Prairie View

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Smelly Situation

I get asked a lot of questions.  Yesterday Paul Y. called to see if I had any ideas about what to do for a client who apparently has a skunk living under his house.  The odor inside the house is bad.  He asked me because he remembered that we had some experience with a skunk.  I told that story here.

We talked about some possibilities for getting the skunk to leave, but didn't really come up with anything we knew was absolutely right for someone with few financial resources.  (Animal control does not control skunks)  I promised to do some research on how to rid the house of the smell.  The pest control company offered packs that could be placed in each room to rid it of the smell, but the money for that was a problem too.

Today we talked again, and I learned that he had hired a pest control company to remove the skunk.  In the meantime I had found some information on how to rid various things of the skunk smell.   I'm writing it here in case I ever need it.

Essential Oils was the first thing that came to mind.  Just recently I've begun learning about essential oils, and I thought an EO might work.  Very quickly I learned that the paper in those odor absorbing packs is Pine Oil and Eucalyptus Oil.  Bingo.   Saturating something absorbent like a cotton ball with those two oils and placing one  in each room should perform the same magic as those packs.  The oils (several drops in two cups of water) could also be dispensed through a diffuser or sprayed into the air as a fine mist from a spray bottle.  I'm  not knowledgeable about the mechanism in operation here but I understand the EO compounds bond to the smelly skunk compounds and render them inactive.

Later on I learned that skunk spray is an oily substance, so anything used to treat skin, a pet or fabrics that have absorbed skunk odors must contain some detergent or soap to dissolve the oils.  On this site from the University of Nebraska I found a research-based recipe for neutralizing skunk odor.

1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide (from an unopened container)
1/4 cup baking soda
1-2 T. liquid dishwashing soap (Dawn is often recommended)

Apply to people or pets and allow to remain for about 5 minutes and then rinse off.  (Don't leave it on hair too long unless you're trying for a bleach job.) For clothing, mix into water in washing machine and run through the entire cycle.  Expect an explosion if you ever leave the mixture in a closed container.  Mix it fresh and use it promptly.  Check out the Nebraska site above for the best information I found anywhere.

Siding and outdoor furniture can be sprayed with a 1:9 bleach and water mixture.

Also worth noting is that skunks are repelled by the smell of peppermint.  The source I read suggested dropping oils around the foundation of the house.  I wondered why you wouldn't just plant peppermint plants if you were worried about skunks.

I've heard anecdotally about successfully using ozone generators in intolerable situations inside a building.  The Nebraska site casts doubt on the effectiveness of this approach.  Unless you could rent a machine inexpensively, it's not likely to be worth the expense for Paul's client.

Do you have a proven remedy to share?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Wrap Up--June 20, 2016

I have a lot of catching up to do here since the last blog post.  To help overcome the inertia of a long silence I'll start by pasting two recent status posts on my Facebook page.

There's a strange wheat harvest going on just beyond our backyard. A miniature but very sophisticated combine drives along and stops every several yards before proceeding. LaVerne of Miller Seed says 300 separate small plots have been seeded in this field, and, identified by GPS location, those plots are now being harvested, and data is being recorded on the yield. A small sample for further analysis is being collected from each plot. It's part of the painstaking process of bringing new wheat varieties to market.

In this stretch of "heat advisory" days, I'm thinking of Shea, who walked past our place on Monday in her walk across America. She started in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Our dog Barney shared several miles of her walk. We learned this the next morning when she and sweet Glenna Dellenbach brought Barney home from Abbyville where Shea and Barney had spent the night. I got a hug from Shea before they left. Barney got a hug and several kisses. Stay safe, Shea!

The second post has a strange sequel.  Yesterday, three days after Barney's unauthorized absence and collusion with a cross-country walker, he did a repeat act.  Yes.  Really.

I was sleepily recovering in the recliner from an early morning rising and hard work in the heat when the doorbell rang.  Hiromi answered.  "Barney did it again," he said when he came back inside.  "A girl who is walking across the US came by our place and Barney walked with her to Abbyville.  She and her dad just brought him back."

What?  Two girls in the same week walking past here on their way across the country?  And Barney joins up with them and goes all the way to Abbyville? And they both kindly bring him home?

The second girl's dad was making the trip alongside her in a VW van, no doubt providing support along the way.  She is walking on behalf of Medical Network for Children--if Hiromi remembered the name right and if I'm repeating it right.  The first girl had no such connections--"just talking to people and listening to their stories."  Her supplies were in a small wheeled cart. She had walked west to Dallas and then north to here.

These walkers seemed happy to have Barney for company, but I think he'd be more likely to stay home if they faced him squarely, acted threatening and told him to go home.

