Ugh, snakes.

I’m not going to give these little cretins any more time on my blog than necessary, but within the last 2 days, we have had 2 snake visitors.  One confirmed poisonous and one we think was, but weren’t sure.  Before you give me the blah blah blah about how beneficial snakes can be to help cut down on the rodent population, remember that I have a 4-year-old.  WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE WE HAVE SNAKES.  I don’t get it..the kid is smart and has fairly strong logic skills, but I guess because we haven’t ever had a back yard quite like this, she just can’t seem to get it in her head that the dead snakes mommy and daddy keep showing her were live bites waiting to happen.  Sigh.  So, we’re launching the snake offensive to reduce the amount of bites waiting to happen for this hard-headed kid.  Some of it we already know, but some ideas we’ve seen online and we’re going to give them a try:

1) Remove the homes.  This has been a bit of a bone of contention between Sheldon and me.  We have leaves that have accumulated in the flower beds near the house.  Sheldon being the super tree hugger that he is wanted to leave them as is so they could provide nutrients.  I wanted to purchase a leaf blower (because frankly, I have done all of the raking that I think I safely can without being knee-deep in leaves) and blow those suckers to kingdom come.  We had settled on the Sheldon method of leaving sleeping leaves lie until he saw yesterday’s snake on the front porch.  I think Sheldon will be swinging by the store tonight after work to get the leaf blower in operation huff and I’ll puff and blow your house down.

2) Something stinks.  Many of us have heard that mothballs are a great deterrent to snakes because of the smell.  However, they can also be toxic to pets and kids who pop those little white balls in their mouths.  However, I am going to try to embrace the smell without the risk.  I heard about putting moth balls into a sealed container (like an empty milk jug) with small holes so that the smell can escape, but little paws/fingers can’t get the balls.  Plus, this protects them in the rain so they don’t disintegrate.  I hate the smell of moth balls, but I’m counting on snakes hating it more.

3) Let nature help.  Of course there are tons of ways to help naturally dissuade snakes from camping out on your lawn furniture.  For us, we’re going to do a multi-prong approach.  We’ll be getting our guineas soon, and from what I understand, those pea brained little critters are great for controlling ticks and snakes.  Something that we have had plenty of already.  We also have barn cats who don’t seem to be into the snakes, but they are good for controlling the rodent population.  Remove the food and snakes will go elsewhere, right?  We’re also planting beds and planters filled with a mixture of lemongrass, rosemary and marigolds.  It may not be the most gorgeous collection of plants, but who cares.  At least I won’t keep having nightmares about snakes under foot ON MY FRONT PORCH!  Sigh.

4) Let commercial products work.  We’re not crazy about this, but see earlier comment about 4-year-old with stubborn streak.  We’re also laying down some of the commercially available snake away granulated product.  We’re not happy about this at all, but as parents, this is something we just need to do.  We’re also going to lay down more DE to help reduce more of the food supply.

Bottom line is that we want to be as inhospitable as possible for these little slithery boogers.  Would welcome any feedback on what you have done to reduce snakes near your home!

Happy de-snaking.

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Chicken coffee klatsch

Not much to say about this other than chickens….

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Chickens running from me as I employ Blueberry’s method of herding them. That is to yell CHICKENS! while coming at them. It’s not a method I recommend.

 

Blueberry has named this guy (gal?) Peepers.  We aren't sure what kind of chicken he is as he was the "free exotic" that we got with our other chickens from Murray McMurray.  Frankly, the way he looks and moves, I think a Roadrunner snuck into the mix.

Blueberry has named this guy (gal?) Peepers. We aren’t sure what kind of chicken he is as he was the “free exotic” that we got with our other chickens from Murray McMurray. Frankly, the way he looks and moves, I think a Roadrunner snuck into the mix.

 

This is Bob.  Obviously he is not a chicken.  He is my 15 year old cat who often lays across my laptop when I'm trying to work, blog, surf, whatever.  He contributed to this post by getting off the keys.

This is Bob. Obviously he is not a chicken. He is my 15 year old cat who often lays across my laptop when I’m trying to work, blog, surf, whatever. He contributed to this post by getting off the keys.

 

I think this is my favorite picture with the black and white Jersey Giants and the White Rocks.  I like to imagine them around the water tub giggling and telling stories.  Probably about the dorky chicken who just stepped into the middle of the clean tub depositing dirt.  Thanks for nothin dude.

