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.



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are and should be part of well any balanced diet. Once Alycia was forced to go gluten free I had trouble finding a good gluten free chocolate chip recipe.  I experimented with half a dozen gluten free chocolate chip recipes before I finally stumbled upon a delicious one that comes out consistently excellent every time I make it.

In fact the cookies are so good they pass the highest level gluten free test, which is people who don't know, have one and say "these are gluten free?".  Yeah they're so good you can't tell they're gluten free. Here's the recipe.

Ingredients:
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, large
  • 1 ½ cups Pamela's Baking Mix
  • 1 tsp gluten free vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cream butter and sugars together.
  • Add egg and vanilla and beat together.
  • Add Pamela's Baking Mix and beat together.
  • Add chocolate chips and mix thoroughly.
  • Chill dough in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  • Scoop dough in approximately 1 tbsp balls onto a cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 12 to 13 minutes or just until top or edges turn light golden brown.

Granted this isn't truly from scratch since the primary ingredient is Pamela's Baking Mix, but I think for the noble goal of eating fresh, home made chocolate chip cookies, we'll ignore that these aren't truly technically from scratch.

This recipe is also so delicious that it got picked up and published on Yahoo Voices, so you can read about Awesome Gluten Free Cookies over there as well.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Crying fowl

This gem of an article was posted in the Grand Forks Herald on Thursday, January 24 2013. John and I decided that the author really tried to work with the ridiculousness of the story topic.

I've cut and pasted the article below since the Herald often takes down their stories after a few days. But if you get a chance, check out the original posting because there is VERY compelling cinematography of the turkeys lurking around the neighborhood.

Fargo residents cry fowl over turkey infestation
By: Emily Welker, Forum Communications

FARGO – Fargo police are looking to catch a gigantic gang of fugitives making life in a north-side neighborhood a foul – or is that fowl? – experience.

A group of wild turkeys that may be as many as 80 birds strong – a rafter, as a group turkeys is known –has infested the area a few blocks south of Edgewood Golf Course in the northeast corner of the city, near Peterson Parkway and Birdie Street.

Yes, Birdie Street.

Whether they’re attracted to the street’s name, or more likely to the nearby river and one of the city’s biggest stretches of green space, the birds and their byproducts have worn out their welcome.
“We called, our neighbors called,” said Galen Heinle, who’s lived on Peterson Parkway for six years and said this is the worst the birds and their droppings have ever been. At one point, he said, the poop problem became so bad in his yard his wife had to hire someone to come in and clean it up. “It was getting to be unsanitary. I’m glad the city’s doing something,” Heinle said.

And, he said, while the birds haven’t shown any overt aggression, they’re obviously a little too comfortable where they are. “When I leave they won’t get out of the way of the car. It’s like, come on, let’s go,” he said.

Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said the police, with the help of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, are starting a baiting and trapping process to attempt to net the birds and move them out to a more rural area. They’ll be feeding the birds on the nearby Cardinal Muench seminary property, and they’re asking people in the neighborhood to stop feeding the birds in the meantime.

The department sent letters to residents in the area last week, informing them of their plans to deal with the turkey takeover. Police also ask that potential onlookers remain respectful of private property and the wildlife themselves while the trapping is going on, though Vettel admits the birds haven’t been quite so mannerly.

In addition to leaving their waste all over people’s property, he said they are capable of property damage like knocking down and destroying yard items. “These are wild animals, and when they get into an urban environment, there are adaptations that are not good for the homeowner, and not good for the turkey,” he said.

Police said the trapping process, which should take about four weeks, probably won’t eradicate the area’s entire turkey population. They said the focus is not to move all the birds out of the city, just to bring the bird population down to a more manageable level for an urban environment. Police said they recently trapped and relocated much of a smaller flock in North Fargo near Hector International Airport using a similar technique. Doug Leier, a biologist with North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department, said there has been an urban turkey population in Fargo since he got to the city in 1997. And, he said, with few natural predators, the population continued to grow.

Despite the mess left by the roving rafter of gobblers, Heinle doesn’t want to quit them cold turkey. He is hoping the city won’t trap all the birds. On a moonlit night, he said, he can see a group of about fifty or so roosting in the trees in his yard, all night long, in degrees of minus 20 or more. He agrees that these are tough turkeys. And he’s developed a certain fondness for the feathered fugitives. “I feel sorry for them, in a way,” Heinle said. “You think you’re having a tough day? You don’t want to be a turkey.”


