching things….if I left my knitting for a moment, she would track me down with it in her mouth.  As I put clothes into the front loading washer, she would pull them out and return them to me.  Her favorite was water play, running and jumping while I sprayed the hose.  She was always trying to join me in the shower or tub.  She became my shadow.  Since she knew how to open doors, even using the bathroom alone was impossible.  Things starting looking up and she was becoming a part of the family.  Anna (former owner) came with her children to visit.  Sugar played nice and it was a great day.

20160712_115403Her aggression started escalating again last month.  She took a dislike to my 12 year old granddaughter and started growling and preditorily  watching her.  I corrected her and separated them.  It was odd, but I wasn’t really alarmed.  She warned and I reacted.

Tuesday afternoon I threw all the dogs outside and took off for a quick trip to the grocery store.  When I got home Sugar and Gabe were at the fence to greet me.  Sugar was excited.  Her usual reaction to excitement is to ram the chain link gate to the rooster pen. A behavior we were working on correcting.  This time instead she turned and viciously attacked Rosie. In my panic I forgot the combination to the gate.  Rosie was howling and crying in pain the whole time it took me to unlock door, run though the house and out the back door.  I grabbed a newspaper flyer on the way and was smacking Sugar to try and get her off of Rosie.  Rosie was covered in blood and had gone limp.  Her leg was death gripped in Sugar’s mouth.  I yanked on Sugar and kept beating her with the paper.  Finally she let go of Rosie and turned on me.  I have been around dogs my whole life and pretty confident in my ability to handle them, but in this instant she terrified me.  She was not the dog I knew and loved.  A snarling stranger was ready to lunge at me.  I shouted her name and she paused, then again went after Rosie.  Kicking and waving the paper, I was able to keep her back while Rosie ran into the house.

So many thoughts run through your brain in times of crisis.  Is the vet’s office open?   do I have his home number?   how am I going to get this dog in the truck?   is Sugar out there killing my Bull mastiff next?……  Rosie was a bit shocky, trembling, pale gums.  I could see Gabe hiding under the desk, so he was fine.  After wrapping Rosie in a beach towel, I cleaned off most of the blood and saw that the damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  Her head, neck, chest and front legs were covered in bite punctures.  The worst was a deep 3 inch cut to her head and a little tear in her ear.  Everything else looked pretty superficial.  She was responsive and coming around.  She couldn’t stand, and I thought her leg might be broken.    At one point when I was dumping bloody water to get fresh, I could see Sugar outside.  She was rolling on her back, then up and running in circles playing……absolutely euphoric.  I think it was at that point realization hit.  In addition to her aggressive nature and predator tendencies, she was addicted to the dopamine rush.  My behavior modification could in no way compete with the high she was feeling.  She would always be unpredictable and dangerous.

It was a long night with no sleep and lots of tears.  My husband took the day off work to help me.  We had to carry Rosie to the car for the Vet visit.  Our vet and his staff is amazing.  He knows all of our dogs and I totally trust his advise.  He listened to my tearful story as he examined Rosie and agreed Sugar needed to be euthanized.  Nick and I went for coffee while Dr. Oplinger worked on Rosie’s wounds.  Nick and I discussed our decision.  We concluded that it needed to be done right away.  Waiting was not only painful but dangerous.   I texted my daughter and Anna.  They understood and supported the decision.

We picked up Rosie.  By that time her pain meds had kicked in and she was able to slowly hobble to the car.  There were no broken bones, just cuts, punctures and bruised tissue.  With antibiotics and pain medication she will recover.  Rosie was safely home.  The Vet was waiting.  All that was left was to say goodbye.  When I let Sugar out of the run, she was excited.  She ran around the property a few times, tortured the hens for a bit then came to visit with me on the porch.  My big cuddly puppy was back, hugging against me and licking my chin as I put her harness and lead on for the last time.  I took a final picture, gave her a big hug and told her I loved her. My husband drove her to the vet.  I was too upset to go with them.

So, yeah…..Yesterday was a really shitty day.

Today I am still crying.  It’s going to take some time to process everything that happened.  These 2 things are absolutes:  1- Putting her down was the right decision and 2- Having her in my life for the past 9 months was a blessing.

