Green dogs

Having a dog is not necessarily an environmentally friendly choice. They consume resources and they produce waste. However, I know that my dogs are good for my mental and physical health, plus both are rescues and, therefore, they were ‘going spare’ so to speak. So, with various issues about feeding, entertaining, maintaining doggy health and dealing with waste in mind, over the past few years I have been making changes to try to reduce my dogs’ environmental pawprints, and I think that I have finally achieved the best I’m going to. If you have dogs (or cats), I think it’s worth doing a bit of an environmental audit and seeing where you can make improvements; perhaps my experience and conclusions will be helpful.

Food

This, surprisingly, has been the final thing that I’ve got sorted to my satisfaction. I have been through a variety of foods, up until recently mainly relying on tinned organic meat (i.e. not a complete diet) combined with organic complete dog biscuits. However, both these products were made in Germany and the biscuits came in a plastic sack. I decided to make a concerted effort, therefore, to seek out some food produced closer to home and plastic free. Some extensive searches led me to Naturaw, which is raw food made from high-welfare meat, available in a variety of flavours and it comes packed in home-compostable cartons made from sugar cane waste. The packaging does include wool insulation that’s plastic-covered, but you simply collect this and when you have eight pieces, you send it back and get £5 off your next order. The dogs absolutely love this food (we’ve fed them a partially raw diet for ages, getting minced offal and trim from an organic butcher) and it’s produced in the UK. It’s worth knowing that the company also sells cat food, so if you are looking to get away from those environmentally disastrous pouches, this might be the answer. I also found Clydach Farm, who sell British-produced complete dry dog food packed in paper sacks, so I’ve bought some of this too, although we’re currently using up the last of the old stuff from Germany.

Both companies I am buying from support British farming and do not use plastics in their packaging (apart from the returnable stuff that gets reused). I am able to home compost all the cartons and sacks so I’m taking full responsibility for dealing with the waste… and it’s adding fertility to my garden.

Snacks

I gave up buying dog biscuits years ago and now make my own: flour, fat, medicinal charcoal powder and water are the only ingredients. Simply rub the fat into the flour, add the charcoal and mix, then add enough water to make a dough. Roll it out, cut it into biscuits and bake in the oven. I usually cook mine when I have the oven on for something else, so don’t even use any extra electricity and the only plastic involved is the bag the charcoal came in.

Dental health

We’ve given up the dental chews and moved over to crunchy carrot sticks. The carrots usually come in bunches from the local organic farm, so there is absolutely no packaging and very few chew miles.

Equipment

All dogs need collars and leads and ours each have a harness, Daisy also has waterproof overalls and Sam has a waxed jacket. Other than that there are beds and towels and crates. I think the important thing to remember here is that dogs don’t care whether their lead matches their collar or whether they are colour-coordinated with your outfit. With this in mind, we keep our purchases to a minimum, so Daisy is still wearing the collar she arrived with and using Max’s old lead and Sam has had the same collar and lead for the past 10 years. Daisy’s overalls were bought new for her last year, but they should last a good long time and can be repaired; Sam’s waxed cotton coat (with warm lining added by me using a bit of scrap fleece) belonged to a dog we had many years ago. Beds are washable and generally made from scraps or are secondhand.

Entertainment

Sam loves a ball – Daisy is indifferent, so we have a few balls. We buy good quality robust balls (not tennis balls) and these last for years. Sam is a strong chewer, so she needs toys that she can really get her teeth into – recently both she and Daisy have been enjoying pieces of antler that we’ve had for a few years (originally bought because Max was allergic to bones) and in her life she has had a couple of Kong chew toys that have lasted ages.

