Jeff Sexton

Friday, December 15, 2017

Elgin Advertising

Here's a nice Elgin watches print block, those were the days...

Thursday, December 14, 2017

New Foraging Toy

Harlan really took to this toy quickly. I did not even have to slowly introduce him to it. It comes full of shredded paper, a couple vine balls and some wooden blocks. A few stashed treats in there and this bird is busy for awhile.

The back opens up for re-stocking, but because of the way it opens, you have to be sure to install it right side up (so it "hinges" top instead of down) it it gets pulled down really fast with a bird the size of a grey parrot. I think I'll most just load food in through the holes.

Also, the plastic screw clamp that attaches it to the cage is really not strong enough for Harlan. I simply tied a long zip tie around the flat tab at the back of the top of the toy, and the cage. Problem solved...

It's important to have foraging toys like this for parrots that, literally, make food a challenge to get to. In the wild these highly intelligent animals spend most of their day looking for food. In our homes, most of their food is just sitting there in a bowl.

Providing toys like this, with food inside, is basically a mental health requirement for a parrot in the home. Harlan will eat food that he has to work for before eating from the bowl. He'll also eat food that aren't his favorites this way.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Harlan, the Grey Parrot, has been loosing feathers like crazy. It's his first molt. I have read that African Grey Parrots have upwards of 8000 feathers (for most parrots that's in the 5-6 thousand range). They change them all out over the course of a few weeks to a few months, every year!

The big thing about this is that clipped wing weathers are being replaced. He'll soon be able to fly. And he'll have to learn how to fly, and perhaps more importantly, how to land, with injury. Parrots are not born with much of an idea about flying, they have to be taught. This is a challenging time...

So far, my strategy has been to work with him every day on going a short distance in the air (he can go a few feet with clipped wings, but can not stay level), from the cage top to me and back. He gets excited about doing this and has learned it well. If I can get him to fly on command, I hope he'll fly less on his own. 

A Tech Project Gone Well!

For a change...

I've been dreading doing this, but I'm at it today. Awhile ago, I used the wrong external hard drive for a backup and (ironically) over-wrote the backup of some files I want to keep.

Because of various computer issues that I never fully addressed, that started like 4 years ago when my main desktop died, and I didn't have a lot of money, I've been using a several mickey mouse systems since. I didn't actually have a working directory of all these specific files any place. I guess I had not been paying attention. I am (ironically again) pretty good about backups. I had like 4. But over the past few years as PCs and drives died or got re-formatted, I was down to one copy of that stuff. And I erased it.

Well it wasn't the only copy. I still have three dead PCs in the basement that go back 10 years probably. At least one I knew had 2 500 GB drives (dating back to a time when 500 GB was a huge drive) in it with a ton of old stuff, including what was once the main copy of the files in question.

I finally decided to figure this out. I bought on Amazon a device that seemed like it would do the job.

I pulled out a drive from the dusty old PC, plugged this thing all up, powered it on, and bam! in a few seconds my computer opened a file browser on the old drive. It even detected the drive format. I'm copying the files now.

I seriously can not remember when something went so smoothly.

Monday, November 27, 2017

New Toy

I put inside this ball a couple Nutraberries (sort of granola balls for birds), a chili pepper, a cinnamon stick and a couple large walnuts.  Harlan's been trying the get the treats out for a good 20 minutes.

Friday, October 27, 2017

New Feathers?

It looks like Harlan may be growing in some new, adult, tail feathers. The adult tail feathers will be all bright red, without the dark edges the lower feathers have in this photo.

ASUS 7" ZenPad Z170C-A1-BK Won't Charge

We had an Asus tablet quit working.

It wouldn't start up, obviously, but also wouldn't charge, it seemed. Dead.

When it was plugged in there was no indication, and the screen stayed black. Holding the power and volume up button also did nothing.

After some looking around, it sounded like the thing to try was to disconnect the battery inside.

The front separates from the back by undoing a series of snaps. I used a watch case knife to slowly pry open the gap along the silver trim that goes around the bezel. Working the knife around the sides separated the back. A butter knife would probably work.

The battery connector comes off straight up and away from the motherboard. This wasn't clear at first.

I had the thing disconnected for just 2 or 3 minutes. Reconnecting it, and plugging in the USB resulted in immediate charging. After a couple minutes it had enough charge to boot up.

The key with these things seems to be to never let them really go to dead zero charge. I know even my Nexus table behaves badly if that happens (although I have never had to open it up).

We don't we design better consumer electronics?

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Even More DIY Bird Toys

One thing you have to do to keep birds happy is provide a steady rotation of toys, particularly toys they can destroy. Ed and Olive, the cockatiels love to chew up balsa wood for example.
Harlan really goes for brightly colored acrylic parts like these. He'll chew up the sections of plastic straws I put in between them.
And a few other chewables...
Harlan approved.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Bird Cookies Number 5

This bird treat is similar to this one, with a couple variations.

First, instead a mix of several vegetables, I dehydrated a bunch of kale and used that only. All our bird love kale. And second, instead of banana, I used a smallish to medium sweet potato, cooked.

Oh, and I ground up all the seeds almost to a butter.


