A transplanted Southern Californian living in North Dakota, 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.



Saturday, June 28, 2014

An Honorary Deaf Dog?

Today we went to our first fair of the season - the Grand Forks County Fair. Similar to last year, we opted to attend the 4-H Horse Show (which occurs during the morning hours when the fair actually is not open). It was pretty hot and humid so we didn't stay too long, just enough to see the Halter Horsemanship and English Dressage competitions. However, we did notice a horse that looked very similar to our own Shaak Ti and Shadowfax...
What do you think? Should this lady be an honorary deaf dog?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Irises in Bloom

Our irises just finished blooming. The picture below is from a week and a half ago when they were at their height of bloom. They're a pretty awesome deep blue/violet color.
Here's that same picture from a week later (just a few days ago).  The irises are almost finished blooming, but also blooming are wild geraniums and daises (of unknown variety).
This area is a small mound that was created from dirt from another project.  Just a few years ago this was nothing more than some scraggly and overgrown lilac shrubs, now look at it.  All of these plants were free divisions from Alycias' colleague who was dividing her irises and thinning some things out in her yard a few years ago.  I probably wouldn't have purchased these plants on my own accord, but since they were free?  I'll take 'em. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Too Much Sunbeam

Shadowfax spent too much time in the hot summer sunshine today.  It was a lovely warm Summer day today in Grand Forks, North Dakota and she enjoyed every minute of it. 
After baking her brain out on the back steps, Shadowfax can barely make it in the back door before staggering inside and collapsing on the kitchen floor.  Maybe we'll get her one of these sweet cooling coats, or just fill up her swimming pool

Monday, June 16, 2014

Spirea - Flowering Hedges

One of the things that we inherited from the previous homeowners was a hedge of spirea that runs North/South along the Western side of the property.  Spirea are fairly popular as hedges around here and not terribly noteworthy.  We kept the hedgerow and actually added to it in a couple of places to make a consistent hedge.
Once or twice per Summer I get out the hedge trimmers and actually make the row of Spirea look more hedge-like.  It's one of the few elements of "structure" in a garden whose character could best be described as wild or random or natural, depending on your level of snarkiness at the time.  In early Summer the Spirea put out profusions of white flowers and smell quite lovely, but other than that they're quite unremarkable.
It's quite a show of tiny white flowers, but only for a few weeks, then it's back to being ordinary hedge plants.  We probably wouldn't have created this hedgerow look on our own, but since it's already here, we might as well embrace it. 
I'm not sure of the exact variety of Spirea, so sorry if I can't give you a more precise name or a Latin name for this plant. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Free Mulch and Pics of the Mulch Yard

Here in Grand Forks, North Dakota the local Parks and Recreation District operates a multi-purpose yard for cultivating trees and shrubs, storing equipment, and maintaining huge piles of compost, mulch, and other yard materials (it's technically called Old Dutch Park - Map).  And the best part?  It's all completely free!!  Yeah, free mulch.  Sure you have to load it and haul it, but a little bit of elbow grease for free mulch is a small price to pay.

We're huge believers in mulch here on the homestead.  It helps keep roots nice and cool on hot summer days, retains water in the soil and limits the amount of irrigation needed, and breaks down into nice organic matter that creates a healthy soil system.  I've extolled the virtues of mulch before and we've had larger amounts delivered when we had big projects, but for the most part the trips to the mulch yard provide an adequate amount.  Look at that mountain of free mulch!
Here's the mulch yard.  Those are 20 foot high piles of mulch that go on for 100 yards or so.  It's good stuff.  There's also compost, sand, even some small aggregate. As long as you're not a professional landscaper, you can drive in and load up your car for free.  I can fit three full size trash cans into the Subaru Outback, it takes me a half hour total to get there, scoop up mulch to fill the trash cans, and get back home.  Easy peasy. 
The only stuff that's off limits is one pile of shredded wood chips that the Parks and Rec folks use for playground ground covering.
I get mulch from here on a regular basis.  I have procured compost from here before, but after one too many stories of "killer compost", there's just no way to be sure that there isn't some kind of herbicide lurking in that compost.  For the most part the mulch is less likely to contain some surprise. 
Mountains of mulch, it's truly a beautiful sight to behold, especially for a mulch junkie like me.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Birthday Week Celebration

Alycia here. When I was in college, my friends were nice enough to indulge me with an entire birthday week, which for anyone who loves their birthday is much more fun than celebrating on just a single day. I have tried as much as I can to introduce this concept and get John on board with continuing the tradition of birthday weeks, and he is really starting to come around. This makes for an exciting end of May/beginning of June, as John's birthday is just one week before mine, and our Anniversary is smack dab in the middle of the week between our birthdays (I planned this as such).

The birthday week allows the birthday celebrant to be in charge of all sorts of daily household decisions, such as what we will watch on TV at night, and what we will eat for our meals. So while it may not seem like a big deal, I feel that it allows for the feeling of a little extra specialness for an entire week, which is always nice.

