A transplanted Southern Californian living in North Dakota, with some insights on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.



Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shadowfax - A Delicate Lady

Shadowfax is a delicate lady.  Not all dogs would have the decency and discretion to make sure to have their lady parts covered up with a fluffy pink blanket. She's a big tough pit bull, but also needs to make sure that everyone knows she has a delicate side too. 
She probably wouldn't be too happy that the paparazzi have snapped this photo of her napping, especially in this scandalous pose.  She's also mentioned on more than one occasion that photos from this angle always make her tummy look big.  And in her defense, pictures of her sleeping on her side do make her tummy look much bigger than it actually is. 

Her heated dog bed isn't plugged in yet.  It's still pretty warm and we're a month or so from being chilly enough that the dogs demand we turn on their heated dog beds.  But that doesn't stop the dogs from using them anyways, especially for a comfy, splayed leg nap.  As we've known for years, Shadowfax is indeed a delicate lady. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I'm Melting - Shaak Ti in the Sunbeam

Shaak Ti enjoys her sunbeam.  Generally if we can't find Shaak Ti at any point during the day, we just go check all the sunbeams and that's usually where she is. 
And no, the GoughNut Stick Green is not speared through her neck. This is how she chose to pose.   As we've said in the past, she's a odd little critter. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Triangle of Napping Power

All of the dogs are currently simultaneously sleeping and snoring. Seriously, it's pretty dang loud in here right now. I might have to go upstairs so I can concentrate and get some work done. 
There is possibly some kind of debilitating, Bermuda Triangle of napping thing going on in this particular area of carpet that is making all the dogs sleepy.  I'd go check it out myself but am pretty scared of what might happen. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Merlin - Small Falcon with Prey

We've been seeing this fellow/lady on our morning dog walks for most of this summer.  It was a frequent resident of the park that we walked through and was always quite noisy and boisterous.  This is a merlin, a small falcon commonly known as a pigeon hawk.  You can see in the pictures below where that name comes from. 
The other day I noticed that the merlin was standing in the street outside the house and it looked like he/she had snagged some lunch.  An unfortunate dove was grabbed. 
We don't relish seeing birds get eaten, but it is fascinating to see the web of life in and around our small little homestead.  The merlin was a very good looking bird, striking blue and gray wings with mottled white and brown undercarriage. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Classic Shadowfax Photo from Days of Yore

This is an older photo - back from 2010, just months after we had gotten Shadowfax. Shadowfax might be a powerful and mighty deaf pittie, but she sure knew (and still knows) how to look like a giant goofy goober.
I laugh every time that I see this photo, what a derp-tacular face.  And we're thankful that the rest of her grew into those gigantic paws and gangly legs. Sadly, it has been five years since this photo and (unsurprisingly) her braided rope toy has passed on to the other side.  We now need the Extra Large Super Jumbo 6 foot rope toy for adequate tug-of-war and chomping. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Containers and Front Step Plantings

The front step area of our house was a bit of a mystery to me for a few years, I was never quite sure what to do with it.  I was new to the area and learning about which plants did/didn't grow in Zone 4, and our front steps faced to the North.  Adding seasonal plants to the steps was always seemingly on my to-do list, but never really a top priority.  Once I was done with other more critical matters like the garden, planting fruit trees, and planting pretty flowers, it was time to think about how to spruce up the front steps.
These are the front steps of the homestead.  They're pretty plain concrete steps with a black wrought iron hand railing on either side.  They get a bit of indirect light in early morning and late afternoon, but that's about it. 
This pot has "Sliver Falls" dichondra, "Big Red Judy" coleus, and begonias (the name escapes me).  I was dividing hostas along the front walk (more on this in another post) and ran out of not only places to put the extra hosta divisions, but space in the trash can as well.  So I decided to throw a half dozen of them in plastic pots to see if they lived.  They did.  This continues to prove my theory that you can't kill hostas.