I think this is my favorite picture with the black and white Jersey Giants and the White Rocks. I like to imagine them around the water tub giggling and telling stories. Probably about the dorky chicken who just stepped into the middle of the clean tub depositing dirt. Thanks for nothin dude.

 

 

 

All Women are prissy, backstabbing cows: A rant on farmgirl tough

Ha!  Made you look.  Don’t you hate those types of statements that make it seem as if we can all be shoved into one specific box?  Some of my very favorite stereotypes and flawed logic statements (courtesy of Buzzle) are:

I’m Christian, so I must hate homosexuals.
I’m German, so I must be a Nazi.
I’m an atheist, so I must hate the world.
I’m Mexican, so I must have hopped the border.
I’m rich, so I must be a conceited snob.
I’m a guy, so I must only want to get into your pants.
I’m young, so I must be naive.
I’m from the Middle East, so I must be a terrorist.
All Italians are in the mob.
All Irishmen do is drink and beat their wives.
All Farmgirls are tough.
Whoa…wait a minute.  What about that last one?  All Farmgirls are tough.  Why is that on the list?  Well, let’s talk about it and my difficulty with the word tough.
courtesy of wikipantings.org

Rosie-totally farmgirl tough
courtesy of wikipantings.org

A few weeks ago, our houseguest Mr. C., Sheldon and I were all sitting around the kitchen table playing cards.  Suddenly out of the blue, Mr. C. asks me if I have a tattoo.  I reply that I don’t (I’m sure with a whatyoutalkinboutWillis kind of face) and go on with the conversation.  But, something about that exchange sticks with me.  Finally, a few days later, this was the convo between Sheldon and me in bed (hot steamy scene NOT about to ensue):

 

Me: Hey-why did Mr. C. ask me about a tattoo?  That seemed really out of the blue.  Where did that come from?
Sheldon: Well, sometimes you come across as tough.
Me: Tough?  What the FDashDashDash does that mean?
Sheldon:  You know.  Tough.  I don’t know.  Tough.
Me: You say that like it’s an insult.  Like I must have a tattoo because I’m rough, tough and barely a woman.  Where is this logic going anyway?
To which I think Sheldon responded by snoring.  End of convo.  To be fair, it wasn’t his argument.
But, I cannot tell a lie.  This whole interaction first with Mr. C. and then with Sheldon just grated on me.  I’m not a dip swillin, curse word flinging (well not every day), hard chargin broad.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with tattoos but I have no interest in them.  I have a handbag collection that I refer to as “my precious babies.”  I can’t stand it when my eyebrows are ungroomed.  I love pink and would wear it daily if I didn’t look like an idiot trying to cram into my 4 year old’s clothes.  I love manis, pedis and kleenex commercials.  I often drive the tractor singing the theme from Green Acres in my head all the while imagining myself as Eva’s character.  Why the flock is someone calling me tough????!!!!
courtesy imdb

courtesy imdb

Fast forward many weeks and I’m still masticating on this idea.  Let’s face it-if you want to homestead on a quarter acres or a thousand acres, you must have a degree of mental and physical fortitude.  Why just this morning I killed a spider in my kitchen without even squealing.  If that doesn’t show development along those lines, I don’t know what does.  However, the word tough seems to have a connotation in this exchange that I simply cannot wrap my mind around-like it’s an insult.  And to be fair-it’s not just this exchange.  Go Bing the words tough farm girl and click on images.  The amount of weirdness that comes up from the web is a bit off-putting, to say the least.  Which to be fair to Mr. C. tells me that lots of folks hold a similar viewpoint when faced with someone who doesn’t exude softness on a daily (sigh, sometimes not even weekly) basis.
So, what’s a homesteading girl to do?   I cannot imagine how anyone-male or female could live this life and still maintain that 24/7 stereotypical idea of feminine beauty.  Much like baseball, there’s no crying in homesteading.  But for women, I think the standards can be incredibly unfair.  Yes, I haul 40 lb bags of dirt along side my husband.  Yes, I spend hours cleaning the chicken coops.  Yes, I drive the tractor, move the rocks and Lord help me, have participated in the demise of farm animals.  I suppose that makes me tough, but why does being tough carry the implication that I am not soft, lovely and womanly?  I do not know.  Sigh.  Why do I keep writing these blog posts that have no real solution?
For me, it all goes back to why we do this…The Blueberry.  A lovely little girl who loves tutus but has no compunction about picking up a worm and shoving it in my face.  Hopefully she will be better equipped to face a world where dichotomy in women is more embraced and we don’t all have to fit into a specific box to be pretty, womanly, smart or capable.  My hope is that one day someone will refer to her as tough and she will smile and say thank you while changing the oil in her tractor in her couture gown.  Seems totally realistic, right?  Let’s hear it for #farmgirltough!

