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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Minute Gift Follow Up

As Alycia mentioned in Looking for that last minute gift, posted before Christmas, we enjoy sponsoring animals through the Best Friends Animal Society or otherwise including charitable donations made in the names of recipients as part of gift giving.  For the past several years we’ve sponsored dogs, printed a picture of the dog from the Best Friends website and included it with their care package in the mail.

This year though Alycia and I realized that there are animals other than dogs at Best Friends that you can sponsor, including rescued farm animals.  Did we sponsor a jackass in my Dad’s name?  Well technically no since jackasses are only male, asses are female, this ass/donkey was named Jenny, so she wasn't a jackass.
But from a big picture perspective, did we sponsor a jackass in my Dad’s name this Christmas?  Yes. Yes we did. Merry Christmas Dad!!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Break

Good Morning Awesome Readers.

As you can tell by the lack of posts this week, we've taken a little Christmas break here at Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes.  Over the last week or so we've had a visit to the historic Cummings Family estate in bucolic Cavalier, North Dakota, played with new Christmas presents, spent some time playing with the dogs, chatted with friends and family members across the country, shoveled some snow (not too much...yet), and generally been slackers. 

I guess having a couple of weeks off over Christmas break is the norm now that we're a house full of academics, professional gadabouts preaching from our ivory tower and then retreating away from any real work. But it's not for us to discuss the merits of our profession is it?  We hope you have also had some time to relax and enjoy the season with some warm cookies, a good book, or some quality family time. 

We do have some exciting things on the horizon!  The Deaf Dog of the Year contest (see the 2011 Deaf Dog of the Year Contest and Contest Results) is scheduled to start this coming week, we might finally post the pictures of our vacation to England over Labor Day, and there are rumors of a Sasquatch related article in the mix.  Stay tuned...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.  Since the holiday season is jam packed with stuff to do and you don't have a lot of time to spend frittering around on the Internet, I'll leave you with just one picture to express holiday joy.  The purest expression of happiness, the look of joy on a child's face, in this case my super awesome nephew. 
And this isn't even him opening presents, just being fascinated with a snow globe.  I can't imagine how happy he'll be on Christmas morning. 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Looking for that last minute gift

If you're a procrastinator (and I'm sure there are a few of you out there in our readership circles), then perhaps you're still looking for that perfect Christmas gift for someone. If so, read on. If you're "all done shopping" good for you, but still read on - you can never have too many good ideas for gifts.

Since my family really doesn't need anything, and my parents' garage is bulging at the seams, a few years ago I was looking for some other kind of gift for them and I thought of doing a donation to a charity. Nearly all charities will let you make a donation in the name of someone, but sometimes you don't really "get" anything that you could package up as a "gift". Please don't let that stop you from donating, but one charity that I've gone back to a few times is the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah.

Again, you can just make a plain donation to Best Friends and they will eventually send you a nice letter thanking you for your donation. But another option that Best Friends has come up with, and I wish other animal-related charities would also do, is their sponsor an animal program. Here you can pick the dog, cat, barnyard animal, wildlife creature, etc. that you can "sponsor". The animals that are up for sponsorship all have a nice picture and a great/sad backstory of their life prior to coming to the Best Friends Sanctuary.  I like to copy and paste the picture and story onto a homemade card and give that to my gift recipients.

So, if you're like most people, looking for that "perfect" gift for the person who has everything, think about a charitable donation to Best Friends or any other charity of your choice. Think outside of the box in this world full of wastefulness. Does Aunt Suzie really need another pair of slippers? Do your parents really need another holiday salt and pepper shaker combo set? Non-profits never have enough money and charitable donations are always appreciated. So spend your money somewhere where it will truly be appreciated. And who knows, if you get other people thinking about charitable giving, maybe they will start doing it, too.

National Parks Map

Alycia here - I found this Sierra Club map of the National Park system and thought it was neat. If you're looking for a way to plan a National Park vacation, this could be one way to plan it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gun Control

Sorry for getting all political on you. We usually try to stay away from these types of topics here at Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes, but I just had too much to say...

The recent mass killing at an elementary school in Connecticut is the latest heinous crime in 2012.  News coverage has been so widespread that I won't get into the details of this event, since information and the gory facts we so secretly crave are readily available on other sites.  I simply want to ask when is it enough?  Which mass killing is finally going to makes us say ENOUGH!

Many people, including gun rights advocates, contend that such tragedies are not a time for advancing political agendas.  I agree, but this isn't a political agenda.  It's a human rights agenda, a decency agenda, a common sense thing, an opportunity to change this tragic course we're on.  This horrible event should absolutely spur conversation and debate about gun control. 

