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Archive for the ‘Wild life’ Category

This past Sunday we focused Flower Power. I grew up with some funky and neat clothes. We had some wonderful flowery sheets and I even have some of those and use them as top sheets to protect our bedding from mountains of cat fur.

winter (either 1975 or 76)

winter (either 1975 or 76)

Each year as I plant more drought tolerant plants and more herbs, I am amazed at the beautiful flowers that some of the plants come out with at times when we have had no rain at all for months. What is also even more wonderful is to see some of them covered with bees and the butterflies working their way from bloom to bloom each day.

My Aunt painted her kitchen cupboard doors.

My Aunt painted her kitchen cupboard doors.

Flowers are amazing. Beautiful. Colorful. Purposeful. Their many shapes and sizes are spectacular. The colors range from bright and showy to soft and subtle. The flowers also have purpose. They pull in the pollinators with scents of sweet nectar and pollen. With out the pollinators we would have no honey, not fruits and vegetables, no nuts.

Flower Power - Old sheet

Flower Power – Old sheet

To me, Flower Power, has a different meaning than it did in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The way I look at it is… flowers do have power.

Bee on my spicy Italian oregano

Bee on my spicy Italian oregano

Do you think flowers have power?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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I love this time of year. The herbs and other flowering plants start to come alive and bloom. Sage grows really well in our hot South Texas  dry summers and it requires very little water to survive and thrive.

Sage 3

I have several types of sage planted throughout the gardens and when they start to bloom they are always completely covered with bees. Alive and buzzing!

Sage in bloom 2

The buzzing sound almost drowns out the sounds of the birds that are chirping away.

Sage in bloom 1Four more sage plant were added to one garden this spring. In fact, Sage, one of the writers that I met here at Not Dabbling in Normal, came over to help me plant somethings shortly after I got out of the hospital. She planted three sage plants amongst several other herbs and plants around the back yard.

Thank you Sage – they are all flourishing! I am very grateful for your help and I think of you every time I see the plants that you planted for me!

I have two sage plants in one garden on the east side of the house that aren’t getting enough sun to really do well (never thought I would say that about a plant here with such hot scorching summers) so I will move them this fall to a better spot.

I continue to see planting more sage in the future.

Do you grow sage in your gardens?

Sincerely, Emily

 

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My 9 year old niece is visiting us in Texas for the first time and we are doing a lot of new and fun things while she is here.

Visiting my friends next door is definitely a high point where feeding the “wild” deer has ranked #1. The first day she went out with my neighbor, then he decided she could go out on her own the next morning.  The deer were a little shy that first day on her own, but the second day she had one eating out of her bucket and she could reach out and pet it too. What an experience!

After she fed the deer, she would join Poppy (the bunny) who was out hopping and running around the yard for a little exercise. It was hard to tell who was having more fun: Poppy or my niece. Poppy would run and hide, my niece would run after him and then he would pop out and run to her. She would then pet him and he would turn and hop off in another direction. When Poppy was ready for a break, he would head for his resting spot under and bench, dig a little, then sprawl out and cool off for a while. When he was ready to go, the games continued.

Blackie (the cat) had to get in on the fun too. A good belly scratch was in order and my niece loved it as much as Blackie I think.

This list doesn’t end there. There were Koi and other fish to feed out in the water gardens. She talked to the cockatoo and the macaw.  Fed the turtles and peeked in on the doves. Our daily visit was full of adventures. Full of new experiences and learning opportunities and there was a lot of time to explore.  Then we would head home and eat our lunch before heading upstairs to make cards.

I have made cards to give to my niece before and also made cards for her to put together, but this was the first time we have made cards together, so I went through choosing designer papers, and colored papers. Talked about layouts and other creative options. She had a great time adding ribbon and using the stamps and ink and then she put the cards together. Before we knew it, she had three cards made up and was ready to send them off in the mail, so we dropped them off at the post office on our way downtown to meet my husband for dinner.

