Terraforming the Dog Yard

In the dim and distant pass, back in the seventies, I was a zookeeper at the Baltimore Zoo. At this point in time much of the zoo was that horrible tradition of animals in small cages. They were always on view, but there was nothing to see except a poor miserable creature. I found this old German book by a zookeeper who was promoting environments. What a radical idea. To see the wild animal in some sort of semi natural setting. Like the drunk looking for his quarter under the streetlight because he could see better there, keeping an animal in a void space was uninteresting at best, tragic at worst.

Caprecia Mousing
How it started
Photo: N Little

I had been giving my yard some consideration of late because I felt it was uninspiring to any thing but frenetic puppies. The first move in the direction of terra forming was the thinning out of some large maple trees. The tree were way to close together causing them to be spindly and with little canopy. The major bulk of the trees were cut up for firewood, but I had several large piles of branches. Immediately the Ibizans started working those piles. Caprecia was thrilled. She spends hours out there, we have an always available dog door out the walk out basement. When I think she has gone a bit OCD she catches a mouse, occasionally a bird, sometimes a rabbit. The other Ibizans also hunt these brush piles. Sometimes Yard Dog Kizzie, our German Shepherd x Walker joins in. Also these piles are great to use for rally races. Small Xipilli the miniature Xolo can dive under something if too hotly pursued.

Exporing The Pine
Yellow Pine Down
Photo: N Little

So next came throwing seed into the piles to encourage game. Some seed sprouted and now I have sunflowers, corn and millet growing out there. I mow around the hummocks. There was a huge yellow pine that had to be cut as my last goat ringed it a few years ago. It fell supporting itself on large strong branches. It is on an angle that Xipilli can run up it and store his special prizes at top. Squirrels nest in the big trees in the yard. What safer place from predators than surrounded by a pack of dogs. These squirrels know how to stay away from the dogs but create constant amusement for both dog and critter by jumping from tree to tree. As I mow the yard I note interesting things that are growing and preserve them, bush cherries, tomatoes and apple trees from seed passed through the dogs. There is an island of pretty smart weed about 12 by 30 feet, knee high lush growth with little red flowers, and another island of couch grass which is grey green and medicinal for dogs. I also have two very large chestnut oaks that carry tons of acorns. Beneath the woodsier section is a blanket of violets.

Hunting in the brush
Doggie Jungle Jim
Photo: N Little

My next move is to plant hazelnuts into the brush piles. They make a dense shrubbery. It is important to keep all this manageable, allow for mowing around things. This keeps it from supporting parasites from outside the fenced area. This winter I will put in winter rye so the dogs can hunt through that. It can be mowed in the spring. My yard is also on a great slope so it never gets swampy or wet.

Anyway the dogs all love it. I am a great respecter of nature and I see so much more wild life around my house because of enriched environment than on my three mile hike through the so called replanted forest of junk pine in the outback.

Nan, 2011