For John's actual birthday day, we planned a day trip out to visit some small towns in Minnesota. The first stop was a cafe in Winger, MN that had been recently reviewed by world-renowned local food critic, Marilyn Haggarty of the Grand Forks Herald. The Depot Cafe and Bakery was appropriately located in an old train depot that had been moved and renovated.
There were some nice touches that reminded the customers about the building's history.
The interior was nicely finished with lovely wood paneling and lighting. The food was actually pretty good. John had a very large burger on a homemade bun. I had some of the best egg salad I'd had in a while.
In Marilyn's review, she mentioned a bakery. She made it seem as though it was right next to the cafe, but when we queried the waitress, she said that it was actually in McIntosh, MN, about 10 miles up the road. So after lunch, we headed to the next stop. McIntosh was actually a very lovely town that we will visit again. The bakery had a very large kitchen and appeared to specialize primarily in bread products (duh, it's a bakery), but it had a respectable amount of doughnuts as well.
John was able to pick up a package of sandwich rolls, as well as a couple doughnuts and an apple fritter, which made him happy.
After the bakery stop, we crossed the street to check out the meat market. Why, you ask, would a gluten-free vegetarian support visiting a bakery and a specialty meat store? Well, it was John's birthday and I think it's important to check out all available options for interesting food. Being in the middle of nowhere, beggars can't be choosers when it comes to possible food delicacies. We didn't buy anything at the meat market since there's a pretty good one here in Grand Forks (L&M Meats), but for a town of a couple hundred, it was fairly impressive.

Our next stop in town was the McIntosh Country Store. John didn't think we should go in - he thought it would be a feed store for cattle, etc. But I argued with him and said that the sign said they had fresh eggs, of which we needed some. So in we went. It was actually more of a natural foods store, with some random farm animal necessities. They had a whole bunch of gluten free items and bulk foods, as well as vaccines for your animals. In addition, as I was walking through the store, I kept hearing the cheep-cheeps of baby chicks, but I couldn't find them. Eventually I located the chicks, they were in a box under a table. (John here - it's been a while since Alycia's gotten to play with chicks)

It appeared as though the chicks had been mailed to the store, and they were waiting for their owner to pick them up. While I thought it was somewhat inhumane to mail live animals, according to my mother, this is often how its done. The chicks really didn't seem the worse for wear, at least based on my quick peek inside the box.

I also liked that the store had this lovely metal chicken outside.

And across the street from the store, was a plant nursery that the store ran. We picked up some (hopefully) lovely heirloom cherry tomatoes. We've had heirloom regular sized tomatoes before, but the cherries are a new one and I'm looking forward to what they'll produce.

We then headed home for a birthday nap and later had a lovely dinner with my parents at the Brick and Barley here in town. It's a newer brew pub that has a decent selection of rotating beers on tap. John likes to try the different beers; I stick with the always gluten-free ciders. There are very few decent gluten-free beers and I've learned that the ciders are usually a better/safer bet.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Iron X Dandelion Killer - Follow Up

Alycia originally wrote about Iron X Dandelion Killer back in 2012 and we're overdue for some follow up.  As previously mentioned, I don't care how my "lawn" looks and we're one of the only (if not THE only) houses in the neighborhood that doesn't have a commercial lawn service slather our yard with weed-killer/fertilizer chemical cocktails every month throughout the growing season. But in Late Spring/Early Summer it really is apparent by all the dandelions that we have that we're different. 

To that end we found a product called Iron X (chelated iron) that kills dandelions, makes our yard look normal-ish and doesn't invoke the wrath of the neighborhood for having all these dandelions that are seeding weeds throughout the area.   We generally apply the Iron X once a year in late-Spring or early summer and while it doesn't keep all the dandelions away, it gets rid of most of them and keeps a damper on them reappearing for the rest of the year, which is my goal.  I actually think the field of bright yellow dandelions is quite pretty, but that sentiment gets shouted down by my urge to not invoke the ire of the neighbors. 
For whatever reason, Alycia carries a burning hatred for the dandelions.  I can't emphasize this point enough.  Other weeds she dislikes, dandelions she abhors.  She does the spraying of the Iron X and verily delights in the death and destruction that it brings to the hated dandelions. 
This is a before and after of the berm at the south-west corner of our yard.  The second picture was taken a week after application of Iron X, and right before I mowed it.  There were only one or two rogue dandelions in that section of grass.

Got more than just dandelions? You could try this propane weed torch or the weed dragon and kill those weeds with fire!!!  I've always thought these were pretty cool.  I'll never get one, but the idea of killing weeds with fire makes me pretty happy.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Backyard Pool is Open for the Summer

The Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes backyard pool is open for business!!  It's been warm and muggy the last week or so and Shadowfax has been nagging us non-stop to open the pool.  We obliged last weekend and today finally got a few pictures of her lounging in her pool.
It's more like a big refreshing water bowl that she can lay down in.  She really appreciates being able to cool off after a vigorous game of fetch in the backyard.
 I caught her just as she started to shake off, the result is a super derpy face!