This is the second public mass killing THIS WEEK, after a shooting in an Oregon shopping mall.  How many more will happen this year?  How many more next year?  Mother Jones recently published an article about all the Mass Shootings in America. The fact that we have a substantial list of recent mass shootings in America should disgust and appall every American citizen, regardless of your views on guns.  There have been so many mass shootings over the last several years, that it is hard to remember them all. That's why this incident should spark a discussion about gun control, we can't let this incident fade into the past like the others. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Snow Crystal Pictures and Snow Science

We got a few inches of snow overnight, followed by some serious cold and wind here in Eastern North Dakota.  Temperatures topped out around 0 on Sunday and with the wind chills, it's in the -20 to -25 range.  Not the coldest it'll be this winter, but the the coldest thus far and cold enough to warrant a Wind Chill Warning Sunday night and Monday from the National Weather Service.
On weather related topics....One of my favorite blogs is the Updraft Blog by Minnesota Public Radio, which is about Minneapolis, MN, but has some really cool technical/science/weather stuff on a regular basis.  Recently they posted some cool pictures of snow crystals and a graph of how different snow crystals form at different temperatures and water/air saturation levels. 

The following images are from the awesome Updraft Blog, which got the images courtesy of Caltech and snowcrystals.com
1 snow 1.jpg
1 snow 4.jpg
1 snow 8.jpg
It turns out different snow crystal types form at different temperature and humidity levels.
1 1 1 1 morphologydiagram.jpg

From the Updraft Blog:
The morphology diagram tells us a great deal about what kinds of snow crystals form under what conditions. For example, we see that thin plates and stars grow around -2 C (28 F), while columns and slender needles appear near -5 C (23 F). Plates and stars again form near -15 C (5 F), and a combination of plates and columns are made around -30 C (-22 F). 
Furthermore, we see from the diagram that snow crystals tend to form simpler shapes when the humidity (supersaturation) is low, while more complex shapes at higher humidities. The most extreme shapes -- long needles around -5C and large, thin plates around -15C -- form when the humidity is especially high.
Why snow crystal shapes change so much with temperature remains something of a scientific mystery. The growth depends on exactly how water vapor molecules are incorporated into the growing ice crystal, and the physics behind this is complex and not well understood. It is the subject of current research in my lab and elsewhere.

Friday, December 7, 2012

What's Happening in our Cornfields

Alycia here - Here is a very interesting NPR article/book review talking about the diversity of plant, animal, and insect life in different parts of the world, e.g., Cape Town, South Africa; Costa Rica; and Iowa. Basically, due to the pesticides that are sprayed on the cornfields, the plant and animal/insect life in an Iowa cornfield is virtually nonexistent - no bees, ants, birds, etc. A very sad and telling sign of how harmful these pesticides are.

NPR article: Cornstalks everywhere...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Radio Interview - Listen Now

As promised, here is the audio file of my radio interview on Pioneer 90.1 radio on Monday, November 26, 2012.  But since I can't upload just an audio file, I decided to add some pictures to the audio to make an interview/photo montage!

Northland Spotlight - November 26, 2012 Interview

If you prefer to just listen to the audio file, you can choose the option below which has no pictures.  It's the same audio in either version. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Snowman blown up

It's been a slow time for odd news posted in the Grand Forks Herald. Luckily, with the colder weather, people seem to do stupider things and this gem was spotted in the Friday, Nov. 30th edition of the Herald.

Snowman destroyed in Bismarck explosion
By: Associated Press

BISMARCK — The heat was too much for a snowman in North Dakota.
Bismarck Police Sgt. Mark Buschena tells The Bismarck Tribune that the snowman was destroyed Wednesday in an explosion. Buschena says the police report does not say whether the snowman was made up of snow or a holiday decoration. There was no damage amount listed for the snowman.
A 47-year-old woman reported the exploding snowman when she called to tell authorities about an explosion outsider her home.
An officer who responded to the scene found black duct tape and pieces of sparklers in the yard and in the street.
Buschena says another neighbor reported seeing a white Chevrolet Suburban stop in front of the home and toss something from a window.
Buschena says there are no suspects.

