Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

There IS an Easy Button!

Posted on | July 28, 2011 | 5 Comments

Do you know what this is?

It’s an air plant.  I bought several of these to decorate my beach room.  I know, I know.  A beach room?  Have the kids grown up so much that I am actually decorating my rooms in themes?  Themes other then Big-Enough-To-Put-the-Exersaucer-And-Still-Walk-By-Room or the Room-With-Chocolate-Milk-Stains-On-Carpet?  My, how time flies.  Can you believe we’ve already moved on to a bunch of pony wallies and an astronaut wallpaper border in the kids’ bedrooms?  And the Dump-Your-Clean-But-Unfolded-Laundry-Here space at the top of the stairs is now the beach-themed sitting room.  Well, Beach-And-Wii-Playing sitting room.  Which is as close as we get to adult decorating (and a beachy decorating theme is as close as we’ll ever get to owning a beach house!).

I can’t tell you how it exciting it was to buy these pretty air plants that remind me of the spiky sun loving varieties found on the coast.  Well, actually they’re Tillandsia Bromeliads.  Proponents of Tillandsia bromeliads will tell you that you shouldn’t call them air plants.  Because they don’t really live on just air.  I think those proponents must not own any other plants, though.  If they did they would realize air plants are so easy to take care of that they might as well live on air alone.

After all, they don’t need any soil.  Nope, you can just plop them in any pretty container you have around the house.  Sure, you can use some decorative planting materials like the sphagnum moss I used here:

Or even something fancier like these terrariums on Etsy:

(Where do the people on Etsy get all the time and energy for their creations?  Do they not have children?  Dogs?  Other Halves? A public library that allows you to rent the entire 1st and 2nd season of 24 on DVD for free?  I mean, how can you have that much spare time??)

Anyway, without the soil, it’s not like owning a plant at all.  After all, when the aforementioned kids, dogs, Other Halves, or even “I Don’t Know” knocks them off their ledge, there’s really nothing to clean up.  You do have “I Don’t Know” at your house, right?  The guy who sneaks around causing damage whenever you’re not looking.  When I ask the kids who spit out a half chewed sucker onto the mud room linoleum where it is stuck like concrete or who ate the last of the vanilla wafers designated for school snacks or who was the last one in the freezer and left the door open all night long, they always tell me it’s him.  That guy really gets around.  Usually when he knocks over a plant, he might try to hide it, but I always I find telltale signs of dirt clumps under the couch or fertilizer spikes rolling loose on the windowsill.  Never mind the time he stuck a plant back in upside down.  But with air plants, I might just find them sitting in their pots in a different order.  No spilled dirt.  No broken stems.  No damaged roots.  Happy, happy, joy, joy.

Air plants do require watering, but it isn’t in the usual way.  It doesn’t involve the kids pouring so much water in the pot that it floods all over the counter or side table.  It doesn’t involve having to buy water saucers that are always just a couple inches wider than the surface you plan to set the plant on.  It doesn’t involve moving all the plants onto the deck so they can safely overflow and then hauling them all back in.  Nope.  All you do is pluck your air plants out of their container, hold them under running water in the sink until they’re wet, then shake off any excess moisture and plop them back in the pot.  I’m serious.  I’m not making this up.  If you keep them in a closed container, you might want to set them on a paper towel to dry off good before putting them back in.  Sitting in moisture can make them rot.  But other than that, you’re good to go.  And they don’t even need water that often.  Mine have been taking 3 weeks to start feeling dried out.  3 weeks in between waterings!  O.M.G.  I told you.  They’re not like plants at all.

Of course, they do need sunlight, but since they prefer filtered bright light they’re perfect for the house.  Even if you have a space that is just a little too dark for air plants, you can fool people by mixing real ones with fake ones.   The long dark green spiky plant here is actually an air plant.  But the light green round lobed plant is not.

I just put the light green plant in there so that it seems like it must be an air plant, too.  That way  I can use some of it in a different location and people won’t think it’s fake.  I have a photo mantle that just doesn’t get enough light to keep my air plants happy.  So I switched the real air plants out with some of the fake stuff.  See?

I am so amazing.  So tricky.  So  clever.  So…wait a minute.  I  think I just exposed my secret online.  And you thought that only happened to famous people!

So I was already in love with my air plants for all their astounding qualities.  And then it happened.  One of them bloomed.  It actually bloomed!  Like some miraculous flower.  A flower that doesn’t need dirt or weekly watering or 12 hours of direct sunlight that can only be found way down in the vegetable garden.  A flower!

