Monday, November 25, 2013

Feed the Birds~

The weather has proven challenging to say the least… the word treacherous comes to mind. As the winter deepens, feeding the birds becomes serious business for without our help, many may not survive the freezing temperature plunges. True bird aficionados feed year round, but I feel it is best to insist they forage until the weather no longer permits or food is no longer easily obtainable.

We all remember the haunting nursery rhyme:
“The North wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will poor Robin do then,
Poor thing?”

The illustration accompanying this little ditty often displays a pitiful Robin lying on its back in deep snow with fixed eyes, twig-like claws, a beak barely opened… clearly dying from either starvation or hypothermia! Notwithstanding the implied cruelty of presenting such images to small children, the visualization of this “Poor Thing” easily instills enough guilt to encourage one to purchase a high quality bag of wild bird feed immediately!

Most birds like the commercial mixtures but if you want to splurge purchase additional sunflower seeds and thistle. Many beautiful songbirds spend the winter indulging in entertaining antics and now that the trees are bare, it is possible to see and hear them far better. Once you begin feeding you will discover every bird has personality traits characteristic to their individual species.

The Blue Jays are excitable, boisterous, rather the bullies and always traveling in a gang. The Cardinals are polite, laid back and lacking in aggression. All species of the Woodpecker family demand and receive respect; their beaks are daunting and their presence can clear the feeder immediately. The darling finches squabble and tumble about while the Black Capped Chickadee and timid Titmouse dart for sunflower seeds. The wonderfully enthusiastic Sparrows are mentioned in the Bible as one of God’s favorites.

Birds eat in regular intervals during the day much as we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. For this reason the feeder is sometimes chaotically busy with all species feeding together in a feathered fluff of noisy competition while other times the filled feeder stands alone. The word spreads quickly among the bird community and those who provide feed will find themselves at the height of popularity this time of year. With many months of winter, plan to enjoy the bird show from the warmth of your easy chair!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Goodbye to the Garden~

The trees and plants were in their last glorious days, making the goodbye evermore bittersweet.

I wandered the grounds yesterday, peering skyward at the honks of the last Canadian Geese rushing south before the frost line. The tiny sweet Mums were bright, the last roses smelled lovely. I had waited until afternoon and rushed as the sky turned dark to the North and the wind began to chill.

I dug the Caladium bulbs.... the soil was cold and damp and they are lucky to be drying in the laundry room, preparing for their winter storage.

I gathered the flats of the unplanted pansies to the warmth inside where they are crowding the window sills, waiting for warmer weather to be planted. As the sky continued to darken and inched closer and closer, the wind picked up and I hurried my pace.

The last of the Tropicals and Geraniums were rushed via the little red wagon to the shop to avoid the inevitable frost. I picked the remaining cheerful Geraniums and brought them to the house, apologizing to the doomed parent plants.

Back inside, I made a nice cup of steaming coffee and held it as the warmth of my cup made my hands tingle a bit as they unfroze.

Overnight the wind howled and the temperatures fell to the teens... and it was over. The summer and all the joy that it had brought is now in the pages of memory. Every still-green leaf has fallen this morning as the Sun began to shine ...
Winter is here!

Poor Annie is terrified of the sea of leaves... she is tip-toeing through them!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hurricanes and Typhoons... Events Beyond Our Control

*Our hearts go out to those affected by the 'Monster Storm' that hit the islands.*
This is from an earlier blog and has been edited.

As we watch the world wide weather events unfold, we were reminded that mankind has maintained a continuous struggle against assaults by nature. Catastrophic events have occurred since the beginning of time and have been the subject of vigorous religious and scientific study and discussion.

For thousands of years, countless theories have come to light only to be rebuked by new information. The belief that mankind is responsible for natural disasters is not a new premise. Our responsibility was the reason for sacrifices to volcanoes, oceans, farmland, and forests with offerings made to appease angry gods. The argument is compelling and it would be convenient to blame us. With acceptance of blame, perhaps we have an option for change and some measure of control.