Poo

Although this is probably the issue that most people don’t want to think about, it is one that I resolved a long time ago. Basically my approach is to collect the poo in paper and, if necessary, transport it home in a much re-used plastic bag. Once back home, poo and paper go into a compost bin with a lid that can be secured and a tap at the bottom, so that excess moisture can be drained off. To this we add more paper to ensure that there is plenty of fibre and cold wood ash to increase the pH because poo is acidic. The bin is gradually filled and, after a few months, the contents are transferred to a second bin along with other partly composted material, where it all remains (with a secure lid on) for about a year. Once fully composted, the resultant material (which does not smell) is buried… for example in the bottom of the trench dug for climbing beans each year. We do not use this compost as top-dressing on the vegetable plot, just in case.

There are other approaches – you can buy a dog waste composter that can be buried in the ground, and which releases the nutrients directly into the earth. This was not a viable option for us because we have very shallow soil overlying shale and so digging a pit would have required machinery, plus the soil water is often at the surface, so it would have created surface contamination… our system is contained and controllable. You could burn the waste, but this isn’t very environmentally friendly, or you can simply bin (or even flush it) it and let it be somebody else’s problem – a solution that I was not prepared to accept.

Handling dog waste is necessary for all dog owners – unless you are irresponsible and don’t clean up after them – and care is required. Anyone with health issues needs to be very cautious. Our system requires more than one handling, but with care (gloves, face mask, washing hands, face body and clothes afterwards etc) you can reduce exposure and end up with a useful resource. I personally do not advocate the use of degradable plastic bags – these simply break down into small fragments in the environment and cause additional plastic pollution. If you are not prepared to take responsibility for all aspects of your dog’s life, you shouldn’t have a dog.

So, there you have it – I’ve tried to address all make improvements as far as possible gradually over the years and I think we are all happy with the results.

Watching the world

Four times a year Daisy goes to have her hair done. She’s a very woolly spaniel and without grooming, she gets matted and this causes skin problems, not to mention discomfort. When she first came to us the fur on her ears was very tangled and the only way to deal with the problem was to have them clipped – it was impossible to get through the mats even with a specialist ‘rake’, and attempting to do so caused her pain. So, every 12 weeks or so I take her to Vicky, the groomer at the vets, and she is transformed from a woolly bear:

Woolly

To a sleek, shiny spaniel:

Smooth

Whilst Daisy is being washed and clipped, Sam and I have an hour to spend. Since, it is often raining, we have got into the habit of going to a dog-friendly pub. I buy a coffee and Sam has complimentary dog biscuits, It’s a rather nice building, with big windows that have wide, low sills – just perfect for a small dog to settle down on and watch the world go by:

Sam is happy to be entertained this way for an hour, and she usually gets some fuss from other customers, but I try to take something to occupy my time. One or two of you have received a letter that I have written in this very spot, and another one of you will be the lucky recipient of this my latest epistle. In fact, from the perspective of letters, I could do with weekly trips to catch up!

Sometimes it’s good to have time out like this… and you will notice there was a letter involved, so I’m getting over my writer’s block – hurrah!

ScrapHappy December 2018

A couple of months ago, whilst we were out for a walk, Sam got bitten by another dog. Sam was on her lead and the other dog escaped from his; she became defensive because he was charging towards her and he managed to sink his teeth in as I scooped her up out of the way. Fortunately there was only a single puncture wound, although it was deep. The following day I took her to the vets, where the wound was cleaned and she was given antibiotics (it appeared to be infected). Being a terrier, a “cone of shame” is not a viable option but still she was determined to lick the wound until all the fur came off, so I needed a different solution. Of course, Chez Snail we always look for a scrappy solution, and so I give you the doggy vest:

Not impressed, but better than a cone

It is made from three t-shirt sleeves (left over after making yarn from the t-shirt bodies), with holes for her front legs and tail. After the first night I realised that the bagginess at the back was allowing her access to the wound, so I added a popper to hold it closed:

I’m pleased to report that the vest worked a treat – it was soft and comfortable and, once the popper was added, she couldn’t get it off or access her wound and she is now completely healed and re-furred – a much better solution than a plastic cone.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pampered pooches

I regularly support Knit for Peace (a wonderful charity) with donations or entering their regular raffles. I’m not generally lucky, but a couple of months ago I was the winner of their British Wool raffle and very quickly the recipient of this box of delights:

I really, really don’t NEED more wool, but it was such fun to receive, and I will probably give some of it away; however I did want to use some of it. As you can see, Sam and Daisy were very interested, so I decided that they could benefit from this unexpected bonus.

