Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Aunt Debbi Visits the Texas Triffid Ranch and Lives to Tell about it.

A couple of weekends ago, I took a trip with Baby Monkey to visit Paul Riddell at his home aka the Texas Triffid Ranch. We spent a lovely afternoon with Paul and his beautiful wife Carolyn who Paul sweetly refers to as The Czarina. My only regret of the afternoon was that I did not have enough time to check out Carolyn’s handcrafted jewelry. I did spy one very pretty piece on the dining room table and barely managed to fight off the urge to snatch it, kidding….sort of.

Paul’s obsession with knowledge of carnivorous plants is amazing. He showed us his greenhouse his other greenhouse, his composting bin, his container collection and his nemesis - The Arrogant Tree Rat (squirrel). Baby Monkey happily ran the squirrel off one time, but we are positive it will be back to dig in Paul’s containers.

The real stars of the show were the carnivorous plants. I can’t say that I remember the particulars about each variety, because the information was coming at me fast and furious. The man knows his flesh eating plants. Baby Monkey was mesmerized. I don’t think I have ever seen him that still and focused. We were lucky enough to come when some of the pitcher plants were blooming. The blooms are very interesting. They are shaped in a way that forces pollinators to come into them wander around a little, get pollen on them and then get back out, sort of like bug a maze.

Paul has graciously agreed to come speak to our young library patrons during our Summer Reading Program. After watching my little man completely enthralled by the descriptions of these fascinating plants, I know Paul will be a big hit with the library kids.

The purpose of my trip was actually to pick up a bag of bat guano. Bat guano is excellent plant fertilizer. It also smells funny. I am told it is a very bad idea to inhale any of the dust, so I won’t. Paul volunteers at Bat World, and scooped me up this bag of crap there. I’ve never been more grateful. Look at the print on the bag, cute right?

Fuzzy Picture of a Bag of Bat Guano

Friday, April 22, 2011

Keeping it Clean

I made my own dishwasher powder, liquid dish soap and laundry powder this morning.  I took the advice of a couple of friends, Cindy Wagner and Michael Nolan , and mixed up the concoctions.

The first thing I did was explode half a bar of Zote soap in the microwave.  This was very fun and much easier than shredding it.  Next time I will cut it into several smaller pieces to speed up the process. 

The dishwasher powder was 1 cup borax, 1 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup washing soda and a few drops of orange oil shook up together in a Mason jar. There is no actual soap in this recipe.  Worked great on my first load of dishes.  I do put white vinegar in the rinse aid dispenser in the dishwasher door.  This keeps the glasses and such from looking cloudy.  Love some sparkly wine glasses :)

The liquid dish soap was about a cup of exploded Zote soap 1/2 cup of borax and a tablespoon or so of washing soda dissolved in boiling water.  Next time, I am going to make it a little thicker.  It worked great, but  I am going to get used to the lack of suds.

The laundry powder was the rest of that bar of exploded soap, 2 cups of borax and 1/2 cup of washing soda all mixed up with a blender.  I put a little vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser.  The laundry came out nice and clean.  

What kind of earth friendly cleaners do you like?

Happy Earth Day 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Austin's Quilt

I started this quilt at 4:00 Friday afternoon. Just put the last stitch in the binding at 9:30 Sunday night.
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Friday, April 15, 2011

ALL ABOUT THE CHICKENS!!!! Guest Post by Michael Middleton


I recently visited my grandparent’s chicken farm in Dallas, Texas. It was an exciting adventure that I would like to experience again. The chickens were a riot that weekend! I can’t get enough of them.

The names of the chickens are- Star, tepee, Sam, Bugger, and Wingding.

All of the chickens have their own personality in many different ways, just like people.

Star is the oldest chicken in the bunch and is also the dominant chicken. She tells the other chickens what to do by pecking order. Pecking order is like dog domination in chicken form. And how do they do this? You guessed it! Pecking. Now think of Star as the boss of them all. She decides everything.

Tepee has her own little story. It all started the chicken farm. Here’s how it goes. My cousins were out at the end of the small property when they found two chickens Star and Tepee. So, both of them took the chickens to my Grandparents. They looked for the owners, and didn’t find them. They thankfully decided to keep them. And they got more chickens. That’s how the farm was made.

Tepee does have a health problem. She is blind in one eye. But, that doesn’t make her unhappy. She is just like any other chicken.

Sam is the newest chicken at the farm. She makes a good addition to the farm. But, she refused to use the nesting boxes. I guess she wanted some privacy. So, one day my Granny caught the chicken in her tool shed! In return she got her own privet nesting box in the tool shed. It was a weird compensation but it worked out nicely.

Bugger is a Red Cochen that is at the moment is brooding. Brooding is when a chicken lays a clutch of eggs, and sits on them for twenty two days. This is a disaster for chicken farmers. So, on my visit all of us tried to let the other chickens nest while she couldn’t. It was complicated but, it all worked out. Bugger also has a crocked beak. She goes to the vet every month to get her beak trimmed down so she can eat.

There is not much to say about Wingding. She is a Blue Cochen chicken, and she is a wonderful fluff ball. Very kind, gentle, and great with people!

The Hen House is where all chickens do almost anything. They eat, sleep, and lay eggs! Where they sleep is very interesting. All of the chickens sleep on roosts on the higher ends of the house.

What do they eat? Many types of feeds, grass, and worms. The three types of feed my granny gives them is scratch, laying pellets, and shell.

My experience was amazing. Knowing what the chickens importance and purpose helped me know a better understanding of these little fluff balls. Now my best idea of taking care of chickens is: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CHICKENS!!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Baking Soda Magic Eraser

While setting up to take this picture, I noticed some icky greasy mess on the back of the stove top. I have asthma and cannot use harsh smelling cleaners or anything containing ammonia. Baking soda with orange oil has been the primary cleaner in our household. Recently, I discovered that baking soda and any liquid soap will clean just as well as baking soda and orange oil. This is good news because orange oil is expensive. Now I only use orange oil when I want the place to be clean and smell good - you know, company clean. Anyway, needing to clean the stove up quickly and take the picture, I just sprinkled some baking soda on a damp towel and started wiping the surface down. The baking soda basically erased the greasy mess. Aunt Debbi - doing more and more with less and less :)