A transplanted Southern Californian living in North Dakota Idaho, with some insights 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, December 29, 2011

Planned Obsolescence Equals Unplanned Annoyance

Is anything built to last these days?  I hate to turn this into a tirade against the pervasive march forward of technology or a "back in my day" rant but it seems unavoidable at this point.  Our official Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes digital camera stopped working over the weekend and we're troubleshooting (aka doing some online research) to try to figure out if we can get it working again.  At this point it doesn't look good, something to do with the memory card.  My primitive mode of linear thinking leads me to believe that it would be easy enough to go out and get a new memory card for the camera, but alas they don't make new memory cards for ancient cameras like ours (it's a four year old Canon). Dagnabit!!

Faced with the prospect of having to shell out money for another digital camera after only having this one for a few years, I had to contemplate the question - Are electronics deliberately made to have a three year lifespan?  Is it assumed that there will be so much more processing speed/features/apps/whatever in three years that everyone will simply buy a new one?  Is our society so disposable that goods that once were assumed to last a lifetime, like cameras, are now deliberately built with a planned obsolescence after three or four years? 

I've owned a cell phone now for about 15 years, and in those 15 years I'm now on my third phone.  Most people my age or younger are saying "only three phones in 15 years?  OMG, what a freak!!"  Most people older than me are probably saying "that seems about right".  The only reason I've ever gotten a new phone is because the previous one stopped working or I was given a free phone.  My first phone lasted about four years and by today's standards it's a complete joke, large and clunky, non-foldable, no internet access, not even able to be carried in a pocket.  I had that phone until I visited a buddy of mine (who had recently traded in his phone) who told me that my old phone was an embarrassment, a visual testament to my archaic mindset and technophobic worldview and that such a phone would definitely not help me impress chicks (please note this was many years ago when I was in my "impress chicks" life stage).  I tried to explain that I'm not a technophobe, but I'm just not like a most folks who are like a kitten with a piece of shiny ribbon around new technology.  And this was in 2001, I think the problem has only gotten 7,000% worse since then. 

So my buddy gave me his old phone (which by that point was already a few years old and indeed by current technology standards OLD), I took it in a had it switched over to my phone number and it became my phone for seven or eight years.  And it worked just fine.  Sure people made fun of me for having such an old cell phone, and people whose opinions I didn't value made sure to express their opinions on the antique-ness of my cell phone, but I cared not.  And all was fine and dandy in the world, and I would have been happy to use that phone for the next two decades.  Then one day it stopped working.  And I mean stopped working, completely. It wouldn't turn on or anything, it was dead.

So I hauled my dead phone into the (Insert Phone Store name here) store.  The first thing the kid working there says is "Holy smokes, a Startac 8600!!, I haven't seen one of these in years!!"  I tried to explain that yes indeed I had owned this phone for quite some time, but I really wanted to try to transfer my information from this old phone onto a fancy new one.  The kid handled the phone almost reverentially, like it was a museum artifact, and took it to the back room where after repeated attempts to revive it, it was declared officially dead.  It would go Davey Jones Cell Phone Locker with its secrets (all my contacts) still resting on its fried little memory chip.  My new cell phone is now starting to exhibit some end-of-life signs, sluggish performance, buttons not responding, etc. and it's probably only a matter of time 'til it needs to be replaced as well.  Was it only made to last three or four years?  It sure seems that way.

Thanks for bearing with me through this prolonged rant.  Anyways, the bottom line is we're stuck with no pictures for a little while here on Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes, until we can get this camera up and running or bite the bullet and go out and buy a new one.  I'm sure the new one will last three to four years before it starts to break down, and then the cycle can repeat itself.  Caveat emptor.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Newsletter

For those who may not have been on the mailing list, and for everyone else on the World Wide Interwebs, Welcome to the Cummings/Chappell Environmentally Friendly Family Newsletter – 2011 Edition!!! 
You’ve been good all year, and I’ve been watching.  You’ve been kind to small children and animals, haven’t played your music too loud, and eaten all your vegetebles.  As such you are hereby bestowed with the greatest Holiday blessing I can give you – the fourth edition of the Cummings/Chappell Family Newsletter.  We’ve listened to our customer feedback from previous years and included more pictures of Alycia and the dogs, fewer pictures of John, and less of John’s tedious writing.  

