Beautiful Winter Browns

lots of goldfinches

The cold winds are blowing ever onward. We had another blast of very cold air last week and I noticed a particularly large flock of birds eating at my feeders. In this photo, I think I can see about 50 goldfinches plus a couple juncos eating seeds off our side porch and from the thistle feeder in the background (click the image for a larger photo and you can try to count them yourself). I resorted to spilling seeds on the porch just to have enough area to feed them all.

While it’s been cold, we’ve only had periodic dustings of snow–just enough to show the critters’ comings and goings around our house. I’ve been on the lookout for raccoon tracks, but (thankfully) haven’t seen any. There have been plenty of tracks from a couple marauding cats and, of course, all the birds.

birds

cat dance

There is  beauty in my brown garden.

brown garden

This year I left the dry astrilbe seed heads and I like their addition to my winter garden along with the dried hydrangea flowers and assorted leaves still clinging to plants.

astrilbe

hydrangea 1

blackberry leaf

lace cap

fern

All the wind in the bare trees has kept my wind chimes in motion. It’s even been enough to activate the little bells that are part of the tree jewelry I made last summer. I got a new chime for Christmas and I’m experimenting to find out where to put it so it will ring. So far I haven’t heard it, so I’ll have to keep working on it. It sure looks nice, though.

bells

bell close-up

Life isn’t only shades of brown, though. Inside my house I’ve got four orchids in bloom and one working its way toward a bloom.

points of color

 

Storm, You Disappoint Me!

The frigid weather blasted into Evansville on Sunday evening. It was accompanied not by the poetic grace of snow but by lousy rain. I was so disappointed.

We did get a dusting of just enough snow for things to look festive as we watched the temperatures plummet and hoped for furnaces to keep working and pipes not to freeze. The lowest temperature that my thermometer registered was -2.8 degrees, and that was with gusty winds so the windchill was much colder.

The weather guy wants a few more layers

Monday I watched a frigid sun rise.

frosty panes

sky light

Sunrise

Meanwhile, I’ve never seen my feeders so bird-encrusted.

hungry birds

I’m reading a new book, Birds in the Yard, Month by Month by Sharon Sorenson, the woman who writes a column about backyard birding for the local paper. I started with the chapters on January, February, and March, and she spends a lot of the time talking about how much energy birds need to consume in the winter just to stay alive.

The coldest morning, the birds were sucking down the thistle seeds and I could see that the feeder would be empty before dawn the next day. I went to the shed for refills, but the lock was frozen solid.

Holding the lock between my double-mittened hands.

Didn’t work.

Heating the key with a flame before putting it in the lock.

Didn’t work.

Pouring rubbing alcohol over the lock.

Didn’t work. Gloves now smelly.

Look at those poor, freezing birds, Amy! Do it for them!

Pouring a jug of hot water over the lock.

The tumblers released!

I filled the bird feeders and put the bags of birdseed in our kitchen so it would be easy to get to.

The birds weren’t the only ones who were happy about filled feeders.

Cat TV

Looking Back, Thinking Forward

One of the things I final photo of 2013accomplished over the Christmas break was finishing my seed orders for the upcoming year.  I spent part of a couple days flipping through the colorful, glossy, extra large photos of prime produce in my seed catalogs and reading the luscious descriptions of flavors and scents.

I resisted temptation this year: I only got a few more things than I can reasonably fit into my garden and I didn’t get any of my previous years’ duds, meaning no carrots, squash, peas, melons (well, OK, a couple melons), or spinach. This year I am going to try a couple varieties of the (super hip) blue tomatoes, so wish me luck.

Garden projects I’d love to do in the next year:

  • Create a pool of moving water for the birds
  • Turn the container garden area into a real raised bed
  • Paint the exterior of the house so I can finally create gardens where the painters will need to tread (I spent vacation time creating a way to test color ideas in Photoshop)house front good idea 1
  • Repaint the blackberry trellis
  • Relax and Enjoy my garden space!

Activity at my bird feeder has picked up. Each morning finds 7-8 goldfinches hanging on the thistle feeder in their butter-kissed but drab winter attire. There are also masses of English sparrows, doves, house finches, and cute little juncos that Shamoo loves to watch. Several days ago the woodpeckers were out. In addition to one of the usual downy woodpeckers, I was treated to seeing a red-bellied woodpecker helping himself to some sunflower seeds.

Looking back at the past year, I put together videos reviewing 2013 in my garden. They’re a series of photos I took out my back door roughly once a week. I had forgotten that the houses across the alley from us were built in early 2013. The construction activity is one point of interest.

Vegetables:

and

Perennials: