Bird Condo

Our sparrows, or whatever they are, have started cleaning out their bird condos on the front porch. The cats enjoy watching from the front window’s generous window sill, in my office. Looks like we have at least one, maybe two families who have scoped out their nesting site for the coming spring.

We’re hell bent on getting animals to live on our property. So far the bat houses and bird houses have not attracted residents, but this has not dissuaded us. It comes as no surprise that the animals actually prefer the unplanned residences such as the bunnies and skunks who live under the porches, and of course these birds.

The birds nest on top of the columns where a natural alcove was created by the trim carpenters when they completed the columns. This was no way planned, but it is a happy accident. We have room for up to ten families on the front porch, and at least one more on the back porch.

Too bad they don’t pay rent.

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Greenhouse

A couple of weeks back I burned an evening dreaming about a greenhouse; tapping through the internet, gazing at photos.

I like the idea of being completely independent. Free to do whatever I darn well please, not necessarily dependent on the whims of utilities, grocery stores…pretty much everyone, save whoever makes toilet paper. The allure of a greenhouse to me is, theoretically, I can grow all kinds of things year round. I wouldn’t have to buy veggies or fruits, except for whatever I didn’t grow myself. Now the reality is I would never do that. I’m too lazy and lack fundamentals necessities such as knowledge, money and time. But reality never stops day dreams.

Last year I said we are never growing plants from seeds again.  The seed trays on the window sills just attracted bad cats, who’s inquisitiveness meant damage plants, dirt and water everywhere. The whole thing was a mess; more trouble than it was worth.

So this year of course I couldn’t resist the urge to pick up an indoor little greenhouse. My former “no more plants from seeds” edict conveniently missing from memory (as reminded by my wife). As I mentioned in previous posts, it impossible for me to visit Lowe’s in late winter, early spring and not walk out with an arm full of stuff that I may or may not need. This week I walked out with a $35 indoor “greenhouse”, which is basically a backers rack with a vinyl cover.

We (my kid and I) set it up in about 15 minutes, in my studio. I didn’t feel like putting soil into pots out in the garage (too cold) so I brought all of my planting supplies into the studio and set to starting seeds. We (now consisting of myself and two kids) filled several trays with soil and little seeds. Trays were then placed on the racks, and the cover zipped shut. All that’s left to do is water and wait. Once the seeds sprout, we’ll thin them out and start toughening them up: moving the greenhouse to a sunny spot. Right now, in my studio, they only get indirect sunlight.

By the way, the seeds I picked up are organic ones from a nifty display I saw at Lowe’s. It’s important to get organic seeds so that they don’t contain neonicotinoids which are a type of insecticide that kills honey bees and other pollinators.

It was fun to set up the little greenhouse and plant seeds.

Nice to touch soil again.

In addition to pining for a “real” greenhouse, there’s a part of me that really wants animals too. I really want my very own micro farm really. Not sure who would watch this farm when we’re out traveling with our trailer for weeks at a time, but we can figure that out. But, who lets reality get in the way of day dreams, right?

Well we already have bees, and we’ve survived raising those, so there is a precedent for some semblance of competence. I think we can handle guinea fowl next. We can at least try 2-4 of them and see how it goes. The sole reason we’d get those is to see if they control the tick population, which is rampant on our little piece of paradise.

But beyond a few birds I’m thinking even bigger. I think it’d be neat to have a couple of goats and sheep. I’d love to have a little animal house, with an adjacent greenhouse and coop. Little animals roaming around, grazing…doing their thing. Cheese, wool, milk….

Who knows. Anything is possible.

Here are today’s photos. Enjoy!

Wren House

Spring is knocking on the door most definitely.  We’ve had a string of temperate days. Most of the snow has melted, even the giant pile that fell off the garage roof a month or two ago. Even the cool 40 degree days feel warm when the sun is out.

I’ve been locked up in the house now for a couple of weeks on end, working 10-12 hour days. Today was I nice respite from the enslavement that is having to work as much as humanly possible. With no projects on the docket I ran errands this morning. One of my stops was, of course, to Lowe’s. I needed a couple of blank signs for a community event this Saturday. Well not surprisingly, with one day left in winter, the store is shaping up to look like spring: grills and mowers out front, seasonal tables, pillows and decor inside. Scattered about were berry bushes and the obligatory seed starting paraphernalia.

I tried as hard as I could. I was good the last couple visits. Not buying anything except that which was on my list. But a long cold winter, and a life now spent chasing nothing but the almighty dollar has taken its toll on my mental well-being. Dark nights longing for a greenhouse; rationalizing it with every electronic page turn on a tablet. Thoughts of sprouting leaves, dancing in my head.