Alycia's comments:
1) Can you believe this was the big cover story for the "B" section of the paper? It also had a lovely picture of turkeys, but I couldn't get the picture to download properly, so you will have to check out the original posting.
2) John pointed out that turkey poop is probably really good fertilizer for the lawns, so the idea of "unsanitary" poop is obviously in the eye of the beholder.
3) Did the police really have to remind people not to feed the birds? I really don't think they are all congregating because somebody has a good bird feeder. I think there is an underlying reason why they are there, and in order to truly solve this dilemma, the people need to figure that out.
4) I like the comment that the turkeys are wild animals living in an urban environment. They apparently haven't evolved enough to be able to handle yart (i.e., yard art) without breaking it. Possibly the next generation of turkeys will be more sensitive to these issues.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cat and Sheep are friends

A nice story from the Grand Forks Herald from late December last year.

Devoted Minnesota kitty watched out for deaf, nearly blind sheep
By: Jo Colvin, Forum Communications
Photo Credit: Grand Forks Herald

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. - Even though Oliver is orange and white, he’s the black sheep of the family. But he can’t pull the wool over his owners’ eyes. They know he’s just a cat in sheep’s clothing.

A half-wild tomcat, Oliver was born in a barn on the Terry and Kathy Sletto farm near Alexandria. At first he acted like other wild cats – he would take off for days and roam the countryside, appearing occasionally to let the Slettos know it was his territory, too.

Then the Slettos let a teenage friend borrow Oliver for the summer. When he came back, he began to suffer from an identity crisis.“It’s crazy,” Kathy said. “Once he got back, he had no interest in the other cats.” Instead, he wanted to hang with the sheep. As they would graze, Oliver would frolic in the pasture, running underhoof or resting in their shade. He shunned his former wanderlust life and opted to stay home and shepherd.

Oliver was particularly fond of Ada, a sheep way past her prime that was deaf and almost blind.

“I think she had sheep dementia, if sheep can get that,” Kathy surmised. Feline and ovine developed a serious bond, and Oliver hardly left Ada’s side. With the arrival of the cold, the chilly cat decided that Ada’s wool would make a cozy blanket. So he started hopping up on her back and making his home there. “He rode around on her back,” Kathy said. “It was like an electric blanket for him to sit up there on the wool.”
At first, the Slettos felt sorry for Ada. They thought Oliver was being insensitive and was taking advantage of her warm body. But then they noticed the standoffish cat appeared to have feelings for the sheep. “He would groom her, lick her face, he was really affectionate with her,” Kathy said. “It was a two-way deal there.”
But the adoration tomcat and sheep had for each other was destined to end. Sadly, Oliver and Ada only had a few short months together before she left for greener pastures in the sky. With her passing, the bereft Oliver soon resorted to his former life of tomcatting. “He comes and goes now,” Kathy lamented. “Since she died, he has been much more of a roamer. He is not interested in the flock.”

Kathy, a published author who has raised wool-bearing animals for 10 years, is flummoxed. “I have never, in all my years of having animals, seen anything like that,” she said. “When she was alive, it seemed like he was looking after her.”

Kathy was so touched by the bond between the cat and sheep that she wrote an essay entitled “Oliver the Shepherd.” At the request of a publisher, she submitted the essay to be included in an anthology, "The Animal Anthology Project: True Tales," which was released last month. Proceeds from the book will go to animal charities.

Following is an excerpt from the essay:
“I’ve learned a lot about shepherding from Oliver. Watching Oliver at work reminds me to be patient, and to let things happen in their own time. Sometimes one needs to just stand back and wait for things (animals, crops, ideas) to mature. Oliver knows that, and he gives himself and others plenty of space and time and the grace to just let things evolve. He doesn’t hurry and he doesn’t worry. He watches. He waits. He rests. He says little. And he accepts a ride when he can get one.”

“Oliver the Shepherd,” an essay about the connection between a cat and a sheep, is included in the anthology "The Animal Anthology Project: True Tales." The book is available on amazon.com or by contacting a local bookseller. Proceeds from the book go toward animal charities.

Alycia's comments: I looked into their animal charities and it appears that all their proceeds will go to the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah - a great charity for all creatures.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blizzard Gandolf

I composed this right before the blizzard last Saturday:

What? A blizzard named Gandolf? And Alycia and I are huge Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans?  Awesome!!  OK, so the spelling of the blizzard is slightly different than the Lord of the Rings character, but that's OK.

Leading up to this blizzard on Friday evening, we've had some wacky weather. Thursday night was rain. Yes rain in January in North Dakota, not quite unheard of, but dang close.  I asked Alycia if she ever remembers rain in January growing up here and she never had. 

So it rained pretty good for several hours, but since the ground was mostly frozen, it wasn't really absorbed. Some ran off into the gutters, but a lot pooled in various low spots, or in tiny glacial lakes formed by snow banks, and then later on Thursday night when the temperature dropped below 32, it froze.  About 1/3 of the backyard is now a skating rink, the rest has patches of frozen mud and smaller frozen puddles, thousands of slippery spots waiting to take us out.  The footing is very dangerous everywhere.

