Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Back at the farm

The garden, a work in progress, on 5/29/13, in the rain.
Dear Mary and Jeni,
We have been back at the farm for almost a month now and have had a busy four weeks.  I have energy this year.  In July it will be three years since I had my transplant.  July 19th to be precise.  It has taken me this long to get my energy back.  Not because of the operation but because it took a long time for my kidney function to get over about 30 percent.  This year I am finally feeling really good again and poor Jim has had to work like a sled dog following all my orders.

I decided that we should try some raised garden beds this year so off I went to Menard's to buy some cedar two-by's for the sides.  Luckily I also bought some more finch feeders and some meal-worms for my birds.  Once I got back Jim had to get to work cutting down some 4x4 posts from the old porch for the corner braces and then he had to cut the 2x6's and 2x8's to the exact length I needed.   His ancient jigsaw did the job.
The garden before much happened, including quack grass.
The first raised bed in place.
The second raised bed ready for filling.
It wasn't enough for me to make the beds.  Then I insisted we sieve the dirt.
The Sieve ready for filling the raised bed. It doesn't show
but the dirt to the right of the bed is piled higher than the bed.
We had plenty of dirt from the 24 years we have been gardening here.  Somehow the beds had big piles of extra matter, all of it full of quack grass.  So we put hardware cloth across the top and poured the dirt through it.   We added a bag of peat from Bergeson's Nursery and 1/2 a bag of cow manure to each 4'x8' bed.

About this time mother nature threw me a curve.  I am a birder and each Spring I anticipate the Orioles, Catbirds, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks  and Hummers that return and nest in my garden.  I  had been watching the North Dakota Bird Alert hotline and knew that soon they would return.  Several male Orioles had been by scouting their summer nesting Territory and I had seen a male Rose Breasted Grosbeak- but then the migration exploded.   

Early in the morning of Sunday the 19th a big storm went through and a fall-out of migrating birds happened.  I woke up to a garden full of 60 plus male and female Orchard and Northern Orioles, many Grosbeaks, several hundred Pine Siskins, American Goldfinch and some happy surprises.  A fallout is great for the birders but very hard on the birds who have been driven to the ground by bad weather and hunger.  

Those birds were starving!  It was cold and rainy for three more days.   There were no blooming plants and no bugs.  I went through 8 pounds of grape jelly the first day, Sunday.  Then I went through 12 pounds the second day, adding in the meal-worms that I had never fed before.  Then I stopped counting.
Wet Oriole asks "Where's the jelly?"
This is what happens when it rains on your jelly plate.
Those of you who know your LBB's, Is this a Vireo? If so
can you tell me which one?
Female Rose breasted Grosbeak, 2 male Baltimore Orioles, a female,
and maybe a Vireo.
Finches and Orioles fighting for food.
Every finch feeder, thistle or sunflowers, was mobbed like this.  I had 6 finch feeders plus two other hanging platforms and two ground feeders.  After a while I just poured the seed on the ground.   I began by using small sauce dishes but graduated to the plate the second day.
I put jelly out everywhere.  On the east deck, in the path, on the North deck.
Oriole scares off the Scarlet Tanager.
I was very happy to see the second Scarlet Tanager I have seen in my 24 years here on the farm.  He was attracted to the meal-worms as was the (maybe) Vireo.  I also had more humming birds than I have ever had at one time.  I saw six at once.  My previous high was three, after nesting.
The hummers were also fighting at the feeders.

The two beds in, filled and mostly planted-after the fallout!

One of the 6 or more hummers.
On the fourth day the sun came out and the birds slowly resumed their migration.  The ones who usually stay here stayed, or wandered home.  The rest went on up North.   After about a week life became calm again.  We finished the raised beds and started clearing the quack out of the border.
Resting under the umbrella.
I started potting up some annuals.
Verbena and wave petunia. The petunia is not blooming yet, but soon!
 And then yesterday another rare one came in.  I think it is a female Indigo bunting but it could also be a Blue Grosbeak.  The males are easy, the females less so.   I couldn't tell.   I am going to have to do a little more studying.
Blue mystery bird, suspected female Indigo Bunting.
So that is all for now.  Just wanted to keep you up to date.

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