Heather Olivia

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since Feb 05, 2019
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forest garden foraging medical herbs
Central Indiana, zone 6a, clay loam
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Recent posts by Heather Olivia

I definitely don't think you're alone in experiencing that. A little different, but when we first got our home and land, seemingly all our friends were super excited about it and saying how much they would love to come help with the garden, the house, etc. But then when I actually told them we were getting ready to do stuff they offered to help with, no response. Likewise, seems when I have serendipitously met other permie type folk locally, there's all this talk of hanging out, swapping seeds/plants, etc. I try to follow up on when, nothing.
I imagine people are probably just busy and forget, but it puzzles me nonetheless. I'm sure this is not true for everyone, but it seems to me that many of the permie-ish people I know personally are more introverted and/or struggle with social interaction a bit. That could certainly contribute to the behavior you describe. I bet much of it too is just that it's easier to flake or ignore someone when your interactions are through a screen of some kind and you don't have to look at them or consider their experience so much. Especially if there is not an established in person connection.
3 days ago
Thank you everyone for the suggestions!

how's it working out?
was just thinking how previous owner of this object coated it with some type of finish or maybe some type of oil based stuff and it might need to be removed. is this goody finish thick enough finish that a sharp putty knife can scrape it off?

Truth be told, I've been quite busy and don't have all the tools/time for the sanding operation just yet, so it's been sitting in the kitchen. I don't think there's a finish on the top. Perhaps was oiled at one point and it wasn't kept up with? It just feels like sanded wood, not slick or shiny. If sanding is necessary, any guess how much material I might need to remove? I don't own a sander and would need to borrow one if heavy sanding was necessary.

I wonder if someone chopped meat on it and then felt like they had to wipe it with bleach?

As others have said, sanding, scraping and sun all sound like great solutions.

I've used lemon juice and salt to scrub on ours occasionally and then a rinse and some sunshine.  

I think this is exactly what happened. And/or they may have wiped it down as a safety measure before giving it away. The smell is pretty persistent, so I suspect the former. I will definitely give the lemon juice, salt and sun treatment a try before I sand it. Thanks!

my first thought reading this is "someone used murphy's oil soap to clean it". I spent years cleaning saddlery with oil soap and then when I went to college, we had a restaurant kitchen in my house and that was what they used to clean the butcher block counters. I smell that stuff in my dreams.

I'd just scrub it down and leave it outside, like everyone else says. Even if someone used bleach on it, it is volatile and loses its potency. Also, consider that the previous owners might not have been up on their food hygiene. If it were mine, I'd make a paste of salt and lemon juice and leave it in the sun on any surface that might have come into contact with raw meat.

This seems another strong possibility. I don't recall the smell, but I can imagine how something like that would linger in the memory.
Thank you for the reminder that even bleach is volatile and will fade away. Especially with the lemon,salt,sun and/or sanding treatments. That was really bothering me.

Thanks again y'all! I will give the scrub and sun a try, maybe the sanding if that fails. I will definitely report back with how this worked!

1 week ago
Yesterday, I picked up a lovely and free butcher block table from the curb. In the process of wiping it off, I started noticing a smell. It almost smells like baby wipes. But probably is from the use of clorox wipes or the like. That makes me feel iffy about chopping food on it, as it's intended for. Any suggestions for how I can get whatever toxic gick it is out without messing up the butcher block?

I was thinking I could maybe sand it down a bit and then oil it with something food safe? Maybe I'm just being paranoid? Even if I get the smell out, will the gick remain? I just really don't like the idea of my food being in contact with stuff like that.
1 week ago
You're certainly not the only one to struggle with such critters in your composting toilet. We have struggled with what I believe are fruit flies in ours, despite many efforts to exclude and eliminate them. You're right, it's definitely unsettling.
From reading about fungus gnats, it sounds like when growing plants, they can be an indicator of overwatering and that allowing the soil to dry can serve to reduce their numbers greatly. Adding a layer of sand, mulch or diatomaceous earth was also suggested.
I know something we have found helpful, although not a total solution, is more frequent emptying of our toilet chamber (bucket, in our case). Every few days, or maybe even daily, so as to interrupt their reproductive cycle and reduce the numbers.

