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Category Archives: Nature

Wednesday Wisdom

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As opposed to Tidbit Tuesday. Just a few odds and ends about things happening around here.

Like a very special event this weekend at the Conservancy. How to build bee houses to attract bees into your habitat. To help the pollination process, for your flowers and vegetables. Build Bee Boxes with Paula Becker. Human beings have depended upon animal pollinators for millennia. With the loss of natural habitat for insects, birds, and other animals, we now have the opportunity to return the favor. Explore some ways in which our natural communities overlap, opportunities for conflict and co-existence, and discuss our perceptions and expectations of the natural world. We’ll also share ways we can adjust our landscaping so everyone benefits (and lawn care is reduced!). We will also make some easy bee housing, which doesn’t involve stinging.

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Bees are amazing.

The program, rain or shine, takes place Saturday morning at Mt. Pleasant in Woodstock. You can make your own bee box to take home and hang.

Hoppy Easter

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As the Easter Egg hunts, and egg rolling events accumulate this weekend, we have yet to establish if there really was an egg laying hare, aka “Oschter Haws” as the Germans called it. You have to admit, for those of us scientifically inclined, it is mind boggling to contemplate bunnies laying eggs.

I did dye eggs this year. Kept some older ones around, to be used for display purposes, so I cheated and used the Paas dyes.

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Brown eggs are always interesting to dye. And, the slightly speckled eggs come out very nice. I should have done the natural thing and made dyes from our red cabbage, or from the turmeric in my spice cabinet, but with all the painting and sanding and hammering this week, I was surviving in a corner of my kitchen.

They are done, more or less. Just some carpentry and plumbing to finish. I even got my grandmother’s china back into her cabinet in the dining room. Just in time to make the bone in ham from the CSA last week.

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Traditions for the holidays? Do you have them? Are they ecofriendly and healthy, or are some of them bad for you but you do them anyway. One of ours is the ceremonial Peeps. Has to be just one small box. The other one, Rhebs Candy.

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Who hasn’t been in that long line to pick up candy, up off Wilkens Avenue by St. Agnes Hospital. When we were young, my Dad brought the candy home from their stall in Lexington Market, which closed down in 2008. You can get the candies ordered online now and have them sent to you, but going into the store, smelling the chocolate, and picking out your own assortment was a real treat.

Well, I need to stop reminiscing and get a few things done for Easter. While putting the rooms back in order, hanging pictures and curtains, and finishing up from the six weeks spent making half the house look great.

Making Progress

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Today’s the first day of spring.

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My daffodils are blooming. Even that weird snow storm yesterday didn’t take them out. They are a bright spot in my cluttered kitchen aka renovation central. The only room on the first floor not being painted, it has become the storage site for all the dining room, foyer, powder room, closet and hallway stuff. Like dozens of pictures, fixtures, switches, knobs, hinges, etc.

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My family room isn’t much better. Chairs, table leaves, buffet contents, new light fixtures and mirror. The chaos moved from control to out of control.

I still have room to cook, and room to start the garden seeds.

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They are happily getting sunshine in the kitchen. I started arugula, dill, bibb lettuce and rainbow chard. If I get time to continue the spring cleaning of my garden plot, the onions will be planted later this week.

This egg crate method works very well for seed starting.

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I use a fruit box from Costco, covered in a layer of plastic and newspapers. Prevents leaking while watering.

All of these will eventually go into my community garden plot, sometime in the middle of April. Under row cover for the greens. The dill. It will be interspersed into my asparagus patch up there. I am really excited to have a two foot by twenty foot line of asparagus in my new plot.

And, in just a few weeks, I am off to Sharp’s Farm to get my summer vegetable seedlings. Spring needs to get in gear around here, and help us gardeners get plants in the ground.

Planting anything interesting this spring?

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.