Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fall Cleanup

This is my son Matthew who just whines when it comes time to help with the leaves. He only has to dump them in the garden. My husband used a commercial leaf blower this year that did the job fast, then I used my shredder and made beautiful mulch to put around my trees and shrubs. Matthew states every year that he wants to chop all the trees down. This past Spring I planted 7 more maple trees, he most likely will be moving far away before those trees mature.

Berries for Birds

A garden full of berries are irresistible to birds.Choosing the correct berry producing shrubs and trees are like having a "living bird feeder." The birds that normally are insect eaters will switch their diet in the winter to eat berries. Some of the common insect eating birds such as robins, bluebirds, waxwings, chickadees, etc., will not find those insects in the harsh winters, so the berries will help them survive those cold months.

Issai Beautyberry
The Beautyberry is a graceful deciduous shrub that produces pink flowers in the Spring, followed by beautiful purple berries in late Summer.


The red berries of the Holly are a favorite of the bluebirds. You will need to plant a male holly to pollinize the female plants. I purchased 3 female and planted a male about 20 feet from them.

Autumn Jazz Arrowwood Viburnum

I was very fortunate to purchase 5 Arrowwood Viburnum at clearance this Fall. They look a little scraggly now with losing their leaves, they were very healthy looking when I bought them for only $5 a piece. The Viburnums provide fruit, flowers, cover, and beautiful fall colors. Some will grow 10-12 feet high and also as wide. The ones I have on order for the birds are: American Cranberry High Bush, Blue Muffin, and Nannyberry. They produce an abundant amount of fruit.

Centurion Crabapple

Another of my wonderful sale finds were these crabapples at $4 a piece this Fall. I was thrilled they were healthy and so cheap. I planted 3 other crabapples "Prairiefire," at only a small discounted price this Fall, but I was still happy to get them  and hopefully they survive the winter.

Ilex Verticillata "Black Alder"
These winterberries are a native holly. You also need a male to pollenize the females. The berry-laden plants are prized by craft enthusiasts for floral arrangements, wreaths, etc. But they are more important for their berries which stay on into late winter for food. 40 known bird species, small mammals and even deer are known to eat this fruit. The dense branches will also provide shelter. These can grow 10 feet high, a showstopper in winter against the white snow with their bright red berries.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mourning Dove

This dove perched on a branch for hours while it was raining out. They are slow to notice approaching threats, I always have to open the door and yell to them to get moving before I put the dogs out. They never seem to hear us coming when they are in the gardens eating the flower seeds. These birds like to eat waste grains. They are prey for cats, hawks, squirrels and of course hunters. Such a shame to hunt a beautiful bird like this. Taking pictures through my window will not be as clear as I would like, but better than hiding behind a bush and freezing waiting for a good shot.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bluebird House

This is my new bluebird house which is the "Ultimate." This house is made from recycled milk jugs and plastic bottles, and surprising, made in the USA, which is a great plus. It is from Birds Choice who is a member of the Wild Bird Feeding Industry, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Bluebird Society and the Purple Martin Conservation Ass. It has a lifetime guarantee to never crack, split of fade. The side door opens for easy cleaning, and the other door for viewing. An overhang roof, vents and drainage holes and a predator-resistant entrance hole. And they also used stainless steel screws. A very well constructed house. Expecting the Tree Swallows to use a few of the Bluebird houses when they come back in the Spring, I have to make sure I have enough.

A screen did come with this house for the purpose of Blowfly larvae which will get into the nest and the larvae will feed on the blood of the nestlings. Death sometimes occurs. The larvae feed at night, then during the day they move downward in the nesting material. The screen is a hopeful help, some studies are stating this, because the larvae will fall through the screen to the bottom of the box and cannot get back to the material. A single nest may contain as many as 200 larvae. The Bluebirds do not mind if you check the nest and nestlings. Remove the entire nest and scrap any larvae at the bottom, throwing this away or burning infested nests. You can also replace their nest with dry grass clippings if there is an infestation. Carefully transferring the young. Clean the box after the nestlings have fledged, use a weak solution of bleach and water.

Female Bluebird watching and waiting for me to put mealworms in the feeder which is right below her. They always can spot me from a distance and come and perch high in the trees near their feeder.

This female Bluebird is waiting on the roof for the mealworms. I could hear the male farther away, knowing he was coming also.

