Thursday, June 30, 2016

Today the Wasps Won

I spent over an hour today at the oil change place.  Normally it is a 30 minute max visit but today was another story. I was down to 1% oil life and I plan on driving this vehicle until we are done with the majority of the messy work on the house.  No need to trash a perfectly good SUV so I will continue to drive this vehicle.  I currently have 258K miles on it so I know it can last until we are done with the house. The suspension isn't the best and I need a new AC compressor but none of that interferes with trips to the lumber yard or garden shop.  

It was early afternoon by the time I got home and started painting.  I painted the white trim and grey portion on the right side.  I climbed down and got R to help me slide the ladder over to the left side so that I could paint the white trim and grey portion on the left side before moving the ladder down two rungs.  Unfortunately a handful of wasps showed up and were buzzing around the top of the ladder.  I decided to stop painting and eat a ham sandwich in the hopes that they would go away.
The ham sandwich was tasty and it looked like the wasps were gone so I started up the ladder and got all the way to the top only to be met by two wasps who were very unhappy to see me.  So I hurried back down the ladder.

Watering plants seem to be an everyday chore now that we haven't had any real measurable rain in weeks.  I thought if I gave the wasps time to buzz off, that I could still get some painting done and move my ladder down before calling it quits for the day.  Unfortunately the wasps had other ideas and just would not go away.

Since I can't show you a finished south side, I'll show you a finished west side and some of the flowers that are just about to bloom. 
 Here is the pink hydrangea that we bought on mark down last fall.  It is only 2 foot tall right now but should grow to 4 feet and help to hide the gas meter. 
This is a pink coneflower which is one of the staples of my landscaping.  I have four plants that you can find throughout my yard.  Hostas, daylilies, coneflowers, and Knock Out roses.  They all do well with my soil and do not seem to be affected by the black walnut trees. 

Finished west side of the house.  I love this time of the day when the shadows of the large trees in the front yard are cast onto the front of the house.
 Fingers crossed that I can wind up the painting tomorrow because I would really like to finish putting rocks in the bed around the foundation.  I can't do that until I am done painting because the rocks interfere with the ladder sitting flush on the ground. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

We are those kind of people now

Today the temperature got to a high of 95 degrees but tomorrow is forecasted to be 69 degrees for a high temperature.  I love summer but I find it very difficult to paint in 95 degree weather so tomorrow should be a great painting day.

After some initial running around taking care of errands, I stopped and ordered our next round of windows to replace the inappropriate style windows that were installed in the 60's or 70's. The windows should arrive around Labor Day weekend.

When I arrived back home, R informed me that we needed more bird seed and when would my sister and I make another trip to Sam's Club?  I reminded him that she was puppy bound and it would be another month or so before she would make it into  the big city from the boonies to make another trip to Sam's Club.  So I suggested that we just get a membership for ourselves.  He agreed and off we went to Sam's Club for black sunflower seeds.

$190.00 later we left the store.
R was like that episode of Modern Family where Mitchell goes shopping at a Costco store for the first time.
So I guess we are 'those kind of people' now.

We drink diet Coke and when we passed a large package of diet Coke cans R said "that's a good price, its 31 cents plus 10 cents for deposit.  41 cents is CHEAP."  So we put a large package of diet Coke in the cart.  Then it was a huge package of baby Swiss cheese, then a huge package of socks, then some snacks, two huge containers of pretzels (one large one wasn't enough), and a yellow honeydew melon. We needed two containers of pretzels but only one melon?
We finally made it to the bird seed.  Not only did we get a 40 lb bag of black sunflower seeds for under 19 bucks but also a bag of mixed seed which we usually don't buy.  This 40 lb bag of mixed seed had peanuts and a lot of good seeds so it was deemed a good buy.  Then he noticed a 30 lb bag of dry cat food that our cats eat in between their can food meals.  I could hardly push the cart.  That's how they get you.  You come for one bag of bird seed and and before you know are $190 lighter in the wallet.

