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Garlic and Geriatric Guards

October 31, 2013

Garlic is the crop I count as the beginning of the next growing season.  I know it’s the last thing I will plant for the year, but planting garlic is the hope for a new year of prosperous gardening.  Lately we’ve been lamenting that our older dog is at the geriatric stage, and garlic planting time brings back memories of Blue Moon Mel and his first week here on the farm.  Just a wee pup, he already showed his velcro Aussie tendencies by accompanying me to the garden to plant the garlic.  Of course, by the time I was done with planting I found him tight asleep on the gunny sack the garlic had been stored in, we had actually thought he had wandered off, little did we know that he would never let us out of his sight in the years to come.

garlic seed bundle

garlic seed bundle

Twelve years have passed, and a twelve-year-old dog is like a puppy in a lot of ways.  Just like us, we end how we start.  But like puppyhood, it is a slow process.  And you make concessions.  Mel does all his “chores” still, with the exception of moving the cows, he stays home because he can’t jump in the pickup anymore.  And unlike other dogs we’ve had, I will not be picking him up because he is just too grouchy, or asking him to use a ramp, it’s just too demeaning for Mr. Regal.  He tells me he’s still got it.

garlic inspector

garlic inspector

So every year for the last twelve in dog/garlic years, the ritual has been the same in late October.  Wait for a sunny day, plunk down a bale in the sunny, sweet spot in front of the barn, pull down the seed garlic bundles and work up the garlic for planting.




Well, some of us were working.



Small cloves get sorted out for green garlic planting and the larger cloves are reserved for the main planting.

There you have it, the start of the 2014 garden year, and the planting fully vetted by my faithful companion.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. goingplacesbr permalink
    October 31, 2013 6:03 am

    My aussie was the easiest dog I ever trained, so I fully understand the ache you must feel. Have you begun to look for a new puppy?

    • October 31, 2013 6:10 am

      B, I know I hate to see him get old, bad eyes, bad ears, and bad back – wait that sounds like me 😉 I have a 6 year old dog too, and I am on the waiting list for a pup next year. Shoulda got one last year when I had the chance, but old grouchy hates pups so we’re waiting a bit. Just the way it goes I guess.

      • October 31, 2013 11:24 am

        I don’t think I will ever get a new dog again when I have a really old senior. When I got my current dog, a corgi, my old Belgian Shepherd went downhill rapidly. It seemed like he decided someone else was on duty, and he could go; I still haven’t decided if that was a blessing or not. My corgi is a 12 year old senior now, and there won’t be any new dogs until she is gone.

        • October 31, 2013 1:03 pm

          Nicolec, I was surprised at Mel’s reaction to our new pup, our older dog had just died and Mel idolized her, so much so that he wouldn’t let us bury her without a fight. Pulling him out of the hole was a task I never care to do again. He was so despondent, I mistakenly thought a pup would help, Mel was 6, and not by any means old. Huge mistake – but one that had to be dealt with. I completely understand your stance though, pups are hard on old dogs, and the care of an old dog besides the integrating a new youngster into the household is almost a full time job. Best to your senior girl.

      • goingplacesbr permalink
        October 31, 2013 4:30 pm

        It’s a hard balance point.

  2. October 31, 2013 6:16 am

    I’m there. 12 yr old Blackie, lab/collie mutt. If she’s helping with chores it doubles the time because of the pace she now moves at – though if a rabbit is foolish enough to be in sniffing range, she can put on a few seconds of stiff legged sprint, which she pays for a minute later. I had not realized how much she’d slowed down till I was exercising someone else’s dog recently, and discovered how much faster I needed to move with the younger dog.

    • October 31, 2013 8:54 am

      SSF, I know what you mean, one warm night out barking at bears and coons and Mel is so stove-up he can’t move comfortably the next day. He’s kind of decided that he can halfheartedly give the kittens a run on the way to milking, and that’s about all the Blue Avenger can take anymore. His fuse is getting short too, I only get to hide from him twice now, he used to allow me three, but now I get in trouble. Our younger dog just barrels through him too, so now we make sure we know exactly where Mel is before driving to the barn, I’ve seen my share of dogs ran over here, and it’s not a pretty sight.

  3. Tim permalink
    October 31, 2013 6:41 am

    lovely piece (reminder to self, get the darn Garlic in the ground!!) and, having a Blue Heeler ourselves, I know the dog trains the owner as much as we think we train the dog……..