2011 was a wonderful year in North Dakota filled with gluten free cookies, furry canine companions and their antics, fresh garden tomatoes, and strolls along the Red River of the North.  Here are some highlights!!!  
Our garden continues to expand and we added another raised bed, a compost bin, and some additional fruit trees.  And in a spirit of addition by subtraction, we removed the unruly stand of lilac bushes and gained significant acreage in the front and back yard.  Since lawn mowing is a much maligned chore in the household, John has begun discretely (yes John can occasionally do things discretely) converting small areas of the yard to annual and perennial beds, slowly so as not to alarm the local neighborhood watch who already has the household on the “suspicious” list due to their California lineage, distinct lack of FOX News Rocks!! or I ♥ Karl Rove bumper stickers, non-truck ownership, and otherwise admittedly odd habits.  

John spent the year fine tuning his Tater Tot Casserole recipe, writing on the world famous Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes blog, planting more apple trees and currant shrubs, wearing plaid shorts and sandals about town (see above paragraph on public perception of “odd habits”), and quietly enjoying bird watching as much as Alycia.  John was thrilled in March when the basketball team he plays on won their division in the 2011 Grand Forks Grand Am Basketball Tournament. Though he didn’t win any individual accolades or a coveted purple ribbon, he contributed greatly to the team effort (in his own special way) and was voted by his teammates as “Most Likely to Foul Out of a Game” which was deemed by all to be a great honor.  And despite the fact that summer is by far the most pleasant season in North Dakota, John spent much of the summer travelling back and forth from San Diego to continue his consulting practice.  

Tito turned 11 years old this year and celebrated a decade as Alycia’s dog and half a decade as John’s step-dog.  In his old age he has decided he no longer wishes to be burdened with the arduous task of walking up stairs.  He plays the “I’m an old man” card, makes a sad sack Tito face and Alycia carries him up stairs every night before bed.  Even though he claims to be an old and infirm dog, he still manages to occasionally play with Shaak Ti and Shadowfax and is strangely remarkably spry when there are treats or leftover bits of Thanksgiving turkey to be handed out (picture below on the right).  And since he never wanders more than a foot away from the Tasty Treat Triangle (aka Alycia’s Dad, the outside barbecue, and the kitchen), he has gained free roaming and off leash status anytime he visits the Cavalier estate.
Shaak Ti turned 5 this year and continues to take daily informal singing lessons, preferably prior to her early morning walk. She has happily embraced the role of big sister to Shadowfax by teaching her invaluable life skills like thrashing on her back and making bizarre groaning sounds (though since they’re both deaf, we’re not sure how these skills are passed along).  Even though she’s now the middle child, Shaak Ti enjoys the company of her big little sister and the two play and wrestle daily.  Shaak Ti also continues to operate as the household’s fuzzy alarm clock, making sure to awaken the entire household at 5:30 am.  

The photos below are after an epic Spring muddy-buddy marathon race through the back yard with Shadowfax, and posing with Alycia’s Dad for family picture day.   
It was our first full year with our new puppy Shadowfax.  Alycia and Shadowfax spent much time at obedience classes and now (with proper motivation) they can both sit, lay down, stay, play dead, roll over, come, walk nicely on a leash, crawl, down stay, leave it, and fetch.  Alycia continues to hone her “fetch” playing skills with Shadowfax, the most recent fiasco involving the puppy’s lacrosse ball hitting the gutter downspout, flying out of the fence, and ending up two houses down across the street in the alley. Shadowfax is a frequent visitor to doggy day care, and the legions of eviscerated toys will attest to the need to have her expend energy outside the household.  She is by far the best trained and most well behaved of the three pooches, and once she outgrows the puppy spazz phase, she’ll easily be a model citizen. 
Our basement visitor suite was completed in early 2011 and we celebrated by hosting visitors including: Alycia’s sister and fiancĂ© from England, Alycia’s parents from Cavalier, North Dakota, most of John’s family from San Diego, and Alycia’s college chum from Los Angeles.  The pictures below are John’s family (dad, sister, brother-in-law, and in the carriage, our nephew, Jacob) out for a stroll at Turtle River State Park just west of Grand Forks and John and Alycia at their friends’ wedding in Portland, Oregon in September.  
We wish you the happiest of Holiday seasons and a productive and fruitful New Year.  May your pantry and deep freeze (we know you all have one) overflow with the bounty of the past summers’ harvest, and may the happiness of the season leave big stains of Holiday spirit all over your reindeer sweaters.  Thank you to all of our family and friends, near and far, four legged and two legged who make our lives brighter.  We love and cherish you all.  Our last picture is of Alycia, Tito, Shaak Ti, and Shadowfax.  John was again out of town when they had the picture sitting so don’t freak out that the whole family isn’t in the picture.  

