Thursday, 16 April 2015

Diatomaceous Earth For Natural Bug Control

One of the things you have to be careful about in chicken care is controlling lice and mites on the birds. No matter how clean you keep the coop, wild birds will carry these pests to your flock. The standard procedure is to dust the coop and chickens with Diatomaceous Earth.  Lice and mites can weaken a bird by feeding on it, so it's important to keep these pests under control.

You see it here as the white powder sprinkled throughout the hay in my newly cleaned coop. ~

I wasn't about to start dowsing my girls with this stuff without doing some heavy duty research first. What I discovered was a natural insect control product that can be used not only in the coop, but in the vegetable and flower gardens and inside my home.

What is it?  It is the fossilized remains of aquatic organisms called diatoms. They accumulated in the silt of waterways and is mined from those sites since the 1800's. Crushed into a fine powder, it has uses for a drying or binding agent and to control insect infestations. It's in many of the bug control products marketed for garden use.

It comes in various grades and I want to be absolutely clear that I am only talking about food grade certified Diatomaceous. I'm saying it twice, only use certified food grade diatomaceous earth. Let's make that three times. It's food grade that is safe for you, your children, and your pets.

Here's how it works. When insects crawl over the powdered Diatomaceous Earth, the sharp particles damage their exoskeleton.  This allows the powder to enter the insect and dehydrate it.

It does not hurt creatures that do not have an exoskeleton, even if it is consumed orally. This makes it an ideal pest control product for inside the home. Sprinkled in areas where there is a problem with fleas, ticks, spiders, ants, bedbugs etc. it will kill all the bugs passing over it.

In the case of pet flea control, carpets, pet beds and furniture can be sprinkled with the powder and it can be sprinkled on the fur of the pet. It doesn't hurt your cat or dog to lick the powder off. I've used it with no ill effect on my cats. The only downside was the cats dragging the powder from the carpets to the rest of the house. I admit it was a nightmare of white paw prints that had to be cleaned off every surface they could manage to tromp all over! In my opinion, it was worth the mess to avoid putting chemicals on or in the cats to get rid of the fleas.

After about a week, the new flea eggs will have hatched and the process has to be done all over again.

I also leave a fine dusting of Diatomaceous Earth in the basement to kill spiders and centipedes.

Pots of herbs and weather sensitive plants that are brought indoors to overwinter should have a dusting of it on the pot soil to be sure you aren't importing bugs into the house.

It's the only product I use in my vegetable garden and flower beds now.  Since it is food grade and I can actually eat the stuff with no ill effects, I'm comfortable putting it on my vegetable plants when there is a bug problem and still have organic produce.

What does it cost? I find the price fluctuates wildly depending on the retailer. Garden centres sell a small canister or bag for around $8.00. I've seen stores specialising in organic and natural insect control charging over $60.00 for a 50 lb bag. I bought my 50 lb. bag at my local feed mill for $8.00 so do some price shopping in your area. Once you've determined it's food grade, you don't need any pretty packaging or chic labels to get the job done safely and quickly. I've been using the same 50 lb. bag for three years, have given tubs of it away and still have three-quarters of it left.

How do you use it?  I use a mask while I'm sprinkling the dust so I'm not breathing in the fine powder. Any  powder, inhaled, can be an irritant to lungs, sinus and throat. It is a drying agent and can irritate eyes so protective glasses are a good idea. For the same reason, I don't sprinkle it near pet's eyes or mouths.
It's recommended you leave it on surfaces in the home for four to twelve hours before vacuuming it up. I left it on my carpets for several days to be sure every flea had ample time to crawl over it.
It should only be sprinkled on dry surfaces. Dampness reduces the effectiveness of the powder and I find it solidifies into a bit of a paste if it gets wet that is difficult to clean up.
I sprinkle the powder on days when the windows are closed and no fans are running so it isn't stirred up into the air, causing potential breathing problems.
It only takes a thin layer of the dust to be effective. If you apply it too thickly to surfaces, it may cause clogging of your vacuum. I've never had a problem but somewhere I read that caution.
I sprinkle it on the floor, nesting boxes and perches of the coop. Once a month or so, I add a bit to the chicken feeders for a natural dewormer.

There you go. No more dangerous chemicals, low cost, earth friendly and your bug troubles are gone!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Chickens Go On Holiday

Warm weather is here!  It reached 19 degrees celsius (66 F) today and I could hardly make myself take the time to gulp down a cup of coffee before I hit the great outdoors.

The chickens were just as anxious to 'fly the coop'.  Once again, they made me laugh at how much they act like us.  Like any good Canadian, they couldn't wait to leave  the main coop and go to the quarantine coop cottage.

