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, August 31, 2011

Bread and Butter Pickles

We've got three different kinds of cucumbers going right now (regular, pickling, Armenian) and they're all kicking into high production.  What better to do with cucumbers than make delicious sweet pickles, also known as bread and butter pickles.  Special thanks to Mama Bear since this is her recipe.

These are refrigerator pickles, they live in your refrigerator, so you don't even need to know how to can to make them.  It's super duper easy.  Just boil up some stuff, chop the cukes (and a few other things), and combine it all in a big glass jar. 

You will need:
  • 10 to 14 medium sized cucumbers
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 pepper chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsp mustard seed
  • 2 1/2 tsp dill seed
In a large pot, bring to a boil the following (stirring occasionally):
  • 1 pint water
  • 1 quart vinegar
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup pickling salt (regular salt will work too)
In a large glass 5 quart jar add the mustard seed and dill seed and a few of the onion slices.  Then add the cucumbers, pepper, and remaining onions.  Pour the boiling liquid into the jar (please do this carefully) and allow to set in the refrigerator for 7 days. 
My first jar of pickles.  Though when I made this batch I didn't have enough cucumbers to fill the jar, but no worries.  A few days later there were more ripe cucumbers in the garden and I just sliced them up and added them to the jar, and kept going until the jar was properly packed with pickles.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stella the Stegosaurus

I usually make many promises here on the old Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes blog, but I feel I only occasionally follow through on them.  Promises of fabulous posts go unwritten and great ideas shrivel on the vine of John's brain. But in keeping with the previous promise to review many of my favorite items on the Amazon.com carousel feature (conveniently located on the left side of the blog), I present the Stella the giant purple Stegosaurus dinosaur review. 

Many of you probably can't imagine paying $31 for a dog toy, but a) this toy is huge - 19 x 6 x 15, b) it really is tough.  I've had a few of these allegedly "tough" toys before and been pretty disappointed, even going so far as writing an angry letter to the toy maker (to no avail).  Sure they last longer than other toys, but never long enough to warrant the price you pay.  This toy?  It's probably worth every penny, but since we got it as a Christmas gift from my sister, I can't really say it's worth every penny since we didn't pay for it.

This toy has withstood 8 months of daily use from the puppy.  And not just use, but at least an hour a day of destruction, thrashing, tug-of-war, chewing, and deliberate disemboweling attempts.  Stella the Stegosaurus has stood firm, despite losing a bit of purple fur on her undercarriage (there's still at least one more layer of fabric between Stella's innards and the puppy's gnashing teeth), she carries on. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Iced Coffee Article On Associated Content/Yahoo Contributor

My glorious article on making iced coffee made it onto Associated Content/Yahoo Contributor (an online writing website).  You can check it out:

How To Make Iced Coffee 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Troubling Signs

First the trouble with the law (see the aptly named Trouble With The Law post), now this.  My nephew has started wearing....sigh...floppy hats.
Just about any psychologist, psychiatrist, or criminal expert can tell you that the wearing of a floppy hat is a sure sign of societal deviance and a determining factor for the potential for criminal behavior.  You start wearing a floppy hat or two, and end up like this...
 Never trust a fellow in a floppy hat, no matter how harmless they may look.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Corner on First - Update

A little update on the marigolds that we planted along the corner of our lot around a power pole.  You can see the original post - The Corner on First

The area went from this:
To this:
And now it looks like this:
A very successful experiment, one that we'll probably repeat again next year.  The bummer is that the marigolds are annuals and we'll have to replant them every year, but it's not a whole lot of effort, and well worth the splash of color all summer.  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Remain Calm, All is Well

We're toying around with some format changes here at Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes, but don't be frightened, we're not going anywhere.  The blog may look a bit different (I decided recently that a format update was LONG overdue), and we may try a few things before we settle one one new format, so don't be scared. 

And please feel free to chime in with particular things you like or don't like, we'll do our best to accommodate our loyal readers.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Summertime Iced Coffee

Anyone who knows me is aware of my love for coffee.  Actually to be honest, it's more than a love for coffee, it's a combination of obsession, addiction, and morning routine.  In the summer though, with the heat and humidity, drinking hot coffee can leave my in a tacky, sweaty mess, thus sort-of ruining my coffee experience.  

When I visited Costa Rica several years ago there was delicious coffee everywhere, with every breakfast.  And even though it was 90 degrees with oppressive tropical humidity, I drank as much coffee as my nerves could withstand.  Sure this often led to minor heart palpitations by late morning but it was worth it.  But sweating through your humid summer morning caffeine fix is one thing when you're in a tropical paradise, with a breakfast of scrambled eggs, black beans, rice, and fried plantains and an entirely different thing when you're sitting at your dining room table at home, having breakfast, and wondering why the dog won't stop licking his butt, it's two different worlds. 

