Monthly Archives: June 2021

Bluebirds vs. Sparrows!

My husband made this bluebird nest box in the spring and mounted it on a pole that is easily visible from our kitchen window. We had a pair of bluebirds move in within a couple weeks. We took joy in watching them fly in and out, first bringing grasses to build a nest. Later they laid eggs and raised a clutch. We saw them spend a lot of time flying around, going in and out, carrying insects and other delicacies, presumably for their young chicks. This went on for a few weeks.

Recently, we experienced just how cruel nature can be. House sparrows and wrens started hazing the bluebirds. It was rather traumatic watching the bluebirds come under attack after watching them raise a family.

I did some on-line research and discovered that this is quite a common occurrence. House sparrows and wrens frequently chase off bluebirds. They will even break the eggs, or kill chicks, and sometimes kill adult bluebirds, so they can take over the nest. They are even known to build their nest right on top of the bluebird bodies.

House sparrows are an invasive species. That means not native to the United States. Hence, they are not protected by the Migratory Bird Act. Wrens are native and so are protected. I immediately employed some of the deterrents that I read about to help our bluebird friends. I found instructions for something called a “sparrow spooker” and constructed and installed one right away. This consists of the metal strips hung from a strip of wood or twine. It can be seen in the photo above.

The sparrow spooker seemed to confuse the sparrows for a bit. I did see them or the wrens enter the house a few times afterwards, but other times they shied away. I was back the next day ready to continue battle with the avian invaders after doing further research. Apparently, if you install monofilament fishing line vertically along either side of the entrance to the nest box, sparrows, and hopefully wrens, do not like it. The sparrows and wrens cannot see the line and when they bump into it, it confuses and upsets them. Hopefully, enough so that it will keep them away. I did see a wren bump into the line and sit in a branch nearby tilting his head and staring at the offending area. Bluebirds, being insectivores, are thought to have better eye sight and can avoid the fishing line. That installation is also visible in the photo above.

Bird activity in general is less at the nest box today. I haven’t seen the bluebirds since yesterday, and the number of sparrow and wrens sightings is less too. I am hopeful that the clutch of bluebird babies grew up and fledged before the interlopers showed up. We did not find any baby bluebird bodies in the nest, nor did we find any on the ground in the surrounding area. My research says that bluebird babies fledge in 17-21 days. We had been watching the box for some time so it is possible that the young left to live out their lives elsewhere.

There is one last thing to try at some point in the future. My delving into sparrow habits unearthed the fact that they are territorial. They will not allow other house sparrows in the immediate area of their nest. It’s not the bluebirds per se that the sparrows take issue with. They just want the nesting site. I read that if you install two of the “bluebird houses” within 10 feet of each other, the sparrows will use one and bluebirds can nest in the other. The resident sparrows will not allow other sparrows to use it, leaving it open for the bluebirds.

This experience gave us pause to think. We put up a birdhouse, but who are we to say it is a bluebird house? The sparrows and wrens do not see it that way. And although it was upsetting when “our” bluebirds were driven off, it was nature at work. Should we be allowed to specify who lives in a birdhouse just because it is our whim? Tough choices.

And following, is a photo of one of our flowerbeds that was recently enlarged. Just so there is something positive to report today. I planted gladioli in it, so it should be bright and cheery soon!

Baxter says…”Have you heard? Don’t walk dogs on hot pavement!”

There are some things to know before taking your dog for a walk in hot weather. You think about what you need for a walk and what conditions you will encounter. Don’t forget to consider the same for your dog.

Don’t walk your dog on hot pavement, or even sidewalks when it is really hot. The rule of thumb is to put your hand on the surface. If it is too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog. Dogs can get burned, get red and sore footpads, blister, and endure suffering. Yes, dogs have thick pads, but they are still sensitive tissue that can be damaged. Check the internet. There are pictures.

This doesn’t mean you have to forego walking altogether. Move your walks to early morning or later in the evening. Do still check the pavement temperature when it’s really steamy out. Are there any grassy places you can walk? Since it is not a solid surface and it’s not black, grass doesn’t absorb heat as well as pavement.