Alycia's comments: I honestly don't know what to say about this. Why a poor defenseless snowman was targeted was beyond me. I like that they don't know whether it was a snow snowman or a holiday "plastic" snowman - wouldn't that be easy to figure out? And, I gotta say that people who drive white cars (we have a white Subaru) are obviously dangerous...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Deaf Dog Myths Dispelled

As proud owners of three deaf dogs Alycia and I have become accidental advocates for informing others about the wonders of adopting a deaf dog.  This wasn't a deliberate or conscious choice by any means.  If you had told me 10 years ago that I would live with three deaf dogs and try to become an ambassador for helping to spread the word about how awesome they are, I would have laughed at the ridiculousness of such a statement.

But being de facto ambassadors for deaf dogs has become a unique and fun role for both Alycia and I as we gently and kindly explain (to often disbelieving people) that our dogs happen to be unable to hear.  Many people are initially incredulous and say things like "Really?!?!", and "Are you sure?", and then "Really?" again.  After their initial surprise there usually follows some questions about what deaf dogs are like, and unfortunately these questions often involve some repetition of some of dis-proven myths about deaf dogs.  

There are some great websites out there that go into greater detail about the incorrect and harmful myths about deaf dogs - among them DDEAF and D2Care stand out, and are both terrific and informative websites that help to dispel the myths of deaf dogs. But today, with personal testimony and video evidence, I will personally dispel a few of the most common deaf dog myths.

Myth #1:  Deaf dogs are harder to train/not as smart as hearing dogs.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Radio Interview - Monday, November 26, 2012

If you happen to be sitting by a computer this Monday at 3pm Central (1pm Pacific), you can tune in to a radio interview with yours truly.  My new employer, Northland Community and Technical College, has a radio station and I've agreed to the interviewed on Monday morning, and then they'll air the interview at 3 pm.  I assume the large gap of time between the interview and airing time is to bleep out all the salty language I'm certain to use.

Even if you're not available to listen live, I've been promised an mp3 audio file of the interview, which I will promptly post to the fabulous Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes website for all of my awesome readers.  Here's the website for the radio station if you want to listen in live on Monday afternoon. 

Pioneer 90.1 Radio Northland.

If you do listen in (either live or in the mpeg I promise to post later), you're sure to learn many new and wondrous things about yours truly, such as: my actual name, what I do for a living, what I've done in the past, and how I came to North Dakota.  It could be entertaining.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stephen Cave - Who killed Knut?

Very interesting article about Knut the Polar Bear, his untimely death while in captivity, and the paradox of zoos.
"Rather than raising awareness, zoos might be hindering us from recognising the reality. We humans are not the Ark; we are the flood."
Stephen Cave - Who killed Knut?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Updates from the Homestead

There have been a few things happening around the Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes homestead, nothing significant, but since I've been remiss in updating everyone lately, it's probably time to catch you up (and make a few excuses for my lack of bloggering recently) with what's been happening. 

Last weekend saw some measurable snow here in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Not a lot, only 2-3 inches, but it was followed by some very cold temperatures that allowed the snow to stay on the ground.  So we went from Fall to Winter very quickly, with 50 degree Fall days to ice crusted sidewalks in a few days.  Bummer.  

We've also been visited again by our Pileated Woodpecker friend.  We snapped some pictures and posted them in the recent Pileated Woodpecker post, but haven't been able to snap a good photo of the woodpeckers subsequent visits.  That's OK though, it was just fun to watch the woodpecker frolic around the front yard.

The big reason for my lack of blogging has been a recent knee injury.  It's been a rough month with two cortisone shots (shoulder, knee), two X-Rays (shoulder, knee), and an MRI (knee), and the bottom line is that I'm barely able to walk up stairs or around the block without severe discomfort/pain.  The preliminary diagnosis is a torn meniscus or floating body in the knee, and some other "rough cartilage".  I've got an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon next week to read the MRI and discuss a more specific diagnosis and options.

I'm always hesitant to reveal personal issues for fear of turning this noble blog into a "woe is me" missive, but this immobilization has been tough for me.  I've not only had to stop playing basketball and volleyball (I play 4-5 days a week) but also modify my Pilates routine (this is easy since my instructor is awesome) and pretty much suspend any and all physical activity.  This totally makes sense since walking upstairs to go to the bathroom or 50 yards from my office to a classroom is very difficult, but it's been hard to grapple with no exercise in my life.  We'll keep you updated with our prognosis and let you know what happens.        

Friday, November 16, 2012

Passport to Your National Parks, Part 2

Alycia here again.  There was such a resounding level of interest in my first posting on the national parks passport program, I thought I would continue to give you more information on the program.