The little coop is barely big enough to hold 2 chickens comfortably, but they all crowded in. It has no amenities, no waterer or feeder, or straw lined nesting boxes. It's a rustic cedar cottage and they had the time of their lives in there. I would call them silly chickens, but I've squashed my family into a cedar shack, that had very few amenities, many a time and called it our vacation.

Since they were on holiday, they did a little sunning and bathing. ~

Nothing is finer on a sunny, spring day than to head for the woods on a hike, with a pickup picnic lunch. ~

Their personalities are as different as you find in any family. Rukmini, on the right, is bossy and pushes her sisters out of the way to grab the best bugs. Maddy, on the left, is shy and a bit on the sneaky side. In the middle is Elizabeth. She is polite and very particular about keeping her feathers snowy white.  The queen of the flock, Kay, is at the back, leading the way into certain trouble as she takes them to the neighbours yard. Old Vivien isn't in the picture because she always keeps her distance from the rowdy youngsters. She's a rescue and even leary of me; never sure if fate will turn on her again and have her scheduled to be culled out.

Of course, I wasn't on holiday and it was a perfect time to do a spring cleaning on the main coop. All this winter bedding and poop had to come out. ~

A scrub down and some fresh straw makes it good as new for when they come home from their vacation. ~

Last, but not least, I put Kay's baby back in the nursery. It may look like a golf ball to you and I, but to her it is a beloved child. As much as she screams and carries on while she lays an egg, she doesn't have any attachment to it. The other chickens can sit on it and anybody can take it away without bothering her in the least. But, don't even think of touching her baby! She'll puff herself up and pace up and down the coop, hollering bloody murder until you put it back.

Even to a chicken, love is blind.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A Dandy Little Cream Ladle

If we can ever get it to stop snowing here it will be yard sale season. Yes, it snowed in Ontario over the Easter weekend, but it has to warm up sooner or later. Doesn't it?

If you are lucky enough to have warm weather, here's something to look for at yard sales. I have a fondness for glass milk bottles and actually transfer my milk to one. It stays so much colder in glass bottles.

I also have a fondness for ladles and would have bought this little one even if I didn't know what it was. A friend had shown me hers and I recognized this as a ladle to skim the cream from milk in glass bottles.

It has Cream Top embossed on the handle and a patent date of 1924. Canadian patents registered before 1989 were good for 17 years so I can date this ladle pretty closely.

Since I had the ladle, the friend found a cream top bottle to go along with it for me.  The cream would rise to the top of the bottle and you could either stir it into the milk or skim it off for coffee cream, heavy cream or whipping cream. This bottle shape kept the cream nicely in the bubble on top. Oh, how I wish you could buy milk like that today!

All I needed was a paper top and this little bit of daily life from the past was complete.

I paid $6.00 for my ladle at an antique show, but if you know what you are looking for you will come across one for much less at thrift stores and yard sales.

Happy hunting and keep your fingers crossed for me that the weather starts to feel like spring soon!

I'm sharing this with Thursday Favorite Things Blog HopWhat's It Wednesday

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Spring Is The Time For Change

Even if the weather isn't really cooperating here, spring has arrived. It's a time for growth and renewal and renewal is vital to every single human being.

Did you know that the human body is estimated to have 37 trillion cells in it? Those cells are constantly replenishing and reacting to each other and their environment. That got me thinking about my environment and how I was affecting my 37 trillion cells.

Then, that thought got me thinking about how difficult the concept of connection with the universe is in a metaphysical sense and how easy it is to understand in the case of a disease such as cancer. I have no difficulty accepting that exposure to external toxins can cause one of my cells to mutate and start the whole process of creating a malignancy. Why then, is is so hard to understand that exposure to good things can affect my life at a cellular level? I've read Biology Of Belief by Bruce Lipton twice and it all makes sense to me while I'm reading it. Incorporating it into my daily life isn't quite so simple.

I decided to share my theories with a girlfriend. These conversations always begin with me saying, "So the thing is ...". That's the cue for my friends to seek the nearest exit because they know nothing short of convincingly feigning a massive heart attack will get them out of hearing my latest ponderings on life. Be thankful you are cyber friends and can simply X out of the conversation.

"So the thing is, Liz, all we need to do to affect our lives is change one thing, one time, one day. All our 37 trillion cells will react to that change. That doesn't seem so hard does it?", I say.

Liz must have considered this one of my least zany theories because she created a visual reminder of it for herself and posted it to her photography blog The Little Things In Life. If you want to pin it, please click on her site and pin from there.

In the spirit of spring renewal, I thought you might want to join Liz and I in changing one thing, no matter how small, one day in the coming week.

We'll be like chicks coming into a whole new world while we are experiencing something new.

Maybe take a different route to work, eat something you've never had for breakfast or go someplace you've never been. Or, how about listening to a genre of music that you are unfamiliar with? Try meditating or exercising or changing the time you go to bed and get up.

