Meet Günther

Meet our sweet Günther.  He’s a short-haired Saint Bernard, just eight weeks old, and he has the cutest mopey eyes you’ve ever seen. He has little freckles on his nose, too! We just love him.

Our 8 week old Saint Bernard Puppy, Günther. Chelsea 'decorated' him for his picture...
Our 8 week old Saint Bernard Puppy, Günther. Chelsea ‘decorated’ him for his picture…

When Dudley passed we knew we would get another male dog, but we weren’t sure when or what kind of dog we wanted. We thought about getting another malamute, but we both decided we just weren’t ready for that.

We originally planned on getting our boy puppy sometime this fall. We looked into three different breeds we’re very fond of: Saint Bernard, Bernese Mountain Dog, and  Newfoundland.

We started our search looking for a Bernese Mountain Dog. We discovered they are very prone to cancer–sometimes very early cancer. Though you never know what may come with any pet, we didn’t want to get a puppy with such a low average life expectancy–just six years.

We almost placed a deposit on  a Newfoundland puppy, but something wasn’t quite right. After Jake and I visited the parents, we went home to think about it, and I’m glad we did, because we found out we both had reservations. Newfoundlands are amazing, and I would love to own one someday, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t right right now.

Then we found Günther (sounds like Goonther), a Saint Bernard puppy whose litter was born on Valentine’s Day. We love everything about the breed–the size, the temperament, the hair, the drool…okay, maybe we don’t love the drool, but we don’t mind it either. He was exactly what we were looking for.

We placed our deposit on him when he was six weeks old; there were only two males left. He turned eight weeks old yesterday. We drove a total of 19 hours to go pick him up and bring him home (because we’re crazy). It was a long, long day. I don’t have pictures of the drive, because we simply didn’t have time. It was go, go, go all day long.

Chelsea and Günther
Chelsea and Günther

Cold Process Soap vs. Shampoo – Washing a Dog

Over the last few days, Ellie has gotten dirty. Filthy, actually. We’ve been working on getting the backyard ready for planting this year, and that’s involved mowing down a bunch pasture grass and weeds. Ellie thought this was the greatest thing ever, and she rolled around in the freshly cut grass/weeds. Seeds, leaves, twigs, dirt, and who-knows-what-else got caught in her fur.

DSC_0003

Weston and I have horrible allergies and asthma, and it was clear if Ellie was going to come inside she was going to need a bath. We came to this realization last night, and it was too late to run to the store for dog shampoo. What were we going to do?

Since we brought Ellie home, I’ve been searching for a cold process soap recipe for dogs. They have a ph that’s naturally higher than ours (dog’s ph is about 6.2 – 7.4, and ours is 5.5 – 5.6) , and that’s why you shouldn’t use regular shampoo on them. It dries their skin and hair out, and it makes them itchy.

Cold process soap has a naturally high ph. In fact, one human shampoo bar recipe I found includes citric acid to lower the ph and make it more gentle for humans. Is seems weird to write human so many times…anywho…

Right now I am concocting a doggy cold process shampoo bar recipe. I will post it when I’m happy with it. Last night, however, we didn’t have a doggy shampoo bar, so we used one of my dye free, unscented, goat’s milk bars that was made from coconut, olive, and canola oils. It worked so well! She is so soft, fluffy, and white this morning!

Ellie, the morning after her bath.
Ellie, the morning after her bath.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

This week’s photo challenge theme is Threshold. A threshold is a point of entering; that point just before a new beginning — that split-second moment in time, full of anticipation, as according to the Daily Post.

For this challenge, I’m showing you the empty, weed covered little plot of ground that will be my garden this year. In no time at all, the emptiness will be gone, and in it’s place will be a thriving, green garden filled with vegetables, flowers, and fruits. That’s the plan, anyway.

BeforeVegetableGarden
Though not much to look at right now, by summer this will be a lush and thriving vegetable garden–if all goes as planned, of course!

Spring is here, promising longer, warmer days!

Decorative Fruit Tree Blossoms
Decorative Fruit Tree Blossoms
Robins, the heralds of spring, have been making themselves at home.
Robins, the heralds of spring, have been making themselves at home.

Check out this week’s challenge here!

Jazz up Your Morning Oatmeal

We eat a lot of oatmeal. A lot of oatmeal…in fact, we took a break for awhile because I just couldn’t eat anymore. Please, make the oatmeal go away! A  few weeks back it sounded pretty good again. The next day, it still sounded pretty good. I had a few variations that we rotated, but I decided we needed more if we were going to keep eating it on a semi-daily basis. Here’s a few ways we’ve been enjoying it:

This is the recipe I start with:

Serves 4

2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats

4 Cups Water

Couple Dashes Sea Salt

Cook over medium heat until it reaches the consistency you like. 

Add ins:

1. Maple and Molasses – This is very good–especially if you like those instant oatmeal packets, but you want something a little more natural. Just swirl some maple syrup and molasses in your oats while they’re cooking and add a dash of cinnamon. This has been my oatmeal of choice lately.

