Sunday, April 30, 2017

The End of Lettuce: A Summary

The first of the lettuces has bolted, signaling the end of lettuce season for this year. After the lettuce bolts its leaves become much more bitter which makes them less tasty for salads, though I can probably still use it with a lot of salad dressing or on a sandwich. I'll pull the other lettuces before they bolt to keep them nice and sweet in the fridge.

This is what bolted lettuce looks like.
The middle stem is now quickly growing a whole bunch of tiny leaves up a stalk
instead of forming one big leaf at a time from the center.

Lettuce bolts right before it starts flowering. Usually this corresponds with the much warmer weather of late May/early June, but this year has been weird and we're in the middle of some 80-90 degree days. The lettuce thinks it's time to flower.

I still have some very juvenile lettuces surrounding one of the cucumbers in a big pot. I'll wait to pull those, as I'm hoping that the deeper soil and larger mass of it might keep the roots cool enough to make it through this warm spell. Maybe they'll make it to maturity before wilting or bolting.

The young'ins. You can see a Green Salad Bowl lettuce variety
in the side of the pot closest to the camera.
Big Buttercrunches in the back.
In summary, the lettuce mix I got from Benkhes was fantastic. I especially liked the Buttercrunch variety in there- they're hardy and have a really great flavor. My second favorite was the Lolla Rossa, though its leaves were a little more delicate it had awesome color contrast and tasted good. The other varieties in the pack were Black Seeded Simpson, Green Salad Bowl, Red Oakleaf, and Rouge d'Hiver. The others also tasted fine, but sometimes didn't have the oomph to get going in a two month span and/or got leggy and paper-thin leaves. This was especially evident with the Green Salad Bowl lettuce. I had only the Green Salad Bowl variety last year and it was the same way- I eventually just pulled up the whole plant in order to use it in salad because picking off leaves left the other leaves flopped over and trailing in the dirt. Next year I'll probably just get a whole packet of the Buttercrunch and Lolla Rossa.

Buttercrunch and Lolla Rossa being fabulous.
I got four or five lunch salads out of these three alone,
with the plants still looking full and pretty after picking.
Grand total probably seven or eight salads after I pull them.

Also weird discovery: the hardware cloth that I used as a cage to keep the squirrels out also helped with keeping dirt off of the leaves of the lettuces. Since I gently pulled the leaves over the top of the hole cut in the cage wire as the plant grew, the leaves all stayed clean and ready to just pick off of the plant and eat as opposed to the ones in the big pot which got gritty and needed washing. (I mean, really you should always wash your lettuce before eating it, but sometimes you just get impatient.)

Some Red Oakleaf in the front there.
All in all this was a great success. I'll now have three empty pots for bush beans and flowers! :D I'll plant lettuce again in the fall.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bodi and The Pros and Cons of Clicker Training Him

So firstly, I'd like to report that Bodi did GREAT at the Unicorn Festival demonstration this weekend. Granted, the only people at the fence watching us were a handful of kids and Bodi's sponsors, but it's the first time I've ever done anything with a horse in front of an audience, and Bodi's first time too so huzzah! He was wonderful. <3

Us preparing for the Unicorn Festival demo.

I started trick training Bodi three weeks ago with a pouch full of treats and a clicker. I'd done some previous work with Aspen but he's a different age and personality than Bodi. Old horse who is super timid about things vs bold two year old. I wasn't sure what to expect.

"Look, I'm a unicorn.
Also not scared of things on my head apparently."

The first trick was associating the click with the treat which took next to no time at all. This was quickly followed by a need for a "get your face out of my pocket" trick. I started bothering him by poking on his cheek when he was getting grabby, and clicked and treated when he moved his head away from me. Eventually I stopped clicking and treating for it and just stopped poking his cheek whenever he turned away. It works...sort of. I'm still trying to figure out how to get a longer "face away" time. I currently have to keep poking it every three seconds.

"treat? Treat? TREAT TREAT TREAT?!?!?!?!"

The second trick was touching things with his nose. First a wand with a bright card at the end of it, then cones and the magic wand I was going to be using for the Unicorn Festival. He picked this one up in no time. Sniff it and get a treat? Yes please. 

Thankfully Barbara had already trained him to stand still when held by the halter under his chin, so I used that when treat feeding so he didn't bite me. I also learned that part of the reason he'd take nose-dives at my hand was because he was concerned about me snatching it away before he got all of it. Slowly presenting the treat and letting him lip around on my hand for a few seconds after eating the treat helped with that.

Bodi also learned to follow posture directions. He can now gauge inviting toward (turning a hip away) and pushing away (hip turning toward him) and with this we zig-zag through cones and do the cha cha.

Stopping with big, exaggerated motions on my part.

Bodi's favorite seems to be going over a tiny jump pole. He only does it two or so times though, before he starts knocking it down and kicking at it. I'm not pushing it right now. He's got too much other stuff to learn. :-/ 

Trot poles are fun too!
The week before the Unicorn Festival I learned how to do round pen join-up with Bodi under direction from Barbara. He spent about 15 minutes trotting and cantering around and attempting to kick at me when he didn't like being driven. I tend not to want to discipline animals even when I probably should. Having a horse, even a tiny one, kick at you makes me a little bit more ok with moving him away with the lunge whip. O_o Like, cat getting feisty and nipping at your hands is annoying. Horse kicking you is more like "ahh, get it away before it hurts me." I'm glad Bodi is a mini so he's really only capable of bruising my shins. Anyway, he stopped trying to kick me and started listening to directions to slow down and turn left and right, so we ended the session. We both got good exercise out of it and the next day he still came trotting up to the gate to meet me for training, so I guess he doesn't hate me for bopping him in the butt a couple of times. Yay.

We're starting to work on not following me so closely now. Even though he's a mini and can't run me over so much as smack into the back of my legs it's still good to have him stay a couple of feet away when I'm leading him so he's not tripping me or running a tiny kid over. I'd also like to teach him how to stand on a box and pick things up off of the ground! I'm grateful for all of the direction that I've been getting from Barbara and for them trusting me enough to work with Bodi. He's always enthusiastic and fun to be around. It seems like he enjoys it too. I look forward to seeing his little inquisitive face at the gate when I come to get him. :)