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Everyone!!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fox News Makes You Dumb

Farleigh Dickinson University conducted a study last month that polled numerous people about current world events.  They found that people who were most likely to identify Fox News as their primary source of news were the most likely to be poorly informed.  Even more poorly informed than people who watched no news program at all.  You can read the full study abstract, results, and methodology.
"the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all."
You can read the study for yourself and decide what the results mean, but it seems that it pretty unequivocally shows that watching Fox News can leave you less informed and knowing less than if you didn't watch any news program at all. That's something to think about.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sparkling Clean Toddler

My sister has discovered that there's one sure fire, no hassle way to get your trouble-loving toddler spotlessly clean.
Just run them through the dishwasher (lower rack only).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Movie Time

One of the best parts of the holiday season is the chance to indulge in the "once a year" movies that really stimulate my Holiday spirit glands.  Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, It's a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Story are classics and always shown repeatedly on television.  In fact I just saw Rudolph a few weeks ago, on November 30th.  I remember when they only showed this movie on Christmas Eve, now it's on in November??  But we'll save the wrongness of Rudolph in November for another post. 

These movies are great, but I'm more of a fan of edgier Christmas movies, like National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, which needs to be seen in it's entirety, not in "televised and interrupted every seven minutes by commercials" format.  But aside from Christmas Vacation, the funniest Christmas movie I enjoy every year is probably Bad Santa.

Let me stop right now though and throw out a strong disclaimer.  This movie is not for everyone. It is incredibly offensive, extremely vulgar (every imaginable permutation of swear word), and has pervasive raunchy scenes throughout.  Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox are hilarious (Billy Bob is so believable in the role, I'm not sure he's even acting half the time) and Bernie Mac and John Ritter (in his last move role) seem to steal every scene.
I could watch this scene 10 times in a row and I still laugh every time.  Again, this is an incredibly offensive movie with horrible language and incredibly inappropriate scenes and dialogue.  It's a movie I watch almost every year, but would never recommend to my Dad.  Despite its offensive nature and black comedy tint, it's still a Christmas movie, and has some sweet touching moments without being Hollywood sappy and unbelievable.        
If you haven't seen it before, I would highly recommend this holiday cult classic.  But only if you aren't easily offended by raunchy jokes and offensive language.  If these two clips made you laugh, you should definitely see this movie.  If they made your jaw drop in abject horror at the filthy language, kindly ignore this post.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

10,000 Page Views = Blogger Introspection

So let's tell the story of the beginnings of our humble blog.  I started the Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes blog way back in 2008 (that seems like such a long time ago), but only really consistently posted for the last two years.  When I first started this blog I realized it would have, at best, limited appeal.  My original intent was to write some funny garden gnomes stories, brag about my awesome gardening projects/accomplishments, post some gluten free recipes, discuss my attempts to make my household more self sufficient, proudly show off my deaf dog pictures, and relay some of their deaf dog antics.

Soon after starting the blog Alycia and I began the process of relocation.  She had finished up her PhD in San Diego and needed to find a job.  After only a couple of months into the process it quickly became apparent that Grand Forks, North Dakota was going to be our destination and the University of North Dakota was going to become Alycia's academic home for a while.  At that point the intent of the blog shifted slightly to include stories of a "California kid comes to North Dakota" nature and focused on ways that I quasi-embarrassed or fully embarrassed myself in certain situations due to not knowing the local culture and customs (see Haircuts and Assault Rifles, Potato Sale, and The Welcome Wagon).
Moving to North Dakota also gave me an incredible assortment of news stories that I had never encountered before: Fireworks Accidents, Prisoner Escapes, Raccoons on School Buses, and Using Pig Spleens to Predict the Weather.  There were just too many unusual and funny stories to pass along to my friends and family back home in 72 degree Southern California.  It's with all these motivations that the blog has matured (is that the right word? No I don't think there's much about me that's matured) evolved into it's current format, both as a platform for deaf dogs, gardening, urban homesteading and self sufficiency ideas, and keeping friends and family back in California appraised of the North Dakota happenings with pictures and funny stories.   
One of the other strong motivations behind the blog was to serve as a platform for writing.  I really love the written word, but lacking the wherewithal, time, initiative, and writing self-esteem to actually try and publish something, the blog serves as an outlet for my urge to write and gives me plenty of regular practice.  But like many writers out there, finding validation can be difficult.  I'm never going to earn critical acclaim, or an award, or be mentioned in the same breath as other really good blogs.  And that's fine. So how do I get the validation that people are reading and appreciating my writing?