One of the first things you should know if you want to do this, is that many of the big parks actually have more than one stamping cancellation spot - and each spot has a separate cancellation stamp. This means that you could get 2, or three, or even more different stamps at one park. For example, when we were in Yosemite earlier this year, I got stamps at the main visitors center in Yosemite Valley, Big Oak Flat, Wawona Hotel, and Happy Isles Nature Center. We didn't get to Hetch Hetchy, and we couldn't find the Tuolumne Meadows spot.

Another thing to keep in mind if you do the passport program is that only the national parks, monuments, etc. operated by the National Park Service (NPS) are officially part of this program. I found this out because as we were driving through Montana, I saw a National Landmark sign for Pompeys Pillar. I made John make a split-second decision to exit the freeway and stop.

It actually was a nice place and they did have a stamp, but it wasn't the same stamp as the NPS stops - it was just a picture of the pillar, no cancellation with a date, etc. And then I realized that Pompeys Pillar is operated by the Bureau of Land Management - not the NPS. So, long story short, just because you see a highway/freeway sign for a National Monument, etc., it might not actually be a part of the passport program.

On our mammoth two-week road trip in May 2012, I was able to get stamps at four different NPS sites, as well as Pompeys Pillar. Again, as I've mentioned before, I got my four stamps at Yosemite and one stamp at Devils Tower. I also got the stamp at the John Muir Historical Site.

This was a really neat place hidden in the midst of the freeways of the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. I lived in the Bay Area for 6 years and had never heard of this place - it was John Muir's home, when he wasn't wandering around Yosemite.

It is still a working farm/fruit orchard and if you go at the right time of year, visitors can eat the fruit from the trees. In addition, there is a giant sequoia that John Muir brought from Yosemite and is continuing to grow.

And the other place that I got a stamp was at the Painted Canyon site in Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) in western North Dakota. There are other stamp sites in TRNP and I'm hoping to get those on another trip.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Passport to Your National Parks

Alycia here.  One of my new and favorite hobbies, beyond tending to the dogs and garden has become visiting National Parks, and more specifically using my Passport to the National Parks as a vessel to guide my visits. Now, I don't know exactly why the Passport strikes my fancy so much. I've come up with four possible reasons so far: 1) It's quite possibly because I'm just a kid at heart. 2) Possibly it's because I hang out with 3-7 year old kids on a daily basis (as a speech-language pathologist), and during our sessions we spend a lot of time playing with stickers and stamps. 3) Perhaps I really am a geeky academic who likes to collect data, and the stamps are a good way for me to keep track of where I've been. Or finally, 4) Possibly, I'm just a cheap tourist and this is a good souvenir that doesn't cost much and fits easily into my little travel bags. But in any case, I get a big kick out of collecting the cancellation stamps at the National Parks and Monuments that we visit, and collecting their accompanying stickers that go with the cancellation stamps.

I first saw the Passports on our trip to Yellowstone in 2010. I was too meek at that point in time to buy a passport on that trip (something that I'm regretting to this day). I thought that it was something only for kids, little did I know that there is a National Park Travelers Club for adults. John bought me my passport book the following Christmas and I was just waiting to use it until this summer when we went on our two week road trip from North Dakota to California and back.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the passport program. In all of the national park visitor centers (and sometimes other places, as well), there is a stand that looks like this one at Devils Tower:

Once you see the stand, you'll probably start to notice people doing things like this, as I did at Devils Tower and in Yosemite:

And finally, you may see people admiring their finished products:

Anyway, I came to the idea of National Parks a bit late in life - primarily because North Dakota doesn't have many. But, I'm really taken by the idea of them (also having greatly enjoyed Ken Burns' National Park PBS series) and hope to plan many vacations around visiting national parks in the future. So, if you see me (or another adult) lurking around with a funny little book and stickers in a National Park visitors' center near you, don't judge us - join us in supporting national parks...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Back on Track

Various sinister forces have conspired to keep me from posting on the blog recently.  Between my new job, lots of Fall garden clean up work, canning and making preparations for winter, a bad knee (probably a torn meniscus that will require some surgery - more on this later), and a nasty cold that has left me feeling utterly crappy, it's been a struggle to get anything posted here on the blog. 

We've got a lot of things to inform you about including dog Halloween pictures (the only time of the year we dress up our dogs), vacation photos from our trip to England waayyyy back in September, and numerous canning and garden projects.  The weather is supposed to be snowy and windy this weekend, so we'll hunker down and get some blog posts written so that the world is up to speed on the happenings here. 

