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.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Shadowfax Approved

Shadowfax can easily be described as a heavy chewer, she's easily plowed through dog toys designated as "tough.
The green stick in the picture is her Goughnuts Dog Toy (Amazon link here). We don't endorse many products here, but this stick is really awesome, we've had it since 2014! We even wrote about it back in 2014. Five plus years is an eternity it Shadowfax toy-time. If you have a power chomping pup who destroys toys, you might consider a Goughnut for them this Christmas.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Japanese Maple - Emmett's Pumpkin

We planted a couple of Japanese Maples (acer japonicum) in 2017 when we moved to the homestead. They took a year or so get fully acclimated and last fall they had some interesting colors. One variety that we planted, Emmett's Pumpkin, is an upright Japanese Maple that is closer to medium sized shrub than a small tree.

We really wanted this particular variety because it's main feature is turning bright orange in Fall, thus the name Emmett's Pumpkin. Last fall we weren't terribly impressed with the color but figured since it was the first year it might need more time to fully produce spectacular color.
This year it put on a terrific show of orangey-pumpkiny goodness. We look forward to many more years of fall foliage from Emmett's Pumpkin.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Evening Snuggles

Yesterday was pretty typical evening here at the Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes homestead. We snapped a quick photo of the dogs getting all snugly.
This pose lasts until feet or legs fall asleep and the people have to stand and get the blood flowing again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

New Birds at the Homestead - Evening Grosbeak

Fall migration saw a new bird (new to us anyways) pass through our area. These evening grosbeaks stopped by intermittently for a few weeks, likely on their journey south. We hopefully look forward to seeing them again in the Spring.
This is the evening grosbeak,they're pretty striking. We had rose breasted grosbeaks on a regular basis in North Dakota, but this was our first time seeing the evening grosbeak.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Long Term Forecast

This is the forecast for the next 5 months or so.
Compelling indeed. We've said it before and we'll say it again, these dogs have a pretty rough life here at the homestead.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Fall Grape Harvest

When we bought our house a few years ago it had two large established grape plants on the outside of a South facing fence line. The grapes made a nice visual addition to the fence, softening the hard line of 50+ feet of wooden fence and gave us some fruit too. Our first Fall harvest was modest and we made enough grape juice to fill two gallon containers. 

This Spring saw much more rainfall and we deliberately irrigated over the Summer with our flood irrigation a few times per month. As a result the grapes got much more water on a more consistent basis. This translated into a whole lot more grapes that were much sweeter than prior years. These are 5 gallon Home Depot size buckets.

Alycia's parents also bought us a cool Christmas present last year - a Stainless Steel Steam Juicer (Amazon link). We had actually found this online a few years back and bought one for them and they enjoyed it so much they figured that we needed one as well.

The juicer makes the process much simpler and tidier. Fill with water and grapes and set on the stove on high. Then it took an hour or so of steaming and we had about a half gallon of juice and some steamed grape mush (which we happily composted). The grapes are dark, Concord-ish. They're sweet with lots of seeds and will probably be turned into some grape jelly forthwith.

The end result of a few hours of picking grapes and another several hours of tending the steamer was about 6 gallons of tasty grape juice. It's in our chest freezer for now and we'll make some jelly and unfreeze the rest periodically throughout the Winter for a fresh, tasty treat.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Fall Snuggling Season

Fall snuggling season is officially upon us. Warm and pleasant days with cool nights quickly changed today with highs barely into the 50's. We're on the edge of a weather system that's bringing multiple feet of snow to northern Idaho and western Montana. We're just getting cooler temperatures and a few rain showers.
Cooler temperatures and the change of seasons means we start taking our napping configurations a little more seriously. Shaak Ti is a pro at this though, she knows how to snuggle.
Fall is also know as "tuck in the dogs 30 times a day" season. Shaak Ti and Shadowfax both enjoy snuggling under an array of blankets.
We hope you're nice and warm wherever you are.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Shaak Ti Being Shaak Ti

Shaak Ti. She's a pretty special dog. Her silliness is consistent and daily. Napping, walking and being a goofy little pup, that's her daily routine.
We've managed through some bouts of upset tummy over the last couple of years (more frequently in the last several months) and now she's back to eating regularly. We may be purchasing a rotisserie chicken per week to add to her meals, but it's totally worth it.
Napping in the sunbeam, napping in the dirt (that's why she looks brown in the photo above), napping in the mulch and occasionally napping on an actual dog bed. This dog, she just kills me sometimes.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Cuteness Overload