This picture really doesn’t do it justice, though, because  I was so stunned by this incredible development that it took me almost a week to recover and think straight enough to take a picture.  That and the fact that “I Don’t Know” had borrowed the camera and it was a week before I finally found it under a pile of sweatshirts on the window seat.  I’m not sure what “I Don’t Know”  was up to but this is one of the pictures that was on the camera:

Anyway, by then the flower had lost a lot of it’s magnificent purple hue and delicate blossoms.  I just hope I’m able to recreate all the right conditions for it to bloom again.  After all, in order to get it to bloom I had to do….oh, that’s right, NOTHING!  I bet I can manage that again 🙂

Now you’re probably wondering why I am rambling on and on about air plants on a farm blog. (How dare you!  I thought we were friends.)  But it actually is relevant.  Because my beloved air plants remind me a lot about our latest addition to the farm.  It’s this little guy right here:

That’s Little Bit.  And that’s where we found him—at the local animal shelter.  We went there to find a barn cat and we found 2 adorable kittens.  We really liked those kittens.  But Little Bit had no intention of letting us leave without him.  He grabbed us through the bars and refused to let go. He purred like a lawnmower.  He played with us in the playroom like if it was totally normal for him to be hugged and squeezed and petted and mauled on by 4 children every day of the week.  I figured we better go with the cat that liked kids instead of the kittens.  Just my incredible Spidey senses at work there.  Sometimes I am practically psychic.

All the way home I described the long tedious adjustment process it would take for Little Bit to be our barn cat.  For the first 3 weeks he’d be confined to a kennel in the barn and let out to go to the bathroom and be handled and played with 3 times a day.  That way he would know where he lived and where he was supposed to stay at night.  We’d keep cat toys in a special bin in the barn and they were to be used and returned after each play session so that the other animals didn’t destroy them (or eat them).  We would gradually introduce him to the animals but he wouldn’t be left alone with the pony or the guardian dog for about 6 weeks or until we were sure they wouldn’t hurt him.  We would keep a water sprayer in the barn and on the deck so that if we ever saw him chasing a chick or duckling we could immediately squirt him.  He would have his own food and water in an area where no other animals could reach it (I had no idea where that place would be).  Since we would not be using a litter box we would have to scoop up his droppings to keep the milking room clean and sanitary.  Just thinking about it was exhausting.

Right.  Here’s how it actually went down:

Day 1.  Let Little Bit out of kennel 3 times a day to play.  He had a blast climbing through crinkly leaves in the woods and sneaking up on moths and grasshoppers.

Not to mention batting around pony poop balls.

Day 2.  Let Little Bit out of kennel and played with him.  Then left him loose the rest of the afternoon.  Peeked at him a few times during the day and saw him and Bruno hanging out peacefully.

And chilling with Candy Corn.

Day 3.  Left him loose all day and night.  Woke to find him sitting on the deck.  Which is a perfect place for him to have his own food and water.  Isn’t he clever.

Day 4.  Realized we had yet to find any cat feces in the barn.  Have no idea where he’s going to the bathroom but it’s obviously not in the milk room or the barnyard.  Yeah for Little Bit!

Day 5.  Discover Little Bit doesn’t like his cat food as much as dog food.  Look at ingredient labels and find out they’re pretty much the same thing.  So let him have dog food and don’t have to mess with buying any separate feed for him.

Catch him drinking water out of the automatic water trough.  Didn’t know he understood that there was water in there or knew how to reach it.  No longer need to keep separate water for him.

Day 6.  Happen to see Little Bit stalking a chick.  Run to get the water sprayer.  Before I find it, the mother hen chases Little Bit under the deck stairs where she corners him and pecks him viciously.  Little Bit never chases a baby again.

So, there you have it.  No need for a long isolation period.  No need for a slow adjustment to the other critters.  No need for cat toys.  No need to scoop poop.  No special separate food or water. Only a Little Bit of work, but lots and lots of love.

As it turns out, having a barn cat is just about as easy as having an air plant.  Air plants and Little Bit.  You can order your air plants online.  But Little Bit is ours, all ours.  Don’t even think about it.


5 Responses to “There IS an Easy Button!”

  1. Walnut
    July 28th, 2011 @ 6:51 am

    I absolutely love your blog. Thank you for sharing for farm and humor with us. I have a soft place in my heart for farm cats. We usually had no fewer that five growing up and they were excellent at keeping the rodent and other small mammal population to a minimum.

  2. Lisa D
    July 29th, 2011 @ 5:18 am

    Adorable! This is how we acquired our best pets, too — they literally grabbed us. I think the animals have a better sense of the perfect match than we do.


  3. Jean H.-T.
    July 29th, 2011 @ 6:07 am

    Hey guess what. “I Don’t Know’s” cousin, “Not Me” lives at our house! Maybe we should get them together sometime. I’m sure they’d have a ball. By the way. We have two bunnies who need to be “socialized” to share a cage. You seem like the perfect person! Would you like to borrow two bunnies for a month or so??? We’d be happy to host “I Don’t Know” for awhile.

  4. forensicfarmgirl
    July 29th, 2011 @ 8:22 am

    Love it! Gotta appreciate a good barn cat!

  5. Jill
    July 29th, 2011 @ 10:34 am

    “not me” lived with my 7 brothers and me. Saved us many times but got us into SO much trouble other times! :). All my cats are from the “pound” and they have more love to give per pound it’s incredible. Good for you. Don’t forget the taurine in LB’s diet for heart and eye health. Cats don’t make that amino acid on their own and it’s critical. All the best to you and LB!!!! Cat poo can ruin a garden and cat pee kills dolphins. Whatever, right?

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