Backyard Birds: American Gold Finch

backyard bird, gold finches, American Gold Finch

My American Gold Finch have returned more brilliant in color.  I’m amazed at how much the male has colored up. They molt in the winter and late summer, turning a dull yellow/olive color similar to the female shown at the top.  

I discovered these little fellows last season in my garden. They devoured my sunflowers.  So, I fed them over the winter using black oil sunflower seeds.  Normally they head south for the winter, but I did have a few that hung around.  


I’m hoping to see a few babies at the feeder in late summer.  The female will lay eggs in June or July.  


Lately I’ve been having problems with Starlings wiping out the feeders in hours.  So, I’ve had to replace the seed in my feeders.  I decided to go with Nyjer for the finches this summer.  I purchased this nylon bag full of Nyjer at Lowes this winter and they loved it.   

backyard birds, American Gold Finch, wild bird seed, feeding wild birds
 





I purchased the tube feeder from Amazon.  Truthfully, I could have saved my money.  They prefer the nylon sock.  They will go to the feeder if there are too many finches feeding from the sock, but it is their plate of choice.  If you’re interested in attracting the American Gold Finch you should know that Nyjer is considered “black gold” to bird watchers.  This tiny seed is the most expensive bird seed that you can purchase, but a great way to attract them to your feeder if your want to get up close and personal.  They love sunflower seed too, but so do the Starlings and Crackles and I’m not trying to attract them.  

Unfortunately, the sunflower seed is too large to place in the sock and tube feeder.  These feeders are designed for Nyjer seed only.  I may grow thistle next year as a supplement to the feeder.  As it stands, these beauties are enjoying black gold.  

You may also like:  Attracting American Gold Finch

 

Backyard Birds: Tufted Titmouse


Tufted Titmouse

Meet my Tufted Titmouse.  I love these little guys.  They’re a beautiful gray and white with a little tuft on top of their head.  They are marked with a touch of orange on the side.  They’re abundant in my backyard.  I keep them coming back by providing them with lots of black oil sunflower seeds.  They love them.  Check out my other posts on attracting backyard birds.

They’re funny birds.  They don’t normally eat directly from the feeder, they take their sunflower seed and crack it on a nearby branch and than head back to the feeder.  These little fellows will flock with chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches.  I enjoy watching them cling to the smallest branches while they wait their turn at the feeder.   They will eat from the platform feeder as well as the tube feeders.

 

 

The Tufted Titmouse likes to nest in holes in trees or a vacated woodpecker nests although they will also use nesting boxes.  I have plenty of woodpeckers around, so they have lots of holes to nest in.  They are known to pluck hair from live animals or humans for their nest. They mate for life.  The male does most of the singing, but the female will sing a softer version at times.  I will continue to supply sunflower seeds, as they are permanent backyard residents that I can enjoy year round. Their young are ready to leave the nest in 16 days, which I think is incredible.

 

 

 

tufted titmouse

 

 

I’m currently having problems with Starlings devouring the seed in hours.  So, I’m in the process of purchasing a new feeder and seed.  The new feeder will be enclosed in a cage, so only small song birds will be able to enter and eat from it.  I will be filling the other tube feeders with safflower seeds and thistle for the finches.  I’ll still use my platform feeder for the cardinals, but I will be replacing the sunflower seeds with safflower as well.  Supposedly, squirrels and Starlings don’t like safflower seed.  I’ll keep you posted on this change at the feeding station. 

You may also like Suet Feeders For Backyard Birds

 

How To Build A Green Bean Teepee Trellis

home gardening, vegetable gardens, bean trellis 


Last year I used a teepee trellis for my pole beans and it worked well. This year, I decided to modify it to maximize my harvest. Several bars were added to the teepee so I could plant beans completely around it.  However, one side was left open. I wanted my grandchildren to have a seat inside of the teepee while I’m gardening.  An adorable miniature chair will be placed inside the teepee for them to sit.  Check out my other backyard gardening tips before you leave.

Making a bean teepee can be simple and inexpensive.  I used the bamboo poles from last season and cuttings from my bamboo squash trellis from last year as well.  I found left over string from other projects under my sink and  used around the teepee.  String is great for the tendrils of the plant to latch onto. Lowes and Home Depot sell bamboo poles that won’t break the bank if you can’t found a resource locally. The Dollar Store sells string.  My brother has a yard full of bamboo, so I luck out. 

