winter lessons

lanternWinter has finally come to South Jersey. We had about 7 inches of snow over the weekend and it’s not going anywhere because it’s COLD!

titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

When I went out to feed the birds this morning, I noticed that they were much more tame than usual. Usually they scatter as soon as they see me coming. But today, they didn’t budge until I was about 3 feet away.

sparrow

White Throated Sparrow

I’m guessing the frigid temperatures and blanket of snow have made food such a priority that their usual skittishness is tempered.

nuthatch

Red Breasted Nuthatch

So, after I fed them, I grabbed my camera.  I took the above pictures in about 5 minutes, and then left them to the serious business of eating.

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new neighbors

Even though food is abundant this time of year, I still feed the birds. I like to see who’s new to the neighborhood.July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 013

Mr. Chill is one of five young squirrels who keep me entertained. He spends most of his time flat on his belly in an overstuffed daze.June Backyard, wine bag, beach 006

This is a young red-bellied woodpecker. We’ve had  year-round residents for several years, and this is the second time that I’ve seen them with young.July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 036

And this little beauty is an indigo bunting. I’d only ever seen one in my life, and when my mom saw him in my very own backyard without me, I was a tad jealous. July Backyard, Bunting, Wine Bag, Emma Party 026

Thankfully, he stuck around. I noticed that he ate the inexpensive seeds that I don’t usually buy – so I just keep feeding him that. He’s been here for weeks, but I am still excited to see him every time.

Swinget turned into swing

Backyard Solutions

I’ve been living in my yard for a lot of years, and I’m learning what works for me.Swinget turned into swing

When our children outgrew the swing set my husband made, we pulled down the kid’s swings and replaced them with a swing everyone can use. I planted wisteria on one side and after just a few years we are getting nice shade.Bird bath made of recycled dish

I go through birdbaths like Snickers bars. I try to remember to empty them before a hard freeze, but the water containers always seem to leak after just a year or so.  I’ve learned that a big dish from Goodwill and a rock is all it takes to bring back the bathers.Gourd vine growing up a tree

My yard is a nice size, but gourds and cucumbers and all of those sprawling vines seem to take over everything. This year, I let the birdhouse gourds overtake the trellis and continue right up a nearby tree. The garden stayed neat, and this totally appeals to  my love of the quirky.Hummingbird silhouette

The hummingbird likes it, too.A squirrel peeking out of the the hole he gnawed in the trash can.

And the solution here? . . . Keep the birdseed in a metal container from now on.

blooming sunflower

here comes the sun . . . flowers

blooming sunflowerAfter a few days of torrential rain, today was beautiful. I saw my first sunflower bloom at coffee time.

full view of gardenJust for perspective:  The lowest finger points to the sunflower bloom pictured above. The finger above it points to the birdhouse gourds that are happily climbing every tree in sight. The finger in the top left points to the sunflower blooms (nearly 8 feet) that are in the near future.

cedar waxwingMy little darling Waxwing greeted me at dawn with his silent welcome. Even though I have studied their sounds online, I have yet to hear them. The nest withstood the heavy rains. For that I am thankful. It’s all right (do do do do do do dododododo).

a most unusual morning

It started out as any July morning:Riley web 002I enjoyed a cup of coffee in the party garden at 6:00 am while Riley stood guard and patiently waited for her run. Hot air balloonWhile we were running, I saw a hot air balloon. We stepped up the pace, got home, and I grabbed my camera and drove out to track it down. (Riley had a drink and a nap on the sofa.)hot air balloon on groundThe balloon had a friend.cedar waxwingWhen I got home, I noticed a pair of Cedar Waxwings nesting in my yard. This is unheard of. I am thrilled to see them once a year, in a group, in winter. I have never seen Cedar Waxwings during nesting season.cedar waxwingThey are very active, so the pictures aren’t great – but I have high hopes for the future.

garden structures and a special guest

My husband spotted him first while I was at work: a Rose Breasted Grosbeak at our feeder. SO exciting – I’ve seen them before, but rarely, and NEVER in my own back yard. Just plain old sunflower seeds on  a platform feeder did the trick. He was here for several days and I got a good look at him, the little cutie pie.Rose breasted gorsbeak at feederMy husband has been my best garden supporter this year; he signed me up for the organic herbal gardening course that spurred me on; he  gave me a gift certificate to the best nursery in town; AND he spent his birthday money to make me three of these excellent new planters.Raised bed vegetable planter

This one is sporting cabbages (I’ll pick the biggest and let the little ones continue to grow), rosemary, nasturtiums, and sunflowers.

Happy Mother’s Day!