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Feed the Birds

January 31st, 2010

We have a bird oasis in our side yard. We love feeding the birds because it gives us something interesting to look at all winter long. We have 3 bird feeders and a heated birdbath.


I buy big 50 lb bags of birdseed and black oil sunflower seeds at the local farm store to keep our feathered friends fed all winter long. We also put out suet for all the woodpeckers and clinging birds.

We enjoy seeing all the different kinds of birds that come to our feeders. We have a bird identification book that we use to identify any new birds we see. Here are a few of them.

We also have blue jays, mourning doves, black-capped chickadees, house wrens, house sparrows, rufous-sided towhees, goldfinches, purple finches, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, and the occasional pileated woodpecker. And of course we have tons of the Ohio State bird, the cardinal.

Feeding the birds not only gives us something interesting to do during the winter, but it helps the birds stay strong and healthy through the cold winter months. We’ve noticed that since we started feeding them, we have more birds in the gardens in the summer. I had more wrens last year than any previous year and they keep all the cabbage worms off of my brassicas. I’ll keep feeding my little feathered friends and providing them with nice homes to keep them happy.

Do you feed the birds during the winter?

Should I Change the Name?

January 20th, 2010

I’m wondering if I should change the name of our gardens from “Chiot’s Run” to “Cats Overrun”. I think we’ve got a reputation for being feline friendly, kind of like the folks over at Our Little Acre, maybe it’s an Ohio thing?

We’ve lived here at Chiot’s Run for 8 years. We used to see a cat every now and then, generally one of the neighbor’s cats. We’d always hoped for a feral cat to move in since we have quite a chipmunk problem. Recently we’ve been seeing more and more cats around. If you remember, last year, Dexter showed up on our doorstep. He wasn’t a feral cat, we think he was a pet someone dropped off down the road. We ended up bringing him in and he’s become a member of the family.

As you can tell he’s quite domesticated. He’d definitely been brought up around people and wasn’t wild in the least bit. He really enjoys life inside the Chiot’s Run cottage! As you can tell he really loves the kind of cat food we buy.

Around the beginning of winter we started seeing a small feral cat in the gardens. We’d see him just about every night, hunting for food. One night we spotted him eating birdseed from under the bird feeder. We figured he must be hungry so we started putting some food out for him. He’s a beautiful little cat, with lovely stripes and bright green eyes. He’s very wild, so we don’t see him very often. I managed to snap this photo while standing on a table, kind of looking through the curtains, far enough away that he couldn’t see me.

We’ve also been seeing a few other feral cats around the gardens during the fall and winter months. We have a big orange one and a big gray one. I suppose if this little guy survives the winter and sticks around he’ll help with the chipmunk overpopulation we have here. Although keeping him around will mean trapping him and getting him fixed. Just maybe he’ll have a cozy little home built into the garage as well. It’ll be nice seeing him around the gardens this summer.

Do you notice feral cats in your gardens? Do you welcome them or run them off?

Way to Go Mr Chiots!

December 1st, 2009

Mr Chiots is off hunting this week with my dad. I spent Friday & Sunday cooking up all kinds of manly food for him to eat on all week. I made venison chili with corn bread, oat groats with raisins & walnuts for breakfast. I also made him some of these carrot oatmeal cookies, they’re kind of like little granola bars. I figured they’d be perfect quick treats when he gets hungry sitting in his deer stand.
deer_eating_vine
He went down the family hunting cabin Sunday evening and he was up bright at early to be in his deer stand. He called me yesterday at 10:30 am and said he’d gotten his first deer at 9 that morning. Not to shabby, getting a deer within a few hours of your first time hunting!
deer_in_garden
Too bad it wasn’t one of these deer that eat all of my hydrangeas, blueberry bushes, fruit trees, strawberries and peas. Oh well, it looks as though our freezer will be stocked with venison for the next year. Hopefully he gets another one or two and we can share with friends & family! If he remembers to take some photos, I’ll share them next week when he gets home.

Anything exciting going on in your neck of the woods?

