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.



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You Should be Careful When It's Hot Outside

If you spend too long napping in the hot summer sun, your face might start to melt...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest Posting

Our very good friend and fellow awesome blogger Sara, and the other kind folks, from the From Blah to Ta-Daa blog have kindly allowed me to guest post again. 

Digging in the Dirt: Part 1

Monday, July 25, 2011

Strawberry Jam Insanity

Since my burgeoning strawberry fields are still in their first full year, they aren't quite up to the significant production I demand of them.  And since I was gone during a critical stretch where the berry box needed to be shielded from marauding birds (with some bird netting), my own personal strawberry production was decidedly sub par this year.  How oh how was I going to make strawberry jam this year?  Well, Alycia and I were going to have to be proactive (not one of my stronger characteristics) go and fetch some berries. 

Alycia's Mom had been trying to engineer a trip from Cavalier, ND up to Altona, CA (the CA here means Canada, not California) where they've been strawberry picking before, but I adamantly said "NO!!!"  I always buy American when I can, especially my berries and my bicycles.  As luck would have it that very day, an ad was posted in the City section of the Grand Forks Herald that said "U-Pick Strawberries" and had a phone number for a local farm just West of town where we could go pick berries.
And pick berries we did.  We picked three full flats of berries, with each of us filling a five quart bucket about three times, probably around 20 to 25 pounds of strawberries. 
The third flat of berries and my trusty cauldron.  I'm pretty sure that I was a warlock or shaman or stirrer of giant industrial soups in a previous life, I really like my giant pots/cauldrons/vats.  Strange....

To say that the strawberry picking was mosquito-intensive would be the understatement of the year.  We hung in there and picked despite the swarms of skeeters and now have some delicious strawberry jam-esque substance to show for it.  I say "jam-esque" because I got a little too loosey goosey with the jam recipe and it didn't set like it should have.  (hanging head in canning failure shame)

Note to self - Jam isn't like canned applesauce, pears, or pasta sauce.  You can't just mix up a big vat/cauldron of it, you need to follow the recipe.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nephew at the Fire Station

My not-so-little-anymore nephew got to visit the Fire Station recently and hang out with the station Engineer (aka his Momma). 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Homemade Tomato Cages - Follow Up

Just a follow up to my previous post - Homemade Tomato Cages.  I'd be remiss if I didn't offer more information on whether this project was a success or failure.  The tomatoes are both heirlooms and are about four feet high so they still have some growing to do, but the cages are supporting the plants very well.
I'm not ready to call this an unbridled success right now since that's a sure way to anger the Gods, but I will say that so far these tomato cages are performing excellently.  We also have yet to harvest a tomato from these two plants, so it may dampen my enthusiasm if the T-maters are hard to get to or the cages somehow impede the gathering process. 
In another few weeks, we'll start harvesting fruit and see if the plants start excessively spilling out of the cages (in which case I have no problem pruning them).  I'm pretty excited about how these cages have done so far and am planning on building more for next year.  I'll probably need to build another 8 to 10 of them for all of our Roma/paste tomatoes and our cherry tomatoes as well. 

And as you can see I'm a big fan of surrounding the bottom of the tomato plants with marigolds.  These are the "Lemon Gem" marigold, a small, compact marigold with a lovely lemon scent to the foliage, so every time you brush them you get a wonderful lemony smell that permeates the air. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Corner on First Street

I could go on a very long tirade on why I hate lawns.  We'll save it for another day, but suffice to say that I just don't get it.  Maybe it's because I don't have kids who need to safe place to play under my watchful parent eye, maybe it's because I don't see my lawn as a status symbol that I need to maintain to impress my neighbors, or maybe because I see nothing therapeutic or beneficial in the time, energy, and money it takes to maintain that lawn.  I really think people are just stuck in the status quo, this is how we've always done it, this is how I'll keep doing it.  Bleh. 

Due to all these lawnophobic tendencies I'm slowly engaging in getting rid of my lawn, either turning it into garden space, fruit tree orchard, or annual/perennial shrubs and flowers.  I have to do this slowly so as not to alarm the locals (any more than they're already alarmed by my very odd ways).  A few dozen square feet every couple of months (during the warm planting months that is) get reclaimed from boring green crew cut grass into something more interesting. 

So when Alycia wanted to plant some flowers in the corner of the yard I was enthusiastic to help.  OK, maybe not super enthusiastic since the project would involve me doing all the heavy lifting. shoveling, moving dirt, etc. while she got to plant pretty flowers.  It's an acceptable bargain, I know my role in life and that's to move heavy things and provide the manual labor. I actually stalled her for a bit by convincing her that we couldn't dig the ground around the power pole because the power pole might fall down.  I convinced her that the poles are actually not very well supported (why else do they always fall down in windy weather or tornadoes???) and we'd be flirting with disaster if we dug around it.  This only worked for a few minutes, but was a fun exercise in messing with Alycia. 