We stopped and met my husband at work to look at some of the airplanes that he flies and maintains, then we headed downtown to Riverwalk. It was a week night and not very crowded down there. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant followed by a boat tour on the river. We had a lot of fun down there.

I also showed her how to knead bread. I completely forgot to get the aprons out, so there was a bit of flour covering her when we were done. Not a disaster by any means, it was actually funny and we both had a good laugh.

As you read this, we are out on yet another adventure. Today is my quarterly manure pick up day, so we will head out early this morning to shovel horse poo into our truck. She will get to meet my friend and cowboy (who is also a singer/songwriter). She will get to meet his four horses; 3 paints and 1 kiger mustang. And she has even asked if she can help load the manure (really, she asked!)

I have wonderful memories of spending time with my Great Aunt. She introduced me to so many creative and wonderful things.  I remember how special I felt to when I was invited to spend time with an adult (My Great Aunt.) It gave me a feeling of independence and confidence, yet I realize now that I still was under the care and watchful eye of a family member that loved me.  I only hope that I have helped to create some wonderful memories and experiences for my niece and that I have more opportunities as the years go by.

Do you have someone that made you feel special when you were younger? Someone who taught you things and opened up your world to creativity and fun?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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A Little Batty

This last week I took my daughter to an activity at one of our local libraries about bats. We had a really fabulous time and learned quite a bit about the only flying mammals in the world. We even got directions to build a bat house and learned how we can help with bat conservation. And aside from the probable fire code violations for having stuffed about 300 people in a room built for a max of about 50, we had no issues with bats getting loose and flying into people’s hair; no one got rabies; and not a person had their blood sucked.

In fact, out of the 1,105 species of bats in the world, there are only three species of vampire bats – and they live in the tropics from southern Mexico down to South America. Not really a fun fact for Halloween, but it should relieve some people that have chiroptophobia, or an irrational fear of bats.

In most parts of America, the bats are pretty small. See what our bat-handler is holding:

Yes, that’s a bat – the “Big Brown Bat“. It’s what we commonly see here in the Eastern part of the U.S., and it’s only 4-5 inches tall! Not so big after all, eh?

The true big bats are in the tropics, and are sometimes called Flying Foxes. In the tropics, there are fruit-eating bats that help with seed dispersal. Without the aid of bats those bats, many of the tropical ecosystems would be out of balance: they are that beneficial. And then there are nectar-drinking bats that help with the pollination of plants like the mango, cashew, and bananas.The saguaro cactus in our desserts here in the U.S. have help with pollination thanks to these bats.

Bats are also a super beneficial creature for us organic gardeners. Insect eating bats eat approximately 1,000 to 6,000 insects a night (the equivalent of eating our own height in pizza every hour for about 6 hours straight!) including mosquitos, tomato hornworms, wasps, cutworm moths, cucumber and potato beetles, and corn earworms.

If you’d like to take advantage of a native and organic means of pest control – try enrolling the help of bats. They’ll feed on nighttime flying insects, including pollinators, so be sure to have plants that will attract these pollinators to increase your bat population. Evening primroses, moonflowers, and phlox are just a few. Batconservation.org is a great website with tips on gardening for bats (they were our hosts for our evening at the library).

This same website offers instructions for building your own bat houses – an excellent winter and early spring craft project, methinks. Since bats hibernate in the cold season, you’d want to have housing available when they start forming maternity colonies (bats mate in the fall before they hibernate).

And finally, the site has some really great facts for kids, teaching links, information on the medical advances thanks to bats, and lots of FAQs. I’ll also direct parents and educators to Step into Second Grade with Mrs. Lemons, where she shares some fun PowerPoints that she made about bats for her second grade class. NatGeo Kids has a fun presentation about the fun and spooky Vampire bat, and Defenders of Wildlife has some great information regarding the conservation of bats and even helps you “adopt” a bat.

Happy Halloween!

Jennifer can also be found at Unearthing this Life, in her kitchen, or reading stories to her daughter.

