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, December 23, 2016

Snowy Christmas Forecast

Christmas is just around the corner here at the Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes homestead.  We received over a foot of snow from Blizzard Alivia a few weeks back and have even more snow and wind in the forecast for Christmas Day. 

Here is the Grand Forks office of the National Weather Service forecast for the upcoming holiday weekend. 
Alycia and I have been taking full advantage of the snow cover and relatively mild temperatures this week (it's been near 30 degrees all week) and have taken several snow shoeing adventures along the Red River of the North.  It is very convenient for us, we just walk down the block, over the dyke wall and we're on the Grand Forks Greenway along the Red River.  This upcoming snowstorm should mean enough snow cover for show shoeing and cross country skiing for the rest of the season. 
The dogs are either unimpressed with all the snow, apprehensive about another foot and a half of snow on the way...
...or still trying to impress upon Santa that they've been good all year. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Shadowfax Indoors in Winter

With temperatures plunging below zero, accompanying wind chills making it feel even colder, and a fresh layer of snow on the ground, it's cold!  That's expected here in December in North Dakota and so we spend a lot more time indoors. Outside playtime is relegated to a minute or two at most before the critters toes get chilly, so we spend more time playing indoors. 
Shadowfax loves her 6-Foot Rope Toy (Amazon Link), and we have three of them, swapping them out every few days so she has something fresh to chew on.  It's a pretty good workout for the human too. A game of Tug-of-War with a 70 pound chunk of deaf dog on the other end is some pretty serious lifting and pulling.  In this case she's actually chewed herself into an almost-nap, barely awake and chomping away. 
I also thought we should throw in the stereotypical (and always funny) "big dog in tiny bed" photo.  Tito barely fits in this dog bed, let alone Shadowfax, who is twice the size of Tito. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The First Snowstorm of the Year

A very warm Fall and lack of snow through the first part of December had us dreaming of a mild winter, but such thoughts are often soon dashed here in North Dakota.  A storm arrived on Monday evening and dumped a foot of snow by Tuesday midday.
We weren't complaining much as both Alycia and I had a snow day on Tuesday.  All the snow from that storm was augmented by three more days of snow showers and light snow, accompanied by howling winds.
This is the blueberry area on the East side of the house. We ended up with  total of over 16 inches of snow and drifts caused by the high winds that were significantly higher.  Alycia and I cleaned off the back steps several times each as they continued to fill in with blowing and drifting snow from the high winds.  We also wound up snowblowing the driveway and sidewalks three times over the course of the storm and subsequent days of wind.
Recognize this character?  This is the Petunia Tower, now well covered in more than a foot snow.  This was the biggest snowfall event since the Christmas storm (Blizzard Alvin, more pictures) back in 2009, which was our first winter here in North Dakota. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Deaf Dogs Shaak Ti and Shadowfax Wrestling

Shaak Ti and Shadow fax don't play together very often, mostly because Shadowfax gets a little too amped up and spazzy.  So we carefully monitor playtime between them to make sure that Shadowfax (who is twice the size of Shaak Ti) doesn't play too rough.  In this case, Shaak Ti is exhibiting her classic "I really wanna play but I'm too lazy to get of of bed" game. 
Being winter time here means that there's going to be a lot more indoor playtime in the coming months.  Cold and wind have made expending energy outside all but impossible for more than a few minutes at a time. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thanksgiving in North Dakota

For the first time in our tenure in North Dakota we hosted the Thanksgiving festivities here are the homestead. Everything went well, Thanksgiving dinner and all the accompaniments were well received. 
Shadowfax and Shaak Ti were overjoyed to have Alycia's parents in the house for multiple days.  There was multiple hours of snuggling and quality time with Grandma and Grandpa.  And Tito?  He seemed pretty happy to have a few more people to randomly snarl at.  
After all the leftovers were parsed out, shopping trips completed, and pies consumed, the dogs were pooped.  They passed out in their warming beds and dreamed of turkeys roasting in the oven.   

