The Farmer’s Market

I haven’t had much to write about in the last few days. Rain was forecast every day for the last couple of weeks–some days it rained and some days we just got stormy clouds. Every day was hot and humid. Every day the mosquitoes swarmed me when I tried to go outside. Every day.

But the weather has changed and it is now sunny. The mosquitoes seem to not be quite so bad. Any improvement is an improvement.

Best Challah!
Challah Bread

This morning I was busy making beautiful challah bread and potato salad, but EJ and I took the time to drive to the next town to pick up some ear mite medicine for the pets. On the way to the store we passed the Farmer’s Market that is set up every Friday in the hospital parking lot, and we decided to stop at it after we went to the store. I have only been to the Farmer’s Market once before. For a long time I didn’t know it was there, and I usually can’t make it anyway because my Friday mornings are busy.

But today we stopped in. I didn’t know we would stop at the Farmer’s Market or I would have brought my camera and taken pictures. Oh, well, next time.

We mostly wanted to buy local honey. Usually we drive to the larger city about 30 miles away because we have had trouble locating raw honey any closer, but a vendor at the Farmer’s Market sold honey. We also found farm fresh eggs there for about half the price of organic eggs in the store. AND we bought some real local maple syrup. Yum! I think we will have to make an effort to stop in at the Farmer’s Market every Friday.

The people who sold us the honey and eggs made me laugh. They were an old man and his even older father, and a woman. I thought the old man and his old father looked the same age, and only knew they were father and son because EJ told me on the way home. I guess a person reaches an age where he catches up to his parent’s age? Anyway, the old son kept trying to convince a customer that she absolutely needed to buy onions, describing how absolutely delicious they were. So she bought it. Then he told her that she need to buy some wonderful tasty cucumbers. She bought one. I laughed that she was going to end up buying everything he sold if she wasn’t careful. She good naturally agreed, leaving with onions, cucumbers, beets, and I don’t know what else. Then the guy turned his attention on us, but we just laughed and bought the honey and eggs–and nothing else–and went on to the next vendor.

Bay July 12, 2013Another vendor sold flowers and herb plants. I am already growing most of the herbs she sold, but I did find a Bay plant, which I do not have, so we bought it, since we (especially EJ) enjoy using bay leaves in food. The lady selling it told us that it is a wonderful plant. It will grow big, but needs to be brought inside during the winter…like the herb Rosemary. I did not know that I was supposed to bring Rosemary in the house in the winter, and didn’t understand why mine died every winter. So now I know. I figure that I got a real deal in buying the Bay plant because not only did I get the new plant, but I also got new knowledge.

We had fun.

After the Farmer’s Market, we stopped at a few yard sales on the way home. We love yard sales. We didn’t buy anything today though.

Usually it is my son’s job to mow the lawn, but he had to work today and if the lawn wasn’t mowed today, it would have to wait until Tuesday. I didn’t want to wait until Tuesday so I mowed the lawn. I don’t mind mowing the lawn, and with all our garden areas we don’t have much to mow anyway. I got hot and sweaty and tired mowing the lawn though because I accidentally ran over a string near the garage and had to turn the mower on its side and get it unwound from the blade. Then I had trouble starting the mower. I kept pulling and pulling the start cord (or whatever it’s called) but the mower wouldn’t start. So I let it sit for a while and went inside to cool off in front of the fan and drink cold tea. Then I came back out and tried to start the mower again. I repeated this several times, exhausting myself with pulling that stupid cord. A couple of times I got the mower started, but it died after a few seconds. Stupid mower. Then I thought, “Hmmmm, it acts like it’s out of gas.” Sure enough, it was. Duh. I filled it, then pulled and pulled the cord and got the mower going, and it stayed going, and I was able to finish the lawn. The lawn looks really nice, but I am exhausted.

I wonder how many calories I burned pulling that stupid start cord? I mean, there ought to be some benefit to all that effort, don’t you think?

The Sparrows in the Vines

The vines on my house grow really fast. I noticed vines beginning to creep up my kitchen window. I saw them at the bottom of the window, and then a week or two later they were at the top of the window. It’s spooky how fast they grow. Sometimes I feel as if I am living in a horror movie in which the plants take over and destroy everything in their path.