If you're up for it, try something big. Enroll in a class or ask that guy you've been sweet on out for coffee. Say no when someone asks you to do something you don't want to do. Just say no and don't explain yourself. Ekes! In fact, say no to this idea of mine, if you want. "But, the thing is .... Change one thing, one time, one day and every cell in your body will know it and it will respond to that change.". If even one of your 37 trillion cells thinks this change is exciting or even mildly interesting, that's a whole lot better than all 37 trillion thinking the stress you are feeling means they have to send out signals to your adrenal glands that the body is under attack and needs defending, isn't it?

Cats have no problem with this concept. In fact, they are the masters of it.

Clara Jane saw me set these Easter decorations out and said to herself, "This is new. I've never slept here before, with these exact things in this exact spot".

And, she settled right in to give it a try.

The fuzzy, little chick didn't respond to the big, black cat snoozing there. Maybe the chick didn't recognize the danger or maybe she was so excited about the new world outside her Easter egg shell that she wasn't a bit afraid.

I'd love to hear your ideas for change and, if you find that changing one, little thing makes you feel better, it would be great to hear about it in the comments!

I'm sharing this with Inspire Me Monday

Monday, 23 March 2015

Getting Photos Out Of Old Albums

I've been whittling away at a bad weather project. Like everyone else, I used magnetic photo albums in the '70's and 80's, only to discover the photos have become stuck to the album pages and can't be easily removed. There's nothing magnetic about those albums; the tiny stripes that held the pictures in place are glue.

The adhesive has dried out and is causing the photographic paper to deteriorate. The pages themselves are not acid-free and are causing more damage to the photos. The icing on the cake is the plastic cover, which is further corrupting the photos. The photos become brittle and the colours fade or change. There's no question that they have to come out. I can save you a little research time by directing you to a good video showing how archivists deal with this issue by clicking here.

The first thing I did was take the pages out of the albums and remove the plastic sleeves. That buys a little more time for working away at the project. No matter how many videos you watch that say the removal will be easy, it won't!  The ones I'm working on right now are particularly difficult to remove because they are home developed and the paper is thinner than the usual professional paper. I have the negatives for these pics and can risk some experimentation. I recommend taking a good photograph of your pic before you start, or you could scan the pic to be sure you have a copy in case anything goes wrong.

These are my tools. ~

I split open the pages so I could get at the back of the album sheets. ~

Then, I lifted a corner of a photo and slid a piece of dental floss under it. I tried waxed and unwaxed floss and couldn't see any difference in performance. Gently pulling the floss back and forth in a sawing motion begins to release the photo from the glue. ~

Applying heat to the back of the album pages every so often, helps to soften the glue. You can put the pages in the microwave, after removing the plastic cover, for 15 sec. intervals to soften the glue. Anything longer than that runs the risk of scorching the photos. Overall, the hair blower did as well and was less risk.

In some areas, the floss couldn't budge the glue and I had to resort to using a sharp knife to pry the photo off. This usually took some of the album paper with it. ~

You want your photos to be lying face down on a natural linen or cotton cloth to ensure you aren't corrupting them with even more chemicals.

It's critical to do any lifting with a knife with the photos face down. If you try to lift the photo up from the sheets, instead of the sheets up from the photos, you will get wrinkle lines and cracks in your photos.

These removed photos are from the same album page and are the same home developed type. The one on the left is badly damaged by removing it facing up and the one on the right came off with a slight bend on the upper left corner, where it was lifted to get the floss between the photo and album page, by removing it face down.

This is a time consuming, sometimes frustrating and painful process, but worth it to save precious memories.

I'll go to the trouble for a picture of a well loved though very bad runaway dog (that cost me a fortune in dog catcher fees) and my baby girl who's all grown up now!  I hope this gets you started on preserving your precious photos.

I'm sharing this with Wow Us WednesdaysShare Your Cup ThursdayCreate It ThursdayShow And Share

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Today Is Uncle Simon's Day

I'm one of those gals that calls herself Irish, though I've never set foot on the 'ole sod. Nor, had my mother or Grandma ever been to Ireland. For all that, they stayed as Irish as Irish could be. My Canadian-Irish ancestors stayed within tight-knit Irish communities, married other Irishmen and, even two generations back, spoke Gaelic. My mother and one of her sisters were the first to 'marry out' as her family put it.

I was living like any other typical Canadian girl when a serious illness had my brother in a hospital a long way from home and my mom looking for someone to take care of me. I think I was 6 or 7 years old at the time.  She sent me to a great, great uncle's farm, in an all Irish enclave near Owen Sound, Ontario.

It was a scary, old farmhouse and a scary, old couple would be my hosts. I sat on the edge of the bed that night and listened to the "Oooooo" moans of ghosts that were surely trying to get in through the darkened window. It was a scene right out of Wuthering Heights and I was scared nearly to death.