The veggies in pots are kicking it.  We might be eating a cucumber this weekend, probably along with a pretzel.

 Lemon Boy tomato.
 Jalapeno pepper. 
I was able to get a little more painting completed once the south side of the house was in the shade.  Tomorrow I will lower the ladder and move it to the side and hopefully finish another portion.   

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I was sidetracked and buzzed

My 'to do' list today had 10 tasks on it.  I was able to only accomplish the 4 easiest tasks.  I tried my best but it was fruitless. Man, animal, and mother nature were all against me today.

We got an early start because R needed to take his truck in for AC service, so I needed to follow him to the shop to bring him back home.  While he was giving them the keys, one of the guys mentioned that he knew where R could get a new bumper for $100.00.  This truck came with a screwed up rear bumper and it was one of the reasons why the truck was so affordable.  He could get by with the bumper that is on there but for a 100 bucks it would be nice to have one that didn't look like someone had run into the rear of the truck.  But then again it is a work truck that we use to haul rocks, dirt, mulch, debris, and scrap so it doesn't have to look pretty.

But first R wanted to check the price of a replacement bumper at Bumper Mart......yes, Bumper Mart.  So we needed to drive over there and price a replacement bumper.  Nope they couldn't beat the $100 price so we drove back to the shop to tell them to order the $100 bumper.

We drove home and watered and fertilized all the flowers and veggie plants.  We use fish fertilizer and the flies came from the next county the minute I opened the bottle.  Ewwww, it's stinky but works great.

I was just about ready to open a can of paint when R asked me what I wanted to do with all the branches etc behind the barn.  Normally we would just burn them but currently we are under a 'no burn' condition because of the lack of rain.

While I was behind the barn I heard a bird making a lot of noise.  I finally located it and it was a woodpecker feeding her babies.  Did I have my phone with me?  Nope and by the time I got back to take a photo, she was gone.  Bye bye...I'm outta here.  So I kept my phone with me all day in the hopes of getting a photo.
I was just about ready to open my paint can when I heard the mail truck.  So I walked out to the mail box to get the mail.  That's when I got distracted for another hour.  Sharon from Laurelhurst Craftsman sent me a Flint Faience Tile catalog.  I had to immediately sit down and look at the tile options that were available back in the 1920's when my house was built.  I found my master bedroom fireplace tile and my master bath tile and sadly the vestibule tile that we removed and discarded.  In my defense, it was damaged and missing a lot of pieces, plus we thought it was from the 60's.  I'm ashamed.

Thank you, Sharon

So now I want to correct that mistake and install mosaic tile in the vestibule. Probably in various green shades.  The original was various tan shades which is not a color that would work well with anything that I have in my house right now. 

By now it was lunch time.  We ate and I don't know about you but after I eat a meal I am worthless for about an hour.  I spent the next hour day dreaming of tile and snoozing in my reclining lawn chair.  When I finally woke up out of my food stupor I opened a can of paint.

About two seconds after I stuck the paint stir stick in the paint, R walked up and said "you have to drive me to the shop to pick up my truck".  OMG I'll never get any painting done.
I drove him up to the shop and drove right home to paint.  I reopened the paint can and started up the ladder when I realized that the ladder was at the wrong angle.  Back down the ladder I went and waited until R came home to help me adjust the ladder.  The ladder is heavy and it takes two people to adjust  it even when it is not fully extended.  I waited and I waited and I waited.  R had decided he needed a Mexican mocha coffee and then he ran into a couple of people he knew and yadda yadda yadda it was an hour before he came back home.  In the meantime I was back looking at tile designs in the Flint Faience Tile catalog.

Once the ladder was adjusted and I was actually able to paint.  I got all of this painted...
...before a bee/wasp/hornet buzzed my head and hair.  I was afraid of being stung (I'm allergic) or falling off the ladder or spilling paint all over the new windows so I came back down the ladder and called it quits in the painting department.

