Welcome to our House

Sunday, July 3, 2016

How To Build A Chipmunk Trap

A little more than a week ago, on June 23, 2016, we noticed broken bluebird eggs.  This was the third bluebird nest that was destroyed this summer.  The other bird nests in the area have thrived.  The tree swallows fledged yesterday, the mourning doves fledged two young ones and the Baltimore oriole eggs have hatched.

Male Baltimore oriole feeding young ones.

The bluebird pair is trying for the fourth time.  She has been busy building yet another nest.  The next few days she will be busy laying another clutch of eggs.  She only lays one egg a day and the last two attempts each produced five eggs.   Hopefully in another week she will be incubating more eggs.  Today she has three eggs in the nest.

In order to help reduce a predator problem, we installed a Noel Guard.  It is designed to reduce a predators ability to reach the bird eggs through the birdhouse hole opening.  You can see a pattern on how to build one from the website.  We have used a wren guard in the past, but we are trying this Noel Guard because the Wren Guard wasn't successful for larger predators.  I wrote about the Wren Guard a year ago for my 600th post.

A Noel guard installed over the birdhouse opening.

We tried to decide what had caused the problem with our bluebird eggs.  Some people suggested that chipmunks or squirrels could be the problem.  The predator is usually a wren or a raccoon, but we saw a Red Squirrel in the vicinity.  When researching this little squirrel, it appears to be quite aggressive and capable of stealing and destroying bird eggs.

Looking somewhat like a chipmunk, this is a red squirrel.

No matter who the culprit is, we decided to set live traps.  Our main goal was to relocate some chipmunks and hopefully the red squirrel.  A few days ago we set out the traps.  We had purchased a small animal trap and had one made by my husband many years ago.  He had a co-worker who gave him a pattern, and my husband made one over thirty years ago.  We used it off and on until it got too weathered and rickety.  He made a new one and made a couple more for family members.

The purchased small animal trap

The homemade trap.

In the past few days we have caught twelve chipmunks.  We caught one in the purchased trap and eleven in our home made trap.  Obviously our own trap was the most successful.  After we catch one, we put the trap in our vehicle and take it five miles away from our house to the other side of the river and release them.  If they return, I will just catch them again.  Many people believe we should drown them or kill them, but I just can't do that.  Yesterday we took the journey, opened the trap, the chipmunk jumped out and ran across the grass, I closed the lid and put the trap back in the truck.  When we got home, I took the trap out and set it down.  I heard some scratching and looked.  There was another chipmunk in the trap.  Apparently we had caught two at once and only one jumped out.  So we got back in the truck and made another trip.  Twenty miles total to relocate two chipmunks.  It's a good thing gas prices aren't as bad as they were last summer.

If you want to make one of these special traps, I think it's time for me to bring in the Count of our Cabin.  What would a Cabin Countess be without her Count?  He agreed to provide a small tutorial on how to build this chipmunk trap.  Here are his instructions for the small animal trap in honor of my 700th blog post.

How To Build A Chipmunk Trap
By the Cabin Count

Since blog writing is a little bit foreign to me, I will try to make the instructions as clear and concise as I can.  My wife tells me not to use too many unimportant little details, so I will try to get to the point.

The first thing you need to do is gather some supplies.  I just used scraps of wood and supplies I had on hand.  You can always go to the Habitat for Humanity Restore store.  They may have everything you need at a good price.  If you want to go to the lumber yard and buy cedar boards and fancy hardware, that is up to you.

Pieces of plywood, small boards and some wire mesh.

The measurements are not set in stone, they can be adjusted to what materials you have.

If you don't have scraps on hand, the trap can be made from one 1" x 6" x 6' board.

Additional materials needed:

Screws (or nails), hardware cloth (or some type of screening), a hinge, a weight, a drawer pull, 3.25" x 3.25" piece of masonite or stiff cardboard, and a dowel cut to size for your trap (stick).

Directions using a 1" x 6" x 6' board [Actual size is .75" x 5.5" x 6']


1. Cut three pieces @ 15" in length [two for the sides, one for the bottom]

2. Cut one piece @ 10" in length [top]

3. Cut one piece @ 5.5" in length [door]

4. Cut (Rip)  four strips @ .75" in width and 11" in length

5. From the four strips cut six @ 5.5" in length and two @ 4" in length

6. The remaining strip should be approximately 1.5" in width  Cut one piece @ 4" in length


1. Attach the bottom to the sides [Screw (or nail) through the bottom into the sides.]

2. Attach the .75" x 1.5" x 4" piece to the sides [Screw (or nail) through the sides into 4" piece.]

3. Attach the top to the sides [Screw (or nail) through the top into the sides.]

4. Cut hardware cloth ( screening) to size to cover front and back [These will be different sizes]

5.  Attach the hardware cloth to both ends using the six 5.5" strips and two 4" strips

6. Attach the door using the hinge [Allow for opening and closing of the door]

7. Attach a weight on front end of door [Holds door down so critter can't escape.]

8. Attach a three inch screw or nail to the bottom [Should be placed in the center of the door opening]

   Set the trap [This takes patience and practice]

1. Place some bird seed on the bottom of the trap

2. Balance the piece of masonite (or stiff cardboard) on the screw

3. Place the dowel (piece of stick) on the masonite

4. Lower the door onto the dowel [A little notch in the underside of the door may help.]

How it works:

Through the open door the critter will drop down tipping the masonite, dislodging the dowel, slamming the door shut.