Well validation certainly wasn't going to come in the form of remuneration.  My initial dalliance with Google AdSense ended poorly.  It turns out that Google's fancy algorithms weren't equipped to deal with my then loyal cadre of 3 to 4 regular readers who were probably the only ones clicking on any ads.  So after the AdSense folks told me they thought I was engaging in shenanigans (I wasn't) and told me to go away, I started the Amazon Associates program (you can see the various Amazon ads all over my blog) trying to get people to buy items from Amazon through my blog. And while the Amazon program is never going to make me rich, the dollar or two a month it generates somehow makes me feel like I'm a paid writer, sort of.  So how do I get the much sought after validation?  Through counting the number of times (these are page views) that someone (hopefully) deliberately reads my blog

All of this self aggrandizing jabber is a result of recently passing 10,000 total page views over the life of the blog.  Because I'm an accountant by trade (sorry if this is news to some of you and you feel betrayed), I'm an analytical, numbers oriented person.  Numbers speak to me I'm constantly analyzing stuff.  I can't turn it off even though I wish I could.  So to think that stuff I've written has been viewed 10,000 times is pretty awesome.  There are many other bloggers out there for whom 10,000 page views is a good month, even a good week, but I really can't compare myself to those folks, they're in a totally different league.

I'm in disbelief that so many people have read what I've written and I'm thankful for each person who subscribes, reads, or visits Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes.  Thanks everyone!

Postscript - I wrote this a week and a half ago, before I was honored to be mentioned by Karen at Quarry Garden Stained Glass as a blog she enjoyed reading and passed along the link for Tootsie's Read 'Em All Tuesday.  This is probably the greatest validation of my writing that I could hope for, another blogger I highly admire admitting publicly that they enjoy my writing.  Thanks Karen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dancing with the Devil

Every so often I get the inkling to live life on the edge, throw caution in the wind, and invite the devil onto the dance floor for a spin.  What craziness am I engaging in?  Skydiving? Raw cantaloupe consumption? Sledding naked down a pile of semi-fermented sugar beets?  Nah, I just try and take a picture of Tito. 

Tito is not camera friendly.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  Even without the flash (which seems to be the target of his furry fury), taking his picture turns him into a snarling, angry beastie.  He's charged at the camera pretty much every time I've ever tried to take his picture.  But every other blue moon, when he's in a good mood, he'll let you snap one picture, maybe two, then his patience wears out and he tries to forcibly remove your hand at the wrist.  This is why you never see very many pictures of Tito here on the fabulous Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes blog, it's just too dangerous of an endeavor to try to take his picture.

As I said though, every so often I get the urge to live life to its fullest and try to take his picture, and the other day I tried while he was sleeping. 
Success!!  A picture of Tito.  But don't let the cuteness fool you, he's a stone cold killer.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Scandalous Sweater Pictures

Our mischievous little puppy Shadowfax has grown quite a bit in the past year.  How do I know?  The awesome lime green sweater she wore most of last winter (see New Green Sweater) is now quite snug on her.  What used to reach all the way to her furry doggy bottom now barely covers most of her back.
This is the sweater last winter, when Shadowfax was still a puppy.  It was a very conservative garment, reaching all the way to the base of her tail.  As an overprotective father, I approved of her wearing an outfit like this out of the house.
That sweater used to cover up everything.  A lot has happened since then, mostly our little puppy grew up and filled out.  Now?
As you can see it's pretty scandalous - it's like a tight tube top with exposed midriff and doggy decolletage, not what my little girl should be wearing. 
I think even the puppy herself realizes the scandalous nature of her outfit.  Alycia might let her go to school or doggy camp dressed like this, but I certainly don't approve.  I think it's time for a new (and larger) sweater. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Negative Monday Morning

No we're not in a bad mood, but we are negative.  Negative in temperature.  The official temperature on our fancy digital thermometer (the Weather Direct Wireless Forecaster) was -0.4 degrees this morning, our first official negative temperature of the year.  And I will bet you every penny I have (Full Disclosure - I don't have many) that it won't be the last, or the lowest.  Any takers on that bet? 