By this time the sun was partially behind the trees in the front yard so I decided to transplant a catalpa tree that I found growing in my rose bushes.  I've been watering the tree heavily for the last two days to help with transplanting stress but first I needed to dig the hole.  I picked a good spot and started to cut through the sod.  I was shocked at how hard the soil was where I was digging.
I peeled back the sod and started digging.  Actually it was more like chipping away than digging.  I finally gave up and filled the hole with water to soften the dirt and will attempt to plant the tree tomorrow evening.  I always transplant trees in the evening so that they can recover in the cool of the night from any transplanting stress.
By this time I was ready to call it quits when I remembered I had one more trash can of twigs that needed to go to the curb for trash pick up tomorrow.  I no sooner got behind the barn and I hear that woodpecker again.  I look up and she is feeding her babies.  Their little heads were sticking out of the hole in the side of the tree.  I reached around to my back pocket to grab my phone to take a photo and it wasn't there.  By the time I got back....she was gone.  I'll get a photo one way or the other and I'll get some painting done, too.  When? I don't know.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Copper Watering Can....

.....turned into a bird house.

I had hung a copper watering can from my old window box as decoration.  But lo and behold I found a small wren (they are sooo cute) nesting in it.  So I looked to Pinterest to see if anyone else used watering cans for birdhouses but what I found were tea kettles and tea pots used for bird houses.

I love this one.
Check out my Pinterest board of tea kettles for bird houses.
So anyways I wanted to hang my copper watering can back up but I couldn't find it anywhere.  That is so frustrating.  But I finally ran across it while I was rutting around in the garden shed.  Oh happy day!!!
 After a quick trip to my local hardware store for a package of cup hooks, the watering can was hung with care, in hopes that a wren would soon be near.  Lame...I know.  It's the heat.

One more small thing checked off the 'to do' list.

Happy first day of summer!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Too Hot to......

....paint.  It was 93 degrees today.  I started to climb up the ladder to the peak and the ladder was so hot that it felt like it was going to burn my skin.  I decided to put it in reverse and go back down because the thought of burning myself didn't sound too appealing for a Saturday afternoon.
I have enough other things that I can do around the yard until the temps drop about 5 degrees or I get up early enough to paint while this area is still in the shade.

My potted vegetable plants are growing like weeds.  There are noticeable changes every day.  I already have gherkin size cucumbers.  My celery is doing great but my cabbage seems to be all show and no go.  I do not see a head forming and it just looks like a lot of side leaves.  Same thing for the cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and broccoli.

My head lettuce is filling in nicely, as is my Romaine.  I hope R likes salsa verde because it looks like we will be knee deep in tomatillos.

My potted flowers are also doing great and it is just about time to trim off the dead blooms.
I also brought out my cast iron crows.  I purchased them last year from the P. Allen Smith website.  Originally, I purchased them for use at Halloween but I found that I loved them during the summer, too. They are currently on sale for $36.00 for the pair. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Latest Curbside Treasure

R is batting 1000 when it comes to finding curbside treasures this summer.
  The other day he brought home a solid oak desk chair that someone had painted white and.....
...this large wrought iron table and heavy cast iron umbrella stand.

And now he has brought home these.
Two 24 inch high metal lanterns with LED battery operated pillar candles.
Sure they needed a little cleaning and painting and of course new batteries but in one afternoon they went from this..... this.
All it took was 4 D batteries, painter's tape, and of course my trusty can of black satin spray paint.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fancy Metal Flag Bracket...