Sugar alert! Be forewarned if you have blood sugar issues you might want to stand by with a shot of insulin to counter all this sugary sweetness. We recently got a new doggie nephew.
His name is Yeti, he's a chihuahua mix of some kind and just a puppy. Here he is posing with our human nephew Jace. Yeah that's pretty dang cute.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Garden Project - Almost Completed

Our secret garden project is very nearly completed. The door needs to be adjusted a bit and then hung and some fine tuning tweaks and finishing touches here and there need to be made.
The interior floor needs to be finished and is going to be a darker gray colored gravel with flagstones running down the middle.
It's substantially complete enough that you can either guess or we can reveal what this structure is. It's a greenhouse. And not just a season extending greenhouse, it's a full four season greenhouse that will allow us to overwinter plants and continue to produce small quantities of fruit, veggies and herbs throughout the winter.
There will be a whole lot more stories and photos of our greenhouse. We'll also tell you more about how it was made and give you some background on your new phrase for the day - shou sugi ban. Oh and that vertical black piping inside the greenhouse? We'll talk about that too.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Summer Vacation Photos

Alycia and I were lucky to take a summer vacation trip last week. We had been to Glacier National Park in Montana several years ago and had always wanted to return.
In addition to Glacier, we also visited the Canadian portion, Waterton Lakes. Waterton Lakes was lovely and much less crowded than Glacier. It was Alycia's long time dream to stay at the historic Prince of Wales Hotel. The hotel sits on a bluff overlooking Waterton lake and a dramatic glacier-carved valley. The above picture was the view from our hotel room.
It was a magnificent historic hotel and Alycia also enjoyed high tea as well. She'd read about high tea at the hotel and was eager to have afternoon tea. It was a unique National Park experience.
Alycia had a lovely spread of sweet and savory snacks that were all gluten free. John enjoyed the gluten filled treats just as enthusiastically.
We took numerous hikes and strolls throughout the parks, several free excursions that were led by Park Rangers. The Ranger led hikes were full of great information and discussions of local flora and fauna as well as history and geology. The Rangers also knew the area well and carried bear spray (as did we), so they were welcome additions to any hike. We saw the above grizzly bear from the road and were glad to be in a vehicle that close to a bear.
We did see almost all manner of wild creatures, black and grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, and even a big bull moose, antlers and all! The moose suddenly emerged from the heavy brush and crossed our hiking trail 20 feet in front of us on our hike above to Grinnel Lake. It was a pretty startling and stunning encounter.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Some New Canine Friends

Earlier this year Alycia had the idea that we get more involved with a local dog charity. We had met people and dogs from the local Boise Bully Breed Rescue group at several functions and they had just opened up a new facility at a warehouse in nearby Meridian. The group pulls dogs from shelters across the West and brings them to their facility, gets them medical attention and then finds them forever homes. It's a fantastic group of people and helps some incredible pups.

A couple of hours a week we go and walk dogs or play with them in the facilities awesome play yard. It's quite a lot of fun and we get to meet some awesome dog friends before they go to live in their new homes. It didn't occur to Alycia until a few weeks ago that we should start taking pictures of these great pups. Here are some photos of just a few of the dog friends that we've met recently.
This is Chief. He's the only pup that hasn't been adopted yet, though he has a meet-and-greet soon. He has a bad-ass backstory about being injured by a wild boar when he lived in Hawaii (seriously).
Agnes. She was one of Alycia's favorites, a sweet snuggle oriented pittie lump.
Blue. This 100 pound chunkster found a home recently. He splashed around in the kiddie pool with reckless abandon.

Gonzo. Another snuggle oriented pooch. He looked like a little hippopotamus and was one of my favorites.

Cotton. A deaf bully mix. He caused a lot of consternation around the homestead since we have deaf dogs and all and he probably would have fit in pretty well. He was recently adopted to an awesome home!

Monday, July 29, 2019

New Wheels for the Wagon

Alycia got me our garden wagon as a birthday present close to 10 year ago. It has been a much loved and well used workhorse in the garden ever since. It's incredibly useful to throw in some tools, a few flats of plants, maybe a sack of fertilizer and haul it off to a spot instead of having to make multiple trips back and forth.

