Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Finding his inner labrador

When I first introduced Kip to the pool at about five months of age, he was not very enthusiastic about it. He swam when I put him in, and I even clickered him to get onto the second step with me, but he refused to actually get into the water completely by himself.

With Polly, teaching her to swim took exactly 5 minutes. I went to the Baylands, found a place where the water entry was shallow, and thew BALL into the water. Polly proceeded to pitch a 5 minute screaming fit (her solution to most problems in those days) on the bank, and when it became clear that I am not going to get BALL for her, she finally went in herself, swam out and brought it back. Swim education done.

Kip does not have that strong of a ball drive, so this method ended up in him giving me a look of utter disappointment ("how could you possibly be so careless as to throw the ball somewhere I cannot get it") and walking away from the water to go sniff stuff. So I let it go for a while and decided to deal with it later. I don't know if it's age, or the fact that he does underwater treadmill for his rehab, but suddenly he decided that swimming is the best thing ever, and retrieving bumpers from the pool is his life's work.

Today I let him swim for 15 minutes and then took him home, since we are still working on building his fitness and I don't want to let him overdo it. Walking back to the car, I had a whining and pulling (backwards) maniac that tried to do everything to get me to turn around and let him back into the water. Swim education done with this one too. Now let's work on impulse control and loose leash walking, yes?

Stop taking pictures of me. My bumper is in the pool. I need to get it.
Swim video. The horrible snorting seems to be a family trait. As is the mouthing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dog gym

My living room is slowly turning into a doggie gym. There's balance balls, paw pads, and target mats everywhere. On the plus side, the kid finds it extremely amusing and when I am not working with the dogs sets up intricate obstacle courses with all the equipment.

Kipling's PT this week is to build up strength on his right side by forcing him to stretch for his handshakes. After some thought I decided that the best way to do that is to teach him to paw target a stick and then just move the stick around. This turned out to actually achieve two goals:

1. I don't have to bend down to present my hand for the handshake
2. He cannot rest his paw on my hand after he lifts it, making him work harder

Feeling pretty proud of myself for figuring this out. Here's a video of the leg lifts. He's on a platform again to prevent forward creep, hip rolling, and other undesirable behaviors.

Next thing I am supposed to do is tie a weight (sock with some quarters) to his right leg and make him do leg lifts with it. I am sure he'll be thrilled!

We are also progressing towards "back paws on the disk, front paws on targets" game.

Figmageddon is here. Plz send hlp!

Fig season is here. Yay!

Four years ago we planted a Mission Fig in the back yard. That was, as Nick likes to say "a good idea". It's productive, low maintenance, grows fast, doesn't need a lot of water, and doesn't get affected by our ever-present oak-root fungus. A less good idea was never trimming it. I don't think pruning shears ever touched a single branch of this tree for all four years we've had it.

As a result, what started out like this:

Fig tree at one year old. So cute and spindly.

Progressed to this:

The tree a year and a half later. Still cute, but you can see signs
of impending disaster. Might have been a good year to shape
it a little bit...

And now looks like this:
Oh, you want your yard back? Well, too bad, now I live here.
Yes, this is a four and a half year old Mission Fig. The fence behind it is
seven feet, so I estimate the tree is about 14 feet now. Western Gardens book
says Mission Figs can grow to 30'. Anybody have a really tall ladder?
The tree has now taken over half of my garden space. There are two planter beds underneath the branches that you cannot see, one has a very sad zucchini that is growing sideways to get some light, and the other had European strawberries, which threw in the towel when they didn't see sunlight for a month.

Heeeeelp meeeeee!

But on the plus side, the tree produces figs. Lots and lots and lots of them. Starting around mid-August the tree feeds the resident humans, dogs, squirrels, chickens, Mr. Possum, rats, and who-knows-what-else that comes into my yard.


Whatever doesn't get eaten, falls down a makes a mess. We pick the ripe fruit every other day, just to stay ahead.

The helper. The other reason I don't trim the tree is that
it's super nice for climbing right now. 

Looking for figs is a very serious job.
We picked about 14 lbs today, and I didn't even get to the high branches. I figure the squirrels can have those for now, mostly because I cannot find a way to fit a ladder into the whole mess.

We picked two baskets like this.
Since there's no way we can eat 14 lbs of figs in two days, these are going to go into the dehydrator. The Triathlete uses them for snacks when he's out training for hours.

Stacked in the dehydrator. I have four trays, but they don't all fit.

Whatever didn't fit will dry out in the sun for a while.
The extras.

About 12 hours in the dehydrator, and it's done. Triathlete Snacks are ready.

Yesterday's batch dehydrated. The Triathlete has been
partaking of this already, the bowl was full last night.

The tree is mostly clear for now. More figs are due tomorrow though. It's Figmageddon out here. Help!

Oh, and that whole thing in the Bible about Adam covering himself with a fig leaf. Could. Not. Have. Happened. I crawled in the tree for an hour today, and my arms and face are covered with an itchy rash. Fig leaves are rough and abrasive. And fig sap is an irritant. A fig leaf brushing against bare skin feels like rubbing yourself with acid-covered sandpaper. No man would have that anywhere near his "special" parts.

