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, October 6, 2014

Shadowfax Performs Again as Pig-Dog

Shadowfax has performed again as the melodious pig-dog.  We've chronicled her pig sounds before (Is It a Pig or a Dog), but are always amused by her snorfling, snorting antics and thought we would share her encore performance. 
Her Luna Ball makes her nose and snout get all squished and she snorts like a pig. It's quite funny and she seems to enjoy snorting up a storm. And yes, she's a delicate lady. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kelly's Slough - Grand Forks, North Dakota

Even though John and I have been in Grand Forks for over 5 years, we had not visited Kelly's Slough (approximately 10 miles west of town) until his dad and special lady friend came to visit in September. It was a lovely day, bordering on hot, when we headed out.

The slough is actually a series of water holes, and there were a couple of lookout towers and several walking paths for visitors.  We walked down one path bordering the largest section of water.  Apparently the water levels vary on the time of year and whether it's a wet or dry year, and the types of birds vary depending on the season.  Spring and Fall migration times were the best for seeing quantity and variety of birds. 
We brought Shaak Ti and Shadowfax and they had a great time smelling all of the smells.
We saw a variety of flora, none of which I know. Here are some interesting red berries.  As you can tell we went all out for this blog post.
Yellow flowers.
Purple Flowers.
We also saw a variety of big birds. Possibly juvenile bald eagles or golden eagles, herons, ducks, sea gulls, etc. We were a bit unprepared with no binoculars or good camera, but we'll definitely be heading back to check things out again.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Deaf Dog Awareness Week - Video of Deaf Dog Play Time

Hey!  Did you know it's Deaf Dog Awareness Week.  Heck yeah.  And we're going to celebrate all week.  We'll post some new videos of our awesome deaf dogs as tribute to Deaf Dog Awareness Week, September 23 - 29.  If nothing else you can see what terrific pets they make.  Their deafness never slows them down.  Go out and celebrate a deaf dog this week!! 

Tito may be getting old but he still manages to scamper around and play with the other dogs, well he plays with Shaak Ti anyways.
Shaak Ti doesn't throw any big punches, just a bunch of soft jabs at old man Tito.  Tito can take it, he's the cagey old veteran who can still hang with the youngsters for a little while.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

HellStrip Wildflowers

They call them "hellstrips" in some parts of the country.  Here we call them "berms".  They're the utilitarian space 3 to 6 feet wide between the sidewalk and the street.  Here in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the city owns the berms but the homeowner is required to maintain them.  Snow gets piled on them in winter (lots of snow!) by the plows, and brush and leaves are left there for the city to pick up during Fall clean up (see 2010 post with pictures of the leaf machine).  Don't worry we don't give away our leaves, they're far too precious to us, though we do make sure to not rake leaves on windy days.

The standard default is a grass berm that the homeowner is required to mow and maintain.  Our neighbor Bob across the block though is smart and has a better idea for his berm...wildflowers.
I'd like to try something like this in the coming years. For most of Spring and Summer it just looks like weeds growing on an untended patch, but for a month or so in late Summer and Fall it looks magnificent with explosions of color. 

Wildflowers mixes are pretty inexpensive (you can buy them by the pound) and cover a huge area, so a big bag of seeds can last for several years.  What do you do with your hellstrip/berm? 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oregon Tours - End of the Oregon Trail Museum

Over the Labor Day weekend John and I went to Portland, OR to visit a large number of our friends who live in the area or were up visiting. One of the highlights of the weekend was our trip to the End of the Oregon Trail Museum (not to be confused with OTHER Oregon Trail museums). This museum was located in Oregon City, OR about 45 minutes from the middle of Portland and operated by the Historical Society of Oregon City.