Alycia alone has hauled countless load of heavy bricks with the wagon. Our numerous brick-related projects over the years would not have been possible without the help of the wagon. Well they would have been possible, but there would have been a LOT more manual labor and brick hauling by hand involved.

The wagons inflatable wheels that have needed increasing attention and maintenance. For the last two years I've had to inflate the wheels before every use and even then they didn't hold air very well (or really at all). The usefulness of a wagon was somewhat mitigated by flat wheels.

Thanks to the magic of the internet (Amazon) I bought some new replacement wheels and installed them. The new wheels have a solid core and don't need to be inflated which should increase their useful life. The wagon is working better than ever now and should continue to serve well in the garden for anther decade.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

One of Those Days

You know those days. The kind where you're napping with your ear sticking out. 

Shaak Ti spent the morning napping with her ears askew. But it wasn't just her.
We knew it was a serious occasion as Shadowfax was afflicted with the same ear napping issues. Both the dogs are pretty annoyed that they don't have free reign of the backyard with the folks assembling our secret garden project. Maybe that's the reason for these ears sticking out.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Shaak Ti and the Tummy Troubles

We're written before about Shaak Ti and her Tummy Issues, and in an effort not to bore you awesome readers we've refrained from numerous or frequent posts about the same topic. For the last several years Shaak Ti has had recurring tummy related issues. And ever since she came to live with us we've known that her entire digestive system is her Achilles Heel.

Her latest diagnosis is a flare up of pancreatitis that should be well managed with strict diet management. For most of this year she's been on a diet of low-fat canned food. Shaak Ti has always been a finicky eater and we had low expectations of her reaction to this canned food, but she's taken quite well to it.  This latest flare up happened even though she was on her low-fat diet so we're a bit befuddled by the reason behind this latest episode.

After a few weeks of feeling sub-par, a couple of vet visits, and numerous medications, Shaak Ti is back in top form. She was out in the backyard yesterday vociferously giving some squirrels the business and we knew she was back at 100%.
So we're back to normal around here, weird napping position not withstanding. Hopefully now we can focus on the good tummy related topics, like warming your tummy and getting lots of tummy rubs.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Garden Project - Phase Two Update

Our secret garden project is about halfway completed. After a couple of days of work last week progress halted and will resume again mid-week.
It looks pretty good thus far.
We've made a good number of promises about when it will be completed. Please know that every promise has been made in good faith. Numerous factors that were totally out of our control have pushed the completion date back, but it looks like we're in the home stretch now. More updates and pictures to come!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Garden Project - Phase Two. For Real This Time!

Yes we had a bit of a misstatement a few weeks back with our post that our secret garden project was happening. We're very sorry. Unforeseen events caused it to be pushed back to today. We've been on a "too embarrassed to post until this thing got started" quiet period. We just tried to lay low until there was verifiable progress that we could show off.
 We can definitively say that the project is off and running!
And everyone can start hazarding guesses as to what they think it is. But you won't have to wait too long with your guesses. The project should be completed in a day or two, so we should have full pictures (with Shaak Ti for scale of course) by the end of the week!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Garden Project - Phase Two

Phase Two of our big garden project starts today. It's been a bit of a wait and we're ready.
This unsightly rectangle of rocks will look much different, hopefully by the end of the week. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Grandparents Visit

The grandparents trucked all the way from North Dakota to visit the homestead last week.
The dogs were very happy to see them and get all the pets and love that we apparently don't provide. Both dogs get lots of love from the Grandparents, but Shadowfax especially. Climbing on Grandpa is the only time we really allow her to sit on anyone's lap.

She's been sitting on Grandpa's lap for years now. We did a post about the Jungle Gym for Dogs back in 2011.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Dirty Napping Dog, Clean Napping Dog

The Summer season around here is filled with napping outside and soaking up the sunbeams.
Shaak Ti has her preferred napping spot.
Shadowfax has hers. You can probably guess which location we prefer. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Western Redbud in Bloom and Pink Snow

One of the smaller trees in our front yard is a Western Redbud. It's on the Southwest corner of our house and has wonderful structure and enough summer foliage to provide dappled sunshine at its base.

