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, February 28, 2011

Header Number Two

I had pegged my number of "falling down on some wintry surface" incidents at one per winter season.  I fell once last winter on a slippery sidewalk.  It hurt.  A couple of weeks ago I fell again on an icy sidewalk that was covered with a dusting of snow, thus obscuring the ice underneath.  The puppy was with me on her evening walk at the time and though she wasn't really to blame, she certainly didn't help the situation.  Luckily since she was along I was able to foist blame upon her for the fall.

For some reason I thought it to be an intractable truth that I would only fall once a winter, and I'd already gotten mine out of the way.  I discovered this morning that this was not true. 
Perhaps it was because I thought I had gotten my allegedly annual winter fall over with that I acted this morning with less than an abundance of caution.  As I was taking the recycling bin (a large trash can) out of the back mudroom this morning I took a header down the back steps into Tito's priceless collection of artisan crafted yellow snow.  The cause was a complete lack of attention and due care, the price was a scraped up hand, shin and a rolled ankle (my good ankle unfortunately).  Bummer. 
The moral of the story is that you can't let your guard down around Old Man Winter, especially here in North Dakota where he looms large.  Not for one second.  Just when you think you've got him figured out, BAMMM!!!, he steps up and reminds you that he's still in charge and you should always respect his authority.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cute Puppy Pics

More cute puppy pics for you, gentle reader.  That's what I deliver, a never ending cavalcade of deaf dog pictures...
Puppy asleep in the green ball, and she enjoys it now when we cover her up with the warming blanket.  If you look closely, you can see a bit of tongue sticking out, the sure sign of an intense nap.
Anytime we sit on the ground, puppy immediately wants to climb up and sit on your lap for some super snuggling time.  And since the puppy puts off so much body heat (and Alycia is always cold) it's match made in snuggling heaven.  Here the two girls enjoy a slice of late afternoon sunbeam together.  Puppy is teetering on the edge of sleepy-time and her eyes are barely open, and shortly after this photo was taken, puppy feel asleep in a poorly balanced ball of puppy goodness on Alycia's lap.
 Two spotted dogs worth of trouble, side by side and hatching their mischievous plans. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Who Survived The Winter

This is my second winter here in North Dakota and my first real experience with anxiously awaiting to see which trees and shrubs survived the winter.  Last spring/summer I planted 8 bare root apple trees:
  • 2 Ashmead's Kernel
  • 2 Lodi Apple
  • 2 Red Gravenstein
  • 2 Honeycrisp
Each varietal is supposed to survive/thrive in North Dakota (Zone 3).  Some I admittedly have more confidence in, like the Honeycrisp, which was created at the nearby University of Minnesota, but the others?  I'm pretty sure they'll be OK, but really I just don't know.

We're in the Red River valley in North Dakota.  Essentially the entire state is USDA Zone 3, but along the Red River on the Eastern edge of the state is a bubble of Zone 4 which follows the Red River the entire length of North Dakota.   Theoretically I should be able to plant a Zone 4 hardy tree and have it survive.

The fruiting shrubs I planted are also supposed to able to survive Zone 3 (Red Lake Currants/Ben Sarek Black Currants as well as handful of blueberry bushes).  It'll still be another couple of months before the snow and cold abate and tree buds begin to swell with the anticipation of spring, so I need to be patient.

I did everything I could to help, mulching heavily in autumn the shrubs and staking and wrapping the apple trees to guard against the wind (a serious issue here) and munching bunnies (also a fairly serious threat in the area).  Hopefully everything comes through unscathed and we're able to see apple and berry blossoms come spring.  Fingers crossed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Urban Homestead and What It Means To Me

There was a big dust-up last week when some folks decided they would attempt to trademark the phrase "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading" among other things.  Though these folks (who shall remain unnamed) carry much capital on the subject of urban homesteading and sustainable living, and have been role models and a source of inspiration for many people over the last few years, the public has responded with a backlash of epic proportions against the idea.  The thought of trademarking such a classic, time honored, and public phrase such as "urban homestead" has generated a cavalcade of anger and disappointment. 

I first heard the phrase "Urban Homestead" several years ago in a Mother Earth News magazine article and added it as a byline to my blog - Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes.  What does an urban homestead mean?  Everyone has a different definition and they're all right.  Whether you live off the grid and grow 100% of your own food on 1/5 of an acre in Los Angeles or have tomatoes and herbs growing on your apartment balcony in Kansas City, you're an urban homesteader.