Hats off to the Countess for 700 blogs. The Count finds this blogging difficult to do, so this may be my first and last guest blog.

We hope you enjoy your new surroundings little fella.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Prince's Pine, A New Plant For Me

The other day when I was walking out to the mailbox, I noticed a patch of greenery growing under a pine tree.  As I looked closer, I saw it was a plant I hadn't noticed before.  I don't think it was there in other years.  You would think I would have noticed if they had appeared before.

I had no idea what these plants were.  I downloaded an app called MyGardenAnswers.  It is an app where you can take a photo of a flower with your phone, submit it and supposedly the app will tell you what the plant is.  I tried it, but I got no results.  I looked online at several flower sites but I couldn't find the answer.  My next step was to post the picture on a nature facebook group I belong to.  A kind person identified it for me.  It is called Prince's Pine (Chimaphila umbellata).  He said "It's a native species of relatively high conservatism that prefers drier wooded habitats. It most likely arrived through natural dispersion or may have been present in the seed bank."  I was so excited to discover something new. They have spread quite a bit, and I am hoping they will come back every year. Wikipedia says it is a small perennial flowering plant found in dry woodlands, or sandy soils. Perennial means it should come back every year.  It has green leaves year-round, and it receives a significant portion of its nutrition from fungi in the soil. By keeping the green color,  they should be easy to keep track of.

Some Indian tribes used to boil Prince's Pine to treat tuberculosis.  It also has some antibacterial properties they used to treat infections.
It is also used as a flavoring in candy and soft drinks, particularly root beer.  I picked some leaves and they didn't smell like anything unless the oils need to be extracted somehow. Interesting but I won't be using it for flavor or medicinal purposes.  I will just enjoy the plants and the flowers.

The plants are spreading this summer.

I was waiting to see if the the little buds were going to bloom into a flower.  Today I went to check.  They are just starting to bloom into a small little unique flower.  

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hot Air Balloon Crew is a Great Summer Job

We can all remember our first job.  These jobs serve two purposes.  It is a way for a young person to earn some extra money either to save for further education or to save for a special item.  The other purpose is to reinforce what you DON'T want to do for the rest of your life.  I worked in the hot kitchen of an A & W root beer stand.  I didn't have the fun car hop job, but instead worked in a small area with a grill and warmers with barbecue and hot beef.  It is probably the reason I don't like confined spaces or being hot.  At the same time I worked as a cleaning lady in a nursing home.  I had to wear a uniform which was a yellow dress with sensible shoes, and I had to wear my hair in a bun. Quite the look for a 18 year old.   Cleaning in a nursing home has some challenges which I won't go into, but needless to say I can still remember the smell of the toilet bowl cleaner.  Wait!!!  Summer jobs are training for what you don't want to do for the rest of your life, but that is exactly what it was.  I was training to be a wife and mother and didn't even know it.

My husband washed dishes during his high school years and became very proficient at it.  I am always so happy when he practices his skills in our kitchen.

Our two oldest grandchildren are going to be sophomores in high school.  They each have their first summer job.  Our granddaughter is doing filing at a local car dealership.  She is enjoying it, but I am quite sure filling hamburger buns or chasing turd balls under beds wouldn't be for her.

Our grandson has the best job of all.  He obtained a job on the crew of a hot air balloon company.  Last week we observed the process.  He will never forget this experience.

The trolley picks up the riders and the workers.

They proceed to the launch site.

The equipment is unloaded and set up.



With a big powerful fan the inflation process begins.

The propane flame heats the air.

Pretty soon the balloon is inflated.

The riders get into the basket.

Then it's Up, Up and Away.

At this point, as the hot air balloon disappeared into the horizon, the balloon crew packed the equipment into the trolley.  We waited to follow them.  The trolley tracks the balloon, and I imagine they are in communication at all times.

We spotted the balloon across the lake.

Then the landing begins.  This time it was in a field.

The crew had to pull the balloon into the proper position.

Deflating the balloon.

It is amazing to me how quickly they can pack up the balloon and put it away until the next flight.  I don't know the technicalities of the flight, but I imagine it is complicated and mostly depends on the wind and weather.  I did notice that they put up small test balloons to see the wind direction and probably other things.

