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.



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Transporting Ivy Rose

In mid-September I helped transport Ivy Rose up to Canada for the National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network (NBRAN). She came from the Minneapolis area and was heading somewhere into Ontario. I had the leg again from Grand Forks to Pembina, similar to when we drove Remington a few years back.

Here's a picture that her transport team posted of her prior to the trip. She was an excellent traveler for me in our big crate. 
When we got to Pembina, we had a few minutes to walk around. I tried to take some pictures, but it was hard with just one hand. 
She was a nice size for a pibble and I hope that her new family loves her very much. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving - A dog, a Boy, and a Swan (no we didn't eat a swan)

For our Thanksgiving this year, we left the two little dogs at home for the day and only brought Shadowfax to my parents' house for dinner.  John just stayed for dinner and then hustled back with Shadowfax to spend Thanksgiving evening with Tito/Shaak Ti

Shadowfax made the most of her Grandpa and me time. 
She helped with cooking for a few minutes and was surprisingly good. 
Grandpa was very impressed. You can see the prototypical pittie tail blur.
The main reason that Tito and Shaak Ti were left at home was because we knew my friend Stacey, her husband Tony, and their son Jonathan were in town. Shaak Ti and Tito are not big fans of young kids so it's easier to just not tempt fate.  The guests showed up after we finished dinner and stayed well into the evening. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Shadowfax, Shaak Ti and Cold Weather

The weather has finally turned chilly here in North Dakota.  We're not complaining (much) since we're had a fantastic run of warm and dry weather so far this Fall.  We've been able to squeeze an extra 2-3 weeks of garden time out of some of our flowers (more pictures in a later post), but that came to an abrupt end this week with a shot of snow and a few days of cold, strong winds. 
The dogs are adjusting to the onset of winter as they usually do, by hunkering down in their heated dog beds and snuggling under their warming blankets.  Shadowfax is generally the more sprawling of the two. 
This is Shaak Ti's "Why don't you get your butt over here and tuck me in under my blankie?" face.  We tuck the dogs a few dozen times a day.  Essentially every time we get up for anything, we're also tucking them in. Yes they're pretty dang spoiled.
This is a pretty typical afternoon scene, the girls sitting on the floor and snuggling together. Shadowfax sure knows how to pose for the camera. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rub a Dub Dub

Shadowfax in the tub.
She's not getting a bath, she just really likes to jump in there when Alycia uses the bathroom down in the basement.  Shadowfax has never had a bath in this tub, so she possibly doesn't know what it's actually use is supposed to be, and therefore isn't appropriately afraid of the tub. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Shaak Ti Goes for a Walk

Shaak Ti is 9 years old, but she still appreciates a good walk. Especially if that walk is a special "Mommy and Me" walk with Alycia.
In an effort to try to get her to sleep in a few minutes later than 5:00 am, Alycia has started taking Shaak Ti on an additional evening walk to attempt to tire her out.  Now, this is in addition to the 2 walks (40-45 total minutes of walking in the morning and afternoon) she already gets every single day.  As you can see and hear, Shaak Ti gets pretty excited about her special walk

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Shadowfax In the Sun

You may not know, but pit bulls are solar powered.  They need to spend hours in the sunshine to recharge their batteries, and even then they have trouble mustering up enough energy to do much.
 Shadowfax does this most days, soaking up the sunlight as long as she can. 
You also might not know that pit bulls are also really, really lazy. Shadowfax in particular has two speeds - 5th gear and Park.  That's it.  She's either racing around and instigating shenanigans, or a huge lump of unmovable deaf dog. 
Shadowfax has a pretty rough life here. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fall Garden Pictures - Apples and Marigolds

It's Fall here in North Dakota, both the calendar and the weather are attesting to this fact. We have had a long stretch of warm and dry weather, which has extended our growing season a good two to three weeks longer than normal.  It's also been nice that cool temperatures have killed all the mosquitos and made outside work much more pleasant. 

