Saturday, May 29, 2010

Silent Saturday

Just hanging out!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Missing Blogger

Well here it is going into summer time and my usual devotion to blogging, facebooking and other online endeavors has taken a back seat to my current lover..... my yard and garden.

Something happens to me when the weather finally clears up and the plants begin to grow again.  Some might call it an obsession even.  Whatever name it goes by, I just can't get enough time in the outdoors and my favorite place to pass the time is in the backyard.

Over the dreary winter, I often sat and day dreamed about the garden and projects I might try this year.  Now it's been all action.  Between the veggies, the herb beds and my flowers I'm so busy tending to the yard that I'm sorry to say I've neglected all you wonderful blog readers.

So here I am with a little check in to let you know I haven't dropped off the earth.  I'm still here and still trying to live green!  I promise, devoted readers, that I will try to post a little more often throughout the summer.  I have some great recycle garden projects to tell you about and of course I'll have updates on the garden and what's growing on.  In the mean time, here's some photos from the yard and garden where I've been hard at work.  Enjoy!

New Tomato bed interplanted with garlic.  The bottles are recycled into a watering system that takes the water to the root zone and avoids any water getting onto the tomato foliage.  This is good because water on the foliage can bring blight.
Nasturtium after the rain.

Flowers in the vegetable garden?  Why not!  They bring beauty and bees into the space and most importantly they bring me joy when I'm weeding :0)

Yes!  We've got raspberries on our bush this year!

Last winter I lost a beautiful climbing clematis that was here.  Now I'm using the support that was left behind and growing a native honeysuckle that I found started growing on the hillside in my backyard.  When mature, this will have beautiful bright orange flowers that are a draw for hummingbirds and butterflies.

I expanded the area between the fire pit and the native bed behind it by about 3 feet this year so we could set a bench there and roast marshmallows this summer.  From here you can look out the other way and see the water and the city lights from Bellingham at night.

Another planting extension.  I added about 2.5 feet all the way around this bed.  Yep, I moved all of those rocks again.  Rock work is like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle.  Finding the right stone to fit is half the fun!
Not to be outdone by Ben's new dahlia bed, I built one too!  Mine is the rock wall with posts and his is the cedar one.  Both will be equally beautiful when those flowers bloom!

My planting around the "stairs to nowhere" has filled in very nicely this year. 
Along the back stairs.  This bed is nice and lush this year.  Those irises in the front were a beach combing find after a storm 3 or 4 years ago.  I soaked them in fresh water for a few days and planted them.  When they bloom they're gorgeous yellow iris
The new earth stairs I built are now planted.  I'm hoping to have blooms going up both sides of the stairs later this summer

Garden view from our front porch.  I'm thinking of naming her "shipwreck garden".  What do you think?

Can you name this flower?  I've got this pink running all around the house and keep adding it to the new gardens.  It gives a lovely overall effect and consistancy to the yard.  But, I don't know what this plant is called.  It grows from chunky tubers about 1/2" thick and forms clumps.  Anyone?
A friendly frequent garden visitor.
This rocky outcropping is a challenge in the garden, but I'm pleased that this year I do have pockets of pretties growing there.  I'm trying to fill any of the crannies with sedums and such.
Dill weed and pickling cukes went in along this string line.
This year I'm using this fine net to protect things from the hungry birds.  Looks like we'll be the only ones eating our strawberries this year!
Another day in the sun for Echo and another day of gardening for me.
I added this terraced herb bed last year.  It's filled in beautifully.  Here you can see the old log stairs that are now just decorative.  I love the way the moss has covered them.

I built an "island style" flag pole from wood, copper pipe, rebar and aluminum & moved the flag back to our driveway enterance.  Then I spent a day clearing blackberry vines out of here.  OUCH!  Seems like most days I'm pulling blackberry thorns out of my hands lately.

Another feathered friend.  This little goldfinch suprised me when he chose this seed feeder over the thistle tube that is hanging about 2 feet away.
Moving rocks again!  I find it a lot easier to take small loads in my little wagon than to try to take large ones in the wheelbarrow.
Here's a full view of my herb bed.  See how lush!  this is 3 working terraces with a 4th terrace (in the back) that I put trimmings in each spring.  Thinks like sticks and brush.  This offers the birds some nesting material.  It also is where I allow some nettles to grow for the butterflies and it springs up with new ferns and native flowers.

These beautiful flag irises I've divided each year and scattered them throughout the yard too.  Most of the summer they just have long green leaves almost like clumps of grass, but at this time of year they're blooming and beautiful!  This year I top dresssed with alfalfa meal and I have LOADS more flowers than previous years.  Also great because the slugs seem to leave them alone unlike my large irises.

