Tennessee Warblers stopping by the birdbath. October 2017.

Just wanted to post this video of the Tennessee Warblers visiting the backyard. There are about a dozen that show up around 5pm to eat and play in the birdbath. They have only been visiting for a couple of weeks, so I wonder if they have started migrating south for winter.  I guess it’s that time of year.

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Our busy birdbath, and tips from our birdbath design experiments.

 

 

It’s been a dry month in this part of Georgia. Leaves are drying up and falling, much earlier than usual.  We had lots of rain with Hurricane Irma, and today we have rain with Nate passing over us, but in between was bone dry. Dust clouds follow the lawn mowers, and lots of birds have been flocking to the birdbath.

This month there are several new birds, or at least rare birds, that are hanging out. About a dozen warblers come in daily. I believe they are Tennessee Warblers , but I’m not 100% sure.  Redstarts and Hooded Warblers have also stopped by often.

You can see Tennessee Warblers and a Redstart in the video below.

 

 

 

The birdbath in the video is homemade, and started life as an experimental fire pit. During the experiment it filled with water and birds immediately started visiting it, ignoring the 2 store bought birdbaths in the yard.  After researching birdbaths online, adjustments were made and birds absolutely love it – even though it is a little dumpy looking.  Dad helped me set this one up a few years ago. When we finished, we sat down before gathering up the tools, and looked over to see a bird work its way down through the branches to get in the water. We were completely shocked.

The reasons I think the birds like this one, versus the store bought baths are listed below. This info came from several sources, and lots of trial and error, but Cornell is a good resource for birding if you’d like to research further.

Mark’s Birdbath Tips:

  • Natural is better. Birds need to feel at home and trust the space.
  • Birds can see water from above easier if the birdbath has a darker bottom.
  • A bath with a rough bottom is easier for birds to land and stand on.
  • Add rocks to vary the puddle size so its welcoming to birds of different sizes.
  • Shallow is best. The deepest part of this bath is only about 2-3″ deep, and in those spots I have rocks providing a slope so nothing gets trapped without an exit.
  • Add a fountain so there is a trickle. It does not need to be strong, but the sound will attract birds. The pump I use is about $20 at Lowe’s and is simple to set up.
  • Don’t put your pump at the bottom of the pond – it can get clogged with sediment and burn up. Set it on a block or a brick to keep it off the bottom.
  • Provide natural cover, like branches and plants, so the birds can check out the surroundings before jumping into the pool. They need to trust the area first.

I found that most birdbaths at stores were designed around humans, not necessarily birds. For this reason, I got a pond liner and altered it to fit my needs. See the diagram below. Since it worked well, we followed the same tips and built an even larger version for my dad in West Virginia. It too gets more birds than his previous birdbaths.

About the birdbath in the video.

We started with a simple pond liner from Lowe’s and dug a pit just slightly shorter than the height of the liner.

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Because most pond liners are too deep for a birdbath, we bought hardware cloth wire and made a shelf about 3 inches from the TOP of the pond. This is to hold rocks and give a “bottom” to the bath, but will still allow you to have a large reservoir of water. Don’t Secure the wire yet, just set it in and measure the distance from the bottom of the liner to the wire. Note that I forgot to label the wire in the image, but its roughly the same as the “water level” line.

That measurement will be the height of the supports you need for the basin that sits on top and serves as the main part of the bath. I used a cinder block standing on its end. If its an odd size,stack bricks or even use an upside down bucket for support.

Add a brick or something similar for your pump to sit on. The liner we used had a ledge built on to the sides that was perfect for the pump.

Once that support is in, you can place your wire back into the liner. The wire should be resting at the top of the support. Remember – you aren’t looking for perfection here. As long as your support is stable you’re good.

Cut a hole in the wire large enough for the pump, the hoses, and your hand to fit into.

Make sure the hole in the wire is above the spot or brick where your pump will go. We screwed the wire to the top lip of the birdbath. Pre-drill these so it doesn’t crack the liner.

Next Add a layer of bricks, or in our case a half cinder block on top of the support, sandwiching the wire in between.

Add your basin on top of this. Ours was a homemade concrete bowl, but on dad’s we used a dark saucer, about 15″ wide from Lowe’s that was meant to sit under a flower pot.

Make sure the stack is stable. If yes, you are ready to add the pump through the hole in the wire.  The hose from the pump will run into the basin. The basin will fill and then pour over into the pond liner.

Add a little water to the basin and test the pump. You will want to add a rock, or small piece of wood under the basin so the water pours where you want it to.

If everything tests well, fill the liner up  so that there are about 2-3 inches of water over the wire.  You can add rocks to the basin, and to the wire on top of the wire in the pond liner. This way you get two good layers to your birdbath. Rocks and natural items can be added to hide any of the wire or support as well.