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Have you ever grown anything specifically with wild birds in mind? Many people plant things like thistle, cone flower, rose and various berries specifically to invite their feathered friends to grab a snack as they’re passing through. Even if you’re not a bird watcher (or “birder”) it is definitely nice to have the flit of movement across your vision in the dead cold of winter. We are often seasonally visited by juncos, ceder waxwings and Boreal chickadees, and the cardinals, gold finches and blue jays rarely leave for the winter.

I have always made sure there were plenty of prickly seeds and squishy berries for the little guys, but it wasn’t until this year that I decided to try growing so of my own birdseed to put up for winter.Of course, I’ve grown sunflowers in the past, but the chickadees and finches always managed to pluck all of the tiny morsels from their seats before I was able to bring them in to dry for the winter (this year I did manage to get a few, though!)

Millet. It’s a humble grain, often forgotten, and it has to be one of the easiest things I’ve ever grown. In fact, prior to this year I had been pulling it out of the flower beds in a futile and tangled war between myself and those-things-I-used-to-call-weeds. This year I decided that as long as it wasn’t killing anything else with it’s unruly sprawl, I would leave the volunteer army of millet in various places in the garden.

It isn’t a small plant, mind you. The one I have out front is more than six feet tall and sprawls roughly four feet in diameter, but it is a beautiful plant to see nodding it’s heavy, sleepy seed heads in the late summer breeze. This morning I began cutting the largest of the seed heads and drying them. For now I’ll be drying them in our kitchen, but as the season progresses I’ll be moving the millet and sunflowers to the barn to hang where they will season until the birds need them most: the dead of winter.

Millet is not a particularly palatable grain for birds, but it does provide protein and vital energy for them in the cold shivery months. The way I have always fed it is mixed with a bit of sunflower seed to encourage them to try it. Once they realize that it’s a source of food, despite not being terribly tasty, they are on the feeders regularly as soon as the wild sources of food run out.

The one thing I try to do above all else is keep the feeders full during the winter. The birds that come to your feeders are there specifically because there is a food source. If the food source stops, they move on, but they don’t always make it to the next food source, especially in some of the nasty Michigan weather we get up here.

I’m sure I’ll be buying birdseed from the store this winter (many stores sell it in bulk and you can bring your own containers!) but I’ll also be supplementing with what I’ve grown. If you have the space for it, give it a shot. This year my millet required absolutely no extra effort at all, except to cut it and hang it to dry. Planting it was simple – in most cases the birds took care of that for me. If I really wanted to plant a patch, I’d just scratch up the dirt a bit and sprinkle it with millet seeds. It’s a pretty intense little booger, so  once you grow it plan to have it around for years to come.

Next year I plan to try a few other bird seeds as well as some millet for our own personal use. I did plant some sorghum this spring, but its long season requirements might mean it doesn’t finish developing before it conks out for the year. Ah well. The point is, while you’re putting up food for yourself this fall, considering putting some up for the feathered folk as well!

Have you ever grown your own wild bird seed? Which varieties have you grown?

Want to read more from Tanglewood Farm? Check out Emily’s blog over at A Pinch of Something Nice where she writes about her experiences with her gardens, her livestock and her leased historical home in SE Michigan.

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stream

Now that the heat is going away, we are spending even more time outdoors. I find it extremely important to teach my daughter about the environment around her, and how to take care of it. This morning we went for a hike on the nearby Natchez Trace. This is the second official “hike” she’s gone on with me and I was afraid we’d already taught her poor lessons about nature. Thanks goodness my sister came to the rescue. She’s been going to school for, well, years – I call her the tenured student. She’s studied geology, teaching, and biology; she’s worked as a tutor, homeschool teacher, nanny, camp counselor, nature guide; and she’s more patient than I have been as of late. If it wasn’t for my sweet sister, I’m not sure I’d have the desire to take my daughter back on a hike anytime soon.

