Saturday, November 27, 2021

A flutter of sparrows

I find the descriptions for flocks of certain birds to be amusing. A parliament of owls, a murder of crows, a murmeration of starlings. Sparrows look like a "knot" when clustered around the millet feeder or perching on the bird bath, but they take flight in a "flutter" for no apparent reason at all.

I put up another bird feeder, the one for mealworms, but so far no takers, not even starlings. There is one more bird feeder to be cleaned, one that is too big and heavy for the utility sink, so it is sitting in the bathtub, awaiting a hosing down and a spritz of 10% bleach solution.

Sean from Sanctuary Natives and I had a great discussion this past week about the yard design. He spent two hours here, explaining the why's and wherefore's of the plants he chose. I learned A LOT, even why my elm tree surpassed the older tulip tree in growth. It turns out the leader of the tulip tree had been whacked, so it had to develop a new one before it could really get going. So if you are purchasing a tree from a nursery, make sure its leader has not been cut if you want it to get off to a strong start.

One change to the design will be more trees, like an oak and a hickory. There is a mature oak on the next block that I just love. The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago; the second best time is today.

Some of my guests this past Thursday came bearing gifts, including a xmas cactus. Did you know that there are apps that can identify plants? We were able to name the ones I received in October, so now I know that some of them are toxic to cats. (Beau the Feline Destroyer of all Things Nice has been nibbling on some of them and then vomiting, so I had a clue about that. And I moved the plants to where he can't reach them.) I wax and wane on houseplants, but for some reason am waxing strong recently.

I'm still busy with physical therapy. My shoulder feels almost normal, there is zero pain, and I feel five years younger. My energy is returning, too. By spring I should be raring to go.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The lower the temps, the higher the bird count

Now that the temps are staying low, the variety of backyard birds is improving. Ditto what I see when walking the dogs around the neighborhood. In fact, I think this guy is a regular.

(Sorry for the poor quality of the above photo. I wanted to see how well the zoom feature on the camera of my new phone works. About the same, it looks like - not very well.)

I still don't have all the feeders up, but that did not stop bluebirds from visiting this "bark butter" feeder. I also saw a nuthatch at it. It seems the finish is too smooth for good gripping, but I'm afraid if I rough it up, the wood won't last as long. We'll see how it goes.

There is not much to see or do outside right now. I did prune the 'Limelight' hydrangea the other day. A combination of recent events left it looking rather pathetic. It doesn't get enough sun, so I usually don't prune anything except the blossoms. Last year, because of my shoulders, I could not reach very high, so the branches became rather spindly and drooped a lot this past summer. I'm hoping the high pruning I was able to do this time will perk it up.

I forget about the witch hazel because most of the year it doesn't look like much. It's a bright spot on this gray day.

Covid numbers are up again, especially in this state and even moreso in this county. It doesn't appear to be slowing anyone down, though, judging by the traffic and crowds. I guess this is as good as it is going to get, so despite being fully vaccinated, I will continue to mask and use hand sanitizer when out and about. Have a safe holiday weekend!

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Feels like November

Today we received our first snowfall. Add raw winds, cold temps, and gray skies, and you have November in Indiana. And yet this week we are expecting highs in the 60's again. Weird, weird weather.

My SO and I moved the compost bin to the side of the shed, dumping the composted material into a raised bed by the so-called meadow. I cut down the zinnias and Mexican sunflowers, all of which go in the bin. The weed pile is currently near the back of the yard, but it will be moved to behind the compost bin. I mowed the lawn for what is hopefully the last time this year.

The bird feeders have been going back up one at a time. So far, there are stations for niger thistle, suet, safflower, peanut splits, whole peanuts, "bark butter", millet, and a nut and fruit mix that is in a new feeder for "clingers". Still, about all I am seeing are sparrows.

Once again, Pinetree wins the prize for earliest garden catalog of the season. Even though the yard and garden are in transition, I see a few seeds I would like to order.

Otherwise, I am busy with physical therapy for my shoulder. Functionality continues to improve and my energy is returning. As we age, parts wear out. I'm grateful that my problems have been fixable (so far!)

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Sparrow Haven?

I named this blog Woodchuck Acres because at the time I started it, woodchucks were quite the problem in my vegetable garden. I have not seen a woodchuck in my yard for many years, especially after adopting my current canines. However, there are sparrows. Lots and lots of sparrows. Right now they are flocking to the millet feeder, splashing in the bird bath, raising a ruckus in the arborvitae. I hear blue jays but haven't yet witnessed them at the whole peanut feeder; someone has been nibbling on the split peanuts. But otherwise, it is sparrows, sparrows, sparrows.

My SO and I took a walk in the woods a few weeks ago, hunting for mushrooms to photograph. I kept saying, I don't know much about fungi, so he later bought me DK's Mushrooms: How to Identify and Gather Wild Mushrooms and Other Fungi, by Thomas Læssøe. Sometime I will sit down and try to identify what we found in the Lindenwood Nature Preserve.

Or maybe I should start identifying the fungi I find in my own yard. The ones in my lawn are probably lawn mower's mushroom (panaeolus foenisecii). They resemble the mushrooms one buys at the grocery store, but these are slightly poisonous. I have yet to figure out what the tiny mushrooms below are, though.

We have finally had some hard frosts, and now we are looking at a delightful forecast of sunshine, with highs in the 50's and lows in the 40's. The city has started the annual leaf pickup even though most of the trees have not yet turned, let alone dropped their leaves.

I saw the shoulder surgeon this past week and all is well with the replacement joint. Now that the pain is gone, I am looking forward to a new lease on life. Tomorrow physical therapy starts, and I am psyched.