Maple and Molasses Oatmeal
Maple and Molasses Oatmeal

2. Spiced Raisin – This one reminds me of Grandma’s oatmeal. Add a handful of raisins to your oats before you cook them. Give the whole pot a liberal sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. Top each serving with a little brown sugar.

3. The Deluxe – Swap milk for the water and sprinkle the oatmeal with cinnamon as it cooks. Make sure you stir it constantly or it will scorch – yuck. Top with a teaspoon or two of brown sugar and a pat of real butter.

4. Carrot Cake – Add a handful of grated carrots to the pot before you add the oats. Add some water and let the carrots cook for a few minutes. Add the oats, salt, and the rest of the water (add a little more if needed). Toss in half a handful of raisins. Sprinkle with apple pie spice. Stir in brown sugar, maple syrup, or molasses to sweeten. Top individual bowls with finely chopped pecans or walnuts and a dollop of cream cheese or a drizzle of cream.

5.  Apple Butter – Add a generous dollop of apple butter to each bowl. A drizzle of cream is also good with this. If you want to make your own apple butter, I have a post about it.

6. Super Start – This is how I used to eat my oatmeal every morning. Sprinkle the pot of oatmeal with cinnamon as it cooks. Top each serving with 1 sliced banana, 1 TBSP of Flax Seed, and a drizzle of honey if you want it a little sweeter.

7.   Strawberry and Cream – Add a teaspoon of strawberry preserves to each serving. Add sliced strawberries, a drizzle of cream, and a little sugar if needed. This is good with any berry combination.

8. Apple Cinnamon – This one starts with finely chopped dehydrated apples. I make my own, but you could easily buy some, chop ’em up, and use them as  you need them. Add about a quarter cup of dried chopped apples to the oatmeal as it cooks. Sprinkle generously with apple pie spice. Top each serving with the sweetener of your choice. This is another version that tastes a lot like those little packets…

9. Granola – It seems a little weird to top oatmeal with granola, but let me assure you, it’s really, really good. Top each serving with a generous amount of granola and a little maple syrup.

10 Honey Bear – Stir a little cinnamon into the oatmeal as it cooks. Top each serving with a generous drizzle of honey, cream, and finely chopped pecans.

I hope this helps you jazz up your morning oatmeal! Tell me, what’s your favorite way to eat oats in the morning?

Saying Goodbye

Our Alaskan Malamute, Dudley. In this picture, he's just over a year old and clutching his beloved stuffed raccoon, Chester.
Our Alaskan Malamute, Dudley. In this picture, he’s just over a year old and clutching his beloved stuffed raccoon, Chester.

I’ve been avoiding this post, but it’s finally time to write it. As many of you know, Dudley was diagnosed with diabetes in January. He was on insulin shots twice a day, and we had him on a special prescription diet. At first, it seemed like he was doing pretty well. There were little things that worried us, like the fact that at he’d gone completely deaf or that he was slow to get up in the morning, but he seemed fine.

In the beginning, before we started the insulin, Jake and I decided together that we would only continue his medication if he seemed happy, healthy, and like himself. At first, he did, and then he began to have bad days–days where he couldn’t stand up on his own or when he became grumpy.  There weren’t many of these days in the first month, but then they became more frequent toward the end of February. He became snippy and surly, which wasn’t like Dudley at all. He would cry out in pain if you pet or brushed him just wrong. He didn’t want to eat anymore, and he was always tired. He couldn’t go on walks  because they hurt.

His diabetes seemed under control, but he was quickly deteriorating before our eyes, and he wasn’t happy.  He was tired.

The day we let him go he was having a rare good day. A bright eyed, happy Dudley day. My mother drove in from out of town to help me take him in, and I tried to change my mind. Maybe he wasn’t ready to go? Maybe he’d be okay? Mom listened to my reasoning, she gave me support, and she helped me make the hardest decision I’ve had to make. I let him go on a good day, on a day where he wasn’t in too much pain and wouldn’t know pain again. I knew I made the right decision when he shook uncontrollably when I urged him out of the car–it always hurt him to get out, and he was obviously still in pain.

Mom ended up taking him in for me. She kept a brave face so Dudley wouldn’t think anything was unusual, and she didn’t cry until she got back to the car. She said he was happy till the end. There was never a day in his long life that he doubted he was loved and treasured.

I miss him so much. I’m healing, and so is Jake. Dudley will always have a special place in our hearts as the puppy we got as newlyweds and said goodbye to the year of our tenth anniversary.  He was a gift from God, and we are so thankful he was in our lives.

 

Starting Vegetable and Flower Seeds

There are several reasons I start my own seeds. Here are a few:

1. It’s cheaper than buying plants. We’re talking tons cheaper here, especially when you have a collection of seeds. All of my seeds are at least a year old–some of them are three or four–and they still germinate. I didn’t spend a penny on seed starting supplies this year; they were all leftovers. I take that back, I bought a 20 cent pack of cherry tomato seeds. So I spent 20 cents on seed starting supplies…

Starting Seeds
Starting Seeds

2. You can choose exactly which variety you want to plant. For example, I have both giant zinnias and dwarf zinnias planted. Sometimes it’s hard to find the exact type of flower or vegetable you want in the nursery.

