Welcome

My first name is Erika. Not Erica. Not Ericka. My last name is Hammerschmidt, which has thirteen letters, including five consonants in a row. People still find it easier to spell than my first name.

In college I majored in German and Spanish. I also accidentally minored in art, just by taking so many art classes for the fun of it. I grow my own vegetables. I cut my own hair, but even when a professional barber cuts it, it still sticks out on one side and in on the other. I’m an author, artist and speaker living in Minnesota. I work at Target as well as giving speeches on autism and writing books. I am married to a space alien named John Ricker, who, like me, is on the autism spectrum.

Below you will find my latest news. Add me to your bookmarks! I’m always up to something.

Also, check our calendar for upcoming events!

Travel Cage and Vet for Sirius

Sirius the starling had his first vet visit today!

Details of the vet visit after the pictures. Basically, Siri was very good and he appears to be in good health too, though there are a few mysteries about his health that couldn’t quite be solved (vets don’t really know a lot about starlings, since they’re so rarely kept as pets).

Here are some pictures of Sirius at the vet, in his travel cage, and some pics of the cage by itself. It’s not pretty, but it’s the only travel cage we’ve been able to design that Siri seems comfortable in. He’s really comfortable in it, too! He’s been on a three-hour car ride in it before, and seemed fine!

It’s John’s design, but easy enough for me, or probably anyone, to build.

It’s made of a plastic bin and some black plastic mesh from the hardware store, held together with zip ties. (We know that dowels don’t make the best perches, and we’re trying to find actual branches that fit well in the holes of this mesh. His regular cage at home is much bigger and has real branch perches.)

The opening is just three cuts in the mesh, with the cut sides covered with plastic from a heavy-duty trash bag (held in place with zip ties) to protect from any sharp edges. The mesh is bendy enough that we didn’t need to create a hinge. A small bungee cord holds it shut when needed.

A bigger bungee cord holds the top of the cage onto the plastic bin bottom, and it can be taken off to replace the paper or rearrange the perches and other accessories.

I made a smaller version of this cage, too, with a shoulder-carrying strap, in case I ever need to get him out of the house extra quickly.

Anyway! Here are the pictures:

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And, in our experience so far, Como Park Animal Hospital in St Paul, MN, is a very nice, very reasonable and very accepting veterinary hospital. Very few vets around here will treat birds of any kind, but these people were totally fine examining a captive-raised starling.

Although Siri didn’t show any real signs of being sick– he’s still eating healthily, singing and being active in every way– we’d been concerned about a swelling on his abdomen and a callus and bruise-like mark on his foot.

And we didn’t really get that resolved on this visit, but the vet gave us some reassurance.

After the examination, they said that from the location and texture of the abdominal swelling it looked like a gastrointestinal issue… but since his stools are still normal, and a test for parasites didn’t turn up anything, they weren’t able to give us any conclusive answer. They did give us some options, though.

We could have an x-ray to see if any problems were visible that way. We decided not to, since an x-ray on a bird requires anesthesia, which gets more risky the smaller the bird is, and if something did show up, it would probably be something we couldn’t do anything about anyway. The vet explained these things very honestly and reasonably.

He also said that if the problem gets worse, we could give the bird a deworming medicine just to see if there might be any parasites that didn’t show up on the standard test. But since that’s not so likely, and since Siri still appears to be in good health, we decided not to do that right away either.

As for the foot, he said it didn’t look bad enough to be dangerous, but recommended giving him softer perches, maybe by wrapping them with padding material (I think he was talking about this stuff, since I’ve found some mentions online of people using that to wrap perches.) He also suggested extra vitamins and maybe more sunlight to help with the few overgrown scales that keep coming back on his feet.