The poles should be 6 – 8 feet tall and you will need 4 pieces.  I used (4) 7 foot poles and 5 bars across.  Be sure to secure the poles tightly at the top and get them deep into ground before you tie on the horizontal poles.

 

 

Here’s the steps again:

1.  Tie your 4 poles at the top securely.
2.  Your poles should look like A-frames.
3.  Place the frames in the ground deep enough to secure them.
4.  Tie the smaller pieces (20) across the bars to form 3 sides.  Leave an opening to place a chair for the kids or spacing for growing lettuce through the summer, which requires shade.  The leaves of the beans will provide the shade.
5.  Plant your choice of pole beans completely around the bottom of the teepee and watch them climb.

 

Last, I use Blue Lake pole beans.  I believe they are more flavorful and less stringy than other beans.  However, planting Jade Bush Beans along with the pole beans will prove beneficial.  They were recommended by a fellow gardener.  Can’t wait to try them.  Also, green beans can be used as a companion to tomatoes and cucumbers.  Plant green beans close to your tomatoes and cucumbers this gardening season.  Finally, do you plant pole beans or bush beans?  What’s your favorite brand?

You may also like:  Using Eggshells In The Garden or Leaning Tower of Pole Beans

 

Summer Activities: Gardening With Your Child

 

gardening with your child

 

My grandfather had a garden when I was growing up, and I remember how different the vegetables taste from the store brought veggies today.  With that in mind, I planted a vegetable garden.  My father was an avid flower gardener, so it’s in my blood.

I decided to involve my grandson when he was little.  He lives near the beach, so backyard gardening isn’t a common theme in that area. When he visits in the summer he helps me with my garden.  He enjoys playing in the dirt and watering my plants.

Most importantly, he is learning about growing vegetables and flowers.  It’s a great way to get him outside and moving.  He loves it so much when he hears the back door open, he is on my heels.  In the photo above, he’s picking peppers.  Hot peppers are big in my family, we love them on everything.  Xavier loves hot peppers on his nachos, he’s a kid after his grandmother’s heart.  I pickle hot peppers, so we have a fresh supply all year and freeze Belle peppers for cooking.

gardening with children


Next, he’s learning the importance of watering the plants, weeding and waiting to reap the benefit.  How do you like his garden boots?  They’re Disney cars.  He loves splashing in the water after he makes puddles in the yard.  I can’t say that he’s learned to love everything he’s nurturing in the vegetable garden, but he’s having fun helping everything grow.

My grandchildren do love carrots, corn, cucumbers and tomatoes.  I use them in pasta salads, and the tomatoes for sauce for spaghetti and pizza which they both love.  I also can tomatoes for chili and soup in the winter.  Yum!

gardening with children

 

I’m a petunia lover too, so I make sure they’re the star on my deck in the summer.  Xavier was 2 when I started involving him in my gardening.  I thought I would share this picture of him sucking his binky and watering my plants.  It’s one of my favorite pictures of him.  I purchased a little watering can, rake and shovel for him too.  He remembers watering the plants, and now wants to water them each summer.  My granddaughter is old now, hopefully she will take an interest as well.

 

gardenng with children

 

Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive.  I start most of my vegetables and flowers from seed that I save.  I also purchase plants off the clearance rack at Walmart or Lowes.  The planter above is filled with Walmart clearance items. I purchased the planter from the Dollar Store.

Most importantly, if you don’t have a yard use your balcony or patio to grow a few plants.  Get your child involved. Better yet, let them plant a few flowers or vegetables of their own.  It teaches them responsibility and also gets them involved in nature. Try a perennial, they come back each year.

Next, when you expose children to different experiences, they will be open to different cultures, music, foods and other experiences as an adults.  Their formative years are in our hands.  They may not model everything that we do in their adult years, but they will have the memories and experience.  Last, you can’t place a price tag on that.