I noticed the flight we witnessed seemed to fly really low.  I don't know if that was by design or was dictated by the winds.  I am just glad I witnessed from the ground and not from that basket. I have never claimed to be brave.  I agree with the motto of the balloon company, but I just want both of my feet on the ground.

The motto of the balloon company.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Special Mother's Day Surprise

Happy Father's Day.  Even if it's a made up holiday, it is still nice to honor all fathers and father figures.  My husband got his token gift which he picked out himself.  It was a 26 piece screwdriver set he found at Costco.  Now all his screwdrivers will be in one place.  A place for everything and everything in it's place.  Something we have been striving for.  Today we went to a breakfast on the farm with some of the family and then later almost everyone came over for ribs, sweet corn, mashed potatoes, 7-layer salad and strawberries on pound cake.  I think all the father's and mom's for that matter had a good day.

I can't remember what I bought for myself on Mother's Day, but I'm sure it was something I wanted or needed at the time.  We aren't much for surprises, but I may have to change my mind.  I can't even convey how surprised I was last Mother's Day.  I have been waiting to blog about this surprise gift.  My daughter also gave one to my sister.  I didn't want to spoil my sister's surprise because she did not receive hers until recently.

It all started in April.  My daughter asked if I had any recipes hand written by my mom (her grandma).  I didn't think a lot about it, she is a very sentimental girl.  She wanted a recipe that we remembered mom making.  Several days later I thought I should look for one.  Mom made up recipes or changed them so I couldn't really think of any off hand.  I have a whole box of recipes, but the ones I use most often are in a kitchen drawer.  I opened the drawer to see what I could find, and there on top was one written in my mom's handwriting.  I had never really noticed it before.  When I looked at it carefully, it was a recipe for her Cinnamon Rolls.  It was dated 10/21/53.  It was called Delicious Rolls so I may have thought it was a recipe for dinner rolls and didn't ever read it.  It also said she got it from a Mrs. B.  I don't know who that could be.   We know a few possibilities, but we will never know for sure.   My mother made hundreds of pans of cinnamon rolls in her life.  It was kind of her signature food.  Whenever we had a family brunch, she always made cinnamon rolls.  When I married my husband, she would make a pan with raisins and a pan without raisins for him.  To this day, we make a pan of cinnamon rolls for family breakfast meals.  They are never as good as we remembered mom making.  I had ask her to show me a few times, but she never gave me an actual recipe.  I think she even forgot she had this one.

I found a couple more recipes written in mom's handwriting and the next time I saw my daughter I gave them to her.  That was the last I thought about it.  I thought they would go into a scrapbook and that would be it.  When it was Mother's Day, she gave me a present from her and her sister.  When I opened it up, I couldn't believe it.  There, laser engraved onto a cutting board was mom's recipe.  It was a very special gift, and I will treasure it always.

This is the finished cutting board and the original recipe card with a cinnamon thumbprint included.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Make Your Own Powdered Laundry Detergent

I have been making my own laundry detergent for a long time.  When I first started it was a process that involved grating Fels Naptha soap and making gallons of liquid detergent.  Next I switched to pink Zote soap which I tried using several different ways trying to come up with the easiest method.  They all worked great for cleaning clothes, but took more time than most people have.  If the Zote wasn't grated into a fine powder, it would sometimes leave a glob on a piece of clothing.  I have blogged about several of these methods, but my last attempt has been by far the easiest.  It is mostly dump all the dry ingredients together and make sure they are mixed.  It makes a very large batch which lasts a long time.

Laundry Detergent


1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax– $4

1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda– $4

1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean– $3

2 (14.1 oz) Bars of Zote Soap– I like the pink for the scent but the white is fine. You can also use Fels Naptha or Castile soap)-$2

1 (4 lb) Box Baking Soda– Found in the cooking aisle-$1.50

4 cups of Epsom Salt-<$2

30-40 drops of Essential oils of your choice (I used grapefruit, lime and lemon)


First grate the Zote soap.  This is the only tricky part.  If you use Fels Naptha it is quite dry and grates easily.  Zote is a softer soap and clogs up the grater.  I googled it and found if you cut the Zote into pieces and put them on a microwave safe dinner plate for 2-4 minutes, it dries the soap out.  It puffs up and when it is cool, it crumbles easily.  I did it for about 4 minutes, watching it very carefully.  It took longer because my pieces were a little large. To crumble it, just put the cooled pieces in a food processor/blender.  It made a fine powder which I added to the other ingredients.

The Zote soap pieces look like this after they are microwaved.

Next mix all ingredients together in a large bucket.  I used a big 5 gallon bucket and it filled it about 1/2 full.

Use 2 -4 Tablespoons per laundry load.

