Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's New in the Veggie Garden?

veggies1   For various reasons, vegetable gardening seems to be more popular than ever before. You just can’t beat the great taste and the sense of accomplishment of growing your own vegetables. I grew up helping my dad in the garden. Laying out the rows, weeding and planting were some of my main duties. Not all of it was fun (especially the weeding), but as I got older it began to grow on me (pun intended).

Now, growing and maintaining my own vegetable garden has become one of my most enjoyable hobbies. I’m blessed to own a large lot in the country that allows me to have a big garden; although sometimes maintaining it feels like a curse because of my tendency to overdue it.

One of the big differences I’ve noticed between gardening then and now is the variety that’s out there to choose from. Back in the day gardeners were limited to what was sold locally. There were a few seed catalogs available like Burpee and Parks, but from what I remember we never really ordered much from them except for the occasional flower seed packet. Now, thanks mostly to the internet, there is access to a whole slew of companies with all sorts of vegetable plants and seeds. I often find myself experimenting with new varieties almost every spring. In fact, I try to make it a point to grow something new in the veggie garden each year. If I like it and it grows well, it may find a permanent home in the garden year after year. With that said, I want to share some new varieties that I’m trying this summer.

(1) I'm growing a different type of corn this year called 'Peaches and Cream'. it's a bicolor sweet corn with yellow and white kernels. I've tasted 'peaches and cream' and it's super sweet. I planted my corn a little over a week ago and as you can see it's on its way!


(2) I'm excited about a new variety of tomato that I'm trying this summer. It's an heirloom tomato called 'Amish Paste'. I ordered the plants from Appalachian Seeds Farm & Nursery.  I've never mail ordered tomato plants before so I hope those delicate babies aren't too banged up when they arrive. This nursery has a good reputation so I'm sure they'll be fine. They should arrive next week. I can taste the salsa now...


(3) I'm also trying a new variety of cucumbers called 'Satsuki Madori'. I first learned about these cucumbers from Willi over at DigginFood. Since then I've heard from a couple different sources that these are a delicious slicing cucumber. I'll definitely let you know! I ordered them (seeds) from Seeds of Change.

(4) Something new I'm trying this year is eggplant. I never cared for the taste of eggplant when I was growing up so understandably I never grew it in my garden...until now. I saw a cooking show sometime over the winter and the chef was making eggplant parmesan. Wow, it made my mouth water. So that's when I decided that I would try my hand at growing some. I did a little research and learned that eggplants require a somewhat long growing season and do best if started indoors (seeds) 8-10 weeks before that last frost. Since I didn't start them indoors I bought some transplants locally. Here are some good tips for growing eggplants:


(5) I'm also going to try butternut squash for the first time. I purchased my seeds recently and will be planting them soon. I've read that butternut is a good squash to grow if vine borers are a problem in your garden. Evidently, the stems on butternut squash are too tough for the borers to penetrate. We'll see...

So, what's growing in your veggie garden?


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Monday, April 27, 2009

CSN Promotional Offer

I wanted to write a quick post about something interesting that has come my way! I'm pleased to announce that I was recently contacted by a representative promoting outdoor furniture for a wonderful offer. I was a little skeptical at first because I wasn't that familiar with CSN stores; however, I quickly learned that CSN is a top 3 online U.S. retailer for all sorts of quality products.

The promotional division that I've been working with is Teak, Wicker & More. They offer a nice selection of outdoor and patio furniture among other outdoor and garden decor. I was allowed to pick an item of my choice (with a limit, of course) to keep and review. It was tough because they have so much to choose from. After going back and forth for a day or two I finally made my decision. I'm going to hold off for now on announcing what I selected. Once it comes in and I get a chance to set it up I'll be posting photos along with my review. So stay tuned!

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Mystery Eggs? The Killdeer


The mystery eggs from my previous post belong to the one and only killdeer (Charadrius vociferus). Way to go Colleen for guessing correctly!

Killdeer are part of the plover family and are considered shorebirds; however, it's a shorebird that you can see without going near the water. They like to roam around in open lawns, fields and parking lots. In my rural subdivision we have large open lots that attract killdeer, so it's not uncommon to find one of their nest in a nearby flowerbed or a patch of grass this time of year.


Killdeer tend to be noisy at times with a unique call that's unforgettable once you've heard it. If disturbed, their calls can even be heard at night.

I've put together a short video clip of the female killdeer setting on her eggs.

This video was captured with BirdCam. Visit Camera Critters to see more critters.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mystery Eggs - Wordless Wednesday

Anyone want to take a guess on what bird made this nest and laid these eggs?