John and my good friend Sue accompanied me on this visit. As you can see, the architecture was true to the ideals of the American West.
As soon as we got into the visitor's center, Sue found us some classic (and classy) bonnets that we bought and then wore throughout our museum tour.
We started with a historical re-enactment movie that "followed" a variety of different people on their trips on the Oregon Trail. We also liked that there was a hologram of a guy who interpreted the movie for us periodically.
There were three different sections to the museum: a pre-trail "general store" that showcased all of the things the people left behind and what they took with them, a section that discussed some of the interesting people's stories from the trail, and a post-trail area that contained a land claims section. The Oregon Trail ended in Oregon City, as this was where they could file land claims.
After the movie and our tour through the museum, one of the docents, Missy (who by all accounts appeared to be bored to tears), offered to let me make candles. Sue and I think she was entertained by our enthusiasm and our bonnets. I did not appear to be a very good candle maker as Missy kept telling me to move faster between the wax container and the cold water container. But I did end up with a nice little candle.
While I have not traveled the entire Oregon Trail in life. I did play the game for many years as a child. In addition, I have seen some of the other stops on the trail - notably Fort Laramie and Independence Rock (which is now a rest area in Wyoming).
Perhaps we're not the quintessential frontier couple, but we're modern day Oregonian travelers.
After the End of the Trail museum, we headed to the McLoughlin House near downtown Oregon City. I was most upset to discover that I had forgotten my National Parks Passport book. I had to stamp my stamps on paper for later taping into my book.
We didn't go on the McLoughlin House tour, but instead walked down to the 4th oldest elevator in the U.S. It was made out of an old water tower that gave us a view of the city. It was a bit unnerving that they had a full-time elevator operator who sat behind a plexi-glass shield - we jumped when we first saw him.
The elevator took us to the Oregon City promenade that we walked down to Willamette Falls (in the top left corner of the below photo). Unfortunately in late-August, it appears that the falls are more of a dam than a waterfall. And, the old factories that lined the river did not add to the beauty of the scene. Possibly we'll revisit during the rainy season to see if it's more picturesque.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Clematis Blooms - Better Late Than Never

Our clematis have struggled this year, not sure why.  Most were planted in the last couple of years, so it's possible that they're still getting established.  They've finally started throwing off some blooms in the last week or two.  I'm not sure which variety these are...I think jackmanii clematis.
Hopefully next year will be better for clematis blooms. 


Monday, September 8, 2014

Northern Woolen Mills Tour

John's dad and special lady friend visited us in early September and as one of our outings, we headed to the Northern Woolen Mills in Fosston, MN. It was about 1.5 hours east of Grand Forks and is one of only a handful of operational woolen mills in the US. It was recommended to us from one of our fellow Pilates students, who is also a fantastic knitter.

The building was not impressive from the outside, but the young lady who came to help us offered to give us a tour of the facility - starting with the very beginning, when the wool is dropped off at the facility. They work with all sorts of wool, regular wool from sheep, merino wool, alpaca, llama, bison, and even elk. The bison wool was the softest.
The brown wool in the cardboard box below is actually from bison.  Unfortunately it comes from the slaughterhouse as (apparently) shearing a bison down is problematic. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mugo Pine Removal

These Mugo Pines (also loosely known as Mountain Pine, Scrub Mountain Pine, and Creeping Pine) flank the beginning of the path to our front door where it meets the sidewalk.  I have never liked these things.  They're messy, not terribly attractive, have really sharp needles, and require lots of yearly maintenance.  They also grow out instead of up (much like me really) and block the front sidewalk.
Usually once every winter the heavy snow weighs down the branches and they sag and block the front walk and the mail-lady refuses to deliver our mail.  Then I gotta trudge out in the snow and cold with my loppers and trim them so we can get our mail again.  This makes John angry. 
In my opinion they're not a great return on my investment of work hours. In short, they don't bring much to the table and they take a lot away, especially from me.  But they've stayed right where they are for 5 years now.  I've had other pressing matters to attend to in the garden and I hadn't really found something to replace them that I was really excited about.
That all changed when we were on a garden walk a few years ago and I saw the perfect shrub, the Centerglow Ninebark.  It's 5-6 feet tall and wide, has bright flowers in Spring and interesting maroon foliage.  It also has some interest in Winter as the bark starts to look peeled, much like a birch tree.  It may have taken a few years to find, but this was the perfect shrub for this spot.  

Next year I'll add some more landscaping blocks and trim the area around these new shrubs.  This will create some new planters for flowers and allow me to line the front sidewalk with bricks.  The bricks along the sidewalk should help tame the hostas a bit bring their leaves up off the ground, and give us some sidewalk back.  Goodbye terrible Mugo Pines, hello shrub I'm actually happy about.