Sunday, January 30, 2011

Camellia Sprouts!

I'm not exactly sure of the time these took to get to this point, somewhere between 2.5 and 3 months. I placed 6 camellia seeds in a zip lock bag with a damp paper towel, checked it once a week for 6 weeks, 1 or 2 two had slightly sprouted by 6 weeks. Then I forgot about them around Christmas until last night. Out of the 6 seeds I planted 5- 4 inch pots today, only 1 did not make it. At the time I was sprouting these I also planted some in the garden, I believe they might be sprouting too!

 Needless to say I'm pretty excited about these camellias. To be honest it might be 4-5 years before we ever see a bloom. I read that every camellia seed can grow into its own  flower depending on its parent plants..
The weather today was supposed to reach 60, our thermometer on the shed wall said 65 degrees. I took off my outer shirt about 10 am and wore a tee shirt until about 5 pm today. We planted the rest of our bulbs(daffodil, crocus and anemone)  in the garden(finally). I also cut a bunch of giant bamboo into 1 foot spikes and pounded them into the ground to make a garden border.

Later we went to walk the Poets Walk in Hillsborough. Funny we saw a barefoot walking guitar player and a guy with a black cat on his shoulder. Beautiful day!
The crocus I posted recently looked to become 2 blooms yesterday, this morning it was 3 blooms as in the photos and later a few inches away 2 more blooms opened, making 5 blooms. Daffodils, crocus, rock irises and snow drops are peeking out of the ground.

Friday in Chapel Hill I saw 2 mounds of thrift blooming and on Saturday we walked with Megs mom at her retirement house and found 4 camellia blooming.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Titmouse Crash and Crocus

Beautiful sunny day here expected to reach 43 degrees today! After my post yesterday a Tufted Titmouse crashed into the big window, then landed on one of the iron chairs on the porch. Valentine the cat woke from her sleep inside and knew what had happened. In minutes she was out there, I went out and chased her away. The titmouse stayed put so I grabbed the little camera and took a few close ups from an inch away. After I took maybe 10 photos I coaxed her into flying to a safer place.
 Here is the Tufted Titmouse perched on the chair, notice the tail is turned down. Never seen a tail turned down like this on bird, must have been hurting pretty bad!
 Such a cute little bird. The feather details really came out good with my G11 camera, I hear there is now a G12. I purchased the G11 just after it came out, so far I have taken almost 5500 photos with it.
No fear here....
 Carolina Wren on the oak tree. These guys are very curious, yet for some reason they are one of the hardest birds to photograph.  They visit the compost bin much more often that the feeders.
Red-bellied Woodpecker, you can see the long claws very well here. I took this photo through the window without flash as the flash bounces back on the glass. This was a full f stop under exposed so I adjusted it in raw format using Photoshop CS5.
 I bet most of you that feed the birds get tired of squirrels raiding the feeders. I do as well, but when you capture a few photos like these one might think it is worth it to have them around.

These were taken by poking my camera out the screen door of the porch.
While spreading mulch yesterday I found this under some leaves. I looked it up from last year it is Crocus ancyrensis "Golden Bunch" For those of you that are new to the blog this crocus was on this post.

FYI the mulch yesterday ended up being 35 or 36 large wheelbarrows full. If I calculated correctly that comes out to 60 cents a wheelbarrow load. I spread it in more paths that any previous loads we have received.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Birdy Day with a Milestone!

Bird activity is high this morning, cloudy skies and in the low 20s out there. I worked at two jobs this week, one I saw a Brown Creeper out the window. The other job has a feeder right outside where I'm working, it had 2 Pine Siskins and a Brown Nuthatch on it.  Not sure if we have ever had a Brown Nuthatch here before, they like lots of Lobolly Pines. I can see 4 Lobollys out the window here in the neighbors forest, a few years ago the huge property behind them had most of the Lobollys timbered.

The Pine Warbler has been to the suet three times already this morning! I heard it calling a few minutes ago when I was outside, the call can be heard here. In 12 years of living here I have never seen more than one Pine Warbler at the feeders. BTW their favorite habitat is Lobolly Pines.
This is the Brown Creeper photo I took on Thursday. It jumped because of the flash. See the long toe nails? Pretty amazing. I'm looking forward to seeing Janet's photo of the Brown Creeper. These guys are hyper active and never sit still. I did see one this morning near the suet feeders, then it as always climbed up the tree.
Female Cardinal perched on a persimmon branch.

