Author Archives: jane

MYO Charming Mushroom Pincushions Made With Recycled Shirts and Wood

I designed these charming mushroom pincushions out of recycled materials and pieces of branches. If you change the design a bit, you could make a forest of trees in a similar way. –Another day perhaps. These pincushions could also be adapted into cupcake pincushions. Just scrape off the bark and paint the stump with lines like a cupcake bottom.

I know that mushroom pin cushions are old news but I’ve put my own spin on the idea (using wood for the stumps). The wood bottm makes them very stable.

Incites on how to make your own:

Gather supplies as seen in picture. –jar lid, wood stump, fabric, stuffing, plate for tracing. You will also need needle and thread and glue. Sometimes I use wool roving for the stuffing. The natural oils from the wool help to keep needles from rusting.

First, use a plate to trace a circle on a salvaged knit shirt. You want fabric that will stretch like a t-shirt.

The size of the plate will depend on the size of the jar lid you are using, which will depend on the stump size. The fabric will need to be bigger than the jar lid by about two inches extra all the way around. Smaller mushroom tops will require less, so test it out.

Using a straight stitch (put the needle up then down, up, then down through the fabric) to sew all the way around your circle. Sew near the edge. I like to use a metal jar lid to help shape the mushroom to have a flatter bottom.

Pull the thread to gather the fabric. Add the jar lid and the stuffing and gather some more.

Knot the thread to hold the gather.

Glue the mushroom top to your stump. I used a branch that I chopped with a miter saw. You could use a hand saw. Put something heavy on top until the glue dries.

I made the tall mushroom out of a second-hand infant hat. I like to use it to hold threaded needles for quick access.

Observing Nature: Fisher Cat In NH Yard

During a visit to Amherst, New Hampshire, we were amazed to see a fisher cat come out of the woods! It was searching for dinner scrapes that were tossed there. We were all surprised. My family and I had never seen one before that. Fisher cats are known for being secretive and they are very rarely seen. Incredible: we got to get such a good look at the fisher cat while safely on a raised deck! It didn’t even seem to know or care that we were there.

When I was a kid we would throw out kitchen scraps and watch what came around after dark to get it: mostly raccoons and skunks. We would turn on the light to view them at a distance.

I’ve since read that fisher cats are omnivorous; they eat a bunch of stuff including small animals, carrion, insects, fruit and even mushrooms. They rarely eat fish despite their name and apparently they are good at hunting porcupines. Furthermore, they were hunted to near extinction back when wearing furs was the thing to do.

The night before I took these pictures, my Aunt’s toy dog was carried away while she was standing nearby. It was dark and the dog went outside of the ring of light. She was shocked and devastated when this beloved pet was carried away in the night: a fox was blamed. After seeing this fisher cat we are all convinced it was the fisher cat. Fisher cats are blamed for the disappearance of many house pets but biologists believe that other predators are usually to blame. Unfortunately, I think this fisher cat saw an opportunity and took it. How was she to know?

This fisher cat showed up around 6 p.m.

Catch A Fish Out Of Water: A Party Game

I saw kids playing this lampshade fishing game at a summer cookout. They were having a great time. Of course I had to make one; plus put my own spin on it. You should too.

Set up:

Get an old fishing pole. Use a string or some fishing line to attach your lampshade. Use stuff from your garage or find objects second-hand. You will want the string/ line to hold the lampshade so the shade hangs down at the right level. Test it out to make sure. You will also need goggles that have been altered so you can’t see through them, a blindfold or nothing (if player keeps his or her eyes closed). When we play this again at our next party, I’m going to add funny (crazy) eye pictures to cover the goggle eyes. That will make it even funnier to watch. I’m thinking red and black Swirly eyes.

To Play:

Each player has a turn and will be timed. The person who can get the lampshade on their head the fastest is the winner. What makes this hard to do is the fact that the player can’t see the lampshade. Also, the player can only use one hand. (The other hand must stay down: you can’t touch the lampshade with your free hand!)  It isn’t as easy as it sounds. The shade swings around and usually bumps against the player’s head a bunch of times.

This is a great party game because it is rather amusing for watchers and challenging for players. Make sure you have a camera nearby.

This is one of the games played at my daughter’s circus (Cirque du Soleil) birthday party. Try this at a family picnic, kid’s party, cookout or whenever. It’s even fun for the grownups.

What made this nest? Brown Thrasher Nest and Eggs

Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum

How fun: a pair of Brown Thrashers decided to make a nest in my yard (June 2010)! We found the nest hidden in a tangle of grape vines. Later we discovered three eggs inside the nest. According to Wikipedia, both parents take turns incubating the eggs. We often saw the mom or dad in the nest. We were very hopeful at the prospect of baby birds but when we returned from vacation sadly the nest was empty.

What made this nest? I’m going to post pictures of bird eggs and nests in order to help others identify nests or bird eggs that they find.

This nest was made mostly of small twigs and dried leaves in a tangle of grape vines in a yard in Southern Maryland. It was about five feet off the ground.

I’m briefly holding this egg in my hand so you can see relative size.

The brown thrasher is still commonly found in its range but its numbers have declined in some places due to habitat loss.

Land Snails: How To Care For Your Newly Found Pet

Teach kids how to care for the simple needs of a land snail. Locally found snails don’t cost anything to keep and don’t require a big commitment. They can be kept until the novelty wears off and then released back into the wild. Keeping a pet snail (however temporary) will give kids an opportunity to learn about it. Watch closely when they eat. You can’t see its mouth but you can see how the food is munched bit by bit. They use a radula to file bits of food into its mouth. A radula is like a tongue with teeth. Cool, I know. The land snail pictured here is interesting to watch. It has eyes at the tip of its antennas (the top pair) and the bottom pair is used for feeling and smelling. Best of all you can watch your snail slime its way around using only one muscular foot.

I live on the East coast of the United States so this is a common land snail around here.

If your snail starts to dry out, it will close itself inside its shell and wait for conditions to improve before venturing out again. This state of inactivity is called estivation. They can seal the opening with a sheet of a clear substance that looks like dried egg whites.

If you plan to keep your snail for more than a week or so, you will need to add a source of calcium to the snail’s enclosure. For this you can add a piece of plain chalk or a piece of cuttlebone.

This is Snailie the land snail. You might just find your next pet in your flower garden.

Set-up:

A glass container works well. I found this vintage jar in the woods at an old unofficial trash dump. All that remained of the dump was glass and large metal items. I thought this jar was cool so I took it home. Do they still make jars like this?

A piece of cheese cloth or breathable fabric. You don’t want your pet snail getting lost in your house.

An elastic band. Save and reuse elastic bands that come off vegetables like broccoli and asparagus.

Daily care:

Wash jar. Don’t forget to take the snail out of the jar first!

Replace damp paper towel.

Add food: a leaf of lettuce (not iceberg), a piece of your apple core, spinach, carrot, or a raw potato slice. You are sure to find some yummy vegetable scraps left-over from dinner preparation. The food scraps shouldn’t be rotten however. Take out any food that gets moldy.

Keep your snail out of direct sunlight. You don’t want it to get too hot or dry.

As a child I had a vivarium set up with plants and a pet snail or two. If you choose to set up a vivarium (terrarium), make sure you choose plants that like a moist environment. Also add potting soil, plants, a log and some dried leaves to mimic it’s natural environment. Keep the soil damp.

Note: avoid chlorinated water, avoid washing your container with soap (or at least make sure you rinse really well).