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.





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.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Shadowfax and the Big Garden Project

As we mentioned in previous posts (here and here), our big garden project is underway. To date a work crew has dug a large hole and excavated a great deal of dirt.
About half of the dirt is in the front yard in a newly created raised garden bed, the remainder is staged in the back yard. The dirt is just here temporarily until the crew uses it to back-fill into the hole. But in the meantime it has added an exciting new dimension to the backyard and the dogs are enjoying it immensely.
Shadowfax has been having a great time with the dirt pile. It's a heck of fun playground.
Playing in a giant dirt pile can get you tired though. Shadowfax realized that the new dirt mound was a great place to have a rest and keep an eye on everything. The higher vantage point allowed to her to see further afield. 
This big dirt pile should be gone by next week, and we'll continue to have some more pictures and updates on the project.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Garden Project Progress

Our big garden project that we detailed last week? It's in full swing. The crew had an mini excavator on site and were digging for three days. This is the end result of all that digging.
We've got a 8' x 10' x 7' deep hole in our backyard. The hole is braced and supported to prevent a cave-in.
It's a pretty impressive hole.
Along with a large hole there is a corresponding large pile of dirt. About half of the dirt is in the front yard in the raised beds that we're creating. The other half? It's staged in the backyard to be filled back into the hole when the time is right. Shaak Ti is a bit dubious of the change in her surroundings.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Big Garden Project Underway

The big garden project we posted about the other day is fully underway. For the record Alycia said I was being "a blog tease" by just posting a picture of a metal stake in the ground. The accusation stung a bit.
The work crew came by to stage some of their equipment and mark off the area that they're going to dig. The wheelbarrows are for transportation of the dirt. 
We're going to be removing a whole bunch of dirt from the back yard and instead of having the work crew haul it off, I made some raised garden beds in the front yard for them to deposit the dirt. This is the much preferred "two birds with one stone" gardening approach.
The crew has lined the grass with plywood to prevent it getting trampled from numerous wheelbarrow loads.
After the first day the crew left their digging machine in the back yard. We're on day two of digging. Everything was OK until a depth of about five feet when they hit hardpan (aka caliche - this is your word for the day) and their pace slowed considerably.

The hole is going to be roughly 8' x 10' and 7' deep. And at our insistence they fenced off the hole so the yard was safe for dogs during the construction.
All the material that was removed on the first day was hauled, one wheelbarrow load at a time to the raised garden beds in the front yard. This is roughly about half of the total material that was removed. The other half of the material? That is going to be staged in the back yard to be put back in the hole once the hole is completed.

So what does all this amount to? What are we doing? You can feel free to hazard a guess, but we're going to leave the big reveal for a later post.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Shadowfax the Majestic

Shadowfax the majestic and mighty pittie poses for the camera. We've learned to capture these moments quickly. Taking time to try for perfect picture composition is a recipe for a lost shot.
Wait!!! Is that a squirrel. Quicker than you can say "Squirrel!", the shot is lost as Shadowfax races off to investigate the alleged squirrel sighting.
Today is a tough day for her and Shaak Ti as our big garden project officially breaks ground (literally). They'll be stuck in the house for most of the day as workers and equipment work on the yard. More about our big garden project will be coming soon.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Big Garden Project Started

This seemingly innocuous picture below represents the much awaited and frequently alluded to secret garden project that we have started.
I know it doesn't look like much, it's just a metal stake in the ground. There are three other stakes, they make a large rectangle. What's the big project? What's the big reveal? You'll just have to stay tuned, there will be more pictures and posts in the coming weeks.

Monday, April 1, 2019

A Fine Afternoon

Shadowfax enjoying a fine warm Spring afternoon. Alternating between protecting the house from squirrels and neighbors walking by, and lounging on the patio.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Raised Garden Beds

Construction continues on the raised beds in the vegetable garden.

Raised beds take a little time to construct and need the addition of a large amount of material (soil, compost, mulch) in order to fill. But in my experience they're worth the large amount of work on the front end. Even though they're only a foot or so above ground they require less bending over to harvest or pull weeds. This benefit will increase as we get older and less mobile but want to continue gardening in our later years.