The call went out on the Internet to write a blog entry about what urban homesteading means to you.  I normally don't get all preachy and didactic on you, so sorry if this rankles or annoys you, but I couldn't ignore a call from the wilds of the Internets.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cute Puppy Pictures

I realized that it's been weeks since I've posted a sugary sweet puppy pic.  The name of the blog is "Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes" for goodness sake, and since the gnomes are still hibernating in the garage for winter, you should be getting plenty of deaf dog pictures and stories.  Well here you go!!!
Shaak Ti has a long winters nap in the cozy confines of her green slumber ball.  She needs all the rest she can get in order to try to keep up with the puppy. 
There must be seven or eight dog beds in the living room and dining room, and since there is comfy carpet everywhere, there are literally unlimited places to sleep, but for some reason puppy has to try to squeeze her way into the same bed as Shaak Ti.  As you can see, that doesn't work too well, and they wind up spilling onto the floor.

You may wonder why I always give you pictures of the puppies napping or asleep.  Well the answer to that is simple, it's the only way to get a decent photo.  When the dogs are awake and tearing around at high speeds, it makes it incredibly difficult to get a non-blurry photo.  Granted the action shots are more entertaining, but the degree of difficulty in obtaining them makes their quality unpredictable.  So even though they're not as entertaining, you're going to have to deal with sleeping puppies in high definition, instead of active puppies in blurry action shots. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Heat Wave

It got up to 47 degrees in Grand Forks yesterday (Sunday), not quite a record, but definitely much warmer than normal.  It turned much of the snow and ice to slush on the roads and sidewalks (trudging through slush always makes me crave a cherry Icee) and generally made a mid-April mess in mid-February.  The heat wave is expected to continue through Wednesday as we're projected to continue to get high temps in the 40's until a cool down back to normal on Thursday.

In contrast, my Dad in Southern California reported that over they weekend they had 80 degree temps, not out of the ordinary for Southern California in February.  I can recall more than one February or March weeklong heat wave that caused my apples, peaches, and blueberries to bloom prematurely and lead to problems down the road.  There's no chance of getting 80 degree temps here in North Dakota, and it's nice to not to have to worry about that. 

The dogs, especially the puppy, took the warmer weather opportunity to scamper around the back yard for extended periods of time.  There's a six foot wide circle of exposed grass in the yard that's one giant mud pit now, and puppy loves this new found nirvana.  We quickly switched to Springtime dog maintenance, which entails having multiple old towels in the back mud room and jumping up every time the dogs come in through the doggy door to intercept muddy paws/legs/tummies with a wipe down.

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Reader Shout Outs - lifeshighway

This is long overdue.  My policy here is to personally welcome all new followers of the dynamic, entertaining, and verbally majestic Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes blog.  So this is the official warm welcome to lifeshighway of the Along Life's Highway - The Yard Art Game blog. 

A few months ago, out of the blue, I got a cryptic comment here on the Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes blog that said - "I came looking for gnomes, so your title is good.  I'll be back".  Once I confirmed this was an "I'll be back to visit your awesome blog" not an "Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque I'll be back" comment, all was well in the world. 

The Yard Art Game consists of a phalanx of (mostly) voluntary field reporters who bravely venture out into the world and capture photos and first hand accounts of awesome yard art.  lifeshighway then ranks and assigns points to each submission with a complicated point system that especially rewards gnomes, seahorse birdbaths, and assorted classic kitsch.  You can see the breakdown of the point system on the Along Life's Highway - The Yard Art Game blog.

Every since my first visit to the site, I was hooked and I can't get enough.  The yard art pictures are fantastic and the commentary and awards (Golden Manatee Award anyone?) are hilarious. I can't recommend highly enough this blog, you should check it out.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Board Takes No Action After Raccoon Bus Incident

I know that you've all been on pins and needles wanting to know the outcome of the weekends raccoon incident, so here's the story courtesy of the Grand Forks Herald. Even though this just occurred over the weekend, the local school Board made a decision by Tuesday.  Things work fast in North Dakota. 


Carrington wrestling coach retains position after raccoon incident

Mark Pazdernik retained his current head coaching position with the Cardinals after allowing a handful of his wrestlers to capture and transport a raccoon during a team bus trip from Carrington to Grafton on Friday. 