However when we study the deserts, which were once lush forests, it is obvious that many natural disasters are exactly that… natural. Although science has made vast advances in the prediction of weather related events, where a catastrophe will occur is still the whim of nature.

All week, I have been reading 'Nature on the Rampage' by Ann and Myron Sutton to better understand the forces of nature. Hurricanes were named after Huracan, an evil storm god of the Caribbean. One of the most devastating hurricanes on record occurred in 1780. It began off Barbados and came ashore where it flattened trees and dwellings killing countless numbers of people. It destroyed an English fleet anchored off St. Lucia, then ravaged the island completely leaving 6,000 dead in its wake. It swirled on to Martinique, enveloped a French convoy and sank more than 40 ships carrying 4,000 soldiers before leveling towns and villages killing another 9,000 people. It finally wound down after destroying Puerto Rico and an untold number of ships and fishing vessels caught unaware in open sea.

Weston Martyr is quoted in the book with his description of a hurricane. He said, "You cannot breathe with a hurricane blowing full in your face. You cannot see either; the impact on your eyeball of spray and rain traveling over a hundred miles an hour makes seeing quite impossible. The blowing sand cuts your flesh and you hear nothing but the scream and booming of the wind, which drowns even the thunder and the breaking seas. You cannot move except by extreme exertion. To stand is to be blown away like a dead leaf. You cannot even crawl; you have to climb about twisting your arms and legs around anything solid within reach".

To see the full article...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tip for Saving Seeds

Don't toss those little silica packets found in every new pair of shoes or garment. They are a helpful addition to your packets of saved seeds. Since they absorb moisture, your seeds will be certain of a dry condition!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fall Foliage... the Lovely Change

Grandpa's Pond~ Rural Oklahoma.

Perhaps it is said each year, however this year promises the most lovely Autumn in ages. The crisp and divine temperatures of late have Oklahomans happily donning sweaters and getting outside! As the clocks were turned back on Sunday, suddenly the foliage changed and shades of gold and scarlet were seen shimmering in the breezes.

Although the following explanation will be a vast over simplification, it may provide insight into the foliage change. During the spring and summer the trees use their leaves to collect air and water utilizing a process called photosynthesis to turn it into food. Photosynthesis means ‘putting together with light’ so as the days shorten and daylight diminishes, the gathering process ends. The leaf is no longer necessary to the tree and begins its fall transformation and the hillsides become a dramatic autumn palette that provides breathtaking color for a brief moment in time.

The chemicals chlorophyll and carotenoids are present in the leaf cells throughout the growing season with chlorophyll making leaves the bright green color associated with the photosynthesis process. As darkness increases in the autumn, chlorophyll production eventually stops and inevitably all the chlorophyll disappears. With the loss of chlorophyll, the carotids become visible and provide the leaves with lovely yellow colors. Lastly the anthocyanins may arrive and take center stage, ushering in the vibrant reds we associate with Autumn.

Because carotenoids are always present in leaves the amber, yellow and gold colors remain fairly constant from year to year, even during drought. However conditions must be ideal for the fickle anthocyanins who are glucose (sugar) and singularly responsible for the brilliant hues of purple, crimson, and scarlet. To be spectacular the tree requires warm sunny days and cool crisp evenings to slow the closing of the leaf veins and trap an excess of sugar produced at this time. Due to the perfect weather of late, the reds this year are gorgeous.

However the shade and a foliage show are not all the leaves have to offer… their parting gift is perhaps the most important. The leaves drift from the trees and collect below, continuing their work by slowly decomposing. Over time they will add nutrients which create a dark rich soil that nourishes saplings as they grow to become forest giants like their parents. It is indeed a miraculous cycle.

*Note: Many Caddo Maples have changed in an unusual manner this year. The crown of the tree has changed to a brilliant scarlet, the center has changed to an orange, while the lower leaves have remained green. This is very much an oddity.