Bluebird Obsession

You know me . . whatever I’m doing, I jump in 200% and go hog wild with it. Right now . . it’s bluebirds. They’re so gorgeous and when a little glimmer of sunlight shines on the male, the beauty takes my breath away.

Bluebirds

Bluebirds

Mostly l I’ve been taking pictures through the back door glass so none of my bird pictures are great. As soon as it gets a little warmer, I’ll set the tripod up on the porch and sit out there and try to get some good pictures.

In Texas, having some kind of ag exemption is pretty imperative to keep our property taxes reasonable. The previous neighbors had kept cows on our land and we were able to have our ag exemption due to those cows but then they sold the cows and they moved. We don’t want to have cows . . for so many reasons. First, we don’t have a clue what to do with them. We don’t have a full size pickup or a stock trailer. Probably most important is that we have no water for them – no ponds and we don’t need to be running that much water out of our well. So, having cows isn’t a good idea for us. I would love to have goats but we don’t have fences for goats and by the time we spent the money to put up the fencing, we would have spent more than we would save on our property taxes . . not to mention that I’m not sure either of us could deal with about 24 goats.

Last year, when it was time to come up with a plan, we met with a wildlife biologist and decided to go with a wildlife exemption for attracting and improving habitat for bluebirds. We had to choose some kind of “animal” that we saw around here already. We talked about choosing quail but the success rate of releasing cage raised quail into the wild was terrible . . like 20%. Our closest neighbor chose turkeys so we went with bluebirds. We had seen a handful of them around here the first year we were here but then we didn’t see many so I was afraid they had left. They can migrate but in this area, if conditions are right (water, food supply, not too many predators), they will stay year round.

We’ve been working hard over the past 8 months or so, and the within the last few weeks, we’ve seen so many bluebirds, so I hope our work is paying off.

Part of our plan was to build and put up 16 birdhouses. You can imagine that I’m saying “we” but Vince is mostly the one doing the work. He had plotted out where all the houses would be.

Bluebird House map

Bluebird House map

You can see that some of them are deep in the woods and I don’t go out and deal with those by myself. I’ll check the ones that I feel safe checking but Vince goes with me to check the ones that are too far into the woods. After seeing the bobcat, I’m a little apprehensive about being too far out by myself, even though I always have “protection” with me. 

This past weekend while it was warm and sunny, Vince went and retrieved all 16 birdhouses, cleaned them all, brushed them down, waterproofed the cedar and added a white reflective film to the top.

Birdhouses

Birdhouses

There are some pretty detailed guidelines about how the houses are to be built . . dimensions, openings, doors that open for cleaning, which direction they face, etc. I think it’s so cool that they have the little space between the top roof and the “sub roof”. That’s to help them not get so hot.

The bluebirds love mealworms so between the chickens and the bluebirds, I’m not able to grow enough to keep them fat and happy so I ordered more mealworms and will get two more worm beds going. 

Last year we didn’t have our houses up in time for them to nest in our boxes so I’m so anxious to see if we get any residents this year. They should begin building nests soon . . either in our boxes or somewhere else. Vince has forbid me to peek into the nests more than once a week so I have been using the binoculars quite a bit. There’s a box I can see from the front porch and a box I can see from the garden. 

Yep, add bluebird watching to my daily routine . . 

Lemons

Thursday Vince said “Are you going to pick the lemons or what?” I was thinking . . or what . . but I didn’t say it. Our friends had friends who came to visit from Arizona or New Mexico .. somewhere that grows lemons, and they brought me a bunch of Meyer lemons. One of Vince’s friends at work has lemon trees in her greenhouse and she gave me a bunch of lemons so I figured mine were best left on the tree til I used all the ones I had been given.

Lemons

Lemons

My trees (2 of them) produced 11 lemons. There are 10 in the bowl and one had accidentally broken off . . all the moving in and out of the shop . . don’t ask .. heaters still aren’t hooked up in the greenhouse.

Wonder how many lemons I’ll get next year. Considering that of the 10 lemons above, 9 came off one tree and yes, that means the other tree produced ONE lemon, if both trees would produce 10 lemons, I’d get 20. I can hope.

Spring is Coming

This winter has seemed particularly long and gray. I don’t remember any of our three previous winters here being so gray for so many days in a row as what we’ve experienced this winter. I know . . I’m a chronic complainer about the summer heat but honestly, this winter may have changed my attitude toward summer.  Arthritic joints ache in the cold and I don’t think my hands have been warm since mid-September. There’s too much to do around here and even though I love being in the house early in the event, with the short days, we just don’t get things done.

We finally seem to have turned the corner on the gray days and we’re headed toward Spring. The cold isn’t over but hopefully, there will be enough sunny days interspersed in with the cold, gray days . . Mother Nature can keep dangling that carrot in front of my face reminding me that Spring is coming.

Yesterday it was sunny and the high was in the upper 50’s. I played in the garden . . 

Seeds Planted

Seeds Planted

Carrots and lettuce were planted. Last spring’s chard and kale are on their last leg. They’ve provided enough for us to have fresh greens through the winter but they’re spindly and mostly all stems. (Notice I’m wearing a shoe and not a flip flip!)

Chard

Chard

I know not to jump the gun with the planting. I do it every year and then I’m out trying to cover plants. I’m not doing that this year. I can keep things in the greenhouse and keep them going til I’m sure the danger of frost is past. I can plant things that are frost tolerant and I plan to get some peas planted this weekend .. if I can convince Vince to till up a spot for me. Soon I can plant potatoes and before I know it, the ground will be warm enough for tomatoes and cucumbers. And . . then it will be August and I’ll be whining about the heat. No . . I won’t do it!

Garlic & Onions

Garlic & Onions

The garlic and onions are doing good. Don’t you love my divider .. PVC pipe. It works.

Sprouts

Sprouts

Last spring when I planted carrots and beets and lettuce, we had a gully washer and all my seeds washed away. Some of them were deposited in the mulch and now they’re sprouting. It’s so amazing that they stayed there all through the summer and now, when it’s time .. they sprout and will try to do what they were meant to do but they don’t have much of a chance where they are and they’re all in clumps. It’s not worth the time or effort to try to transplant them . .e specially since there are all kinds of things mixed together.

Yes, I’m ready for Spring. I will enjoy the next few warm days, knowing Winter is not over yet, but the warm, sunny days have me aching to get out in the garden and work.