Tuesday, December 29, 2009

...hopped on the bough, then, darting low, prints his small impress on the snow ~ From Emerson's poem The Titmouse

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

We had an ice storm here on Wednesday into Thursday that interrupted power to more than 40,000 homes. My sister's home was one of them. Her family spent Wednesday night and all day Thursday wrapped in blankets in front of their fireplace. They had no electricity, no heat and no hot water.

It rained on Christmas morning and later in the afternoon the temperature dropped. The roads were a sheet of ice driving home on Christmas night. Later the snow started and we had another eight inches by Saturday evening.

In spite of the weather, our family had a lovely Christmas, eating a wonderful meal, laughing and chatting.

One of my best gifts this year has been this little visitor I call Mouse. I’ve hoped for years to attract a Tufted Titmouse to my feeders. I often see them at Severson Dells and at my father’s feeders. This is the first year I’ve been successful in bringing them to my farm. Aren’t their large, black eyes appealing?

These little birds maintain their pair bonds year round. In fact, family bonds are so strong; youngsters from the previous spring often remain with the parents and help with nesting and feeding the following year.

Females are very particular about nesting materials and prefer soft hair. People have reported seeing them pull fur from live squirrel and woodchuck tails, and from men’s beards.

The annual bird counts judge these birds to be a tentative success story. While most bird populations are rapidly decreasing, Tufted Titmouse numbers show a moderate increase. It is guessed this may be because more people are feeding birds over winter and these adaptable birds are benefiting.

The Titmouse comes to the suet feeders for Kaytee suet dough, then to the hopper feeder for shelled peanuts. I'm sure they will eat sunflower seeds also but haven't seen them at the sunflower feeders yet.

Wishing all of you a very happy New Year.
May you have and abundance of love, peace, health and comfort.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love! ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

The legend of Father Christmas is such a wonderful old story.
The details are different from place to place, but the central idea remains the same. A kindly old man bringing rewards for good children (be they rich or poor) at Christmas.

I've heard that the chubby Santa Clause we see depicted in this country originated with an artist working for the Cocoa Cola Company. He is a much more earthy figure in older cultures that perhaps aren't so commercial.

The tradition of poinsettias originates in Mexico.
Children picked bunches of weeds along the roadside to decorate the village nativity. On Christmas day the humble weeds were blessed and turned to bright red flowers.

Christmas is the time for all things gaudy, glimmery, and glittery.

Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven's making. ~Leigh Hunt

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.
~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus

Blowing snow has erased the rest of the world and left only this row of trees along my fenceline.

The first winter storm of the season brought a foot of heavy, wet snow.
Its weight bent my lilacs to the ground.

Color disappears in a snow storm and the world turns to black and white...mostly white.

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveler stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of Storm.
~ Emerson

In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, Long ago.
Christina Rossetti

A Hairy Woodpecker female.
Heavy snow creates desperate times for the birds.
Their survival may depend on the kindness of people.
I always put out extra suet and seed
so they won't run out of food while I'm at work.

The Downey Woodpecker female is similar in color but smaller
than the Hairy Woodpecker.
Her beak is much shorter than that of the Hairy Woodpecker

A tiny Junco.

A finch huddles against the chill wind.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June. ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

I'm varying my usual Wednesday posting because I won't be online tomorrow.

Another set of photos saved from a June garden walk. I horded these away thinking they would be fun to bring out on cold winter mornings.

The snow is beginning to fall in earnest this morning and blizzard warnings for tonight. It seems a good time to let the mind drift back to a sunny, warm June day.

Tinker's Cottage built in 1865 is now a museum. The grounds feature a small heirloom rose garden maintained by one of the local garden clubs.

A new vegetable garden has been added and it features these unusual trellises for growing vine crops.

If I don't look out my window at the snow piling up on the lawn, I can almost believe it might be June...almost.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
~ Oliver Hereford

When the flowers have died back for the winter months, my backyard looks empty. This is the season I really depend on wild birds to add movement and interest to my garden. On frigid winter mornings, tea or cocoa in hand, I sit by the window and watch them for hours

The first two photos are Downey Woodpeckers. The male and female are very alike except for that spot of red on the head of the male. They announce their arrival at the feeders with a little quacking sound.

These tiny woodpeckers are the most frequently seen at feeders. Although very small, they are not as shy as their larger cousins. Downeys usually find the suet and bird seed quickly and lead the larger woodpeckers to the treats.

If you are trying to attract woodpeckers to your backyard, use one of the premium suet cakes like the Kaytee or the Wild Birds Unltd brand. You can also use real suet from a butcher shop but hang it somewhere the raccoons, cats and opossums can't reach it.

In addition to the Downeys, last weekend my suet feeders were visited by Hairy Woodpeckers, Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Chickadees, and a Tufted Titmouse. I have been hoping for a Titmouse for ages and finally one has found the suet and peanut feeders. I'll try for more photos next week if the weather cooperates and provides some sunshine.

The Gold Finches are wearing their olive drab feathers now. Thistle seed served up in a soft 'sock' is one of the best loved treats in my garden. These feeders stay busy all day, every day, with hungry finches squabbling over the tiny seeds. Later when we have snow cover, the Red Polls may visit this feeder. If food is in short supply farther north in the forests of Canada, they arrive in the area in large, hungry flocks.

The Gold Finches are year round visitors at the feeders. They will eat thistle seed, millet and sunflower seeds. I usually hang the thistle socks above the flower borders near the house. The seed is irradiated and will not sprout so you don't have to worry about thistle growing up among your flowers.

There haven't been the usual large numbers of House Finches with me through the summer months. I'm starting to see more of them as the weather gets colder and their natural food supplies decrease.

There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.
~ Robert Lynd