Hearing about my suffering and in the interest of making sure the world has adequate regular helpings of Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes, we were visited by a superhero recently who promised to help us get things back on track...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pileated Woodpecker

This isn't the first occasion we've had the pleasure of seeing a Pileated Woodpecker around the homestead, BUT this was the first time I was able to get a picture.  We usually see one every few months, but they're pretty flighty and don't stay in the same place for long.  I was excited and surprised when I saw this guy on the suet feeder in the front yard this morning. 
Pretty awesome huh?  OK, this picture sucks, you can barely make out the woodpecker. 
But this picture is much better, I got him just as he (or she) was spreading his wings to take off.  You can see the white/black wing markings and the telltale red head (Woody Woodpecker/El Gaucho style). 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pickled Beets

The beets are beginning to require attention again this year. We don't grow beets ourselves, but my parents have them in their garden and they have already given us two big grocery bags full of them. This was on top of the half dozen baggies of frozen beets we had from last year. I decided that we needed to do something more with them than just freezing them, as we were very slow to eat the frozen ones (though John does make a very mean and yummy borscht - see Beets and Borscht and Biscuits). So I decided to try pickling them.

And, I must be honest, it was a very easy process. The most time consuming part is letting the beets boil long enough so that they are tender. Then you put them in cold water and their skins just slide right off. This took about half an hour. I also had to deal with the frozen beets that had already been de-skinned. I put them in the oven to defrost (they were a slightly different texture than the fresh beets and so the verdict is still out on how well they will take to the pickling process).

Once they were de-skinned, I chopped them up into slices and chunks.
Lots of beets.

Chopping beets does make your fingers purple...
After they were chopped up, we packed them into the jars. Then poured the following simmered brine over them:
2 c. water
2 c. vinegar
2 c. sugar
1 t. cloves
1 t. allspice
1 T. cinnamon

We then put the jars in a water bath for 20 minutes and voila - pickled, canned beets!

It was a pretty easy recipe. We haven't yet tried the beets, but I'm optimistic. And, if I don't like them, my mom was very excited about them so we'll give them to her!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hmong Cabbage Dish

When I was in college, and for a few years after graduation, I lived with one of my good college friends, Sue, who is Hmong. Now Sue was very smart and a great writer, but she was not much of a cook. Sue's sister, Kauyer, often lived with us during the summers when she was out of school, and she was a fantastic cook. She exposed me to a variety of Hmong cooking recipes and while I can't really recreate them for a variety of reasons (dietary restrictions, kitchen skills, etc.), over time I learned some of the basics.

One of my favorite Hmong dishes that she made for me was a cabbage dish. Now, that alone was a feat, as I don't think I ever ate cabbage growing up. But cabbage can be mighty tasty if you do it right. Kauyer modified the original cabbage dish for me, as it called for hamburger, but since I am vegetarian, she substituted tofu for me. I'm sure that the hamburger version might be even more tasty due to the grease and flavor of the meat.

Since we are growing lovely, small cabbages, I picked two from our front mound and added the few cherry tomatoes that were picked green before our frost and are ripening in the basement.
These are the other things that I put into the dish: tofu, dehydrated/dried tomatoes (since I didn't have enough fresh ones), tamari sauce (the gluten free version of soy sauce), canola oil to fry the garlic in, bullion for some extra sauce flavoring, sweet chili sauce, and spicy chili sauce. Now I'm sure if Kauyer reads this she might be appalled with all the sauces, as Hmong cooking is very light (as compared with the heavier Chinese cooking) and it often calls for fish sauce and oyster sauce - neither of which I had on hand. So this is my North Dakota-ized Hmong dish.
I'm not going to give you a recipe, as I don't really have one. Start with frying up the garlic in the oil, and then add the cabbage and sauces, tofu, etc. Steam it down. Toward the end, add in the tomatoes for extra flavor (and they will add to the sauce juiciness, too).
I served it with brown rice. It's not the most colorful photo, with brown rice and light green cabbage, but it is yummy.
Try it. You might discover that you like cabbage, too.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Nephew Pics

I realize that it's been a while since I posted any picture of my awesome little nephew back in California.  This is certainly no way for a proud Uncle to behave.
Here's Jacob honing his golf swing.  I have no doubts that he'll be smoking his Dad on the golf course in no time.  Jacob's Dad knows this as well.
Golf practice was followed by story time with Grandpa and Grandma.
All that activity and learning can make you hungry.  What better way to have a snack than to smear jelly across your face.  Playing golf, reading, messy eating...I am indeed a proud Uncle. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shaak Ti's Eating Habits

Shaak Ti is an odd duck, as evidenced by her Plant Friend interactions. But it goes so much farther than that. Another good example of her oddness is that she is the only [healthy and young] dog I have ever known that doesn't just attack her food bowl with vigor. In fact it's often the exact opposite. We're lucky if she eats every other meal (most recently she has chosen to eat her dinner while turning her nose up at breakfast). But if she gets distracted, is visiting Grandpa and Grandma, or just otherwise feels like it, she can go three or four meals without eating much of anything. We try to give her as much time as possible to eat, but since she and Tito eat before Shadowfax (who is always waiting very patiently in her crate while they eat), there is usually a time limit of 15-20 minutes. More than enough time for a normal dog to eat...