    • October 31, 2013 8:56 am

      Tim, oh yes, he has us trained for sure. I have been accused of spoiling him for the first six years until I got a new pup, and now I am accused of spoiling that one 😉 One thing for sure, neither one of them complains about my cooking!

  4. October 31, 2013 6:57 am

    I understand this too. My Border Collie is 12 as well. He gets around pretty well but I see the signs and know he won’t be around for many more years. We just got a new pup and that seems to have brought a spring back into his step. Even if sometimes it is to go after her and tell her he’s not in the mood to play.

    • October 31, 2013 9:01 am

      LMG, I am envious of your dog’s disposition. This is the first dog I have ever had that wanted to kill a pup. It took a good 18 months to get him to even accept Trace and now 6 years later, I still have to watch them together. Trace could whip him in a heartbeat, but it’s just not his nature. I think a pup now would give my old guy a stroke, he was beside himself when I got Trace. I am not looking forward to the next pup introduction but it is inevitable 😦

  5. Chris permalink
    October 31, 2013 8:42 am

    That last photo was a tear jerker for me…I could just imagine Mr. Regal sitting there watching over the garlic planting ritual for the past 12 years as in all your other chores, every day. Never leaving your side….We have an almost 13 yr. old so I know that feeling.. 😦

    • October 31, 2013 9:06 am

      Chris, poor old guy, he is the man for sure. I’ve been inching Jane’s milking time earlier in the evening to get ready for TEODST, and many nights it’s dark and I have to make the rounds and turn the fence back on, turn the lights off, close the big doors, and then finally retrieve the milk and head in. And even if I can’t see him, Mel is there waiting to escort me to the house. He won’t even go to sleep until he knows where I am. I am seeing a time soon when I will have to sleep downstairs since the stairs are getting to be a problem for him. No matter how many dogs I have over the years, I never really am prepared for the last years.

  6. Bev permalink
    October 31, 2013 12:18 pm

    Nice garlic. When you refer to green garlic planting do you mean using first in the spring like you would use a green onion?
    Mel is saying a job well done. Our Aussie Mischief loves being with us every step of the way on any job we are doing. In spring she knows the garden is off limits until the seed is up and the plants established. Then it is a nap while we weed. Later it is snacking on green beans. All the while it is watching to make sure things are just what they should be around the place. They are our faithful companions and tug at our hearts. I read a little saying that I like. “My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am.” In our lifetime we have had to face the same situation you are facing. Enjoy every day and cherish all the great memories.

    • October 31, 2013 12:56 pm

      Bev, yes, in ongoing quest to consume alliums every day 😉 I’m finding green garlic is just another way to fill in the gap. It’s much milder than mature garlic and really is good in almost anything you would use garlic in or onions for that matter. I used to thin my garlic and then just started planting the smaller cloves in a row by themselves. The only difference is the closer spacing and harvest times, otherwise the culture is the same. This year the green garlic is just at the end of my storage garlic row.

      Your Missy sounds like my two. I like the Aussie demeanor, they are calm and just happy to be with you, unlike my friend’s Border Collie that needs lots of exercise and babysitting. Their job is babysitting us and making sure we do everything according to Hoyle. Gotta love ’em. Great saying BTW.

  7. Mich permalink
    October 31, 2013 1:14 pm

    Faithful canine companions getting old is so tough, I always have GSD’s as I live on a isolated farm and they are great guard dogs & so loyal. On my 4th one & it’s so heartbreaking when they get real old.

    • October 31, 2013 2:52 pm

      Mich, I have had the good fortune to have 3 go to 17 and one was a GSD, man I loved that dog. I always toy with the idea that I wished they lived longer, but then it would be tough to see them bewildered if you died first. Guarding is the number one priority around here, I do not go into the woods without them and I let them be the guide. They also have been getting full duty of late, alerting us to folks trying to hunt deer in the fields. A car goes by too slow, they bark “a car is going too slow” bark. Amazing animals for sure.

