Everyone loves to see a pair of Cardinals in their yard. This has been going on for years starting with the arrival of Catholic European settlers who gave the Cardinals their name. Seeing the red peaked plumed head of the male Cardinal the settlers noticed how much the bird looked like the blessed Cardinals of their faith. And so they were named.
It's that time of the year when hummingbirds will start visiting your yard. Each year they return to your yard from their winter home in Mexico, Panama or deep south Florida. And when they do come .....out will come the hummingbird feeders.
Keeping your feeder filled and clean is just simple basics.
1) Make your own syrup by using 1/4 sugar to 4 parts water. Boil mixture to prevent bacteria from forming in your mixture. Boiling for a minute will be enough time to remove the bacteria while keeping your mixture thin and clear. Cool, fill your feeder and place the remaining mixture in your refrigerator for later use.
2) Keep your feeder clean by washing it with a very small amount of dish soap and rinsing it with a small amount of vinegar or vinegar water followed by a cool water rinse.
I keep two are more feeders so I have one to fill while waiting for the one I am washing to dry. And in the Fall as the hummingbirds head South for the Winter I keep two out so they can build up body fuel for their long trip.
3) Stick to the sugar mixture rule. Do not use red dye, fruit juice or honey to make your mixture. Most often your mixture will ferment more quickly and none of these are particularly good for the hummingbirds. If you feel the need to have a red coloured mixture in your feeder - buy a feeder that has a red coloured glass as shown in the above photo.
4) Change your feeder before it is empty and every few days when it is hot weather.
Enjoy your time with the hummingbirds for Spring and Summer will go by fast and before you know it....it will be Winter and the seed feeders will be out.
Most likely you will be visited by the ruby throated hummingbird, but you may find some other visitors.
Small as a thumb and weighing as little as a penny, the Hummingbird is one of the smallest species of birds. This most loved bird is often mistaken for a large insect. Short legged, the Hummingbird, shuffles along but is able to scratch its head without losing its balance. Beautiful, charming, delightful are just a few of the words used to describe the Hummingbird and just about everyone wants them in their yard.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the ones you will most likely find in your yard. As they travel up and down the Eastern Coast and West to the middle of the United States. A flash of light like a jewel in sunlight will tell you they have arrived from their Winter homes in Mexico and Panama.
Hummingbirds feed on the nectar of red or orange tubular flowers such as trumpet creeper, cardinal flower, honeysuckle, jewelweed, bee-balm, red buckeye and red morning glory, as well as, hummingbird feeders and sometimes, tree sap. They also catch insects in midair and remove them from spider webs. Their favourite insects include mosquitoes, gnats, flies, spiders and aphids.
A while back I started a Hummingbird and Butterfly garden without a clue of knowing what I was doing. I read endless articles and still did not know what to plant for sure. I planted the above plants I listed and they did well but they were small and some did not make it through the first Winter. The next year I planted plants I knew would grow and are native to where I live. I spent one afternoon on the edge of a sinkhole gathering small elderberry bushes that grew beautifully in my backyard and was loved by Butterflies and Goldfinches, but no Hummingbirds.
The following year I became a little bit smarter and I planted perennials such as columbines, daylilies and lupines. Next came the biennial such as foxgloves and hollyhocks. I finished the garden off with many annuals including sunflowers, clones, impatiens, purple petunias and anything I liked.
To my surprise, the purple petunias really paid off. (See my August 26, 2016, Blog. Just click on August on the right to read). They grew beautifully and all birds and butterflies loved them. I planted the petunias in hanging baskets
My last plants (which should have been my first) were a butterfly, raspberry, and blackberry bushes and milkweed. All of these plants are good and important starters for any gardens if you want Hummingbirds, Butterflies, Goldfinches and other birds.
This year I am going to try growing a birdseed garden. I don't know if it will work, but it will be fun to try. And who knows in a couple of years I may be selling Yesteryear Bird Seed in our store!
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Want more Goldfinches in your yard? Make them a garden. The Goldfinch is one of the most popular birds, second only to Cardinals, in back yard gardens. The state bird of Iowa, Washington and New Jersey the Goldfinch is loved in all states.
Funny, acrobatic and beautiful are words used to describe this very friendly bird that will eat from your hand with a little bit of work.
Everyone knows the Goldfinch loves feeders filled with nyjer seeds, but they also love garden flowers that produce seeds and plants that produce material for their nest.
So set aside some space in your yard to plant a special garden just for them. The Goldfinch will come and be very happy if you plant Blackeye Susans, Black Seed Sunflowers, purple Cornflowers, Asters, yellow Zinnias or Blanket flowers and Sunflowers. Adding a bird bath will also make them happy.
The Goldfinch gets its beautiful colour from the seeds it eats and the plants listed above are just what they need. For nesting, the Goldfinch likes Thistle, Dandelion, Milkweed and Cattail. What they want is the down from these plants and if you can't grow these, like Cattails, you can find grapevine cotton balls in some bird stores. The vines are shaped into a ball filled with cotton. I make my own by saving pill bottle cotton and putting it in an empty suit feeder. And so far it works just fine.
