Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Border Collie Merry Christmas 2015

Seasons Greetings from Hank and Tim

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Homemade Dog Cookie Epic Fail

I had some left-over turkey and thought it would be a great idea to use it to make some homemade dog cookies for my own dogs as well as to give as gifts to some of our canine pals.  I searched the internet and found a recipe that sounded good and bought a cute bone-shaped cookie cutter.  Here is what they were supposed to look like:

Bone Shaped Dog treats (Photo Credit:  Flint River Ranch Company - used with permission)
Here is how the dog cookies I made looked:

Epic FAIL Dog Cookies
Fortunately my dogs don't care what they look like.  Tim thinks they are fantastic.

Tim the border collie enjoying a dog cookie disaster
Hank loved them, too!

Hank the border collie enjoying a dog cookie disaster
Bless their hearts, they will eat anything I make, but we won't be giving them as gifts!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Hike to the Tiger Mountain Christmas Tree

An annual tradition for many hikers in the Seattle area is a trip to the Tiger Mountain Christmas Tree. I couldn't find out how it began, but some years ago people started hanging Christmas decorations on a tree deep in the forest on Tiger Mountain.  Since I had heard stories about this secret tree from other hikers, I was very excited to try to go find this magnificent holiday tree.

Border Collies Tim and Hank ready to hike 

Directions to Tiger Mountain 

Tiger Mountain has several trail heads, but for our hike to the Tiger Mountain Christmas Tree we started from the popular High Point trailhead about 30 minutes east of Seattle right off I-90 exit 20.


 Take I-90 exit 20 and turn south (right if coming eastbound from Seattle or left if traveling I-90 westbound).  Unless you arrive extremely early on a weekday, the cars parked at this very popular trailhead will be visible before you arrive at the exit.  Parking is available all along the dead-end road to the left on SE 79th.  Since this is a Washington State forest, a Discover Pass is required to park.

Directions to the Tiger Mountain Christmas Tree

Tiger Mountain Highpoint Trailhead
After parking, walk back (east) to the corner of SE 79th and 270th Ave SE where there is a gate.  Walk past the gate along the road, past the pond to the end of the road. The trail begins to the right just past the pond.

The Christmas Tree isn't marked on any trail map that I know of and with over 50 miles of trails meandering through the forest on Tiger Mountain it can be a little tricky to find, so I always recommend taking a map.  This waterproof map that includes all of the Issaquah Alps is the one that I use when hiking in the area.

(this is an afilliate link - if you buy something, I may earn a commision)

#Spoiler Alert! - if you want to be surprised when you do the hike and don't want to see a photo of this gorgeous tree, do NOT look at the last photo on this page.

Tim and Hank leashed as we start up Tiger Mountain
The fern lined trail starts in a winding uphill climb under some big leaf maple trees.  With noses to the ground taking in all of the great scents, Tim and Hank are leashed up because this hike requires that dogs be leashed.  We proceeded up the trail with me in great anticipation of the beautifully decorated tree we were seeking.

The trail through large trees on Tiger Mountain
Soon we are out of the maples and into a forest of towering evergreen trees and the trail leveled out somewhat. At the first trail junction, take the Lingering Trail.

Tiger Mountain Intersection of Lingering Trail and  Dwight's Way Trail
At the intersection of Lingering Trail and Dwight's Way Trail, take Dwight's Way toward the Preston Trail.  At every turn we were getting closer to our destination.

Bootleg Trail Sign Tiger Mountain
From Dwight's Way, turn onto the lower Bootleg Trail, then proceed onto the middle Bootleg Trail.

Tiger Mountain Sign at the Junction of Bootleg Trail and Paw Print Connector Trails
Proceed to the Paw Print Connector, turn right and the tree is just off the upper Bootleg Trail about 100 yards up above the Paw Print Connector junction.  I can hardly wait to see this gorgeous tree.  I wanted to be surprised at the grandeur of a secret Christmas Tree hidden in the forest, so I had intentionally not looked at any photos before we hiked up Tiger Mountain to see it.   Remember, don't look at the photo below if you want to be surprised when you get there.

Photo of the Tiger Mountain Christmas Tree

Tim and Hank at the Tiger Mountain Christmas Tree
For those who did not heed the spoiler alert at the beginning, as you can see, the tree itself is a rather scrawny, nondescript specimen.   It is definitely in the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree category.   I think it is a Western Hemlock which is not even a good species to use for a Christmas Tree.. (A Douglas fir or grand fir would have been a better choice.)  We took this photo, added a small bell covered in birdseed, had a snack and headed back to the trailhead.  Any sunny fall day spent hiking in the Issaquah Alps is a good day and it added to the fun to search for and find the Tiger Mountain Christmas Tree.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Joy of Snow

Hank the Border Collie on a Snowy Day

Hank the Border Collie Taking a Walk in the Snow

Hank the border collie drops down for a roll in the snow
Hank rolls left

Hank rolls right

Hank rolls on his back

Hank rolling in a circle in the snow

Did Hank get every bit of his body covered in snow?

Enough rolling in the snow for now

Monday, November 30, 2015

Yam and Sweet Potato Dog Chews

Easy DIY Dog Treats

Yam and sweet potato chews are healthy, nutritious, grain-free treats for your dog.  Although you can buy sweet potato chews (see below), they are expensive to buy and making them yourself is easy and inexpensive.

(Disclosure:  I am an Amazon Associate and may earn a commission if you purchase something through the above link.)

How to Make Yam or Sweet Potato Chews

I usually make a big batch of yam and sweet potato jerky around the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays when they tend to be readily available and on sale.  For this batch I used three large yams, but the process is exactly the same whether you use sweet potatoes or yams.

