White horns. 

This guys white antennae caught my attention a few days ago on the back door. Any idea what kind of moth this is?

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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.

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.

birdbath diagram

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.

naturalbirdbath

Caring for my special needs dog. Part 2: Bedding and comfort.

For the second post on my experience in taking care of my partially-paralyzed dog, I wanted to talk about bedding and keeping her comfortable in general.

Here’s a quick catch-up if you haven’t read the first post. For several years I took care of my lab mix dog who was fighting an unidentified illness that eventually took away all of her mobility.  She has since passed away, but we thought these tips might help if you are facing a similar dilemma.

Please note that this is information meant to assist in your day-to-day life during your dogs treatment. Talk about what you see here with your vet. I make no medical claims, only what seemed to work for us in our specific situation.

As we start talking about bedding and comfort, I should point out that as Moon Pie’s illness progressed, she slowly lost her mobility. It seemed to come in waves:

1. At first her back leg seemed a little off like it was sprained or hurt.

2. After about a year it started to effect her other leg, and at times her back end would fall from under her – both legs would loose support.

3. Eventually she lost control and feeling in her back legs, at this time she lost control of her bladder and bowels, which will be subject for another post.

4. Lastly, her illness spread and she lost most movement of her front legs.

I’ll admit, that list makes it seem like a horrible life for her, and the decision to put her down, or not, was a dilemma I thought about often. Our family has always had dogs, and we have had to put several down. Moon Pie, even up to the weekend that she passed, was so full of life compared to the “sick” dogs. She never lost her spunk or her interest in food, playing with the dogs, or sitting outside watching squirrels and birds in the trees. I told her as long as she wanted to fight I would help her, which we did for several years.

So… let’s talk about comfort.

Once Moon Pie lost control of her back legs,  we really had to get involved. She had no interest in laying around all day, and wanted to be where the other dogs and I were.  If I lingered in another room too long, she would let out a very specific bark so we could move her, then she was happy.

Tip 1. Make multiple comfortable bedding spots for your dog. Living room, office, etc. The pup will feel vulnerable and will want to be near you. Keeping them close means you can also keep an eye on their needs a bit easier.

Tip 2. Keep bedding simple. Resist the urge to make a big fluffy bed with lots of blankets. We learned this early on.  Your dog will overheat – potentially causing hot spots, bed sores and for you to carry lots of water. Also, if they have an accident there’s more clean up. I used a folded comforter for her beds. Twin size comforters work well and are easy to wash. Small fleece throw blankets, especially the thin kind you can find at drug stores during the winter, were all we used to keep her warm as you can add as many as needed.

Tip 3. Pillows.  This really came into play after Moon Pie lost control of her back legs. We would use them to give her a little back support. Picture how a dog makes a circle and then lays down in a “C” shape. While in the “C”, she was stable, but if she was playing with the dogs she could easily roll onto her back and she would be unable to upright herself again. Tuck a pillow behind her back/shoulder blades to prevent this. Another HUGE pro of keeping her in this position was that she could easily feed herself and drink as she wanted. Just make sure there is a little water bowl within reach and you’re set.

Tip 4. Plan your bed (if the pup is incontinent).  This became an art at our house. Its a trick finding the right combo that will keep your dog warm, but not too hot, and will accommodate accidents. Below is the layout I found most useful. Please ignore the horrible sketches.

  • Start by building up the section that your dog will lay on. It helps if there is an incline, with the head higher than the rear.
  • Put a pee pad at the edge of the bed, making sure just a bit of it sits under the dogs behind, with the rest sitting at a lower level. The idea is that waste will go to the lower level, and away from the dog, which is healthier for them.
  • Do not leave the pee pad too far under the dog. Urine can wick all over the pad, and moisture is all kinds of bad news in this situation. You want it to be tucked under the pup just enough to catch urine. Even in the sketch the pee pad goes under the pups butt a little too far. You will get the hang of it though.

beddingpic

Tip 5. If you can do it, get yourself an elevated, mesh dog bed like a Coolaroo, which was one of the best buys I made during this time. It is soft, yet gives support. It elevates the pup, which makes them easier to work with. Its breathable. Its easy to clean. It keeps them from over heating. Seriously get one of these if you can. I even used it for expressing her bladder. (If you are doing this, it helps if you elevate one side of the bed, the head side,  about 4 inches higher than its made. We drilled holes into blocks of wood. This way gravity is working in your favor.)

That’s it for now. I’m not going to lie – going through all of my notes has worn me out. Miss that turd.

 

 

Caring Part 2

 

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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Visiting an apple orchard then prepping for Hurricane Irma.

Dad is visiting again, this time for his birthday. We have been trying to focus on experiences versus gifts, so this year we went up to Blue Ridge, Georgia to visit Mercier Orchards.  There isn’t much agriculture where we are from in West Virginia, so it was my first time at an orchard. Surprisingly, it was dad’s first time as well! He really seemed to enjoy himself. We bought a few fried pies, which you definitely need to do this if you visit. I’m not working at the moment, and dad has access to lots of apples so we went the cheap route and skipped the “pick your own” option and just rode the tractor out into the fields to check out the trees. The trees were much smaller than expected, and completely loaded with apples. The amount of apples per tree was shocking. Check out the images below.

Next stop: Ace Hardware. Cool store, short trip.

After being chased away from Ace Hardware by wasps,  we stopped off at Uncle B’s Feed Store in Ellijay, GA to look at some chickens. We have a lot of trouble passing up a feed store, even though I have no farm animals and only a small garden. Kim gave us some good info, and I got a good vibe from the place, so when I get my stuff together I’ll go there for chickens.

Today we have been focusing on getting ready for Hurricane Irma. We are in North Georgia, and will not get the full force of the storm like Florida. Forecasters are saying that we can expect 5-7″ of rain and winds of 50 mph, so it’s still prep-worthy. We ripped down an old canopy covering the patio and used it to wrap up my new (used) riding lawn mower. Lots of plants were given extra support. Everything that was hanging, such as bird feeders and flowers were taken down. Living under huge old pecan trees makes me nervous. Falling limbs have been an issue in the past, so I pray that they stay up and off the little house. The backyard wild birds got lots of seed and suet today, and because of the storm I didn’t even yell at the young rat for eating suet. The stray cats we feed are getting lots of food also.

Time to grab some BBQ and get ready for tomorrow. Take care, everyone!

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?

little house pic2

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