Years ago, when we first got a second dog, we bought a big soft bed for them to share, comprising an inner cushion and an outer squishy surround. Over the years it’s got more and more tatty and the filling had clumped together, so that is was extremely lumpy. Neither Sam nor Daisy was interested in using it, preferring the sofa, the carpet or whatever thing I’m knitting or crocheting. I was thinking about this, and realised that the pooches clearly like to snooze on woolly things, so would probably appreciate a woolly bed. Not wanting to entirely discard the original bed I decided to re-cover it, but first I pulled all the stuffing out of both pieces, fluffed it up and put it all back into the cushion part, supplemented with some extra stuffing and a whole load of tiny wool scraps that I have been saving for just such a project. The outer piece went into the fabric recycling bag because it really wasn’t salvageable.

Then I set to work making some squares, which Daisy kept safe for me:

IMGP6127

MY squares

Interestingly, when turned the re-stuffed cushion over, so that the cotton side was upwards rather than the artificial fleece, both dogs became more interested in sleeping on it (as demonstrated by Daisy below right). However, soon it will have a whole new woolly cover and may be even more tempting. I have completed the first side and it has been tested and approved:

The other half is well underway in slightly different colours, so that we can ring the changes simply by turning it over.

I realise that Sam hasn’t had much of a look-in in this post, despite it being about dog beds, so here she is having fun on the beach the other day:

I’m hoping I will have the completed doggy bed ready to show you later in the month.

Finding Rainbows

We make a special space in our lives and our hearts for our pets, and when we lose them, we are left with a hole. Max was a huge part of our lives and his care was one of our major concerns during the last few months of his life so his departure left me very sad and empty. But, what kind friends I have… in very short order a parcel arrived all the way from Pauline (The Contented Crafter) in New Zealand, with a very special light-catcher made to commemorate Max’s life. There is even a little heart shaped frame in which I have placed a photo.

Isn’t it lovely? And, in combination with my other light catcher (made specially by Pauline for the limery) I have rainbows (which look lovelier in real life)

like the ones that Max left in my memory.

Daisy is doing a good job of making new rainbows in our life and she and Sam seem to be enjoying each other’s company.

What joy to give another unwanted dog a home… although I can’t for the life of me understand why she was taken back to the rescue. Perhaps it was the singing.

Poorly pup

Sometimes, when you are feeling under the weather, the only thing to do is to snuggle up in a fluffy jumper (that’s a sweater to all you US readers) and snooze the day away. So, when Sam woke up this morning with what appears to be a pulled muscle in her neck (the result of sleeping precariously balanced on the small blanket box at the end of our bed, we think), the only thing to do was wrap her up and send her back to bed (a proper dog bed this time):

Sleepy

Sleepy

I am not, in fact, a great fan of dogs in clothes, but Sam does feel the cold and so a few years ago I did make her this mohair coat, which she wears to sleep in on cold nights. It appears to be just the job for a muscle strain too. Fingers crossed that this will mean a trip to the vets is not required.

Oh, and Max feels some company is required and is helping out by snoozing alongside:

That's what friends are for

That’s what friends are for

Beach-combing with a deaf dog

It doesn’t take much to keep me amused – a sunny afternoon and a trip to the beach with the pups and I’m happy. I’m even happier if I know that the outing serves several functions, as was the case today…

On Saturday I am attending a felting workshop entitled ‘Hiding Places: Felt Bags’. In this class, aimed at more experienced felt-makers, we are going to be learning about embedding objects in our felting and using resists to make hidden pouches. I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to attend because it was originally scheduled for last Saturday when I was teaching statistics, but fortunately it was moved by a week and so I can go. The pre-course information came the other day and included the following:

