Friday, February 27, 2015

Birds of a feather, flock together!

You may recall a recent post on my Winter companion, the American robin 
who hasn't left the garden for several months. His long term 'rental', on
a fig tree branch complete with suet feeder, was tested yesterday following the 
night of heavy snow. 
Mid-morning, while awaiting the return of our power, and staring out the windows 
at the icy conditions, in flew a flock of obviously hungry robins who proceeded to
gobble the seed and crumbs thrown down until we could get to out refill the feeder.
Robins in this large number don't usually arrive until Spring.
Unable to determine which robin might be 'our robin' in such a large group, I was 
wondering if he would perhaps find a mate and leave our habitat with the flock when 
they flew off.
They did what robins do best, nibbled, stood around silently turning their heads and, 
after about 15 minutes they all disappeared.
ALL, except MY robin that is! 
Yes, he didn't leave with the flock!

Apparently he's sticking around to wait for Spring.
Still hanging about the fig tree, quietly sharing the suet feeder with other 
birds, then shuffling about, snacking on seeds and crumbs under the feeder. 
Perhaps he knows a good thing - daily meals no matter the weather, 
melted water in the bird bath for drinking and bathing. . . . .or perhaps he
just feels like he's one of the family here and doesn't want to move out!

Today the sun is shining, much of the 6" of heavy snow is falling 
from branches. Many trees and shrubs look sad, perhaps permanently 
pruned by the weight of the wet then frozen snow. Our cul-de-sac is heavily 
rutted with hard ice where 4-wheeled drive vehicles have been able to turn - we 
are not going out - no reason to take the risk with trees/branches down across
 neighborhood streets, schools and some businesses still closed, and many 
accidents on the highways.

Here's to Spring - sooner rather than later would be really welcome.

I just remembered and thought I'd share this little tidbit with you, my wonderful blogging friends.
Today, February 27, marks 8 years since I first hit that Publish button and became a blogger!
Wow time goes by quickly!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Night in the garden. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . and just where were you last night? 
At 1:30 AM I woke up and went to peek out the windows. Dark, yes. Normal 
dark when slumber muffles the brain and blurs the eyes, definitely not!
I flipped on the the lights in the gazebo hoping to see more. 

This was 'more'. The sky was actually very bright with heavy falling snow.
At 6 :30 AM the power went out. We were under six inches of wet snow, 
bending branches to the ground, snapping pine trees at their 
slender waistlines, silencing the neighborhood streets, and bringing the city 
to a halt yet again.

Our power returned around 11:00 AM. We were fortunate. Many of the 100,000 
area residents who lost power are still awaiting their supply to return. 
Many accidents have occurred taking down wires. The thaw is already well 
underway, however with bitter temperatures tonight, there will be a refreeze and 
tomorrow will be yet another stay close to home day for many, including me!

Suddenly this has become a very long, cold Winter here in the southeast.
Be safe if you too are in the path of these storms and bitter weather patterns.

Consider the Sparrow. . . . . . . . .

Identifying a bird is not really that difficult. By following few basic strategies 
you can increase your chances. First by color, then size, the bill shape, the habitat, 
the food they choose, flight patterns, even perching posture.
Of course having a really great field guide to birds found in your specific area is 
always very useful - I use Birds Of The Carolinas by Stan Tekiela - it has always 
been my favorite.

Waiting for a bird to stand still for more than a few seconds is hard, tiring,
and much patience is required
Believe me on this. . . . . . .I've been holding a camera at the window for long 
periods during this past cold, icy, snowy week, until my arms ached. 
Now and then it brings success and one captures a really good shot, so worth
the discomfort, if you love birds. I'm not a 'birder', but I am a 'bird-watcher' and I do 
love the way they bring movement and life to the garden, and I do spend a small 
fortune on birdseed.

This is the White-throated Sparrow, many are flitting around my garden this year.
A brown bird with gray tan chest and belly. Small yellow spot between the eyes.
Distinctive white or tan throat patch. White or tan stripes alternate with black on crown.
Color of throat patch and crown match. Female is same as male.
Without my field guide, which has much more information on this sweet bird, 
I would not have know this sparrow from the Song Sparrow, House Sparrow or 
Chipping Sparrow.

I am only a sparrow amongst a great flock of sparrows. . . 

~ Eva Peron ~

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Back Garden Morning . . . . . . .

There was a beautiful sunrise this morning . . . . . . . 

. . . . . . and still snow remaining, but after a sunny day it 
was almost gone by 7:00PM tonight.

Now here it is almost midnight. More snow is falling. . . 
a lot more. It's already a white world outside the windows 
again - I'll share more in the morning but doubt I'll
see the sun rise!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February Snow. . . . . . . .

Totally unexpected. Well they did say a few flurries possible. It started
around 6:30 am and was already sticking by the time I looked out at 7:30 am. 
It's still falling now, huge fluffy flakes flying by the window as I write, and it's 
almost 2:00 pm. We may get about three inches today. 
Of course this is nothing compared to up north, but for here in the south it means 
everything is shutting down again - just as the ice from last week melted and 
was a memory, and the kids returned to school yesterday, but are off again today.