Because they're above the ground raised beds also decrease the risk of soil contaminants being drawn into your veggies. In older neighborhoods lead can be a concern and it's possible to have significant lead contamination built up in the soil. Although we haven't had our soil tested for lead yet, we've mitigated much of the possible risk with raised beds.
We've learned a lot over the years about raised beds and the pros and cons of different types of construction. The raised vegetable garden beds that we had in North Dakota (pictures here and here and here) we fairly easy to assemble but started splitting, cracking, and breaking down after 3-4 years. I didn't want to be making new wooden garden beds every five years.

The new garden beds are made with landscape blocks and will last for quite a while. They're "permanent" but could be moved if I really don't like how they function or am really motivated to move them. We're going to temporarily pause the garden beds at this point. We need to leave some space in the bottom of the picture for...well we won't ruin that surprise quite yet.

And yes that's Shaak Ti in the upper corner of the picture, looking up at the squirrel (not pictured) in the tree. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Shadowfax is Hot Under the Collar

We've barraged readers with numerous pictures of Shaak Ti and Shadowfax roasting themselves in front of the gas fireplace insert. They truly love it. On a daily basis I have to drag Shadowfax away from the front fireplace because she's gotten too hot, has started to pant, but is too lazy to move on her own accord.

This is one of the rare occasions where Shaak Ti is being the smart one. She is plenty warm and cozy but a reasonable distance away from the fireplace. Good girl Shaak Ti.
Spring is approaching though and we're nearing the end of fireplace season. The forecast is for highs in the 60's next week. The seasons change and roasting in front of the fireplace will be replaced by soaking up the sunshine on the back patio.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

And So It Begins

We will slightly change the famous quote from Lao-tzu - "The journey of a thousand miles bricks starts with a single step brick."
The process of constructing raised garden beds has begun! It shall start in the vegetable garden area in the backyard, then the rest of the backyard, and eventually the Forests of Tuckborough and Buckland...I mean then the front yard.

We're focusing on the vegetable garden area in the back yard so that we can ready for Spring planting and also because we have a big garden addition on the way. That will have to remain a surprise for a few more weeks though, so stay tuned for our big garden announcement.

And yes there was an obscure Lord of the Rings reference thrown into the blog post today. We do have a dog named Shadowfax after all.

Friday, March 8, 2019

This Dog Shaak Ti

This dog Shaak Ti. She kills me.
Every day it's something different, yet somehow the same. Arranging her bottom to get it better roasted in front of the fireplace, that's been a regular occurrence all winter. Yesterday she got the super-insane-zoomies and tried to jump the baby gate (she hasn't done that in a few years) and failed miserably. She went up, and like a stunt plane that stalled out, crashed back to earth butt first. Falling on the bottom that she had so artfully and delicately roasted all morning.

She seemed upset that I laughed at her. I tried to tell her that she's getting older and can't do silly stuff like that anymore. I don't think she heard me. She's not the best listener.

This dog Shaak Ti, she kills me. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Flocks of Robins are Sign of Spring

Over the past few weeks we've seen sporadic flocks of robins congregating in the area. They would seem to gather around a few trees, individuals flitting in and out, and then move on in a hour or two. They were fleeting enough that Alycia hadn't witnessed the phenomenon and thought that I was starting to lose my marbles when I described it to her.
The other day I was able to capture on camera (poorly) a flock of them in a neighbors tree. Yeah, it's not the greatest picture, but every dark speck in the tree is a robin. They were similarly congregated in a few trees across the street as well. It was hard to determine how many in total, dozens for sure, over a hundred. Maybe even hundreds of them?

