The last day of the year 2017. After a week of rain the sun finally showed its face this morning; the birds running riot in the yard. In addition to the usual feeder visitors (chickadees, sparrows, finches, juncos), we had a flock of robins in search of the final cotoneaster berries. They pulled a few cedar waxwings along with them too. The more unusual sight was the small gang of Steller’s jays. Given their size, I find it comical how timid they are, like a bunch of nervous gunslingers. Gulls, cormorants and crows on the wing completed the picture. I’ll take them all as good omens !
After a year without a decent camera, the resident photographer is back in action ! Colours of a southern Ontario winter:
Sebastien at Leslie Spit, Toronto Ontario.
The photographer has taken the camera and fled to the wilderness, so you have to imagine the scene. The garden is in all its fall glory, which is to say it is a mess of almost spent plants accompanied by an understory of weeds going to seed (but oh so beautiful). I could claim a case of tendinitis as a weed excuse, but truthfully past falls have been similar. A small flock of Chipping Sparrows came yesterday to glean those weed seeds. They seemed particularly fond of the crab grass. A few Goldfinches, dressed now in duller tones, kept lookout from drying spikes of wild Evening Primrose. I took their presence as a blessing on my wild gardening ways.
I read this line today:
I think I’ve managed that with our little piece of urban land. And now, each footfall will be a long good-bye. This coming summer we will be moving back to the west coast and the place that has always felt like home. We’re excited, and sad, and hopeful. We’ll walk paths long remembered but transformed in our absence. Hopefully, both old and new will be muses for my feet to love.
The High Flyer
The Shy Clown
and The Ground Crew
With my stash of rendered beef tallow in hand I had a few projects I wanted to try. As an avid organic gardener, I’m always trying to keep the diversity of species around our house maximized. In addition to leaving seed bearing plants like sunflowers and cone-flowers standing through the fall and winter, we also have a couple of bird feeders I try and keep stocked. The tallow meant I could add another type of feeder. I’ve been inspired in a number of ways by the books of Irmgard Kutsch and Brigitte Walden about the Children’s Nature and Garden Centre in Reichshof, Germany. In Autumn they have a description of making a bird feeder from seeds and fat placed in a clay flower pot with a branch attached for a perch. The picture makes it all clear!
I hung this near our established feeder before Christmas. Then I waited – and waited. Come the beginning of January I was starting to worry that the birds wouldn’t figure out where the food was, or maybe the really cold temperatures were making the tallow too hard. This week, however, the birds proved me wrong and a chick-a-dee found the treasure ! After that all her friends joined in, including nuthatches and a downy woodpecker who is our biggest customer. While we see these birds eating seed from a feeder, in the spring and summer they are voracious eaters of insects (especially during nesting season). Our three friends all made the top 10 list of The Best Birds for Your Garden. Here’s hoping a little extra fat will help this winter !
The next use for tallow was in helping ME this winter. The dry conditions inside do a number on my skin, so I’m always on the lookout for an even better moisturizer. A little time on Google turned up this recipe which claims animal fats are much better for our skin (makes sense, us being animals and all). I used avocado oil instead of olive oil and added some shea butter for good measure. It has been working great so far !