Could all participants bring with them a few bits and pieces they might want to embed in their felt. This could be (but not exclusively limited to):
•    Small beads
•    Shells (including snail shells for Jan)
•    Open weave fabrics: old chiffon scarves, bits of cotton muslin, that kind of thing
•    Small stones or sticks e.g. Driftwood and pebbles
•    Sequins, shisha mirrors
•    Even small metal washers
•    Glass beads/pebbles
Nothing should be much larger than around 2.5 cms (OK driftwood sticks might be larger), smaller is great. What we will be doing is using resist techniques to ‘hide’ things in the felt, then reveal them (or not). Ideally bring things that go together as a ‘collection’ of things.

shells1

My existing collection

See? I even get a special mention!! Thus inspired, I thought that Max and Sam would enjoy accompanying me on a trip to the beach to seek out some suitable shells to add to a little collection that I was given by some friends last year. The beach was almost deserted, but you’ll have to take my word for that because I forgot to take the camera… probably a good job as I was kept rather busy throwing Sam’s ball for her and rooting about for shells. Max does not generally move very fast, he usually just potters around sniffing things. But not today. Today he decided to demonstrate how useful he finds his deafness.

Collected today - despite the Max-shaped distraction

Collected today – despite the Max-shaped distraction

Max likes chasing sea birds. Actually, he likes running vaguely towards them and has never succeeded in getting closer than 20m away before they take off. Today there were oyster-catchers, which Max eyed for quite a while before deciding to make his move. I noticed him setting off in their direction and diverted him away three times before he suddenly discovered his accelerator  and departed like a bulled across the sand. There is no point in calling him back – he cannot hear and even when he could, he would not have paid any attention (it’s the Lhasa apso in him – they are very willful dogs). Fortunately he was slowed when he encountered a stony area and I managed to retrieve him with the inconvenience of only slightly wet trainers. From then on he had to stay on his flexi-lead and I had to collect my treasures one-handed. Despite this, I managed to make a nice little collection – choosing some shells that were worn away to expose the spirals inside. I’m not sure how these will work with the felting, but it will be interesting to experiment and I will report back next week.

All-in-all, a successful excursion, resulting in a happy me and tired dogs as well as my treasures.

Sam needs a lie-down to recover

Sam – recovering

Buy Less, Live More

Buy Less, Live More

One way that we can all be more sustainable in our lives is to be happy with what we have got. Constant pressure to experience or own new things just means that we are in a constant quest… often associated with consuming more and more  resources. It’s important to remember that when we see adverts encouraging us to buy the latest gadget, pair of shoes or shampoo that will magically give us beautiful hair, the manufacturers may not be focused solely on our happiness. It is just possible that they are also interested in their own profits. The more we get hooked on the idea that the latest ‘thing’ is all we need to fill our lives with meaning, the more we perpetuate the process. It’s like a drug – all you can focus on is getting your next fix. And when you do, the effect is limited (maybe not even lasting as long as the time it takes you to get home from the shops) and you move on to seeking the next thrill. If you haven’t already watched it, I highly recommend the animation ‘The Story of Stuff‘ which will give you plenty of food for thought about this subject.

I'm happy, anyway

My Buy Less, Live More picture

However, if we look closer to home, we may be able to find happiness and stimulation within our existing sphere. The Story of Stuff project is currently asking supporters to submit pictures to their ‘Buy Less, Live More’ campaign. I have sent a picture of progress on the crochet sofa – if you want to send them a photo, you can do so here. It’s lovely to browse through all the pictures and see how people are enjoying their time not shopping. Other than crochet, the thing this week that has been making me smile most in my little world is Max.

Max – as recommended by our vet – goes and has his hair done every three months. This seems to rejuvenate him – I’m not sure whether it’s because he can see better or simply because he feels nice afterwards, but he is always much more perky after than before. He is a rather naughty boy with Tina, our very patient groomer, so I have to accompany him and he has to be muzzled for part of the process. Yesterday, however, he made us both smile by being a Good Boy and not having a temper tantrum or trying to bite anyone.

