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.



Sunday, February 26, 2012

Through the Blizzard - Remington's Rescue Relay

Ever since our deaf puppy Shadowfax arrived to us from Waco, Texas via a marathon relay of volunteer rescue drivers, Alycia and I have been anxious to try to repay the karmic debt and help others dogs in need.  We volunteered our services as rescue dog transporters with the local Humane Society (the Circle of Friends Humane Society in Grand Forks) and waited for our call to action.

The only problem is that living in North Dakota means that you're fairly well out of the way of well, everyone.  Not many folks are ever going to or from Grand Forks, or passing through your area.  After a couple of transport attempts that fell through, Alycia and I finally got our chance on Sunday to participate in a rescue dog transport.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snow Pictures and A Cold Puppy

We got a bunch of snow on Monday night and Tuesday morning, not a significant snowfall by any means (only about 4 inches), but it was still the largest snowfall so far this winter.  And I actually remembered my camera so I snapped some pictures as I was out shoveling.
The snow was wet and heavy and clung to even the thinnest branches, turning every tree and bare shrub into a giant frosted mini-wheat.  It was quite lovely.
There's actually a small evergreen shrub under there.  We have more snow on the docket for Saturday night through Sunday evening, details are still uncertain, but it could be a decent storm.  And apparently now the door is open for winter, since there's also a good chance of significant snow early next week. 
After clearing the driveway, sidewalks, and front porch I cleared the "doggy business area" in the backyard.  I probably clear about 500 square feet for the pooches so that they don't have to get their feet cold and wet and have a multitude of location options to perform their outdoor functions.  This is mostly for Shaak Ti and Tito, the Puppy actually prefers to perform all manner of business on as large of a snow pile as she can. Seriously, I've seen on top of a four foot high snow drift happily taking a potty break. 

The other dogs are smart enough to stay inside when there's that much snow on the ground, but not Shadowfax, she thinks that shoveling snow is the single greatest game in the world, running around barking and chomping at the shovel and generally being a huge goof.  I admittedly don't help matters by dumping shovel-fulls of snow on her, which just drives her into a more frenzied barking and racing around fest. 
Since she has so little fur though (and apparently doesn't have a strong enough self preservation instinct to go inside when she's so cold and wet that she's shivering) she can't stay out for very long and play in the snow.  After 20 to 30 minutes, I have to stop shoveling and physically haul her inside for a warm up since she won't go on her own accord.  What a goober. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Garden Recap - Part 2, The Failures

I delineated some of our garden successes in Part 1 (see Garden Recap - Part 1, The Successes).  Now on to the fun stuff, the mistakes I made and lessons learned during the last year on the urban homestead. 

Failures:
Strawberry Jam.  You can read all about our strawberry jam making in the Strawberry Jam Insanity post.  The jam is delicious, but more like a runny, gooey, jam-esque substance than actual jam.  It's still a great topping for pancakes, waffles, ice cream, and gluten free yellow cake but it doesn't have the consistency of proper jam.  The problem was I got a little too big for my britches and thought I could modify the jam recipe.  The lesson learned?  If you want your jam to set properly you need to follow the recipe precisely.     
Onions.  The one set of onions that we tried to plant in the raised bed of strawberries?  They hung around for a week or so, then they just disappeared, totally overwhelmed by the strawberries.  Since we had no place for the onions, this seemed like a good idea, in retrospect this was an idea that was doomed to fail.  Lesson learned?  We're going to make some space for rows of onions and give them plenty of space to do their thing.

Apple Trees.  We lost a couple of apple trees (one each of two varieties) over the winter out of the eight that we planted.  It's hard to tell if it's because they were still vulnerable in their first full year, if I planted them poorly, or if it was just a super hard/cold winter (which it was). We're going to replace them this year with a couple more hardier "North Dakota approved" varieties that should fare better.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Shaak Ti the Deaf Dog - Photo Montage

Since the recent Deaf Dog of the Year voting debacle where Shaak Ti, the middle child, finished third, I have been thinking of a way to make it up to her.  I've had a chance to say my peace and admonish those responsible for the voting fraud and shenanigans in the 2011 Deaf Dog of the Year Voting Results post.  But I figured it might be nice to dedicate an entire post to Shaak Ti (still despondent from her third place finish) to make her feel loved.  All set?  OK, photo time.
Whoops, your blue eyes are closed.  Lets try that again. 
Yay, that's much better.  Such a regal posing little pooch, well done Shaak Ti.
Now a picture playing with your awesome Triceratops toy. 
Looks like we're all pooped out from our super photo shoot.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Garden Recap - Part 1, The Successes

Even though it's cold and marginally snowy outside, it doesn't mean I'm not thinking about the garden, thunderstorms, fresh tomatoes, warm summer evenings, and what plants to grow next year.  Alycia and I usually spend several weeks every winter flipping through the various seed catalogs that are mailed to the house, debating what new tomatoes we want to try, which onions grew best, and if we should stubbornly keep trying to grow things that didn't do so well the prior year.  We're right in the midst of whittling down our seed catalog choices to a semi manageable number of veggies and flowers since Spring is (hopefully) right around the corner.

This exercise always leads to the very helpful analysis of what worked and what failed last year.  So here's a list of things we learned, success we had, and failures we experienced last year in the garden and around the homestead and how that'll change what we try this year.  So for Part 1 of our garden recap, here are the things that did well and we considered successes last year.

Successes:
Cucumbers.  I can't decide if we did really well with these or if the weather and environmental factors just lent themselves to a good cucumber yield.  Multiple people I talked to mentioned that their cucumbers were going gangbusters last year, and the same was true for us.  The pickling cucumbers, Armenian cucumbers, and regular cucumbers all produced prodigiously.

Pickles.  The unexpected number of cucumbers was sort of a surprise, but my plan was to make/can pickles last year.  This is all part of my plan to try a few new things every year (new things we canned in 2011 were strawberry jam, pickles, and ketchup) and build every year on that knowledge.  You can't become a self sufficiency or canning expert overnight, so I'm employing the "learn one or two things a year and build the toolbox of skills" plan.
We had enough cucumbers to can (10) Quart jars of sweet pickles and make (2) 1-gallon jars of refrigerator sweet pickles.  Canning pickles was a snap, a limited number of ingredients and short prep time made this one of the easiest canning recipes I've tried.  The refrigerator pickles were also a huge asset since I could make the vinegar/sugar/spices mixture, put it in the gallon jar and store it in the refrigerator.  Once the mix was made Alycia could easily chop and add cucumbers as they became ripe (this was especially useful and efficient when I was out of town and cucumbers were ripening).  See the post - Bread and Butter Pickles for more info and the recipe. The only downside to the refrigerator pickles is that the gallon jars take up a lot of space in the fridge. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dog in the Pocket

My Dad claims to not be much of a dog person, and to his credit he really isn't.  But every time he hangs out with my sister and her 5 dogs, he seems to really enjoy himself some canine company, especially Toby the Chihuahua who just loves him.  Whenever Dad goes over to visit Toby makes a beeline for his lap and gets himself comfy for some tummy rubs. 
My sister snapped the above picture of Pops snuggling with Toby, eyes partially lolled back into his head as he settled in for some snuggling.  Nothing quite like family snuggle time.