However, one thing I really, really love about the vines is the sparrows. They like to roost in the vines, and when I come near that part of the house, a hundred or more fly out. They just keep flying out and flying out. Sometimes at night we can look out an upstairs window and see them sleeping. It’s pretty cool.

This evening I took a video of the sparrows flying out of the vines.



Plan A, B, C….

Yesterday we ate the Ground Beef Wellington I had made the day before. As he ate it, my husband kept saying “Oh, wow, this is good…This is DELICIOUS…Oh, wow.” I must say that it was really very good. I will be making it again.

Bronze Fennel
Bronze Fennel

One thing I really liked about the Ground Beef Wellington is that one of the ingredients in the recipe is fennel. I have grown bronze fennel in my garden for a couple of years. It is very pretty–all bronze and delicate and feathery. It tastes like licorice. Yum. But other than breaking off a piece now and then and eating it, I have never really known what to do with it. None of my regular recipes called for fennel. So it was fun to finally have a reason to use it.


Another plant in my garden that I think is fun is borage. Borage has pretty flowers that can be eaten. Yes, you can eat the flowers. I think they taste sort of like cucumber. They are nice to put in salads for a pretty and unusual touch. I have read that you can freeze them in ice cube trays for pretty ice cubes, although I have never tried it.

Yesterday my son and I went shopping for a couple of things, and on the way home he wanted to buy some fireworks for Independence Day tomorrow–the little sparklers and noisemakers, not the big stuff–so we stopped at a roadside stand outside of town. We have gone there many times over the years. The guy is nice and always charges less than the stores. On top of that, he also usually gives us a deal. Like yesterday he asked JJ if he knew the total of what he had chosen and when JJ replied “Ten dollars,” the guy asked JJ for only five dollars. JJ protested that he was willing to pay the full ten dollars, but the man insisted on only five. We set off a few tonight, just for fun. We plan to set off most of them tomorrow night. After JJ had lit a few smoke bombs and those little snake things, we hurried inside because the mosquitoes were so bad. Those horrible mosquitoes. They are my enemy.

Homemade Mosquito Trap
Homemade Mosquito Trap

Yesterday I made the mosquito trap that I have been reading about on the Internet. There are different variations of the recipe, but basically you take a 2 liter soda bottle, cut off the top right below where it starts to narrow for the top, invert and place it inside the lower half. You mix 1/4 cup of brown sugar (some recipes say regular sugar) with a cup of hot water. When it has cooled, you pour it in the bottom half of the bottle. Add a teaspoon of yeast. There is no need to mix. It creates carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes. The solution has to be replaced every two weeks. I made it and placed the trap in the garden. The next day I checked it. There were a variety of dead bugs in it, but I couldn’t tell if any of them were mosquitoes. There certainly weren’t as many as in the picture. I am a bit disappointed. I was  imagining mosquito traps all over the yard luring millions of mosquitoes to their deaths…


I decided I will have to try Plan B. I read that you can make a mosquito repellent by boiling rosemary, putting the rosemary water in a spray bottle, and spraying it on your body. Apparently mosquitoes hate rosemary. I, on the other hand, love rosemary and grow it in my herb garden. I use fresh rosemary in recipes in the summer and I dry rosemary in my dehydrators to use in the winter. I figure that it’s worth trying to repel mosquitoes with the herb.

However, just in case the mosquito trap and the rosemary doesn’t work, my husband and son just left to go to the store to buy Independence Day supplies, such as citronella oil and mosquito spray. We have not yet given up the battle against the mosquito horde. We will not be hostages in our home…

Trying New Recipes and Planting New Things

It rained every day last week, and the forecast is saying that it is going to rain every day this week so there isn’t a lot being done in the garden this week. Outside projects will have to wait.

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen yesterday. I feel as if I am getting in a rut with meals, and nothing sounds appealing, so I found some new recipes at to try. Browsing through the recipes, I found Ground Beef Wellington and decided to make it. Since my husband prefers homemade over prepackaged foods, I did not use the refrigerated crescent rolls the recipe called for. Instead, I found a recipe to make homemade crescent rolls. The rolls required raising, so since it was getting late and everyone was getting hungry, I quickly found a recipe for Ground Beef Yorkshire and interrupted my crescent rolls and Ground Beef Wellington to make it. My family really liked it, so I will make it again. After we ate, I finished up the Beef Wellington. It looks good but none of us were hungry after eating our fill of Ground Beef Yorkshire. We will eat the Beef Wellington today.