Hint - here's it's range:


Get Wordless over at Wordless Wednesday


Monday, April 20, 2009

BirdCam Adventures 4

Yep, it's time again for a new BirdCam adventure series. This time I've picked a few of my favorite BirdCam shots from the peanut feeder. I like to call this series of photos "Peek-a-boo" (you'll se why in just a second). I hope you find these photos as cute and comical as I did.

BirdCam Adventure 4 comes just in time to submit to Bird Photography Weekly. Go there to see other great bird photography!

The following is the line-up of some of my curious and camera shy birds.

First up is the curious little Carolina Chickadee.CChickadee 

Here we have a White-Breasted Nuthatch.WBNuthatch2 

Here's a shy little Tufted Titmouse.TTitmouse2

A curious House Finch.HFinch

A very shy Red-Bellied Woodpecker.RBWoodpecker

Here's a curious female Red-Bellied Woodpecker.RBWoodpecker2

Another shy red-belly...I think I could have done a whole series on the red-bellies.RBWoodpecker3

Lastly, we have a American Goldfinch peaking from around the feeder.GFinch

This concludes another BirdCam adventure series. Have a great week everyone!



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Great Dismal Swamp Annual Birding Festival

logo 2009

I wanted to share some exiting news about the upcoming birding festival in our town next month. The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is hosting its annual birding festival on May 7- 9, 2009. The festival is strategically held during the height of the spring songbird migration so spectators can enjoy the greatest diversity of species. The festival includes interactive exhibits, guided bird walks, banding demonstrations, bird house building, etc, etc.

Whether you are an avid birder, or just happen to enjoy being out in nature, the Great Dismal Swamp is the place to be!

All events and activities are free; however, space on bus tours, guided walks, and workshops will be limited, so reservations will be required for some of these events. Call (757) 986-3705 for more information.

Here are links to my post from last years event:

D. S. Birding Festival - Part I, Bird Banding

D. S. Birding Festival - Part II, The Tour

D. S. Birding Festival - Part III, The Snake Handler

I hope to see some of you there!!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Seed Swapping with a Twist

image_nature001 Attention all you gardeners out there...

My friend Willi who blogs over at DigginFood is hosting a seed swap; however, this isn't any ordinary seed swap. Instead of just sending seeds, you must include one of your favorite recipes along with a packet of seeds for one of the recipe’s ingredients. She has all the instructions over at her site. If interested you can check out all the details here:


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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April Showers bring April Flowers...

Well, the winter blues should be just about behind us as spring has begun to set in. If my allergies could reach an agreement with all this pollen then maybe I could enjoy it a little more! I'm sure it will get better soon. The warmer temperatures and spring blooms seem to cure most of what ails us.

The recent cooler temps and wet spring we're having here in SE Virginia hasn't slowed the spring blooms from returning. All seems to be close to schedule and in full force. Here's my Bloom Day lineup for this month.

First, I'll start out with some old (but good) standby bloomers. We didn't plant pansies this spring but we've had some that's over wintered in pots. I haven't deadheaded these like I should but they don't seem to be bothered by it. They just keep right on doing what they do.IMG_3368

Another hardy standby is this narcissus (daffodil). I have a few of these in my front flowerbed that are still hanging on. IMG_3393

Now here's a plant that you wouldn't normally associate with the other bloomers. It's the holly. These shrubs, now in full bloom (if you look closely), are part of my front foundation bed. And believe it or not, the honey bees and other pollinators are all over them right now. As a bonus, they're very, very fragrant as well. It's nice to catch a whiff of them as I enter and exit the house. I'm not sure what variety of holly they are. They were planted before we moved in three years ago. If anyone can tell by these photos please let me know. IMG_3384

There's a honey bee below gathering pollen from one of the holly blooms.IMG_3372

Besides bees, hollies benefit other wildlife as well. Their dense evergreen foliage provide cover and protection, while their berries provide food.