The Weather Direct Wireless Forecaster was a birthday gift from Alycia last year and is pretty dang cool.  I love watching the weather, checking Doppler radar, and anticipating the forecast for the future, so a digital thermometer and weather forecaster was right up my alley.  We have the traditional round plastic thermometer hanging from a tree in the back yard, but it always seems to be off by about 10 degrees.  I think the tree trunk obscures air from getting to the sensor or something.  The fancy digital thermometer uses a sensor mounted on the North side of the house, just under the eaves, and seems to be pretty precise. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Garden Gnome Hibernation

The first day of December marks the true shift into Holiday mode.  The last bits of stuffing and pie are gone, Christmas lists are drafted, and lights start to adorn the neighborhood.  December 1st also marks the traditional day of Garden Gnome Hibernation.  It's been pretty chilly lately, though nothing unseasonably cold, just normal late Fall temperatures, and the garden gnomes have been getting chilly at night.
Frederick the Gnome has snuggled in a bed of leaves up to his beard to keep warm at night.  As you may already know, garden gnome culture dictates that all gnomes have a huge end of season shindig before heading to their winter hibernation cave (the cardboard box we put them in and store in the garage).  The party can get pretty raucous since it's their last opportunity for merriment before the long winter. 
Franklin the Gnome was groggy and laying face first in a bed of leaves when I showed up this morning with the hibernation box.  He had few too many the night before and was sleeping it off in the fallen leaves. 
Furkel the Gnome took one last fertilizing good luck poop in the garden and it was nap time for the season.  See you in Spring garden gnomes. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

When Bulls Poop

We recently added Bevo the Bull to our collection of dog toys.  As with any animal newcomer to the household, there's always the possibility of an accident or two.  Puppy was pretty good and has only had a handful of accidents in the year we've had her, and in her defense we were equally culpable in not knowing her routine and getting her some outside business time. 

Bevo the Bull was only here for a few days and he had an accident.  All over the floor.  It was a mess. 
Here's a closer view.  It was a pretty big mess, all over the carpet.  And please note that this wasn't staged for the camera, this was the scene exactly as it happened.  We strive for absolute truth in reporting here at Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes
OK, I realize that since it's not a live animal that he didn't actually poop in the floor, but it sure looks like he did.  The more disturbing aspect of this is it isn't the first time that a large stuffed animal has developed an immediate crotch hole.  Do the toys have a structural deficiency in the crotch area?  Or do our dogs just immediately attack the crotch?  The jury is still out. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Pictures

We spent Thanksgiving with Alycia's family up in the countryside of Cavalier, North Dakota.  As always, there was a fantastic collection of delicious Thanksgiving treats. The pie lineup alone was impressive.
Pumpkin, pumpkin, cherry, pecan, mini-pumpkin, apple.  I made their acquaintance later that day and they seemed quite content to make my acquaintance as well. 
We've got a picture like this from every dinner we've had at the Cavalier Estate.  After dinner for people is snacks for dogs time.  Previously mischievous pups suddenly remember their manners and recall how to sit nicely when there are gooey bits of warm turkey to be handed out.
Tito the four legged pre-wash cycle helps out by cleaning off a dinner plate.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday Woe

The orgy of gluttonous consumption that is Black Friday is pretty repellant to me.  People standing in line for hours to pay money they don't have for things they don't really need seems wrong on so many levels.  Big box stores opening up on midnight and making their employees (employees they obviously consider expendable cogs in the machine) work on Thanksgiving Day seems cruel.  The all encompassing media advertising blitz for the days leading up to Black Friday just becomes nauseating in its repetition and intensity. 

All this seems like like a microcosm of the many of the woes of our society: the glorification of shopping and spending, the promotion of the idea that buying stuff and spending money will make you happy/loved/appreciated/accomplished, the insatiable yearning for the next disposable electronic gadget, the over-saturation of advertising into every aspect of life, and the indoctrination of younger and younger people into the cult of spending.  It all just seems like such a waste.
Flickr Photo Credit
It wasn't that long ago, just a few years, that I heard happy Black Friday stories.  Groups of friends or family going to a few stores at 5:00 am for some early Christmas shopping, then spending hours over coffee and breakfast at the local diner swapping gossip and catching up.  The talk and the focus was on people and camaraderie and Holiday sweaters, not the sanctification of gladiatorial combat shopping. I don't hear the happy anecdotal Black Friday stories anymore, just tales of people pushing others down, fighting in stores over stuff, and overspending. 

How was Black Friday 2011?  This article titled Violence, pepper spray mars Black Friday shopping should give you a clue.  Is this media sensationalism of a few minor incidents?  Absolutely.  Should we avoid generalizing based on a few isolated incidents?  Probably.  Is it disgusting that a woman pepper sprayed 20 people so she could gain an advantage on buying a Nintendo?  Yup.  Does it say a lot about us that people broke into and looted a store because they were angry it didn't open right at midnight, as advertised?  I think so.  Am I saying that capitalism is wrong and evil?  Nope, not at all.  