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Heated Dog Beds Make Happy Pups

As the weather gets colder here in Grand Forks, North Dakota, attention turns to keeping warm.  We've always had dog bed warming inserts in several beds.  We purchased a few more heating inserts recently to try to ensure that everyone has a warmed bed to choose from.
The results are predictable, everyone lines up to make sure their tummies and noggins are adequately heated. 

These dog bed warming inserts are significant components of the dogs daily routines, especially throughout the winter months.  If you have dog beds that have an outer cover, you can just slip this heater in the dog bed and run the electrical cord discretely out one end. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Another North Dakota Sunrise Picture

We hope you have a fantastic day!  We had an incredible start to the morning here in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  May the sun rise and greet you with equal splendor wherever you may be.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Snoozin' Pooches and Garden Chores

It's been another long break since our last post.  My stars have things been busy around here!  Busy for the humans at least, the pooches haven't participated in this sustained onslaught of busy times, they've been their usual sleepy, slacker selves.

One cause of our jam-packed schedules has been the beautiful weather we've had over the past few weeks.  Little to no rain and daytime high temperatures in the 50's and 60's have abounded.  Knowing that snow and cold are around the corner, we've seized upon this great weather and been busy in the gardens; raking leaves, clearing out garden beds, and preparing the homestead for winter. 

And today, Sunday November 6th we had our Annual Daylight Savings Celebration.  This is where we try to explain to Shaak Ti that is in fact only 4:00am, not 5:00am and it is NOT time to get up yet.  No amount of bargaining or explaining or rationalizing has ever seemed to work with Shaak Ti, and thus what should be a glorious day of an extra hour of sleep becomes another early dog walk in the darkness.  This has been an annual celebration in our household for almost a decade. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Resting Up After a Tiring Weekend

We had a glorious weekend here at the homestead in North Dakota, so glorious that we're still recovering from it. We hosted visitors from Southern California, showed them the sights, enjoyed some local cuisine, and basked in the autumn splendor. 
The dogs were so exhausted from all the extra people and love and playtime, that they sacked out before our visitors had made it to the airport.  Friday and Saturday were particularly eventful as they had both sets of grandparents in the house, ready to shower them with love.  It was apparently exhausting, so exhausting that they snoozed noggin to noggin in their cozy beds.  
Even Tito was tired from all the shenanigans. Delivering all that anger and all those snarls to so many folks can wear down even the baddest dogs of the bunch. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

North Dakota Sunrise

Don't fret we're still here, we're just preoccupied. Pesky things like work and meetings get in the way of the quality dog and family time, and suddenly the garden gets neglected.  We've been methodically going through our end of summer harvesting and fall garden preparations.  An hour or two here and there in evening and weekends scrambling to catch up.
Luckily we get sunrises like this in the mornings.  It's a great motivation to enjoy the day and a first glimpse of fall colors splashed across the sky.  There's a blue jay outside somewhere now, I can hear his bossy shrieks through the open window, I'm gonna go see if I can spot him. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Shaak Ti the Delicate Lady

Shaak Ti is indeed a delicate lady, genteel and proper in every respect.  She even sleeps with her paws delicately crossed. 
As you can see, it was a pretty rough weekend for the dogs of the homestead.  There was a lot of lounging in their dog beds or supervising from their pillowed perch in the upstairs window while us humans toiled in the garden.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