I have a suspicion (confirmed in the article below) that the peat moss may be a carrier for fungus gnats. Whether it's the source or not, it probably does encourage them. Especially since it is damp. Could you perhaps use a different cover material and see if that helps? This article has some suggestions for natural ways to eliminate fungus gnats. Hope you find a solution! https://yourindoorherbs.com/get-rid-of-fungus-gnats-soil-home/
1 week ago
When you set up a vinegar trap for fruit flies in your bathroom and feel bad, cause all those fruit flies are just going to waste. Then you rejoice when a rather large funnel building spider sets up its web over the fly trap, catching them and eating them instead! No more waste! And then you name the spider and tell people not to bother her or be scared, even though she's a foot from the toilet.
2 weeks ago
So sorry to hear that, Trace. That sucks. Sending hugs and wishes for speedy healing your way!

I've never had Lyme, so I can't offer too much help. You might check out this for suggestions of some supportive herbs that could help you through it in conjunction with the antibiotics. Same fellow has this video as well, bit long and he can ramble at times, but often has really good advice. He also explains a fair bit about the disease here. Herbal remedies for the symptoms of lyme
2 weeks ago
But of course, Hugo. Thank you for your kind words. I haven't given up, but it's hard to keep up the fight lately. I'm not sure it's quite in my bones either at times. We shall see. We all have our gifts to bring to the world, and one way of working for the good is no better than another.
Venting is definitely necessary to maintain some semblance of sanity in this insane world. Hope my solution focused-ness didn't detract.

Such strange shifts in behavior and thinking. The past you describe sounds much richer in so many ways. I think it's really important that people hold onto that kind of history of place and share it. It's hard for people to know what's been lost when they don't know what once was. That connection to place and nature is so valuable and if that connection can be restored, amazing things are possible.

Still holistic approaches are gaining ground, there is a flourishing organic market, people are aware of different systems, it's up to us to grow them now. I have quite a nice piece of land and it's starting to become productive and gain attraction. Things will take time, but it's fun and good for the health so i keep going!

Glad to hear there's some hope. I think you're right to focus on what you can do on your own land and affecting change at the grassroots level rather than from the top down. The latter can be crazy making. Plus, you never know what can happen. You may well be aware of this fellow, but his town has serious problems with how they treat water and like you, he just did what he could on his own property...and then his neighbors got interested, eventually his whole neighborhood, and it kept spreading from there, all the way up to the local government making laws based on his work. If nothing else, he's very uplifting and inspiring.
2 weeks ago
Thank you everyone for the suggestions so far! Seems the hissing is starting to deter him a little, but I suspect he may just be getting better at not being seen and still getting birds. For now, I think we will step up the attempts to deter by using water, as suggested. Still conflicted about catching it and taking it to the humane society. That is what our plan was until we learned it was theirs. I don't know if I would feel comfortable with it at this point. Catching it and ensuring it is fixed could be an option, though it probably wouldn't solve the bird problem.

You say you can't not let your cat outside but I'd say at this point you can't let it out either. Just keep your cat in, she'll adjust. Id stop feeding the birds if it's attracting them to their demise too. These answers suck, I get that. However, you can't control your neighbor, only yourself.

If the kids seem otherwise fine I would not be calling CPS on them. However, if you suspect they are being abused I'd call and report that. Course they might retaliate

We only let her out when we can watch her now. For a number of reasons, it would be nigh impossible to keep keep her indoors right now. We stopped feeding the birds long ago when we realized it mostly attracted huge swarms of house sparrows, starlings, etc and made the birds we want more vulnerable to predation. The plants and habitat are what is feeding them, so there's not much we can do about that without destroying what we love about this place.

I agree calling CPS doesn't seem in order at present. I think they're mostly good parents, maybe stressed out and not doing their best lately. I worry sometimes about the more neglectful seeming moments, like the road incident. The retaliation is definitely a very real fear if it did get to the point I felt I needed to call. I know it's anonymous, but they'd probably know it was us. But that's kind of a whole other issue. I may need to start a thread about it later, as it is a situation I have encountered before.

I don't have the same problem because my dogs would handle it, but I'm assuming you don't have a dog, and this alone isn't a great reason to get one.  It will solve your issue though.