This detergent dissolves completely even in the little detergent drawer.  The clothes get very clean and smell wonderful.  I am going to toss all my other detergent recipes and make this from now on.  It is so easy and inexpensive to make.  My cost is around $16 for the entire batch.

By adding the epsom salt you won't need any fabric softener either.  The clothes are very soft.  I used to make my own dryer sheets.  I cut reusable towels to fit my container.  Then I mixed a bottle of cheap hair conditioner, 1 1/2 cups white vinegar and 3 cups of water together.  I poured the solution over the towels.  I used one per dryer load and when I took out the dry laundry, I put the dry sheet on the bottom of the pile to absorb more liquid.  It worked great, but I don't even use them anymore.  My clothes are soft without it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Decision On Camping-NOT TO CAMP

This is a followup to another blog I wrote.  The blogs title was "To Camp or Not to Camp, That is the Question".

I now have an answer.  NOT TO CAMP

I tried so hard to like it, but I just can't.  As I mentioned before, I love being outdoors in nature.  I love sitting around a campfire with friends and cooking meals outside.  There is nothing better than a foil meal with a pudgie pie for desert.

What I just can't do is live in such small quarters.  The fascination people have with tiny houses just boggles my mind.  The thought of that makes me hyperventilate.  I need to breath and I can't breath in confined quarters.  Even the campgrounds are too confining.  Some people call it cozy, I call it stifling.

So now, two years later, we are selling our 1988 motor home.  It is old but in very good condition.  Hopefully someone else can enjoy it.  The people we purchased it from loved it so much and only gave it up because of health reasons.  My husband is building a fire pit area at our house so I can enjoy the outdoor life and still have access to my comfy bed and a bathroom I don't have to back into or pump out.  To each his own. 

For anyone interested, I can send more photos or more information. 

There are really lovely scenes from the campground that I will miss.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Make Your Own Toothpaste

I think I was a pioneer woman in my former life or a chemist.  In this life the chemistry part was squelched by my high school chemistry teacher.  I will just say that our personalities did not gel.  As many of you know, I am constantly combining ingredients and messing around with making healthy foods and products.  I have written about many of these experiments.  Some are complete failures, but others I make over and over again.  At the end of this blog, I will list some of my favorites.  Thinking about it, I realized I haven't posted the recipe for homemade toothpaste.  It is a product that needs some getting used to.  Visually it looks like gray cement and the taste and texture are different from the toothpastes we are used to.

If you have ever read the label on the toothpastes we have all used for years, you will see all the ingredients.  The first is usually a form of fluoride.  The toothpaste manufacturers claim fluoride is necessary to prevent cavities and gum disease.  They even put fluoride in city water supplies or give fluoride tablets to kids who have well water.  I am not going to go into the pros and cons of fluoride because the web is full of information on this subject.  I recently read that many brands of bottled water are taken from city water supplies that have fluoride in them.  I personally try to avoid fluoride.  It is based on an experience from when I was young.  My mother had an aunt who had a lot of joint pain.  She was older and was told she just had arthritis.  She read an article about the side effects of fluoride and started buying spring water.  Within a short period of time, her symptoms got so much better.  At that point, my parents began buying spring water and therefore the fluoride controversy has been on my radar for years.  More and more information has come out about the dangers of fluoride, and I have tried my best to stay away from it.

Other ingredients listed on a popular brand of toothpaste are glycerin, hydrated silica, sodium hexametaphosphate, propylene glycol, PEG-6, water, zinc lactate, flavor, trisodium phosphate, sodium gluconate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium saccharin, carrageenan, stannous chloride, xanthan gum, titanium dioxide, and blue 1.  I don't want some of these ingredients in my mouth.  Trisodium phosphate is used for cleaning walls.  I think hydrated silica sounds like wet sand to me and some of the other ingredients I have no idea about.  

I do like Young Living Thieves toothpaste.  It has no fluoride, synthetic dyes, artificial flavors or preservatives.  It is quite expensive at over $10 a tube.  Making it yourself is much cheaper.  If you google homemade toothpaste, there are a lot of recipes.  I have tried several, but the one I use now is by Dr. Axe (  It is super simple to make and works great.  Last week I had a dental cleaning and checkup.  My dentist told me I did a wonderful job of cleaning my teeth and my cleaning took no time at all.  I didn't tell her I don't use the junky toothpaste she gives away, but I make my own. 

Probiotic Toothpaste

1/4 cup coconut oil
3 Tablespoons Bentonite Clay
2 capsules of Probiotics (open the capsules and use the powder)
10 drops of peppermint essential oil
A reusable toothpaste tube

Mix all the ingredients together.  I warm the coconut oil to liquefy it so it's easy to put into the container.

I purchased an awesome travel container at CVS.  It works very well for this purpose.

This is the bentonite clay powder I use and the container.

I have made a lot of homemade products over the years, but these are my top ten in case you are new to reading my blog.