Hummingbird migration 2014

The hummingbirds are in the last stages of their migration back to Central America.  Since July my yard has been like an air raid zone with hummingbirds buzzing around the seven feeders and by the ones guarding feeders chasing the others around. One afternoon while up on a ladder washing the top of my truck, I almost had my ears buzzed off by one of the chases.

 I came home one afternoon a week and a half ago, and it was so quiet.  My quests had left on their migration.  A couple of days later, I had another large group hitting the feeders heavily.  After two inches of rain from Thursday night until Friday morning, they were hitting the feeders Saturday morning and had moved on with the cooler temperatures.  Today another smaller group has stopped to rest a spell. 

 When feeding don’t use the store bought red stuff, it may cause tumors of the tongue in the little birds.   You can easily make up a batch and store the leftover’s in the refrigerator.  Use one part sugar and four parts hot to boiling water, cool and fill feeders.  Be sure to clean the feeders every three to four days depending on the heat.  If you are having problems with ants you can make an ant guard with a cap from a spray can.  Cut a length of wire; file the ends to get rid of the sharp edge.  While wearing gloves, put a loop at one end.  Drill a hole a tad smaller than the wire in the middle of the cap.  Feed the wire through the hole and make a loop at the other end.  Caulk around the hole on top and inside, dry well and hang open end upwards on your hook.  Fill the cap with water and hang the feeder from the loop below.

 If you have praying mantis hanging on your feeder, move them to another spot away from the feeders.  They are good critters which have a voracious insect appetite, but apparently can’t tell the difference between hummers and a bumble bee.

Check out my GRIT magazine blog post on the Coondog Cemetery and Spring Valley VFD.

 Also my post on the W C Handy Festival

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Turks Cap Lilies hummingbirds and butterflies

Several years back when I ordered some lily bulbs, I also ordered  a Rubrum  and Scarlet Turks Cap Lily.  I knew nothing about them, but liked the looks of them, like tiger lilies but without the ugly spots.  Little did I know that I had purchased a butterfly and hummingbird magnet.  They just love these lilies.  They are long blooming and loaded with multi-branching stems each heavily flowered.  Ruby-throated hummingbirds will just sit and guard them like they do the feeders.  This year is no exception.  The lily clump has gotten so large in diameter that one is on one side and another guarding on the opposite side.

Turks cap lilies will grow up to nine feet tall.  They need a rich, well drained slightly acidic soil.  Dig down around twelve inches adding organic material and compost.  Plant bulbs six inches deep and nine to twelve inches apart as soon as possible after you receive them.  They will dry out easily.

Each fall mulch and add compost to help insulate the bulbs.   When blooming, they will last several days as cut flowers, but avoid cutting over a third of the stem as it will weaken the bulb’s vigor.  Growing zones are three through nine.

Don’t have room for a nine footer?  Another plant that is being guarded by a hummingbird is Black and Blue Salvia.  It is a perennial and has long navy blue flowers that hummers just love.

This year I really have a lot of hummingbirds.  It looks like a air raid zone around my six feeders.   I wonder if they didn’t migrate as far north this year with the crazy weather we’ve had.  The Hooligans will chase all other birds and even bark at them on the power lines and chase them across the yard as far as the underground fence will allow.  For some reason they don’t even pay attention to hummingbirds buzzing around the place.

Don’t feed the red kool aid stuff.  It causes tumors on their tongues.  Make up your own with one part of sugar and four parts hot to boiling water.  Cool and put in your feeders.  Change out ever three to five days depending on the temperature.  Keep any un-used in the refrigerator.


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If you have trouble with ants, make your own ant guard with a spray can lid, line and caulking.  Punch a smaller hole than your wire in the middle of the lid. Run the wire through the hole, make a loop on each end.  Caulk around the hole, putting a big glob in the inside to keep it from swaying.  Dry for 24 hrs and hang upside down between the feeder and hook. Fill with water.

Check out my GRIT magazine blog post on my W C Handy Music Festival vacation. 