UPDATE: Later on Monday DeWayne (who is one of my dad’s friends from IN that comes over to hunt, got a small 6 point buck). Mr Chiots just called me tonight (Tues) and my dad got a HUGE 10 point buck today (they did remember to take a photo). I wonder what the deer count will be by the end of the week, we should have full freezers for all the family members!

Baby Black Rat Snake

October 9th, 2009

On Wednesday evening I found this little guy in our driveway. At first I was very excited, as I’ve never seen a snake here at Chiot’s Run. I’ve always wanted to find a big black snake in my garage, but sadly that has never happened. After looking closer I realized this little guy was dead.
baby_black_rat_snake_on_gravel
I grabbed him and examined him to see what had happened. I came inside and searched on-line to try and identify what kind of snake it was. After searching I decided it was most likely a baby black rat snake. He was about 15 inches long, which is about how long the baby ones would be this time of year for the reproduction cycle of black rat snakes. The markings on his back & belly are consistent with some photos I found on Flickr. I found this great blogpost about baby black rat snakes, there are even photo of the eggs!
Baby_Black_RAt_Snake
black_rat_snake_belly
Black rat snakes hatch out at 11-16 inches, which means this little guy was very young. They often nest in tree cavities where other nesting animals have been. Since I could see no visible injuries, I think perhaps it fell out of the big maple tree beside the driveway.
baby_black_rat_snake_by_Ruler
It’s kind of sad to find my first snake and have it be dead. However it’s not really a sad story, a baby snake in the garden means there’s a mama snake around. I think this is good news for my overpopulation of chipmunks! Black rat snakes are considered one of the most beneficial snakes in Ohio. They can live up to 20 years and are prolific eaters of mice, rats, chipmunks, rabbits, other small rodents, birds and eggs.
Baby_Black_Rat_Snake_on_Rock
I put him on a rock in the garden and he’ll probably become food for another small animal. Perhaps I’ll spot mama in the garage someday soon!

What do you think, do you want snakes around or do they give you the heebie jeebies?

Wrens, the Tiny Workhorse in the Garden

June 13th, 2009

I’ve read about how great of an asset wrens are in the garden. I hear that they were especially good at catching cabbage worms. So how do you go about attracting these tiny birds to your gardens? It’s as simple as putting up a wren house or two. In fact these little birds prefer man-made nesting boxes to their natural habitat. They also seem to be fairly “tame” not minding human presence, which makes them perfect garden birds.
Wren House
Wrens are small cavity nesting birds, so they like small houses with a certain size entrance hole (1 1/8 inch). We have a few “wren” houses that have larger holes so other birds nest in them, like chickadees. In April you’ll start to hear the male wrens singing their beautiful songs as they look for a place to build a nest. He actually builds several nests, up to 12, and the female selects the one she likes and then finishes it. They lay 4-6 eggs, incubation time last 12-15 days and the young will leave the nest in 16-17 days.
Baby Wren in House
There’s a funny story about this condemned house. While working at the edge of the woods one day we found this tiny house. It was so small and in such bad shape we figured it was once a decorative birdhouse, too small for anything to actually use. We kind of the liked the “rustic-ness” of it so we hung it up in a dogwood tree. Not too long later the wrens moved in. I kind of feel bad for them, having to live in a condemned house. When the little birds leave we’ll be taking it down and reattaching the bottom for them. I keep hoping it won’t fall out when the little ones were in there.
Wren with insect by wren house
Wrens are really wonderful little birds to have around the gardens. They have beautiful songs and they’re constantly flitting and hopping about. They spend a lot of their time on the ground searching under plants for worms and other insects. They have kept my garden cabbage worm free, I occasionally see evidence of cabbage worms or maybe a worm or two, but then I’ll notice the wrens under the plant and the worms are gone.
Wren Feeding Baby
I’ve really enjoyed watching the wrens this year. I’ve been watching the nest and listening to the babies. I waited a long time to get this shot of the mom feeding her babies. They’ll be leaving the nest soon, in fact one of the nests we have they’ve already left. Then they’ll start all over again since wrens will often attempt to raise another brood when the first one fledges.

What do you do to attract beneficial birds to your gardens?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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