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 8, 2014

Monday Mornings Are Ruff

It can be hard to wake up on those dreaded Monday mornings.  Start slow, just an ear.
Now maybe open those eyes just a little bit, you're on your way.  Now for the first cup of coffee (for the people at least).

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Thanksgiving and the Holidays are officially upon us!  Many folks will return to their ancestral homes, share food and drink with loved ones, and bask in the proverbial warmth of kith and kin.  This is also the time when many stop and reflect on all that they have in their lives and express thanks and gratitude.

We do things a little bit differently around here at the Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes homestead.  The big important things in our lives are too amazing to only express gratitude for them one day a year.  We spend 364 days a year being grateful for the big things we have.  Not a day goes by where I don't give the misses a hug and tell her "I love you".  Not a day goes by that I don't pet our furry companions, or tuck them in at night and remind them they are loved (even if they can't hear).  We try to always express our gratitude for our family and friends, our health, and the countless thing that bring us comfort and happiness in our daily lives. 

Since we spend the rest of the year being grateful for all the big important things we have in our lives, we usually spend Thanksgiving being thankful for the little things that make small moments or ordinary days special.  Today we're thankful for:
Warm afternoon sunbeams.
Bowls of freshly harvested currants.
The ability to explore our world and discover cool things, like Harlequin Ducks.
Monarch Butterflies in the garden.
The ability to try and fail, and learn from our failures, like the failed sauerkraut experiment.
Things that are beautiful just for the sake of being beautiful.
The little things in life, they're pretty darn special too. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Professor and The Puppy

The girls hanging out on the floor for snuggle time.  Shadowfax has very good posture when she sits up straight.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Online Fundraiser for Circle of Friends Humane Society - Grand Forks, North Dakota

It's been our good fortune here at Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes to have gotten involved with our local animal shelter - the Circle of Friends Humane Society in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It is this involvement over the last month and a half that has prevented us from making more frequent posts, but it's all for the greater good of helping out the furry little critters in our community.
This post is a request for action from our awesome Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes readers.  The Circle of Friends Humane Society is having an online fundraising event where they're trying to raise $5,000 in 5 days.  If you can, both me and the little creatures of the greater Grand Forks area would be eternally grateful if you could make donation.  Here's the website for donating to Circle of Friends.  They would be incredibly happy for any donation, no matter how small.

If you're not in a spot to donate money, that's fine!!!  They would love to feel your support in other ways. One of the easiest ways is through the Amazon Smile program.  This is a charitable arm of Amazon that donates 0.5% of all purchases you make if you've linked up your Amazon account to the Circle of Friends Humane Society.  It's super easy to sign up for this and doesn't cost a thing.  Go to smile.amazon.com and type in "Circle of Friends Humane Society" in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It should come up in a search box, then simply click on it.

Your Amazon page will now say "Supporting: Circle of Friends Humane Society" at the top left of the web page.  Then just use Amazon as you normally would and we'll receive 0.5% of the proceeds of stuff you buy AND we'd be forever grateful for your support.  Thank You.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

First Snow of the Year Means Warm Dog Beds

The official arrival of winter means no more messing around when it comes to being all warm and snuggly.  Now here in North Dakota, we don't wait for the Winter Solstice (December 21st) for the beginning of winter.  Winter starts when the first dusting of snow falls and sticks.  We had a thorough dusting of snow on Sunday that has stuck around for the start of the week, and flurries are still falling as we speak.  Thus, winter is upon us. 
Snow on the ground means the dog bed heaters are added to all their big ole’ fluffy dog beds.  The dogs (yes are spoiled) really seem to appreciate it and nap time seems to take on a whole new level of importance.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

UFO Abduction in Cavalier, North Dakota

Devoted Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes readers alerted us to the fact that there was an alien abduction just yesterday right in Alycia's hometown of Cavalier, North Dakota.