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Helen Keller Festival 2014 blooms

I haven’t been able to visit my garden in a while.  Between Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)  and the antibiotic to treat it, I wasn’t able to get out in the sun nor heat.  I was bitten by 3 ticks about a month previously while mowing under the trees lining the dry creek down the side of my property.  Even when you don’t think you’ll need it, wear insect repellent.  I know several folks suffering from it and lyme disease this year. RMSF can be fatal if left untreated.

I was much better by the time the Helen Keller Festival rolled around and volunteered as a photographer this year.  Photos are being posted on Remember Tuscumbia on Facebook.  Here are a few of my blooms I found during that time.

Check out my last GRIT magazine blog post


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Sunday’s blooms

I ventured out to check on damage after last night’s storm.  A lot of oak leaves blown down on the ground. Other than that, there was little damage.

While out I took pictures of some of the new daylilies, lilium and crinum blooms.

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Tree swallows

Last summer, a pair of Tree swallows made a nest in one of the purple martin gourds.  Usually they nest within 100 feet of water and bathe by skimming across the water.  My yard isn’t anywhere near water, so they are nesting in an atypical location.   

 This year, they were back at the martin gourd along until they noticed a pair of Eastern bluebirds checking out a nearby box.  They kept swooping down on the bluebirds and eventually knocked the female off of the top of the box and had a rumble on the ground.  The next day, the swallows had taken up residence in the bluebird box.  The female did most of the nest building, using dried grass and lined it with feathers.  I checked on it about a week later and she had laid six eggs.

 The eggs hatched this week, so the parents have been busy swooping and doing aerobatics catching insects and speeding back to the box.   It’s funny to watch them. One will fly into the box, feed and sit with their head sticking out of the hole until a few seconds before the other flies in.  Some how they seem to be communicating and will guard the nest until the other parent brings food

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Rainy Sunday blooms

Went out this AM and took a few pictures of things in bloom today.  My Cornus Eternal, a double dogwood and Cornus Cherokee Princess, a dogwood with huge blooms are at their peak this week.  Several iris, clematis and others have started to bloom.


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First iris of spring 2014

May first iris in bloom made it’s appearance April 9.  A dwarf iris by the name of Cat’s Eye.


Cat’s Eye


The dogwoods are starting to bloom. Indeed, my most favorite time of the year.


dogwood across the street from ECM Hospital






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Cedar waxwings

Phillip Oliver, Master gardener and editor of a fine gardening blog Dirt Therapy mentioned this weekend that they had cedar waxwings in their yard.  The last time I remember seeing any was 20-25 years ago.  One of my apple trees was in full bloom and I watched about twenty of them clean all of the petals off of the tree and fly off.  You rarely see them alone;  they hit as a flock, clean a tree of berries, or blooms, cedar cones or ash buds.

As I left work I passed the street going by Phillip’s and Michael’s home, I wondered what they had blooming, and yelled to myself, waxwings! and made the turn up the street.  Micheal was at home and said they were in the garden a couple of days ago, but he hadn’t noticed them today.  I went back to my truck a put a telephoto lens on my camera and headed back into the yard.  The bird bath which was empty earlier, was just boiling with them.  I got as close as I could without chasing them off and got several shots.  In an instant they flew to a tree in the back corner of the yard.  From the distance I thought it might be a redbud, but from my location description, not knowing north, south, east or west orientation of their yard, Phillip thought it was a green ash.  It looked like the tree had 150-200 birds in it, just going to town cleaning off the buds.  Then as a flock they flew back to the bath and repeated the flight back to the tree.  

I stayed about an hour getting pictures between the tree and birdbath.  Just as I was leaving, I spied a woodpecker.  I’ve yet been able to get a good picture of one, and took a couple of long distant shots of it.   Maybe one day I’ll luck out like I did with the cedar waxwing goldmine.  