We finally got a hard frost (down to the mid to low 20's) over the last few nights, which means that we had to pull up our tomato and pepper plants.  The more cold hardy beets and onions were able to stay outside for a few more days, but we pulled those as well yesterday and got busy pickling the beets and drying the onions. 
Our zinnias, hostas, Monarda (beebalm), and coneflowers (echinacea) didn't make it through the hard freeze, but the marigolds and petunias are still going strong.  The marigolds look pretty contrasted next to the brown foreground/background of fallen leaves.  The orange flowers on the left are 'Golden Gem' Marigolds, with 'Inca Gold' Marigolds on the right side of the raised bed.  These are regulars in our garden and we plant them in abundance every year.
More 'Inca Gold' Marigolds in front with 'Golden Gem' Marigolds in the back, along with onions and tomatoes and even a 'Paprika' Yarrow way in the back.  We're big believers in flowers and plants that attract beneficial bugs; marigolds, yarrow, sweet alyssum, verbeena, petunias, etc. the list goes on.   We intersperse them with all of our veggies and include them heavily in our annual flowerbed planting.   
These are cherry tomatoes (Sweet 100) which produced prolifically this year. Believe it or not, there are only three tomato plants in that huge mass.   This is probably the perfect location for them, along the garage wall, underneath a bit of the eaves, facing West.  This site was a compost pile last year and has a large amount of well rotted compost and horse manure. 
Our apples are just about ready to pick.  These are Haralson or Haralred apples, I'm not sure.  They can withstand a bit of frost, so we're going to leave them on the tree as long as possible to give them an opportunity to sweeten up a little more. 

That's an update from the homestead in mid-October.  We've been frantically busy around here and posting has been sparse, sorry.  Plus honestly, the dogs just haven't been doing anything cute recently...so there hasn't been much to post about. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Watermelon Harvest


For us, watermelon are the ultimate demonstration of gardening perseverance.  We plant them and they seem to languish in the ground for weeks, doing nothing.  Our dreams of delicious melons disappear with every passing day of non-activity.  But then in late July they pick up steam, then explode in the heat and humidity of late summer, and invariably we have some nice looking melons come harvest.
This was the biggest of the watermelons we grew this year (overweight ginger gardener for scale).  We have another 4-5 that will be big enough to eat as well, and out warm, dry early autumn is helping squeeze every last bit of growing season out of the watermelon. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Shaak Ti's Tongue

We hosted out of town visitors at the homestead this weekend.  My Dad and his significant other flew in from San Diego to spend the long weekend with us.  We had a grand time at the University of North Dakota football game and went out to eat at many of the fine restaurants in the area. 
Between all the extra pets from both sets of grandparents and the commotion in the house, the dogs expended a whole lot of energy on Sunday.  On Sunday we also too a trip to Kelly's Slough, West of Grand Forks (we've visited there before) and that finally did Shaak Ti in.  She came home and totally sacked out.
When Shaak Ti is really, really tired she naps with a little bit of her tongue sticking out.  You can just make it out in this photo.  She flopped down in her heated dog bed and didn't move much until bed time.
You can see that tongue much better, just sticking out.  It takes a lot to tire out Shaak Ti, she's a machine and has never met an adventure she didn't exuberantly embrace.  This is usually a positive sign that we'll have a quiet day today. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Welcome New Reader - Karina

You may not know it, but our official policy here at Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes is to personally welcome all of our new readers. We haven't welcomed a new reader since 2013 (I blame the economy), so this truly a special event. Today we welcome Karina!  We know Karina though the vibrant Grand Forks volleyball scene and are quite happy that she's found our humble blog.  

Granted the people we've welcomed are only the people who've subscribed via blogger and whose icon shows up as a "Member" of the "My Awesome Readers" group on the left hand side of the blog.  It's possible that you're a subscriber through some other method (I use Feedly to subscribe to a bunch of different sites), so I can't see that you're a regular reader.  If anyone knows how to find out who has subscribed to a blog through other sites, please let me know in the comments. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Wallace the Pit Bull Foundation Blog Article

We were amazed and humbled to be featured on the Wallace the Pit Bull Foundation blog this week.  We here at the homestead have been fans and followers of Wallace and his people for several years, and we shed more than a few tears when he passed away in 2013.  His spirit lives on though through his humans, their current foster pup, and the Wallace the Pit Bull Foundation.  Their mission: 
"Wallace the Pit Bull Foundation provides resources for foster homes to help them care for their foster dogs until they find their forever homes.  Wallace the Pit Bull Foundation also provides resources to help improve facilities and fund programs devoted to helping homeless dogs."
Wallace went from the doorstep of euthanasia to the National Disc Champion, and we're honored to be mentioned in the same breath.  We continue to be supporters of Wallace's mission and all that he represented.  All of the people and pooches here at Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes were truly excited to see our blog post on the Wallace website.  Thanks again for making us famous!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shadowfax - A Delicate Lady

Shadowfax is a delicate lady.  Not all dogs would have the decency and discretion to make sure to have their lady parts covered up with a fluffy pink blanket. She's a big tough pit bull, but also needs to make sure that everyone knows she has a delicate side too. 
She probably wouldn't be too happy that the paparazzi have snapped this photo of her napping, especially in this scandalous pose.  She's also mentioned on more than one occasion that photos from this angle always make her tummy look big.  And in her defense, pictures of her sleeping on her side do make her tummy look much bigger than it actually is. 