You can read about the alleged alien abduction here

We'll ignore the facts that there is only one (1) security camera in the entire town of Cavalier and it just happened to perfectly catch an "alien abduction", and there are literally hundreds of more remote roads in the area that would be much more ideal to abduct someone from.  More than likely this was a bored teenager, who should at least get some kudos for putting Cavalier, North Dakota on the viral interwebs map. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Awesome Nephew Pics - Blog Authors Included

Two weeks since our last post?  That sounds about right.  Two posts in a month?  Sadly, spot on.  It's been a crazy month or two.  Between work (an unfortunate fact of life), Fall chores, gardening duties, multiple family visits, and a sudden onslaught of volunteerism (more details on this later, probably much later) - we've been negligent in our obligations to our millions of readers here at Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes.  Sorry.
Here's a picture of Alycia, myself, and our two awesome nephews.  They came for a visit a few weeks back, and we had a kid-filled, hectic household for a while.  These two little dudes are sprouting like weeds and it took all of our energy and gumption just to try to keep up with them. 

We'll get back on track with pictures of all the Fall happenings, Doggie Halloween Costumes, canning, leaves, pumpkins, and all the wonders of the season here in North Dakota.  Until then, stay warm and enjoy Autumn!!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Shadowfax Performs Again as Pig-Dog

Shadowfax has performed again as the melodious pig-dog.  We've chronicled her pig sounds before (Is It a Pig or a Dog), but are always amused by her snorfling, snorting antics and thought we would share her encore performance. 
Her Luna Ball makes her nose and snout get all squished and she snorts like a pig. It's quite funny and she seems to enjoy snorting up a storm. And yes, she's a delicate lady. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kelly's Slough - Grand Forks, North Dakota

Even though John and I have been in Grand Forks for over 5 years, we had not visited Kelly's Slough (approximately 10 miles west of town) until his dad and special lady friend came to visit in September. It was a lovely day, bordering on hot, when we headed out.

The slough is actually a series of water holes, and there were a couple of lookout towers and several walking paths for visitors.  We walked down one path bordering the largest section of water.  Apparently the water levels vary on the time of year and whether it's a wet or dry year, and the types of birds vary depending on the season.  Spring and Fall migration times were the best for seeing quantity and variety of birds. 
We brought Shaak Ti and Shadowfax and they had a great time smelling all of the smells.
We saw a variety of flora, none of which I know. Here are some interesting red berries.  As you can tell we went all out for this blog post.
Yellow flowers.
Purple Flowers.
We also saw a variety of big birds. Possibly juvenile bald eagles or golden eagles, herons, ducks, sea gulls, etc. We were a bit unprepared with no binoculars or good camera, but we'll definitely be heading back to check things out again.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Deaf Dog Awareness Week - Video of Deaf Dog Play Time

Hey!  Did you know it's Deaf Dog Awareness Week.  Heck yeah.  And we're going to celebrate all week.  We'll post some new videos of our awesome deaf dogs as tribute to Deaf Dog Awareness Week, September 23 - 29.  If nothing else you can see what terrific pets they make.  Their deafness never slows them down.  Go out and celebrate a deaf dog this week!! 

Tito may be getting old but he still manages to scamper around and play with the other dogs, well he plays with Shaak Ti anyways.
Shaak Ti doesn't throw any big punches, just a bunch of soft jabs at old man Tito.  Tito can take it, he's the cagey old veteran who can still hang with the youngsters for a little while.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

HellStrip Wildflowers

They call them "hellstrips" in some parts of the country.  Here we call them "berms".  They're the utilitarian space 3 to 6 feet wide between the sidewalk and the street.  Here in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the city owns the berms but the homeowner is required to maintain them.  Snow gets piled on them in winter (lots of snow!) by the plows, and brush and leaves are left there for the city to pick up during Fall clean up (see 2010 post with pictures of the leaf machine).  Don't worry we don't give away our leaves, they're far too precious to us, though we do make sure to not rake leaves on windy days.

The standard default is a grass berm that the homeowner is required to mow and maintain.  Our neighbor Bob across the block though is smart and has a better idea for his berm...wildflowers.
I'd like to try something like this in the coming years. For most of Spring and Summer it just looks like weeds growing on an untended patch, but for a month or so in late Summer and Fall it looks magnificent with explosions of color. 

