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.



Saturday, February 27, 2010

Flooding Concerns and Garden Dreams

The flooding conversation continues here in North Dakota.  Heavy winter snows and high moisture content in the ground prior to it freezing in the fall has made for a pessimistic flood forecast this Spring.

Don't worry, we're well protected by the dike, and unless it's a catastrophic 1,000 year flood, we should be fine, but other unincorporated areas of Grand Forks aren't protected by the dike and could be in trouble.  Also, areas of the state in Fargo-Moorhead and numerous small towns that have no protection could be in for a watery spring.  It all depends on how much additional precipitation we get and how quickly the snow melts.  If it suddenly shoots up to the 50's for several days, it could be bad news bears.

On a slightly different note, the North Dakota winter has awoken some dormant urges in me (don't worry, this'll be PG rated), namely golf and gardening.  Golf isn't much of an urge, it's more something I daydream about as I work on the computer.  But gardening, the smells, tastes and textures seem so very far away and I can't wait for warm weather.

The urge to get out in the greenery must be fairly well stamped on my brain because last night I had a dream about it.  Yay verily I was outside and admiring my tomatoes and eggplants (two things that are typically featured in any one of my vegetable gardens).  The glossy purple eggplant on the bush were beautiful, even if it was a dream, though I did notice that the tomato plants had a few tomato hornworms on them.  So naturally I proceeded to examine the entire tomato plant and pick the hornwoms off.  Is it weird that my garden dreams involve chores?  If I have a dream about pulling weeds I may need to seek professional help....

Thursday, February 25, 2010

UMD vs UND Hockey

A quick catch up.  Last Friday Alycia and I tagged along with her folks to the UND Fighting Sioux hockey game.  I'd been to the home opener with my Dad and was a bit taken aback by the mellow nature of the fans.  The Ralph Englestad Arena (the REA) is an unbelievable facility, the finest arena I've ever watched a sporting event, and the food, facilites, and hockey were all outstanding, but I couldn't figure out why all the fans acted like they were watching a Senior PGA tour event.

Well, the game on Friday answered my questions.  You just need an intra-league game with a decently disliked rival (though not their top rival by any means) This is the hockey game I was long expecting to watch - eager and boisterous fans, muffled roars on every big check, and the audible gasp as a scoring opportunity materialized, then quickly passed.  Good fun indeed.

The Fighting Sioux have two games in Colorado Springs this weekend, then are back at home for another two games against league bottom feeder Michigan Tech, then league playoffs start, followed by the build up to the NCAA tournament.  Currently UND is ranked 8th in the Pairwise rankings (they emulate the NCAA selection formula), so they would make the field of 16 teams for the tournament.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Potato Sale

Potatoes are very important here in North Dakota, that's a given.  You knew that.  But I never knew that they were treated similarly to new cars in terms of sales and when it's a good time to buy them.  The local potato company Ryan Potato Company (check out their website and tell me if you can guess what their founders' background is) in East Grand Forks, just over the river, was having a model closeout sale on the 2010 models to make room for the new 2011s.  And boy what a sale it was. 

There was a small ad in the Grand Forks Herald that they were selling 50 pound bags of #2 red potatoes this Thursday and Friday only.  #2 potatoes are apparently the second grade of potatoes and for the price they were selling at, I expected them to dinged, nicked, or at least horribly misshaped.  Nope.  They were nicer, better shaped than many of the bags of taters that I've bought from the local grocery store. 

"They're probably caked in dirt and really filthy", Alycia hypothesized when she saw the price they were being sold for.  Nope.  They'd been washed, and were as clean as you'd expect a potato to be.  So how much were they selling these 50 pound bags of potatoes for?  Go ahead, take a minute and guess.  I would have guessed $20.  That seems pretty cheap.  Nope.  They were $5 a bag.  Yup.  The $20 I paid bought 200 pounds of potatoes (Alycia's parents wanted a bag) and I now have 150 pounds of potatoes in the cellar.  Mmmmm. 

The cellar stays cool, even in the summer, so this will be a little experiment to see how they keep.  We eat quite a few potatoes (trying to fit in and all) and usually go through a 10 pound bag in a week and a half to two weeks.  This haul probably represents 3-4 months of potaoey sustenance for us.  If you think this is excessive, the guy in front of me bought 12 bags - 600 pounds of potatoes, and loaded them onto a pallet in the bed of his pickup.  And he only paid $60 for it all. 
This is what a 50 pound sack of potatoes looks like.  After lifting a few of these, you can get to be as rugged and burly as I am.  And you can thank the mighty, versatile, and nutritious tuber that is the potato. 
Shaak Ti inspects one of the sacks of taters. 
A shot to give you a little perspective,  Where else can you buy 2 Shaak Ti's worth of potatoes for only $5?  I think North Dakota is the best place on earth....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Roger Ebert

Unless you're from the Chicago area, or a close follower of Roger Ebert, you may not know much about him since he disappeared from the famous Siskel and Ebert (later Ebert and Roper) movie review show.  Since 2003, Ebert had several bouts with cancer and eventually had his vocal chords, salivary glands, and eventually his entire lower jaw removed. 

Now unable to talk, he has returned to his first form of expression, writing.  His blog (located here) has a lot of movie reviews, but more than that are is musings on life, his current condition, and lots more.  His writing is touching, intelligent, insightful, and a little sad.  Not sad in the sense of mourning a loss, but the sweet sadness that comes from reliving a happy memory that has long past.

His story is chronicled in an Esquire magazine article that captures the spirit of a very interesting fellow.  Here's the story from Esquire magazine.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wal Mart vs. Whole Foods

A very interesting article from the upcoming issue of The Atlantic.  A food writer explores Wal Marts' attempts to enter the local and organic food market over the last few years, with some surprising results.  The author also embarks on a unique experiment to allow food critics to have a blind taste test with similar products purchased from both Whole Foods and Wal Mart.  