trailhead

So what could be so hard about taking a six year old hiking on a nature trail? She got upset when I told her she could not take home some leaves and sticks to save in her nature box. The girl talked and talked and talked, then talked some more, as we were hiking – interrupting all the conversations we older gals would have. She wanted to stop at every water crossing for snacks and drinks. It was a special treat for her, but it was frustrating to stop every 15 minutes for a break. We quickly learned that we’d have to work around the Kid’s desires. I don’t feel the need to leave her at home for these shorter hikes, but we quickly found some tools to keep her interested in the world around her instead of the “plans” she’d made. Ahh, it’s tough having a perfectionist as a child, but even more difficult when you’re a perfectionist and idealist yourself!

rock table

My little sister, she who is seven years younger than myself, she without her own children, she who’s been going to school for just this thing for, well, forever… she showed me how to manage my own daughter on a hike and I love her for all of it! In my excitement to spend time out in nature, exercising my tired bones and spending time with my sister, I’d forgotten that part of the reason of taking my daughter with was to teach her something.

quartz

  • Get them thinking about the world around them by engaging their brains.
  •  Ask children about what they see.
  • Why would a plant grow in one place instead of another?
  • Why should we cross streams on rocks instead of tromping through the water, overturning every rock we come across?
  • Why is it important to stay on the trail?
  • What can your children see that is significant of the season?
  • Count the different sounds you hear.
  • birds, bugs, water, wind through trees, raindrops, sticks breaking, nuts falling.
  • Have the children guess what could be making those sounds. What type of bird do you think is singing? Do you think that squirrel is angry with us? And so on
  • Can you imagine why it would be so important for an animal to have good senses?
  • Why is it important to take only photographs and memories with you?
  • Imagine someone coming into your house and moving all of your food and furniture around. How would that make you feel?
  • Even items that aren’t food for animals can be food for other things like mushrooms, trees, and so on. The circle of life affects all organisms.

yellow 

Having my sister with us on our hike today gave me insight of how to teach my own child about the world around us. What techniques and tricks do you use with children when out in the wild?

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September collage
So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule plus or minus two weeks or more.

 

September is the time of year that we begin to feel the crisp air of Autumn moving in. Evenings are chilly even though afternoons can be very warm. Autumn fruits are beginning to ripen and the thought of spiced cider seem to warm spirits. September is the time for clear skies, bonfires, and wrapping up Summer’s last duties. It’s a big month for tidying up the garden, so hold back those nesting instincts for another month and enjoy the clear, bright skies and cool air.

Indoors

  • Be sure your root cellar is ready to accept produce. If you’re using boxes with sand or sawdust make sure they’re clean, sanitized, dry, and critter-proof.
  • Be sure your deep freezer is cleaned out. Remove past date items and make room for Fall’s harvests.
  • Complete any chores that require you to keep your windows open. Painting, cleaning carpeting, cleaning ovens and so forth should be finished before it gets cold during the daytime.
  • Wash items that require long, outdoor drying times or those that can only be taken care of outside. Litter boxes, garbage pails, sanitary pails, area rugs, pillows, and so forth should be washed while the remaining warm air can help with drying.
  • Air out winter clothing, blanketing, and other items you may have kept in storage over the warm seasons.
  • Be sure your fireplaces are in working order before you need them. Check that wood stacks are staying dry and are easy to get to.
  • Check fire and carbon monoxide alarms before lighting up your furnace or fireplace for the first time.

Outdoors

  • Be sure your cold frames and greenhouses are airtight and ready to go for the cooler nights. Daytime temperatures can become very hot in these locations, so be sure to open and close windows as needed. Consider investing in a self-opening elbow for your windows. They can save many trips back and forth throughout this fickle weather.
  • Leaves will begin to fall soon. Make sure your compost bins or piles are ready to accept fresh materials.
  • Give one last inspection to your windows and doors in case you didn’t get to them last month. Be sure that they’re air tight and sealed before cold weather really sets in.
  • Change air filters on furnace.