The solution?  Curbing coffee consumption was not an option, so how to ingest my coffee in a manner that does not cause perspiration?  Iced coffee?  Well the couple of times I tried to make iced coffee resulted in very poor tasting beverages.  Unfortunately my previous attempts at making iced coffee have consisted of: take regular brewed hot coffee, pour over ice, sip, wonder why this tastes like crap.

So here's how you really make iced coffee.

1) Grind fresh beans (use the same amount as you would for your normal brew) and place in glass container.
2) Fill with water.  About half as much as would fit in a normal pot/brewing session. 
3) Place in refrigerator at least overnight, preferably for 24 hours (I also shake it occasionally a few times to stir up all the goodness).
Sorry about the crappy picture.  The camera and I weren't getting along today. 
4) Filter.  I just pour it through my coffee machine and let it filter through.
5) Empty coffee grounds into the blueberry bushes (coffee grounds are not only great fertilizer, but they make the soil a bit acidic which blueberries love) and rinse glass container.
6) Pour back into glass container and keep refrigerated.  Not sure how long it's good for, but I'd use within a week.

I fill a glass half full with ice and pour two parts coffee and one part milk, or if I'm feeling particularly festive, two parts coffee and one part chocolate milk for a tasty iced mocha.  Delicious.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Garden Update Pictures

Raised bed with peppers, marigolds, and onions (you have to look for them a bit), as well as the odd volunteer tomato that we allowed to grow.  The onions have done great, and we'll have to do some research to learn how to properly cure and store them.  The peppers always seem to start off very slowly but have come on strongly in the last week.  I think we're going to have a pepper roasting party pretty soon.  We may then freeze the peppers or store/can them in some olive oil and garlic, again more research is needed here. 
North Dakota, and the Red River Valley especially, is known for its potatoes, so it's no surprise that they've done well here.  Hopefully there are a bunch of happy little spuds under there when we go to unearth them.  We're also going to do a bit of research to see how to cure the potatoes so that they store longer.
One row of apple trees, with zucchini and cucumbers in between, and white and purple sweet alyssum flowers on the end to encourage visits from beneficial insects. 
A slightly wider angle shot showing both rows of apple trees with veggies between them.  The extremely unruly tomato (more on this later) raised bed box is off to the left.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm Watching You

I wasn't going to post this picture since it makes me feel self conscious about the cracked and peeling paint on the window trim.  This is the window on the south facing mud room and it takes a beating from the elements.  Our windows are old, single paned, and let in a lot of summer heat and winter cold, so replacing them with something super energy efficient is on the radar, but windows are expensive. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hiatus Over

Good morning loyal readers.  It's been a few weeks since my last post and I'm feeling guilty about not writing more frequently.  We've been super busy here at the old North Dakota homestead: canning, making bread and butter pickles (more to follow in another post), tending the garden, staying cool in the summer heat and humidity, pulling lots of weeds, making gluten free cookies (more to follow in another post also), tackling some big yard projects, taking puppy to more obedience classes, and traveling for work, so it's been wing dinger of a busy summer so far.

I'm hoping that a couple of cute puppy pictures will whet your appetite and tantalize your senses until I get some additional posts up.  
A sleepy Shaak Ti after a hard days work, which actually involved no work at all, just playing. 
Puppy using her new toy (from the sale bin at Petco where we get many of our toys) as a pillow during a recent sudden napping attack. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Guest Posting

Here's part two of my guest posting at the From Blah To Ta-Daa blog.

Digging in the Dirt: Part 2

Special thanks to our good friend Sara for the invite to guest post on their lovely blog.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tater Tot Casserole/Hot Dish

So this recipe is closer to the antithesis of the recipes that I normally prepare, but it is a local delicacy.  Local delicacy yes, local food, probably not.  OK, the only local ingredients are the spinach (it is quite a bit of spinach at least) and probably the Tater Tots.  You've got to assume with all the potatoes grown around here that some bits and pieces of these tots are local.
Someone with Minnesota or North Dakota roots can pipe in and vouch for the passion that local folks display for their Tater Tot Casserole.

Though there are many variations of Tater Tot Casserole, they usually involve some ground beef, cream of mushroom soup, (obviously) Tater Tots, and a heavy dose of cheese.  Since Alycia does not consume the meat we replace it with some mixed veggies and about a pound of spinach, so it's sort of not that bad for you. Sort of.