Wal Mart may not be the savior of the same local economies that it previously helped destroy, but it is headed in an unexpected direction.  It does make you wonder though if the company is truly committed to local farmers or just after the higher profit margins common at high end grocers like Whole Foods.  

A quote from the article that I didn't think I'd ever hear - “It’s getting harder and harder to hate Walmart.”

Atlantic Article - The Great Grocery Smackdown

Friday, February 12, 2010

More Snow on the Way

OK, so I sort of promised not to tell any more tales of snow and woe.  Though there's not really any woe connnected with the snow we get, I just like how that rhymed.  But snow is what's happening, so that's what you get. 

The forecast is for another 3-4 inches of snow overnight tonight and tomorrow, which isn't a whole lot and not a terribly big deal, but apparently it's been a heavier than normal snow year and the natives are starting to get restless and irritable about the amount of snow.  I'm enjoying wading in the warm pool of blissful ignorance since I don't know any better and have nothing else to compare it to. 

The other odd factor (or so I've heard) about this winter is there hasn't been a winter warm up, a stretch of a few days when the temps get into the 30's or 40's and some or most of snow has a chance to melt.  That hasn't really happened, and as such the piles of snow, along roads and driveways have just continued to grow and grow, making it even more difficult for subsequent removal efforts from aforementioned roads and driveways.  Again, this doesn't bother me much, mostly because I have no other benchmarks to compare it to, but other folks are getting downright fussy. 

Right now the snow starting to thicken a bit outside.  It's the big-flaked, soft and fluffy variety.  And there's virtually no wind so the flakes fall almost straight down, seeming to defy gravity with their graceful, unhurried descent.  It's hypnotic.  I spend a ton of time just staring out the window on days like today. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How to Get Our Democracy Back

If you have 15 minutes, here's an interesting article from The Nation on how we could reclaim our democracy from the grip of pervasive greed and influence peddling.  Written by Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law professor and leader of the Change Congress movement.

How to Get Our Democracy Back

Howdy Again

Hello there faithful followers.  We've gone through another quiet period on the blog for a few reasons, mostly a combination of mild writers block and lack of any noteworthy events around the homestead.  Days have been spent in a typical routine of pancake making, working, coffee cup embracing, dog walking, book reading, and basketball playing (Mon, Wed, and Fri at the local gym). 

It seems hard to generate the gusto to write a blog entry when each day blends into the previous one, and how many times do you want me to tell you that "it was -18 degrees today and the mucous froze on the inside of my nose after 11 seconds outside"?  So at the behest of a reader (this is for you Brian, now get back to work), I'm composing this entry even though I don't have a whole lot to say. 

I did want to pass along one cool link.  Longtime Deaf Dog blog follower and awesome baker Sara is participating in a cool new cooking blog -"From Blah to Ta-Daa" with some interesting recipes.  So far many of the recipes are for deserts (I feel this is an asset not a liability) which is fine with me.  Sara's first recipe is for Valentines Day sugar cookies, and I think I'll test out to see if the recipe translates into gluten free and Alycia can get some tasty cookies for Valentines Day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Pack Of Puppies & The Pied Piper

Mama Bear (aka Alycia's Mom) sent over some photos from her digital camera that had been parked there for a while.  One of the pics was from Thanksgiving and is highly entertaining. 
 
The brown dog is Mozzie (Alycia's parents dogs) and the all black dog is Emma (their neighbors' dog that they puppysit for on occasion), the other two you probably recognize.   Everyone is at rapt attention, not because they are good dogs but because Alycia's Dad is about to hand out turkey chunks.  This scene was repeated half a dozen times throughout Thanksgiving as he regularly bestowed treats upon his furry companions.  

As you can imagine Tito LOVES visiting their house. He spends most of the time patrolling the kitchen for crumbs and spontaneously sitting in the hopes of getting a snack.  Shaak Ti has also grown quite fond of visiting since she gets treats there that she never gets at home, mostly various meat products. 

Please also note on the left side of the picture the number of pies on the counter.  You can count one, two, three, four pies.  There are actually another three or four pies that are not in the frame as well.  Yes, Thanksgiving is a multi-pie affair in Cavalier, North Dakota.

Monday, February 1, 2010

How To Walk On Ice

The storm last week left a significant coating of ice over everything, and as such, perambulating with or without doggie companions is significantly slipperier that it used to be.  The wise folks at the University of North Dakota felt the need to send to send out the following e-mail to all employees:

Report Icy Conditions to Facilities Management
The weather has caused icy conditions on our parking lots, roads, and sidewalks.  We will continue to salt and sand to reduce the slipperiness as much as possible.  Please report any hazardous conditions to Facilities Management at 777-2591.  There are some things that you can do to help reduce the risk of falling on ice.  Here are some helpful hints.
1. Wear boots or overshoes with grip soles.  Slick leather or rubber soles on dress shoes are unsafe on ice.  
2. Don't walk with your hands in your pockets.  This reduces your balance if you slip on the ice. 
3. Take short to medium steps, or shuffle your feet in very icy areas. 
4. Don't carry or swing heavy loads, such as large boxes or cases, which could cause you to lose your balance when walking. 
5. When walking, curl your toes under and walk as flat-footed as possible. 
6. Don't step on uneven surfaces.  Step well over or avoid curbs with ice on them.  
7. Place your full attention on walking.  Don't allow yourself to be distracted by texting, talking on the phone, getting your keys out of your pocket, etc. while walking on ice.
Paul Clark, Associate Director of Facilities


So if you happen to find yourself in wintry conditions, feel free to follow their advice, it might help keep you off your backside.