3. It’s gratifying. There is nothing like planting little lifeless seeds and watching them come to life. Later in the summer, when your little seedlings  produce vegetables or flowers, you will feel an amazing sense of accomplishment.

4. To kids, it’s a magical process. Okay, it’s still kind of magical to me. God is amazing. If you’re homeschooling, starting seeds is a must when you study plants (I think it is, anyway).

 I usually place 2 seeds in each pod–except for squash, and then I only plant 1.  If there are two healthy seedlings in each pod, I separate them when they have two true leaves. Here’s what I have started this year:

10 Zucchini Dark Squash – These are the seeds that are several years old. Right now, 60% of these seeds have germinated. They have been in the soil for almost two weeks, so I think that’s all I will get. If you plant old seeds, make sure you plant extras. I did, and right now I have 6 zucchini plants. If you’re familiar with squash, you will know that’s way more than enough…

Zucchini Seedlings
Zucchini Seedlings

10 Roma Grande Tomatoes – These are last years seeds. I didn’t notice any difference in the germination rate than the year before. Since I have 2 in almost every pod, I will separate these once they have two true leaves, and end up with about 15 – 20 plants.

6 Early Treat Hybrid Tomatoes – Also last years seeds. After I separate, I will have 10 – 12 plants.

Tomato Seedlings
Tomato Seedlings

26 – Large Red Cherry Tomatoes – As always, I planted lots of extras to give away to friends and family. I planted these later, so they haven’t spouted yet, but I should end up with 42 – 50 plants.

6 Sweet Hybrid Mix Bell Peppers – Just planted. I should end up with 6 – 10 plants.

6 Hot Salsa Mix Hot Peppers – Just planted. I should up with 6 – 12 plants.

10 Lavandula angustifolia True Lavender – Just planted. Should end up with 15 – 20 plants.

10 Matriccaria recutita German Chamomile – Just planted. Should end up with 15 – 20 plants.

46 – California Giants, Mixed Colors Zinnias – My favorite, favorite flowers. Love them! Just planted. Should end up with 80-92 plants. Just think of how much it would cost to buy those in the nursery!

Zinnia Seedlings
Zinnia Seedlings

20 Thumbelina, Mixed Colors Zinnias – Just like my favorite, but only 6 inches tall! Just planted. Should end up with 32 – 38 plants.

There are several vegetables you can’t start inside –peas, carrots, radishes, and beets are a few examples. There are a few vegetables I don’t recommend you start inside, but you can. Two that come to mind are pumpkins, which get massive very quickly, and cucumbers, which don’t transplant well.

Herbs start well, as do many flowers, especially annuals. One thing to keep in mind, many perennials will not flower the first year they are started. I plan on starting two whole flats of daisies once this batch of seedlings is in the ground, but I’m not in any hurry, because they won’t flower this year. You have to wait a long time for your first blooms on many perennials, but it’s worth it! If you want nearly instant gratification, plant marigolds. Those almost always start to bloom before I get them in the ground!

You will need a few basic supplies if you want to get started.

1. Seeds – That’s kind of a given, I think.

2. Seed Starting Soil – Sometimes I use plain potting soil, but your seedlings are safer in sterile potting medium. You risk damping off if you use potting soil. Basically, your baby seedlings may die over night because of pathogens in the soil. Not fun.

3. Containers — these can be flats, six packs, egg cartons, yogurt containers…you get the point. I prefer flats of six packs from garden supply companies, but last year I bought the cheap ones from Lowes. Since that’s what I had leftover, that’s what I used this year. Make sure you have some sort of tray underneath. I like to water from below, so I just pour water in tray and the soil sucks it up.

4. Light – In my old house, I had a beautiful south facing room that worked very well. My husband bought me a cheap storage tower from Wal-Mart, and we set it up about six inches from the sliding glass door. I started hundreds and hundreds of seeds that way. In my new home, I don’t have a room that gets enough light. This year I have taken over my husband’s work bench in his garage. There’s a lovely fluorescent light hung low just above the bench, and it was just begging to be used for seedlings. This seems ideal. The only drawback is that I had to wait later in the season before I started the seeds; it’s important the temperature in the garage doesn’t dip too low. If it looks like it will, I will have to bring all my flats inside. This isn’t as fun as it sounds.

Seed Starting Bench with Fluorescent Light
Seed Starting Bench with Fluorescent Light

 

Planting is easy.

Fill your containers with soil, plant the seeds according to the directions on the packets.

Drizzle water from above using warm–not hot–water. Be careful not to disturb the seeds. I like to use the spray nozzle on my kitchen sink set as low as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap or the clear lid that comes with the flats (I don’t always do this–especially if I must use plastic wrap), and then take the cover off when your seeds begin to sprout.

Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soaked. Make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable, and provide lots of light! 

Later I will show you how I move my seedlings to the garden! 

Tell me, are you starting seeds this year? If  you are, what you growing?