Wildflowers mixes are pretty inexpensive (you can buy them by the pound) and cover a huge area, so a big bag of seeds can last for several years.  What do you do with your hellstrip/berm? 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oregon Tours - End of the Oregon Trail Museum

Over the Labor Day weekend John and I went to Portland, OR to visit a large number of our friends who live in the area or were up visiting. One of the highlights of the weekend was our trip to the End of the Oregon Trail Museum (not to be confused with OTHER Oregon Trail museums). This museum was located in Oregon City, OR about 45 minutes from the middle of Portland and operated by the Historical Society of Oregon City.

John and my good friend Sue accompanied me on this visit. As you can see, the architecture was true to the ideals of the American West.
As soon as we got into the visitor's center, Sue found us some classic (and classy) bonnets that we bought and then wore throughout our museum tour.
We started with a historical re-enactment movie that "followed" a variety of different people on their trips on the Oregon Trail. We also liked that there was a hologram of a guy who interpreted the movie for us periodically.
There were three different sections to the museum: a pre-trail "general store" that showcased all of the things the people left behind and what they took with them, a section that discussed some of the interesting people's stories from the trail, and a post-trail area that contained a land claims section. The Oregon Trail ended in Oregon City, as this was where they could file land claims.
After the movie and our tour through the museum, one of the docents, Missy (who by all accounts appeared to be bored to tears), offered to let me make candles. Sue and I think she was entertained by our enthusiasm and our bonnets. I did not appear to be a very good candle maker as Missy kept telling me to move faster between the wax container and the cold water container. But I did end up with a nice little candle.
While I have not traveled the entire Oregon Trail in life. I did play the game for many years as a child. In addition, I have seen some of the other stops on the trail - notably Fort Laramie and Independence Rock (which is now a rest area in Wyoming).
Perhaps we're not the quintessential frontier couple, but we're modern day Oregonian travelers.
After the End of the Trail museum, we headed to the McLoughlin House near downtown Oregon City. I was most upset to discover that I had forgotten my National Parks Passport book. I had to stamp my stamps on paper for later taping into my book.
We didn't go on the McLoughlin House tour, but instead walked down to the 4th oldest elevator in the U.S. It was made out of an old water tower that gave us a view of the city. It was a bit unnerving that they had a full-time elevator operator who sat behind a plexi-glass shield - we jumped when we first saw him.
The elevator took us to the Oregon City promenade that we walked down to Willamette Falls (in the top left corner of the below photo). Unfortunately in late-August, it appears that the falls are more of a dam than a waterfall. And, the old factories that lined the river did not add to the beauty of the scene. Possibly we'll revisit during the rainy season to see if it's more picturesque.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Clematis Blooms - Better Late Than Never

Our clematis have struggled this year, not sure why.  Most were planted in the last couple of years, so it's possible that they're still getting established.  They've finally started throwing off some blooms in the last week or two.  I'm not sure which variety these are...I think jackmanii clematis.
Hopefully next year will be better for clematis blooms. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Northern Woolen Mills Tour

John's dad and special lady friend visited us in early September and as one of our outings, we headed to the Northern Woolen Mills in Fosston, MN. It was about 1.5 hours east of Grand Forks and is one of only a handful of operational woolen mills in the US. It was recommended to us from one of our fellow Pilates students, who is also a fantastic knitter.

The building was not impressive from the outside, but the young lady who came to help us offered to give us a tour of the facility - starting with the very beginning, when the wool is dropped off at the facility. They work with all sorts of wool, regular wool from sheep, merino wool, alpaca, llama, bison, and even elk. The bison wool was the softest.
The brown wool in the cardboard box below is actually from bison.  Unfortunately it comes from the slaughterhouse as (apparently) shearing a bison down is problematic. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mugo Pine Removal