Add a tree branch or plants for the birds to perch on while they wait to bathe. This seems unimportant, but after dad told me to do this I started seeing more birds. I believe it gives them a feeling of safety.

That’s pretty much it. We have set up the yard to give birds lots of cover and opportunities to feed as well.  Hopefully these tips help out with your birdbath design.

Cardinal photos used with permission of Cindy Barnes Reed Photography. @cindybarnesreed on instagram.

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Chestnuts, Chickens and a blood-thirsty Chipmunk.

It’s been a busy week here, and while there are no big projects to note, there are lots of smaller things in process that I’ll chat about. Mentioning something on this blog means accountability, and guilt will follow me until there is a follow-up, so here we go.

Irma passed over us less than a week ago. It was the first time in history that Atlanta (+- 250 miles inland) was placed under a tropical storm warning.  We got off lucky! There were wind gusts around 74 mph at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, a couple of miles away,  and many trees came down, but no damage other than a kiwi trellis falling over. Within a 5 block radius we saw at least 4 huge trees that were uprooted. I’m talking >4-foot diameter trees. Power was out to most of the neighborhood for a few days, but we were lucky and were reconnected after 7 hours. Internet was out a few days, but like I said we got off easy!

Along with trees, Irma blew down lots of chestnuts. Dad was in town visiting (great timing, right?) so we gathered up a cooler full for him to feed the squirrels/deer/chipmunks in West Virginia. A month ago, he and his friend saw a chipmunk attack and kill a bird, so we jokingly decided it was time to feed the chipmunk before he gets a thirst for humans. Have you ever heard of a chipmunk killing a bird and eating it? That was new to us.

Quail or chickens?  For the last year or so, I have been thinking about getting quail, then possibly moving on to chickens if the quail went well.  With no steady income, or even the intent to stay in Georgia for long, I was hesitant to pull the trigger. Well, I have decided to start gathering up materials needed for a small coop, large enough for 3 hens.  Last week dad and I came across a coop that was unfortunately filled with wasps. That coop was simple and perfect. I couldn’t get it, but at least it helped me realize what would work best here.

The idea of building or re-purposing something into a coop had crossed my mind, but nothing jumped out as a possibility until last week when someone posted a handmade dog house for sale. It had been built by a grandfather and grandson duo for the grandsons new dog, which ended up being a house dog, so it was being given away free. FREE! It’s in the backyard now, waiting to be converted into a coop. As dad would say, its build like a brick sh*t house. I’ll start assembling materials and build a run, and sometime October will get three hens. Check it out below (and ignore the Irma mess)!

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Dad and I wrapped up his visit by doing a little fishing at Lake McIntosh (pic below) in Peachtree City, Georgia. Georgia fishing is different than West Virginia fishing, mostly in the fact that no matter when or where we go, or what we use, we see no fish. To this day we have not even seen another person catch a fish in Georgia. The internet tells me it’s done, but for us it’s relaxing and that’s good enough. I guess.

That’s it for now. Be good everyone!

 

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Using milk to grow pumpkins. Thanks Laura Ingalls Wilder!

You are reading the second version of this post. The first was very wordy. I wrote about Goodreads (which I do recommend for the book people out there), Reading Challenges, trips home, the bookcase,  yada yada yada.

The short story  is that I am currently reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, and am really enjoying it. Yes it’s considered children’s reading, but its great. I’ve traced the families movement on Google Maps and I love that there’s an accidental (or maybe not?) history to it. In the 3rd book, “Farmer Boy”, there are several nuggets of wisdom as they introduce Almanzo (who Laura will grow up to marry) and his life on a farm in New York.  It’s neat to learn that some of the practices they used on the farm were familiar to my dad, and were still employed on the small farm where he grew up.

One example is how the family saves the corn crop from frost by pouring cold water over the plants before the sun hits them. Dad taught me that years ago, but I’d never actually seen it in print before, so it was noteworthy to me.

The other example is the process the family used to growing a huge pumpkin to enter into a festival. This is the section shown in the main blog image. They find the best plant and strip it down to the best leader vine and the best pumpkin. Under the leader, they dig a rut and place a bowl of milk. Then they run a wick from the milk to the leader, where they have made a small cut just big enough for the wick. This way the plant feeds on the milk and by trimming the plant it can focus all of its energy on producing that one pumpkin.

HOW COOL IS THAT?

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So of course I called dad.  When I asked if that sounded familiar he said “Oh yeah.”, like its common knowledge, and maybe it is for some. He said that he heard of people putting an entire leader vine into a gallon that they kept full of milk, and that it didn’t take long to soak up the entire gallon and they grew like crazy.