Using Eggshells In The Garden

 

 

using eggshells in the garden

 

Don’t throw those eggshells away.  Eggshells are beneficial in the garden.  Start using your eggshells in the garden.  Your tomato and pepper plants will thank you.  So, grab a container and save them throughout the year.  Ask your family members or neighbors to save them for you if you don’t consume a large quantity of eggs.  Explain that using eggshells in the garden will benefit the tomatoes they will receive in exchange.  This will give them an incentive to save the shells for you.  Check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips before you leave.

However, before you store the eggshells I recommend rinsing them thoroughly and than drying them in the oven on a low temperature. You can also set them outside on sunny days or leave them in an open dish on the kitchen counter. When your dish becomes full, have the kids crush them and than store.  Check out my other backyard vegetable garden tips.

 

using eggshells in the garden

If you decide to dry them in the oven, remember they don’t need to be in the oven long or on a high temperature.  Just long enough for them to dry on your lowest setting.  Once cooled, crush them and put them in a plastic bag or container. You can store them in your refrigerator if you don’t have counter space.  A rolling pin is a good way to crush mine or have the kids crush them with wooden spoons.

So, when garden season arrives place a generous dose of the crushed eggshells in the hole when you plant your tomatoes.  They are a great source of calcium for the plants.  Furthermore, I also sprinkle the shells around the plant once I get the tomatoes in the ground.  I actually do this throughout the growing season.  The eggshells will help give your tomatoes a calcium boost, and help fight off blossom end rot.

Secondly, I mix the crushed eggshells in with my birdseed.  Bluebirds, Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers and Barn Swallows love eggshells.  You can spread the eggshells on a log or on the ground if you don’t have a platform feeder.  We hope that you enjoyed our tips on using eggshells in the garden, and you will start recycling your eggshells.  You may also like 20 Flowers to Use in a Wildflower Garden.

How To Make Bottle Greenhouses

bottle greenhouses, mini greenhouses, winter sowing

                                                      
First, I increased the number of sunflowers for the garden.  As a result, I decided to make bottle greenhouses out of 2 liter soda bottles.  Also, milk containers or any bottle that is clear can be used.  After I complete the setup, the bottle greenhouses on set on my deck to germinate.  I grew my sunflowers using this method last year and they did great.

Additionally, the American Goldfinch picked every sunflower seed off the flowers last year.  They’re such beautiful birds, I couldn’t get mad.  I decided to plant some for them and some for me to roast and store for the winter.   I have marigolds and Blue Buttons planted in the tray above.  Here’s my list of sunflowers.  Be sure to check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips too:

  •  Lemon Queen Sunflower  (My fav)
  •  Autumn Beauty Sunflower
  •  Evening Sun Sunflower
  • Mammoth Sunflowers
  •  Mexican Sunflowers
  •  Marigolds (French Dwarf mixed)
  •  Blue Buttons
  • Cosmos

 

winter sowing. mini greenhouses, bottle greenhouses


As a result, if you want to try this method this is what you will need:

  • 2 liter or other large bottles that are clear
  • a box cutter
  • seed starting mix  ( I use Miracle Gro, just make sure it’s quality)
  • selection of sunflower seeds
  • duct tape
bottle greenhouse, winter sowing

Most importantly, bleach your bottle greenhouses to ensure all liquid has been removed and the bottle is sanitized. Allow to air dry.  Next, cut the bottle at the half way point all the way around with the box cutter leaving a small hinge. Leaving the hinge will make it easier to tape the bottle closed.  Also, once you have your seed starter mix ready, place a few inches in the bottom of the bottle and plant the seed the depth recommended on the package.

Once you complete this task, use the duct tape to close the bottle.  And you will want to mark the bottle with the name of the sunflower with the permanent marker.  Place the bottle in a location where it will receive sun, rain and close to your house to help shield from wind gust.   You may have to gently water the seeds if you don’t receive enough rain.

Last, once the seeds germinate and reach the height of the cut, remove the duct tape and top from the bottle by cutting the hinge.  You may need to add potting soil to the bottle once the plants takes off to ensure that the roots are covered.  Just remove the tape and add the soil to the bottle.

Finally, make sure the last frost has passed before removing the top permanently.  It serves as protection from those cold, frosty nights.  I’m in Zone 6B, so the last frost date is usually mid-May in my area.  I hope that you have been inspired by my bottle greenhouses.  Save a few throughout the year, and start your seeds in them next growing season.