CARRINGTON, N.D. — No motion was made on a recommendation by the Carrington High School administration to place wrestling coach Mark Pazdernik on administrative leave through the remainder of the 2010-11 high school wrestling season during Tuesday’s open school board meeting.

As a result, Pazdernik retained his current head coaching position with the Cardinals after allowing a handful of his wrestlers to capture and transport a raccoon during a team bus trip from Carrington to Grafton on Friday.

Monday, February 7, 2011

2 Women Ejected From Runaway Dogsled Near Brainerd, Minn.

One more article from the Grand Forks Herald over the weekend.  It was a good weekend for interesting news.  The moral of the story, a dogsled excursion might not be the best choice for a 75th birthday celebration. 


2 women ejected from runaway dogsled near Brainerd, Minn.

BAXTER, Minn. — What started out as a 75th birthday celebration turned into a wild ride for two women taking a sled dog excursion on the Paul Bunyan Trail near Brainerd.

The women were aboard a sled pulled by 15 dogs when their owner stopped to adjust a harness. As she was heading back to the sled, the dogs snapped a line and took off Friday.
Passengers Dianne Lindvall and Shirley Connolly were pulled by the unmanned sled before being thrown off. Both women were injured but not seriously, and Connolly — who was celebrating her 75th birthday — was taken to a hospital.

The Brainerd Dispatch reports officers stopped the dogs by grabbing their lines and jumping on the sled. The pack was halted nearly three miles from where it took off.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Brainerd Dispatch, Steve Kohls - link here

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Raccoon Encounter Ends Wrestling Tourney for N.D. Team

Here's an article from the Grand Forks Herald this morning.  I'm not making this up.  I don't think I could make this up.  Sorry it looks kind of goofy, but the links to the Grand Forks Herald require a subscription and disappear after 7 days, this way you get to read it forever.  For those of you short on time, I've highlighted the important pieces or quotations. 

You get some interesting news here in North Dakota....


Raccoon encounter ends wrestling tourney for N.D. team

A raccoon ended Carrington’s bid for a fourth consecutive championship in the North
Dakota Region 2 dual high school wrestling tournament. 

Carrington earned a berth in Saturday’s region tournament final in Grafton after winning its first two duals. But when Carrington school officials discovered the school’s athletes had been exposed to a live wild raccoon over the weekend, they quickly pulled the team out of the tournament before the championship dual was held.

“We (school administrators) found out as the tournament was going on that while our students were on the way to the event, they were exposed to a raccoon,’’ Carrington school superintendent Brian Duchscherer said.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Udi's Gluten Free Bread and Muffins

Ever since Alycia learned of her Celiac disease and need to lead a righteous gluten free life, we've searched the four corners of the earth and Internet for a good gluten free bread.  That search has taken almost three years and countless experimentations with dense, grainy, chewy, terrible tasting, poor textured crappy bread.  Good gluten free bread became the white whale (which would make me Capt Ahab, who shares more personality characteristics with me than I care to admit), something to be searched for and never found. 

I heard about Udi's gluten free breads last summer from a client (who is also a Celiac in a family of Celiacs) in San Diego who claimed the bread was so good "you didn't even need to toast it".  Now I'd tried enough gluten free bread in my day to be able to sniff out some serious malarkey, so I scoffed at this, and called BS on that claim.  It didn't really matter though since Udi's wasn't carried anywhere in North Dakota, but that all changed last week when I saw it stocked at our local natural foods co-op, Amazing Grains.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Our Little Graduate

Our littlest graduate recently earned her degree from the highest canine learning institution here in Grand Forks, North Dakota - Petco.  Yes our little puppy attained the third highest degree offered by this learned and historic institution by graduating with high honors from puppy class. 
Here's a photo of graduation day.  Due to the inclement weather conditions the classes are actually held inside Petco, in the aisles.  This is the dog food aisle where we had our classes.  It's quite an odd set up, instructions are briefly interrupted by people searching for a sack of dog food, puppies are distracted by the stock boy in the aisle over, wandering puppy noses are constantly sniffing out the lamb and alpaca byproduct snacks, etc. 

We brought Shaak Ti in on the final day of class to celebrate her little sisters graduation and smell all the lovely smells in Petco.  Big sister Shaak Ti couldn't have been prouder of her little sister.  A good time was indeed had by all.