Meal time often starts with her laying by her dish watching while Tito eats (she often won't eat until Tito is escorted out of the kitchen).
I often move the dish closer to her in the hopes that she will munch while lounging, which she sometimes does, but often all she does is lick her food and bowl. Sometimes she'll pick up some kibble and spit it out on the floor. Possibly she thinks the kibble tastes better with some dirt and dog hair from the floor stuck on it.
If she licks and mouths enough food, sometimes that will pique her interest in actually eating. In this example, she was actually motivated enough to stand up. But often, she will finish her entire bowl while laying down.
In addition to licking and spitting out her food, she often makes what we call "lava", which is when she shoves her nose into the bowl and fairly violently shoves the food out of the bowl. Sometimes she does this and eventually eats the food in the bowl, and the "lava" on the floor. Other times she just makes a big mess and probably laughs at us as we pick up all the food that she spilled.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Follow-up to Man vs. Deer

Here's a follow-up to our man vs. deer story, as reported in the Grand Forks Herald on Friday, Sept. 21.

‘Billy’ the buck had been illegally penned for half a year before attacking Minnesota farmer
By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald  

FERTILE, MINN. — “Billy,” the Fertile Journal reports, “was a bad buck.” But he wasn’t born that way. He apparently went bad when he was wrongfully incarcerated. The combative whitetail deer that stalked and brazenly attacked a Fertile area farmer in early August was an “escapee” from a pen on a nearby farm, where it had been held illegally the previous seven months, the Journal reported this week, citing information from another weekly newspaper, the Norman County Index.

Mark Christianson shot the buck after it cornered him near his farm house southeast of Fertile, went on its hind legs and pummeled him, leaving the 66-year-old farmer with black eyes and bruises on his arms and chest. The man-versus-deer boxing and wrestling match drew plenty of media attention, as well as speculation about what caused the deer to act so strangely.

A conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources investigated the incident and filed a report with the county attorney, who declined to charge Christianson with a crime for breaking off the hand-to-hoof combat, grabbing his rifle and shooting the animal. “The deer attacked him,” Norman County Attorney James Brue said last month. “It was a pretty justifiable shooting.”
Christianson earlier had reported the deer’s unusual behavior, hanging around the farm and not running off despite loud noises made by Christianson and his wife, Judy. Laboratory tests on the carcass showed there was nothing physically or neurologically wrong with the eight-point buck.

During the course of its investigation, the DNR received a tip that another area farmer had kept a deer in a pen since January. Selmer Aanenson, 68, Bejou, Minn., pleaded guilty Sept. 5 in Minnesota District Court in Ada to unlawful possession of a wild animal, Brue said. He was fined $185.
Aanenson lives “about a mile as the crow flies” from the Christianson farm, according to the Journal, which also reported that the farmer still feels the effects of the unusual bout in a knee, shoulder and eye. 

“Now I’d just as soon forget about the whole thing,” he told the newspaper.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Grand Forks Garden Tour

The Grand Forks Horticulture Society had their Annual Garden tour back in late July and I'm just getting around to posting pictures of it now.   Better late then never?  But there's a slew of good reasons why it took me so long.  One reason is that I just didn't know how to put into words the awesomeness of one garden that we saw, everything I wrote just never seemed to do the place justice. 

Whenever Alycia and I go on garden tours (usually with her parents) we get numerous ideas, plants we "have" to get, and other cool things we'd like to try to investigate and hopefully replicate.  But I typically have reservations about so many of the gardens we visit.  So many gardens on tours the last few years were newly built McMansions with gardens that were wonderfully planned and planted by an expert landscaper, and they looked it.  They had all the elements of a "great" garden, but lacked passion, soul, and a genuine quality that seems so very intangible and difficult to grasp.  The first garden we visited on our tour was great, but it was probably 75% annuals and as I toured around I couldn't help but wonder what it looked like on the years when it wasn't featured on the garden tour when all that effort to plant annuals wasn't expended.  Was this just a show put on for the garden tourers? a decorated outdoor room (which isn't really a garden at all) spiffed up for visitors?
But all of a sudden, BAM!!!  Magic.  The third garden we stopped at was possibly the most amazing one I have ever visited.  These are all pictures from one house and one garden, and only the backyard, I was too flabbergasted with joy to take pictures of the front yard.  The owner not only graciously let us take lots of pictures but chatted with us for quite some time.  The pictures don't do justice to the garden, it was incredible. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Plant Friend

In honor of Deaf Dog Awareness Week (September 16 - 22), we thought we would make you aware of some of our dogs' strange habits...

