Thursday, January 27, 2011

Plastic Bag Dryer

We use zip-lock bags of all sizes to store leftover biscuits and cornbread and to keep veggies fresh in the refrigerator.  A lot of times a bag is still almost new after whatever was in it is used up.  In cases like this, I have a hard time throwing it in the trash.   So, I save these until I have enough to "wash".  Then I hang them to dry on  this little wooden contraption that looks kind of like an umbrella. 

I can't remember where I found this thing, but I have had it for years and it has helped me recycle hundreds of zip-lock bags.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Feeding the Birds

Tom has gone bonkers on feeding the birds this winter.  Here is a picture of SOME of the bird-feeders he has set up.

There are several kinds of feeders here.  Below are two types of feeders that we have found are very popular with the birds.  On the left is a thistle feeder.  Thistle seed is very popular with finches.  We mostly have gold finches and house finches here in this part of the state.  Looks like Tom had a mixture of thistle and millet in the feeder when this picture was taken.  On the right is a sunflower feeder.  If you want to buy one kind of seed that the majority of birds will eat it, then you should get "black oil sunflower" seed.  This is what we keep in this feeder.

Another kind of feeder that we use is a suet feeder.  You can see one of these in the middle of the picture below.  It is the square feeder that is made of wire.
You think of suet feeders mostly in relation to woodpeckers, but we've learned that lots of different birds will come to them.  During cold weather, birds need lots of calories to keep them going.  Suet fits the bill.  The suet cakes that you buy to fit in these feeders are mostly fat with lots of seed mixed in.  You can buy "fancy" suet cakes with all kinds of berries mixed in.  But, the cheapest ones that only have suet and seed are just fine.  The birds do not care!

You don't have to buy fancy bird feeders to get started....just some of the pans that you use under flower pots will do.  Here's a picture of some we have out on our upstairs deck.  They are really popular with the birds.

Of course, if you are going to put food out to attract the birds, then you are going to need a good field guide to help you identify the birds that come to your feeders.  Here are some of the ones we have.

Finally, during the winter, you should make sure the birds have a supply of water that is not frozen.  You can buy a cheap little contraption that fits in your birdbath that will heat the water enough to keep it from freezing.  It looks like a round piece of metal that has an electric cord attached to it.  The electric cord plugs into an electric outlet or extension cord.  Here's a picture of our birdbath.  Notice that we have a large rock in the birdbath.  It serves to hold the de-icer contraption down and also to give the birds a place to sit.

Feeding the birds is an activity that is really a lot of fun and is educational as well.  I highly recommend it!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hunkered Down for the Cold

We've had a mild fall and winter so far.  But, that is going to change in the next 24 hours.  As I write this, we have an Arctic cold front barrelling down on us.  They have been talking about this on TV for a week and I've been concerned about the beautiful lettuce that we have growing in our hoophouse.  

The hoophouse is unheated, but lettuce and other greens survive quite nicely in there during the winter.  However, if the weather gets really cold, they will sustain some freeze damage on the tips of their leaves.  This makes them somewhat unattractive and less marketable.  So, in an attempt to keep this from happening, we have covered the lettuce with a double thickness of row cover.

We have also piled some of the leaves from our "Leaf Mountain" (see Dec 17 post) all along the west side.  We're hoping this may help as well.  Guess we'll see.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seed Catalogs

It is only January 6th and we've already received all these seed catalogs!

Tom and I can both spend hours browsing through them, dreaming and planning what we are going to order and plant this spring.  They offer a welcome respite from the cold winter weather. 

We both make lists of what we want to order.  Then we have to consolidate our lists and try to narrow it down to just 2 or 3 seed companies.  Otherwise, we spend too much on shipping charges.

We will have to make our decisions in the next 3-4 weeks because we'll need to have our tomato and pepper seeds in hand by March 1 in order to start our tomato and pepper plants and have them ready to sell and/or set out by April 15.

This can be a difficult process, especially for me.  My eyes are always bigger than my green thumb, so to speak, and I usually have a hard time scaling back my grandious gardening plans to a level that I can successfully manage.  

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Recycled Planter Boxes

I've mentioned before how we try to recycle as much as possible.....paper, plastic, glass, all the usual stuff.  But, I am always on the lookout for other things we can recycle or, in some cases, "repurpose". 

When we were having our bathroom remodeled last fall, I watched in horror as the remodelers carried load after load of construction materials outside to be hauled to the dump.  I thought surely some of this stuff could be reused.  The pink bathtub (see August 17th blog entry) was broken up into pieces to get it outside, so it was not salvageable.  And, even though the toilet worked, it was cracked.  So, off it went as well. 

However, I noticed the drawers from the old vanity sitting on the porch.  They were in good shape and it occurred to me that they might make good planter boxes.  I mentioned this to Tom and they disappeared for a few weeks only to reappear last week in our greenhouse. 

He drilled holes in the bottom of them and they now have lettuce plants in them.  I'm happy they are serving a useful purpose now and not taking up space in the landfill.