You're going to put this WHERE?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Kayaking in Santa Cruz

Emboldened by our smashing success of kayaking in Pillar Point Harbor, Nick and I decided to venture further afield into the open waters of Santa Cruz. Unlike Pillar Point, which is basically a boat harbor protected with rock walls, and is akin to kayaking in a small calm lake, in Santa Cruz you go out into the real ocean. With real waves. And wind. And surf, which you don't want to get into. On the plus side, there's lots of cool wildlife, and the views are spectacular.

Ready to go. Please note compass, bird ID book, and
toys in a "dry bag"

After some research, I located a rental place right on the wharf, Venture Kayaks, which seemed to have reasonable rates, and didn't have the dreaded "no children under five" statement on their website. We arrived, parked, walked over, and were greeted by a hot surfer dude with an Australian accent.

The surfer dude was nice eye candy, but after I asked to rent a double boat, gave me a look of contempt and said:

"Just for you and him?"

"Well, yes, we are two people..."

"You are going to paddle a double boat all by yourself? You should rent a single. It is easier to paddle."

"Well, yes, but where's he going to sit?"

"Oh, no problem, we rent single boats to people with kids all the time. He'll just sit on the deck next to you."

Ok, I think... On the deck... On hard wet plastic with nothing to hold onto, and right in the spray line of my paddle. That'll go over really well.

I understand that we didn't present a very convincing picture, at least at first glance, so I figure the guy thought we'd paddle around in circles for 15 minutes, the kid would get bored, and we'd come back. But as we were arguing about the kayak, Nick had expertly put on and buckled a life vest they gave him, tucked his "Common Birds of Monterey Bay" book that he now insists on carrying with him everywhere under a strap, and was asking which paddle he should use. And while I am not a seven foot dad with bulging muscles, who was renting the same kind of double I wanted for himself and his kid, right there next to me, I actually do look somewhat fit. So, really, dude, give me my boat.

But no. The nice Australian surfer dude was convinced that we should get a single, so I relented. I figured if we are miserable, we'll just come back and get a different boat. We went down to the dock, I got into the cute little single sit-on-top kayak (think of a small plastic bath tub), and Nick was deposited somewhere in the vicinity of my lap. At that point, he looked at the nice Australian surfer dude and said:

"I think I want my own seat. And a paddle."

Faced with an unwavering stare of a four year old, the guy gave up and pulled out a double boat. Next time, we'll just skip all the arguing and I will have the kid rent us the boat.

Nick in "own seat and a paddle"

The views were rather awesome.

The cool thing about Santa Cruz is that you can paddle to a huge kelp bed.

Lots and lots of seaweed. Actually kind of hard to get through because
it catches the paddles.

Playing with the kelp.

Nick wanted to take some home and was disappointed to find out
that it's attached.

While there were not as many birds as last time, at least in the open water, there were sea otters (with babies! squee!) and sea lions on the rocks. 

Sea otters. The one in the back (with the white face) looked like it was napping.
The ones in front are actually mom and baby. The mom would leave the baby
floating around and dive for food. The baby let out sad little squeaks until
the mom came back. It was extremely cute. Nick was impressed.

Sea lions. We spent a long time watching them because they kept doing
fun things like yell at each other, jostle for space on the rock, and periodically
jump into the water. 

Nick finds this activity very acceptable.

We spent about two hours on the water. When we got back, the nice Australian surfer dude asked if we made it to the kelp beds. When I told him that we actually went past Lighthouse beach (which is as far as they let you go in the rental boats), I think he was impressed.

So now that we've done Santa Cruz, the next stop south is Elkhorn Slough and then Monterey.

I think next time we'll just head over to Kayak Connection (my preferred rental outfit for many years now, which does have the dreaded "no children under five" policy). I'll show them this video and then have the kid rent us a boat. Because he's apparently much better at arguing about stupid policies than I am.

After the trip, we had lunch. 

And ice cream.

And then this happened again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kayaking in Half Moon Bay

Nick and I went on a paddle around Pillar Point Harbor.

Ready to go. "Push me, mom!!"

My view for the duration of the trip.
Nick paddling. Sort of.

See those rocks ahead of us. They are full of birds.

No, really, I mean it. Full. Of. Birds.
Here's a video. The small ones making noise are terns. They let us approach very close, but I kept expecting them all to take off into the air.

The captain.

Landing on Capistrano Beach side.

Beach entertainment.

After a short break, ready to go back in the water.

Did I mention the birds?
Many more bird videos. The terns had one side of the rocks and the brown pelicans the other.

Looking at the pelicans. 

Baby's first paddling blister.

And then this happened.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Fancy physical therapy

Kipling stands on weird stuff for his physical therapy exercises.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Obedient Polly

For a change of pace, Polly and I went to some obedience/rally trials. She showed 4 times in Rally Advanced/Excellent and qualified every time with placements for two more RAE legs. Only three left to go, and then we won't have any choice but get out and do Graduate Open or Utility or something difficult like that.

Some picture proofs from the photographer.

Getting our game face on outside the ring.
One of these days I am going to stop being nervous when doing this.
The dreaded/hated serpentine/weave twice.

Why am I grabbing my shirt? I don't know, maybe it
will make this hated exercise go faster.

Why are you making me stand/stay after the jump?
This is highly unusual.

Heeling past a jump. Polly is not amused.

See, we can do pretty heeling! If I clench my
fists hard enough. It's the threat of beating
that makes her do it.

Oh god. More stay. Why? Why you make
me sit here?

We are done! Happiness all around.

Awards. First in Excellent B and second in Advanced B.