Shaak Ti (our middle child) is an odd dog with some odd habits. One of the strangest, is her ritual with plants (indoor and outdoor), and especially with our plant we have named appropriately: Plant Friend.
Specifically, Shaak Ti likes to walk very slowly forward and backwards underneath plant leaves as they tickle/rub her back. She will sometimes spend up to 10 minutes "bonding" with Plant Friend, especially in the wintertime, which we have interpreted as her need to interact with green, growing things - a true gardener's dog.
Unfortunately, this summer Plant Friend suffered a fairly large injury. One day I walked by him, only to find that one of his two plant "heads" was decapitated. As always, I didn't witness this atrocity, but I believe that Shadowfax and her vigorous playing was to blame. I put the "head" in water and we're waiting to see if it will sprout roots so that it could be re-potted.
In the meantime, Shaak Ti is looking a bit sad - like she lost her best friend. She told me that she was going to stay in bed until Plant Friend was fixed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New kind of foster parents

One of my friends here in town had three very imaginative and creative daughters. Last week the girls found one abandoned squirrel and while their mom told them to leave it alone, they brought it into their garage one night (it was somewhat chilly that night). The next day their mom found the squirrel and told them to take it back to its tree. They did and wouldn't you know it, there were 3 other babies there.

The girls left the squirrels in and around their tree, and their mother encouraged them to leave them alone, but the girls were very diligent in feeding them and giving them water with syringes. Very quickly the squirrels apparently decided that the girls were their "moms". As soon as the girls get close to the tree, they run down and then climb up the girls' legs and arms.
They apparently like to use the girls like mini jungle gyms or trees.
And when the squirrels get to the girls' shoulders, they try to go to sleep.
My friend is torn between being appalled and being somewhat fascinated by this process. She is hoping that the squirrels are almost old enough to be on their own. And for those health-conscious readers, she did do some checking into whether baby squirrels would have some crazy diseases (like rabies) and supposedly the babies are much less likely to have any issues.

School started this past week and so my friend was hoping that school would lessen the girls' interest in their furry friends. No word yet though, on the squirrels' progress.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Puppy's New Pool

Keeping Shadowfax cool this summer has been a fairly intensive process. First we bought her a cheap kiddie pool, and then she destroyed said cheap kiddie pool. But as everyone knows this summer has been a scorcher and the puppy does not do well in the heat, and it's also so downright funny to watch her play in the pool that we couldn't go for too long without a new pool option.

So, John had the idea to go get a livestock feed/water trough. I took a field trip over to the local Tractor Supply Company store and initially wandered around without finding anything much larger than a washtub (not big enough for the puppy). The helpful sales associate asked if I had been outside to their sales yard, and I had not. And sure enough - they had all sorts of options for a much more heavy duty puppy pool. I chose the 4 foot long by 1 foot high pool. They also had a 6 foot long one, as well as both lengths in a 2 foot high version. We felt that this pool was more than adequate for our needs.

I was a bit concerned that the puppy wouldn't be as excited about this pool since it is so different from what she's used to at daycare/puppy camp, but I shouldn't have worried. She hopped right in it while it was still filling up (hence the hose still in it) and splashed around.

I will be honest in that this steel/metal pool is MUCH heavier than the plastic one, especially when filled with water. It's a two handed job, plus remembering to lift with your legs and not your back, when emptying it.  But despite being heavier, this pool should last to close to forever.  Short of going back to school for a welding degree, there's no way that that puppy should be able to destroy this pool...famous last words. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Puppy's blueberry field trip

The end of July is blueberry season in North Dakota. No, blueberries are not a cash crop here, but one of the local Hutterite families takes an air conditioned trailer to Michigan and picks a large number of blueberries to sell back to us here in North Dakota. We had to pre-order so that they knew how many to pick - we opted for 35 pounds. Shadowfax and I took a field trip up to Grafton (about a half hour North) to pick up the berries. We met my mom at the pick-up site, as she was also getting some berries for herself.
We met my mom at the pick-up site, as she was also getting some berries and then we decided to go for walk in the Grafton city park. I wished that I had remembered to take pictures of the city park, as it was quite lovely. I'd say there were 20 different flower beds, each one maintained or sponsored by a separate individual or business in town - what a good way to farm out the work of park beautification!