Garden

  • Herbs can be cut and dried for saving. Remember to bring some in to create a window garden for a fresh Winter source of Summer’s flavors.
  • Seed saving and dead-heading can begin once again. Remember to allow some of your perennial seeds to self-sow by leaving only a few “dead heads” or by sprinkling some seed. Save some seed for finches (they adore Echinacea) and other seed lovers. Too many dead heads can lead to disease.
  • Don’t prune rose hips yet if you plan on saving them for jellies or medicinal purposes.
  • Bring in your more sensitive plants as the nights get cooler. Stevia, ginger, and other tropicals don’t like colder weather. Many other herbs can stay outside until the first frosts.
  • It’s a good time to take cuttings of woody plants and shrubs.
  • If you’re planning on dividing or planting bulbs for next year now is the time to do it! Also divide shrubby herbs like lemon balm, oregano, mints, sage, fennel, tansy, and marjoram.
  • Harvest frost-sensitive plants and Winter keepers before your first frosts. Put green tomatoes in paper bags to ripen slowly and use later. Potatoes, onions, and other keepers should be kept in a cool dark place.
  • Cut back dying foliage. Burn diseased foliage as soon as possible. Healthy plants can be put into compost as long as they are seed-free. As fun as it is to have a surprise potato plant sprout from the compost bin, you don’t want those plants (or weeds) to use up all that energy you’ve been saving for your garden!
  • Green manures for cool seasons can be sown.
  • Strawberry runners should be rooted and transplanted by the end of the month.
  • Shrubs and trees, fruiting or not, can be planted now that the cool weather is setting in. Fall is an excellent time for transplants since most trees are storing or spending energy in and on their root systems.
  • Speaking of fruiting trees and plants, remove mulch and prune those that need it.

Animals

  • Put in your orders for Winter supplies of food, straw, and hay.
  • Give a good cleaning to coops and barns to try to avoid housing mice and other small, unwanted critters.
  • September and October are good months for building. If you’re planning on adding to the animal family next year, consider any outdoor units that may need to be added.
  • Repair coops, lean-tos, stables, and other shelters before cold weather sets in. Keep your animals happy and warm at night.
  • Start considering mating sheep and goats for Spring kids and lambs. They’re both on about a 150 gestation cycle so a late month conception would lead to a late February birth.
  • With birth also comes death. Start planning for cold weather slaughters. Animals are best harvested when the weather is below 40 degrees. The cooler the better, especially if you’re inexperienced or have a lot of work to do. Research your product and begin gathering needed items. Mise en place. Have stock pots, seasonings, casings, sharpening stones, recipes, packaging, and tools all ready prior to harvesting.

Wildlife

  • Continue to feed your hummingbirds and other songbirds. Migrations will begin this month and you may have a few unusual visitors to your feeders.
  • Like us humans, wild critters are beginning to stock away for the colder seasons. Allow seed heads to remain on natives and refrain from too much tidying up of acorns and other nuts, seeds, and berries. Skunks, squirrels, rabbits, birds, and other small animals need to fatten up to keep warm through the Winter.

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As beautiful as this little fellow is, his kind are disappearing all over our planet

Amphibians are extremely sensitive to environmental changes.  There permeable skin and complicated water/land life cycle makes them more vulnerable to changes in the environment than most animals.

Pollution, de-forestation, water level fluctuations, water temperature changes, invasive species, and diseases including the chytrid fungus.  This fungus is now on every continent with amphibian populations and is devastating the populations.  There is as of yet on effective cure for wild populations.

Frog 3

Why care about frogs?

Well they are part of an intricate food chain.  Frogs help keep insect populations in check.  Then the themselves are food for birds and snakes.

They are also the ‘canary in the coal mine’ type of species.  They are an important indicator of the health of our environment…the health of our planet.

And if the serious decline in frogs and toads is an indication of our planet’s health…

I say we better pay attention!

Besides a world without frogs would just not be as magical!

Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!

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