 This morning I did manage to stick my camera out the door and get this photo of a Downy Woodpecker. I wanted the Carolina Wren, but it vacated as soon as I stepped outside.
Yesterday I took 1.25 tons of debris from a 3 x 6 tiled shower I'm re doing to the landfill. I could not believe this shower had so much weight to it. Anyway while I had the trailer at the landfill I bought a scoop of mulch made at the landfill for $21. The mulch was piled 3 foot higher than the scoop and dumped into my trailer. I had a knock away about 2 wheelbarrow loads after he loaded it too full. Pretty good deal don't you think? The compost is $28 I think, that is my next mission while at the landfill. Guess what I have on my agenda today? Making those garden paths so we don't get mud on our feet.

My blog got a fair number of hits this week linked from a tattoo design site. I went to check it out and found you had to pay to subscribe to enter the site. I wrote them and hope they will take down the link to my site. I have a lot of butterfly and dragonfly photos here, I don't mind if someone writes me asking permission to use my images for a tattoo. Charging them to see my images/pages it not at all agreeable to me.

Oh one last thing, this blog will be soon hitting a new milestone, 3000 comments. never could have imagined we'd ever get this many comments. Yours might be the 3000th comment! In 3 weeks our 2nd blog anniversary. A very warm thanks to all of you that have left comments!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hellebore blooms and salad greens

Yesterday it reached 57 degrees and in the morning I noticed the Helleborus niger blooms were open, Oh and thanks Daisy you should know where the paths are when you go to the bathroom in the yard. It is muddy enough out there without Daisy's surprises everywhere.

Today I got off work early so with the balmy 50 degree temps I walked around the garden. I watched the ground a little more closely as I walked about.
Here is the Helleborus Niger blooms that have been covered five times in snow thus far. The stems are short but appear to be growing.
 I think this is some of the Snowdrops planted in the garden last fall. I found only 3 sprouts like this. This morning I looked for dwarf irises, did seen a thing, this afternoon I see 5 sprouts of dwarf irises!
Pansies sure look better than a week ago when covered in snow and ice.

 Here is a peek inside the hoop cold-frame, kale on the left and in the back, lettuce in the middle and on the right and featured below a lettuce mix that Meg planted seeds in November. Note that there is no path inside, we planted this not planning on building a cold-frame over it. Once these greens are done I plan on adding compost and making two rows with a path in the center. Can you see the peas?

 The other little cold frame. On the left my favorite mustard greens, then rape in the middle and in the back more lettuce that we have just started picking.
 Here is a batch of mustard greens picked today.
Same tub with kale on top of the mustard greens. Last night I picked about 2/3 the amount show here and we steamed it, oh my....... Looks like I might have to give my current customer some of this kale as it won't be long before we have more than we can eat.

In case your wondering the table is the bistro table I made with concrete and sea glass, it was a mock up of our kitchen counter tops.

Birds, more birds. The Brown Creeper I have seen it twice at the peanut suet feeder today in the past hour. I did get a photo, they do not like flash. The toenails are super long guess that is how they walk up trees so easily. Next post stay tuned.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pine Siskin and Pine Warbler Revisited!

Today the suet feeders attracked a Pine Warbler. I grabbed the camera and took one photo before it left. But to my good fortune I saw a "House Finch" at close range in the cedar tree. I took three photos then realized after seeing more than just its face it was a Pine Siskin in my camera sights!

This is the second Pine Siskin here this season, very can be very rare most winters. If the seed crops they eat further north fail they head further south to us. Guessing all the snow that everyone has or had north of us has brought them here. Later I went out for over an hour and never saw another siskin. And I had been watching the feeders on and off all day from inside.

I saw a Brown Creeper three times today, the first time at the peanut suet feeder, so it is a NEW BIRD on our feeders! I did get one photo of it on the side of the oak tree, but it flew off mid click and all I got were wings. Would have made a great photo, guess I'll have to keep trying.
 My first shot of the Pine Siskin, looks like a deer in my headlights doesn't? Hard to make an ID on just this look.
 See that finch  beak on the Pine Siskin.
 Here the Pine Siskin on my very old feeder, you can see the yellow feather under the mid section of the wing.
Here the Pine Siskin was about to fly off, the yellow under its wings is displayed.
 Here the Pine Warbler is grabbing some take out peanut suet!
 First visitor to the new suet block. There is a peanut suet right under this one.
 My favorite photo of the Pine Warbler.
Pine Warbler on the side of the tree. They are also tree walkers.
 Just a lucky shot of an Carolina Chickadee about to take off.
Today we had some pretty hungry Tufted Titmouse, normally they stay clear when I'm out with the big camera. I had 4-5 of them coming in and out a lot.