Her heated dog bed isn't plugged in yet.  It's still pretty warm and we're a month or so from being chilly enough that the dogs demand we turn on their heated dog beds.  But that doesn't stop the dogs from using them anyways, especially for a comfy, splayed leg nap.  As we've known for years, Shadowfax is indeed a delicate lady. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I'm Melting - Shaak Ti in the Sunbeam

Shaak Ti enjoys her sunbeam.  Generally if we can't find Shaak Ti at any point during the day, we just go check all the sunbeams and that's usually where she is. 
And no, the GoughNut Stick Green is not speared through her neck. This is how she chose to pose.   As we've said in the past, she's a odd little critter. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Triangle of Napping Power

All of the dogs are currently simultaneously sleeping and snoring. Seriously, it's pretty dang loud in here right now. I might have to go upstairs so I can concentrate and get some work done. 
There is possibly some kind of debilitating, Bermuda Triangle of napping thing going on in this particular area of carpet that is making all the dogs sleepy.  I'd go check it out myself but am pretty scared of what might happen. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Merlin - Small Falcon with Prey

We've been seeing this fellow/lady on our morning dog walks for most of this summer.  It was a frequent resident of the park that we walked through and was always quite noisy and boisterous.  This is a merlin, a small falcon commonly known as a pigeon hawk.  You can see in the pictures below where that name comes from. 
The other day I noticed that the merlin was standing in the street outside the house and it looked like he/she had snagged some lunch.  An unfortunate dove was grabbed. 
We don't relish seeing birds get eaten, but it is fascinating to see the web of life in and around our small little homestead.  The merlin was a very good looking bird, striking blue and gray wings with mottled white and brown undercarriage. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Classic Shadowfax Photo from Days of Yore

This is an older photo - back from 2010, just months after we had gotten Shadowfax. Shadowfax might be a powerful and mighty deaf pittie, but she sure knew (and still knows) how to look like a giant goofy goober.
I laugh every time that I see this photo, what a derp-tacular face.  And we're thankful that the rest of her grew into those gigantic paws and gangly legs. Sadly, it has been five years since this photo and (unsurprisingly) her braided rope toy has passed on to the other side.  We now need the Extra Large Super Jumbo 6 foot rope toy for adequate tug-of-war and chomping. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Containers and Front Step Plantings

The front step area of our house was a bit of a mystery to me for a few years, I was never quite sure what to do with it.  I was new to the area and learning about which plants did/didn't grow in Zone 4, and our front steps faced to the North.  Adding seasonal plants to the steps was always seemingly on my to-do list, but never really a top priority.  Once I was done with other more critical matters like the garden, planting fruit trees, and planting pretty flowers, it was time to think about how to spruce up the front steps.
These are the front steps of the homestead.  They're pretty plain concrete steps with a black wrought iron hand railing on either side.  They get a bit of indirect light in early morning and late afternoon, but that's about it. 
This pot has "Sliver Falls" dichondra, "Big Red Judy" coleus, and begonias (the name escapes me).  I was dividing hostas along the front walk (more on this in another post) and ran out of not only places to put the extra hosta divisions, but space in the trash can as well.  So I decided to throw a half dozen of them in plastic pots to see if they lived.  They did.  This continues to prove my theory that you can't kill hostas.

The hostas provide some nice variegated foliage to soften the front steps and augment the plantings in the pot.  I'm not one for paying big money for pots, this is one of four that we received as a gift from our generous In-Laws.  They snatched them up pretty cheaply when a local hardware store was going out of business. 
I planted another pot that's located to the right of the porch, in the midst of "snow on the mountain" ground cover that has taken over the area.  This pot has "Red Star" dracena, coleus (not sure of the name), and impatiens.