I'm not trying to claim that I'm holier than thou or attempting to convert anyone.  I buy stuff.  I go to malls (rarely).  I have a television.  But over the last decade I've tried to give more Christmas presents that I made.  Homemade jam or applesauce, candy from the local chocolate shop, items bought at local craft fairs, tins of homemade cookies and fudge, used books.  Contrary to the messages in advertising, NOT spending money has actually made me happier.  Much happier.
Flickr Photo Credit

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Beyond the Turducken

When I was back in Southern California I heard about a magical creature called a turducken.  It's like the griffin/unicorn/centaur of holiday meat.  They've become popular and trendy in recent years, and if you haven't heard about it, or had the pleasure of eating one, it's simply a turkey with a chicken and a duck layered and stuffed inside each other, all deboned and each stuffed with a different style of stuffing.  I thought I would never be able to embrace more than the theory of the turducken when I discovered that the old-school butcher shop near where I lived (Iowa Meat Farms) in San Diego made turduckens for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I had one for a few Thanksgivings and it quickly became a holiday tradition for me.  So when I met Alycia, and her parents came out for Thanksgiving, I thought it would be a good way to introduce them to the fantastical world of mixed martial meats.  Her parents were initially skeptical but quickly embraced the idea once they had the opportunity to taste the delicious carnival of meat that is the turducken.
The Quaducant - Photo from http://www.delish.com/food/recalls-reviews/better-than-the-turducken

It was with great delight that I read an article Alycia's Mom, Mama Bear, forwarded me called Beyond the Turducken: Five Birds That Will Blow Your Mind.  It's a short article, and well worth it to learn about the Turbaconducken (turducken wrapped in bacon) and the True love Roast:
This True Love Roast from chef Phillip Corrick and creator Devon farmer Anne Petch can feed up to 125 people, took eight hours to prepare, is over 50,000 calories, and was stuffed with...are you sitting down...ready? Goose, Barbary duck, Guinea fowl, Mallard, Poussin, Quail, Partridge, Pigeon squab, Pheasant, Chicken, and finally, an Aylesbury duck.
Yay for extreme meat, and super thanks to Mama Bear for passing along this article.  Happy Thanksgiving to all and may your meal (meat or not) be tasty and delicious!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

That Lull In Postings

That noticeable lack of postings recently has been attributed to my being sick.  Not a little bit of a cold, a touch of stuffy nose sick, but honest to goodness feeling really crappy.  This recent sickness coincided with my return from working in California.  There's nothing quite like a plane ride with painful sinuses and ears popping every 20 minutes from the pressure.  Ugh.

I'm trying to decide if I indeed had the flu, all the symptoms were there - but is it too early for the flu?  Maybe it was the swine flu, or aardvark flu?  I'd like to think I got it out of the way early this year. My purpose here isn't complain, but to illuminate.  I know that verily, thousands of Internetters were poised in front of their computers wishing and yearning for a new Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes post. 

And if any of my readers are interested, I have a sure fire weight loss protocol.  Just come on over and we can make out (Alycia may not like this), you'll catch whatever I have and in a week or so when you regain full consciousness, Blammo!! you'll be 10 pounds lighter.  Works like a charm.  If you are averse to making out with me (most are), then feel free to come over with a couple of pastries/desserts (cookie, donut, danish, croissant, etc).  I'll eat one and then sneeze and cough on the other one for you to eat, you'll catch whatever I have and in a week or so when you regain full consciousness, Blammo!! you'll be 10 pounds lighter.  Just thinking of ways to help you, loyal reader. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

One Year Puppy-Versary

What better way to celebrate a life milestone than a musical picture montage.  Enjoy.
The song is "Awake My Soul" by Mumford and Sons

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hairy Woodpecker Visit

No this isn't some segue into a bad joke or grimace inducing pun.  We have a good number of woodpeckers here in our homestead in North Dakota, and the other day I happened to snap a pretty good photo of a Hairy Woodpecker on a tree in the backyard.  I even circled it on the photo for ease of locating it. 
You can't quite see the red patch on his head, but you can read more about the Hairy Woodpecker and see much better pictures that the one I have here.