Look what I found while photographing these holly shrubs. Look closely in the below photo and you can see a small birds nest with four little blue eggs in it. This is a the nest of a chipping sparrow. Chipping sparrows make their nest in dense shrubs, usually just a few feet from the ground. Very cool!IMG_3374

And speaking of pollinators, here's another native that the bees love this time of year. Its the gelsemium sempervirens, 'Carolina jasmine'. These vines have been in full bloom for a couple weeks now. They are heavy springtime bloomers and sometimes I'll get a few blooms from this in the fall. I like the fact that these are evergreen as well.IMG_3406

Very fast growing vine but very manageable.IMG_3409

Next is my kwanza cherry tree. This was a gift from my parents last spring. Lots of blooms beginning to open up. Its an early spring bloomer, but not quite as early as the flowering pear and other fruit trees. These are what I call the "second round" bloomers.IMG_3388

Very showy...IMG_3389

Now here's a new plant that I don't know that much about - 'Marsh Marigold'. What I do know is that they grow in a clump type fashion and will spread quickly if grown in the right conditions; which is moist, damp, partial sunny areas. They have attractive green foliage accompanied by little yellow blooms that pop-up throughout the foliage. I dug up several clumps from my parents place and planted them in the back corner of my property. It's the lowest area in my yard and the last place that would dry out. I'm not sure how they'll do but thought they would make a nice groundcover below the shrubs I have planted in that area. They keep their green color in the winter and begin blooming in our area in late winter.IMG_3400

Next is one of my favorites - Lonicera sempervirens, 'Alabama Crimson' honeysuckle. This is a wonderful vine for attracting hummingbirds. I've already seen ruby-throated hummingbirds sipping nectar from it this spring. If I'm not mistaking, it's a native honeysuckle vine. I have this second year vine climbing up my deck post.IMG_3412

These blooms begin forming in late winter and are now beginning to open.IMG_3417

Here's another native and another one of my favorites - amelanchier arborea, 'Serviceberry'. Serviceberry's can be grown as a small tree or large shrub. They have clusters of white flowers in the spring followed by berries that mature in summer. The berries are edible and I have heard that they are very good, if you can beat the birds to them. It's a great alternative to the ornamental flowering pear or crape myrtle tree. This particular one was planted last fall and I just recently purchased a second one (thanks Les!). ServiceBerry Blooms

Last but not least is my dwarf patio peach tree. Most of the blooms from this tree have faded but there were a few good ones still remaining. I have this planted on the corner of house by the deck. These are very small fruit trees and will grow well in containers.IMG_3418

Please go and check out May Dreams Garden to see what else is in bloom.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

DIY Chickadee Nest Tube, Part 2


The above photo is of a Carolina Chickadee taken with my Wingscapes BirdCam. They're fun little birds to watch. I've had a pair in my backyard for most of the winter. According to the Cornell Lab - All About Birds website, the pair bond between a male and female Carolina Chickadee can remain intact for many years. The probability that a pair will remain together seems to vary among regional populations.

You may remember my post from a month or so ago on making your own chickadee nest tube. I'm not the construction type, but I found the instructions fairly easy to follow and in one Saturday afternoon I had it built, painted and mounted in place. I've laid out some of my steps below. Refer to the plan for the complete details. Keep in mind that there's always more than one way to do something. I did what worked best for me with the tools that I had on hand.

Here are the two main items needed - a 10' section of pvc pipe (4" diameter) and a 6' fence Post (I believe these are called T-fence post). Keep in mind that this is the thin walled pvc pipe with the flared edge on one end, as opposed to the thicker straight, slightly more expensive pvc pipe. If you can find some recycled scrap pieces then all the better.


The 10' section of pvc requires two cuts in accordance with the plans. Once my cuts were marked, I used a standard hacksaw to cut the pipe. It's easier to make a straight cut if you twist the pipe as you cut.


The entrance hole should be 1-1/8 inch in diameter. I happened to have a paddle drill bit that same exact size. These drill bits are not the best choice to use on this type of material. There made for drilling into wood; however, since this is what I had I made it work. First mark the the center of where the hole is to be drilled out and drilled a pilot hole. I then inserted the center of the paddle drill bit in the pilot hole and ran my drill back and forth until it broke through. It didn't make the prettiest circle but I'm sure the chickadees wont mind. Just be sure to use a file or sandpaper to remove any sharp loose pieces.


I had a some scrape 1/2" thick cedar wood that I used to make a round plug (using my jig saw) for the bottom floor of the house. I inserted the plug and used screws to secure it in place as shown below. If you decide to use screws as I did be sure to insert the bottom plug high enough into the tube so that when the coupling is inserted it doesn't interfere with the outside heads of the screws.


Once all cut and put together I spay painted the tube with a coat of brown paint first. Once that had dried I spray painted another coat on top of that using a dark green color. Don't spend too much time painting the tube. I did both coats fast and somewhat uneven to give it a more natural look that will blend in better with the surrounding landscape.

I then hammered the fence post into the ground keeping it as level as possible. I then attached it to the pvc using 2" exterior screws. The fence post already comes with pre-drilled holes so that's where I drilled my screws.