....just in time for Flag Day.
I am going to try once again to get my old flag pole restored (long story) but until then I'll hang Old Glory  from the fancy metal bracket that I purchased several months ago.  The bracket was made by the company Evergreen Garden and the garden shop only had one for sale. I nabbed it before my sister could get to it.  You snooze you lose.  
I also bought a kinetic wind spinner in the shape of a tulip, also made by Evergreen Garden.  It came painted in a light shade of green but it faded right into the house so I spray painted it satin black.  I love the twisted metal cage in the center and it repeats the wrought iron theme.  It is a slow spinner but we love how it looks when we drive up to the front of the house. It catches your eye right away and because it spins slowly it is very relaxing.
But back to the new flag bracket.  I figured that it would be redundant to have two flags on the front of the house so we decided to put it by the kitchen door which is on the side of the house.
 We love how it looks.  I purchased the flag and wood flag pole at Ace Hardware.  But of course, I had to spray paint the pole to match the bracket.  That can of black satin spray paint is getting quite the workout.  
 Flag Day had been celebrated unofficially since the mid 1800's and eventually settled in on June 14th.  President Truman signed it into law, on August 3rd 1949, which designated June 14th of every year as National Flag Day.

In honor of Flag Day get Old Glory out and let her wave proudly.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Spring Flowers in the Yard

I blinked and now my lilacs have come and gone.  We had a stretch of rainy weather and that is when the lilacs just happened to be at their peak.  The smell of lilacs in bloom is glorious.  It's a scent that is difficult to truly replicate.  I have a bottle of essential oil that is about 50% like the real scent.

About 9 yrs ago I planted a border of various lilacs along the fence out by the road.  As of today I have lost almost all the fancy lilacs.  The only ones that survived and grew were the common lilac syringa vulgaris.


I believe this is a Korean Lilac
I'm almost certain that it is a combination of the road salt spray from the snow plow and the toxins from the black walnut trees.  I have a few of the later blooming lilacs that are still hanging in there but the blooms are few and they have grown very little.  Live and learn.

My peonies are blooming now but over the years the surrounding shrubs have grown so much that they are now blocking the sun from these sun loving plants.  Currently in bloom are Sarah Bernhardt and Karl Rosenfield.  There is also a plant that has one large bud that is white with streaks of dark pink.  
Karl Rosenfield
Sarah Bernhardt
I would love to add more peony plants but between the black walnuts and the shade that I have, I am kind of stymied as to where I could plant them without failure.  Until then I will have #peonyenvy and look at Martha Stewart's fabulous peony garden.
My irises are in bloom and I love that I have irises in my garden given to  me from so many friends.  Several years ago I transplanted all my dark dark purple irises to the area next to my garden shed.  Their original location was not the best soil and they were starting to die.   As a matter of fact the only plants that grow in that soil are coneflowers and phlox, oh and weeds. 
 Before the Storm
This iris is considered to be one of the darkest (black) purple irises available.  In some sunlight it looks truly black.  My intention is to plant pure white irises so I can have a vase of white and black irises in a milk glass vase. 
  I think this is Edith Wolford
My roses have taken a beating and still have not fully recovered from the  two harsh winters that we had in 2014 and 2015.  I did notice that my daughter in laws roses were looking good today but she has drip irrigation and I think that might be why her's recovered better.

Tomorrow is a painting day.  I painted for about an hour today and then had to stop to take care of stuff.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bird Feeders and Bird Watching

We have had bird feeders for years and because of that, we have enjoyed seeing a variety of birds. Not only have we learned a lot about identifying birds but we have also learned a lot about bird feeders and bird feed.

Not all bird feeders and bird feed are created equal.  Your chances of seeing uncommon or rarely seen birds all hinge on the right feeder and feed.  Now is not the time to go cheap.

Let's talk feeders first.  Whenever possible buy metal feeders and feeders made specifically for the type of bird you want to attract.  Why metal?  Squirrels, possums, and raccoons love a full bird feeder and to get to that feed they will chew through plastic in a heart beat.  Animals cannot chew through a metal feeder.  They can try but at the most they will just bend it and you can just bend it back.

