Archive for December, 2010

A Storybook Christmas

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , on December 23, 2010 by PickMeYard

This is a true Christmas story…

There was once a woman who lived in a lovely, historic home in the sweetest town in America.  One day her city decided to replace her septic tank so that all the homeowners could be hooked up to the city’s wastewater system.  The construction company that the city contracted to do the work used a highway-grade compacting machine that caused two of the city’s houses to be seriously compromised (broken).  The home owners begged the workers to stop but they ignored the pleas.  The homes continued to break.

The woman who lived in the lovely, old home that looked like a castle cried the loudest because she loved her home and wanted to keep it forever.  The contractors wouldn’t listen and now her home cannot be reasonably fixed.  It is much too broken and … so is her heart. 

The woman has to find a  new place to live now and so she will.  As a good-bye to her community and her beloved house,  she put her heart and soul into creating a beautiful, storybook Christmas scene outside her home for the community to come and enjoy.  Her house is known for its fantastic holiday displays and she wanted the finale to show the love.

A Storybook Christmas at GiGi’s.

The entire yard is set up with favorite storybook characters.  She has lit paths that guide the visitor through the different scenes.  Her details are amazing and wonderful.  Some of my photos were taken at dusk and some after dark, so the lighting is different (and not great) in most of them.  The vignettes are breath-taking at night but I wanted to take most of the pictures with some natural light.  Unfortunately, there’s no way my photos can depict the beauty and character of her lights and the details in her stories at night… but I wanted to share this with you.

One of the entrances to her yard.

The gang from the Wizard of Oz. She even built the yellow brick road!

Dorothy's shoes.


Alice in Wonderland.

The Mad Hatter's tea party.

The Mad Hatter.

The backside of the Mad Hatter.

Beauty and the Beast in an gazebo with loads of details that can't be seen in the photo.

Lady and The Tramp.

The Toy Story gang.

The Little Mermaid Christmas scene.

The Little Mermaid and friends.

Backside of Ariel.

Elmo's... and of course they sing and dance.


Cinderella's glass slipper on a pedestal.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Goldilocks left a note saying she's visiting her grandparents for Christmas.

A Christmas train runs through it. It's all lit up at night.

An elaborate Peter Pan scene ... including Tinker Bell flying back and forth. Wendy is walking the plank from a wooden ship behind her.

Captain Hook with Rapunzel's hair hanging from the tower behind him.

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel... let down your hair!"

Princess Tiana and her Frog Prince.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.


Photo opportunity to be Mr. & Mrs. Claus. You can stand behind them and put your face in the cut-outs.

I had to leave out a few photos of vignettes such as Winnie the Pooh, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, the alligator reindeer (lead gator has a bulbuous, lit red nose!)  pulling the sleigh (it’s the Everglades), and the 18-foot Christmas tree on the roof decorated with large red bows and Red Stripe bottles as ornaments.

Merry Christmas!

Come grow with us!

Future Scientists

Posted in Goats with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2010 by PickMeYard

Goat husbandry is new to us, but we plan to learn all we can.  We decided to take a poop sample from our two goats to our veterinarian to check for parasites.  Goats are very susceptible to parasites, especially in Florida. 

Our Nigerian dwarf goats playing on a cart.

Our Nigerian dwarf goats live on our tennis court now.  The court needs re-surfacing and we decided that keeping our goats on it would be a better use for the court than tennis.  Nobody has stepped foot on the court for many years and now it’s the most popular spot in our yard.  The goats have lots of toys, two playgrounds, shade and their barn.  We always bring them treats such as branches of Brazilian pepper trees.  The Brazilian pepper tree is an invasive species in Florida so we have it in abundance.  It’s a natural wormer for the goats.

Brazilian pepper tree branch. The goats go crazy for it and it's good for them.

Chloe & Loring playing "parade".

Loring helped collect the poop samples from our goats to look at under a microscope. That's chocolate milk on her face.

Grayson & Loring are learning how to prepare the poop sample to look at under the microscope.

She’s only 4-years-old, but she’s very interested. Chloe is her goat.

Our veterinarian used the centrifugation method with a saline solution to prepare the poop sample.  He gave the kids an awesome lesson on how to use a microscope . We found about six eggs for a common stomach worm in goats called Haemonchus contortus.  

The best website I’ve ever found for goat information is Fiasco Farms.  I refer to this website regularly. They have some great photos of goat parasites.  The photo below was taken with my camera and is one of the actual parasite eggs we found. 


The oval parasite egg is in the middle of the photo. The black spots are air bubbles.


Our veterinarian, Dr. Douglas Piper, doesn’t treat goats.  He makes an exception with ours because he’s my dad.  He also happens to be a blogger.  Click here to check out his blog on veterinary medicine.

Grayson & Michael... future scientists.

Come grow with us!

Soap Nuts

Posted in Fruits of our labor with tags , , , , on December 8, 2010 by PickMeYard

A friend of mine  told me how wonderful her hair would feel after she washed it when she was a child in India.  She explained to me that her entire family would wash everything, including their bodies, hair, clothes and house with one thing… soap nuts.  I practically jumped out of my chair as she described them.  Why have I never heard of them?  They sound so incredible and I’ve never even heard of them.

I don’t like the crazy ingredients that are in modern shampoos, but I sure like the way they make my hair feel.  Natural shampoos strip my hair color and make it feel like straw.  It’s a terrible feeling to me.  However, it doesn’t stop me from always trying the latest shampoo that doesn’t use the endless list of chemicals.  I was really hoping that soap nuts (Sapindus) were the shampoo I’ve been waiting for all my life.

Turns out, soap nuts can be used to wash our faces, bodies, hair and especially clothing.  They can be used in modern washing machines.  All this without a single weird chemical or additives of any kind.  It seemed too good to be true.  I ordered some.  Okay, I ordered a lot.  I had a good feeling about them.

A bag of soap nuts from Greener Living.

The back of the soap nut bag.

I’ve been using them  for a while now.  They don’t work well on my hair.  They turn my hair into the horrible straw hair that I dislike.  However, I have permanently damaged, fine hair.  If I had thick, uncolored and undamaged hair, it might be a different story.  I didn’t love them as a skin detergent either… too drying.  I really like the way they smell though.  Although, I’ve read their aroma is offensive to some.  I don’t understand that.   

The easiest way to use soap nuts is to tie them in a bag.

A handful of soap nuts.

They hit the sweet spot with our laundry.  To be honest, I didn’t use them on my clothing for a long time.  I felt unsure about using them in the washing machine even though I’d read it was perfectly fine.  It took being out of  laundry detergent for me to give them a try.  I’m so glad I did.   Our clothes feel so clean and strangely soft.  I didn’t think they would work well on my husband’s dirty work clothes, but they proved me wrong.  For another perspective on soap nuts in the laundry, click here.

I wish we were tropical enough to grow one of these trees.  They’re actually a fruit even though they’re called nuts.  You’ve got to admit they’re pretty cool.

A close-up.

Inside a soap nut.

Come grow with us!