How about you?  Does your garden plan include planting in pots?  What do you do to liven up the look of your front/back porch?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Shadowfax Having a Nap

It's a warm and muggy summer day here at the homestead in North Dakota.  The pups are napping up in expectation of a visit from Grandma and Grandpa.
You can never be too rested in preparation for a visit from the grandparents.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe and Instructions

It's sauerkraut season here in North Dakota.  We forgot to plant cabbages in the garden this year, but that's OK since cabbages are cheap and plentiful at the local Farmer's Market.  Let's make some kraut! This is truly one of the easiest dishes to make, you know, assuming you like sauerkraut and all.  Little more than cabbages, salt, a crock, and a couple of hours of elbow grease will have you up to your chin in kraut for months. 
This is a three gallon ceramic crock for fermenting the sauerkraut along with one of the two cabbages I purchased at the Farmer's Market in town.  The cabbage weighs about 4 pounds and cost me $3.  So for $6 and the cost of salt, I'm gonna have months of delicious chock-full-of-probiotics sauerkraut.

If you don't have a crock already, these are pretty easy to come by here in the Upper Midwest. Our In-Laws picked this up at a garage sale for $5 (I think) and gave it to us.  If you don't have access to used crocks like this, you may have to get one from Amazon or elsewhere online.  They're not too expensive and last for a long time.  And sauerkraut can also be made in any non-reactive container, like a glass jar. 
The key to sauerkraut is finely slicing the cabbage, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, and try for consistency.  We have a mandolin slicer, but the cabbage was too unwieldy and I just wound up cutting it by hand.
After you've finely sliced the cabbage, you're going to want to physically damage the leaves in order to coax out the cabbage juices that will ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut.  You're going to do this by beating the heck out of the cabbage.  My tool of choice is an old-school hand potato masher.

I did one round of squishing the cabbage (in the white plastic bowl in the picture above) and continued mashing them in the crock.  It helps at this point of the process to angrily yell "HULK SMASH!", or something of the sort.  Not only will this help your sauerkraut taste better, but it will also likely have the added benefit of forcing your significant other to shout "What the hell is going on in there?!?!" from the other room.

At this stage you're going to add salt to your cabbage mixture.  The general rule is 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of cabbage mixture.  You want the mixture to taste like you've added salt, but not oppressively salty.  After an hour or so after you've started smashing and adding salt, you should notice a decent amount of liquid in the crock. 
Continue with your potato masher and press the cabbage mixture to the bottom.  Your goal is to get every last bit of cabbage underneath the surface of the liquid.  I then took a plate and set it on top of the cabbage mixture in the crock, then added this one gallon jar filled with water to weigh it down to push the cabbage below the liquid.  The plate is turquoise colored, thus the odd bluish hue.

Again, the goal is to keep the cabbage mixture below the surface of the liquid.  Most people use a plate or a bowl and then have a weight on top to push the cabbage down and make sure the liquid remains above the cabbage. 
This is the ghost on our kitchen counter.  The crock is going to sit here at room temperature for 2-3 days, then I'll take it down to the basement where it's a little cooler.  I'll check it in a week, and weekly thereafter.  Usually at the three week mark, it has the right level of spicy/sour/crunchy for my taste.  You may want more or less fermentation time depending on the temperature and your personal taste preference. 

Once the sauerkraut is to your liking, you have a decision to make.  You have the option of canning it, which will make it shelf safe, but also eliminate most/all of the good probiotic bacteria, or you can store it in the refrigerator.  The sauerkraut will continue to ferment in the refrigerator, but at a much slower rate.  I store it in the refrigerator in a one gallon glass jar, and it's usually good for several months.

That's how you make sauerkraut.  A minimal investment for the cost of the cabbage, and few hours of work and you've got months of kraut for side dishes and toppings.  What about you awesome reader?  Do you make sauerkraut?  Do you pickle or ferment anything else? 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Deaf Dogs on Squirrel and Rabbit Patrol

The squirrel and rabbit vigil never stops around here.  Whatever vantage point is available, it is generally used to guard against the ceaseless squirrel onslaught, and to a lesser extent, the bunny menace.
Shadowfax spent half the day today on her front porch lookout post, patrolling the area for any manner of varmint.
Once the varmint was spotted, a proper barking spasm (this one of her few offensive weapons) ensued. Tearing around the house and yard barking eventually led her back to her perch at a high rate of speed and she knocked the pillow off. We probably replace that pillow a dozen times a day.  
Shaak Ti is probably more anti-squirrel/bunny than Shadowfax, but her efforts are more focused when she's outside, usually on our walks.  Every once in a while she'll patrol from an indoor perch, but for the most part she yields the indoor security functions to Shadowfax. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It's hot out, why not snuggle?