I'm not sure how people find our road, but it's a good route west through this county.  It's paved and not highly traveled--past our place at least.  US 50 is only one mile away and, while the shoulders are paved and wide there, traffic moves much faster, and walking is probably less relaxing.


My tarragon debacle began several weeks ago when five of our six grandchildren were here for several hours.  The day before I had transplanted my tarragon plant from one spot in the backyard to another.  To increase its chances of surviving the transfer, I had cut off the stems about halfway down, reasoning that this will be the first herb harvest for that plant, so the timing of this pruning/harvesting made me feel quite clever.  I put the tarragon into a bowl, along with the pruners that I had used to harvest it, and set the bowl inside the patio door to keep from having to come into the house with my dirty shoes.  It was still there (drying naturally, I reasoned) when the grandchildren came over the next day.

Wyatt found the bowl with its contents and went right to work using the pruners to snip the stems into small pieces.  I saw him and decided that was OK since I'd have to do something like that myself at some point anyway.  When I spied a missing chunk from one of my houseplant Clivia leaves, however, with Wyatt still wielding the pruner, I had him give it to me.  The bowl stayed where it was.

Later, when the boys had all romped outside to play, and the girls stayed sedately behind for fear of Barney (who can be quite intimidating with his own romping behaviors), Arwen picked up the watering can that I had let Tristan use to help water my houseplants.  She wanted to water something, so I let her water plants too.  Then Lucia wanted to water plants, and I let her, directing her carefully and having her set down the watering can when she was done.

While I was trying to put on lunch, I spied Lucia with the watering can again, pouring water into the bowl containing tarragon.  Oh bother.  I'll have to drain that off and spread the tarragon out to dry.  I put the bowl on the kitchen counter, moved the watering can, and went on with cooking lunch.

Hiromi cleaned up the dishes.  My tarragon bowl was washed and left to dry in the drainer.  The tarragon was nowhere in sight.  I never saw it again.  Hiromi had put it in the compost pail.  Sad story.

On the bright side, the tarragon is growing out nicely, and a second harvest should soon be ready.


Last week I spent five days at the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains at the Earth Partnership for Schools training in Hesston.   Forty hours of classes and ten hours of driving time made the week seem very full.

On Thursday of that week I turned 64.  Several days later I posted this on my Facebook page, above a picture with all the others who were at the EPS training:

This is where I was on my birthday this year--at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston, KS, during a week of training with other teachers. The "teacher of teachers" is Brad Guhr, on the far right. As he put it, our EPS class is the fifth generation of teachers "descended" from Aldo Leopold, the first great voice and advocate for prairie conservation. In other words, each of us can say I was taught by _________ who was taught by ______, and Aldo Leopold is the last name in the short list. I've read and admired Leopold for many years.
Here we had just planted prairie plants in an undeveloped part of the arboretum and had finished a "prairie birthday" celebration. Not a soul there except me knew that I was appropriating the celebration for my very own birthday as well. I can't imagine sharing a birthday with a better birthday partner.
Before we left Hesston, Brad gave each of us a Black Oak seedling (in the Red Oak family) to plant on our school grounds.  The oaks had grown from acorns harvested in Wisconsin from a tree planted by Aldo Leopold.

Those who complete the EPS training and have their application approved are usually awarded a $2,000 grant to help establish prairie plantings on school grounds.  The grant is funded by the chickadee checkoff on income tax returns, and is channeled through OWLS (Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site).  It's a fairly arduous application process, and, at the direction of the principal of our school, as I have time I will work further on this.


Our curriculum committee is still working on the Health and Physical Education component of our curriculum.  We've been meeting most weeks of late.


The Master Gardener's Garden tour took place last weekend.  I helped guide visitors to the Hutchinson Community College Demonstration Garden, which is where I have volunteered a number of times earlier this year.  I also had the opportunity to listen to three good lectures on garden topics.  One of the speakers was from Dyck Arboretum.  He had planned and directed the prairie planting we did.

I love the HCC garden, and the president of the college apparently is quite proud of it too.  Carter File showed up at the garden tour, and shook hands all around as one of the people in charge introduced us.  He thanked us and told us that he often brings visitors to the garden.  Recently it was a group of junior college presidents from around the state.  One of them wondered how he could get our group to take care of a garden on their campus.  "You can't," Dr. File told him.  

Coming at the end of the EPS training, the garden tour made a full week even more so, but it was a good day.


Yesterday, several students from my last Home Environment class helped me paint the walls in the Hands of Christ cottage.  Thanks to Sheri and Ruthie and my brother Marcus, Paul Y., and Matthew N. who did all of the prep work, we got it almost finished.


My painting stint followed several hours working the Master Gardener's information booth at the Farmer's Market.  I had accidentally double-booked the morning, but it worked out OK since the one other person who was helping at the booth could come in for the last half of the morning.