You're right, we don't have a dog and I bet it would fix the problem, along with several others. I have considered getting one, but much as I would love a dog, I don't think we have the resources or energy to give one the kind of life it deserves.

I chased that cat with a cordless skilsaw, hedgetrimmers, chainsaw, etc. If I saw him 500 metres away, I made a beeline for him. He stopped coming anywhere near my cat and the areas I occupied, in less than a dozen doses. I was dead serious about doing him harm, and he knew it.

My cat was locked up at night once I quit for the night, usually by 11. He didnt mind, and this was probably key.

I wouldn't have thought to get that scary with it, as I love animals, but you make a great point. They can definitely sense intent, so we need to make it clear we aren't joking around. Like you said, I love my cat more. And the birds too.
We definitely bring our cat in for the night, usually before twilight. She got bitten by a coyote the one time we were late getting her inside, so never again.

Saw a study (South Africa) on how much wildlife is killed daily by pet cats monitored by cameras on their collars and was surprised by the numbers. Apparently mice counted for a small percentage while birds and amphibians took the brunt of the damage. Something like 9 varmints per day on average.

Yes, it is alarming the impact that cats have on wildlife, especially birds. I wish more people were aware of this and taking action to reduce the harm. Feral cats are obviously a major contributor. I read that cats kill something like 1-4 billion birds a year in North America and have caused 33 species to go extinct. Obviously, keeping cats indoors is the best solution, but I really have been impressed with this Birds Be Safe collar. Our cat hasn't gotten any birds since she started wearing it. Doesn't work for rodents, though. Now if we could just get the neighbor cat to wear one...
more about the impacts of cats on wildlife and how to stop it here

Another option I've been half pondering is relocating our solar electric fence to the perimeter facing the neighbors house, but where they can't see it. It might take a lot of work to get it set up, as there are lots of shrubs, brush, etc to contend with. I wonder if the cat would just jump it though. We could only make it knee high, as we'd need to be able to step over. And I doubt that would stop a determined cat. I fear it would create some liability or other issue too. It seems like potentially a lot of work that could be ineffective and/or cause conflict.

there were a couple problem cats on my street. killing chickens, kittens and wreaking havoc. sad as it might be if owners cannot keep them under control they need to be removed especially if killing livestock.
this one cat we had coming around attacked my Sylvester and three visits to vet to get him patched up cost a pretty penny.

Sorry to hear your cat got injured. That sounds awful. Hope he's better now!
You bring up another very valid concern, which is that we plan to get chickens in the future. Obviously, serious predator proofing their run is essential no matter what, but I don't want this cat hanging around stressing chickens.

3 weeks ago
Hugo, that sounds maddening. Even though they can be great for many reasons, in that situation, dry toilets sound like a serious greenwashing band-aid. As you say, the solution is so obvious. Keep the water where it lands! Let people have their own water systems! It puzzles me no end why governments seem to make such strange decisions around watershed management. Sounds like they really aren't looking at the big picture or even basic cause and effect. Plus it's ridiculous they should be able to keep you from having a pond or water system on your own land.
I could understand why you might not have, but have you tried writing to the people who make these decisions? At least educate them? They may not have even considered the connections between the problems you describe cause they just don't understand. Especially in light of climate change, I would hope they might be more open to considering better solutions to these problems.