While Shaak Ti isn't big on snuggling with Shadowfax, for some reason she consented to it this afternoon even though it's pretty warm out.
Hope you have someone or something to snuggle with today. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Shaak Ti on the Couch

We could probably have our own dedicated "Shaak Ti is Strange" section of this blog.  While there are plenty of examples to pick from, creating yet another page seems like a lot of work.  We'll have to settle for regular photos of Shaak Ti being the odd little deaf dog that she is.
The more squished the better.  Due to my allergies and other reasons, we don't allow the dogs on the furniture in the house.  This is my old couch that we moved to the covered front porch, so it's now not an inside couch, and is a very special exception to the "no dogs on the furniture" rule. 
What a perfect spot for napping.  Shaak Ti loves nothing more than wedging into a nice cozy spot and having a nap.  The fact that it's 80 degrees out doesn't bother her a bit. 
Luckily this doesn't prevent Alycia from getting any work done, she soldiers on bravely with her computing. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Apple Tree Lost to the Wind

Earlier this week we had some strong thunderstorms roll through the area.  There wasn't a tornado or anything, but some very strong straight-line winds brought a few tree limbs down.  The storm didn't last long, about an hour, but there was a decent amount of storm related carnage in our yard and throughout the neighborhood.
One of our apple trees was snapped off right at the base.  The winds that came through were in the 50 to 60 miles per hour range, pretty significant winds.  This was a Honeycrisp Apple that was in its' fourth year and was just starting to produce apples, so it was a big bummer for me.
The good news is that this is not a grafted tree, so the shoots that come up should be true Honeycrisp Apple shoots, and should (eventually and in theory) become a regular tree again and produce apples.

So I'll throw out some questions to you knowledgeable readers:  Is it worth the 3-4 years it will take for this to grow back, or should I just replace the tree?  As a non-grafted apple tree, can a sucker grow up, be trained into a main leader and indeed eventually produce apples? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Clematis Blooms and Garden Helpers

After three years, our clematis vines are finally blooming.  We have three of them; one is blooming profusely, one is blooming a little, and one is lagging.  I really like clematis and would enjoy getting even more of them, but I want to experiment with the locations that we have now to see what works in our yard. 
This is the clematis jackmanii, which is planted on the east side of the house, near our blueberry area.  It gets sun light until early afternoon and is on our visual path as we walk into the house.  It's a really pleasant pick-me-up to see the lovely purple blooms when we walk into the back door. 
Our garden helpers are always out with us in the yard "helping".  And by helping I mean getting in the way at every available opportunity and sticking their noses into the dirt.  Shaak Ti has a tendency to stand right where you want to pull weeds. 
Shadowfax inspects the new metal butterfly garden sculpture we received from Alycia's parents.  They purchased two of them at a recent Gardening Day event here in town and placed them superstitiously in our backyard while we were on vacation.  They're sneaky like that. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Puffins and Other Birds in Newfoundland, Canada

This is our last post in a three part series with pictures and stories from our trip to Newfoundland, Candaa.  You've already ready had the pleasure of seeing the incredible sights of the City of St John's, Newfoundland and some of the National Parks and other cool stuff.  Now we're going to don our bird nerd caps and show some pictures of the birds we saw in Newfoundland. 
On our hike around Signal Hill we saw signs indicating that it was a bald eagle nesting area, and after coming to a small clearing, we saw the nest below.  We see bald eagles regularly in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and we've seen a nest before.  But we've never seen a bald eagle nest from above, let alone with two chicks in it.  It was a very unusual vantage that was pretty darn cool. 
We drove to Elliston, "The Root Cellar Capital of the World", not just for the root cellars, but also for the puffins.  There was supposed to be a puffin viewing area.  This sweet puffin painted pawn chair marked the spot of the puffin viewing area. 
The puffin viewing area was a hike to a narrow grassy cliff, and across a small chasm was the large rock that the puffins were nesting on.  There were a good number of puffins, but also some gulls, kittiewakes, and a few black guillemots.
Puffins nest on large rocks that are separated from the mainland so as to avoid land predators like foxes.  But they also create burrows a few feet underground to lay their eggs, so they need a large rock with some topsoil on top of for nesting, it's a pretty specific set of site requirements.