Down the hall came my ancient great-great Uncle Simon, heading to bed before Aunt Cassie, for he always had an early start to his mornings on the farm. 

"And why would you be crying, mavourneen?" he said in the thickest of Irish brogues.  At least I recognized mavourneen as an endearment that my mother used. "It's nothing but the bawling of an old, blind cow that's walked into a fence in the dark. You wouldn't want Cassie to be on at me about getting rid of her because you made a bit of fuss, would you?"

Suddenly, I wasn't afraid anymore and Uncle Simon told me he would take me to meet the old cow in the morning.

"I'm thinking you'll be needing a playmate while you're here. I'll have my son Clem bring his girl down from his farm over a space. She's a sprightly, wee thing and has the nackiest little lamb that follows her about."

How I loved that farm, from that moment on. My cousin and I jumped from the hayloft into deep piles of hay, wandered through fields of sweet grass to pet the gentle, blind cow and cuddled a litter of barn kittens; all with a frolicking lamb in tow.

My mother cried when I came home because she couldn't understand half of what I said. I was speaking Gaelic!

I lost the bit of Gaelic I'd learned, but I never lost Uncle Simon's love and respect for the animals that provide us with the food.

How am I doing, Uncle Simon? I gave blind Gertie a pretty good home, I think.

I was an adult when Aunt Cassie died. Uncle Simon was as old as the hills and still on the farm. He certainly had some form of dementia. My aunts were upset at him crushing soda crackers and trying to light them in his pipe. Worse yet, he kept asking who had died and, when he finally realized it was his wife Cassie, he horrified them by saying, "She was a good girl.  I always liked her." 

To them, it showed a lack of feeling but to me it was that quiet man's way of saying he cared and he was constant in that caring. I thought of him saying the very same words to explain his devotion to an old cow. He said things in a simple way, but he felt them deeper than many a more eloquent man.

So today I celebrate St. Patrick's day with an homage to roots, families, farms and animals. It's the heart and soul of Ireland, transported to another grand land! ~

Let's all take a cup of tea, light a pipe or raise a glass to all the wonderful Uncle Simons, who teach little girls how to live in the world in love and harmony.

Happy St. Patrick's Day dear Uncle Simon! "Is tú mo ghrá.  I love you".

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Where You Been Maureen?

I haven't run off to the South Pacific to get away from the coldest winter on record in Canada.  I wish!

So many people I know have had the pipes burst in their homes and municipalites have been battling frozen or burst water mains. I was lucky enough to only have a frozen bathtub drain to deal with. And, if you are a cat named Clara Jane, helping with plumbing repairs is a total riot! Watching that rag that's plugging the overflow shoot out every time the human uses the plunger on the drain is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.  For me, trying to plunge with one hand while I hold the rag in the overflow with the other, isn't quite so much fun.

The poor chickens were trapped in the coop for two whole weeks, so they didn't get frostbite, and it's only in the last few days that I know it's 5 o'clock by them clucking and staring at the house, demanding their supper.

Rukmini, Elizabeth, Kay, and Maddy think staring at the gate will make me magically appear but Viv takes the proactive route of squawking at the top of her lungs, from the highest spot she can find. ~

You'll notice Anne Boleyn is not there. She has passed on to the great coop in the sky. Dear Anne, who was nearly pecked to death at her former home and would have to be put down if my girls wouldn't accept her. Anne, who overcame her fears and made friends with Kay.  Anne, who never laid an egg in her life but stood guard over the other chickens while they laid theirs and wouldn't take one step away from the nest until I came to take the eggs. She was the first alert when predators were in the yard and ran to my door, squawking, to get help. I miss her.

None of that explains where I've been though, does it?

Well right in the middle of an insufferably cold winter, when it's taking your life in your hands to stir out of doors, the screen on my laptop fritzed out. I'm trapped in the house, cabin fever is a definite possibility, and I have no computer to help me while away the days!

This laptop is not worth paying a repair bill and I can't afford a new one, so a nice, computer savvy guy offers to try and fix it for me.  Yay!

Before you come down too hard on him, I'm the one who told him to break a piece of the frame off so I could get at the wire that was loose.  A little wiggle and I had a monitor again. I've taken the fix a step further by jamming the pen in to make sure the wire stays in place.

Don't you just love the pen jammed in right beside the Don't Touch!!! warning on the monitor? I may be the first blogger in history to die in the line of duty.

Oh well, all this frigid, computerless time has given me lots of opportunity to get projects done and I'll be talking your ear off about them all.

That is, right after I take advantage of a mild day to go out and see if I can salvage my snow destroyed boxwood hedge. ~

I'm off to catch up with all of you now.