And after the blizzard on Sunday:

Blizzard Gandalf was a dud, only about 3 inches of snow (2.5 inches officially in Grand Forks), but the wind did blow the snow around pretty good.  All things considered, last Saturday was a pretty good day to stay inside.

The legacy of blizzard Gandalf won't be its unfulfilled expectations, this happens often enough with storm predictions around here, but the thick layer of ice on everything from the rain that preceded the blizzard.  Walking was and continues to be treacherous.

It's now Friday morning and here's the 7 day forecast.
Think about them numbers for a minute. All that is without wind factored in, those numbers are just the air temp. Sad face....

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

And the Winner is...

Tito is your winner of the 2012 Deaf Dog of the Year award.  Though there were some voting inconsistencies this year and even admissions of voter coercion/persuasion,federal and state election officials couldn't find any concrete evidence of voter fraud and were forced (much to their chagrin) to certify the election results and declare Tito the winner.

This marks the second consecutive year that Tito has won the Deaf Dog of the Year contest.  See last years results in the 2011 Deaf Dog of the Year Poll Results

As was the case last year, I'm extremely disappointed in all of you who voted for Tito, especially Alycia's friend Andy (you know what you've done) who seemed to once again be at the nexus of "unusual" voting patterns for Tito.  But like a faithful believer in the Democratic system, I accept the results and endeavor to campaign more fervently on behalf of the good dogs next year.  For now I have two utterly heartbroken pooches (Shakk Ti and Shadowfax) who have lost in consecutive years and are in a state of utter despair.

Now let me again take the opportunity to say how utterly disappointed I am in you all who voted for Tito.  Very disappointed.  In this annual scene of deja vu, I sat down to discuss the poll results with the three pooches, I saw the inevitable looks of sadness from Shadowfax, who wondered if she was cute enough, playful enough, or engaged in an adequate amount of puppy hijinks to satisfy voters.  I wasn't too concerned about her, she's young, and likely has many awards in her future.

I saw in Shaak Ti the all too familiar look of the vanquished and forgotten middle child (I have seen this look many times in the mirror) who appeared crestfallen at her second place finish.  Shaak Ti was inconsolable and cried many deaf dog tears, unable to comprehend why she was again unable to win the Deaf Dog of the Year contest.  You made Shaak Ti cry again, I hope you're happy with yourselves.

Tito celebrated his victory in consummate Tito style, an angry game of Tug of War with Shadowfax and then a thorough oral self-cleaning of his nether regions.  Thankfully the following video is only of the Tug of War portion of the celebration, so watch away.
And in case you're wondering, all the barking from this video is Tito.  He barks more and better with his mouth full than any other dog I've ever met. I'll leave it up to you to decide if that's a contest worthy attribute.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Last Day to Vote

It's the last day, so get your votes in for the 2012 Deaf Dog of the Year.  If you're good (and vote for anyone but Tito) I'll reward you with tales of Blizzard Gandolf. Intrigued?  You should be...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Voting Update and Misc Other Stuff

There are only three days of voting left in the 2012 Deaf Dog of the Year Contest.  It seems that the initial rush of Tito related voter fraud has abated and most of the recent voting seems to be legitimate.  Get your vote in as soon as possible and please encourage others to vote too (as long as they don't vote for Tito).

Alycia and I have been fervently preparing for the new semester and haven't been blogging much. There are a few things in the works and we promise that Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes won't disappoint!!

We've also had the awesome luck of having two articles picked up and published on Yahoo Voices.

One article is information previously written about on the blog - Deaf Dog Myths Dispelled.

Also published is the Amazing Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Recipe that we regularly (too regularly if you ask my waistline) bake.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 Deaf Dog of the Year



It is a most exciting time of the year, voting is now open in our 2012 Deaf Dog of the Year Contest!!!  

As a small caveat, this is a reminder that this contest is inspired by one of my favorite blogs (Montana Wildlife Gardener) and his Cat of the Year post.  I admit every year that this is a blatant example of bloggo-theft, but his annual posts are always incredibly funny and were an inspiration to come up with a similar contest for our critters.

If you need to get caught up, you can read last years 2011 Deaf Dog of the Year post as well as the 2011 Deaf Dog of the Year Poll Results. Tito was the winner of the poll last year, and while he’s not technically ineligible to win again, I can’t bear the thought of him winning in back to back years.  He haughtily flaunted his win for most of the year, throwing it in my face every chance he got.  If I see that poll numbers are skewing for Tito, I’ll shut this whole thing down and never do it again rather than face a back-to-back Tito victory.  Seriously.  Consider this your “I’ll turn this car right around” moment, cause I will.

Voting is on the upper left part of the screen, and please feel free to leave a comment as to who you voted for and why.  Here are your three choices for 2012 Deaf Dog of the Year (presented in order of seniority):