My heart aches for anyone faced with this difficult decision.  I have no advice.  The struggle is a personal one and any decision you make is the right one for you. If you have made the decision and need comfort I offer this:

  • You did not put down a healthy animal.  You euthanized an animal with an incurable illness.  Even in the wild healthy animals do not attack without provocation or reason.
  •  Stop with the “what ifs”  What if I had just kept her penned separate?  What if I had re-homed her to a hermit living alone with no children or other pets?  For every “what if” alternate action you could have taken there is a horrible “what if” result.  What if she got out of the yard and attacked the young boy who rides his bike down my street.  What if she injures a new owner…..etc 
  •  Anna graciously texted me these word and I offer them to you “There are too many precious lives in both of our families to take the chance she’ll hurt someone else”
  •  Harboring an animal with a history of violence makes you liable for any damage they cause.  You risk everything you own if the animal were to harm anyone.
  •  You do not need to justify your decision to anyone.  The term “did what needed to be done” comes to mind.  Should Rooster Cogburn have left Mattie’s horse to suffer in True Grit?  Was Atticus wrong to shoot the mad dog in to Kill a Mockingbird?  Find honor in having the strength to “do what needed to be done”.  Anyone that disagrees can go to hell.
  •  Be kind and allow yourself to grieve.  I not only lost Sugar yesterday, the decision cost me what ever tiny bit of innocence I had remaining.

Rest in peace my Sugar Booger.


Garden Life

Snake in the Garden

This camera shy guy has made daily appearances around the garden for the past week or so.  I am pretty sure it is a California Kingsnake.  According to my internet research, they are docile critters that can make nice pets.  They are highly resistant to viper venom and often make a meal of rattlesnakes.  Sounded like a good addition to my garden, so I let him be.  Unfortunately today he decided to come out of the garden and trek across the yard.  Sugar (rowdy St. Bernard mutt) noticed him before I did and attacked.  She grabbed the snake and tossed it into the air before I could contain her.

The snake wriggled around a bit, curled up and hid it’s face.  DSC03827
I thought she had killed the poor thing.  Eventually, with the dog housed he did uncover his face.

dog puncture






Sugar did a number on this guy, puncturing his side.

The snake slithered away and hid in a weedy aloe vera bed about 100 feet away.  And then we saw it a couple of hours later going back into the garden on the other side of the acre.  So, maybe he will be OK.  There isn’t much on the internet about care for a snake bit by dog… search just turned up care for dogs bit by snakes.  Well the dog is fine, not so sure about the snake.

I got these pictures as he rounded the garage, they will give you an idea of his length.  He is probably a little over 4 feet.  Beautiful huh?



With a little luck, I will see him around the garden soon.  Hopefully he will stay in the garden and not go back into dog territory.

Garden Life

Procrastinating in the Garden

There is a bright & beautiful California King snake living in my garden.  Since they are suppose to eat rattlers, I have decided to let him stay. Yes, it freaks me out a bit, but hoping to get more comfortable as time goes by.   For the past week, I have been trying to get a picture of him.  He’s fast though and disappears before I get my camera.  This morning I pledged to keep the camera with me all day and keep an eye out for him.  He never showed and I played photographer all day, making no progress in the garden.

 It was a pleasant day and I find the pictures inspiring.  So I have decided to create this little blog in an attempt to remain inspired and record my progress.  I want this year’s garden to be my best!!

Last Weeks accomplishments DSC03799

I deconstructed an old box spring to make a little raised strawberry bed and border for my lemon tree.  The strawberries are looking a little wilted, but misting them daily and hoping for the best.  I think I need to trim them back a bit so the plant can concentrate on new growth without the stress of keeping the wilted leaves alive. DSC03798

These poor roses got totally butchered.  They were so overgrown that I had to prune them back to about half of what they were.  Not the best job, but it is done.  Now the strawberries, east of the roses can get some sun and the snake can’t hide here anymore.


This was project that I put off for too long.  A rotten redwood trellis had let my grapes down and instead of replacing it with another, I decided to upcycle some metal off of an old futon and create a new trellis.  The grapes should have been pruned this winter, but of course I procrastinated too long, now they are starting to fruit.  The other side of the arbor is going to be tricky, but needs to be done soon.

I gave the pomegranates some well needed attention, got some plants in, did a bit of weeding and started my container potatoes. DSC03818






Projects for another DDSC03806ay

More overgrown roses need pruning….or maybe just totally removed?  Not sure yet, it is part of my snakes habitat.


Bermuda grass aka hell!!    It is a little gift from an attempt at straw bale gardening. For the past 2 years I have removed it all and it just keeps coming back.  I stopped watering this part of the garden last August to kill off the grass.  But heavy winter rains have made this year worse than ever before.   The monster weed is a desert broom that has to come out as well as the dead cukes and luffa that are clinging to the fence.  I am seriously considering just putting down a thick layer of cardboard and creating raised beds over this whole part of the garden.  My heart just sinks every time I look at this mess.

What to do with a massive pile of rose prunings?  Too wet to burn & too thorny to bag.

Broody Blue Rock:DSC03821  This little girl is 5 or 6 years old and probably doesn’t even lay any more.  But she still tries to hatch the other hens eggs.  Collecting the eggs totally ruined her day (she cried).

I am off!!  Have a great day!!

This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it