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.



Thursday, March 31, 2011

Flood Walls Are Up

The city crews came by Monday and erected the flood walls at the entrance to Riverside Park, just a couple of blocks from our house.  The flood wall is a pretty impressive engineering feat, especially when you consider that they put it up in one day. 
The wall is a series of metal panels that are slid in place in a large vertical groove on either side of the yellow flood wall.  The panels are supported with vertical beams then braced with diagonal arms and sandbagged along the ground to hold them in place. 
They also park a huge dump truck in front of the flood wall to prevent accidental bad drivers?  Evil-doers?  Just in case?  It's hard to tell, but since the dump truck probably isn't needed for anything else, it's probably a good place to leave it here. 

The National Weather Service issued its first Flood Warning of the year yesterday for Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.  The current river level is right at minor flood stage of 28 feet and is forecast for 29 feet plus by next Wednesday (the cataclysmic flood of 1997 was 54 feet, and the current dike system protects to like 60 feet).  With the first flood warning we officially enter flood season which should last for the next three to four weeks.  On the one hand flooding = bad, but on the other hand flooding = spring. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

TenderHeart Bear

Ready for an uncomfortable bit of knowledge about me?  I sweat a lot.  Many of my friends and family already know this.  But for whatever supernatural or otherworldly reasons that no one yet understands, I sweat in the shape of a perfect heart when I play volleyball.  Seriously.  Don't believe me? 
This was taken after our most recent volleyball game.  There's no chicanery here, no hi-jinks, no tomfoolery I assure you.  Alycia can attest to the authenticity of this photo and scores of former volleyball companions past and present (Chris, Heidi, Brenda, Dave, Angela please leave a comment) can attest to this paranormal phenomenon.

The truly strange thing is that this only happens when I play volleyball.  Basketball, running, mowing the lawn, canning applesauce in a hot kitchen, digging a hole in the garden, they all make me sweat, but never in a heart shape.  It's truly strange and awesome.
Don't be scared, you're in the presence of greatness. 

One of my former volleyball friends (and Care Bear aficionado) started calling me TenderHeart Bear which wasn't the intimidating nickname that I typically encourage others to call me, but was certainly much better than some of the other names I've been called.
TenderHeart Bear - The Most Intimidating of all Care Bears
Do you see the resemblance?  I certainly do.  And I care, lots. And you should consider yourself blessed to be affiliated with a blogger bold and innovative enough to share stories of his own sweat.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Seven Reasons Deaf Dogs Are Better Than Hearing Dogs

All dogs are awesome, even "regular" hearing dogs.  But if you've never thought about it before, here are seven ways that deaf dogs are better than their hearing counterparts.  

1) - I can sneak around on them.  Let's say it's a quiet Sunday morning and I'm lounging on the couch reading the paper.  The missus and pooches are all having a lazy Sunday nap, all is perfect. Except that EGADS!!, my coffee cup is empty.  No problem.  I can sneak to the kitchen and refill my mug with hot caffeinated liquid happiness.  I can't do this with hearing dogs, they'd wake up, see me going to the kitchen and think I'm getting some bacon, and start thumping around and wake everyone else up.

2) - Thunderstorms don't bother them.  We get a lot of thunderstorms here in North Dakota, especially in late Spring and summer, but it doesn't bother the dogs one bit.  I know a few dogs who are extremely frightened of thunderstorms and will freak out, hide under the bed, run away, or have accidents in the house.  It's not their fault, they're just terrified.  My deaf dogs?  They sleep right through the thunderstorms.  Every once in a while a big clap of thunder right on top of us will rattle the windows and they may perk their heads up and look confused, but that's the extent of their reaction.
3) - Sirens don't bother them either.  Ambulance, fire, or police sirens have never started my dogs to barking or howling, which is nice.  My old house in San Diego was in the territory where my sister was stationed as a firefighter.  She was an engineer and drove the fire truck, and when they came back from a call and her route took her by my house she would always blow the air horn (which is very, very loud) and it may have scared the crap out of me (I'm pretty sure this was her goal) more than once, but never startled or woke my deaf pups.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trip to Bemidji, Minnesota

Last week was Alycia's spring break, but rather than head for Cancun or South Padre Island, Texas we stayed nearby.  Alycia had a bunch of work to do the whole week, so a protracted trip of vacation was out of the question.  We did though manage to get away for a nice day trip to Bemidji, Minnesota, about 100 miles east of Grand Forks.
We stopped at the local Bemidji landmark, the giant statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.  Babe hadn't been fed in quite some time and Alycia was nice enough to offer him some hay.
A passerby was nice kind enough to take our picture.
Throughout Bemidji they have beaver statues that have been painted by local artists.  Alycia posed near one such beaver.
And then acted like a beaver for another photo. 

