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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Guilty Dog

Wanna see what a guilty dog looks like?
Shadowfax the puppy had a dilly of a time digging up the clematis vine that I had just planted, her toes were caked with dirt.  At least she looked appropriately guilty. 
Being bad can make you tired, tired as a sleepy dog. A pink-tummied, spotted, sleepy dog.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract Follow Up

It was over a year ago that I wrote about Making Homemade Vanilla Extract.  That post detailed how to make the vanilla extract, but I never got around to mentioning how it turned out.  Well, it turned out great.  We've been using it for six months or so and I can't tell the difference between the homemade and the store-bought, except that the homemade stuff is 1/10th the price.
This is what it looked like after about six months.  Since we have two bottles this size, we took one bottle, ran the contents through a coffee filter (to get the vanilla bits out) and left the second bottle in the dark pantry to keep infusing its vanilla-esque goodness.
A few months later, it was even darker and more chock full of vanilla flavor.  Since it's pretty much just alcohol with vanilla beans in it, it will stay good for quite a while.  This is a good thing since it might take us another year to get to this bottle. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Glimpses of Yellow

We saw glimpses of bright yellow this week on the homestead.
Yellow tulips are almost spent, this is probably their last day of full blooming glory.
Brilliant yellow American Goldfinches.  This picture doesn't do them justice, but click on it and see how many you can count.  Their cheery active songs and yellow feathering make them a tiny orb of sunlight, flitting around the yard.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cavalier Evacuation Update

We learned today that Cavalier, North Dakota is re-opening (Grand Re-Opening?) Friday morning at 7:00 am.  Our house guests will probably have some breakfast with us and then hit the road.  It's been fun to have them here, but they're clearly stressed, anxious, and concerned about their house. 

They actually have a friend in town who ignored the evacuation order and scoped out their house.  They learned from their friend that they have about four inches of water in their basement, which isn't catastrophically bad, but certainly is going to be a significant clean up. You can read more about the damn that held and how the town is re-opening on the Grand Forks Herald or WDAZ website.

And even though residents are being allowed back in, the situation is by no means resolved.  The water behind the dam is slowly dropping (by 1/10th a foot per hour) but could realistically still be a problem.  Anyone who comes back in town is being warned that they could be evacuated again, and it's suggested to keep a bag packed in case the order is given to high-tail it out of town again. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Evacuation of Cavalier, North Dakota

Big news from North Dakota.  Alycia's hometown of Cavalier, North Dakota is under a mandatory evacuation.  The dam about 6 miles west of town is threatening to burst and flood the town.

Alycia's parents live there and already had about 4 inches of water in their basement from seepage due to the 6 to 7 inches of rain that fell over the last 3 days.  Her parents are under mandatory evacuation and are going to be staying with us for little while. More information (and probably some humorous stories) to follow.

You can read the whole "dam" story on the Grand Forks Herald/WDAY News site.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

More Bird Sightings - Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Northern Baltimore Oriole

It has been an amazing week of bird watching here at the homestead.  After chronicling our sighting of a Rose Breasted Grosbeak and Goldfinches in the post Bird Sighting - Rose Breasted Grosbeak earlier this week, we had several additional cool bird sightings.  Over the last few days we spent much of our time either out in the garden or on the front porch relaxing after working in the garden, so there was ample opportunity for spying birds. 

It's truly a perfect time for bird watching since migratory birds are passing through and trees haven't fully leafed out yet, making it easier to see the birds.  All the photos are from others much better than myself at capturing birds with a camera. 

The first bird we saw was a Scarlet Tanager, a vibrant red bird that grabbed my eye immediately.  I was hoping the red meant that it was a cardinal (I really want to see a cardinal), but the black shoulder and smaller size led us to an identification of the Scarlet Tanager. 
Photo Credit
I also spotted an Indigo Bunting, a bird as brilliantly blue as the Scarlet Tanager was red.  The Indigo Bunting is actually a fairly common bird in South Dakota and North Dakota, but this is the first time we've seen one here on the homestead.  He (I know it was a dude since the ladies aren't nearly as colorful) was a very cool bird, so amazingly blue. 
Photo Credit
After seeing these two cool birds in one day, we thought we had seen enough fantastic things for one season, but the next day we saw a Northern Baltimore Oriole.  This bird caught my eye as a sudden flash of orange.  He (again I know it was a male since the females aren't as colorful) stayed just for a few minutes, and wasn't interested in the sunflower seeds we had to offer.  A bit of research indicated they prefer orange halves, so it might be time to build special feeder just to attract orioles. 
Photo Credit
Spotting the Northern Baltimore Oriole actually led to some concurrent spirited Internet research between Alycia and myself.  There's some debate as to whether the Northern is a different species than the Baltimore Oriole.  From this website about Orioles:
When John James Audubon painted these birds in 1836 and 1825, he considered them to be two different species. For about three decades starting in the late 1960s, many ornithologists thought they were the same species and "lumped them" into the Northern Oriole. Now they've "split" them back the way Audubon thought they were all along.
In addition to the new birds, the Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks have been around all week as well, sometimes as many as a half-dozen at a time.  They're entertaining birds to watch - tumbling, climbing, squabbling with one another, and just generally making for good bird watching.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Blue Scilla and Yellow Tulips