Earth Day 2013 Activities & Thoughts

As I thought about writing this post, I chuckled a little bit.  I had to actually Bing for confirmation of today being Earth Day because let’s face it..as homesteaders, EVERY day is Earth Day!

image courtesy of earthday.org

image courtesy of earthday.org

However, if people want to use Earth Day to give away free stuff, then I’m more than happy to take advantage of that!

Free Stuff:  Many thanks to MissiontoSave.com for pulling together a pretty cool list of free stuff available today.

Free Entrance:   It’s National Park Week!  National Parks across the US are offering free entrance this week.  Not sure where the closest Nat’l Park is to you?  Use the handy locator to find one.  Sure, many of us feel like our homes are already filled with wildlife-why would we want to go to a park to see more?  Well, because it’s free!  And it’s a great way for our kids to understand the importance of not just their parents, but us as a nation preserving large sections of land for all to learn, enjoy and appreciate.

Free Lesson Plans:  Speaking of our kids, The Educators’ Network has made available free lesson plans/ideas for teaching our kids about Earth Day, climate change and beyond.  the Green Living Section of About.com also had some good general info from the history of Earth Day to more activities for kids.

On a more serious note, here’s my Earth Day disclaimer: I really do find the idea of a single day (or even week) celebrating the Earth as laughable.  I decided to just delete my rant here about how every day should be Earth Day.  Instead, let me just say that I am honored and blessed to be among the growing network of people, families and farmers who are trying to get back to a life that is more respectful of the Earth God has created for us.  Thank you for all you have taught me and all you will teach me.

Keeping our kids (and us) safe out in the sun: Natural/Organic sunscreens

Original post appeared on Modern Homesteaders-go check them out!

Ah, the sun.  It feels so good against the skin of my bare arms.  Until I remember that I haven’t applied sunblock in 6 hours and every little scratch from that chicken wire that I’m working feels like a million bee stings.  Enter in that essential summer tool: sunblock.

infographic_sunscreen_web_small

Sounds easy enough, right?  But, it’s really not.  Many consumers are simply unaware of the toxic soup that they are applying on their skin every single time they open a bottle.   We’re not just talking kinda bad stuff…we’re talking chemicals that have the potential to increase skin tumor risk, disrupt hormone balance, sprays/powders that coat little lungs, and products that don’t work well enough to provide any actual protection from the sun.  If you are interested in reading about some of the products that failed to past muster with the Environmental Working Group, you can see their hall of shame here.

Homesteaders generally seem to be a more informed bunch of folks, but even we struggle to make the right choice in balancing good for us and good for our pocketbook.    In our research, we have found that both the EWG’s recommended list and this resource on The Daily Green offered some alternative options to the super pricey bottles.  You are still going to pay more than you would for the cheapo drug store kind, but the benefits absolutely outweigh the risks in this case.

I’ve also seen some recipes for homemade sunblock, but I will be honest-I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ingredients to give it a try.  Would love to hear from our readers if you have cracked the sunblock code!  Happy spring!

Do homesteaders make better parents?

The shortest blog post in history: yes!

 

Ok, seriously folks.  In the last 24 hours, I’ve read two things in relation to parenting that gave me pause.  One was a Yahoo article about a teenager who has eaten nothing but Ramen noodles for the last 13 years.  As a result, experts estimate that she has the health of an 80-year-old.  Where the heck are the parents here?  I refuse to accept the fact that a parent has been unable to course correct this eating spiral over 13 years.  I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for these parents, but my goodness.  Where is the accountability?

The other thing I read was not exactly new news, but I saw one of my more conservative FB pals post an excerpt from Bill Cosby’s famous Pound Cake speech.  Much like the Bible, I think people can use this speech and twist it to their own needs, but for me, it’s all about parental accountability.  As a parent, this speech resonates loudly with me.  I don’t see parenting as a uniquely white/black/red/polka dot issue.  It’s hard freaking work being a parent regardless of color.  Add in social inequity, poverty or ignorance and that job just got a whole lot harder.  But parents still have to be accountable.