Below is the bottom section installed on the fence post. All that's left is to slip on the top half.


Here is the complete assembly (below). Hopefully the small shrubs planted around it will grow taller within the next couple of years and help it to blend in better.


Chickadees like to excavate their own nest so before putting the top cap on be sure to fill the cavity with wood shavings.


Like I mentioned earlier, this was a fun, easy project that I did in one afternoon. Total price of this project was about $25.00. I'll be sure to follow up when or if a chickadee pair decide to make it their home.

Related post:


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter

Cover Photo by Alan Pulley 2007

Happy Easter weekend everyone! God bless!

Check out more camera critters here:

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Tree - Marvelous Malus

PCrabapple (3)

Here's a new tree I added to my landscape just three weeks ago. Can you tell what kind it is?

It's the Malus 'Prairifire' crabapple tree. This tree has been on my wish list for a while now, but I haven't had any luck finding it; however, I have to admit that I haven't been too active in my search for it either.

About 3 weeks ago I stopped by a local Food Lion grocery store to pick up a couple things and noticed on my way in that they had a few trees for sale sitting out front. I've noticed that most of the larger supermarkets put out a few trees this time of year, but their mostly the common predictable type trees, i.e. bradford pear. I had a little time so I decided to take a quick look - mostly just out of curiosity. Well, guess what? I'm glad I did stop to look because there it was! The prairefire crabapple tree. Of all places one could think of, I definitely wouldn't have guessed Food Lion.  When I took the tag off and went inside to give it to the cashier to ring up she just looked at it as if she didn't know what to do - evidently they don't sell to0 many trees there. The price at $13.99 was very reasonable I thought for a 6' tree.

It wasn't blooming when I planted it, but the recent warm weather has woke it up.

 PCrabapple (2)

The crabapple can hang with the best of them when it comes to spring blooms. They also look great in the fall and they provide fruit late in the season that attract and provide food for the birds. Crabs also come in a range of sizes that will fit well into almost any landscape.

For more information on crabapple trees check out this 2005 article by the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. They also rate the top 10 crabs. 'Prairifire' was rated at #8.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Facebook Troubles

This is just a quick post to inform all my blogger Facebook friends that my Facebook page was recently hacked. Apparently, the hacker is asking many of my friends for money on my behalf. Please be aware that if you receive any recent messages from me on Facebook it's not me!

The hacker changed my password so I can't even log in!! I have notified Facebook via email so hopefully the account will be removed within the next day or so.

Here is some additional information on this scam:


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Friday, April 3, 2009

Nesting Blues


Over the last couple weeks I've enjoyed watching Eastern Bluebirds take up residence in one of my nest boxes. Once committed, they work frantically entering and exiting the nest, carrying bits and pieces of grass and pine straw to it. This particular nest box is attached to my grape vine trellis located in the back yard.

In this photo the female (the one hanging on the front of the house) is carrying some nesting material in her beak and is about to pack it in the nest box. The female bluebird does about 95% of the nest building. The male will occasionally bring nesting material to the nest in the beginning but it doesn't last long. I've also noticed that whatever little contribution he does make tends to be redone by the female (sound familiar?).

This particular nest is getting close to completion. Hopefully there will be eggs in a few days!

Camera Critters

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cleaning Under Bird Feeders Just got a Little Easier

 I'm pleased to be trying a new product (new to me) that I first learned about a couple weeks back on the Birdwatch Radio podcast. The product is called Seed & Hull Digester, by CareFree Enzymes.


Those that feed birds know that it's important to keep not only your feeders clean, but the ground area around the feeders as well. The ground beneath bird feeders can become contaminated with bird droppings and moldy birdseed over time, creating a habitat for unwanted parasites and harmful bacteria.

Seed & Hull Digester is a spray, made up of all natural enzymes. It works to remove harmful contaminates under bird feeders by quickly breaking down the hulls and other organic material, speeding up the decomposing process and digesting them down into basic components that can be absorbed into the environment.

The directions are simple: Hook the bottle up to a water hose, turn it on and spray for approximately 30 seconds under your feeders. The directions recommended using this spray about once every two weeks.



The company claims that this product will not harm the integrity of the birdseed itself, nor harm the birds or other animals.

Seed & Hull Digester comes in a 32 oz bottle. CareFree Enzymes Co. doesn't sell directly from their website so I ordered mine from Wild Class Nature Center for $12.99 plus shipping. I'm figuring one bottle will last me most of the summer. I'll probably continue to rake under the feeders when needed, but now that I have this, I'll feel a little more at ease about preventing bird diseases.