Thursday, July 16, 2009

All Dogs Considered

Adventures with Ari is hitting the airwaves again. This Saturday morning at 11:30 EST, we'll be appearing on "Dog Talk," NPR's favorite canine call-in show. You can listen live by clicking here or download a podcast once the show had aired. And don't forget: we always love hearing from you on these shows.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Fragaria ananassa

High: 72° F
Low: 54° F
Conditions: Sunny.

I'm not going to lie: it's been a hard-fought summer here in Maine. So hard fought, in fact, that it hasn't seemed much like summer at all. At least, not until late this week. On Thursday, the clouds broke--as if by magic--and the rain abated. Mainers--including those who pride themselves on their staid Yankee reserve--were positively ebullient. Total strangers stopped one another in parking lots and famers markets, just for the sake of celebrating the return of the sun and all those things normally associated with a New England July.

Here at caninaturalist central, those things included a return to our annual agricultural inquiry as well. The subject of our study this week? Fragaria ananassa, or the domestic strawberry. Picking them is big business in our house, where we freeze enough to serve as our main fruit source for the year. We were frankly worried about the effects of the omnipresent rain and cold over the last six weeks. And, in truth, it did delay the season and limit overall yields. Nevertheless, this morning we returned with two full flats of our favorite variety, known in the strawberry world as "sparkle."

Something as simple as a smallish berry is enough to make us giddy this year. So much so that our resident pest, Mouse, couldn't even wait for the berries to be hulled before diving in. Taking the idea of "pick your own" a little too literally, she tried to eat the entire box of berries as soon as they arrived (and by "box" we really do mean BOX):

At the ripe age of three, Ari has learned a certain restraint where culinary matters are concerned. And she's developed a seriously discerning palate at that. As we cleaned and bagged and froze and jammed and canned, she remained aloof, watching the process with the removed interest of a well-worn foodie. It wasn't, in fact, until our last batch of jam was complete and fully set that she was willing to imbibe.

The verdict? Summer has arrived in all its ooey, gooey, syrupy splendor. And thank goodness for that.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It's a wet, wet world.

High: 66° F
Low: 58° F
Conditions: Continual showers.

The statistic on today’s morning radio said it all: it’s rained 28 out of the last 30 days here in Maine.
Everyone—human and animal alike—is feeling the effects in his or her own way.

Meteorologists and historians are interested as can be. They talk about the unique stalled trough off the coast of New Brunswick that keeps pushing sea air onto the mainland, saturating Maine with omnipresent drizzle and humidity. They note that last month was the third rainiest June on record. It was also one of the coldest, with high temperatures rarely exceeding our normal lows.

The whitewater kayakers in our lives are thrilled, too, since they are able to run hidden creeks and streams normally reserved for winter snowmelt. Probably there are other tiny niches of people—ones with fins and webbed toes, I suspect—who are also happy to be occupying soup that puts even Seattle to shame.

But that doesn’t mean much if you’re a canine naturalist.

Ari is a dog driven by sun: it wakes her in the morning and pushes her outdoors in the evening. Without it, she snoozes in a kind of timeless vacuum. Meal schedules become irrelevant. So too do otherwise precisely timed walks. And why not? The moral imperative for any good caninaturalist is to get outside and observe the world. But, really, that’s only interesting when there’s a world to observe.

Sure, there’s plenty to see outside right now: incredibly lush trees, the first blackeyed susans of the year, armies of slugs and earthworms, those intrepid whitewater paddlers. These sorts of things, though, have never really had the draw other species have had for Ari. This damp and dark has sent everyone retreating for dens and caves--a little bit of cozy dry in an otherwise soggy world.

It's almost as if Ari's favorite creatures—the martins and deer, the squirrels and neighborhood cats—seem to have come to the same conclusion she has: So far, this summer has gone anywhere but to the dogs.