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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The wren outside my window - 1.

I have a bluebird box outside my craft room window.  This year the bluebirds built a nest, laid five eggs, hatched two and the next day the nest was completely empty.  I suspect our resident wren.  The wren in the 'way back bed' also lost an entire nest filled with eggs and babies.  Again, I suspect the resident wren.  House wrens (Troglodytes aedon) are protected birds, there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop a wren from destroying nests and nestlings.  He seems to think that bubbly song we all love endears him so much that we'll overlook his predation.  Now that he's cleared out the bluebirds, he's claimed the nest box as his own and I often see him on top of it or taking sticks into it.  He's enticed a mate, I see her going in and out of the box although she's yet to take in the soft nesting material that she will line the nest with.  He has been singing all morning.  I have not checked the box, I will do that tomorrow.  If indeed they do nest in the box, I will share with you.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thoughts on short skirts....

Perhaps I'm turning into my parents.  I was watching the weather on Headline News this morning.  Instead of Bob, there was a woman giving the weather report; a handsome blond woman clearly in her late 40s to early 50s (I judged this from her neck and hands, her face looked to be in her 30s).  She was wearing a cute black dress to mid-thigh or perhaps shorter and I was thinking that dress would look better on a 20 year old.  When I stopped to think about that, I wondered just where that came from.  She looked great, good legs but there was something about a woman her age wearing a dress that barely covered her hoo hah that made me uncomfortable.  Judgmental?  Yes, indeed.  I've never been known as a conservative but on television shows where women want to be taken seriously and wear blouses cut to their naval, I tend to turn off.  Case in point, the coroner on CSI Miami, now playing Olivia's mom on Scandal, always wore shirts cut really low as if her acting couldn't carry the scene so her boobs had to.  It will be nice when the people who write the drivel that usually passes as television make good plots instead of showing T&A to make ratings.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Thoughts on birdhouses....

In our travels we often find cute things for the garden.  I don't remember where we bought this rustic birdhouse but it was painted like a U.S. Post Office and we've had it a few years.  My husband installed a new post next to this wiegela and nailed the box to it.  There is no way to open the box to clean it out and it hasn't been used to my knowledge.  Until this year.  Chickadees took up residence in the early spring.  I watched the nest making process and just recently the babies hatched.  You could tell they were feeding from the increased activity at the birdhouse.

A few days after this picture was taken, I was watering in some newly transplanted flowers in the raised bed and something just looked 'off' to me.  While I was trying to figure out what it was, I noticed the bare post.  During my investigation I found the remains of the birdhouse in the catmint bed, the interior was scattered all over the lawn, the house was in pieces and the babies were gone.  We never saw the parents again. 

We have been lax landlords.  We delight in the entertainment the birds bring to our yard.  We watch with interest their courting, territorial battles, nest building, baby feeding and we delight in seeing a fledgling or two once in a while.  And for all that, all they ask is a secure place to raise their next generation.  This box was old, nailed to the post with a single nail and no baffle provided.  A baffle keeps predators from climbing the pole and getting into the box.

This is the replacement box.  It it capable of being opened through the roof and on the side.  The baffle is called a 'stove pipe baffle' and just sits on top of the post held in place by the pipe between the house and the post.  Any predator like a snake or raccoon, or even a squirrel, can climb the post but always ends up under the baffle which is too big around and too slick to climb.  The wiegela is too weak to be climbed by raccoons or snakes, the branches are fragile and would just bend, perhaps break.  This box was purchased at Wild Birds Unlimited but I suspect if my husband had time, he could build an equally sturdy one.  Our new rule is no 'cute' boxes unless they are very sturdy, can be opened and cleaned and are baffled.  It was heartbreaking to lose the chickadee babies; next to bluebirds they are my favorite.  They always seem to be in a good mood and can brighten my day.  The nest box was destroyed several days ago and I haven't even seen any chickadees in the bird feeders.  I wonder if they will forgive us?

Friday, May 30, 2014

From this gazebo - 5/30/14

Work is finally finished on the pond.  The brick edging has been cleaned up, new brick installed where it was taken out, the cedar box that contains the plugs, cords and sensors for the pond is functional and, I might add, is a work of art.

 The light comes on after dark.
 All the plugs are inside, the block box on the outside is the sensor that turns on the pond lights.
 The door to get into the box.
 One of our newly fledged robins.
 Siberian Iris
 Floribunda rose - Sunsprite - smells amazing
 Variegated Wiegela
 Standard Wiegela
Monsieur Jules Elie peony

 Back in Black iris
 Meadow Sage

I still have not seen a bee anywhere in the garden.  Tomato blossoms are falling off with no fruit left behind.  The catmint and meadow sage are totally without bees (unheard of in my garden).  We've only seen two butterflies, both swallowtails.  No monarchs.  No eggs on the milkweed.  Very few flies.