My Trash Treasures

On garbage night I drive around and collect the discarded flower pots. I empty the dirt into my raised hot beds and plant the mums. This year I have planted 8 mums, and one was a huge basket mum. I will be happy if half of them come up in the Spring. I brought a few plants into the house to winter over. My family is appalled with my ventures, but it is a shame to see all of this thrown away. I happened to be at one of the large chain stores a few weeks ago, and they had rows and rows of basket mums on sale for $6.99. I then noticed the clerk filling up carts of the mums. I asked her if they were marked down more and she said no. She was loading them all up to throw away. I believe the store's policy was if they continued to mark them down, people would wait until they were cheaper and not pay the $6.99. Such a shame to see all of those thrown out. DO NOT raid a store's dumpster!! My mother-in-law's friend an 80 year old woman, was walking home behind a large department store here and saw a pile of flowers in their dumpster. She only grabbed a few since she was walking. The store manager called the police and she was arrested! I understand it was so embarrassing for her because her son was a local policeman!

This Week's Find

Glass & Marbles in my soil

Our property was part of a garbage dump and pig farm over 75 years ago covering about 75 acres. Don't know exactly when it was started. While I am digging on any part of my yard, I uncover intact bottles, marbles and glass. Below is just some of the glass and marbles I collected this Summer. I have saved many boxes of old bottles. Most of the time I lose the marbles if I don't have pockets while I am digging, I set them down and forget where I left them. I have never uncovered anything of real value.

Female Downy Woodpecker

The Downy and Hairy Woodpecker are about identical in their coloring. The males have a dot of red on the back of their head. The Downy's bill is much shorter and dainty. Hairy Woodpeckers weigh about 3 times more than the Downy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bee Bee Tree - Evodia daniellii & Bees

The "Bee Bee" Tree (Evodia daniellii) aka Korean Evodia is a native of China and Korea. It is a much sought after tree for beekeepers. It grows 25-30 feet tall with showy white clusters of flowers appearing in mid-summer. The foliage stays dark green into Fall with bright red seed capsules which then turn black and last into the winter months for the birds. My tree trees were purchased for $1.50 each at about 1 foot high over a year ago, and then are now about 5 feet high. The deer did nibble the tops off which did not hurt them.

Korean Evodia


The Pollinators

Bees are the most important pollinating insects. In the past 60 years there has been a dramatic decline. The loss of bees will threaten the global food system.

Other pollinators are insects, birds, bats and the wind. I use no pesticides or chemicals, just let the beneficial insects with toads, birds and mother nature take care of the outdoors. Every flower bloomed & all the gardens were bountiful!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cedar Waxwings

I was so surprised to see these birds way at the top of the Bradford Pear Tree (Callery Pear) early in the morning. They were so high up that I just assumed they were European Starlings. Later in the colder months these birds will flock by the hundreds here for these berries. The Bradford Pear is an ornamental and deciduous tree. Now they have discovered it is invasive and easily damaged by storms and high winds. I have seen hundreds of little trees trying to grow under these two large ones I have. They just get mowed. I have only one I am growing from one of the berries that landed in my flower bed. Many birds love these berries, also the skunks and my donkey goes crazy trying to get them.

Eastern Bluebirds

The bluebirds are slowly making a come back with many organizations and people helping them with putting up nest boxes and monitoring them. They used to be as common as the Robin prior to the 1900's. There was a major decline from 1920's - 1970's, because of their natural habitat was being destroyed, overuse of pesticides and another factor was and still is the "House Sparrow!" Bluebirds are a cavity nester. Long ago they used the rotted out fence posts, which have been replaced with metal posts. Many trees were destroyed, which they would nest in a cavity of a rotted tree like the woodpecker. Now with people involved many bluebird boxes are being mounted. They are members of the Thrush family, just like the Robin. Bluebirds eat an abundance of insects. The bluebird feeders are for placing mealworms in dishes inside because they would be consumed by the robins and other birds. The hole is the correct size for them to get through. I purchased the feeder from: (  made from cypress lumber $25 + shipping. They also sell bluebird houses for $10 + shipping. Wonderful company. The most important site pertaining to bluebirds is: ( very informative, everything you will ever need to know about bluebirds.

This picture was taken at winter time, snowing. 

Mealworms are just like a treat. Bluebirds, Robins, Northern Mockingbirds, etc., just love the worms. But, for at least bluebirds, too many worms will deplete their calcium. I raise my own worms (another story) and try to give about 5-10 worms per bird in the morning and evening. They usually are waiting at both of those times.

