Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Two Big Hawks, Sittin' in a Tree...

The other day we were taking a walk on a trail through some woods nearby, when a red-shouldered hawk landed on a tree nearby.

Then we noticed another hawk on the same tree - we had stumbled onto a hawk nest!

Two red-shouldered hawks and their nest
Red-shouldered hawks are monogamous and often mate for life.  A pair of hawks usually nest in the same territory every year, sometimes even re-using a previous nest.  The mother lays 2 to 4 eggs (usually 3), which will hatch after about a month.

Red-shouldered hawks have a reputation for being one of the most vocal types of hawks (which explains how often we hear them).  They are named for a reddish-brown patch on their shoulder, which we could not see since we were below them.  From below, they are more easily identified by thin white bars on their tail.

Hawks aggressively defend their territory while nesting.  One of the hawks came over and perched above us.

He stayed there for quite awhile, possibly checking us out...

before deciding that everything was okay and flying off.

What beautiful birds!  Maybe come spring we'll see some little hawklings in the area.. wouldn't that be a sight to see (though I'm sure my backyard feeder birds would disagree!)

Some other sort of large bird circling over our house - maybe a turkey vulture?
On a related note, there are several bald eagle nests located near a lake not too far away.  One nest is set up with a live video feed, and the pair of eagles that nest there have just had a couple babies hatch a couple weeks ago.  If you would like to find out more about the bald eagles and their chicks and get a close up view, check out the Jordan Lake Eagle Cam.  I've enjoyed watching them!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Winter Jasmine

It's January, and my little winter jasmine plants are blooming.  It's a welcome reminder that, despite the warm weather and other stirrings of spring, it is indeed still winter!

Winter jasmine, or Jasminum nudiflorum, can be found labeled as a vine or as a deciduous shrub; it's really kind of a rambling, sprawling sort of plant.  It is in its element spilling down a bank or over a wall.  It is often used as a ground cover for a slope - it tolerates poor soil as long as it's well drained and roots wherever the stems touch the ground.

Winter Jasmine starting to cascade over a rock wall in summer
Winter jasmine will grow to around 4 feet tall and up to 7 feet wide as a shrub.  If trained up a trellis like a vine, it can grow up to 15 feet tall.  It can be pruned quite hard if so desired right after it is done flowering.  It blooms on old wood, so don't wait to prune it - if you do you might be cutting off all those possible flower buds!

Winter jasmine pruned into more orderly bush shapes
I must say that I rather like the pruned look on this shrub.  It also can look really great cascading down a bank or over a wall; however, if not situated or pruned properly, winter jasmine can look like a hot mess.

A hot mess
Sometimes people mistake winter jasmine for the spring-blooming forsythia (perhaps in hope of a very early spring), but forsythia is usually bigger and more upright in habit.  Forsythia's blooms are usually a brighter yellow in color and they bloom all at once for an amazing, but short-lived display.  Winter jasmine spreads out its blooms over several weeks during the winter months, and the stems of winter jasmine are a nice green as opposed to the yellow-brown of forsythia stems.

Winter jasmine blooms on green stems
After it blooms, the plant will then leaf out.  Native to China and hardy in zones 6-9, winter jasmine can be planted in part shade, but it really blooms best in full sun.  Sadly, the flowers of this jasmine are not fragrant. 

Its best attributes are the beautiful yellow blooms that brighten up a dreary winter's day.

Friday, January 27, 2012

In Which I Get to Talk about Myself

The wonderful and occasionally nutty Jane over at Tidy Gardens by Jane has given me an award:  apparently I am a versatile blogger!  Ta da!  See, I have the sticker to prove it:

I get to put this giant sticker on my blog!  (No, this was not stolen..)

With greatness comes great responsibility - here are all the things I am supposed to do:
  1. Put a big Versatile Blogger Award sticker up to advertise one's greatness.
  2. Thank the crazy blogger who nominated you and incriminate them with a link back to their blog.
  3. Share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself, to prove that you are indeed Versatile.
  4. Include this set of rules.  
  5. Embarrass (or secretly delight!) other unsuspecting blogging friends or strangers by nominating them for this award.

    or something like that..
Well, here are 7 not completely random pieces of information about myself.  I know that these pieces of information cannot be truly random because...

1.  I was a math teacher and studied such things as randomness and happen to know that truly random data is very hard to get.

2.  My favorite movies are the original Star Wars trilogy.

3.  See?  This is not random!  Numbers 1 and 2 are clearly related, which brings me to my 3rd piece of information about me:  I, Indie, am a total nerd.

4.  Okay, in the appearance of being random and not related to the above info: I read magazines from back to front.  I tend to do this sometimes as well with garden books that have lots of pictures.  (That's not nerdy, right?)

5.  My favorite color is actually blue.  Yep, originally I wanted to paint our house a lovely shade of periwinkle blue, in which case I guess I guess the title of my blog would be 'Periwinkle Blue House Garden' (doesn't have the same ring, does it?).  However, the house next to ours was painted the sort of green that would not go with periwinkle blue.  But I love the red - either way, there are not nearly enough colorful houses in the world, don't you agree?

6.  I believe in oral hygiene. 

7.  I used to live down the road from the world's largest statue of Santa Claus.

There are lots of amazing blogs out there that I have enjoyed reading so much.  I've been meaning to add a feature to my blog that will link to the great blogs that I read, and this gives me the spark to get on that.  It's Friday, so I'm not going to finish it tonight (hey, I've got to go have a party to celebrate my award!), but look for it in the near future!

and thanks, Jane, for thinking so much of my blog!

update:  Apparently I am twice, nay three times as Versatile as previously believed!  The fabulous Helene over at Graphicality - UK  and Lyn of The Amateur Weeder also nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award.   Thanks so much, Helene and Lyn!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mission Impossible: Squirrel Division

The Mission: 

 The Mission, Squirrel Division, should you choose to accept it:

The target is the Red House Garden bird-feeder with the best seeds.  Your goal is to reach it and procure as many seeds as possible.