  8. Bee permalink
    October 31, 2013 4:08 pm

    It’s really tough, but it’s part of the cycle. Whether it’s a dog, a horse, a house cow or your favorite cat, I think we learn to live with the prospect of our own deaths by accepting the deaths of our animal friends. What I find particularly interesting is that I’ve had to do some mental housecleaning on the subject of reincarnation (I know, makes me sound like a real space cadet!). I had a cat who decided he owned me from the day hubby brought him home as a wild 8-week old kitten. Shadow was the ruler of the roost for 18 years, until he finally just got so old and feeble that all he could do was curl up on the floor in the bathroom. I still miss him. However, two years later, enter a two-month old black cat who not only looked like him, he had some of Shadow’s habits. He couldn’t have learned them from the other cats, because they weren’t things any animal but Shadow did. Weird things, like eating Cheetos — which none of the other cats will touch — combing with people’s hair with his claws or pouncing on the bed at 4:30 AM, walking the length of my body and yelling “Rowr!” in my ear. Our granddaughter, who was so young when Shadow died that she didn’t remember him, named the new cat “BlackCat,” which was Shadow’s nickname. So, I dunno about this you-only-go-around-once idea…

    • October 31, 2013 5:18 pm

      I’m with you on that one, our youngest dog I swear is our old Belle come back to us. Not until we had him for about a month did I really look into his pedigree and see that he is a great, great nephew of hers. The funny thing was that as a pup they were so much alike we couldn’t believe it, and it’s smart and silly things too. He laps water the same out of the toilet (trust me Mel sounds different) just the sound makes me want to call her, and he figured out our door system so he can get out through the basement or upstairs and out onto the porch roof if a window is open. Belle did that too, and Mel still hasn’t figured it out or had any desire to go down the basement stairs or out on the porch roof in 12 years. Funny things too like Zeke our dog before Belle died of cancer, and we found Belle through an advertisement in the paper, she was born the day Zeke died, and it’s the same with Trace he was born the day Belle died. None of these breeders knew each other and this all happened over the course of 20 years. Same dog, or not I have loved them all. Cows too, I still miss Della when I’m milking Jane, even if I had to put kickers on her every single day I milked for 10 years.

      I think you’re on to something with BlackCat 🙂

      • Bee permalink
        November 1, 2013 7:24 am

        The returnee I’m still waiting for is my old saddle mare, Reno. Bought her when I was 17 (my very first registered QH) and we were together 17 years. I lost her last “filly” last year at the age of 27, so I don’t have any kind of a connection any more. We’ve got a broodmare pregnant and due in May, so I’ll be watching to see if it might be my old lady on a return cycle. Nice to know someone else has noticed that animals, at least, have a second chance.

        • November 1, 2013 7:36 am

          😀 I hope I do too – sometimes I feel like this is my second go round here. Fingers crossed for the May birth.

  9. November 1, 2013 6:03 am

    I love this post. I just did the same thing last week. I love planting garlic, the cool dark soil and the smell of garlic on a warm fall day is quite healing. We have a Icelandic Sheep dog puppy that is 5 months old. She is as velcro a dog as I have ever had. She is my constant companion. We also have two golden retrievers, one five and one nine. The five year old loves the puppy, not so much for the nine year old but she is coming around. When I was planting garlic the nine year old is sleeping in the sun, The puppy and five year old are wrestling in the grass. Every time I go to the shed the puppy follows close behind nipping my heals. A minute later I hear chickens and its the puppy trying to herd them. The chickens don’t really appreciate the puppy too much. Hoping this scene plays out for many years to come.

  10. Eumaeus permalink
    November 1, 2013 7:25 am

    “we end how we start”
    This does not bode well for me. I am rumored to have had nasty colic.

    you have beautiful soil. Sounds like a pickup line, right?

    we grow music too.

    I like your advice to eat allium everyday. ‘garlic as good as ten mothers’ they say.

    • November 1, 2013 7:47 am

      Ouch, colic is not fun. Hopefully you’ll just need a little propping up like a baby does and you can skip the colic part.

      I have volcanoes and cows to thank for that soil – bless them both.

      Music has been music to my garden, others have come and gone but it still is the star – mostly because I am lazy and like the big cloves 🙂 A friend gifted me with Turkish Giant, Vietnamese Red, and Inchelium Red this past week, so I guess I’ll see how they do along with my favorite.

  11. November 2, 2013 3:29 am

    “we end how we start” I cried for 6 months straight (reportedly) so that’s not so good for me. Where do you buy your seed garlic? You have lovely hands. Ever thought of hand modeling?

    • November 2, 2013 5:19 am

      Amy, ooh not good, poor baby, hopefully that won’t be the case 😦

      I’ve bought garlic at Territorial Seeds, and the last I bought came from here:

      Once you get your garlic going you probably won’t have to buy seed again.

      My hands are a wreck, mangled and damaged and perennially dirty – maybe for hand model for SnapOn Tools perhaps 😉

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