I just had to let you see my flannel-robed snowman/birdman out early this morning 
to refill the feeders and toss some crumbs and seed out. Dozens of birds, and four 
squirrels, were looking for breakfast by 7:30 am - they know when the weather 
conditions will be bad.
Note Bob is none the worse for wear after yesterday's slip cover debacle!

Temperature will remain around freezing today so little melting expected.
Hope you enjoy these pics from my garden today. 
Another storm may pass through tomorrow night bringing 
more snow on Thursday morning. . . . . and here I was thinking
Spring was about to appear. 
That old Mother Nature is up to her trickery again.

Slip Cover battles!

Slip Covers. Love 'em or leave 'em?
Not sure if this post is informational or useless, but it stemmed from those 
too many days last week stuck in the cottage under two inches of solid ice!
 I do know that I'm rethinking slip covers for the future.
The sudden need to do something constructive on Thursday caught me unaware.
Before you could say 'TIDE with bleach alternative', I found myself stripping slip 
covers off the chairs, throwing them into the washing machine, and then, a little later, 
thinking about going Spring furniture shopping once the roads were thawed out and 
travel was safe again.
Why new furniture?
Because I now realize slip-covered furniture can turn the living room into a
 war zone once you reach a certain age.

I didn't even get around to the sofa cover, the main part has to go out to 
the laundromat - much too big for my washing machine - although I can do the 
the seat cushions here at home.
If you have slip covers you must live with someone else. Even a big dog or a 
feisty cat doesn't help in this situation.  
Preferably a strong-armed, patient person is required - and that's not me - who 
can push, shove, pull and squeeze those fat cushions back into those suddenly 
brilliantly clean, but oh so tight, covers. One can just about remove them for 
laundering, but trying to get the danged things back on again alone is impossible.

Bob is my patient person - without him I would be nothing!
I would never get the covers on, and even with him helping I was caught between 
throwing them at him, or suffocating him under them, when my patience gave out!  
We moved from the living room to the bedroom where we thought putting them on 
the bed would be easier. . . . .fighting those blasted seat cushions all the way.

A sweet little Italian lady custom-made my slip covers and did an amazing job.
They cost me a small fortune.
They're somewhat of a pain in the you-know-what. I love them and hate them.
 I would perhaps enjoy a new sofa that doesn't require a slip cover, but it's 
hard to find the right size for the room - most are gigantic and overwhelm the 
small space.  

Do you have slip covers? 
Does anyone make small sofas anymore?  Not love seats which are really too small.
Bob sustained no serious injuries on the battlefield!!!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Pancakes or crêpes?

I completely forgot about beating up a bowl of batter last week on Tuesday!
Yes, with that iron blanket of ice covering the city, I have to admit there were other 
things on my mind such as losing power (thankfully we didn't), and staying warm.

So, Shrove Tuesday or, as we always called it in England, Pancake Day, was 
forgotten, along with associated pancake races, the oldest on record still held by 
Olney, Buckinghamshire where housewives have been flipping those pancakes 
on the run since 1445!

Later in the week, still feeling guilty, I decided to heck with it, we'll celebrate 
late, and I set to beating my batter, squeezing my lemons, happily.

Yum, they were good and so easy to make. These are crêpe style pancakes, 
thin, light, flavorful, and require nothing more than the traditional sprinkle of fine 
castor sugar and fresh lemon juice to serve.

English childhood revisited, I was in heaven. Now wondering why I don't 
make these more often.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

American Robin redbreast. . . . . . . . . .

This special bird has become a fixture in my Winter garden.
Never leaving despite rain, wind, sleet, and a severe ice storm last week.
It stands motionless on the grass at times, or pecks around under the feeder.  
Sits on the bare branches of the fig tree, hops on to the suet feeder for a 
quick snack, even takes a drink or a quick bathe in the chilly bird bath. 
Looking out the dining room window on Friday I managed to get this special
closeup when it was drinking from the fountain by the front porch.
It warms my heart and makes me feel quite honored to have this 
one lone robin sharing my home all these months. 
I just hope it finds a mate come Spring!
"The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he 
opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off. 
Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off - and 
they are nearly always doing it."

~ Frances Hodgson Burnett - The Secret Garden ~

Saturday, February 21, 2015

When life slows down. . . . . .

There's really no rhyme or reason for this post. It just fell into place one cold 
afternoon this week when I was doing my physiotherapy exercises in the guest room. 
Unable to drive on the ice to a PT appointment was OK because I have my set of 
exercises to be done daily at home anyway. 
So what did I do after my little work out? Took photos of course!
So there I was, relaxing with the heating pad, looking up at the sparkly 
chandelier when I thought why not grab a camera and take photos of the room.
I just moved the camera randomly, snapping when I thought I might have 
something in focus - don't forget I was lying supine on the bed the entire time. 
I like what my lens captured. Shadows and light. Nothing was staged, not much 
editing, this is just how the room looks.