The Team:

Cinnamon Tails - skill: can hang by the tail for great lengths of time
William Sharp-claw - skill: Squirrel kung fu
Rollin Paws - skill: slight of hand, lady squirrel charmer
Prep for Mission:
Assemble weapons
Check for possible guards
Surveillance from other bird-feeders in area
Okay everyone, take your positions.  Operation is a go..

Execute Mission Impossible:

La di da.. I'm just a cute squirrel.. pay no attention to what else is going on around the yard...

Having some trouble reaching it.. trying the other side..


I think I see someone coming!! Get out of there!
Abort!  Abort!  Meet back at the safe tree location!
Good try, everyone.  Does anyone else have any other ideas?

Man, I'm getting tired of acorns!

Neener-neener! from the KGChipmunk

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mixing and Matching

Ahh.. sitting down with some gardening books on a cozy winter's evening..

A online Gardening Book Review is going on over at the blog Roses and Other Joys, and I decided to join in the fun this month.  I wanted to review a new book that I got, but sadly have not finished it!  The problem is, there is so much I want to read about, I am usually flipping through/reading several gardening books, mixing and matching to suit my mood.  

We won't even talk about the magazines... 

So I am going to review one of the earliest gardening books I got a few years ago - one that I have actually finished reading!  It is quite a fun book (interactive even!), and suits the mood of my garden reading style quite well:

The Mix and Match Garden Color Guide to Annuals and Perennials (whew, that's a name!) is by Graham Strong and Alan Toogood and has a lot of great advice about combining plants in the garden.  It talks a lot about all the basics, combining colors, shapes, and plant textures for great combinations of plantings.  It talks about pattern, repetition, and scale when planting flower beds.  Then comes the good part - it shows some really great combinations of plants and gives several great projects to do as well as several small garden designs, all with fabulous pictures.

The picture above is one of my favorite in the book, as it started my love affair with ranunculuses (also called Persian buttercup).  I had never seen a ranunculus before reading this book, and after seeing this picture I just had to get some the next spring.

My yellow ranunculuses
I actually tried to find some double daisies to go with them, just like the combination featured in the book, but was unable to find any in the garden stores at that time, sadly. 

Ah, but we're not done yet!
After the fabulous small garden designs and little plant combining projects comes the fun, interactive part of the book...

Photo flip cards!!
I love to flip through pictures in gardening books so this is a perfect book for me.

There are 240 photo flip cards that help the reader see how different plants would look grouped together.  There are four cards/plants per page.  The taller plants are in the top row, the middle sized plants are in the middle two rows, and the short plants are in the bottom flip cards.  Thus you can get a better feel for how the plants would look in combination in the garden.  The cards are mostly made up of annuals and perennials, but there is also a small section that includes shrubs.

Would this combination look nice?
On the other side of the page (on the back of the previous flip cards), it considerately gives all the planting information for that species. 

Honestly, it's just fun to play with the cards and see what combinations one can come up with!

 Now if I can just stop flipping through different books and finish one for my next garden book review...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to Make an Edible Birdhouse

In my last post, I showed an adorable edible birdhouse that my mother-in-law had gotten.  I love that after the birds eat all of the seeds off of the birdhouse, it can be turned into a functional birdhouse.

Store-bought edible birdhouse
I thought it would be fun to make one for the birds here at the Red House Garden, not to mention cheaper than buying one!

Step 1:  Assemble ingredients
  • Birdhouse - you can either make one or buy one for fairly cheap at a craft store
  • Edible Glue - there are many recipes out there, or you can even just use peanut butter.  The recipe I used calls for flour, corn syrup, and gelatin
  • Different types of birdseed, raisins, dried fruit, raw nuts, etc.
  • Decoration - I went outside and gathered some pretty stalks of grass, holly berries, and sweetgum tree balls.  Use anything you can find (as long as it's not poisonous to the birds!)

Step 2:  Make Edible Glue - I used a common recipe that I found online:

1/2 cup water
1 pkg. unflavored gelatin (1/4 oz.)
3 Tbsp. corn syrup
3/4 cup flour

Heat up the water and then dissolve the gelatin in it.  Then mix in the corn syrup and flour.  Using whole wheat flour will make a light brown glue, white flour will make a white glue.  Whole wheat flour is preferable for the birds as it is more nutritious. 

Edible glue
I found that this glue is pretty workable for about half an hour before it starts setting up too much.

Step 3: Glue Birdseed and Decorate

Starting from the top down, spread a thin layer of edible glue on the house and then press birdseed, dried fruit, nuts, etc. into it.

Decorate and viola!

Edible Birdhouse

The kids also had lots of fun decorating their own little houses for the birds!

Step 4:  Let dry for a few hours, then let the birds enjoy!

Brown-headed nuthatch on edible birdhouse
Decorative and delicious!  I think some of the birds were even checking out the living arrangements for next spring.

Carolina chickadee checking out the edible birdhouse
The only problem with this edible birdhouse was that it took the birds awhile to figure out how to land on it.  The bigger cardinals didn't want to land on it at all and were rather disgruntled that I had switched out their regular feeder.  That's something to keep in mind when choosing a birdhouse and hanging it.

Brown-headed nuthatch looking for a place to land
This was definitely a fun project, and it was great to watch the birds enjoying it.

After the birds have finished all the birdseed, I will wash the house and hang it.  We'll see if any birds move in this spring!

Carolina wren
Wouldn't you like to nest in a cozy little birdhouse at the Red House Garden, little wren?

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