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Category Archives: Birds

Grilling Chilling and Tilling

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Those three words sum up the weekend here. Ten hours in the garden. Three dinners from the grill. A couple of really nice wines and some kick back evenings watching movies.

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I did perfect those grill marks, didn’t I? A couple of very nice filets as an add on a few weeks back from Friends and Farms. A simple marinade of vinaigrette. A screaming hot grill. Baby rose potatoes from my last CSA basket. Carrots from Friends and Farms. Lettuce too. The tomatoes. Those were Hummingbird Farms hydroponic picked up at Roots. The same place I picked up this.

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Did you know Salazon chocolate is made just up the road in Carroll County? They used to have a shop in Sykesville, which unfortunately closed. All their dark chocolate bars have sea salt in them, and lots of flavor combinations.

Perfect to go with a duo of very old, very special local wines.

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1998. Yes, you read that right. Two of our favorite old local wineries. Allegro has changed hands since the Crouch brothers ran the winery a couple of decades ago. Their wine. Still absolutely drinkable, soft and great with the filets. As for the Hardscrabble, it still has tannin and can continue to age. Who knew? Almost 20 years old. They could compete with lesser growth Bordeaux, when it comes to matching your meals. We compared the two with dinner and later savored them with that awesome chocolate.

As for the garden, we did quite a bit of work the last two days. I finally got the onions planted, and the seeds for arugula and bibb lettuce under the row cover.

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My better half tilled the three rows I will be using for my community garden. One row, tomatoes will dominate. That middle row, greens and onions. A third row, cucumbers and squash. The already established fourth row is full of this.

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Asparagus. I have been carefully working around the tender spears that are emerging. I will probably add a few herbs to this bed, once I get it cleaned up.

And, for that final chilling part of the post, check out our resident killdeer, back and laying another four eggs.

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I took this from really far away and thankfully got to crop it without distortion. I hope to soon see the babies chasing mom and dad all over our community gardens.

The Great Backyard Bird Count

I do it every year. Count the birds in my backyard. This year the snow made it interesting, and slightly different. We always get a massive influx of starlings when the snow falls. But, I did capture my friend flicker.

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This Northern flicker hangs out all winter at my suet feeders. He is also a resident bully, chasing away smaller birds. Sort of how the mockingbird acts, but with that long beak, he is definitely intimidating.

Since the weather has been cold, snowy, windy, and the birds are struggling, I always give them extra during this time. I even add peanuts and corn for the squirrels, like this rare black squirrel who hangs out here too.

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Last item that attracts birds to your yard. Berries.

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The robins love the nandina. We also have crabapple trees.

Keeping the birds fed and hydrated.

Flash Program

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You may have heard of flash mobs. So what is a flash program? That would be a spur of the moment, not planned in advance, free program open to the public. Using volunteers. This Sunday at 2 PM out at Mt. Pleasant, Howard County Conservancy.Have you ever heard about the Great Backyard Bird Count? It’s a national, annual event, spanning the long weekend in February. Information is here on their website. A couple of the board members out at the Conservancy proposed a great idea. Let’s have an impromptu free program the week before the bird count. To help people get started, and to give tips on counting birds in your own back yard.

They have enlisted a number of volunteers, many from the Howard County Bird Club. The nature center at Mt. Pleasant has windows overlooking a number of feeders and all winter long there’s quite a bit of interest from the resident and migrating birds, who stop by or hang around for the food. The bird club has a master list of all the different species seen across the entire site. You should be able to see a number of them on Sunday, and to learn how to identify some of the more common ones who would frequent your back yard or deck.

They’ll be helping you and your family get started on watching birds, and you might get to see some of the more rare visitors like this one.

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I spotted this pileated woodpecker right outside the doors to the nature center around noon, a couple of winters ago. We know they are still around because we can hear them.

Still, a little planning and a food source, on the ground or in a feeder, will keep the birds hanging out in your yard, too.

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Blue jays love the unsalted Costco peanuts in the shell.

Come on out Sunday and see what other tips you can take home with you.

Cabin Fever

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Still digging out, and not done yet.

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It’s pretty bad when the pickup is almost completely covered. We got about 29″ out here. Thankfully, we live out where there are loads of people who clear snow for a living. In all sorts of vehicles.

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Out on the main road. Early Sunday morning. Right after a few large trucks with plows. The good thing about living here. Many, many people have plows on their trucks. They have ATVs with plows. They have tractors with front loaders. Once you know all your neighbors, it’s fairly simple to get out.

We spent Sunday digging out all around the house and then using the snow thrower to clear out our personal part of the driveway. The common drive had been done by two of our neighbors, while we were trying to troubleshoot the heat pump that died.

Tomorrow we find out if we have to get a replacement, or if it is something simple. Crossing our fingers.

We did get the front walk, plus the path around the side to the heat pump done.

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And just to show that life is still interesting out here, look who showed up at the bird bath.