There's so much more I could share, but that will keep for a future posting.  I'm off to do some more gardening.  Oh and by the way, I saw my first pea forming on the vine today.  :0)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Planet Savers, Plant it Earth

Plant the whole world!
Isn't this just the cutest seed packet you've ever seen?

My step dad, Jim, gave this to me for Earth Day. It's handmade from recycled paper. Each little earth is embedded with seeds. Mine is forget-me-nots.

I'm going to plant the planet tomorrow. First you have to soak it in water. Then cover it with soil. As the seeds become flowers th fiber will break down in the soil.

I'm so excited by this cleaver recycle product from GP Green by design. That's why they're this weeks Planet Savers!

I love to see companies large and small making changes for a greener planet!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Shrink Plastic Project With Kids

In my post Recycled Bags Need Recycled Tags I shared with you how to use #6 plastic containers to make shrunken plastic tags.  At the time I thought this might be a fun craft project to do with kids.  Well I had my chance to try this project out recently with my 6 year old friend, Aubrei.

Hamming it up & ready for recycle fun!
Aubrei came to hang out with me one day while her daddy was at work.  Normally we like to go to the beach, playground  or just play outside in the yard when she visits. This time it was raining so that put a damper on our usual activities.  Time to get creative!

I took a look around the house for something fun we could do together and I found a clam shell container with the #6 in the triangle.  What luck!  I know just what to do with that.  We'll make some recycled shrunken plastic beads.

We had a lot of fun doing this project together.  Here's how you can too.

  • #6 plastic for recycling
  • scissors
  • permanent markers 
  • hole punch
  • scratch paper
  • cookie sheet
  • oven
  • string
  • beads
  • adult supervision
To start out, line a work area for the child with some heavy scratch paper.  I recycled a brown bag for this project.  Kids don't get to use permanent markers very often, so be sure to explain what permanent means or you may wind up with a "tattooed" little tyke or a redecorated work table!

Recycle artist in training!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line your cookie sheet with additional scratch paper.

Cut out different shapes from your plastic and punch a hole in each one.  These will be about 1/3 the original size after shrinking, so make them large enough for the child to draw on, but small enough to use for beading. 

While you are busy cutting out the plastic for the beads, have your child color a picture on the scratch paper.

All ready for the oven
Once the child has finished coloring interesting designs & pictures on the plastic, add them to the cookie sheet. Leave about 1/4" between each plastic shape.

When all your plastic shapes are decorated or you've  filled the cookie sheet, it's time to put them in the oven.  Be sure you run your range fan to ventilate any fumes.

Remove from the oven after 2-3 minutes and allow to cool out of reach of little fingers.  They will have shrunken down to about 1/3 of the original size and will have thickened up substantially.

Recycled beads make unique keepsakes
While your recycle beads are cooling, gather up your other beads and some string. 

For young children use large beads with large holes that are easy for small hands to work with.  Stringing beads is a good activity for developing  hand eye coordination.  

I like to tie 1 large bead to the end of the string as a stopper so they don't pull the string all the way through the bead.  Now just let them choose and add their own beads being as creative as they like.

Your homemade recycle beads will have holes too small for young children to string, so add a jump ring or string loop for them.

A special gift for Aubrei's special friend
You can make bracelets, necklaces and even sun catchers.

Aubrei decided to make a necklace for Bunny!

This project was a lot of fun!  We got to spend time creating together and we talked about recycling too.  Aubrei said her favorite part was using permanent markers! She was so proud of her finished necklace for her stuffed bunny too!

I hope you'll try this one with your children.  It's such a great way to encourage creativity and recycling. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Inspiration & Imagination

I stumbled across this video recently & I wanted to share it with you too.  This is why we must continue to encourage imagination in our children!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mothers Day

Me & Mom!
A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.  ~Tenneva Jordan

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful moms out there!  

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Silent Saturday

Don't forget tomorrow is Mothers Day

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Finds: Repurposing Empty Prescriptions

Over on my facebook fan page,  Shannon T asked me if I had any craft project ideas to use empty prescription bottles.  I'm working on coming up with a tutorial for another way to use these for crafting, but in the meantime I found these ideas on the web. 

Before re-purposing your prescription bottles, remove the labels and wash them out.  You want to remove any of the medication residue that may be clinging to the plastic bottle.

If you'd rather recycle them, check out Jacob Willard's project

Make a "Hide a Key" from Make Online

Blessings Overflowing blog will show you how to make them into decorative first aid kits

Families Online has a rain gauge tutorial

Craftstylish shows you how to make a thread keeper/cutter with a repurposed pill bottle

Pepper Paints will show you how to make your own watercolor paints which she stores in film canisters, but you could use pill bottles.