Camera 012
My Horseradish

Last spring we bought some horseradish root for the first time. After I used it for our Passover meal, I completely forgot it in the refrigerator. I found it a couple of weeks ago, and noticed that it was growing. So I found a pot in the garage, filled it with dirt, and planted the root. It has been growing nicely. I do not know anything about growing horseradish, I do not know when or how to harvest it. I will learn.

Since the horseradish root seemed to take off, my husband and I decided to buy a ginger root and see if we can get it to grow. In the last year I have bought ginger root several times and dried it and ground it. I also buy cinnamon sticks and cloves and grind them myself using an electric coffee grinder we got at a yard sale a couple years ago. Grinding my own spices is cheaper than buying them in the little jars in the spice aisle at the grocery store and it’s kind of fun. Anyway, I have never tried to grow ginger. I think it will be interesting and fun–and economical–to see if we can get it to grow. I found another plant pot in the garage yesterday, filled it with dirt, and planted the ginger. I put it on the front porch next to the horseradish.

I can see our cherry trees from the living room window and I have been watching the cherries get ripe. I wanted my husband to pick the cherries since he seems less bothered by mosquitoes, but his back has been hurting him greatly this week. So yesterday after I had cooked and cleaned and planted ginger root, I got on my hoodie, put the hood up, and went out and picked the cherries. I was swarmed by the mosquitoes, but I persevered until all the ripe cherries were picked. I am very courageous and determined. After I had retreated to the safety of the house, somewhat worse for wear, I pitted the cherries. Soon I will make some sort of delicious cherry dessert.

I wanted to research and make some mosquito traps and repellents yesterday, but I was tired after working in the kitchen all day so I put up my feet and relaxed instead.

On Mulberry Street

Camera 004


More of our cherries our getting ripe. Yesterday I put on a hoodie with the hood up and went out to pick them. I persevered as long as I could, but the mosquito hoard soon drove me back inside. I was only able to harvest a few cherries.



Later I took my dog for a walk. Many times when I walk Danny, I think of the Dr. Seuss book, And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street:

When I leave home to walk to school
Dad always says to me,
“Marco, keep your eyelids up
and see what you can see…”

But when I tell him where I’ve been
And what I think I’ve seen,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“Your eyesight’s much too keen.”

“Stop telling such outlandish tales
Stop turning minnows into whales.”
Now, what can I say
when I get home today?

Only, unlike the little boy in the story, I find that what I see is often strange or interesting enough that I don’t have to make up wild stories. Sometimes I see beautiful clouds or flowers. Sometimes I see an interesting bug. One time I saw a huge praying mantis at the side of the street. I called my son on the cellphone and asked him if he wanted to come see it, and he drove the car over, and we stood there remarking on the hugeness of its size. And sometimes I see people doing interesting things.

Storm Clouds June 28, 2013 006Yesterday as Danny and I walked, I saw someone mowing his (or her?) lawn, which isn’t remarkable in itself. However, this person was dressed in white coveralls with a white hood covering his head. The hood was a towel-like covering like you see on shepherds in nativity scenes. The person was so covered from head to foot that only his face was visible. I had my camera with me–because I never know what I will see–and I took pictures. They didn’t come out very well because I was trying not to be too obvious about taking the picture, and the person’s lawn mowing route kept taking him out of my sight. I suspect that the person was dressed like this to protect him from the vicious horde of mosquitoes as he mowed his lawn. Either that or he is actually an alien living among us and can’t go outside without a special life suit. Or maybe…

Storm Clouds June 28, 2013 012We have had so much rain this week that yesterday a lot of people were mowing their lawns in the break between yet another round of storms. When I got home, I told my son that it would be a VERY good idea to mow our lawn also. It was sort of a race against time because as he mowed, the sky was darkening with a storm. The sky got very black and threatening. Despite the dark skies, the storm went past us with only a few rumbles of thunder, but we did get some beautiful clouds.