More Late Summer Garden Pictures

We're bearing down on the end of August, then Labor Day and possibly soon the end of summer. Here are some pictures from around the garden in the last week of August. 
This is the Blueberry area, just next to the Petunia Tower in the back yard.  The blueberries are surrounded by some assorted dianthus, sweet alyssum, and more petunias. 
This is the front edging of the garden area on the south side of the driveway.  The plants that aren't blooming are Indian Summer dianthus that I planted this Spring, I expect a great bloom showing next year.  There are also some trailing red verbeena, and the yellow flowers are Helenium autumnale - Sneezeweed. We only bought the sneezeweed because Alycia thought name was cool, but they've bloomed steadily and consistently all summer. I think we'll be adding more sneezeweed next year too.   
More verbeena, sneezeweed, dianthus, and even a lovely pink petunia. 
The Great Wall of Cherry Tomatoes.  These are planted in a raised bed along our garage and face south. Between the all day sunshine they receive and the heat that reflects off the metal siding, the tomatoes are really happy here.  Along the front edge of this raised bed are a few different varieties of marigolds (Inca Gold, Golden Gem and others). 
View of the Great Wall of Tomatoes from the other side of the raised bed.  You can barely make out the celery that we planted at the front corner of the box.  These got a bit overwhelmed, and probably were not my best decision to plant these here. 
Close up of the Golden Gem marigolds. These are one of my favorite marigolds and I either save the seeds every year, or let them go to seed in Fall and spread the seeds around the area where I want them to grow the next year.  Then I let the army of volunteers take over the next Spring, thinning them where it's needed. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

We Won - Free Stuff From Our Blogging Friends



Many thanks to Get Busy Gardening! for their awesome recent online giveaway.  If you haven't checked out their website or Facebook Account, I would highly recommend spending some time on their site.  They are our (almost) neighbors just down in the twin cities in Minnesota and have a huge repository of helpful gardening information.   

We entered online a few weeks ago and won: 
Thanks so Much to Amy at Get Busy Gardening!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Take Time to Enjoy the Sunbeams of Life

Shadowfax knows how to best manage a Monday morning: Find a good sunbeam and take a nap!
School has started again for both John and me, and we're cautiously optimistic about the upcoming year. Just 9 months to go until summer vacation...

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cucumber Trellis Update

We posted pictures of our Armenian and Pickling cucumbers growing on a trellis (see post here) last month.  It's always impressive to me to see the growth that happens in late summer.  Here is that cucumber trellis last month:
Here's the same cucumber trellis exactly one month later. The heat, humidity and rain of the last month have helped these grow by leaps and bounds.  They've taken over their trellis completely and have overtopped the 6 foot fence. 
We waited and waited for the Armenian cucumbers to ripen and now we've got more than we can consume, multiple large ones are ripe every day.  That's the nature of of gardening here in the Upper Midwest...wait, wait, wait, then explosion of veggies. 

The Armenian cucumbers are eaten raw, the pickling cucumbers are used to make my tasty Refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles, several quarts of which are sitting on the fridge right now.  I'll eat them throughout the winter and use them for fresh homemade relish as well.  

You may notice from the picture that many of the leaves in the middle and bottom of the plants are are whitish or pale looking.  This is most likely powdery mildew, which will eventually kill the plant, but won't really have a significant impact on the development of the remaining cucumbers.  Due to our short growing season here, a hard frost is going to kill this plant long before the powdery mildew will. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Petunia Tower Update

The Petunia Tower I created a couple of months ago (see Petunia Tower) is filling out nicely and chock full of lovely blooms.  It's on the East side of the house past the blueberry raised bed area and gets full sun until early afternoon, which the petunias have seemed to enjoy. 

This is the Petunia Tower and clematis (jackmanii clematis) growing on a trellis that we see regularly every day on our way in from the back gate or garage into the house. 
The close up of the petunia tower shows that there's a little room for improvement next year.  These look a bit straggly for my taste and I think next year I'll treat this more like a potted planting like we have on the front steps (pictures of front step posts here) and have more variety of plants rather than just petunias.  This is the fun part of gardening for me, trying something out, seeing how it goes, then making improvements for next year!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Late July Garden Pictures

This Summer here at the homestead has been full of precipitation, we've only had to water a couple of times so far this year.  The gardens have blossomed in the last few weeks of July with regular rainfall and warm, humid conditions.  It has been fantastic weather for growing.
This garden mound was started four years ago and is finally now well established (you can follow the progression from Dirt Delivery and Mound Formation to how it looks today).  There are still some bare spots to fill in way in the back behind the pine tree that have conveniently not been included in the photo.   
The light purple flowers in the left foreground are purple Coneflower (echinacea purpurea).  The middle and background have two monarda - "Purple Rooster" and "Coral Reef".  After taking a few years to get established, the monarda (also known as bee balm) have not only self-seeded to a few more locations in this bed, but also put on a show this year.