1 sweet potato
6 tablespoons flax, chia and hulled hemp seeds ground almost to a paste
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons-ish of dried kale, crumbled up
4 tablespoons of cooked brown rice
1 egg
Cinnamon to taste

I microwaved the sweet potato, 4-5 minutes (poke hole with a fork first), removed the skin and cut it up into very small pieces.

No fancy process. The dry ingredients, egg, cooked rice, and all just get mixed together into a dough. This takes awhile, to mash the sweet potato mostly. I used a big spoon, but a food processor could probably do it faster.

I added some cinnamon last and mixed it in, about a tsp I think.
I made the dough into balls about one inch and fried them in coconut oil. The cooking is slow because you can't heat coconut oil much before it burns and probably sets off your smoke alarm. Use heat significantly lower than you would for olive oil or butter. I set the burner on our stove to 3 to 4. Your mileage may vary.
While frying I flattened the balls into thin patties, as thin as I could.
 All done! With left over rice...
These cookies received 6 wing up, bird approved by Ed, Olive and Harlan.

(Humans seem to like them too)

Another Bird Treat Recipe

Ed the cockatiel likes Wheat Thins. A lot.

In fact he knows the word, and he recognizes the yellow box. Nothing will get Ed to do what you want him to faster than a Wheat Thin.

If you look at the box, Wheat Thins are not an awful treat for a bird. Yes, there's probably too much salt, and fat, and other things. But they are a quite simple snack, with very few ingredients.

It would be nice if we could give him something like Wheat Thins that were better for him.

The internet is loaded with sites about creating good imitations of pre-packaged foods at home. It seems to be a hobby for a lot of people. It was easy to find several recipes for making your our Wheat Thins. I read a few and came up with the following interpretation.

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons of coconut oil
A bit of flax and millet seed to sprinkle on top

This is close to what you'll find online, but with reduced salt, no sugar, and coconut oil instead of butter.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, paprika and butter in a food processor, pulsing until the oil is evenly disbursed in the crumbs. Slowly add 1/4 cup of water and mix until the mixture begins to form a dough ball.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spread the dough on to parchment paper.


But next comes the part we learned is really tricky and the critical step in getting something like a cracker.

The dough has to be spread thin, really, really thin. Spread it as thin as you possibly can.

Not thin enough - make it thinner.

We used a stone rolling pin and dusted with more whole wheat flour. It has to be really, really thin,

Then cut the (thin) sheet of dough into squares, like, you know, Wheat Thins.

We then scattered a little flax and millet on top and pressed that it.

The cook time will depend on how thin you get the dough. Ours took about 10 minutes. I'd set the timer for 6 first and start checking then each 1 or 2 minutes after that.

If they are really thin, they will get crispy fast. The exact cook time seems pretty critical.

Did Ed approve? He did. But truth be told he liked these about as much as he liked the "healthy" version of Wheat Thins we got at Whole Foods once.

He liked them, but they weren't the same. They're good, and easy to make,  crackers though. We ate most of them ourselves I think.

Try this, for your birds, or just for yourself. It was quick and easy, and they did taste remarkably like a very low salt wheat Thin.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Happy Birthday!

Even though we got them at different times, coincidentally, as well as we can know, Ed, Olive and Harlan share the same hatch date within a day or two of each other.

Happy year one Ed, Olive and Harlan!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bird Cookie Recipe Number Three

This recipe for a healthy bird treat was pretty successful. All the birds liked it.

2 mashed bananas
6 tablespoons flax seeds, millet and chia seeds soaked in water
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons-ish of dried vegetables (I ran the the birds usually mixture of broccoli, kale, squash, etc through a food dehydrator)
4 tablespoons of brown rice
1 egg

All this gets mixed and mashed together...
...formed into pancakes and fried in coconut oil.

Coconut oil has a low flash point so the temperature had to be kept low. Cooking goes slowly...

The results are a pretty good banana thingy that everyone liked!

I topped some with cinnamon, and some with crushed cornflakes.
The birds have never eaten banana, plain, they just don't like it. But these were a heathly hit!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Feeding Birds (And Us) Pasta

Awhile ago we got a spiralizer. This photo shows what it does to zucchini.

I really like the idea of coming up with food that we all, humans and birds, can eat. This is a lot easier than one might think. A parrot's diet is an extremely healthy one.

Mix this up and cook with some ordinary pasta and you have the basis for a good meal for both humans and birds.

We seasoned ours with oil and garlic, but set some aside plain for the birds.
This stuff was a hit. All the birds liked the pasta, and Harlan really like the long strands of zucchini. This is funny because he eats zucchini all the time, chopped, and it's just sort of ho-hum. But in long spirals, it's like a whole new food!

More Bird Food

Here's another attempt at a bird food... This is a sort of bird salsa. We thought we'd freeze it in single serving pieces as a more convenient way of getting the morning feedings done.

Basically, this is just an assortment of vegetables, including some hot pepper (yes, bird like hot peppers).
We mashed it all up in food processor and filled muffin tins, which then went into the freezer. I was hoping one could be thawed out in the morning for the day.
These weren't a big hit.

I think the birds, Ed, Olive and Harlan, all like their vegetables in bigger chunks. As far as the hot peppers go (and by the way, this stuff was really hot), they all ate it but only Ed really seemed to go for the hot.

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