Plastic is also brittle and affected by both the heat and the cold.  If a feeder is knocked down by an animal, there is a greater chance of breakage if it's plastic.  Plastic can rarely be fixed.  So when you are deciding on your feeder and it comes down to plastic or metal, ALWAYS go with metal.

So now that you have picked the correct feeder for the type of bird you want to attract (finch tube feeder, sunflower seed feeder, tray feeder) and that feeder is metal (trust me...get the metal feeder) you will now want to buy your feed.  I feel like I am repeating myself but buy the feed specifically for the type of bird that you want to attract.  You know the line in The Wizard of Oz where they say "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."   Bird feed is like the Wizard, pay no attention to the photos of numerous birds on the packaging.  One type of feed does not work for all birds.
The cheap bird seed is filled with filler that the birds will pull out and drop to the ground so that they can get to the few seeds that they really want.  Trust me when I tell you, do not buy the cheap feed.  It just ends up on the ground making a mess, attracting mice, and those pesky animals that will tear apart your plastic feeders (oh that's right, you are going to buy metal).  In the end, you will go through more cheap feed, which will cost the same as if you bought the correct more expensive seed in the first place.  See the photo below of some cheap seed that R bought.  The sunflower seeds are just empty hulls but the rest of the seed was pulled out of the feeder by the birds trying to get to the black sunflower seeds.  It makes a big mess and also makes the birds vulnerable to predators when they are on the ground eating the dropped feed. 
If you want gold finches then buy Niger seed.  If you want orioles buy oriole jelly or nectar.  If you want hummingbirds then buy hummingbird nectar.  If you want bluebirds then buy bluebird feed which is what I did today.

After having such great luck with the orioles, I decided to ask the wild bird store clerk (the clerk wasn't wild but was a clerk who worked at a wild bird store) about bluebirds.  I was there today to buy another orange cup to hold jelly because every couple of days I wash the cup before refilling and I thought it would be easier to just have a spare to fill and drop into the feeder.

I wasn't expecting to buy bluebird stuff until next year but after hearing what they had to say and looking at my feeder options I decided to purchase the simple set up similar to my first oriole feeder. The frame is metal and it holds a *plastic cup that holds the feed.  The cup is blue unlike the oriole cup that is orange.  I was told today that they are attracted to blue and I must say that I had never heard that before but then again I have never really looked into bluebird feeders before today.
*I know I said never buy plastic but this is a cup and if the animals want to eat out of it they will not need to chew it apart to get to the food.  Plus, replacements cups are inexpensive and easy to find.

I remember the first time that I saw a bluebird.  I was 30 years old and we were on our way to a motorcycle race in Nazareth PA (That's a whole other story.  What a race weekend that was....LOL). We were driving along on a paved road but it was lined with old fence posts next to the ditch and there on a fence post sat a male bluebird.  Oh my goodness.  So blue and so pretty.  I didn't see another until I was... ahem...older.

Over the years I would see one here or there. Some just flying through the yard but lately there have been more.  The more I see, the more I want to make sure that they are around for other people to see. So I need to feed them.
We hung the feeder on the same style of bracket that I use to hang my other feeders and my large solar lanterns.  The brackets are made by Panacea and have a hand forged look. They can be found all over the Internet and at a lot of your local stores. The bluebird feeder was hung from the bracket on a tree in the area where I see the bluebirds sit and fly from tree to tree.
The feed that I purchased came in a small container and is a mixture of seeds, suet, and roasted mealworms.  This container was about 8 bucks.  A big bag of mealworms was more expensive and I thought if the bluebirds eat just the worms then I'll spring for a big old bag of mealworms later. Tasty.
I filled the cup up with the delicious Bluebird Munch and placed it in the metal holder.  Tomorrow we will see if the bluebirds found the feeder and if they ate the feed.

It's tomorrow and the cup is half empty.  But what ate the feed?  Was it bluebirds, finches, cardinals? 

Later in the day after I refilled the cup, I came upon the culprit.

