I grew up in the Midwest but have lived on the wet coast since I was thirteen. I really don't see myself as rustic, even though I have had the whole barn experience.

Yet, I love to be sides, love my dogs, camping, and knitting. All of these things tend to get lumped up together under the rustic country category. And people tend to tell me how much of a country girl I am even though they know that that is only a small portion of who I am.

But then I bring it on myself.

For example I knitted my wedding dress on the train commute to work every day for about five months. And I think knitted gowns are to die for. They aren't just for country, but they do make a bigger appearance their. In general I think knitting is perfect for a wedding. And a knitted wedding dress is just so unique.

Mine was modest, simple, flattering- everything I love about wedding dresses.

These days it almost makes sense to knit your dress - it's a good way to get out of having to buy a disposable dress like you're going to get pressured to, and engagements tend to be quite long, so there might well be time. However I still think that all the horror stories out there about people trying to make their own dress and being too tired/stressed about it should be taken as a note of caution.

It more comes down to what your expectations for wedding dresses and knitting projects are. How offended is your family going to be?

My family was super supportive, and I only got positive reinforcement. They knew I could do it and I saved a lot in so doing.

How much? Well, had I bought a dress that was similar then I would have spent about $1700, while my dress cost me (minus the time, which would have been spent reading instead) just short of $40.

No you didn't mis read. That is a savings of $1660.

Stupidly, I documented almost nothing. For each of the six panels of the skirt, my brother helped me painstakingly calculated how many stitches I would need to increase and at what rate to make the shape indicated by the sewing pattern. I have some of our scratch paper from that process but I didn't keep track of what math belonged to what panels, and what worked and what didn't.

It was very much a flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants project. For example I had to completely redo two pieces because when I went to block them they were not even close to the right shape. I still can't believe it worked.

Suffice it to say, I was very happy with the results.

I used Queensland Bamboo Cotton, but I wouldn't recommend it for two reasons: It's not being made anymore, at least in white, and it stretched like crazy after I blocked it. I finished the dress, laid it flat for two months, and then when I put it on for the wedding it was four inches longer. This was fine, but only because the rest of the fit was thankfully the way I had intended it to be.

The hem did change colors as it got repeatedly trampled during the reception.

If it would have been warmer I probably would have done a wedding dress that was a little more modern. One that didn't trail behind me. As that was my biggest complaint with it.


We go camping with our dogs pretty frequently. Depending on how cold it gets you might want to also bring some blankets or even an old sleeping bag for the dog.

Some of my other suggestions are pretty obvious, so I moved this one way up:

  1. Get a leash-light thing. In the off chance that the dog gets off the leash or take off at night, you don't want to be stumbling around searching for them with your flashlight - it's not fun. Put a light on that sucker.
  2. Use a harness and keep the dog on a leash at all times. And make sure to actually secure the other end of that leash to something else.
  3. Bring lots of water and be prepared to take your dog everywhere you go.
  4. Make sure they have their proper tags. And likewise, make sure they're up to date on flea/tick medication and other shots.
  5. Once darkness rolls around and we have the fire going, the dog will be pretty happy to just snooze until sunup, whether it's next to you around a campfire or kept secure inside your tent. My dogs are usually pretty glad to sleep on top of my air mattress in the tent while I'm enjoying the fire, but it gets a little cramped once I head to bed, so I like having something else they can sleep on.

Educate yourself on whether dogs are even allowed where you are going. For example, there are no dogs allowed most wilderness areas in national parks. That is they are often not allowed on trails.

This can save you a lot of trouble down the road.

While dogs are allowed in the camping areas most national parks. ational forests seldom prohibit dogs.

We've been to a majority of wilderness areas and national parks in west coast states and they pretty much all prohibit dogs anywhere but parking lots and camping sites. Some places allow dogs on select trails, but they are usually shorter trails around campgrounds. National forests and most state parks are good with dogs as long as they are leashed.


The early weeks and months are crucial for getting your pup to experience all sorts of things and especially important for socializing with other dogs and humans. They are learning their skills for life, if you plan on making it a large part of their life then get them used to it

But don't jump onto the trail right away.

At the very least, I would recommend waiting until he has all of his vaccines, so 4-ish months. The last thing you want is for your dog to get into tussle with a raccoon before he has his rabies vaccine. Talk to your vet so the dog gets all of the appropriate vaccines and flea/tick treatments when it's tick season.

For longer hikes, wait until he's fully grown. The physical strain of those kinds of hikes on a growing puppy can cause joint problems in the future.

Get them some boots for their paws. Keep an eye on your terrain.

My dog got blisters from a long hike over stony terrain and it was just terrible to recover from. I picked up mukluks to protect his feet. I was pretty diligent about boots so the blisters are rare but on a small dirt hike he picked up a stone in between his paw pads. We caught it when he started limping. Do a paw check after hikes.

First and foremost, make sure he's on preventatives for fleas, ticks, heartworm (which is transmitted by mosquitos), or any other parasites that may be common in your area.

Check for ticks daily and be prepared to remove them.

Those are all far more likely to cause problems for your dog than any other kind of wildlife out there. Also do a thorough tick check after hiking/camping. Even with preventatives, they still sometimes attach.

Make sure your vet knows that you're planning to hike and camp with your dog.

Ask if there are any specific vaccines they would recommend. The exact vaccines he'll need will vary depending on where you live, but some examples of what your vet may recommend include leptospirosis and Lyme vaccines.

Third, get a dog first aid kit and familiarize yourself with how to use it.

It's also worth learning which human medications/treatments can be safely used on a dog and which cannot. You might also want to consider training your dog to wear booties (so you can put a boot on him if he injures his paw) and training him to wear a muzzle.

