Category: gardening

Birds – Nice Nests (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , April 27, 2008 9:10 pm

My two oldest each had lengthy birthday parties to attend this afternoon. So although I had an art project in mind when I chose birds as this week’s Unplugged Project theme, my children’s busy social calendars precluded anything too complicated.

Instead of art this week, we decided to do something I was meaning to do anyhow: put out some nice spring nesting materials.

While most people know that putting out food and water for wild birds is a great way to attract them to your yard, another often overlooked additional method is to provide nesting materials in the spring. As long as you have some good nesting locations (requirements vary by type of bird), giving them handy materials can encourage them to nest in your yard where you can watch the action for several months.

All you’ll need are some empty suet feeder cages, or a few of those nets used to package oranges or potatoes in bulk. We used a big net from some oranges and a few small Baby Bel cheese nets.

We have some high class, five star nesting material: leftover alpaca fleece from Dempsey, an alpaca at our local alpaca ranch!

If you don’t happen to have a local alpaca ranch or any spare alpaca fleece lying around your house, you can also try putting out any of the following:

-dried leaves and twigs
-human or horse hair
-pet fur, sheep’s wool
-dry grass
-plant fluff (ie. cattail fluff)
-feathers
-yarn or string (cut into 4″ to 8″ pieces)
-thin strips of cloth (1″ x 6″)
-cotton batting
-bark strips
-pine needles
-shredded paper
-moss

But don’t put out drier lint (stays soggy, dries hard, can contain chemicals from laundering).

You can prepare the household materials together, or go on a nature hike to collect suitable natural materials.

Place the materials in the nets or cages and hang them around your garden on trees, or deck railings. You can also push loose material into tree crevices or between rocks, and drape yarn and string over bushes. Heavier items that won’t blow away, like twigs, can be put out in small piles around your yard.

Then simply sit back and watch to see if there is any interest in your spring gifts!

For more about this (and my source for much of this information), please see: Attracting Birds With Nesting Material from the fascinating Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

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If you participated in the birds project this week, please put your link in Mr. Linky below (also be sure to leave a comment in case Mr. Linky malfunctions).

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Next week’s Unplugged Project theme will be:

Green

Please join us!

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A Seed is Sleepy (Aston, Long) – Book Recommendation

By , March 1, 2008 10:19 am

Spring is in the air which means that seeds of all kinds will soon be sprouting: flower seeds, tree seeds…weed seeds. (Big sigh.)

Now is a good time to teach your little ones a bit more about seeds. I can’t think of a more lovely book for this purpose, than A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.

This book is packed with interesting facts about seeds. Each two page-spread presents a one sentence fact, followed by a short explanation. For example the first page says: “A seed is sleepy.” Followed by: “It lies there, tucked inside its flower, on its cone, or beneath the soil. Snug. Still.” The information is presented in a sweet, almost poetic way that makes it easily accessible and enjoyable for a variety of ages.

What really makes this book truly wonderful though, are Sylvia Long’s amazing illustrations reminiscent of old, botanical prints. Her colorful paintings are incredibly rich and detailed. Ms. Long has a real eye for seeing and reproducing the beauty and wonder of even the simplest natural objects.

We love this book so much, that next on my wish list is Ms. Aston and Ms. Long’s other collaboration: An Egg Is Quiet

A Curl Up in Bed Kind of Day

By , September 23, 2007 10:21 am

Fall is coming with a vengeance here.

The tired old needles of the Ponderosa Pines are turning brown and falling to earth, creating our springy brown winter carpet. They don’t all fall off, but to a newcomer, seeing so many needles turn brown can be a bit disconcerting. The first fall I lived here, I thought all my trees were sick. But the trees aren’t dying, they are just going through their annual fall cleaning cycle.

Other fall colors emerge in the yard also. Bushes and maples are turning red, aspens are turning yellow. The oaks will be the last ones to cling to summer life. But, in a few more weeks, they too will succumb to the irresistible urge to sleep and the oak leaves will finally dry up and turn brown.

In the middle of the night last night I awoke to find my 5 year-old son climbing into bed with me as a wild thunderstorm boomed all around us. Lightning flashed and wind howled as he snuggled up to me, muttering something about a bad dream.

The storm brought with it blustery winds, cooler temperatures (55 degrees at 10:00 AM), and grey showery skies. It is the kind of fall day where you just want to curl up under a down comforter with a good book and a purring cat or two (or eight) as the rain patters on the skylights.

You can read more about our fall here.

Help Support Wildlife – Certify Your Yard!

By , September 21, 2007 6:46 pm

I have written several posts about how to certify your yard as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF):

Project: Make Your Yard a Certified Wildlife Habitat (July 5, 2007)

Backyard Wildlife Habitat: Great Nature Slideshow (July 14, 2007)

Another Backyard Wildlife Slideshow (July 20, 2007)

The other day I just got an NWF email saying that they have almost reached their goal of certifying 100,000 habitats. The NWF needs to certify only 5,000 more yards to get there!

If you have been thinking about doing it (or even if the whole concept is new to you), now is the time. You don’t have to have a grand estate. All you need are the four basic habitat elements: food, water, cover, and places to raise young.

Once you go through the easy online process to certify, you will be eligible to buy the cool sign like ours in the photo. That way, neighbors and passers-by will know that you care enough about wildlife to provide a sustainable habitat in your own yard. You’ll also help spread the word to others about the existence of this great program.

Having your kids help you certify your yard is a wonderful way to teach them about the needs of wildlife. Two Unplug Your Kids readers even created online nature slideshows of their habitats. You can view them by clicking these links: Meeyauw’s slide show and Tiffany’s slide show (Nature Mom). If you feel like making your own slideshow, please let me know and I would love to link to it.

So, click here to get started today!

Sunday Garden Photo

By , September 2, 2007 2:52 pm

A trumpet vine against a brilliant blue New Mexico sky.

(We are spending the holiday weekend at my husband’s house in Albuquerque.)

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This post is part of The Sunday Garden Tour at A Wrung Sponge.

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