Robins are a welcome sight as the presage the arrival of Spring. It's been a pretty dry and mild winter here but we're having a cold, gray, rainy spell and any inkling of Spring is a welcome sign.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Dogs Winter Fireplace

Yet another picture in our ongoing "Deaf Dogs in Front of the Fireplace" photo essay series.
This photo is entitled:

Shaak Ti's Lament
When someone is forcibly using your butt for a pillow and you don't like it, but it's keeping your butt extra warm, so you tolerate it, but you don't like her touching you.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Shaak Ti and her Tummy Troubles

Shaak Ti is going to the vet today for an ultrasound of her tummy area. The vet suspects that she's had pancreatitis for the past week or so. She's been in and out of the vet a few times over that span and we're hoping an ultrasound can shed some light on what's going on inside that little spotted abdomen of hers.
Shaak Ti has always been an incredibly finicky eater and has long had issues with her tummy and GI processing. She's attempting to overcome any minor health issues by relaxing and being as adorable as possible.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Shadowfax Has Had Enough of Your Foolishness

Shadowfax has been never been one to hold back her opinions. Her expressions are usually pretty entertaining.
Sometimes she's just had about enough of your foolishness and wants to get back to business. In this case her business is napping on the fluffiest spot possible. Doesn't she look comfortable?

Saturday, January 5, 2019

You Can't Kill Hostas

My stars! It seems like it's been forever since we posted anything about gardening. It's been nothing but cute dog pictures for quite some time. Well here you go, the strange saga of our hostas. 

Growing up in Southern California I don't remember seeing or hearing about hostas. Hostas encompass a wide variety of perennial plants that range in size and are generally grown for their attractive leaves/foliage, though some have blooms as well. Our hostas in North Dakota had lovely white edged leaves with small blooms that looked good massed together - we wrote a post with pictures about it way back in 2014.

Hostas seem to be one of the most versatile plants, able to grow in full sun to nearly full shade, and are one of the plants that can tolerate the acidic soil underneath a pine tree. My mother-in-law once remarked "You can't kill hostas". I inadvertently tried to test that theory over the last few years.
Back at our house in Grand Forks, North Dakota, there was a line of hostas on either side of the front walk up to the door. They received regular irrigation and grew so prolifically that they needed to be divided regularly.

My attempt to test the old adage about not being able to kill hostas started several years ago in North Dakota. I dug up and divided some hostas in the front yard, using many of them to line the raised garden beds that I built. But I wound up with too many hostas and not enough places to plant them. My temporary solution was to throw them into leftover black plastic pots until I found a spot to plant them.

A thunderstorm was rolling in as I was potting them up and they were just hastily thrown in the pots. Many pots had large voids. As rain started pouring down on me, I haphazardly threw a few handfuls of mulch into a few pots and left the rest. It was a rushed and shabby potting job.
These poor hostas languished in pots for two years. I put them up on the front steps (they really livened up the front porch - post here). They were watered when I remembered, but were also able to catch rainwater.

When we decided to move to Idaho, I tried to think of ways to bring some of these potted hostas with us. I knew from past experience that moving companies wouldn't move houseplants (spending a week in a sealed box isn't a recipe for houseplant success), so any houseplants that we wanted to bring would have to ride in the car, which was already guaranteed to be pretty full of people and dogs. There was no way there'd be room for hostas.

I waited until the last minute, pretty much the day before the moving van arrived, and gave the potted hostas a final soaking, wrapped them all in a trash bag, boxed them up. I marked "This Side Up" on all sides of the box, but assumed they might spend a week upside down or on their side. 
When the moving truck arrived at our new house there were other pressing concerns, but I did manage to locate and open the hosta box within a couple of days of arrival. They'd spent over a week in a sealed box getting jostled around, but dang if they weren't in pretty good shape. They looked wilted and a little sad, but after a thorough watering and some fresh air, they perked right up.

This brought us to the second phase of hosta neglect, where they sat in a brand new environment, still in pots, reliant on me to remember to water them. And I did water them, but usually only after noticing that they were particularly droopy and wilted. They survived though. Despite sitting on a gravel walkway and enduring 100+ degree heat and low humidity, and an environment to which they were totally not acclimated. When they made it through the winter (which was mild, but still winter), I mustered the gumption to finally plant them.
The two pictures above are the hostas in their new home, underneath the pine trees in the front yard. They get dappled sun for most of the day with an hour or two of direct late afternoon sun. They receive regular irrigation from the lawn sprinklers and seem by all accounts to be glad to no longer rely on me to water them. We'll know in the Spring if they survived their second winter, but they have been pretty tenacious thus far. This may be just an anecdotal sample of four little hostas, but for now it has been proven to be true that "you can't kill hostas".