Tips to Attract Baltimore Orioles

I decided to become more diligent in feeding the birds through out the year.  I’m hoping to attract Baltimore Orioles this year. I’ve never seen an Oriole in my area, but I did a little research and it seem they like oranges and grape jelly. Orioles are beautiful birds.  They are Maryland’s state bird, and since I’m across the Maryland line, about 20 minutes, I’m thinking my chances of attracting them to my backyard are favorable.  Check out my other posts on attracting backyard birds.

Oranges and grape jelly, oh what to do.  I love home made items, so I decided to make a feeder until I can find one that I like.  Oriole feeders are expensive, so it has to be just right. Until I find the perfect feeder, I decided to make a simple one out of a metal hanger.  My thinking, if I’m unsuccessful I’m only out a hanger and an orange.  To make this feeder you will need the following items.

  • wire hanger
  • 1 orange
  • yellow or orange ribbon
  • *grape jelly (optional)

Baltimore Orioles

 

attracting backyard birds



Bend your hanger until it looks like S.  Cut the end with a pair of wire cutters, and spread the 2 pieces apart.  You want to leave the hook, you will use it to hang the feeder.

Cut the orange into slices.  Cut a wedge out of each slice.  You will use the smaller pieces for spacers.  Alternate an orange slice and than a spacer.  You can smear grape jelly on the orange slices too.  Spread them apart as much as you can, so the bird can perch and enjoy the treat.

Tie on your ribbon and hang in a spot where you can bird watch.  Try placing the feeder where the bird can perch from another branch and reach the slices if you’re unable to get enough space between the slice.  You can rearrange them once you hang the feeder if necessary.  Refrigerate extra slices.  Slices should be checked every 2 – 3 days and changed if they dry out or start becoming moldy.  Wish me luck.

10 Benefits of Vegetable Gardens

 

benefits of vegetable gardens

 

I love gardening.  It’s a rewarding experience and there’s nothing better than fresh vegetables in the summer and throughout the winter months.  My grandfather had huge gardens when I was growing up. He planted enough vegetables for his kids and their kids. There was a catch, the grandchildren had to help weed the field, I mean garden.  It looked like a field and felt like one when we had to walk it and pull the weeds.  You can also find other vegetable garden and backyard vegetable gardening tips on the blog too.

I remember the garden holding tons of tomato plants, green beans, peas, onions, corn, greens and the list goes on. The garden became a part of my soul. For as long as I can remember, I thought about my own vegetable garden.  I decided to finally put one in several years ago, and I look forward to digging in the dirt each spring.

It’s time for me to decide what I want to grow this season.  I planted garlic in the fall, and I saw green sprouts yesterday.  I was unsuccessful last year, so I’m really excited.  My freezer is full of squash, peppers and, zucchini now, so I was thinking that I wouldn’t plant any. It dawned on me that others aren’t as fortunate, they would love to have fresh veggies this summer and maybe freeze a few for the winter months.  For the veggies that I don’t use or give to family, I can take to a food bank.

vegetable gardens
I have found so many benefits from planting my own vegetables.  Here’s a few:

  1. I save money on my food bill. 
  2. I have delicious vegetable for summer gatherings and snacking. 
  3. I’m able to make my own tomato sauce for pizza and pasta.
  4. I’m able to can and freeze vegetables for use during the winter.
  5. I share my bounty with neighbors, family and friends.
  6. Gardening is a great way to exercise and get fresh air.
  7. Gardening is a great way to relieve stress.
  8. Learning to grow a variety of vegetables is educational.  
  9. Provides an opportunity to bond with my grandchildren.
  10. Growing produce from seed is challenging and rewarding.     
Finally, Urban Gardening has become popular. So, growing fresh vegetables in small places is possible.  A little creativity, and you can have fresh garden vegetables at your door. Fresh vegetables are being grown on decks, patios and balconies. How you ask?  In containers.  Furthermore, the containers can be paint buckets from Lowe’s or Home Depot, planters, or old whiskey barrels. Use your imagination.  Grow lettuce, peppers, tomatoes or herbs.  Herbs can be grown in small flower pots and don’t take up much space.  You can place these in your kitchen window, and they really enhance dishes.  Start small, but start growing your own greens.