Where I live, we have gone to endless government meetings trying to address a similar but also kind of opposite problem. Most people here treat rainwater as a waste product, trying to drain it away from their land as quickly as possible. The reckless development of McMansions, shopping centers and such are considerable offenders, since they aren't responsible for all the run-off they create by destroying soils water holding ability and/or replacing it with impermeable surfaces. Since the water has to go somewhere, the rivers and storm-sewer systems flood. And their chosen solution for some reason is to build massive, expensive flood walls and other shortsighted infrastructure. Which of course lead to further development and thus more run-off and flooding..plus, they don't even work, thereby allowing more harm to occur when they fail. When we talked to the folks in charge of these things and suggested a more holistic approach to watershed management, like infiltrating water into the soil where it lands, creating small ponds for it, etc. their engineer said it was impossible and silly to think that would help. It's beyond illogical. I'm fairly certain the people making these calls have no understanding of how watersheds and soil actually work. But I also think some of them can be convinced to change. Some such folks here were starting to get it, til a town council person brainwashed them with fear tactics.
I hope better things unfold where you are and that sanity and the right to water is restored!
3 weeks ago
A couple months ago, we started seeing a cat hanging around our yard we'd never seen before. Our cat (indoor/outdoor) is not fond of this cat, as he has attacked her, plus she just doesn't like other cats. This has caused a great deal of stress for her and us. She acts nervous all the time and has gotten into fights several times trying to chase him off. She now wakes us up, wanting to be let out to so she can run him off. We really don't want her getting stressed, especially since she has asthma that stress worsens. It has been life threatening at times. We also really don't want her or the other cat getting injured. Just keeping her inside will not work, as that seems to stress her out even more. The other problem with this cat is that he is killing lots of birds. We have gone to great lengths to make this a safe place for them, including having our cat wear a Birds Be Safe collar (super effective, can't recommend enough!). This is very upsetting to me that they are now being killed by this other cat. I find feathers most days.

We're kind of at a loss about how to fix these problems. We talked to the neighbors and shared the concerns about our cat getting hurt and being stressed out. They told us that their cat is supposed to be indoor only, but is very good at escaping through some hole in the crawlspace that they're unable to find. They said they'd try to keep him inside, but we have seen him more frequently since that conversation, basically everyday. Given that their dogs are often out wandering in the street, I don't think they will make much effort if any. I didn't check, but it seems likely this cat is not neutered, which would explain the escaping and wandering. They also did not seem to care about the fact that their cat is harming ours, suggesting that's just how cats do. I find this strange, since if a dog was roaming and hurting other people's pets, this would be treated much differently. We have not talked to them about the bird issue. Theoretically, it seems like they would be responsive, as they have tons of birdhouses and feeders in their yard and have said they want to create a bird-friendly place.

A major concern with how we address this is that since we are doing things in unconventional ways with our homestead, we want to make sure we don't annoy any neighbors and give them reason to call the department of sad. That would disastrous for us. So any solution must take that into account. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Talking to them theoretically seems like the best solution, but as I've said, it has been unhelpful so far. We don't see them outside much and are hesitant to go knock on their door for fear it might seem confrontational. When they first moved in, they were very friendly to us. We have done our best to be neighborly to them and told them if they ever have an issue or need anything, to please talk to us. Many times, we have found their dogs wandering, caught them and brought them back. Nonetheless, at some point, something seemed to shift and I started getting strange vibes from them. They seem mildly avoidant of us. My partner (a recovering alcoholic) suspects they may be heavy drinkers and this leads to the carelessness. It seems the weird vibes toward us really picked up after we found their very young children (4 and 6-ish) playing in the road. No parents anywhere in sight. This is a very busy road with a curve that people fly around at ridiculous speed. So I stayed with the kids, keeping them out of the road and trying to get them back into their yard until my partner could go knock on the door to get one of their parents. If it weren't for the covid, I would have been more direct and walked them back to the house and found their parents myself, but was torn because of trying to respect social distancing. My partner said the dad seemed hungover and apologized to us, then we could hear him yelling at the kids once they were inside. There have been other indicators of trouble in their household, but I don't want to get too carried away with talking about that and speculating as to what's going on. I've wanted to talk to them and ask if they were okay, but the few times I do see them, they basically just say hi and show little interest in further talking. So I haven't.  

We have been making a habit of hissing at the cat whenever we see it and are considering a squirt bottle with vinegar. I'd really rather not do the latter, but we have to find a way to keep this cat from harming ours and killing our bird friends.

I would appreciate suggestions for things we can do ourselves to get this cat to stay out, independent of any action or inaction by the neighbors. Other than a fence, which we can't manage right now. I would also love suggestions for how to talk to them about this issue. I really feel it's important for neighbors to have open lines of communication about any issues so that things stay harmonious, but I don't know how to communicate with these folks.

For reference, we live in city limits, but in a lower population neighborhood. Our yard is one of very few with something other than lawn, and thus very attractive to birds and other wildlife. Also, we have trained our cat to stay within our yard, so there's not a double standard at play here of our cat going in their yard.
3 weeks ago