This is what he looked like before:

And this is him looking delightful afterwards:

Sam also makes me smile at no cost as she never needs grooming:

So, what have you been enjoying this week that doesn’t involve shopping?

Sprucing things up

Looking around our house the other day I realised that you would never know about my obsession with fibre… other than all the work bags and baskets. You may be surprised to know that the place is not awash with afghans, covered with crochet cushions nor festooned with felt. There are a few things around… felt tea cosy and camera case, lots of knitted socks and a variety of hats and gloves, but not much that’s showy or obvious. Around my office, you can see a knitted Nessie, crochet snail, mushrooms and bacteria, but they are quite discreet. Much of my work has been given away, swapped or sold. Soon, however, the masterpiece will adorn our bed and I will start on my Bavarian crochet afghan.

It's all too easy to lose a dog in our sofa

It’s all too easy to lose a dog in our sofa…

But right now I have embarked on a big new project. Our sofa is nearly 14 years old. It’s still comfy and we don’t want to get rid of it (despite the fact that it eats hair grips, crochet hooks, scissors and, occasionally, dogs), but it is looking rather tired and Sam has decided in recent years that all the zippers on the cushions are especially yummy and should be eaten. We have a spare set of covers, but we are fast running out of covers that have functioning zippers for the big square cushions (five of them) that go along the back. Fortunately, Sam has not noticed the large zipper up one side at the back of the sofa, so the two big covers are ok. In theory, I could replace the zippers, but I don’t want to for two reasons: (1) I hate putting in new zippers, and these are right along the top of each cushion, so are fiddly to replace, and (2) Sam would probably just eat them again (sigh). Anyway, it seems like a great excuse to yarnstorm my own home.

... but it's still comfy

… but it’s still comfy

And so, blue yarn has arrived and crochet fun has commenced. I’m making the first cushion cover with Attic24’s Neat Ripple pattern as this was so successful for the cushion I made for my sis. Originally my intention was to make them all the same, but I’m tempted to use the same palette for them all, but different designs (would this be too much?) I have chosen five colours from the New Lanark range of double knitting wool: sky haze, iris, limestone, navy and denim. It’s going to require rather a lot of yarn and many hours of work, but I think that it will look great when it’s done. So often people throw away perfectly good furniture because it’s got a bit worn, so it feels good to put some work into reinvigorating  this sofa.

The first cover is progressing

The first cover is progressing

Not quite the big reveal…

I know that lots of you have been itching to see progress on the Masterpiece and I have been remiss about keeping you updated. Frankly, over recent weeks, something had to give and this was it. As a result I have lots of squares to post up on the Masterpiece Page as well as work to do on the scrapbook, although some of the pictures have made it onto the Pinterest board. However, having got my portfolio of permaculture designs sent off at the beginning of the week, I have had time to focus on some crochet.

Yarn from Karen... just starting the square

Yarn from Karen… just starting the square

All the squares that I have received are now part of the blanket and there is a gap for just one more that I’m expecting very soon. The final square that I am making myself is from wool sent to me by the lovely Karen B of Sweet Baby Veg. In fact, I had a couple of other squares already done, but when this yarn arrived this week, I just had to add some to my blanket. I haven’t decided what to do with the rest, but I will, no doubt be inspired soon. Karen was very modest about her gift, saying that it was not particularly original, but I honestly cannot think of a better parcel to arrive through the post. The yarn is made by Tavistock Tastes and Textures and is from their flock of Jacob’s sheep, which graze on Dartmoor. The colours are ‘natural’, ‘rust’ and ‘ocean’. It’s turning out to be lovely yarn to work with and speedily worked up…

Completed square

Completed square

Anyway, this is where I am at so far, with the above square and the one from Lorraine still to be incorporated and then lots of edging. What do you think?

So far, it’s got Max’s approval:

And Sam’s quite keen too:

Happy dogs

Happy dogs

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