We were sharing information on pollinators.  Bob R.  was a pro on pollinators and Becky C. was a pro at working the crowd, so it was a fun learning experience.  I loved being able to cruise the aisles and make purchases from the vendors--many of whom were acquaintances from my own market vendor days.

Only last week at the Dyck Arboretum gift shop I had purchased one of the newest books on pollinators of native plants.  This topic is of concern to many who pay attention to the health of our natural world, as well as to the people who depend on insect pollination for production of various flowering farm and garden crops.

Honeybees are the most well-known pollinators, but many other pollinators perform a significant service.  Since honeybees are in decline due to Colony Collapse and other hard-to-pin-down causes, we do well to encourage other pollinators to visit our plants.  Fastidious suburban-style landscaping and maintenance habits, along with cleared-out fence rows and well-mowed roadsides are the bane of pollinators and those who value them.


A week ago we had a carry-in dinner at church following a dedicatory prayer for our new kitchen.  After more than 50 years of having only a family-sized kitchen in the basement, this ample ground level kitchen feels quite luxurious.  It's actually a cooking kitchen--not only a serving kitchen.

Some of us were talking afterward about how the cleanup happens after such events, and I told how they had done it at Plainview the Sunday we were there recently.  A designated cleanup group was announced before the serving began.  In this case it was the "No name" group.  It was made up of families.  Someone suggested that maybe our small groups could take turns doing the cleanup after a carry-in.  I liked that idea.


Paul Yoder is having his 70th birthday soon.  His siblings expect to help him celebrate next weekend.  One of his brothers, Lee (Levi), will have a book signing at King Street Center on Friday evening.  For a $15.00 donation which will go to Hands of Christ and to Hope Ministries (local charities led by Lee's brother and nephew) people can read the story of Lee's life.  He grew up Amish in this community and then left to work in IW service in Denver.  He married and stayed in the Denver area.  At some point, he moved beyond the rebellion of his  youth and began to follow the Lord.  The book tells the story of this transformation.


We've had a lot of rain recently.  In one 24-hour period beginning Friday night, 3.3 inches fell here.  Halstead  had more than five inches.  The rains brought wheat harvest to an abrupt halt for now.  A branch down in the back yard gave evidence of high winds during the night.


Last evening the Iwashiges were at Shane and Dorcas' place for pizza.  Mother's Day, Father's Day, Hiromi's birthday, and my birthday all happen within one month's time, and our children planned and provided this celebration in honor of those events.  They also gifted us with money and suggested we might want to use it for a nice sushi dinner at Mr. Cao's.  Yuuuummm.

We had a lovely evening, with only Grant being absent. He was on his way home in a rental car with some other truckers who left their rigs in OK before the next run to TX.

Tristan wanted to read me a story and he did so, from the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  He kept right on reading after that first story.  I had done the first few lessons with him here and then put it away for a while after he seemed to lose interest.  I got it out again after several months, and when I saw how fast he was racing through the lessons I sent it home with him.  Apparently he's kept right on racing along (with some help from his mother, I'm sure), and now, unknown to me till last night, he's got the sounding out words thing down pretty well.  He is 4 years old.

Tristan also has learned to ride the bike I bought from Vernon and Lena recently.  Training wheels were added to make the process go more smoothly, and he seems quite confident with his new skill.


I'm learning about changes coming to the high school, beginning this fall, when a gradual four-year transition to a mostly conventional high school will begin.  For me it will mean teaching some new classes.  The subject areas are language arts and social sciences, which interest me a great deal.  This will be a fun challenge.  I might occasionally be tempted to substitute other adjectives to describe the challenge, but I'm sure it will overall be a very good thing.


Mark N. gave me a book today which is to be passed on to others on the curriculum committee.  Pilgrims in Politics by Michael S. Martin has been a good read so far.  If I hadn't interrupted myself to go visit my dad on Father's Day (he was gone to visit David Wagler who had a stroke, so I visited with my brother Marcus instead) and if I hadn't written here, I might have it finished by now.  It's a topic on which we are in desperate need of clear thinking and godly convictions.  Martin is preaching to the choir with me as his audience, but I am already seeing connections and noting arguments that had not occurred to me.

Added Later:  Dad (and Linda) visited Melvin and Fannie Nisly instead, after they were unable to reach the Waglers by phone.  Fannie is living with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).

Monday, June 06, 2016

Recommended Local Event

Please note several things:

1.  This event happens on Saturday of this week.
2.  Advance purchase of tickets saves you $2.00 on each ticket.

I have been working as a volunteer in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at HCC.  I love the garden and hope you take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy it.  The lectures there will be worthwhile.  I guarantee it.  I've heard past lectures from two of the three speakers.