And then there is my family.  Budding Homesteaders.  Want accountability?  Try Homesteading.  The ultimate accountability.  It’s not just our precious children or grandchildren, but I like to think that whether you are homesteading on your urban rooftop or on your 1000 acres, you have entered into a contract to do things right for your land, your animals, your plants, your family, your friends…all of it.   It’s all about choice and the consequences of those choices.

Now, does this mean that I think all farmers, ranchers, homesteaders are better parents?  Of course not.  The same jerks exist everywhere regardless of lifestyle.  But dang it, I’m sick of hearing about parents buying their children’s love with stuff.  I’m weary of seeing parents convince their children that they are the center of everyone’s universe.  I’m over hearing parents tell their children that bad behavior is a product of bad environment and not bad decisions.  I wish more parents loved enough to be strong.  To be that mean parent.  To realize that our children are capable of making decisions, taking responsibility and feeling accountability.  Making affordable mistakes is all part of learning and certainly something that we do here every single day as homesteaders.  So no, I am not so arrogant to think that homesteaders are better parents.  I think today’s post was more rant than information, but perhaps there is something to this way of life.  Maybe this lifestyle can teach our kids a thing or two about accountability even if we aren’t always perfect parents.  It is certainly my prayer for our future.

 

 

 

Spiders and beetles and bugs, oh my! Exploring alternative home pest control options

This was originally posted on Modern Homesteaders-go check them out!

I don’t know about you guys, but I cannot tell a lie.  Once spring rolls around, I start walking with tip toed feet through my house fearful of my first contact with unwanted visitors who come into my house.  While so many things on Blueberry Acres Farm seem idyllic, the reality is that here in Missouri we have winters mild enough and summers warm enough to invite a whole host of creepy crawlies into our lives.  You would think growing up in Florida where the cockroaches fly and were huge would break one of that fear, but alas…no.  I still hate bugs with a passion bordering on phobia.  Or is it a phobia bordering on passion?  Either way, our desire to remain as chemical free as possible has led us to explore some more environmentally friendly options such as:

Dioatomaceous earth (aka DE).  We sprinkle this stuff in many many places.  It’s available online and sometimes in retail stores, but we have found it to be much more cost-effective to buy in bulk.  DE has a lot of other cool applications as well, but obviously if you have something crawling across your kitchen floor, it’s not going to make much sense to sprinkle powder on it, so sometimes you need to spray…

Rubbing Alcohol in various applications.  Get a clean spray bottle and either fill it with alcohol for a quick squirt killer or dilute it by mixing 3/4 water, 1/4 alcohol.  The nice thing is that it shouldn’t leave a residue and apparently bugs don’t build up a resistance to it.  However, since it doesn’t leave a residue, it shouldn’t be relied on for long-term control, just “eek, a bug” moments instead.

Insecticidal Soap Spray  This is another option for spraying but beyond just the “eek bug” moments, this should also leave a residue that will help repel the invading hoards.

Beyond these ideas, Herbal/Floral options abound.  I think every gardener knows the repelling characteristics of Marigolds, but what about using them near your entrances?  Rue is another option for planting near entrances to repel flies and mosquitos.  I’ll be honest-we haven’t considered Rue in the past because it can irritate skin if you rub against it, so this may not be ideal for homes with small humans like ours.   What about those tacky Citronella candles?  Sure, you could use those (I hate em!) but I’d rather plant Citronella/Lemon Grass instead.  It may not pack as much of a punch as those oil infused candles, but I don’t worry about the grass catching my cat’s tail on fire either.  This year I’m also going to experiment with Lavender to see if I can expand it’s moth repelling properties.  My goal will be to make planters of insect repelling plants and decorate my entrances with God’s natural bug dissuaders.

And of course, beyond sprays and sprinkles, some good old-fashioned prevention helps.  Don’t leave sitting water hanging around, especially near high traffic areas.  Mosquitos anyone?  Make sure doors and entrances have a great seal.  Here at Blueberry Acres Farm, Sheldon will be put to work this weekend on that project as we enter into the warmer months.  What are you doing this spring to make sure that the only guests who come into your home are those you have invited?  Would love to hear from you!