These Mugo Pines (also loosely known as Mountain Pine, Scrub Mountain Pine, and Creeping Pine) flank the beginning of the path to our front door where it meets the sidewalk.  I have never liked these things.  They're messy, not terribly attractive, have really sharp needles, and require lots of yearly maintenance.  They also grow out instead of up (much like me really) and block the front sidewalk.
Usually once every winter the heavy snow weighs down the branches and they sag and block the front walk and the mail-lady refuses to deliver our mail.  Then I gotta trudge out in the snow and cold with my loppers and trim them so we can get our mail again.  This makes John angry. 
In my opinion they're not a great return on my investment of work hours. In short, they don't bring much to the table and they take a lot away, especially from me.  But they've stayed right where they are for 5 years now.  I've had other pressing matters to attend to in the garden and I hadn't really found something to replace them that I was really excited about.
That all changed when we were on a garden walk a few years ago and I saw the perfect shrub, the Centerglow Ninebark.  It's 5-6 feet tall and wide, has bright flowers in Spring and interesting maroon foliage.  It also has some interest in Winter as the bark starts to look peeled, much like a birch tree.  It may have taken a few years to find, but this was the perfect shrub for this spot.  

Next year I'll add some more landscaping blocks and trim the area around these new shrubs.  This will create some new planters for flowers and allow me to line the front sidewalk with bricks.  The bricks along the sidewalk should help tame the hostas a bit bring their leaves up off the ground, and give us some sidewalk back.  Goodbye terrible Mugo Pines, hello shrub I'm actually happy about.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Is it a pig or a dog?

Shadowfax has become enamored with her Luna ball. We like how it makes her snort. The Luna ball has proven to be pretty durable so far, but we'll see if it's as tough as her Goughnuts stick or Jolly Ball (which has remained an outdoor only toy).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Deupty Kills Cow After it Twice Charges Him - Local News

We saw this item on the local news last night and laughed pretty heartily.  We felt really bad for the cow though, it possibly fell off a truck, definitely got hit by a car, then got shot...that qualifies as having a crappy day.

From the Grand Forks Herald:

CASSELTON – A Cass County deputy responding to a motorist that had crashed into a cow off Interstate 94 Monday morning had to go to the hospital himself after the injured cow charged him at the scene.

Cass County Sgt. Dean Haaland said the deputy was responding to the crash at about 3 a.m. at mile marker 332 west of Casselton when the cow, injured in the crash, charged him.

The deputy was knocked to the ground and suffered some bruising, Haaland said. When he got up, the cow charged again, and the deputy fired upon the animal to keep from being hit again, killing the cow.

Haaland said the deputy was checked out at an area hospital and is doing OK.

Cass County deputies are now investigating the area to find out who’s responsible for the cow.

So far, none of the farmers recognize the cow, he said.

At this point, they think it’s possible the animal fell off a truck that was transporting it through the area. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Monarch Butterflies

While out mowing the lawn the other day I spotted a Monarch in the garden and stopped to snap some photos.  I've started to see a few more Monarchs around the homestead, though not the profusion that we usually have in late Summer.
He/she wasn't scared of me one bit and I got within an arms' length, snapping photo after photo.  After resettling on the flower (Summer Sun Heliopsis) below, I got this fantastic picture.
Butterflies, and especially Monarchs are one of my favorite summertime creatures to see in the garden.  We're going to continue to plant more flowers that they utilize for nectaring or laying eggs.  Summer just wouldn't be the same without Monarchs flitting about.  What critters do you most enjoy seeing in the garden?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Poweful Pitiful Pittie Pleading

The well known "pleeeeeease stop working and pay attention to meeeee" face.
I know I have like seven hundred toys, but I wanna play with you!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hairy Woodpecker Photos & Crazy Toes

I was outside most of the day Sunday removing two large Mugo Pines (aka Scrub Pine or Mountain Pine) from the front yard.  More on that in another post!  While I was out there a hairy woodpecker stopped in to visit.
He was not afraid of me one bit, even though I looked mighty and wielded a shovel/pick axe/pry bar.  The hairy and downy woodpeckers that frequent the homestead are quite bold and not skittish around people.  The large Pileated Woodpeckers?  They're another story.  This one allowed me to get pretty close and snap some nice photos. 
If you look closely in this photo you can see the unusual toes of the woodpecker.  Woodpecker toes and feet have evolved specifically for arboreal life scampering around in and clinging to trees.  Woodpeckers have two toes facing forward and two toes facing backwards, this is known as having zygodactyl feet. 
This hairy woodpecker stuck around for a while and likely decided that my grunting and swearing while digging out the mugo pine stumps was oft-putting, and after a few minutes, flew off.  Sorry my friend, I apologize for the colorful language. 