If you’re going farther than around the block, take water along for both of you. Keep an eye on your buddy, if he shows signs of overheating, stop and rest, then head back home. If he’s in real distress, sprinkle him with some of your water to help him cool off. If the distress is severe by the time you’re back home, you may want to call your vet.

Be conscientious. Dogs can die from heat stroke. It happens every year.

This should go without saying, but don’t ever leave your dog in a closed car in the warm summer weather either. The temperature rises quickly in a closed vehicle, even with the windows cracked. Even if I think I can run into the store and be back in 5 minutes, I don’t do it. You just never know if there will be a long line or something unforeseen will happen. I take my dog home and go back if I need to. My dog’s life is not worth anything I want in the store! Neither is yours’s.

Books I Read in May 2021: And the Winner Is…

One thing that I did manage to make enough time for, in the midst of gardening season, is reading! I can’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t make time for reading. It is a form of meditation for me. Quieting my mind and bringing inner peace, at least for a bit. It takes me away to other places and on adventures. It is good for the soul. On to the books I read during the month of May…

  1. One for the Books-Jenn McKinlay

The wedding of librarian Lindsey Norris and boat captain Sully is finally here. Of course, the proceeding is beset by murder. Lindsey and Sully need to figure out who the murderer is so they can get on with their wedding without interruption. This is probably my favorite cozy mystery series and this book did not disappoint.

2. Spin-Patricia Cornwell

This was a library book and when it came due, I returned it. I was only on page 40 and doubt that I will check it out again to finish it. It didn’t keep my attention, which is very unusual for a Cornwell book.

3. The Spotted Dog-Kerry Greenwood

This book should have been right up my alley, it has a murder mystery and a bakery. After trying to read it for three days, I only made it 38 pages in and gave up. It just didn’t hold my interest.

4. Murder Likes It Hot: A Downward Dog Mystery-Tracy Weber

Kate Davidson is solving a murder case once again while trying to overcome problems in her own life. She owns a yoga studio that she must keep running while trying to conceive a baby and volunteering to boot. This is one in a series. I might not have picked this book based on the title but gave it a go based on the author’s previous works. An enjoyable book.

5. Maisie Dobbs-Jacqueline Winspear

This book was recommended to me by someone, and oh my! I am so glad I read it. This is one of the best stories I have read in a long time, and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Maisie, through hard work and good fortune, rises through the ranks from service to become a college educated professional. She is a private investigator, and the story opens in 1929. It goes back in time to when Maisie was a young girl and explains how she arrived at where she is today. When the story resumes in her current life, she manages to solve a very intriguing murder. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

6. Virgin River-Robyn Carr

I love the Virgin River series of books! You get sucked into the characters’ lives and can’t wait to see what happens next. Melinda Monroe, after suffering a life altering tragedy, decides to accept a job in backwoods Virgin River, as assistant to the only local doctor.  All is not as she expected, and she plans to move on, but becomes absorbed into the intricacies of life in this small town.

7. Winning Hearts-Debbie Macomber

A compendium of two short books, Laughter in the Rain and Love by Degree. The first is a love story between Abby and Tate. I found Abby’s character to be immature and annoying, but of course boy gets girl. I enjoyed the second story more, but still found the relationship between the characters of Ellen and Reed to be shallow. I suppose you can only do so much in the span of a novella.

My winner for favorite book that I read this month is definitely Maisie Dobbs. I already went to the library and checked out the second book in the series. Someone recommended that I read them in order, so that is what I plan to do. This first book was published in 2003, so they were written by as a historical novel. If you seek it out, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

In Search of the Perfect Quesadilla

I love quesadillas. I see them as a variation on the grilled cheese sandwich and the possibilities are endless. I will share with you my basic recipe, but changes are allowed and to be encouraged.

