A Summer Flashback: Goldfinch

Goldfinch

A goldfinch that landed on the mirror of our car while I was waiting for my husband in the parking lot!

 

Goldfinches

In the fields
we let them have-
in the fields
we don’t want yet
where thistles rise
out of the marshlands of spring, and spring open-
each bud
a settlement of riches
a coin of reddish fire-
the finches
wait for midsummer,
for the long days
for the brass heat,
for the seeds to begin to form in the hardening thistles,
dazzling as the teeth of mice,
but black
filling the face of every flower.
Then they drop from the sky.
A buttery gold,
they swing on the thistles, they gather
the silvery down, they carry it
in their finchy beaks
to the edges of the fields,
to the trees
as though their minds were on fire
with the flower of one perfect idea-
and there they build their nests
and lay their pale-blue eggs, every year,
and every year
the hatchlings wake in the swaying branches,
in the silver baskets
and love the world.
Is it necessary to say any more?
Have you heard them singing in the wind, above the final fields?
Have you ever been so happy in your life?

~Mary Oliver

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Pumpkin Fun

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There was one pumpkin from our Halloween collection that we didn’t carve into a Jack-o-Lantern. Those that we carved into Halloween pumpkin faces have already drooped and been thrown into the compost heap, but this one last pumpkin provided an afternoon of fun for us out our kitchen window. Hubby cut it in half and put the halves in the oak stump garden and we stood at our kitchen window to see what would happen. The show was highly entertaining!

What curious birds and critters we have in this neighborhood! The Scrub Jays immediately appeared to check it out, and tasted a few of the seeds. The Northern Flicker flew to the top of the birdhouse and looked down curiously at these things. A few minutes later a Spotted Towhee took its turn checking out this new “stuff.” The little birds: sparrows, chickadees, and a junco were fluttering in the hedge waiting their turn but weren’t bold enough to interfere with the curious bigger birds.

It wasn’t too long before the squirrels arrived. Two of them, jealously chasing each other away from “their” newfound loot. They started feasting. First, sitting on haunches eating the seeds with some delicacy, then, chowing down on the inside part of the pumpkin.

A little while later, we looked out to see a black cat sitting near the pumpkin, keeping a close eye on the squirrels. Boldly cautious, the squirrels continued feasting. But when one made a slight move away, the cat chased the squirrel full-speed up the oak tree. But not for long! Cat got bored and went elsewhere. Squirrels returned to their Fall treat.

What a pleasant afternoon’s entertainment in our garden!

 

 

Goodbye to the Sunflower Garden

sunflower heads

This week we said goodbye to our sunflower garden. In June, we planted Sunspot Sunflowers in the sunny patch of ground on the other side of our little garage and along the alleyway and sidewalk.  Inspired by the photographs of sunflower fields in France, (we watch the Tour de France every summer, and those shots of bicycles and sunflower fields were my inspiration) we planted masses of seeds. The next door neighbor cautioned us that we were planting them too close together and that the plants would compete for nutrients, but we massed them together anyway and our Sunflower Garden was glorious. Neighbors walking by stopped to take photographs or to ask questions about what kind of sunflowers we had planted. The garden brought us many compliments and many pleasant conversations with neighbors we hadn’t met before.

But this week it was time to prepare that garden for winter. The flowers were spent, with heads bent over in woe, “mourning the end of summer”, as my friend described them. Time to clear them out. I cut off the heads and put them in paper bags to dry for the winter and then started pulling sunflowers. I didn’t count how many were growing in our mini-field, but it took me three days to complete the job.

Next, we will till the ground and plant a winter cover crop like we did last winter, only this time we will plant Austrian Winter Peas to enrich the soil. When Spring comes, we will build and plant our Butterfly Garden there. My dream is to create a butterfly garden that can be an official certified wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.

This summer of sunflowers was a wonderful gardening experience!

 

Listening to the Garden

acorn

We have been busy this week with a late summer project. Hubby is putting a new roof on the old garage, and I have been helping him by whitewashing the boards that will be under the shingles. The white painted side will face down and brighten up the inside of that old structure.