Being late nesters, Goldfinch will start their first brood in late May or June and have their second brood as late as September. The nest are made of down or cotton held together with Spider silk woven to hold it together. Each nesting will produce 3 -7 light blue eggs. Thier young during their first Winter will be the colour of brown wood. So if you see a number of small brown birds around your seed feeder you will know their young are doing just fine.
In the Fall do not clean up your garden. Leave flower heads on the plants for the Goldfinch to eat. This is a fun time to watch them as they will use their feet to get every last seed -sometimes hanging upside down. As Winter comes the Goldfinch will change it's colour to a brown-olive colour and will stay around eating from a feeder, some Maple tree sap and tree buds.
Most likely it will take 2 or more years to get your garden going if you are starting from 0. Take your time adding 1 or 2 plants at a time until the garden is pleasing to you and the Goldfinch. Remember this beautiful bird will be around for a long time - they live for 3-6 years - and some have lived for 11 years plus you will have their young starting the cycle of life all over.
Tell me what you think about this Blog - use our FB page or e-mail: email@example.com. Please note: some of the photos used have appeared on Penterest and are from Yesteryear Country Store 'followers'. Many Thanks to all.
Ever since Judy Garland sang 'Over the Rainbow' Bluebirds have been a part of our lives. Just think about having one on your shoulder. This sweet bird is a back yard favourite all across America. There are three type: the Eastern Bluebird, the Western Bluebird and the Mountain Bluebird.
From Florida, all the way up the East coast and West to the Rockies, Eastern Bluebirds are found year round. They are the state bird of New York and Missouri. Bring them to your backyard and adding more is easy with a little help.
In the Spring put out a Bluebird house. These houses are sold just about everywhere. Find then is stores, online and from local craftsmen who make and sell them at craft shows. They are of a certain style and will be sold as a Bluebird house. It is important to put these houses out in March because Eastern Bue Birds start to nest for their first brood that month. Bluebirds will usually have 2 broods a year. Their young will stay around and often help with the second brood adding more Bluebirds to your yard.
Durning the Spring and Summer Bluebird will eat insects, spider, worms, berries, lizards, tree frogs and fruit. Water is important as Bluebirds love to have a drink and take baths. Add a bird bath to your yard or a shallow dishpan filled with water and placed in a warm sunny spot.
In the Winter some Eastern Bluebirds will head South if the temperature stays below 1 degree and there are no wild berries to eat. Putting out a platform feeder or pie pan nailed to your deck rail to use as a feeder will help the Bluebird make it through Winter. Fill feeders with mealworms (found wherever bird seed is sold), peanut hearts, fruit and suet.
During the Winter months, Bluebirds will keep warm by using roosting boxes, birdhouses and in holes in trees made by Woodpeckers. If Winter is not too cold Bluebirds will use nesting boxes to keep warm. It is important to clean out birdhouses, roosting boxes and nesting boxes by early October. Keeping the Bluebird warm during the Winter and providing food will keep them in your yard for years to come. And, maybe, one Summer day a Bluebird will light on your shoulder!
As Winter begins to set in its time to start finding ways to help the birds that have lived in your back yard all Summer and are not heading South to wait for Spring. Gone are the berries and seed plants - some now covered in ice or snow.
Putting out bird houses and roosting boxes will help to keep them warm. Straw left from Fall decorating is often picked up by birds and used in trees to make roosting spaces to keep warm. Often you will see birds carrying leaves to hollows in trees to make a warm bed for the Winter night.
Simple things can help birds fatten up during the day that will help them during the cold night. Keep seed feeders filled not to the top, but 2/3 full so that they can be refilled every day or so. This way feeders always have fresh loose seeds and not frozen.. Birds go through a lot of seeds and a lot fall out. Pat down any snow below your feeder so ground feeding birds will eat the fallen seeds.
There are things from your kitchen that can be used to help your birds. Old pie tins with holes in them make perfect platform feeders for birds that are ground feeders like Cardinal, Juncos, Towhee, Wren, Sparrow, and Doves. I have nailed two to my deck rail and filled both at times with sunflowers seeds and bits of fruit. Bread crumbs and bread used to wipe out a skillet after frying bacon works well in those pans, too. The fat is good for birds and is much like suit which is made from rendered beef fat with, seed, dried fruit and grain added.
Water in Winter is important for birds. But, keeping water for your birds is tricky. In no time it turns to ice unless you purchase a water heater. One most often used for a bird bath. Last year I purchased two very large dog water bowls. The type used for a big dog and made of a soft plastic. I fill one and when it turned to ice I turn it over and fill the second one. The ice slides out of the first one and I'm ready to go. I do my water changing in the morning when the birds are around and active.
Bird watching is the second favourite hobby in the world - only second to gardening. So put your feeders, houses and pie pans near a window. Grab a cup of tea and a chair and watch the birds of Winter.
Every year we spend a great amount of time decorating our homes for Christmas. So, this year after I had trimmed a tree, put a wreath on the door, built a Christmas village. I decided to make a Christmas tree for the birds.