It should be raining soon, most of out snow is gone and the pond is watery and the edges. The hellebore I posted photos of recently have grown maybe an inch in the stems.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tree Walkers

This morning about 8AM I saw 2 Downy Woodpeckers on the oak tree near the deck. While watching the Downy Woodpeckers a Brown Creeper appeared on the oak, number 7 if I recall correctly. I was not fully awake and wearing jeans, tee shirt and socks, I grabbed the camera, memory card and battery and walked out on the deck. Still winter this was not the best discussion to be out there in a tee and socks, but I managed to get a few photos of the Downy Woodpecker and the Brown Creeper was on a higher limb and I got 2 photos of it also.
 Here is the Brown Creeper, it is tiny so don't let the photo fool you.  Notice the tail, the feathers are stiff and the creeper uses the tail to help it walk up trees. Creepers almost always spiral their way up trees and rarely(if ever) do they go down the tree. This guy I was hopeful it would check out my suet feeder as it got 3 inches from it and just kept climbing the tree.
Here is the White-breasted Nuthatch, they climb up and down the trees at will. These are very curious and can make a lot of noise. 

Downy Woodpecker a tree walker also. I love watching this small woodpecker edging its way along the tree. See how tiny the bill is? The Hairy Woodpecker looks a lot like the Downy but it is larger and the bill is about 50% longer. Hairy Woodpeckers tend to visit very dead trees and they like to knock off the bark while searching for beetles under the bark.
The other tree walkers we have here not shown are Hairy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers(winter resident only), Yellow-shafted Flicker, Piliated Woodpecker and rarely during bad winters Red-breasted Nuthatches.

Other small birds like Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren and Tufted Titmouse to name a few will once and a while walk a little on the sides of trees too.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ice Spiders!

For more than a week the pond here at paradise has been covered up in ice spiders, nine large ones to be precise. Where did they come from? I watched a sci-fi movie with the exact title I believe.

No not science fiction, I think they appeared as the pond was melting during a warm spell. The pond then refroze and they have remained on the pond. This is the first time I have seen anything like this on a pond. On Tuesday I did see Cardinals and then Gold Finches drinking out of one of the ice spiders.
 Here is the biggest Ice Spider, notice the clear spot in the center? Water might be bubbling  out as the pond evaporates and the ice falls with the water level.
 Two Ice Spiders a breeding pair perhaps?
There is the pond from this morning, I see nine large Ice Spiders. See the white drain pipe on the upper left of the photo? The top of that pipe is the highest water level the pond can reach.
 After I took the photo of the Ice Spiders this morning I filled the bird feeders off our deck. This Carolina Chickadee was perched on this red bud limb. I went inside got the camera and memory card and went back outside and took this photo. Chickadees are certainly the tamest birds we have here. I know people that have trained these wild birds to eat out of their hands.

In case any of you were wondering who helps me with the blog here. Dot the Wonder Dog is my assistant, here she is helping and doing what she does best. I took this photo while building this posting.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Birds in the garden

Hope all of you with snow and ice are safe! We got lucky Monday night as we only got maybe an inch of snow. It misted all day yesterday you could not see any rain but you could feel it when walking around outside. The mist and my camera did not seem like a great idea, so I set up a chair under the porch and waited for the birds to come back to the feeders.

We had our second visit from a single Bluejay, I do not have any photos of this beautiful bird. The Bluejay was out there before I went out to photograph and never returned. Bluejays like neighborhoods not forest like where we live, in fact I lived here 3 years before I ever saw one here.

 Song Sparrow on top of the hoop house cold frame covered in snow. We have mainly 3 different sparrows in the winter here, White-throated Sparrow(the most common), Chipping Sparrow and Song Sparrow as seen here they are our only year round resident sparrow. A fourth sparrow the Fox Sparrow has been seen in years past but has not made an appearance in years here.

 Pondering Song Sparrow.
 Female Northern Cardinal ready to fly.

Here is an image I adjusted in Photoshop by using poster edges, a very simple trick, pretty neat?
 Telephoto shot of the top of the new bottle tree. I added a clear bottle to the top. The second bottle down is an 8 ounce caster oil bottle I found. You also can see 1.5 liter, .75 liter and 6 ounce Riesling bottles.

One special bird returned yesterday while I had the camera out, a Brown Creeper made its 6th appearance this winter on the white oak by our deck. I took photos but they were too poor to post here.
So one might ask what is blooming in out garden. Here is our Helleborus niger covered ice ice and snow. This was the 5th time these blooms have been buried in snow or ice, tough plant don't you think?
One of the front garden pansies covered up in snow and ice. The pansies and violas under the over hang of our porch not covered in snow look pretty bad because they do not have the protection the snow gives them during temps down in the 20s.

Be sure to check out the dog treat or dog cookie  recipe on my last posting.