In fact, the clouds were so beautiful that later my son and I went for a drive to photograph storm clouds. Whenever we found clear places with unhindered views along less-traveled roads, we stopped, got out, and admired the scene while I took pictures. This is one of my favorite pictures from yesterday:

Storm Driving June 28, 2013 026We had a great time together. The mosquito horde might keep me from my garden, but they can’t keep me from enjoying the day…


Quick Dashes Outside…

1004405_359986514123707_1410105245_nThe mosquitoes are still very, very bad. As soon as I step outside, a horde of mosquitoes engulf me. It makes it difficult to enjoy going out for more than a quick dash. I feel like a hostage. We have had storms every day this week, and I’m sure that the soggy conditions are responsible for this plague. EJ and I are researching different natural repellents to see if any of them work. If nothing else, it will be an interesting experiment–real life testing and everything to see what repels and what doesn’t.

One thing I’d like to do is put up some bat houses. I used to hate bats, thinking they were ugly and scary–the stuff of nightmares. However, bats are one of the critters that I have grown quite fond of as I have learned more about them. I especially like that bats eat tons of mosquitoes. For that alone, they will have my undying gratitude. I am concerned that bat colonies are sickening and dying throughout the world. EJ, JJ, and I always pause in delight when we see a bat swooping and darting over our heads. Last year a bat got in our house, and we carefully caught it and released it outside.

I walked my dog Danny yesterday, but I tried to stay away from the long grass so he wouldn’t stir up the mosquitoes. The clouds were gorgeous. I took pictures. Later, as storms popped up, the clouds grew darker so I dashed outside and took some more pictures. I think clouds are beautiful works of abstract art.

Mosquito Ordeal

Dream house

I love storms. I love observing radar on weather sites on the Internet, which lets me track storms coming our way. I think I could have easily been a meteorologist (or archaeologist or psychologist) if I didn’t already have the life that I love. The only thing that I would like better than the life that I have would be a Hobbit house with a Secret Garden. The house would have a beautiful library inside, with floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases with dark, rich wood and comfy couches and chairs, with a reading nook under a window. And one of the bookcases would hide a secret room with a wardrobe in it that led to magical worlds….but short of that, I like the life I have.

Storm chasing
Storm chasing

We are expecting storms all week. Last night we got some dramatic storms, and when they began, my son begged, “Let’s go storm chasing!” EJ, our son, and I all love storms and pause to watch them when we can. So JJ and I drove around a bit, and admired the clouds and occasional flashes of lightning. JJ drove and told me that my job was to take pictures of the weather, but I had fun taking pictures of him, and hearing him exclaim, “NOT ME! You are SUPPOSED to take pictures of the storm!” The really dramatic storms didn’t begin until a few hours later, but we had fun.

Camera 018
Early morning walk

I saw on radar this morning that more storms are coming our way across Lake Michigan, so I took my dog, Danny, out for his walk this morning before they arrive. Danny and I love our daily walks together. I love walking in the morning best, but often don’t find the time to walk until afternoon. This morning was perfect. It was just the right coolness, and the day was so new and fresh and beautiful.

The only thing that marred our wonderful morning walk is the mosquitoes. The rain has brought them out and they are awful! Whenever poor Danny stopped for any reason, clouds of mosquitoes landed on him, making him look like Charlie Brown’s friend, Pigpen:


They surrounded me too, and I was constantly shaking my head or slapping myself as they buzzed around and landed on me. I have itchy mosquito welts all over me–on my face, neck, arms. It was a macabre dance to a buzzing beat: Buzz, shake, slap, hop….


Why is it that when it’s beautiful, and warm, and perfect for a walk or working in the garden, the mosquitoes must come in? It’s impossible to enjoy a walk or a garden when you have to constantly slap mosquitoes. I hate mosquitoes. They have absolutely no benefit that I can see except to suck blood. The only thing worse than mosquitoes are ticks, which bury their heads in your flesh as they drink your blood, and can’t be easily brushed off or killed with a swat.

Bye, Bye, Birdie

This morning, not long after I took today’s Daily Robin photograph, I looked out the window and saw a baby Robin on the edge of the nest. I grabbed my camera and went out on the front porch to watch. I received the thrilling experience of watching a baby Robin take his first peek at the world…his first steps…and his first flight. I was able to take pictures and capture it on video.

First, here is a slideshow of pictures of what I saw:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is a video I took of the baby Robin’s first look at the world.

This is the baby’s first flight. I was so thrilled that I actually captured it on video! I thought at first he was caught in the fence, but he eventually managed to fly off.