After a very long winter here in North Dakota we're finally seeing some gardening glory, the first blooms of Spring.  Due to an unusually late start to Spring in all the Upper Mid-West, but especially here Eastern North Dakota, everything seems to be at least a few weeks delayed.
The blue scilla are the first bulbs to pop every year.  They're a small delicate blue flower, and the plant itself is only 2-3 inches high.  They're supposed to naturalize here in Zone 4 and they're started to do so, spreading out in larger clumps in a few places. 
Alycia really enjoys them and I like them as well.  We've planted some around the apple trees and some in the lawn around the box elder we had removed last year.  They're such a striking blue and their arrival sends a positive message that Winter is finally over and Spring is here.    
The first of the tulips (the name escapes me) have started to bloom as well.  We're looking forward to the next few weeks of tulips.

Late arriving Spring has left us with an unusually compressed and time crunched Spring.  Winter clean up, Spring garden preparations, seed starting, and planting things in the yard has not only happened in a small span of time, but has also coincided with the end of the school semester.  As such we're left feeling extra harried and rushed this year. This is probably the same feeling that all gardeners have in Spring but it seems more pronounced this year.

This post represents our first (of hopefully many) participation of the year in Tootsie Time: Fertilizer Friday/Flaunt Your Flowers posting.  Tootsie Time is a fantastic garden blogger who has this "contest" every Friday, allowing people to flaunt what's blooming in their yard right now.  I highly recommend checking it out and participating!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bird Sighting - Rose Breasted Grosbeak

We had a new bird sighting just this morning at the homestead - a rose breasted grosbeak. They're not exactly rare in North Dakota, but this is the first time we've seen one on the homestead. The mottled brown bird on the feeder may even be his lady-bird friend.
Admittedly, it's not the best photo, but considering it's with my 8 year old digital point-and-shoot camera through a window, it's pretty good. It's a great time of year for watching birds here.  The summer birds are starting to return and migratory species that don't live here are passing through for a sunflower seed snack.  We just started seeing one of my favorites, the goldfinches, a couple of days ago. 

You can find more information and some better pictures at the Cornell Ornithology All About Birds entry for the Rose Breasted Grosbeak.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Washington DC Trip

Alycia took a trip to Washington DC last month for a grant writing seminar.  She's swamped with end-of-semester stuff, so I'm going to post her pictures for her. This might seem weird, but it's the only way these will ever get posted.  I mean we still have many pictures from our trip to England (last Fall) that we haven't posted yet...sigh.
There were still a few cherry blossoms.  And there were apparently more than a few locals who were sick of the cherry blossom related tourists.
Ford's Theater where Lincoln was shot.  It was once a government office building and is now a museum. 
I've only been to Washington DC once and found it an interesting mix of historical places, interesting things to learn, and solemn spots where words aren't necessary.
The Washington Monument was 75% covered in scaffolding due to an earthquake retrofit. 
The World War II Memorial.  Each state has marker and wreath. Alycia made sure to visit the marker for both North Dakota and California.
The Smithsonian Castle.  This was Alycia's best photo, well done.  Composition, framing, awesome.
The gardens outside the Smithsonian Castle.
Tulips in the flower library.  I never knew that there was a living flower library in Washington DC. 
Alycia couldn't remember what building this was.  She thinks it's the Jefferson Memorial...
She made sure to visit the Internal Revenue Service Building just for me.  That's how us accountants roll.
Alycia also felt compelled to stop by the Canadian Embassy for some reason.  She does have many Canadian students, and there are always Canadian shoppers here in town on the weekend, so I had Alycia pick up a US-Canada dictionary so we could learn some useful phrases to help communicate with our neighbors to the North. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

World Naked Gardening Day

Did you know that today, Saturday May 4, 2013, is World Naked Gardening Day?  I kind of doubt that you knew that, but just in case you were looking for a way to legitimize your urge to perform some gardening chores whilst naked, today's your chance.

Special thanks to the folks at Root Simple for making us aware of this holiday.  And in case you think I'm kidding, you can check out World Naked Gardening Day's website, but be warned, it isn't as awesome as you think. There are a lot of pictures of naked folks doing everyday gardening chores like weed-whacking and pruning trees (two chores that while performing I would strongly prefer to be wearing more clothes, not less). 

Will we be participating in World Naked Gardening Day here at the homestead?  Well, you'll just have to stay tuned to find out.  OK, I'll end the suspense now.  We will NOT be gardening naked (at least not today...) and will NOT be posting pictures of us gardening naked, sorry.  Did I ruin the suspense?