For a few weeks in Spring though it's truly a showstopper. From about Mid April to the first part of May it is completely covered in delicate, tiny pink blossoms. The picture below is from late April.
As with all Spring blooming plants the flowers gave way to leaves and the tree shed the tiny pink blossoms. The blossoms were so numerous that they coated the ground below. There were so many fallen spent flowers that they caught on other small plants and shrubs and made them look like they had pink flowers too.
The flowers all fell off in the space of a week or two and coated the ground below in what looks like a fine dusting of pink snow.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Shadowfax and the Sliding Rump

I've watched Shadowfax nap over the course of this morning. She initially started fully in the bed, warmly covered in her blankie. Over the course of a few hours here twitching and dream-squirrel-chasing made her rump slowly slide out of bed onto the floor.
Shadowfax was nonplussed by all this though, she napped right on through it. We had a big day yesterday; hours and hours of romping in the backyard exploring, chasing squirrels, and playing fetch n' catch. She's probably pretty exhausted, but should have those pittie batteries fully recharged in no time.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Shaak Ti Napping in the Mulch

We've had a lovely stretch of Summer like weather over the past week, upper 80's and even 90's. And Shaak Ti has taken full advantage of this by dusting off her mulch napping skills.
She's lost nothing over the winter, her mulch napping skills are in top form.And yes we have many dog beds outside (both in the sun and in the shade), some area rugs on the patio, and numerous less-mulchy places to nap. But Shaak Ti prefers a more natural napping spot.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Japanese Maple Haircut

We're going to take slight detour today. Don't worry, we'll have a resolution to the backyard mystery project in the next week (maybe two weeks).  And the deaf dogs will certainly have antics to relay to our faithful readers. Today though...our Japanese maple.

The centerpiece of our backyard is good size lace leaf Japanese Maple, variety unknown. I've greatly appreciated these plants for a number of years but never lived in a place where they were viable options. Zone 10 Southern California was a bit too warm (though you could grow a few varieties) and Zone 4 North Dakota was too cold (though again, you could grow a few varieties). We planted two more Japanese Maples last year "Emmett's Pumpkin" and "Pung Kil". I'm also going to check out this book the next time I'm at the library.

This Japanese Maple was here when we moved and has been around for a while. The previous owners didn't seem to to more than give it the occasional bowl haircut. The picture below is our Japanese Maple in early March (before the construction project started) after an overnight rain, the drops of water glistened in the morning sun.
The bowl cut looked good enough and it was a majestic draping form. The tree itself has 4 seasons of visual interest and the leaves go from red to light green in Spring, darken through the Summer, and turn shades of gold and red in Fall. Giving it a proper trim was somewhere on my mental to-do list, but there were just so many other things that needed to be completed first. A contractor who was in the backyard consulting on our secret not-yet-announced big announcement gave me a hard time about its shabby condition. He stopped just short of saying I was doing a disservice to this lovely plant.
So Alycia and I spent a few hours pulling out dead branches, cutting off dead limbs, and clearing out the debris and leaves. What a difference it made. I didn't realize what an awesome structure it had underneath, the twisting branches off the main trunk look fantastic.
This is how it looked in mid-April, new growth had mostly filled it out.  The leaves will continue to gradually change color throughout the Spring and Summer and then put on a brilliant show for Fall.
Here's how it looks today in the second week of May in the dappled morning light. The leaves are a mixture of green, pale yellow, and maroon on this side. The West facing side that gets more afternoon sun has decidedly more deeply maroon leaves. It's a fantastic plant to have in the backyard with its appearance changing weekly.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Garden Project - Phase One Completed

Phase one of our big garden project is completed. The work crew is cleaning up and moving some dirt around, today but the important piece is finished.
This picture may leave you with more questions than answers. That's OK. Phase Two should only take a few days, so our big reveal will be sooner rather than later. But we need to coordinate a couple of moving parts to get Phase Two going.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Shaak Ti and the Big Garden Project

We posted previously about Shadowfax and our big garden project. Now it's Shaak Ti's turn.

The project is slowly grinding to completion. The work crew has been pulled to other projects so the last few weeks have consisted of slow incremental progress. I think that the first phase can be done with another 8-12 hours of work, maybe by mid-week next week.
The large pile of dirt is starting to shrink.  It will be completely gone when the project is completed. The gravel path underneath may need to have a fresh payer of gravel added though unless the crew can scrape off all the packed on clay fill dirt that has accumulated in spots.
The hole is completed and they have secured insulated foam board along the inside and outside, and are in the process of back-filling it while incorporating 600 feet of flexible drain pipe.
Shaak Ti's main concern is having a place to lay in the mulch and warm her tummy. She's not a terribly complicated little critter.