Now the nest is empty. I am going to go out later and empty the basket and then wait to see if any other birds build a nest in it.

What an awesome, thrilling experience. My son asked me if I was sad that the babies have flown off. I answered no–because it is what they are supposed to do. It is all part of the seasons of life. It is why I rescued the babies in the first place–to give them the opportunity to grow up and fly off. There would be something wrong if they did not mature, gain independence, leave their nest, and start their own families.

This experience brings up thoughts of my son, who has just graduated from high school. He is my fledgling, and is on the edge of his nest, looking out at the world, getting ready to fly off and live his own life. I am convinced of the rightness of the seasons and changes of life.

I am also pondering how often things that start out as tragedies end up being enriching, thrilling experiences.

Garden Thought-bits

I think gardens are excellent places to think tidbits of thought. I thought that today I’d share the tidbits of thought that I thought while I went about my day and my garden. I am cleverly calling them “thought-bits.”

Early this morning, EJ looked out our big living room window, the place where the baby robins fell when I unintentionally pulled down their nest, and he exclaimed, “There’s a baby Robin on the ground below the window!” I had read (after I pulled down the nest) that Robins typically lay 3 to 7 eggs, and I had wondered if there had been more than the two I had found and rescued, but I hadn’t been able to find any more babies. But then, it’s not easy to search when angry Robin parents are screeching and swooping, and I have discovered that baby Robins press their bodies low and stay very still when strangers approach. I put on EJ’s straw hat, a sweatshirt, and gloves for protection against angry, screeching Robin parents, and went out to search for baby number 3. I couldn’t find it, and think it must be hiding in the tangle of ground cover. The dead leaves and old bird nests are the very color of baby Robins, so I could have uncovered the bird and never seen it. It will probably be ok in the tangled ground cover, and apparently Papa and Mama Robin have been caring for the two in the hanging basket and this one on the ground. My respect for Robins has risen high as has their position on my list of birds I love, like geese. EJ, our son, and I love geese and always pause to watch them when they fly overhead. We always pause for wondrous sights, like geese flying or delicate spiderwebs.

gardenmarkers10We’ve always had a lot of cats. In the early years we let them go outside and since I didn’t want to lure birds to their deaths, this is the first time we’ve ever put up bird houses. It’s all a new experience for me. Everyone quotes cute little sayings about gardens and birdhouses, but they don’t warn strongly enough about the life and death drama that also exists in the garden. It sort of reminds me of the scene in the movie, Knight and Day, in which June is upset because Roy didn’t warn her that she was heading into danger when she inexplicably lost–and then regained–her seat on the plane. Roy said he DID warn her: “I said, “Sometimes things happen for a reason,” She replied emotionally,”That’s not a warning, Roy! That’s like a… a… a needlepoint expression or a bumper sticker! Next time try, ‘June, if you get on this plane, you will &%^@# DIE!’”

“If you put birdhouses and feeders up, YOU WILL BE A WITNESS TO EMOTIONAL LIFE AND DEATH DRAMA!”

I am not sure I am ready for the drama of the garden. I was sad when the sparrows kicked the house wrens out of the birdhouse and killed their eggs. And I feel responsible for the survival of the little baby Robins, since I had put them in danger in the first place.

But I have been thinking about what EJ said after I pulled down the nest and thought the baby Robins were dead. He said that life and death are part of the rhythm of life. And he is right. In life, there are sometimes sunny days, but there are also storms. It isn’t always day, there is also night. There is summer, but also winter. Sometimes people recover from sickness, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes pain and tragedy comes, but it all has its season, its purpose, and through pain and tragedy can come growth and beauty. Like feeling horrified about accidentally pulling down a Robin nest, but then getting to enjoy a thrilling experience of observing the babies grow up.

As a wise man once wrote:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time for war and a time for peace. (Solomon, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)


robins1 001After I unsuccessfully tried to find the third baby Robin, EJ saw the Papa and Mama Robin eating the ripening cherries from our cherry trees. Apparently we have a Bird Bed & Breakfast–we nest them and feed them. So EJ went out to pick cherries before they all disappeared. I went out with him, but went out to the sidewalk instead of to the trees. “Aren’t you going to help?” EJ asked. “Not yet, I want to take pictures,” I replied. But I confess that I was really hoping to get dramatic video of the Papa and Mama Robin swooping and screeching at my husband so I could share it here and on Facebook. I was disappointed, though, because they didn’t do much more than chatter. Either they don’t see him as the Destroyer of Nests that I am, or the two of us together seemed too many to attack. So EJ and I picked cherries.