After doing more research, its fairly common to  follow this process, but I still think its neat and I’m excited to try it out next year. Little did I know that I would end up with another experiment after reading “Farmer Boy”, but there it is. I guess you never know when a great idea will find you!

The folks over at Gardening Know How have more information on the process if you’d like to check it out.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls, and Garth Williams. Farmer Boy. Harper & Row, 1971.(Thanks easybib.com)

 

Laura Ingalls post

Fertilizing the pea garden with banana tea.

The yard and garden are giving hints that Fall is getting closer. The poke berries are gone and the leaves are wilting. Tomato plants and potatoes are drying up and I couldn’t be happier. I get excited about pumpkin flavored things and freak out when the first leaves start to drop.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the vegetable garden. It looks horrible right now. Part is covered with weeds, part is starting to die off, but part of the garden is ready for fall plants.  This week, we are planting more Nantes carrots, which did really well last year, and peas.

Back in the spring I planted peas and failed them. Somehow I planted them then moved on to other parts of the garden, completely forgetting about them. They grew quickly, but with no supports to climb, they knotted up into wads about 6″ high. I tried to correct the issues by building a half-assed trellis and carefully tried to untangle the plants,  but it was too late.

So, with this planting I am working on the soil and adding a permanent support for them them to climb.  Peas are new to me this year. I read that they like phosphorus and potassium, which made me think of the 3 bananas I found in the back of the fridge. After some research I learned that it’s actually pretty common to put banana peels (organic is best) in the garden for the nutrients. Most sites call for chopping up and dropping the banana on the ground to decay, or burying them near the plants.  Our dogs have been known to break into the garden to investigate new smells (resulting in them eating every squash plant after they were sprayed with fish emulsion).

For that reason, I went with a banana tea recipe. Hopefully once it dries, and the ground is turned over there will be little trace of the banana. Wishful thinking anyway.

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For this experiment,  I took the 3 very very ripe bananas, removed the stickers,  and chopped them up into chucks small enough to fit in the blender. The skins and the fruit can be used here – they both have beneficial nutrients. The stems were very dry and hard, so I removed them.  These bananas looked bad, but had no rot – I would have trashed the rotten pieces. I blended them with a little water and added them to the biggest metal container I could find. About 12 cups of  hot water were then added to the pot and it was allowed to steep overnight. This is not a pretty process (thus no pic of the finished product), but it smelled like banana bread, so it wasn’t that bad.

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The next day I took the mixture and poured all over the area that will soon be the pea bed and trellis. Next steps are to add a bit of better soil to the spot and turn the dirt just to mix it all a bit.

Keep in mind this is an experiment and I will follow up with results. It sounds like it should be beneficial, right? Here is another resource if you are curious about the other ways of using bananas in your garden.

We will see!

 

Quick steps:

  1. Remove stickers, any rotten sections, hard peel (or anything that wont blend well)
  2. Cut into chunks appropriate for your blender or food processor.
  3. Blend like a madman.
  4. Pour mixture into large pot capable of holding hot liquids that is also easy to carry.
  5. Add hot water and allow to steep. (Above I used 12 cups of water and 3 bananas. I based the amount of water on the amount of garden area I wanted to cover.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sweet gift – honey from Grandpas farm.

Can you believe the color in this thirty-year old jar of honey?

Dad came to visit last week and brought two jars of honey that grandpa jarred for the family.  They are still beautiful.  It’s probable that they are the last from grandpas bee gums.  He’s been gone many years and I assumed all the honey was eaten long gone also. Sometimes I want to open the honey and eat it a dozen ways, and other times I feel like I should put it on a shelf and keep it forever.

Maybe eat one and save one?

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Old tools: What’s a corn shucking peg?

Today’s post is about an old wooden corn peg that my dad gave me a few years back. His good friend, an old man in Abraham, WV gave him to him before he passed away. He used the peg to shuck corn from the field next to his house. Grandpa Collins also had a cornfield. As a kid I remember seeing his truck parked next to busy roads selling bushels of corn to people driving by. The peg has become one of my favorites because it connect memories of dad, grandpa and the old man in Abraham. (The gentleman in Abraham had a name, but I honestly don’t remember it – I only remember hearing him referred to as “the old man”.)

Back to the corn peg, the peg is basically a pointed piece of wood with a strap on it that would go around your middle finger. The sharp end would be used to pierce the husk on a ripe ear of corn, allowing you to more easily pull the corn from the stalk. While researching, I came across this article on Catherine’s Corner website that was interesting.  Once of the family stories is of the harvest and using corn pegs.

Another new development for this post – VIDEO!  This is my first video, so don’t judge too harshly. You can tell I haven’t shucked corn since moving to Georgia, but you get the point. Hope you all enjoy.