We stopped for lunch at The Wild Hare Bistro and had a delicious lunch, I had a fantastic chicken salad sandwich and Alycia some very tasty vegetarian chili.  If you're ever in Bemidji, Minnesota, I'd highly recommend this establishment for lunch.  We also made a stop at the Bemidji Woolen Mills (a 90 year old woolen goods manufacturer), where I picked up this awesome Railroad Cap and Alycia a new pair of woolen mittens.

After perusing the downtown area bit more and purchasing some local chocolates, we made our way back home.  It wasn't an intense, action packed Spring Break trip, but a very relaxing outing that we both thoroughly enjoyed. 

The approaching storm is just about here, and the most recent forecast is for 10-15 inches of wet, heavy snow.  The wind has grown boisterous and angry, the trees are quaking and the house is beginning to groan and rumble from the strong gusts.  I must go and make sure all the snow shovels are strategically placed, the dog poop is scooped, and the house and yard are ready for the latest (and hopefully last) snow event.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Major Winter Storm on the Way

It's a gray, chilly, soggy day today in North Dakota.  Last night the temperatures never got below freezing so the mush and muck in the yard didn't re-solidify overnight, meaning extra sogginess today.  There has been a decent amount of draining though and some of the muddier parts of the dog yard were beginning to dry out a tad. 

We put some mulch down on the muddier areas and there's a decent mulch path through most of the yard, but sadly the dogs don't stay on the path.  With the mulch and a bit of draining we had hopes that the worst was over and the yard was starting to turn the corner.

But just when we thought the worst may have been over, the weather report is predicting a significant winter storm for Tuesday/Wednesday.  The exact storm track and nature of the precipitation (rain or snow) is still up in the air, but early indications are mostly snow and several inches worth.  I can't count the number of times I've wiped down and de-muddified the dogs (especially puppy) over the last few days and more snow will only prolong the mud issue.  Bummer. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Muddy Dogs

I think these pictures pretty much speak for themselves.  The backyard is a mess with melting snow and ice and mud, it's just a soggy soup everywhere.  The dogs picked today to have an epic tear around session out there.

Shaak Ti had to look away from the camera, she was so ashamed at how muddy she got.
It was harder to capture how muddy the puppy was, I had to wrangle her while shooting the pictures, otherwise she licks the camera.  This doesn't make for good pictures.
Then as I was wrestling with her to dry her off and clean her up, she rolled over and showed off her muddy, filthy tummy and undercarriage. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Nephew at 2 Months

My nephew at 2 months.  I kinda think he looks like a garden gnome, but it's probably just his rosy cheeks.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Fallout in Japan

The tragedy in Japan, a devastating earthquake and tsunami, is proving to have a catastrophic human toll.  Even in a compulsively natural disaster prepared populace like Japan, it's still reported that the number of casualties could exceed 10,000.  You can donate to the American Red Cross here.

Natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunami's are always going to occur, and as tragic as the staggering loss of life is, it pales in comparison to the potential man made disaster of nuclear fallout from self destructing power plants.  There are currently 6 nuclear reactors in Japan that are concerning to Japanese and global authorities.  Contradicting reports have stated there has been radioactive fallout, that there is impending nuclear fallout, and that everything is fine. 

As of Monday morning, it has been reported that 200,000 people have been evacuated from the areas surrounding the nuclear power plants until they can be safely brought under control.  Let's hope that any damage to the affected people is minimal and the situation does not worsen. 
Photo credit: Jared Rodriguez via Flickr
Regardless of what the truth is surrounding the amount of radioactive exposure, this should be a wake-up call for American policy makers and the general populace.  Yes, we should not be politicizing a tragedy, and no we shouldn't immediately take every nuclear power plant in the US offline.  But it is time to seriously reconsider nuclear power as an option in the future.  