The yellow flowers in the middle are "Summer Sun" heliopsis and interspersed are some various annual zinnias and even a handful of marigolds.
This is the front garden bed that faces to the North.  It looks vastly different than it did in mid-June (pictures here), the blue hues of salvias have been replaced by yellow of the "Summer Sun" heliopsis and pale purple of the hosta blooms.  It always amazes me how the same garden bed can look vastly different in a few short weeks.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Rump Pillow for Snuggling

It was a typical Summer day here at the homestead.  We got some chores done, tidied up some things in the garden, and played in the yard with the dogs.  It was hot outside though, and a rousing game of fetch followed by their afternoon walk took its toll on Shaak Ti and Shadowfax.
This is a pretty standard late-afternoon or early-evening scene around here, with the girls all snuggling together on the floor.  Shaak Ti is usually wedged somewhere.  In this case she's chosen to wedge her head between the couch and Shadowfax's rump.  That's a dangerous spot to be. 
When the bright summer sun saps your strength, the only recourse is to submit to a nice afternoon nap. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Growing Cucumbers on a Trellis

Our homestead garden here is pretty good size, around 1/3 of an acre.  But even though I have a ton of garden space, there are still limitations and what can go where.  Part of the yard is inside the fence and is the "dog area", it's pretty much off limits for growing edibles. The last thing we need is the dogs helping themselves to a veggie buffet, or worse scuffling over a fallen tomato.
Other areas are too shady, too visible, or not quite right for one reason or another.  Like many gardeners we're left to try to maximize the space that we have, and one of the best ways to this is to grow three dimensionally, as in upwards. We're able to grow six or more cucumber plants - two different varieties, an American Pickling (we use these for our Bread and Butter pickles) and Armenian Cucumber in a strip of soil that is barely a foot wide.

Cucumbers, melons, and some squash can all be grown vertically, using a trellis to train them to grow upwards, dramatically decreasing the footprint of how much ground space is needed.The trellis that we use is just some old wire fencing material that I've bent to allow to hang over the fence.  The bottom edge is pushed into the ground to make it more secure.  In Fall when the plants are done producing I remove the trellis and store it to make it more aesthetically pleasing to not have the wire trellis hanging on the fence all winter.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Worn Out

Shadowfax was plain worn out yesterday afternoon.  She had spent the better part of four hours in the window, watching me work in the garden and mow the lawn. Too much direct supervising can make even the hardiest of managers weary.  Shadowfax eventually ceased her micromanaging and succumbed to a sprawling nap with her head flopped under the desk. 
We aren't too far behind.  In the past few weeks we've been busy around and off the homestead.  We attended the Mother Earth News Fair in West Bend, Wisconsin and got some great information - more on this in a later post, and stopped at a few other places across the Upper Midwest. 
There are so many stories and pictures to share, we've got to get ourselves in gear and relay all the information to you, our glorious readers.  More to come. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Fourth of July

This is how we'll be celebrating this evening, in high style and with no explosions. 
The Fourth of July is one of those holidays when we're very happy to have deaf dogs.  Unlike hearing dogs, who can hear and be very traumatized by fireworks sounds, our deaf dogs have no reaction at all to fireworks.  We'll probably be in bed before they start the formal fireworks display here in Grand Forks and the neighborhood goes wacky setting off their own personal displays. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Window Watcher

The forecast yesterday was for a 70% chance of high squirrel activity, with a strong likelihood of bunny shenanigans in the afternoon.  As such, Shaak Ti was on high alert all day. "I see you out there Mr. Squirrel".
This couch is out on the front porch and is the only piece of furniture that the dogs are allowed on.  Shaak Ti makes the most of this whenever we're out on the front porch and spends time staring out the window, napping, or snuggling with Alycia. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Family Unit Day - 2016