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Garden tour 2013 JANICE & B. J. KENNEDY

2013 is the first year in a while due to weather that the Master Gardeners have held a garden tour.  Nine gardens were on the tour April 13 and 14, 2014, and I spent the first Saturday touring all of them.   A late warm up had the wildflowers and spring blooming opening later than normal and all of our hosts worried.  A couple of days before the tour, the weather warmed up nicely and caused blooms to break out.  One of the gardens I revisited the next day had a big difference in the garden’s show.  

Today we re-visit the garden of Janice and B J Kennedy located on the bluffs along the Tennessee River in Sheffield.

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First day of March 2014

I made arrangements to take photos at a local farm, but the skies were so gloomy, I begged off until another day.  I usually land up discarding most of the photos I take on a day like this.  I started my day by going to Tuscumbia and dropping by the Tuscumbia Kiwanis Pancake Day for a late breakfast.  The place was packed.  I walked around for a while taking pictures and talking to folks I knew.  Those pictures may be found on Remember Tuscumbia on Facebook.  I decided that if I was going to get some yard work done, I needed to stop yakking and get a carry out.  Once home I heated up the pancakes and syrup just a tad and made another cup of coffee.

 Camera in tow, I walked around to see what needed to be hauled off to the burn pile which started as a wild cherry tree which broke off ten feet up after a storm.  I also wanted to see what was blooming.  A few of the old daffs I moved from an old home site a couple of years ago were just starting to bloom, along with a couple of Lenten rose, crocus and some cute  little flower I don’t remember planting.   I checked my Excel spreadsheet of the planting area and couldn’t find it on my map.  Several of my azaleas and gardenia’s don’t look like they survived the winter.  I’ll find out more when the weather warms up.  My native azaleas look just great and are getting ready to bloom.  My Toomers corner live oak seedling growing for the last twelve years 300 miles north of its comfort zone is looking stressed.

Bluebirds are checking out boxes already.  It’s time to clean them out if you haven’t already.

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 Of the three trees marked for removal, two, a Pink Lady and Gala apples were on the ground as a result of some high winds we had last winter.  I didn’t remove them last year was they were loaded with apples.  However it was a pain trying to mow around them, so they had to go before they bloomed and had fruit on them.  I attached them from the opposite direction they fell with the loader and broke them off easily.  The third was a plum tree that split up the length of the trunk during a late April freeze and snow a few years back.   Part of the tree was still living, but it wasn’t going to live too much longer.  One small bump with the loader and down it came.  A fourth tree bloomed and suddenly died and fell over last spring.  Since it was in a bed of iris and daylilies, I cut the limbs off and left the trunk trying to decide if it could be used some way.  Field rats had made a home under it, so off to be burned.  Blackie and Patches were busy digging and soon caught one.  Patches decided another was in the hole and dug down past her neck.  Every once in a while she would come up for air and the expression on her face was like a marathon runner wondering how many more miles to go.  After the rat hunt, Blackie and Levi did their daily rumble, almost knocking me off my feet.

 The rats apparently had gotten into the greenhouse this winter.  The Hooligans broke out the bottom panel of the storm door going after them, and had another hole where the siding cracked and fell off.  A bare trail runs from under the greenhouse out toward the tree which fell.  The contractor who built it was a good home builder, but knew nothing about building a greenhouse, even with a blueprint in hand.  I was drafty in the winter and too hot in the summer.  I plan to turn it into a garden screen room since I lost the one on the house when I constructed the garden room.

 I hooked a chain around the loader on my John Deere to the first tree and backed up to the burn pile.  On the way back for tree number two, I stopped and propped a young Pink Lady apple tree back up that the first tree toppled over.   After knocking tree number two over and hauling to the pile, I straighten up a nectarine that was knocked over in the fall.   After backing up pulling the fourth tree to the pile, I had myself boxed in by the other three trees.  After getting the tractor out of the corner I painted myself in, it was on to hauling off the limbs I trimmed off of my Toomers corner baby last fall.  Hopefully the trimming will induce it to have an acorn; that is if it survives this winter.   Next week weather folks are predicting another arctic blast.

 Check out my GRIT magazine blog post.  I try to include what is going on in the Shoals when posting. 

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