Make some noise! has an instructional video using a pill bottle to create an airhorn.  Could be fun for those sporting events!

Turkey Call? Here's the how to from Field & Stream
and here's a video of one in use:

Thursday, May 06, 2010

10 Tips For Hummingbird Photos

Whether you have a point and shoot camera or a more professional set up, photographing hummingbirds can be a challenge. 

I shared some of my bird photography on my post Hummingbird Happenings.  Since then I've received a lot of questions about what type of equipment I was using to get such fantastic pictures.   Surprisingly it's not all about the price of your camera. 

Here's my 10 tips to take striking hummingbirds photos:

12 mega pixel affordability
1. Equipment:  Camera's range in price from around $50 to thousands of dollars.  Having an expensive camera is nice if your a hobbyist or professional photographer, but for the rest of us it's not always practical or affordable.

I have a great little point and shoot camera.  It's an Olympus FE-46 12 mega pixel with a 5x optical zoom.  This little camera is a power house.  I use it for everything! My camera cost only $50 at Christmas time, so when I tell you that it's not all about the price of the camera you use I'm saying so from experience!  I'm proof that you can get priceless shots even with an inexpensive camera.

I've found the key for taking these great photos is knowing my camera and the best settings for the particular photo.  So experiment with your camera.  Try taking the same shot using several different settings.  Can you see the difference?  Choose the setting that looks best to you.

2. Camo:  Camouflage is not required, but it definitely helps to get great wildlife photos.  With hummingbirds being so tiny, it's important to be able to get fairly close to them and camouflage can help with that.

I took my first set of pictures in my regular clothes and I was able to get a few nice ones. For my next session I donned my camo cap and sweatshirt and right away I noticed the difference.  Those little hummingbirds had been keeping a bit of a distance from me in my street clothes.  Decked out in my camo gear they began flying within a few inches of me.  In fact they got so close I could feel the vibration of their wings!

Good lighting for great pictures
3. Lighting:  Finding the right light balance is key with capturing the detail and beautiful iridescent coloring on the hummers.  

The best natural lighting is on a cloudy day when the sunlight is diffused by those clouds.  If you're shooting on a sunny day, find a shady spot and try to take your photos in the morning or evening.  Mid-day on a sunny day the light will be too harsh and tend to wash out your color and details.   

Also, play with the white balance adjustment on your camera to find the best setting.  When shooting under the cover of my porch the light beyond the porch in my photo background was much brighter than the foreground.  To compensate for this I used a +0.7 - +1.0 white balance. 

4. Motion:  Hummingbirds are fast little fliers.  Since digital cameras don't always have an option to set up a fast shutter speed, it can be hard to catch these images.  

Check your camera for a sports or action setting.  This will have a faster shutter than your normal settings.  Even still it will probably be slower than these birds. 

Move your hummingbird feeder to a stable location where it is not swinging.  I set mine on our porch rail.  If you have a tripod, use that to stabilize your camera.  If you don't have a tripod, try resting your camera on a stable surface.  I don't have a tripod, so I set mine on a towel on the same porch rail.

Be sure to stay still yourself so you don't frighten the hummingbirds away.  

Avoid this by focusing on feeder
5. Focus:  Getting the focus on such a small and fast moving target can be difficult.

Set your camera on macro or close up.  This will help to capture the small details.  Set your display to show a target on your focus area.  

Because of their sporadic and quick movements, it's difficult to focus on the hummingbird itself.  Instead  zoom in to a spot on the feeder and set the  focus there.  Now when a little hummingbird lands on that spot the camera will be focused on it as part of the foreground.  This will give you a much higher success rate for good pictures and it's a whole lot easier trying to keep  the focus trained on the moving birds especially when using the zoom.

With the macro setting on most cameras, your picture will be clear at the focus area and blur out the rest of the picture.  You can see in the shots above how the focus went to the background and blurred the foreground image.  That is because I was trying to focus on the bird.  When the bird moved, the camera readjusted resulting in a bad shot.

Cluttered backgrounds distract from birds
6. Background:  When setting your feeders for photographing, be aware of the background that will be behind your shot. 

There's nothing more frustrating than snapping a perfect picture of a hummingbird in full glory only to discover that there are distracting elements in the background. I shot many of these! 

Try changing the placement of the feeder or you may be able to simply change the angle at which you are shooting to achieve a better background image and a better background makes for a better photograph. 

7.  Patience:  Be patient with the process and give yourself plenty of undisturbed time to sit and take photos.  

There's no way to rush this.  You'll be at the mercy of the birds landing at the feeder so just relax and enjoy some time with them.  It's fun to observe their behavior with each other and it's always nice to have a reason to be outdoors.

Use flash for birds in flight
8. Flash:  Use the flash on your camera sparingly.  Flash photos can wash out the color and detail of the birds with harsh light. 

There's one exception to this rule.  I discovered this little trick by accident, but what a great one.  

If you are trying to capture the motion of your hummingbirds in flight, set your flash for  "fill in" or whatever the setting is on your camera that makes a series of 2-3 quick flashes.  This causes a strobe effect that allows you to get a stop motion type picture without a fancy camera.  Cool!

9. Quantity:  To get quality hummingbird shots it's all about quantity.  Take lots of photos because not everyone will be a keeper.  

I can't tell you how many photos I deleted that just showed my hummingbird feeder! I would aim and shoot, but the bird would fly off. 

I took hundreds of shots and came away with about 80 that I really liked and another 50 or so that were fine.  That's the great thing about digital photography you can take tons of photos and just keep the good ones.

Crop for great photos
10. Editing:  Use a good photo editor to crop and adjust your pictures. I use Picasa from Google.  

By cropping your pictures you can eliminate excess background and bring the focus in to a particularly nice part of your photograph.  

Sometimes what looks like a poor photo from a full picture view can become exceptional by simply cropping it down. 

The photo on the left is a good example of cropping to turn an ordinary picture into something special. I was bummed that I didn't get the full face of the male hummer in his full color, but after taking a second look I realized that with a simple crop I still had a stunning picture of 3 females perched together on the right side of the feeder. 

I hope these tips help you to get some wonderful pictures of the hummingbirds that visit your yard.  So get outside and get shooting!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Wednesday What's Growing On?

Well here we are starting into May and my garden is looking very green.  This week we had our typical spring showers one day followed by sunshine the next and my plants love that.  Everything is growing like crazy and you know what that means..... time to clean up! 

Once an over grown path, now a big burn pile
My yard has all kind of nooks and crannys and I've tried to make each one into a garden of sorts.  In the side yard behind the burn pile we have a couple large native beds with paths running around each one.  It's been about 2 years since I did any pruning in that area and I was starting to lose the paths.  No worries though.  This week I grabbed the pruners, donned a long sleeve shirt and got to it!  I cut back the native Saalal that had crept into the pathway. With a the path reclaimed, it was time to head into the beds and pulled out the native ground gowing blackberries that are always trying to take over.  They seem to grow about 2' per month in the spring! 

It's a dog's life :0)
With Ben's recent purchase of a push reel mower, I decided mowing our lawn wasn't so bad.  I had always had trouble starting the gas powered mower and hated the noise and fumes.  This new people powered mower was great to use.  It was quick, quiet and easy!  And Echo really appreciated a freshly mowed lawn!

Rhubarb ready for harvest
While I was in the backyard I noticed my crazy rhubarb was ready for a pruning too.  I don't know why I ever planted this in my flower bed, but it's going to have to stay there until fall transplanting time. I decided to cut it all back and see if I can find a good recipe to use it in today.  Rhubarb is my favorite plant in the earliest part of spring because I can see the growth every day.  Now that I've got other plants growing in around it I'll spend the rest of the summer battling to keep it harvested.  It's such a great producer!

Great germination rate for my own saved seeds!
Not too much work going on in my veggie patch this week.  I've already planted all my available beds and am just waiting for things to grow in.  As soon as the weather stays dry, Ben will be building me some more raised beds for my tomatos and other warm weather plantings.  I did notice a lot of sprouting action on my Romaine planting from a couple weeks ago.  That's extra exciting to me because these are seeds I saved from my garden last year

Such a sweet smelling flower
Everything else is growing in nicely in the vegetable garden.  Ben has decided to be a gardener too this year and has taken over on the potatoes so that's one less chore for me.  He also decided to have his own bed for planting utilizing the square foot gardening technique.  So far he's added some garlic sets.  I'm excited to see what else he'll be planting in his bed throughout the spring and early summer.

I do have a few pretties in bloom now.  In the rock garden the sweet woodruff is in full bloom.  It's so pretty with it's delicate white flowers blanketing the bank.  In the evenings this tiny flower sends out a huge fragrance too!

Lovely lilacs in white
Speaking of pretty flowers, the dahlia planting has been put on hold for another week.  We've done most of the work of making planting beds and adding ammended soil already.  Now we are just waiting on a run of dry weather.  They'll need to get in the ground soon, but we don't want the soil to be too soggy when we put the tubers in the ground.  The general rule of thumb is to plant them when your lilacs are in bloom, but we'll be fudging that by a couple of weeks just to be sure the soil is in the best condition.

So that's what's been growing on in my gardens this week.  How is your yard looking?  Anything new in bloom?


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