A red squirrel.
Some DOs and DON'Ts

Do wash your feeders several times throughout the year or if the seed gets wet and moldy.  Use hot soapy water.  I let mine sit in the water for awhile before I start scrubbing.

Do keep your feeders full once you have the birds regularly coming to your yard.

Do grab a beverage and sit back, watch, and listen.  Let the birds get used to you.

Do hang the feeder where you can get to it.  You will never refill your feeder if you need to use a ladder to get to it.

Do use metal hooks and extenders if you need to hang from a high branch.

Do buy a field guide for identifying the birds.  I like the small faux leather covered Audubon Field Guides. The cover withstands a lot of handling and it is arranged somewhat by color which makes identifying the birds easier for young kids and adults like me who want to know NOW and not have to read an entire book to determine if a bird is a bluebird or blue jay.  Make sure you buy the correct field guide for your area as most come in either Eastern or Western US or North America.

Do research.  Find what works best in your area or climate.  The wild bird stores are my best source of information for my area.

Do give it time.  You won't have this many hummingbirds overnight.

Don't cheap out.  I hate to harp on this but you will get frustrated and never see the wonderful song birds that are out there flying around.

Don't let your young kids handle a dirty bird feeder.  Sorry but adults only when it comes time to handle or clean the feeder.

Don't use rope to hang a bird feeder.  Rope is easily chewed, rots, and really provide no stability for the feeder when the birds land on it.  Ropes also allow the feeders to twirl and even though you might enjoy the tilt a whirl ride at the fair grounds, it makes it too difficult for the birds to land when it is spinning.

Don't let your feed get wet.  If you use large seed feed, make sure there are drainage holes in your feeder.  If not, drill a few holes in the metal feeder (remember you are buying a metal feeder).  Just make sure the holes are small enough that the seed cannot fall out through the hole.

Don't place a feeder too close to large windows.  Large plates of glass reflect the sky and the birds will fly into the glass.  I once had a hawk fly into my patio door.  Stunned him and scared the living day lights out of me.

If you still are not sure what kind of feeder to get, here are my suggestions.  Buy two feeders.  First one is a quality finch feeder that holds Niger seed.  The American gold finch (some call them wild canary but they are not) are beautiful, they find feeders fast, and are not shy about landing on them. Females are a dull version of the male but during the winter the male gets dull yellow like the female.  In our Michigan climate they stay year round.

Second feeder is one that hold sunflower seeds.  A lot of birds love a good sunflower seed and the best one to buy is the all black variety.  Buy a feeder that has a cage around it so that the birds can fly in and be protected,  I like the Perky Pet brand sunflower seed feeder.  All metal, contains the seeds really well, and also offers the bird some protection as it pulls individual seeds from the feeder.

Both feeders have very little wasted seeds and attract a variety of colorful interesting birds.  With these two feeders you should see American gold finches, house finches, purple finches, rose breasted grosbeaks, blue jays, cardinals, tufted titmouse, and if you hang a suet cage from the bottom of your sunflower seed feeder you should enjoy a variety of woodpeckers such as downy woodpecker, red bellied woodpecker, and flickers.  Don't expect to see the pileated woodpecker (Woody Woodpecker type)  they prefer deep forests and are rather shy.  I have only seen one and that was on my way to Mammoth Cave as the guide was taking us to the entrance.

Take your suet cage inside at night and place in a plastic grocery bag (cage and all) put in a cool place like the basement or if it is cold outside just put in your garage.   Rehang in the morning.  If you don't do this the raccoons will take the cage and all. It will be months later when you are weeding your bushes and flowers that you will find the stash of empty suet cages.  

Suet is especially important in the winter because the birds needs the extra calories and fat to stay warm.  R sometimes withholds the suet during extreme high temps because it melts.  He also prefers peanut butter flavor and the ones with berries in them.  If you shop well you can find quality suet for around a buck a block.

I'll do another post later on the different feeders in our yard.