While I painted in the early morning, the sounds of our garden entertained me. First were the sounds of numerous birds: scrub jays, acorn woodpeckers, white-crowned sparrows, and then a flock of bushtits in the hedge. Later, a frog joined in and squirrels chattered at me from their spot in the neighbor’s tree across the alley. Finally, I became aware of a recurring sound and realized it was acorns dropping from our very tall oaks. They hit the ground with definite thuds and bangs (depending on where they landed). I just didn’t want one to land on me! One dropped and hit me on the shoulder two years ago and I definitely don’t want to repeat that bruising pain.

That hour of just working and listening was delightful. Unfortunately, the weekly landscaping crew arrived at the house across the street and immediately the lovely morning sounds of our garden were lost to the sound of loud lawn-mowing equipment.

painting

Hardy Pansies in a Half-Barrel

09.30.2014

September 30, 2014

Last September, I planted some pansies and some ornamental kale and cabbage in a wooden tub next to a post with a birdhouse/feeder on it. We can see the tub from our kitchen window, and I hoped that the plantings would give us some winter color. The kale and cabbage didn’t last through the winter, but the pansies have been amazing! Yes, they gave us a bit of winter color, and then they really took off in the spring, were glorious in the early summer, and have lasted (although looking very tired and haggard now) through the heat of summer to reach Fall again.

I’m going to replace those hardy pansies in the next few days. We’ve got some other plans for that tub this winter. But it’s been a delightful year watching those pansies, and the birds, cats, and squirrels that also enjoy that tub outside the kitchen window!

An Unexpected Guest

As I was out watering the other evening, I noticed a small group of neighbors across the street corner looking at something on the ground. I was curious so walked over and asked what it was. They stepped aside and I saw what seemed to be a fledgling hawk on the ground, wings spread out, very frightened. I couldn’t tell whether or not it was injured, but it had obviously had a hard landing on the street. We talked and decided that someone needed to call for help… I went back home to get my daughter, who loves birds, and cares for her pet cockatiels with very tender loving care. She’d know what to do with this frightened bird.

As my daughter was observing the bird to see if it was injured, I called our local Audubon Society. Unfortunately, they would not be available to help us until 9:00 the next morning, so we had to decide what to do to help this bird survive the night. It was very frightened, and seemed unable to fly back home. We were all worried that it would either get hit by a car, or fall prey to one of the neighborhood gang of cats that roam freely (one was already curious!). Also, there was no shrubbery nearby for it to hide in. We decided, under these circumstances, to take it home so it would be safe overnight, and we would check in with the Audubon Society right at 9:00 in the morning.

Capturing a wild raptor is not something we would normally agree to do, but our daughter has been trained to handle birds with care. She used a towel to cover it and gently put it in a large box my husband brought over. We took it home to our basement, put a small bowl of water in the box, set up a red lamp to keep it warm throughout the night, covered the box with part of an old cage, and left it in the quiet of the night to, hopefully, recover.

Hawk01

Next morning, we talked with the Audubon Society for quite awhile. We told them we didn’t think the bird was injured, that it’s wings seemed to work alright, so they advised us to place it as close to where we found it as possible, in some shrubbery to provide protection, and, hopefully, the parents would hear it calling and help it. So we took the box out into our backyard, which is enclosed by a tall hedge, and opened the box. It wasn’t too long before our sweet young Cooper’s Hawk flapped its wings and jumped up onto the rim of the box. He then jumped and flapped into the hedge and stayed there all day.

We heard a couple of calls during the day, but mostly he was silent and as still as a statue in the hedge. But, sometime in the late afternoon, he left. We didn’t see him go, but he must have recovered enough to fly. We walked around the neighborhood, looking to see if he landed anywhere else, but, happily, he was nowhere to be found. We wish him well, this beautiful hawk!

Hawk02

New Birdhouse

For Christmas, our daughter gave us a new birdhouse. It took us awhile to figure out where we wanted to put it in our yard, but we finally decided to install it on a tall pole in the corner of our side yard, near the [overgrown] hedges and in a place that we can watch from our kitchen garden window. So Hubby got busy and finished this quick project this morning.  I’d also love to plant a climbing flower of some kind to cover the pole and provide cooling greenery and perching places for whichever birds decide to make this home.