Even the most friendly dogs can lash out when they're injured--you don't want an injured dog and a bite to your hand/face.

As for preventing encounters with wildlife, keeping your dog on leash will prevent most of those encounters. If you want to hike with your dog off leash, make sure you train a rock-solid recall to keep him out of sticky situations.

In camp I just use a 25ft cable tie out wrapped around a picnic table leg or tree. Other people tie a rope between two trees and attach the dog's leash to the rope.

Your dog should get water and snacks when you do (or more frequently) on a hike. Be mindful of the heat as dogs don't sweat, give him as much water during and after a hike as he desires, and find shady spots on the trail to pause and let him cool down.

Food should be pretty easy.

I usually bring A can of screw as food since I know he's burning lots of calories out on the trail.

Just go and experiment.

Take more than you need then adjust accordingly. If you're going to feed your dog structured meals at home, I suggest you do--labs will almost always eat themselves to obesity if free fed, just pack as much food for as many meals as you need. If you're going to be doing a lot of hiking or particularly strenuous activity, plan to feed your dog a little more than what he would eat at home.

I portion my dogs' food into individual baggies for each meal ahead of time to make things easy. This probably goes without saying, but bears and other wildlife will be just as attracted to dog food as to human food. Store dog food appropriately while camping.

Water is a little harder to judge, and to be honest, you're probably going to have to figure it out as you go along.

You can kinda judge based on how much water your dog drinks at home, but he'll probably need more while hiking. If you're car camping or can otherwise spare the weight, bring extra. Be careful about letting your dog drink untreated water from a river/lake/etc. Giardia can affect dogs too.

Honestly, going for a hike with their humans and chilling with them at a campsite is in and of itself a good time for many dogs, especially for hardy, outdoorsy breeds like labs.

If you want to do more with your dog, a game of fetch would probably be fun, or let him swim, if it's allowed and safe, or give him something to chew on while you sit around the fire.

This might go without saying, but from one dog owner to another, please don't give dog owners a bad name amongst hikers and campers.

  • pick up his poop, if you're in the backcountry, bury it like you would with human waste:
  • follow dog-related park rules
  • don't take him on trails where dogs aren't allowed
  • don't let him run up to other hikers/campers without their permission
  • don't let him wander into other camp sites
  • don't let him harass wildlife
  • if you're on a narrow trail and meet another hiker
  • move to the side of the trail and have your dog sit until the other hiker has passed
  • keep him quiet at night
  • and remember that not everyone likes dogs and those people have just as much right to enjoy their time in the outdoors as you do

There are many parks that don't allow dogs partially because too many dog owners can't be bothered to be responsible for their dogs.

Please don't give parks more reasons to ban dogs.

I hope you have a good time in the outdoors with your new puppy! It really is a lot of fun for both humans and dogs. My two hike and camp with me at every possible opportunity.


I take my dogs camping all the time. My dogs are more into camping than my children. I guess that is why they have come along since they were young. But no one wants your dog in their campsite. That is absolutely, no one wants to hear your dog.

Unless you have an air-conditioned camper for your dog to sleep in while your gone, you'll need to plan all your activities to include the dog.

But keep them with you.

Most people will be sooner to shoot the dog if it stumbles upon their campsite and then claim self-defense-the-dog-was-attacking-me rather than wanting to play with it. Keep him leashed. I see signs posted for lost dogs in the wilderness areas around my home all too often. If your pup runs off, finding his way back will be extremely difficult and dangerous.

He has entered the food chain.

I have some country property that is visited by wild packs of dogs quite often in the night. A vast majority of the dogs are collared meaning they were former household pets that got lost and joined a pack.

The weak dogs are killed and the stronger ones become wild.

Before you set out train your dog to recall before you go.

Because a reliable recall will save your dogs life. Plus if you put time and effort into this before hand your dog isn't apt to wander in the first place. Leashes and tie outs are great, but if your dog gets loose it's great if you know you can just call it back. You can also condition puppies to a whistle by just blowing it a couple times everytime you feed them. Toot, toot and food falls out of the sky.

Puppy gets loose, toot, toot, and puppy's runs back thinking it is dinner time.

Connect the harness and collar but lead the dog off the collar, the dog will pull less. Working breeds will switch into tow mood in a harness when force is applied.

When you are in camp you can give them more range, you can string one of these cords (or some strong paracord/ webbing) between two trees, then attach a leash or another long cord to the line, and hook the dog up to that. It gives them more room to run around and they aren't as likely to get the line wrapped around a tree. This is something that happens if you stake the line. Like this they can move about but not get tangled on anything.

Include them in your activities - they like hiking and swimming even more than you do. I take a long tie-out cable and run it between two trees and then attach leashes to it with carabiners so they can move around at the campsite to some extent.

When the dog is full grown, look into dog backpacks and other gear. Dogs love to carry their own gear.

Just remember when loading up your dog with a pack, they should only carry 10% of there weight in a pack max.

Be sure to have dog-related first aid for any sore paws or cuts and scrapes that might occur. Know in advance where the nearest vet will be.

Bring something to entertain your dog when you're sitting around the fire in the evening (chew toy, rawhide, whatever.) Dogs get bored too.

But remember some dogs just don't camp well.

You might have to abort the trip if your dog barks all night, is too uncomfortable with the new environment to eat, is obviously miserable, etc. So don't travel far for his/her first camping trip. Also, be mindful of temperature. Dogs can suffer heat stroke (e.g. no place shady to lay on a hot day) or hypothermia (no shelter from rain when temps are cooler at night.)

A colar light (or a cheap headlamp with the strap around his neck) is nice for keeping track of him in the dark.