Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Flying Cigar - Chimney Swifts

"No birds soars to high if he soars with his own wings"  - William Blake

The chimney swift is on the list of top ten birds in decline.  Part of the reason is because people are moving towards gas fireplaces and are starting to cover their chimneys.  The other reason, is because there are fewer old dead hollow trees since most people cut their timber before they reach that age. 

I was visiting a local Audubon Center recently and was surprised by all of the chimney swifts I saw.  I knew they had installed Chimney Swift Towers over the last 5 years to provide more nesting habitat for the chimney swifts, but I really did not expect to see as many as I did.  During the nesting phase, regardless of the size of the tower, there will only be one nest.   During the fall migration a tower the size of the one shown in the photo might hold 200 birds.  Some of the old industrial smokestacks in abandoned mills might hold 3000 plus.  I have not built a tower on my property yet, but I do plan to build one in the next year or so.  I mainly have to determine where I want to put it.  These birds eat about half their weight per day in insects so if you are having issues with mosquitos, etc why not try a chimney swift tower?   I will update this blog with my plans when I complete them.

Chimney Swifts migrate as far south as Ecuador in the Winter and as for North as Canada during the summer. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Purple Coneflower

"Earth laughs in a flower. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson"

Echinacea purpurea - Echinacea comes from the Greek word Echinos meaning hedgehog.  The hedgehog mushroom has teeth that are somewhat similar to the cone portion of the coneflower. 

This has long been one of my favorite flowers.  It is a great flower for attracting butterflies and honeybees.  This flower readily self seeds if you allow the seedheads to remain. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Worms and Vermicompost

Someone dumped a chest freezer out a while back and at first I was aggregated and then I remembered one of my great uncles used to raise worms in an old chest freezer.  I had been wanting to add a worm  bin to start vermicomposting so I did a little research, made a few mods to the freezer, and purchased my worms.  I ordered $40 worth of worms which is about 2000 worms.  They arrived 3 days later and I added them to my already prepared chest freezer.  All I had to do was drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage and fill the freezer about half full with sand.  I then added shredded water soaked cardboard and about 8 inches of shredded leaves.  I threw a few old coffee grounds in as well.  You need to make sure you have proper aeration so that gases can be expelled and oxygen can enter.  Since the lid does not close tight I don't need to really worry about it for now.  I plan to add a defensive plan in case ants decide to invade but I haven't decided which option I'm going with yet. 

Supposed once the worms get settled they can produce 1/4 to 1/2 their weight in compost per day.  So starting with 2 lbs of worms I'm hoping to achieve about 20 lbs of compost a month. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Milkweed for Monarchs

"The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises." - Leo Buscaglia

Milkweed is the host plant of the Monarch Butterfly.  The Monarch has been in decline and there is a push for more milkweed to be planted to help its recovery.  I purchased some milkweed seed from rareseeds.com and was very pleased with the germination rate.  I believe it takes two years for the flower to bloom but occasionally some do bloom the first year.  I can't wait to get these in the garden.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Winter Hammocking - Hot Springs North Carolina

"Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer we'd have frozen to death."     -- Mark Twain

With the winter storm approaching we headed to Mt. Rogers in SW Virginia to do some hammock camping.  After driving for about 10 hours I started setting up my hammock when a Ranger pulled up and told me to hold up.  Evidently the Gov of Virginia made a decision to close all State Parks in Virginia for the storm.   So after about an hour talking with friends and coming up with an alternative plan we jumped in our cars and drove another 3 hours to Hot Springs, North Carolina.  Arriving after dark we setup, and opted to walk into town for a meal.  The next couple of days we took a few short hikes, visited the outfitter, did lots of cooking and eating, and played around with our hammock settings, insulation, etc.  I was greatly looking forward to Mt. Rogers but I have to say it was nice camping on the banks of the French Broad River.  We spent 3 nights camping and received about 6-8 inches of snow.  I enjoyed the snow, but I am ready for the spring.