And this all did cost some money, about $130, just to have him examined, tested for parasites, and prescribed a vitamin powder. But honestly I was expecting to pay more; I was scared of having to spend thousands on him, because I’ve heard so many stories of awfully expensive vet procedures. This vet is reasonably-priced by vet standards, as far as I can tell, and didn’t push unnecessary expensive procedures on us. (There was no pressure to do the x-ray, for instance, and if we had chosen to, it would only have been about $40 for the anesthesia and $80 for the x-ray itself.)

And it’s good to know that there is a vet in town who’s willing to see starlings. And it’s good to have a clean bill of health regarding parasites. Overall I think this was well worth doing.

Crafting stuff for the craft fair next week

On Sunday, January 22 from 1 PM – 6 PM, I will be at the Crafty Flea– a combination craft fair and flea market at the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association! Address is: 821 E 35th St, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55407

I’m making sparkly jewelry! Here is a crown I made with a big rough citrine, lots of small garnets, and four fossilized mosasaur teeth:

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And here’s a somewhat messy-looking crown I made with gem-chip-filled glass bottles. It looks better in person, but I’m still hoping to do better with my next attempt.

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(Not currently up for sale on my jewelry site at www.theheathersmith.com,  but many other shiny things are there!)

Hey all!

I’ve been fiddling around with the WooCommerce shopping cart and checkout for my jewelry site (www.theheathersmith.com) and I just figured out how to fix a problem I’d been having with the confirmation email.

When I tested what email notification people would get when they ordered, I noticed the name in the From field of the email was  “ss_site_title,” which I didn’t want! I wanted it to say the actual name of my site!

I couldn’t find anyone answering that question online, but I did finally manage to figure it out:

Go to the WordPress admin page, then WooCommerce and Settings.

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Go to the Emails tab under WooCommerce Settings.

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Scroll down. You’ll see a field where you can change the “From” name, and other details of the notification email.

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Save changes and you’re done!

I also figured out how to fix a problem I was having with the shipping. I had shipping rates set up on WooCommerce, but it was not charging shipping when an order was placed through Paypal!

Soo… I found some tutorials online about how that means you have to disable any shipping settings you already have set up on Paypal… but they were written years ago, when Paypal had a completely different site layout. It said to go to “Edit Profile” and then “Shipping Calculations,” but there were no such links in 2016!

But, I did eventually find where they’d moved to.

You have to scroll down on your main profile page until you see this menu, then click Seller Preferences:

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And then scroll down until you see the option for “Shipping Calculations,” and click Update, and then you’ll find the settings you need to deactivate!

 

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Hope that helps anyone else out there who was having the same issues!

Counting blessings, 2

Oh, and another thing I’m happy about, although I don’t have pictures of it yet:

I have a bunch of my handmade jewelry in the Music Forest Cafe! It’s this really charming little vegan cafe in St Paul, and it has a section with locally made crafts for sale, and my stuff is there!

And I am happy about that. I’ll get some pictures of my pieces on display when I stop in this weekend.

Oh, and John and I gave a speech in Marshall, MN last week. It went great! We do have a pic from that. Not a very interesting picture, but here it is:

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It was a pretty typical speech, except for one thing. Because it was so far away from home, we had to stay the night at John’s parents’ house in a nearby town… and because our roommate has moved out, we couldn’t have him look after the bird while we traveled.

So we had to bring Sirius the Starling on a road trip!

John made the weirdest-looking cage and Siri actually liked it, unlike any other travel cage– he would willingly go into it, and when he wasn’t in it, he was on our shoulders watching the traffic go by, and he had a total blast riding in the car with us! I’m so happy– he has always hated car rides in the past, but we figured out a way to make it work for him! (Again, pics of the cage coming later.)

And at the speech, we actually brought him in, in his cage, and set him on the counter, way off to the right of that photo. It was so cool; I wish we could do that with more of our speeches!

Counting blessings

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and to take a positive turn from the many negative thoughts I’ve been having lately, I’m going to make some posts this week of things I am happy about.

To start with: Sirius the Starling has been getting better. His face injury has healed and his feathers are coming back in, little by little.

Here are some pictures of him hanging out on my hand and eating crickets.

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