On the other hand, tree seeds have been in the millions.  We've had two kinds of maple seeds, the tiny flat seeds of the river birch, and now the cottonwoods are seeding.  Our deck, garden beds and flower pots are filled to the brim with these seeds.  We Preen but still get thousands of seedlings every year.  Short of taking down the trees, there isn't a lot we can do but curse.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

From this gazebo - 5/27/14

Sharing a little of the garden with you today.
This lovely yellow iris started blooming yesterday.  It was transplanted from the sidewalk garden to the pond.
Carl built this lovely cedar box with a light to hold all the wires and sensors to the pond.  We watched the light come on last night, it adds a subtle glow of light by the side of the pond and attracts insects for the frog.
The day after this picture was taken, the chickadee box was torn off of the pole by the raccoons, all the stuffing was pulled out and the babies were gone.  We won't install any more bird boxes without baffles in the future.
One of the hanging baskets I purchased at the local IGA.  Their baskets are exceptional, this one is the size of a bushel basket now, covered in blooms and I paid $17.99 for it.
Our resident bullfrog.  He just showed up after the pond was finished.
The view of the pond from the landing going into the gazebo from the courtyard.  The courtyard is where I grow my veggies.  More pics tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

From this gazebo - 5/21/14

So, it's only 9:25 and I've been in the pond already planting bog lilies, water canna and water pickerel.  We had purchased the canna and pickerel on our last visit to Hornbaker Gardens and just set their pots in the pond.  The only plants in our pond that are planted in dirt are the water lilies and lotus.  They created pockets, added dirt, lilies, sand, and river rock.  All the rest of the plants have had their roots cleaned of dirt and just planted in the river rock.  When I lifted the pickerel out to hose off the roots, I touched a gelatinous mess which turned out to be eggs.  Not toad eggs, we are familiar with those, these were little tiny white eggs which I tried to wash off of the pot back into the pond.  Not sure how successful I was.  The water forget-me-nots are blooming and the underwater plants are very close to the surface now.

Blooming in the garden:  wiegela, tulips, wild phlox, creeping phlox, meadow sage, iris, and columbine. 

Fish:  there are now 6 comets, 3 fantail, 3 shibunkin, (all about 2.5") and 3 large comets about 4".  We have a resident leopard frog, two toads, and a variety of tree frogs hidden in the pond rocks.   The toad eggs have hatched and we are blessed with a gazillion toad tadpoles. 

We saw our first dragonfly two days ago and we're hoping that we'll have dragonfly larvae soon.  There is nothing quite so spectacular as watching a nymph climb from the pond to turn into a dragonfly, dry his wings and fly away.  We also get damsel flies on occasion but I haven't seen one yet.

Birds:  nesting in the spruce trees: cardinal, dove, robin, chipping sparrow and grackle.  In the houses: 3 wrens (one box has four eggs), bluebirds (no eggs yet) and chickadees in a box I cannot get into.  Their eggs have hatched because there is plenty of coming and going from that box.  It's unusual to have more than one wren in our yard but love to hear the songs.  Last night I saw the first bird use the bathing area that was created in the stream.  A robin came down to bathe and brought two chipping sparrows with him, all were splashing and having a great time.  This morning two warblers came to drink but were scared off by the chipmunk before getting into the water.  A robin perched on one of the garden statues with two huge green caterpillars in his mouth, so his babies have hatched in the spruce tree.  It's easy to tell a male from a female robin during nesting time, the male is the one with the clean breast.  The female gets hers dirty building the nest, she sits in it and turns in a circle, pressing the sides with her breast which gets all muddy.

The water lilies both have leaves on the surface, but the lotus has not made an appearance.  The lotus is planted in a huge tub filled with dirt, covered with sand and gravel.  It's on the second shelf down in the pond, propped up by rocks.  Lotus like to be near the surface and it has been fertilized, the root looked really healthy so I'm hopeful it will send up leaves soon. 

I told my husband that this is just the best place on earth to be right now.  There is always something to see. it's quiet so I can hear the birds sing and the water splash, and the weather has been perfect even if it has been hot.  We have a large ceiling fan in the gazebo which does a great job of creating a breeze when there isn't one outside.  Life is good.

Friday, May 16, 2014

From this window - 5/16/14

OK, not the best picture but the best I could get through the screen of our bedroom window.  The stream has three waterfalls that gurgle and bubble their way into the pond.  The pond itself is 11x16 and is 24" deep at the center.  It was three shelves inside for marginal plants.  There are marginals in the stream and water hyacinth in the bio filter.  We have pickerel, parrot feather, blue iris and yellow iris, cannas and water forget-me-nots.  American toads have already laid eggs in it, and we have a dozen small fish.  The pond is surrounded by black-eyed Susans, three different types of cone flowers, Red Hot Pokers, ornamental grasses, dianthus, candytuft, hydrangeas, miniature butterfly bushes, creeping phlox, creeping thyme, peonies, lavender, siberian iris and sedum.  If this blasted rain would ever quit, perhaps we could enjoy it.  It's supposed to clear up today and be warm and sunny the next two days.  We're eager to watch it grow from new to settled in.