I had to open the front of the feeder because the glass from frosted early in the morning and the birds might not have seen the worms.

A beautiful male bluebird.

House Sparrow
The Enemy

Oh don't get me started with these birds! They are our (United States) native birds destroyer! Many people don't realize how terrible these birds are. The male pictured above will stop at nothing to take over a nest or a bird box. They will throw out the eggs, peck them, throw out the baby nestlings, even kill adult bluebirds if they get cornered in their box. Some horrific pictures and stories on the main bluebird site ( The House Sparrow aka English Sparrow was brought from England to America in the mid 1800's, released first in N.Y. and then many more were brought over and released. Their thinking was to control insects. What a horrible mistake, they eat mostly seeds, which the farmers found out back then. Too late........they now are the most abundant songbird on the continent. They kill, kill, kill! A lesson on how you do not "fool with mother nature." In my own yard I have witnessed their killing sprees too often. When a pair came out of a pine near my door that had a nest of robins which were almost ready to fledge, and they pecked them to death, I then told my son to go buy me a good .22 with a powerful scope. Also bought a Blaine's Repeating Trap. These birds and the European Starling are birds that are not protected, they are invasive and not NATIVE BIRDS. Now for some reason, England and parts of Europe have a major decline in the House Sparrow, oh please come take them back!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Dogs


Harlee is a gem. She was found on my son's doorstep about a year ago. I of course ended up with her. My husband told me not to get attached to her and find her a home. There are not too many people that take in stray dogs. I had her spayed right away, only if others would spend the money, perhaps we could have a shortage of dogs and cats, instead of them being put to sleep by the thousands. So another mouth to feed, more hair, and of course love.

Indy & Harlee

Indy and Harlee, always playing. Stuffed animals are ripped apart all over my house.


Keiser, aka "oh so sweet," was found abandoned in a desolate place. I want to thank my son's friend Paige for finding him. I don't know how I could of went through life without him. Everyone adores this dog. He is so gentle and loving. We are so blessed to have him. I of course got him neutered right away. It was a small price to pay for all of the joy he brings us. Love this dog.


Old Sarah. She rules the house, she was here first and in the last year we acquired 3 more dogs. She only likes Keiser. My son Bill got her for us many years ago from the Animal Shelter. She is so loved here.
 Keiser takes care of all of the ears of the dogs, and the donkey also.
 Sarah gets so mad at the dogs when they are romping and playing. She is getting to old for these games.


Indy the Weimaraner! Indy belongs to my son Bill, but he is at my house at least 5 days a week. Oh what a non-stop Goof. He can't walk anywhere, he has to run. He wants to play constantly. And he "has" to sleep with us at night, which he buries himself under the covers and sleeps soundly because he never rested during the day. He is a German hunting dog. In the picture below he in intently watching my songbirds. He wants them badly! He is truly a very loving dog who will not stop licking us and the other dogs. Sarah just hates him, don't know why.

 Only time these dogs aren't playing is when they are sleeping!

Dexter the Donkey

Usually dogs are enemies with donkeys, but Dexter loves his buddy Sarah. Donkeys have a natural dislike of dogs, coyotes and other canines. They stand their ground by braying, biting, kicking and will chase intruders. Farmers have been placing donkeys in their pastures to guard livestock from the predators. Donkeys are herd animals, they will regard the herd as family, which brings out their natural protective instinct. Many people "mostly my family," call him a stupid donkey, which is so untrue. Donkeys are not stupid and  stubborn, they're just smart. You can't force a donkey to do anything he's not sure about or chooses not to do. They evaluate and think things through. Thus, this is why they are called a "Stubborn Ass." They have exceptional hearing and eyesight, which I have witnessed when he sounds his howling type alarm, then I know some type of animal is nearby. Usually it is a cat walking along the border of the trees, but Dexter knows he is an intruder. He does not cause a ruckus when the deer are in the field. He just watches them. Donkeys front legs are very powerful and they will stomp a predator and their kick is so swift. Dexter is very selfish, he will not let anyone near his food. The dogs always run when he gets fed. I just call him my "Manure Factory," my gardens are beautiful.

Sarah & Dexter

 Dexter is truly an idiot.
 Keiser is Dexter's favorite pal they are always licking each other.
 Dexter is a good kisser, my family thinks that is disgusting.