I thought it would be simple - I would just order some bird seed ornaments and go out side and hang them on a tree growing in my yard. Well, I found some and if I were going to put some out on a hanger or a hook the price for a few would be reasonable. But, I wanted to fill a six-foot tree. With a little bit of research, I found all sort of recipes to make ornaments and some small suit feeders with items I already had in my home. So that is what I did.
Cookies Cutter Bird Cookies
4 cups of mix bird seed
1 envelope of Knox gelatin
3 tablespoons of flour
3 tablespoons of corn syrup
1/2 cup of hot water
Raisins and broken up peanuts can be added
non-stick cooking spray
Mix bird seed with flour - set aside. In a second bowl add 1/2 cup of very hot water and the Knox gelatin. Once dissolved mix in the corn syrup and pour over the bird seed. Mix well covering all of the seeds.
Spray the inside of the cookie cutters and place them on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Pack the bird seed mixture into the cookie cutters -use a pencil end to make a hole in each. Place cookie sheet in your refrigerator for 3 or more hours. After cookies are firm add twine as a hanger. Makes about 20.
Looking around my cupboard I found small cups I had not used in years and matched nothing. I don't know why I had saved them, but I had. Now I had a good use for them.
1 -1 1/2 cups of mix bird seed
1/2 to a whole cup of lard ( bacon drippings can be added to this, but not much).
Heat lard to melting point and mix in the bird seed ( I added some extra black sunflower seeds ) as a treat. Take clean dry cups placed on a cookie sheet and fill cups with mixture. Put an ice cream stick or any small stick deep in the mixture.
Place cups in your freezer for 6 hours. Tie twine on the handle of each cup and they are ready to go.
Have you used pumpkins to decorate your home or porch this Fall season? If so now is the time when we make the change to Christmas everywhere - outside and all over your home. The question is what to do with those pumpkins?
Hungry squirrels, birds and deer will love to have them and it's fun to watch them enjoy and feast on the pumpkins you no longer want or need. Here are a few ways to do it.
Take the pumpkin out to your yard where you see squirrels running around and place the pumpkin up right. Cut a large hole in the side of the pumpkin and watch the squirrels come to check it out. Squirrels love pumpkin seeds and the meat of the pumpkin.
For birds cut the pumpkin in half leaving seeds in tact adding a few sunflower or mix seeds to it. Birds will eat the seeds and the meat of the pumpkin. Large birds will eat some of the pumpkin seeds and the pumpkin meat.
Don't forget the deer that come to your yard or back feild. They love pumpkins and will feast on them until the pumpkins are almost gone. Just cut the pumpkins in half and set them out. The deer will find them.
Now, what to do after the squirrels, birds and deer have feasted? I cut the pumpkins up and put them in the compost pile. Some I put in my flower beds to enrich the soil. But, if you choose to put the cut up pumpkins in your flower beds don't be surprised to see a pumpkin vine or two growing in with your flowers next Spring. And it can be fun to watch them grow as long as you do not cut off the end of the vine you will have pumpkins next Fall.
Have you ever wished there was a simple way to do a simple thing and found out later there was? Well, here are a few simple ways to do a few things
The week before Halloween was always exciting. There were pumpkins to be carved and costumes to be found. As Halloween drew near my Dad would get the pumpkins and start his carving and my Mom would look for things to put together for a costume.
Somehow, every year I became a witch and my best friend, Gilbert, became a ghost. Mom would dress me in one of her old skirts that would go to the floor on me, add an old shawl that Grandmother no longer used and put a witch hat on my head. As for Gilbert, his Mom would cut a hole in the center of a white worn out table cloth and a pillow case with cut out holes for his eyes and mouth on hid head That was it, we were ready. People in those days did not buy costumes.
Every year it was the job of one of the parents to hold a party at their house at the end of Trick or Treating. That year it was to be at my house.
The gang, as my Dad called us, would start out just as the Sun set. Pumpkins glowed from every house and soon it would be very dark. Standing on each corner was a parent. Their job was to make sure we were all together. At the end, we would go to my house for cake, punch and candied apples.
My Mom made her own caramel by using 2 cups of white sugar. 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter and 1 cup of heavy cream. She heated it slowly in a heavy pot until it browned and became thick. Years later when my sons would bring home their gang, I would make candied apples the easy way.
Caramel Candied Apples (1972)
Use Granny Smith, Macintosh or any firm apple you like. Wash apples in warm water to remove wax. Put apples in your refrigerator for 8 hours. Buy a 14 oz bag of Caramels and some pop sickle sticks. Put wax paper on a cookie sheet and you are ready to candy your apples.
Remove wrappers from caramels (give this job to your children)
Put a stick in the top center of each apple.
Put caramels in an 8 cup microwavable bowl and heat for 3 minutes - checking after 1.5 minutes to see if it is stirable, but not hot.
Dip each apple in caramel and place on the cookie sheet.
Add sprinkles or salt to the top of the apples, if desired.
Halloween is a scary good time and candied apples make it even better !
Deep South southern gal from Louisiana now living in Kentucky. Wrote for a weekly newspaper while raising two sons. Now, a Grandmother, a shopkeeper, a backyard birder and somewhat gardener. it's time to write again.