Quesadillas, Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 flour tortillas
  • as many thin slices of white cheddar cheese as it takes to cover the surface of half of each tortilla
  • 3 oz. of mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 or 3 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • avocado oil to coat pan, about 2 teaspoons
  1. Lay the tortillas out side by side. Fold them in half and make a crease, so you can open them and see where the middle of each tortilla is. Cover half of each tortilla with the slices of cheese. If it doesn’t reach the edge of the tortilla in some spots, it’s ok, it will fill as it melts.
  2. Melt butter in non-stick pan on medium heat. Swirl to coat the surface of the pan. Place the sliced mushrooms in a single layer in the butter. Cook until the mushrooms are a nice golden brown. Use a fork to turn each mushroom over when it has the golden brown color. Cook on the second side until it also has the golden brown color. The mushrooms will be soft all the way through with a slightly crispy exterior. Use the fork to distribute the mushrooms evenly between the two tortillas.
  3. Return the same pan to the burner. Add more butter or oil if needed. Put the spinach in the pan and cook until it is nicely wilted. Distribute the spinach even over top of the mushrooms and cheese layers. Fold the tortillas in half. You now have two taco shaped, semi-circles.
  4. Add the avocado oil to the same pan. Using the same pan throughout, gives additional flavor to the final product. Wait for the oil to heat. It will swirl easily around the pan when it is hot enough. This makes for a crispier tortilla than adding it to the pan before the oil is hot. I have also found that using avocado oil, vs. other oils, gives me a more nicely browned, crisp result.
  5. Add both tortillas to the pan. Cover the pan and occasionally drain off any moisture that condenses on the lid to keep it from dripping onto the quesadillas and making them soggy. I drain the moisture several times while they are cooking. Keep checking to make sure that they are browning. If they start to burn, turn the heat down from medium by one notch. After several minutes, when the bottom of the quesadillas are nicely browned, flip them over and repeat on the other side. The second side cooks more quickly since everything is already warm.
  6. Remove the finished quesadillas to a cutting board or plate and allow to cool slightly for a minute or two, so the cheese can set. Cut into wedges and serve. Fresh guacamole makes an excellent condiment for these, although they are great on their own.

I call for mushrooms and spinach in this version because it is my favorite. You can also use:

  • sliced onions
  • red or green peppers
  • corn
  • avocado
  • olives
  • or many other veg,etables
  • Pre-cooked meat or seafood

You can also substitute any cheese that suits you for the cheddar. Havarti is particularly good. I do avoid smoked cheese in these because they don’t melt well for me.

I served these the other day when a friend came over for lunch. They were a hit and very convenient. I cooked and assembled the quesadillas to the point where they were ready to go in the pan to brown the tortillas, so I could focus on the visit. I also served a side of beans and rice with them. That recipe will be forth coming in a future post.

Before eating, we took a quick tour of plants in the yard and then sat around to enjoy the patio gardens and good conversation after the meal. This was a rare treat. This was the first time we have had anyone over, with the rare exception of an occasional family member, in 18 months. Not since the pandemic began have we had company. It was a delight! We felt daring and crazy to have someone here and none of us were masked. (We all have our vaccines, including our guest). We look forward to more such craziness as the summer progresses!

Garden Views

Rhododendron and Siberian Irises
Rhododendron and Siberian Irises

I thought I would use this post to show you some of what I have been working on that is keeping me so busy I haven’t had time for regular posts lately. Gardening, of course!

Another bed of Siberian irises

The perennial beds all require weeding. And then there are plants to be split and moved to other flowerbeds or even new ones to start.

Sunblaze Rose

And the roses are plants that have needs all their own. They need regular fertilizing, treating for pests and diseases and frequent pruning.

Sunblaze Rose with multiple blooms
Climbing Rose, America
Red Knockout Rose
Red Knockout Roses and Pink Drift Rose
Foxglove (Digitalis)

The foxglove, I started from seed. As finicky as they were to get started, they don’t require much upkeep now. And they reseed!

There is also much to do that I haven’t seen the pay off for yet. This week I planted 80 gladiolus bulbs and several dahlia tubers. These are all ones that I dug up last fall and wintered over in the basement. I planted seedlings that I started on the enclosed porch last month. And there were seeds and seedlings to get started in the vegetable garden too.

I’m no where caught up and don’t expect to be again until the first frost. Plants have the ability to grow faster than I can keep up with them. Even so, I vow to do better at keeping up with regular blogging!