Every other alternative energy source has drawbacks and an environmental impact: wind, solar, geothermal, etc all have some pros and cons.  But none of these other energy sources have the inherent potential devastating capabilities of a nuclear power plant disaster.  Even without considering the disposal of nuclear waste that occurs when the power plant is operating correctly, there is just too much risk in nuclear power.  Let's stop considering this as energy option. 

As safe as nuclear power has been advertised to be, there will always be earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, floods, and acts of terrorism that can undermine the efforts of even the best and well intentioned power plants.   Please encourage your elected representatives that you don't want to see any more nuclear power plants built in the US. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fun With Racquetballs

Puppy loves to chew on her toys, and yeah that's a given for most puppies.  She loves to de-stuff, eviscerate, and then consume the soft toys, but also really enjoys the hard rubber toys that bounce.  We had given her a tennis ball to play with, but after playing with it for a bit, she just sat there with the tennis ball in her mouth and chewed and chewed and chewed on it.  My sisters large black labs often did the same thing with tennis balls and apparently have developed some long term dental problems because of their habit.

It turns out that long term chewing on tennis balls (as opposed to just having them in their mouth for fetch) can wear down the enamel on dogs teeth, so a racquetball is a better option.  Since puppy loves, loves to chew and also enjoys a bouncing bounding toy, we decided to see if she'd like a racquetball instead.  Did she ever.
We bought a tube of racquetballs (about $6 for three of them which makes them among the cheapest dog toys) and it was puppy love from there.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Animal Shot Near Hillsboro, N.D., Confirmed As Gray Wolf

This article came from the Grand Forks Herald.

It's a little spooky to think that there are wolves so close, but I really don't think they'd venture into a highly populated area like Grand Forks and make a snack out of our pooches.  Here's a map of where Hillsboro is:
Photo Credit - Hillsboro Website


Animal Shot Near Hillsboro, N.D., Confirmed As Gray Wolf

A large canine taken by a coyote hunter early in January east of Hillsboro, N.D., in Traill County has been confirmed as a gray wolf.

The hunter apparently shot the gray wolf, a protected species rarely seen in North Dakota, thinking it was a coyote.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Snow Today, More on the Way, And The Thermodynamics of Dog Poop in Winter

Just when I thought spring might be putting on its pants and shoes and thinking about strolling over to knock on the door, Old Man Winter decided that he needed to give us a coating of light snow. We got an inch or so last night and should get another inch or two today.  It's light fluffy snow that doesn't amount to a whole lot and sure looks purty coming down.
There's a threat of more snow on Tuesday when a big storm should stay south of us (sorry Iowa, it looks like you're in for it) and the end of next week when a possible significant snowfall will come our way.  March is usually pretty stormy here in North Dakota as weather patterns and the jet stream start shifting and slightly warmer air (which holds more moisture) can bring larger storms.  I'm jumping the gun in wishing for spring already.  It'll be at least another month before everything melts, and the conversation changes to flooding issues, and at least another two months before I can get anything planted in the garden.

Yesterday before the snow arrived and obscured all the backyard treasures that the dogs left for us, Alycia (it was her turn to scoop) scooped up all prizes she could find.  We try to stay on top of outdoor poop management, and usually scoop every week, and definitely the day before a storm is due.  Our yard isn't big enough to ignore the poop and if not properly managed, when things melt in spring it turns into an ugly, sticky slurry of poop nastiness that can't be scooped away.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Real Meatloaf and Psuedo Vegetarianism

I've sounded the rallying cry for my fake meatloaf (aka Neatloaf) recipe before, even using it for my first-ever guest posting on the From Blah to Ta-Daa blog late last year.  It's not only delicious, but freezes well for leftovers, and has become a household favorite for our vegetarian Celiac sufferer in the house (it's also one of my favorites as well). The other day though the unique opportunity arose to make actual real meatloaf, you know with meat.  I hadn't made a meatloaf in probably 8 or 10 years. Would I still remember how?
So...a bit of personal history.  Prior to my blissful cohabitation with Alycia I was what I can only describe as a psuedo-vegetarian, I ate a primarily plant based diet with occasional binges of meat, mostly when dining out.  My meat consumption was only 2-3 times a week and that was usually an In N Out Burger or the exquisite pork ribs at Phils Bar-B-Que in San Diego.