Anyway, when we got home, I had to get down to the business of packaging them up for freezing for the year. I had lots of freezer bags and the crates to put the berries in so that they wouldn't get squished in the freezer.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

What to do with dehydrated zucchini?

Last year we had an abundance of zucchini, so I opted to dehydrate it, with some Mrs. Dash spice flavoring, and then freeze it. Through the year, we have added some of the zucchini to casseroles and soups, which is pretty good. Zucchini time has come around again and we still have some zucchini left, as well as some dried eggplant.
My one issue with the dried zucchini is that when it's in the casserole, it can be a somewhat unmanageable chunk, so I had the idea to try to blend it down into smaller chunks, with the hope that they would be less obtrusive in the dishes. Note: it makes a bit of a dusty mess...
From all of those jars and baggies, I compressed the zucchini and eggplant down into 1.5 jars of zucchini and .5 jars of eggplant. We added all the eggplant to our most recent batch of spaghetti sauce, and bits of zucchini have been put into a corn chowder, with very little visual reminder that it was present. So I think that this experiment was a success!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Demise of Puppy's Pink Pool

So while the puppy loved her pink pool, she would often get very frustrated when it wasn't filled up. I made the mistake of resting it against the tree (again) to dry out, and Shadowfax decided to give the pool the business.

I was talking with my mom at the time so I do apologize for the talking on the video. Eventually, I went out to stop the carnage, but unfortunately, the damage was too great. You can note the duct tape from her previous exploits with the pool, but at the top left of the pool, you can see a large gouge - that one was too big to be mended.

A close-up of the carnage. Currently the pool is sitting in our garage, taking up space. Anyone know of a good use for a gently used kiddie pool with lots of holes?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Keepin' cool in the heat

North Dakota has been in a drought all summer and along with the lack of rain, has been excessively hot temperatures, which are often accompanied by high humidity. Not a nice combination anywhere, but when you live in a 98-year-old house (on the National Historic Registry, no less) with no central air conditioning, this can be a downright disaster. We bought our house in 2009 and for the past three summers, have suffered through small to medium bouts of heat and humidity.

Finally, this year, we decided to do something about it. It wasn't going to be easy though, because with the old house, comes hot water heat (hot water runs through pipes in radiators throughout our house). I love our hot water heat: it's clean (no dog hair blows around), it heats up fast, and it heats pretty consistently throughout the house. Unfortunately, it means that we don't have vents and had not option of just slapping a central AC unit into the system.

We had various Heating and AC companies come out and we finally decided on a system where there are two interior AC units hanging on the wall.
One in the office.

And one in our bedroom.

And these are connected together to an outside compressor unit, which is so quiet that I often have to look at the blades in the fan to see if they're moving to make sure the thing is on and working.

These work great. Both units are upstairs and we keep them at 72 degrees and they are able to not only keep the upstairs nice and cool, the cool air sinks and keeps the main floor of the house cool enough that we put away our old portable window AC unit, which keeps the living room from looking so cluttered.

There are a few drawbacks to the system, which I feel weren't well explained to us ahead of time. One is that there is an external pump/water storage unit for the bedroom unit. I assume that this is because the two units are connected, with the office unit flowing directly outside. It's not too annoying, but when the unit is full, then the pump turns on to send the stored water out the pipes and so it randomly gurgles for a minute or so.

What probably bothers me more is the fact that it's just sitting out of the wall, in a fairly ugly fashion. Currently with my dresser in front of it, it's not so bad. If we ever move the dresser, I think we may have a carpenter build a little box/table thing to enclose it.

The other issue is that the water is piped out of the house in plastic tubes and the installation guys just left them to drip right at the base of our house's foundation. I noticed very quickly that the ground all around these tubes was really wet and I got concerned that it would eventually start leaking into the basement. So, me being the crafty girl that I am, rigged up a fairly ghetto gutter/log combination to drain the water away from the house.

It's been working well for the past two months and the dogs appear to leave it alone. I think eventually we'll have to figure out a more long-term solution, but for now, it keeps the house dry.

While this system wasn't cheap, I honestly don't know if we (or the dogs) would have survived this summer. It's been exceptionally hot, and this was a great investment in our quality of life. I would definitely recommend this as an option for anyone who has a hot water heating system.