The Hairy Woodpecker isn't the biggest of the woodpeckers that live in North Dakota, that honor goes to the Pileated Woodpecker (See more info and pictures here).  We had a Pileated Woodpecker briefly stop and visit us last fall off and on for a few weeks.  On the couple of occasions where he was working on a tree, you could certainly hear it, the sound was unmistakable and LOUD.

Alycia's parents had a Pileated Woodpecker in their backyard for a few months over the summer who hollowed out a significant size cavity on a dead tree.  It was pretty impressive to see the size of the hole and the amount of sawdust and tree chunks produced by just one bird. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Family Visit Photos

Here are a few more choice photos from the family visit to Grand Forks, North Dakota at the beginning of October.
We plopped little nephew Jacob in his stroller and went for a stroll (one must use a stroller when strolling) along the Greenway to bustling downtown Grand Forks.  It was a lovely day, pleasantly warm Fall weather with leaves turning all manner of yellow and gold as I posed with my big sister and Jacob.
We didn't make it to the pumpkin patch, so instead Jacob and his parents posed for the one pumpkin growing in our yard.  It's not as dramatic as a picture surrounded by dozens of orange Halloween squashes, but the everyone looks great, a fantastic family photo that I will expect to see on a Christmas card in the coming months. 
We drove up to Cavalier for the day and Alycia's Dad had a chance to explain to Jacob why the Minnesota Vikings are so terrible this year.
Alycia's Mom (Mama Bear) also had a chance to play with baby Jacob.  This picture was taken after the intensive Mama Bear led seminar on "Modern Interpretations and re-creations of Cubist period art using squished mashed potatoes".

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sleeping Puppies

For once we're going to stay true to our name and actually feature some deaf dogs.  And nobody can say "no" to a cute sleeping puppy picture.
I put a picture like this on Facebook a few months ago and a few days later my friend asked me "What the hell was that a picture of?  Was that a dog?"  I explained that yes it was a dog, our beloved puppy all curled up in a crazy heap of limbs and ears and rib cage and spots.
Here's a closer view of the mess.  It usually takes her a minute or two to get all untangled and wake up from a nap like this.
Here's a more normal sleeping pose.  Awww.....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

PHHS On The National Stage

My alma mater, Patrick Henry High School, made the news recently for electing two lesbian girls as homecoming king and queen.  It's hard to believe that this is still a headline making event worthy of being relayed by CNN, but it's even harder to believe the number of hateful calls and e-mails the school has received from around the country.
“What is especially disappointing is that adults who have contacted the school, many of whom are not even San Diego residents, are demonstrating such a lack of tolerance and are presenting such a negative role model for children with their hateful comments,” San Diego schools superintendent Bill Kowba said Monday.
You can see the CNN Story here or read about it in the San Diego Union Tribune.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween to All!!!

I keep in touch with Michelle (she fostered our puppy for two weeks down in Texas) on Facebook and always look forward to the incredibly unique and hilarious Halloween costumes she makes for her bulldog Pearl.  This is one of the best homemade dog costumes I've seen this year and I had to share it with everyone.  
Thanks for the laugh Michelle.  And sorry for appropriating your picture of Pearl. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Adventures In Leaf Raking

Alycia is a pretty smart cookie, but sometimes she doesn't understand basic equations.  Equations such as:
Leaf Raking + Forecast of High Winds = Sad Panda
Alycia really wanted to rake leaves, and in fairness so did I, there were tons of leaves to be raked.  But I understand the nature of wind and how it can affect leaves (it blows them far away and flattens leaf piles), and also have a strong respect for Mother Nature and her desire to humble us.  Despite all my protestations, Alycia was determined to rake leaves into piles in preparation for the leaf sucker machine that was alleged to swing by during the week.  As such I left Alycia to do all the leaf raking whilst I busied myself with chores that wouldn't be blown away by the 20 to 30mph (with gusts to 45mph!!) winds that started in the afternoon and picked up overnight.
Alycia raked this area clean of all the leaves yesterday.  The winds happily returned the leaves overnight. 
This area was also leaf free yesterday.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Homemade Ketchup/Catsup/Katsup/Kyatsoop

