Smell Like Dirt

In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret Atwood

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Birding with Binoculars

Just in time for the Great Backyard Bird Count, here’s a Quick Tip to help you find those birds using binoculars.   The GBBC is a great way to practice your birding skills while helping ornithologists track birding populations, migration patterns, etc.  The Bird Count starts Friday the 13th and goes thru Monday the 16th.  You can do it everyday or just one day.  All day, or just 15 minutes…whatever your schedule will allow.    You can count alone in your backyard or at a park with friends.  No matter what you decide, come on out and join us as we count birds across the country and practice using those binoculars!

Put all your egg(shells) in one basket!

Another Down & Dirty tip using eggshells to feed the birds.  Eggshells are high in calcium and if you put them out for your birds to eat, it will give them “strong teeth and bones” as the saying goes, but will also give them the nutrients they need to lay strong eggs this spring.  So start putting those eggshells to work instead of putting them in the trash.

Rufous Hummingbird

Last week I had the rare privilege of observing the banding of a Rufous Hummingbird, in the dead of winter, here in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Although still rare here, I had heard of sightings of this type of hummingbird in past wiinters. They breed in Southern Alaska, Western Canada and Western US, and overwinter in Mexico, but recently, they have shown up in the mid-Atlantic region. So when I saw him in my yard, I knew what it meant and called Bill Hilton, Jr. Executive Director, Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and Operation Ruby Throat to invite him to come and band him  Bill has banded over 5,000 hummingbirds but this was my first time watching the process and it was a great experience.  If you ever have a chance to participate in one, I encourage you to do so.   It was hard condensing 90 minutes of tape down to less than 6 without leaving out a lot of the “good parts”, but I hope you enjoy it.

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

We had so many comments on the Ruby Crowned Kinglet footage that we used in the “Window Feeder” video we decided to post a longer clip of the RCK! Hope you enjoy this view of the rarely seen crown.

How much is that birdie in the window?

Great, now you’ll be humming that song all day, right?

Smell Like Dirt announces a new feature for the New Year! Down & Dirty Quick Tips! We will be doing a series of short videos (hopefully a minute or less) highlighting something you can do in your garden, home, workplace, etc to help wildlife, the environment, or just make life a little easier. We are launching this new feature with this short video on how to get a closer look at the birds in your backyard. During the filming we were able to capture a Ruby Crowned Kinglet showing off for its reflection in the window and couldn’t wait to share it. If you’ve ever seen RCK’s in the field, you know how difficult it is to watch these birds because they flit around so much. Its hard to get a good look at them and even harder to see the crown which is rarely seen. This video shows why…..it is not even visible unless the bird “flexes” its feathers. I hope you enjoy the video and keep checking back for more Smell Like Dirt “Down and Dirty” tips.

LBJ’s

Don’t write off those Little Brown Jobs in your backyard as boring. Do a little research to see if they have a story to tell. We love to hear the white throated sparrows show up each fall. Their call of “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” makes me smile when I hear it. I thought I was seeing male and female birds, the male having a whiter strip and a “yellower” eye dot, but I was wrong! Watch this video and find out why!

BRRRRR!!!!!!

It may not be winter according to the calendar but it is according to the thermometer!  It will be down into the 20’s every night this week.  And while you are all snuggled up inside your warm home, its important to remember the wildlife outside.  Make sure you have fresh water available for the wildlife, birds included.  Its important that they be able to keep their feathers clean to help keep them warm.  And of course everything still needs to drink water, no matter how cold it is  A birdbath heater will help keep the water from freezing.  And if you haven’t put up any roosting boxes, now is the time.  Birds will use them to for protection from the weather.

Spud-O-Matic Update!

Ok, I’ll admit it.  I’ve been horrible about keeping everyone updated on the potatoes.  But here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.  First, I will say that we enjoyed wonderful organically grown Red Pontiac and Yukon Gold potatoes.  BUT, not as many as we could have enjoyed if I had not made a couple of mistakes.  Mistake #1:  Grow only one kind of potato per bin.  The varieties grew at different rates and when one would be 6″ above the leaves and therefore time to add more leaves or compost, the other was only 2-3 inches tall so I had to bury them too deep and think I killed a few of them.   Also, in July, I had to relocate my potato bin because a local TV station wanted to come and shoot a piece on composting, and I had to move the bin to make room for the cameraman to get a good shot.   And if you remember from the video, I used chicken wire instead of hardware cloth so the pile didn’t move very well.  And the last issue wasn’t really a mistake:  At some point, a volunteer Butternut Squash started growing and at first I didn’t know what it was and my curiousity dictated that I had to let it grow, and then when I realized what it was, I decided I wanted some BN squash as badly as I wanted potatoes, so I just stopped adding leaves about half way up the bin and let everything grow.  After the vines bloomed and started turning yellow, I dug up the potaotes and we ate them with dinner that evening adn they were wonderful.   Then I let the BN squash continue and we got 5-6 off of that vine (I had two more volunteer vines in the garden area, so it was a good year for BNS, especially since I did not plant any).  But don’t let any of this discourage you from using this method to grow potatoes in your garden.  I have seen this work with my very own eyes at Renfrow’s Hardware in Matthews.   And David says to start bins at separate times so you have a succession of crops throughout the summer.  He recommends (for our Zone 7B) March 15, April 15 and May 15.   But, I don’t think I have the attention span to grow vegetables.  Plants have to be able to take care of themselves in my garden because I’m too easily distracted by everything else that’s going on out there.  But, I wanted to grow something to eat and I did….just not as many potatoes as I thought…..but a banner crop of rogue Butternut Squashes!

spudomatic results

Worm Workshop!

Worms are a gardeners best friend! Not only do they keep your soil loose in the garden, if you keep a worm bin, they will turn your kitchen scraps into great food for your plants! And worms make great pets. Low maintenance and they work 24×7 eating and pooping until you have a perfectly natural additive to your garden. Composting is basically managing a natural process, and so is vermicomposting. I’ll be facilitating a vermicomposting workshop on 11/4 at 7pm (after the polls close). If you would like to participate, send an email to HAWKNCWF@gmail.com. Cost is $15 per bin or you can just observe for free. To get an idea of what we will be doing, take a look at this video we shot about building a worm bin called “Global Worming” Get it?

Edible Landscaping!

By now you know I do more landscaping for wildlife than gardening for my own food, but I’m a huge Locavore committed to eating as much locally grown food as possible.  I’m at the Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning and buy as much food as I can that is grown within 50 miles of my house.  Its a big movement that is spreadiing around the county and one committed soul is campaigning to have the next President of the United States (whomever that might be, let’s just get it over with already!) to plant a garden on the front lawn of the White House.  Remember Victory Gardens?  During WW II when most of our resources were going to feed the war machine, Americans were asked to plant a Victory Garden to help feed themselves.  Now, a movement is afoot to encourage Americans to grow Energy Gardens.  The concept is to grow at least some of our food to cut down on our dependency on industrial farms and reduce the amount of energy is takes to truck our food the average 1500 miles before it hits our plate.  The following video was produced by Eat The View and if you agree with the message, go their site and sign the petition.  But, even if you don’t sign the petition, try adding some plants to your landscaping to feed something….either you or wildlife.