 

How To Attract Blue Jays To Your Backyard


Blue Jays


First, Blue Jays are large and beautiful birds.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see them at the feeder this winter.  So, I’m glad I was able to capture the photos below this fall.   Apparently, some Blue Jays migrate and some do not.  I’m assuming mine decided to move on this winter.  Check out my other attracting backyard birds posts.

 

 

 

Next, Blue Jays start their courtship in February. The breeding season is from March to July.  Spring is around the corner, so I wanted to give you a few tips on how you may be able to get them to a feeder in your backyard for a photo op.

A few facts about Blue Jays, they are large birds and stay with their partner for life.  So they understand the meaning of until death do us part.  They are loud and love to make their presence know with their “jaaaay” call early morning.  Wooded areas are preferred.  I have trees along my back property and the adjoining property has a roll of evergreens, so I have the perfect environment.  The average life span for a Blue Jay is 7 years.

blue jay

It’s difficult to tell the male from the female, they look identical.  These two show up together, or one shortly after the other.  Blue Jays don’t eat at the feeder.  They pick up their treat and eat elsewhere, but return often for more.  Their color is striking.  Blue is my favorite color, so I may be biased.

 I was so excited to see this Blue Jay since they had been missing all winter.  I don’t know if this is the male or female, but the other is around somewhere.  I’m hoping to see little Blue Jays this summer since breeding season has started.

Here are a few tips to lure these beauties to a feeder in your backyard:

  • Purchase a platform feeder as shown.  I ordered mine from Amazon and love it.
  • Use raw peanuts.  They also love shelled, but make sure they’re unsalted.  You can buy them in bulk at Costco or SAMs.
  • Add acorns, sunflower seeds and fruit to the feeder.  (I use old grapes).
  • Spread cracked corn and sunflower seeds on the ground under the feeder.
  • Plant an oak tree and you will have them for life.  (They love acorns).

Last, bird watching is a great activity to do with children.  Turn bird watching into an educational lesson. Additionally, bird watching gives them an opportunity to become involved with nature and learn the habits of various backyard birds.

Attract Backyard Birds With Birdseed Pine Cones

 

birdseed pine cones

First, I started bird watching and feeding my backyard birds several years ago.  It is a hobby that I have come to love, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  I started making birdseed pine cones, and the birds are loving them.  They literally pick the pine cones clean.  The birdseed pine cones are easy and fun to make with kids.  There’s really no recipe, but I thought I would share how to make the pinecones.  Check out my other posts on attracting backyard birds.

 

feeding backyard birds

Next, pick a day to gather pine cones with the kids.  You can gather them from your neighbor’s yard, a park or yours. If neither of you have pine trees, locate an area where you can gather a few without trespassing.  Furthermore, they are essential to your project.  I use a medium or large pinecone.  The larger the pine cone the more birdseed it will hold.

You will also need the following items:

  • peanut butter (Purchase store brand)
  • twine or yarn (You can purchase twine from the Dollar General)
  • birdseed  (You can purchase seed from the Dollar General)
  • a paper plate
  • plastic knife
  • plastic spoon

 

feeding backyard birds

You will want to watch the birds feast.  As a result, hang the pine corns in place where you can see and high enough where cats or other predators can’t reach them. Therefore, tie a piece of the twine or yarn around the top of the pine cone leaving the ends long enough to hang it from a branch as shown.  Spread the peanut butter over the pine cone (be generous) with the knife.  Also, place the pine cone on the paper plate and sprinkle the birdseed over the pine cone with the spoon.  Cover the birdseed pine cone thoroughly.  You can use the spoon to press the seeds into the nooks and crannies.  Be sure to do this around the entire pine cone.

This is a fun project for kids to create on rainy or snowy days.  Furthermore, they will love the craft more when they see the birds enjoying the treats.  Additionally, if you need visuals on how to prepare the pine cones you can get the instructions here.  Once the pine cones are prepared, have fun watching our feathered friends gobble up the birdseed pine cones.  I guarantee you they will devour every seed.  Place them in a location where you and the kids can watch them enjoy the feast.  Consequently, you will be providing protein that birds need to keep them warm.

Last, freeze the pine cones before placing them outside.  Furthermore, place several in a gallon baggie and place in the freezer until you’re ready to use.  You will always have a few on hand when time is limited.