What kind of feeders to we use to feed our feathered friends? We learned about the Droll Yankees brand of bird feeders from an Audubon Society presentation a few years ago and are hooked on their bird feeders now.  They're much sturdier than others we've had and come with a lifetime warranty.  I've heard numerous unsolicited testimonials from people who've shipped 10 or 15 year old feeders to them and gotten new back ones in the mail, no questions asked. We use the Droll Yankee Nyjer Seed Feeder and the Tube Feeder for sunflower seeds and love them (but probably not as much as the birds). 

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Ladies of the House

All the ladies posed together for a picture. This is a pretty typical scene around the Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes household.  Shakk Ti likes to sit behind your legs against the couch and Shadowfax prefers to be on your feet. 
Where are the dudes?  Well John and Tito are solitary creatures, content to hang out and do their own thing. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Stanley Cup in Grand Forks, North Dakota

We're having a slight departure from our normal postings of deaf dogs, canning, and gardening topics and pivot to some local news of interest.  The Stanley Cup wass in Grand Forks, North Dakota today - August, 12, 2014.  The team that wins the Stanley Cup is allowed to have it for 100 days and in 1994 the tradition was started to allow each player on the team to do (pretty much) whatever they want wherever they want with it.

Los Angeles Kings player Matt Greene attended the University of North Dakota and was bringing the cup to the Ralph Englestad Arena for ordinary everyday fans to view and take pictures of it.  I met Alycia for lunch nearby and we had full intended to go see the Stanley Cup (it was open for viewing between 12 and 3), but we were confronted by this scene:
This was a big ass line, you can't see the end of it.  And it didn't get any shorter.  By the time we got done with lunch around 1:15, the line was actually longer than when we started.  Alycia had to be back at school by 2:15, I hadn't brought any sunscreen, and I had a whole bunch of work to do back at home.  So we opted to skip it.  Instead we looked at pictures of the Stanley Cup and associated chaos thanks to The Ralph Englestad Arena
If the Stanley Cup isn't making a tour stop in your town, that's OK.  The Wikipedia entry for the Stanley Cup is a pretty interesting read, full of lots of fun facts and stories.  And there are obviously  Stanley Cup merchandise opportunities galore (it's kind of crazy). 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Final Jam Tally for 2014

Jamming season is officially done for the year.  I spent a few hours yesterday making blueberry-currant jam, which marks the end of jam making, but not canning for the year.  We'll be making our special pickled beets in another few weeks, once the beets are ready. 
The final jam/jelly making tally for the year was as follows (all numbers are half-pint or pint containers):
 - 3 Currant Jelly (this is an experimental jelly this year)
 - 7 Raspberry Currant Jam (recipe here)
 - 19 Strawberry Jam
 - 26 Blueberry Currant Jam

Your initial reaction might be "Holy Buckets!!  What do you need that much jam for?"  And verily 'tis a fair question.  55 jars of jam and jelly may seem like a lot, but we'll probably give away 15 to 20 as gifts or in exchange to friends who make other homemade things. My volleyball friend Matt and I have a regular homemade beer for homemade jam exchange.  The rest of the jam is used as an inoculation to ward off or cure the winter blues, and kept on hand in case of scurvy.
There are few other things quite as inspiring as a pantry full of homemade goods.  Also in this shot are the dozen quarts of peaches we canned this year, and some applesauce from last year.  We may not can applesauce this year, we'll have to see.

Next to those peaches, on the bottom right of the photo, are the boxes of Bob's Red Mill Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix.  It's the best gluten free flour mix we've tried, and when we get it through the Amazon Subscribe and Save Program, it winds up being much cheaper than we can ever find in the store.  And even though it's gluten free, fresh out of the oven on a chilly winter day with some homemade blueberry jam on it, it is excellent.    

How about you awesome readers?  Any canning or food preservation victories so far this summer?