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My friend flicker. The northern flicker. We haven’t seen him this year before this visit. As usual, the fresh melted water in the bird bath attracts some special birds.

As for all our friends struggling through the historic snowfall here in our little corner of the world. We know how it feels to be snowbound. Our absolute worst was 30+ years ago, before our community figured out how to become independent of others.

We are constantly amazed and thankful to be surrounded by our neighbors here. It does take a village, and we live in a very special one.

Ice Station Zebra

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That’s how our next door neighbor answered his phone when we called earlier this evening.

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It certainly felt that way when we opened our front door this afternoon. Trust me. Four hours later. It’s higher than that. As for the back of the house, facing east (where we usually never get slammed), here is the back wall.

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This is also worse. It is touching the six foot high light fixtures outside our kitchen and family rooms. I suppose I should be happy. The insulation properties are impressive.

It will be days before we get this snow knocked down. Add to that. A heat pump failure. The upstairs one. Thankfully, the main floor is still working. The county estimates that we will be all plowed out by Wednesday. Living on a snow emergency route means they keep trying to plow our road. It just keeps getting covered in drifts.

I may pop down and take more pictures tomorrow morning, while three of the four “heads of households” around here do the snow thrower thing and get us down to the rural route where we live. Me, I will be attempting to slowly shovel out to replenish my feeders. Where those alpha male birds are fighting for supremacy.

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It has been contentious all day. Jays vs Cardinals for domination of the feeders.

The Waiting Game

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And now we wait. All of the snow prep is done with the exception of a couple of last minute items. Over the years I have learned a few more tricks to keep us from having problems when it comes to water and with the perishable foods.

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Keeping a few of the milk bottles around, just for times like this. We have a small refrigerator in our laundry room. For snow events, I completely reconfigure that fridge to be nothing but liquids and the lunch and dinner options, which could be moved to a cooler if the fridge were to get too warm.

I keep one small cooler with an ice bag in it. It becomes the place to put whatever I need to take out of the small fridge. Our large refrigerator/freezer NEVER gets opened while the power is off. The freezer has been reconfigured to have all the meat on the bottom with other odds and ends on top, and covered with ice packs and plastic bottles that were filled with water and frozen yesterday.

After our longest outage ever, the 22 hour one after the derecho years ago, the fridge made it up to 44 degrees and the freezer to 16 degrees. In the summer heat. Yesterday I turned the temps down to minus six in the freezer and 36 in the fridge.

I also splurged on a treat, in case we have to eat by candlelight.

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When I picked up my Friends and Farms basket yesterday, I pre-ordered a couple of packs of smoked salmon. They will go into that small fridge, to be used as a “fancy” meal base. I have that large lovely loaf of sourdough from the CSA, along with the cheeses. I also will be making a full four cup pot of jasmine rice. I am perfectly content to make salads using rice, and salads using beans or chickpeas. Between the smoked salmon and the two cans of sardines in the pantry, we could have some awesome candlelight dinners. Unfortunately, the cold could become an issue at some point, and our wood stove is in our basement.

I have cranked the heat up in our house today. Up to 74 degrees. If we lose power, we never open the west facing doors, using the smallest east facing opening, our mud room back door, to minimize heat loss in the rest of the house. Replacing our doors and windows over the past few years has helped us.

Finally, I learned two new tricks when it comes to having water, the non potable kind. I fill up the top loading washing machine and stop the cycle when it’s full. No clothes in it, just water. In a pinch, it could be used for flushing the toilets. Add that to our “recycling” of sump pump water. The other simple thing I do is fill the larger side of my sink, to put dishes in it. Keeps down the need to use paper plates, and when I get power back, we just pull out the dishes and fill the dishwasher.

Last minute tips. We have at least three pair of gloves for each of us. Usually, when we come in from snow removal and we have power, we throw gloves and hats in the dryer. Can’t do that with no power, so we have those spares while waiting for the others to dry out.

And, I filled all the birdfeeders and watered all my indoor plants.

I think I’m ready. Just hoping we don’t meet this when we open our mudroom door.

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The Soul of the Night

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OWLS!

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What could be a better greeting to an evening about owls than a visit by Ranger, the resident barred owl at Mt. Pleasant (Howard County Conservancy)?

Maybe it’s the presence of Belle, the resident owl from the Belmont site. Or maybe, it’s the treat of hearing Scott Weidensaul, author of the Peterson Reference Guide to Owls, as he leads a program Thursday night beginning at 7 PM. It’s the first of many incredibly interesting programs planned for 2016.

You can pre-register here for Thursday’s event. The various nature events at the Conservancy have become extremely popular, and you don’t want to miss a rare appearance in this area by Scott.

While you’re at it, you may also want to download the 2016 bookmark to keep track of what is happening the rest of the year.

For me, being a member of this planning staff, and working behind the scenes to get these programs planned, and then to be there to see how successful they are, well, it’s definitely a “labor of love”. Volunteering in such a beautiful setting, and being around people who love doing what they do, does it get any better?

See you Thursday maybe?

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