My attempt to move from Southern California and create a happy and sustainable urban homestead in North Dakota, with some musings on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.



Monday, April 27, 2015

The Happy Gnome Brewpub in St. Paul, Minnesota

During our recent long weekend in Minneapolis we stopped by the St. Paul area for dinner at The Happy Gnome. 
The Happy Gnome is a brewpub with an extensive tap list of microbrews and unusual beverages that are harder to find here in Grand Forks.  John had located this restaurant a few years back and owing to their nice beer list and extensive gnome theme, it was pretty much a given that we had to visit.  Not only was there great beer and a ton of garden gnomes, but at least one Sasquatch lurking as well.  Gnomes and Sasquatch?  It's like it was custom made just for John. 
Alycia wore her "Gnome Taxi" t-shirt.  Yes that's a gnome riding a dachshund on her t-shirt.
John wore his Duff Beer t-shirt, it seemed appropriate.  This is the charcuterie plate, an assortment of God's creatures, artfully smoked and pickled for his dining pleasure. 
We continued on to a local ice cream parlor that was visited by President Obama. 
This is John's patented "The President ate ice cream here, so it's totally worth it, but I'm glad I brought my Lactaid pills" look.  I've seen this look many times before. 
With the exception of a 2 hour talk at a conference, this was more of a long weekend, eating/drinking/hiking tour of the Twin Cities area. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Alycia had a conference in Minneapolis in early April and I accompanied her down to "the Cities" for a long weekend trip.  We had some great food, took some lovely walks along the Mississippi River, and visited the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

It was early April, and the tulips had barely poked out of the ground, so this wasn't an optimal time to visit.  But neither of us had been before, so we considered this a little scouting trip.  In one "lawn/prairie" section there were some tiny flowers blooming, really one of the few things flowering at all. 
Some espaliered Honeycrisp apple trees.  These are trained and pruned to grow flat along a fence line. If space is at a premium in your yard, this is a great technique to train trees and still get the benefits of fresh fruit without sacrificing a ton of yard space.  You can do this with just about any kind of fruit tree, and probably any kind of fence too. 
This was gonna be a lovely place to visit once everything was blooming.

A few of the other things that were blooming at the time - dwarf irises.  We have some similar irises (Siberian irises) on the homestead, and they're usually the first thing every Spring to bloom.
This is a still dormant European Weeping Larch and we're going to get one of these for our yard.  They only get about +/- 6 feet tall and have a weeping habit.

There was a lovely pond and bridge, and walking trails ran through the entire property.  Behind Alycia there was a vigorous Canada Goose fight/gangland rumble going on.  The details of the fight are sketchy, but it was indeed a throwdown if there ever was. 
Your author likes to sport the plaid-on-stripes look.  Alycia thinks it's better than my breathtaking plaid-on-plaid look.   My fashion success benchmark is generally "if no children come up to me and expect to make them a balloon animal", then I know I've dressed appropriately for the occasion.
They had a demonstration of a living roof.
We somehow just missed the maple sugaring season, though it should have been in full swing.  Sap runs in the Spring during warm days and cold nights, which we had unluckily just missed out on.  I was looking forward to some maple syrup tastings. 

This is the maple syrup collection machinery and tubing that runs back up into the woods to collect sap.  It takes about 40 gallons of sap to cook down to a gallon of syrup. 

Even though we missed syrup time and not much was blooming, this was a highly successful scouting trip.  We'll be coming back to the University Of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum at a future date and checking out all the cool plants. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pileated Woodpeckers

It's been an awesome week of woodpeckers.  There's no coincidence that Week of Woodpeckers makes the acronym WOW! It's been a wow week for us here at the homestead, who could be gently described as bird enthusiasts. 

Sunday morning I spotted this Pileated Woodpecker on the power pole at the corner.  I quietly made my way to the front mud room to get a photo without scaring off the bird.  After about 30 seconds the bird flew off to the West.  Things get crazy because as I turned around to go inside...
...a second Pileated Woodpecker had been on the suet bird feeder the whole time!  Whoa!
I've seen glimpses of Pileated Woodpeckers before, but usually from some distance and usually obscured by trees. This is by far the closest I've had a look at one, and definitely the longest amount of time I've been able to watch one.  And to top it off, two of them at the same time.
After about a minute on the feeder, the bird few away...
...and alighted on the tree on the Northwest corner of the homestead, then flew off just moments later.
Sadly Alycia was out of town and didn't get a chance to see this very cool bird.  It's the first time we've seen a Pileated Woodpecker at the suet feeder in the front yard, I'm hoping that one of them will want to come back for a return visit.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker Sighting

There was an awesome bird sighting on the homestead this morning - a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker!  I was way more excited than I should have been, and he hung around so long that I was nearly late for work.  I spent the better part of a half hour watching him work up and down the tree.

This completes my woodpecker sightings for the local area. I've seen the downy, hairy, red-headed, Pileated, and Northern flicker.
We've seen a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker before when were on vacation in Glacier National Park in Montana, but this is the first time we've seen on at the homestead in North Dakota.  I was pretty dang excited.

UPDATE - My co-worker who is a woodpecker expert, seriously he's writing his dissertation on downy and hairy woodpeckers, has alerted me that there are in fact more woodpeckers to see here in North Dakota - "You are missing Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) and can also see Blacked backed Woodpeckers (Picoides arcticus) a few hrs from here."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dog Bed Tortilla

One of the MANY (I can't bold and underline and emphasize this enough, she's a strange little dog) odd things about Shaak Ti is that she loves to be squished up in her slumber ball.
Here she's fully enveloped, like a burrito. 
This gets her really ramped up during doggie play time. John will even pick up the entire ball and let her rock in the air. 
Shaak Ti in her element - being weird and enjoying every second of it. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Raise Your Paws Fundraiser

The annual Raise Your Paws fundraising dinner for the Grand Forks Circle of Friends Humane Society was a few days ago. We had a lovely time between the silent auction, live auction, and Newman the painting dog.

One of the things we worked hard to win in the silent auction was this drawing of three billy goats.  It speaks to me. 
And here's Newman sitting patiently for a treat prior to painting. 
And here is an action shot. 

Newman is a very cute little pup and quite the artist indeed.  He had several original works up for bid in the silent auction.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tug-Of-War Video

Shaak Ti and Shadowfax playing together with their awesome 6-Foot Rope Toy.

This may look familiar to some loyal Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes readers...it is indeed the Valentine's Day present that Alycia received this year.  We embrace the non-traditional around here. 

They enjoy this monster rope toy and Shadowfax plays with it (supervised) almost every day when it's too cold or snowy to play outside. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

First Sweater Day

So while it was 70 degrees last week, this morning it was a balmy 11 degrees with a couple inches of new snow. Perfect for giving Grandma's sweater a first try! 
The one thing we realized is that the bulky yarn makes Shadowfax's harness a  tight fit. We may have to invest in a special "winter sweater" sized harness for next year.