Due to the large amount of Roma and Amish Paste tomatoes that we planted in Spring, we recently had a proliferation of tomatoes that I no idea what to do with.  Our freezer is already overflowing with (among other things) chopped/quartered tomatoes that Alycia froze over the Summer, and we've still got a ton of pasta sauce that I made last year that we haven't worked through, so what to do?  Well I've always wanted to make my own catsup...
This is actually about half of the final tomato haul of the season that I used to make catsup.  And to clarify, these are only the ripe ones.  We harvested all the green tomatoes when we ripped out the tomato plants and cleared the raised beds over the weekend, and the green tomatoes are now sitting in a cardboard box in the cellar.  If given a dark, dry place and a few weeks, the green tomatoes will eventually ripen.  They definitely won't be as tasty as the ones that had time to ripen on the vine, but they're certainly better than store bought, and more than adequate for pasta sauce or chopped up and frozen to be used in soups, stews, chili, etc. 
Sorry for the tangent.  I took all our 'maters, heated them up, and added a few ingredients:
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
And brought everything to a bubbling simmer for about 10 minutes.
I pressed the tomato mixture through a strainer, which was actually a decent amount of work.
And catsup came out the bottom of the strainer, as though by magic.  OK, not really magic, more like a combination of gravity and elbow grease*.
For those not familiar with the phrase "elbow grease" (probably anyone under the age of 20), please note that this is just an expression and that I actually don't have any elbow grease, my elbows are remarkably clean and non-greasy, and even if I DID have elbow grease, I certainly would not have added it to my homemade catsup. 
I had to cook it down for a few hours to remove all the liquid and thicken up the mixture.  The recipe said it would only take an hour, but it took me more like 4-5 hours to cook down.  

Some people feel that making your own condiments is some kind of sign of larger issues, or as my Brother-in-law put it "Dude, you made your own ketchup?!?!  You have WAY to much time on your hands."  Yes, yes I do.  And it's wonderful.   

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rich People Create Jobs...

...and five other myths that must die for our economy to live.

Mother Jones Article

Some interesting reading, if you have a few minutes, from the super Liberal-Commie-Pinko magazine Mother Jones.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Nephew Pics

A few more pictures from the family visit last week.  I'm still waiting for the rest of the family to get their individual and collective act together and send me their photos from the trip. 
Dinner time gets messy.  Actually, just about every meal with this little guy got messy.  But that was OK since...
...we had a very attentive doggy clean up crew waiting on high alert.  High alert.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall Garden Clean Up

This weekend was a big garden clean up weekend.  We had to get the raised beds cleaned up, veggies pulled out, and everything prepared for the hard freeze that's coming this week.  For me, fall garden chores are more urgent than Spring garden chores.  Why?  I know in Spring that no matter when I start seedlings or seeds that they'll start growing when they feel like it, so there's no sense of urgency to get anything done.  I know that un-staked tomato plants will still produce tomatoes (though they will make a huge unruly mess, more on this in another post), so there's no rush.

This year, cucumbers started from seedlings and extra seeds (that were four or five years old) that Alycia threw in the ground both started producing at the same time.  Zucchini, pumpkins, and watermelons all languished in the ground for weeks before starting to grow.  The message from Mother Nature?  You can bust your butt and get things planted right after the last frost, coddle seedlings with little mini-greenhouses, or casually throw seeds in the ground, everything will grow when it's darn good and ready. 

Fall chores spurn me to action, the hard frost hangs over my head knowing that it'll turn those "just-starting-to-turn-pink" tomatoes into frost mangled mush if I don't get them inside where they might have a chance to ripen.  And experience has taught me that potatoes and onions are much easier to harvest from ground that isn't frozen.  This should be intuitive, but sometimes I need to learn things the hard way.
Alycia snipped and pulled the remaining pepper plants.  We're hoping that, like the tomatoes, we can store the peppers in a cool dry place and they'll ripen a bit more.  If not, they're still tasty even though they might be a bit green.
We harvested onions out of this raised bed as well.  The only hard part was removing the marigolds.  Even though they were still full of blooms, they were unlikely to survive the mid-20's that were forecast for a low temp Tuesday night and Wednesday night.  It's also easier to remove everything in the raised bed at once so I can cover it with a thick layer of grass clippings, shredded leaves, and mulch for overwintering.
Sad, empty raised bed.  'Till next year.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Family Visit

We had most of the family out for a visit last week, their annual fall trip to North Dakota is becoming a well loved tradition.  In addition to the usual cast of characters, this trip included a new group member, our new nephew Jacob. 
Jacob and his Dad enjoyed our rocking chair and took time to give puppy lots of pets.  The puppy loved Jacob, giving him constant kisses and wagging her tail non-stop the entire time.  Puppy was closely supervised with him, as Alycia and I are super cautious, but Jacob has five doggie pals at home and does well around them
Jacob and his Dad pose for the camera while puppy pants nearby, exhausted from all her kissing and wagging.
Breakfast time for this little red-haired munchkin.