We celebrated our first official Family Unit Day on June 24, 2008.  It marked the one year anniversary of Shaak Ti coming into our lives and represented the day we became one family unit.  The addition of Shadowfax in 2010 didn't change the date of Family Unit Day, it's still an amalgamation of all the dogs birthdays and adoption days.  We take a moment on this day to appreciate each other (OK Tito probably doesn't appreciate me) and reflect fondly on the incredible years we've had together. 
Shaak Ti has been in our lives for 9 years now.  That makes her likely around 10 years old, and she hasn't slowed down much.  She's still an attention starved, never-ending well of pets, and starts every day at 4:45 am, raring to get out in the world and chase those pesky bunnies and squirrels. 
Shadowfax is all about celebrating Family Unit Day, but only to the extent that it doesn't interfere with her getting to play outside.  As you can tell by the look on her face, preparing this blog post is clearly getting in the way of my taking her outside to play and she's none too happy about it. 
We know how to ring in an exciting celebration around here. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Early Summer Garden Pictures & Garden Tour Panic

We're just a few days away from the official start of Summer.  The gardens here are in full swing with late Spring and early Summer blooms at their peak. 
This is the west side of our house.  The prolific white flowers are a naturalizing daisy that we got from a friend of Alycia's.  These daisies have been more than happy to self-seed and fill in the empty spaces.  They honestly spread a little too aggressively, but they're pretty easy to thin out or pull completely in the spaces that we don't want them, and the little white flowers with yellow centers are very cheery. 
The Grand Forks Garden Tour is this weekend, and Alycia and I were looking forward to a leisurely and casual tour of some of the gardens in town.

Until we found out that not one, but two of our neighbors are stops on the garden tour.  We had to spring into action and get the homestead ready for passersby who would be checking out our flowers on the way to the official garden tour stop just down the block.  This is the front of the house, hostas surrounded by different salvias.
There was literally only one days warning.  We read on Friday in our local paper about the Garden Tour and almost jumped out of our chairs when we noticed that two participants' names were our neighbors.  Anybody who was somebody in the local gardening scene might be walking by, we had to make everything look its best.  The pots and plantings on our front step look ready for random people to admire as they pass by. 
I stopped by the neighbors house and (after giving her a whole bunch of grief about not warning us sooner) asked if she needed any help.  It should be a busy weekend in our little neighborhood - along with the garden walk is a Historical Society Tour and a 12 hour marathon Relay for Life in the park.  Good thing we got our gardens ready!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Petunia Tower

I was picking up my friend a few weeks back since he has a pickup and agreed to go with me on a horse manure run.  As I stopped by his house, he was out chatting with a next door neighbor who had built a pretty awesome vertical tower that was planted with petunias. 
I was inspired and decided to build a petunia tower of my own.  I took a length of hardware cloth (aka chicken wire), formed it into a cylinder and added it to the middle of an old metal washtub that we had picked up at a garage sale for $5. 
I linked the hardware cloth together with some spare pieces of wire I had laying around and made sure that the cylinder was very secure.  This would keep it from collapsing and the contents spilling out.  I cut holes in spots and placed half-lengths of pots in the holes at a 45 degree angle to hold the petunias on the side of the tower.  The majority of the cylinder is filled with mulch (free from the mulch yard) and then the planting areas were filled with a mix of planting soil and horse manure. 
The top of the petunia tower is planted with a lovely rich purple variety called Johnny Flame - it seemed appropriate.  There's enough soil at the bottom of the tub holding the tower in place, and the weight of the mulch in the cylinder is more than enough to keep the whole thing upright.  I'm not worried about structural integrity or the tower tipping over. 
This will continue to fill in as the petunias grow, I'll be sure to post additional pictures as the season wears on and this becomes a tower of pinks and purples.