The area in question is right on the corner, outside the sidewalks, against the street and has the electric power pole right in the middle of it.  It's never a good looking space, and in order to even make it decent looking, you need to weed whack all the tall grass down, and even then I still think it looks unsightly.  Here's what it looks like on a good day. 
Here's a closer view..
We actually got the idea to fill the area with flowers (a couple of different kinds of marigolds) from a neighbor down the street who does the same thing.  I need to let him know that we copied his idea, hopefully it's not copyrighted or anything.

It looks so much better like this, and it's that much less lawn for me to mow every time.
It looks a lot better huh?  It'll look even better in a few weeks once the marigolds really get to blooming.  I really enjoy projects like this, taking one small space at a time and changing it, rather than being immobilized at the overwhelming task of the big picture.  I can't get rid of all my lawn at once, and the task of transforming large swaths of grass is a lot easier to envision if you carve it up into small chunks. 

Do you have any lawnophobic tendencies?  What would your ideal yard/landscape look like?  Would it have lots of lawn?

Friday, July 8, 2011

New Amazon.com Feature

As I have previously mentioned in other posts (see Selling Out), I got into blogging for the money.  Big money, no whammies (someone should get this reference).  I've had Amazon.com product stuff on my blog for a while but as of yet have not received enough money to comfortably retire or quit my sort-of job.  This is all your fault.  If you would all just stop being so selfish and each spend a few thousand dollars every month buying Amazon.com items through my blog I'd be able to accomplish all of my monetary goals in blogging. 

As such I've created a new widget on the lower left hand side of the blog page of Amazon.com products that I genuinely use every day and really, really like.  The widget itself is a carousel that spins around and hopefully makes you clap your hands and gleefully exclaim "Yayyy!! Make it spin again!!"  This widget is in addition to the deals widget at the top of the page, and the "Search Amazon.com" box on the left side of each blog page.

Hopefully I'll get around to writing a few testimonials for the products in this new widget since I do think they're pretty darn great.  Like the Mario Batali spatula.  It's awesome, it withstands high temps, and I really like it and use it almost every day.  In my years of cooking, canning, and kitchening, I've had some crappy spatulas that always left me yearning for more.  No longer.  This spatula kicks ass and is the first spatula EVER to be recommended by the honorable folks at Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes.  If you're currently in the market for a new spatula and don't have a Spatula City (serious mad props to anyone who gets this movie reference, you tube clip here) location near you, I would highly recommend this particular spatula. 

Remember that a portion of all Amazon.com products you purchase through the Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes blog goes to help deaf dogs in North Dakota, a very worthy cause.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fireworks Accident Decapitates Fargo Man

Today's story comes to you from the Grand Forks Herald, story by Heidi Shaffer.

I was going to make some snarky comments, but it's not nice to poke fun at the tragedies of others, even if they were playing with illegal, military grade pyrotechnics/explosives and literally blew their own heads off.  I've highlighted the super relevant portions for those who need to skim or have poor reading comprehension skills.


Fireworks Accident Decapitates Fargo Man
 
A 41-year-old father of two was killed when he lit a commercial-grade firework, an explosive that is federally regulated.

FARGO — An eyewitness here says a Fourth of July fireworks accident decapitated a Fargo man Monday night.

Police identified the victim as Jesse William Burley, a 41-year-old father of two, who enjoyed life to its fullest, said Burley’s stepfather Chuck Asplin of Fargo.

Chris Hanson, Burley’s neighbor who saw the accident, was packing up his car to leave north Fargo’s Riviera Heights mobile home park as tornado sirens sounded just before 9:30 p.m.

Burley was getting ready to set off a second round of what Hanson said he believed was either a homemade or illegal artillery shell firework.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July

My nephew took his first dip in the pool yesterday on the Fourth of July.  He's a robust kid, and every day his hair gets redder and redder, and Jacob's Dad (my brother in law) hangs his head a bit further in despair.  He loves the kid regardless, but I think all things considered he'd prefer that his kid not have red hair just like his Uncle John.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Return Home

Don't worry loyal readers, I'm still here.  I got sidelined with a trip to San Diego for a whole lot of work and didn't have much time to post during the last few weeks.  I've come home to a tired puppy (she spent a lot of time at Puppy Camp - though she doesn't appear to have any new knot tying or kite making skills that we're aware of), summertime-in-North-Dakota weather in the mid-80's, and a garden desperately in need of tending. 

I'll charge up the digital camera and keep it in my pocket to record all the happenings around the garden as I do some watering, weeding, and various other tasks over the next couple of days.  It might not be the most restful Fourth of July weekend, but there is much to be done. 

You can look forward to updates about the vegetable garden, (especially the tomato cages), the proliferation of potatoes and pickles (they're cucumbers now, but they'll be pickles soon enough), and the crazy number of baby Grackles I've had to rescue so far this Spring and Summer.