The hostas provide some nice variegated foliage to soften the front steps and augment the plantings in the pot.  I'm not one for paying big money for pots, this is one of four that we received as a gift from our generous In-Laws.  They snatched them up pretty cheaply when a local hardware store was going out of business. 
I planted another pot that's located to the right of the porch, in the midst of "snow on the mountain" ground cover that has taken over the area.  This pot has "Red Star" dracena, coleus (not sure of the name), and impatiens.

How about you?  Does your garden plan include planting in pots?  What do you do to liven up the look of your front/back porch?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Shadowfax Having a Nap

It's a warm and muggy summer day here at the homestead in North Dakota.  The pups are napping up in expectation of a visit from Grandma and Grandpa.
You can never be too rested in preparation for a visit from the grandparents.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe and Instructions

It's sauerkraut season here in North Dakota.  We forgot to plant cabbages in the garden this year, but that's OK since cabbages are cheap and plentiful at the local Farmer's Market.  Let's make some kraut! This is truly one of the easiest dishes to make, you know, assuming you like sauerkraut and all.  Little more than cabbages, salt, a crock, and a couple of hours of elbow grease will have you up to your chin in kraut for months. 
This is a three gallon ceramic crock for fermenting the sauerkraut along with one of the two cabbages I purchased at the Farmer's Market in town.  The cabbage weighs about 4 pounds and cost me $3.  So for $6 and the cost of salt, I'm gonna have months of delicious chock-full-of-probiotics sauerkraut.

If you don't have a crock already, these are pretty easy to come by here in the Upper Midwest. Our In-Laws picked this up at a garage sale for $5 (I think) and gave it to us.  If you don't have access to used crocks like this, you may have to get one from Amazon or elsewhere online.  They're not too expensive and last for a long time.  And sauerkraut can also be made in any non-reactive container, like a glass jar. 
The key to sauerkraut is finely slicing the cabbage, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, and try for consistency.  We have a mandolin slicer, but the cabbage was too unwieldy and I just wound up cutting it by hand.
After you've finely sliced the cabbage, you're going to want to physically damage the leaves in order to coax out the cabbage juices that will ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut.  You're going to do this by beating the heck out of the cabbage.  My tool of choice is an old-school hand potato masher.

I did one round of squishing the cabbage (in the white plastic bowl in the picture above) and continued mashing them in the crock.  It helps at this point of the process to angrily yell "HULK SMASH!", or something of the sort.  Not only will this help your sauerkraut taste better, but it will also likely have the added benefit of forcing your significant other to shout "What the hell is going on in there?!?!" from the other room.

At this stage you're going to add salt to your cabbage mixture.  The general rule is 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of cabbage mixture.  You want the mixture to taste like you've added salt, but not oppressively salty.  After an hour or so after you've started smashing and adding salt, you should notice a decent amount of liquid in the crock. 
Continue with your potato masher and press the cabbage mixture to the bottom.  Your goal is to get every last bit of cabbage underneath the surface of the liquid.  I then took a plate and set it on top of the cabbage mixture in the crock, then added this one gallon jar filled with water to weigh it down to push the cabbage below the liquid.  The plate is turquoise colored, thus the odd bluish hue.

Again, the goal is to keep the cabbage mixture below the surface of the liquid.  Most people use a plate or a bowl and then have a weight on top to push the cabbage down and make sure the liquid remains above the cabbage. 
This is the ghost on our kitchen counter.  The crock is going to sit here at room temperature for 2-3 days, then I'll take it down to the basement where it's a little cooler.  I'll check it in a week, and weekly thereafter.  Usually at the three week mark, it has the right level of spicy/sour/crunchy for my taste.  You may want more or less fermentation time depending on the temperature and your personal taste preference. 

Once the sauerkraut is to your liking, you have a decision to make.  You have the option of canning it, which will make it shelf safe, but also eliminate most/all of the good probiotic bacteria, or you can store it in the refrigerator.  The sauerkraut will continue to ferment in the refrigerator, but at a much slower rate.  I store it in the refrigerator in a one gallon glass jar, and it's usually good for several months.

That's how you make sauerkraut.  A minimal investment for the cost of the cabbage, and few hours of work and you've got months of kraut for side dishes and toppings.  What about you awesome reader?  Do you make sauerkraut?  Do you pickle or ferment anything else?