June 24 006Later, I set up the hose in the gardens. We have garden all around our house and it’s quite a task moving a hose from place to place. So I have come up with an ingenious system. A few years ago, I stretched hoses into various parts of the yard and then I detached the hose I didn’t need and attached the hose I needed. But last year while I was aimlessly wandering around the hardware store while my husband searched for some doodad he needed, I discovered and bought a valve thingy that allows me to hook up four hoses leading to different parts of the yard. On some hoses, I also have a two-hose valve thingy so I can branch off the hoses again. With this system, I can easily turn on some hoses and turn off others, as needed. It actually works. I am quite proud of myself.

Today as I set out the sprinkler in my herb garden, I accidentally got sprayed in the face, but since it is so hot outside, it wasn’t a bad thing. Mostly it was just a surprise.

It is really hot and humid today. The weather app on my computer said earlier that it was 84 degrees but had a “realfeel of 96.” Everyone seems to think hot weather is a paradise, but I am a northern girl, and I love my northern state, and I melt when the temps rise too high. So I didn’t work outside much, but instead pitted cherries at the sink. Pitting cherries always makes me think of when I was a child. We had about four or five cherry trees and one year we must have had a bumper crop. We picked and picked cherries, and then a neighbor let us pick the cherries from his tree. (We had enough for my Mom to freeze 80 quarts.) Of course, after picking comes pitting–and we pitted and pitted. I was wearing a brand new matching shorts outfit for the first time and the cherry juice stained it horribly. So ever since then, whenever I am picking and/or pitting cherries, I always make sure I am wearing old clothes I don’t care about. I don’t especially like to pit cherries. There are some tasks I don’t particularly like to do, but I always try to find a way to make those tasks enjoyable. Today, I looked out my kitchen window and watched the sparrows at the birdhouse. I also watched fluffy clouds that will turn into storm clouds at some point. I love clouds.

I saw the Papa and Mama House Wren standing on the birdhouse as if they were considering buying it. They checked it all over, discussed it, peeked inside, and then realized it was occupied and flew off.

Downstairs and Upstairs

Cherry Robins 005


Over the last couple of years, EJ has planted several fruit trees throughout our yard. He has two dwarf Alberta Peach trees in his garden in the back yard, and five dwarf cherry trees of a couple different varieties throughout my part of the garden. This year they are loaded with fruit. The cherries are ripening now. One cherry tree is very close to the lilac bush where I have hung the basket of baby Robins. I am sort of wondering how we are going to pick the cherries without getting attacked by protective Papa and Mama Robin.

I have been taking pictures of the basket through the downstairs window. The pictures are not always very clear because of the glare and dirt on the window. (I haven’t yet washed the windows this year…I’ll get to it.) It’s fun watching the parents bring their babies food.

Yesterday evening, I went to an upstairs window overlooking the Robins to see if I could get an….um…bird’s eye view of them (pun intended). To my excitement, I could look right down into the nest. I opened the window and took pictures of them. I zoomed in on the basket, although it’s not always easy to distinguish between the lilac branches and the little birds.

Here are pictures of the birds from both downstairs and upstairs:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was concerned about the nest yesterday because radar showed a large storm coming across Lake Michigan. I don’t know how the basket would fare in a stormy wind. However, the storm dissipated before it reached us, as it often does.

New Sparrow Neighbors
New Sparrow Neighbors


Switching my thoughts to the birdhouse outside my kitchen window: I occasionally see the father sparrow chirping on the birdhouse, but he flies away as soon as we get near. The other day he kept going to the entrance of the birdhouse, so I think there must be babies, but for the most part we see very little. I really miss the wrens, who would sit on or near the birdhouse and sing all day long.



The Robins: The Morning After

Baby Robins 2 002This is the hanging basket that I put the baby robins in after I unintentionally pulled down their nest. I wrote about it yesterday in my posts, Super Villain in the Garden and Baby Bird Rescue!