Washing yams

First I rinse the yams in water to wash off any surface dirt and then dry them off.

Yams sliced in half 
Since yams can be hard and difficult to cut, I find it easier and safer to cut them in half first.  Then I cut off any bad spots and turn them flat side down on the cutting board to prevent them from rolling around when I slice them.

Slicing yams lengthwise
Since my dogs are medium to large and are very enthusiastic chewers, I like to make big yam jerky strips by cutting them length-wise about 1/4 inch thick.  No, I don't measure each one. I like to keep things easy.  If you have smaller dogs or want to make more bite-size pieces you can also cut them cross-wise into half rounds.

Yam slices ready for dehydrating in the oven

After I've finished slicing I arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer.  To prevent the slices from sticking to the baking sheet and make clean-up easier, line the pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.  Don't use non-stick sprays, oil or butter.

Dehydrating Yam Chews in the oven
Bake in the oven at 250 F for about 3 hours.  I sometimes also use my food dehydrator, which typically takes about 24 hours.

Turning the yam chew slices
After about an hour and a half (about half-way through the baking time), turn the slices.

Yam slices cooling
Some of the smaller slices will get done faster, so about the last half-hour of baking, I start removing ones that are dried and set them on a baking sheet to cool.  A few of the thicker, larger slices may take a bit longer.

Will Your Dog Like Yam Chews?

Since a picture beats a thousand words, below are photos showing what my border collies, Tim and Hank think about yam chews.

Here is Tim's reaction.....  Sorry about the blurry photo.  It was hard to slow him down enough to take a clearer shot.

Tim the border collie taking his yam chew

And here is a photo of an eager Hank.  Please watch the fingers, buddy!

Hank the border collie with a home-made yam jerky treat

In case you wanted to see another photo of Tim being offered another yam jerky treat.  

Tim the border collie goes wild for yam jerky
And below another photo of wild-eyed Hank....

Hank the border collie eating a home-made yam chew treat

Easy on the fingers, again buddy!  Yes, that's drool on the chin in anticipation of his yam chew.  So I guess that would be 4 paws up from Tim and Hank.  Or would it be 8 paws up?

If you don't want to make your own (but why wouldn't you?), I recommend Sam's Yam's.  They are a natural dried sweet potato chew made in the USA:

(Disclosure: I am an Amazon Associate and will receive a commission if you make a purchase through this link.)

Sweet Potato and Yam Nutritional Information

sweet potato nutrition facts: cal 120, fat 0 g, carbs 29 g, dietary fiber 4 g, sugars 9 g, protein 2 g, vit a 520%, vit c 35%, calcium 4%, iron 6%
Sweet Potato and Yam Nutritional Information - USDA - Public Domain

Sweet potatoes and yams are high in several important nutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron and calcium. They are also fat-free and low in sodium.  Obviously the nutritional information above obtained from the USDA is what is recommended for humans, but these vitamins and minerals are important for our pets, too.

Storing Your Home-made Yam Chews

If the chews are thoroughly dehydrated they could be kept in a jar, which looks cute, but if you live in a humid climate they might retain enough moisture to mold.  I keep mine in the freezer just to be on the safe side and take out a few at a time to thaw.  Or my dogs will even eat them frozen!

Yam jerky treats in a jar

Have your dogs tried yam and sweet potato chews?  How did they react?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Border Collies in a Frenzy

Since moving into the country a few months ago, my border collies have lots of room to run and get plenty of exercise, so I thought they would be too tired to get into mischief.  I was wrong.  While they do have some down time, numerous times a day they jump up, bark and run to the door and want to go out.

Border Collies Hank and Tim  - "Let us Out!"
I make them wait before letting them out the door. First I check to make sure there isn't someone at the door or something dangerous.  Besides it is just our house rules.  Dogs don't run out the door without being released.  So, it is.....


Border Collies Tim and Hank by the door


Border Collies Tim and Hank waiting not so patiently


Border Collies on the run

And in a blur they run out the door full speed into a nearby grove of pine trees.  Obviously their more sensitive canine ears or noses have picked up sounds or scents I can't detect.  It is time for me to find out what is causing them to go into a frenzy several times a day, so I followed.

Tim the Border Collie sniffing
They run to the base of one of the trees where Tim is the first to start sniffing around.

Pine Cone fragments
A closer look at what Tim is checking out reveals a pile of pine cone fragments.

Tim the Border Collie trying to climb a tree
Tim is looking up and seems to be interested in something that ran up one of the trees.  It looks like he is trying to climb the tree.

Border collies, Tim and Hank, checking out a tree trunk
Apparently Hank decided that Tim needed assistance.

A nest in a tree
I looked up to see what might be up in the tree and spy what I'm guessing is someone's cozy nest.   Then I heard some chattering and the dogs went berserk.  I located the source of the sound on a nearby branch.

A Red Pine Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudonsonicus) in a Pine Tree
The sound was familiar so I was not surprised to see a red pine squirrel.  Although we had a different species of squirrel living around our home in western Washington they drove the dogs crazy, too.

A Red Pine Squirrel Chattering
The squirrel turned and looked at us and after another quick series of squeaky chirps, it ran off along a branch and jumped through the air to a branch on another tree and kept running and jumping from tree to tree with the dogs in hot pursuit on the ground below.

Tim the border collie
A few minutes later the dogs must have lost sight and sound of the squirrel in a thicker grove of trees and returned.  Tim seemed especially pleased with himself after chasing off that pesky squirrel.  My dogs seem to think it is their job to keep the squirrels away.  Does your dog chase squirrels, too?  Or do you have a dog that ignores squirrels?