So I threw caution to the wind. My will broken.

It was the organic seed display that was my downfall.

Bee friendly, organic seed display at Lowe's.

Bee friendly, organic seed display at Lowe’s.

As we all (should) know by now, most likely the plants, and seeds, we all purchase at big box stores or local chain nurseries probably contain neonicotinoids. These insecticides are engineered into the plants to make them resistant to insects. As such they are also toxic to honey bees. Even the plants you get from seeds are engineered to basically kill honey bees.

The plan originally was, we were not going to grow anything from seeds this year. But like I said, seasonal depression took its toll, so I walked out of there with a several packets of organic seeds. Here’s what I got:

Wheat grass, sunflowers, and some other flowers - we will grow from seeds and see how it goes. Our bees will be happy. We can actually eat the wheat grass.

Wheatgrass, sunflowers, and some other flowers – we will grow from seeds and see how it goes. Our bees will be happy. We can actually eat the wheatgrass.

Of course if you get seed, you’re gonna need seed starting soil mix and pods to grow them in. So I grabbed some biodegradable Jiffy pots and organic potting mix.

We were in business!

Actually I was in business. The wife didn’t know what I was up to.

As I walked to the register, I glanced at the various seasonal displays. You’d think I’d know better: don’t be sucked into getting anything else you poor, tired, man. Well they had some bird houses and birdseed there.

Hmmm…

I have a thing for bird houses. Actually animal houses of any kind really. I have some deep seeded desire to turn our 6 acre plot into some sort of wildlife kingdom. With little animals running around everywhere, shaking our hands, and helping us harvest vegetables.

Also I was thinking, the birds are all getting their nesting sites ready. For example, we had a mummified baby bird on our porch. It must have been in one of the porch nests last year. The parent birds – bluebirds? sparrows? deposited the unfortunate baby bird when cleaning out a nesting spot.  I love the idea of all these birds growing up in the safety of our yard and home.

With those thoughts in my head I marched back to the bird supply area of the store. I was going to get a bluebird nesting box. But then I’d have to find a post and long story short turn my trip to the store into an afternoon project. Looking around I spotted a diamond-shaped box with a wire hanger.

Ooo…I hanging bird house.

A wren house in fact.

I hung the house from my finger, and with all my other treasures tucked under my arm, I checked out and headed home.

Our new wren house. Was about $18 at Lowe's.

Our new wren house. Was about $18 at Lowe’s.

At home I googled where to hang my wren house (in an open yard or along a brush row basically). As a family we then went outside to hang our house in the front meadow. Somewhere where we can see it, yet away from the hustle and bustle of yard activity. I used a metal shepherds hook, pounded into the ground, to hang the house from (you can hang yours from a tree if you’d like). Now we’ll wait and see if anyone moves in.

A fine place for a wren family to grow up, in our south meadow.

A fine place for a wren family to grow up, in our south meadow.

I can’t wait for spring to get here. We took a walk on some of the nature trails. We could see little buds starting on many of the bushes and trees, including my apple trees. My fingers are crossed that we get blossoms this year, but I’m not holding out too much hope.

As with the bird house, we shall see. Until then, we’ve got little plants to start.

house-in-late-winter

Our little "creek".

Our little “creek”.

Thaw

In a couple short weeks we’ve gone from winter, snow and arctic temperatures to a complete thaw.

I’ve been incredibly busy for several weeks now, which is great. But it means that writing takes a back seat. Tonight is no different. I did want to share with you an update on the bees.

Now that the temps are in the 40’s, the bees are flying. They spend all winter pent up, so at first sign of warm weather they go relieve themselves outside. About a week ago we looked at the hives from the outside. There were bees flying out of hives No. 2 & No. 3 so it looks like those two survived our cold, snowy winter. It does not look like hive No. 1, our original hive survived. We haven’t seen any activity coming or going, and no signs of bee debris outside the hive.

We will have to wait for a day or two in the 60’s before we pry the lid off of any of the hives. When we do so, we’ll start feeding them a pollen substitute and eventually sugar water as spring dawns.

Alright, I’m off to sleep. Every day is extremely busy from dawn to late at night. I’m ready for a vacation.

Hive No. 3 had a ton of bees outside of it when the temperature finally got above freezing. Notice how brown the snow is from the bees relieving themselves.

Hive No. 3 had a ton of bees outside of it when the temperature finally got above freezing. Notice how brown the snow is from the bees relieving themselves.

Hive No. 1 looks to be dead. We haven't seen any action coming or going. We'll check for sure once it's consistently warm outside.

Hive No. 1 looks to be dead. We haven’t seen any action coming or going. We’ll check for sure once it’s consistently warm outside.