I would prefer that the basket was in a better place–higher and not swinging so much–because I worry what will happen if a storm comes and the wind blows. I also wish I had been able to put mown grass in the basket for a more natural “nest.” However, I did the best I could yesterday to get them off the ground and away from the neighborhood cats and other predators as quickly as I could. I put the basket in a place with overhanging branches so it wouldn’t be too exposed, and away from the trunk of the lilacs so predators couldn’t easily access the nest.


Baby Robins 002I looked in the basket this morning to made sure the babies were ok, and I took a quick picture. I read this morning that baby birds leave the nest about 2 weeks after hatching, so if they can survive a few days more, they should make it.

I read that Robins usually lay 3-7 eggs. I only saw these two babies yesterday, but I went back to where they had fallen to see if I could find more. However, the Mama and Papa Robins get upset and swoop low over my head when I go outside, so I wasn’t able to look very long. My quick look didn’t reveal any more birds, either living or dead.


Baby Robins 001I must say that I am impressed with the Robins’ care and protection of their little ones. They guarded and tended their babies all day yesterday while they were on the ground before I realized they were still alive. The Papa flies to a branch between me and his young whenever I go outside and warns me away. And both parents swoop low over my head to drive me away when I come near.

Here is a closeup of the beautiful Papa Robin faithfully protecting his young:

Baby Robins 2 003


Baby Bird Rescue!

Earlier I thought I had killed a nest of baby robins. Read about  it here: Super Villain in the Garden.

But the story isn’t over.

This evening I looked out the window where I had seen the “dead” babies, and I saw that one was alive on the ground. So I went outside and I found TWO alive! I didn’t see any dead birds, so I think there were only two.

Our yard is not safe for baby birds on the ground because there are lots of cats in the neighborhood, including two of ours. So I picked up the babies (who opened their little mouths to be fed) and put them in a hanging basket with a towel in the bottom, and hung the basket from a lilac branch. I’m hoping the basket is high enough and doesn’t sway too much and the babies are warm enough, but the babies are safer there than on the ground. I thought about hanging them from a hanging basket hook high on the front porch, but I thought the basket would be too exposed and the lilac branch, though not perfect, has overhanging branches to offer them some protection. Maybe tomorrow I can find a better place–higher up and more secluded–but tonight I just wanted to get them in off the ground and where the parents could find them.

The parents were very upset with me when I got close to their babies, but I see them tending their babies in the basket. I’m so glad.

I sure hope the babies will be ok. I have a deep interest in them now, and I really want them to be ok. I won’t rest easy until I see them grow up and leave the nest.

My garden has way too much drama lately.

Super Villain in the Garden

This morning I woke up eager to get outside. It is a beautiful morning: sunny, blue sky, and refreshingly cool. I made coffee, made breakfast, made potato salad so it would be cool for lunch, and got outside as quickly as I could.

I decided to pull down the trumpet vines that are swallowing the house. I know they attract hummingbirds, which I really enjoy, but they are like something in a scary science fiction movie–vines growing quickly and consuming everything in their path. They are everywhere in my yard. Everywhere. I constantly find long tangles of trumpet vines where there were none the day before. I constantly do epic battle with them. They are super villains and I am the superhero.

The only thing I like about trumpet vines is that in the fall, thousands of sparrows gather on them before they go…wherever they go. When we walk near the vines, thousands erupt from their hiding places–wave after wave–and they fly around for awhile before settling in the vines again. At night we can look out an upstairs window and see them sleeping. Pretty cool. So I have hesitated to pull down the vines in the fall (or anytime) because I love the sparrows and I don’t disturb them. In the winter I forget to pull them down because it’s snowy and cold–and who thinks of yard work in the winter? Not me. I think of cuddling in a blanket in front of the woodstove with a cat on my lap.

June 2013 005The trumpet vines are crawling over the house, and I am increasingly concerned they will damage it, so this morning I took loppers and I cut the bases of the vines, and then I pulled them, and large sections came raining to the ground. It was quite satisfying

But, suddenly, I heard frantic cries. I immediately released the vine I was pulling on, but it was too late. I had dislodged a nest of Robin babies, and they came falling to the ground…and died.

Please don’t send me comments about how stupid I was. I was and am utterly horrified. I didn’t know the Robin nest was there. I felt like a terrible godzilla in the garden. I went inside and cried. And cried some more, and soaked four or five paper towels with my tears. My husband was sort of amazed I was crying so much. There is a rhythm to life, he said, and life and death is part of the rhythm. Do you know how many birds die every day–sparrows stealing wrens’ nests and pushing out their eggs?  And besides, there is nothing you can do to fix this, so you have to deal with it.

I know he is right, but I still feel like a monster, and I have no pleasure in my garden today. And, I told him, I’m not just crying about the baby Robins. The Robins just seem a part of a world that suffers: mothers who die of cancer leaving small children behind. Fathers who lose their job and can’t provide for their families. I read yesterday that a mother had encouraged her boyfriend to rape her little four-month-old baby. The baby died. In some countries, girls are executed because they were raped…while the rapist goes free.

I hate the death of the innocent. And I am sad that today I caused death.

And now, since I have already become a super villain in my garden, I will go and destroy the home world of the Red Ants.

Ok. Maybe not today.

(There is an update to this story at Baby Bird Rescue.)

The Herb Garden…and the Angry Ants

Click to enlarge

Our driveway is wide, not long. We park our vehicles side-by-side, not one behind the other. About 2004, I decided to make another garden area by taking away some of the driveway. Since our yard has  different levels separated by rock walls, I decided to use rocks to outline the garden. Our friend in the country let us have as many rocks as we wanted, so we got several pickup loads, and I positioned them in place. In the photo, a flower garden is in the foreground, and my husband and son are shoveling out the dirt into the new garden.

The flower garden is still there. The new garden has been a tomato garden and a strawberry garden, but for the last few years, it has been my herb garden. I use fresh herbs from the garden in the summer and dry herbs for winter use. I am growing chives, oregano, sage, basil, thyme, parsley, lovage, borage, fennel, garlic, catnip (for the cats), spearmint…and probably a few others I am not remembering right now. Oh, and I just saw lemon balm today, but lemon balm quickly spreads so I want to dig it out before it takes over the garden. I also am growing rhubarb, raspberries, and sunflowers at the back of the herb gardens. The picture I use for this blog (at the top of the page) shows my herb garden.

antsI love my herb garden. The only problem is the angry ants. They built their nest under the rocks where I enter the herb garden. Whenever I weed in that area, angry ants come swarming out. Even though I try to be very careful and I do not stand where they are swarming, within seconds I can feel their bites and look down and discover a dozen or so ants on my jeans and shirt. I do not know how they get on me so quickly. I then do the “Angry Ants Are Biting Me” Dance, which involves quick brushing-off movements and a few hops. These are not fire ants or the crazy ants that are invading the south and that eat electronics. However, their bites still pinch and itch. I think I am going to have to get rid of them because they prevent me from being able to work in my garden and I just read that they can be harmful to plants and pets. I am going to try the solutions I found at e-how.


Bird Wars

Call me incredibly naive, but whenever I thought of having bird feeders in my garden, I imagined a very gentle, peaceful, idyllic scene. Something like this:

garden angel

I didn’t know that the reality would be a heartbreaking turf war, filled with drama and death. I mean, I’ve read that birds fight for territory and sometimes steal nests and crush other birds’ eggs. However, when I’ve read about putting up birdhouses, it all seemed beautiful.

New Sparrow Neighbors
New Sparrow Neighbors

I couldn’t tell at first who had won the battle because I saw both the wrens and the sparrow on the bird house this morning. Later, though, my husband EJ saw the wrens eggs broken on the ground. Now I see only the sparrows at the bird house. So the sparrows won and the wrens lost not only their house, but also their unborn young.

When our son heard that the sparrows were now living in the house, he was upset and wanted to avenge their deaths. He is tender-hearted and wouldn’t intentionally hurt any animal, which is why he was upset that the sparrows had taken over the house and pushed out the wrens’ eggs. Even though I was sad, I told him to let the birds work it out. It’s part of the drama of life.

Even though I am not sure I am ready for this tragic life and death soap opera outside my window–for goodness sakes, life is stressful enough and all I wanted was to enjoy the miracle of birds nesting–I am searching for more birdhouses to put up. It is true that life is often a heartbreaking struggle, but the struggles still can’t silence the wonder and joy of life.

Still…I will try to find wren houses that larger birds can’t get into to.

%d bloggers like this: