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Bits-N-Pieces (Again).
February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day (Tuesday).

It's getting to be that time of year when cabin fever really starts to settle in for many of us.

I know it does for me.

Even with a mild and almost record setting (warm) winter here in SW. Michigan, longing for spring to get here becomes a challenge.

Actually, I think the lack of snow and mild days make 'Spring Fever' worse this year.

Friday did bring another dumping and with it, a few more winter pictures.

We have gained an hour of daylight on the (evening side) since the winter solstice.

Not only are the days growing longer, but some house plants and a couple of tropical plants I'm wintering over, are showing signs of new life.

Some time later this week, my Amaryllis bulbs will start blooming.

I always plant them after the holidays to give me a boost of color in late February and into March.

This helps to carry me over until gardens begin to perk up.

This isn't garden or nature related, but I still have an interest in the skies, and a few of you may too.

Depending on where you live and what is or isn't blocking your view, you may see Venus, Jupiter and Mars in the same night sky.

Not all at in the same field of vision, but in the same time frame.

Depending on where you live in your time zone is when you can see all three.

Look between 8:00 and 9:00 PM

I live on the western edge of the 'Eastern Time Zone' and around 9:00 PM, I can see Venus low in the West, Jupiter is about 45 degrees up in the Western sky.

Mars (orange/red color) is very low in the East.

When dusk or darkness falls, you can see Venus and Jupiter in the SW skies.

A good pair of binoculars, spotting scope, or telescope, will always show Venus as a Crescent shape.

Interior or inferior planets as they are often called, will always be crescent shaped, as we see the dark side and a bit of sun reflection.

Much like our moon as it goes through stages (I hope this makes sense to you).

'Orion' is slowly catching Jupiter, but wonder if there will be enough time this season for us to see the capture.

No compost pile or bin?

No problem..........

Do what I do.

I dispose of my vegetable garbage by simply tossing it around my flower beds.

Why should the garbage disposal or the county landfill get all of my stuff?

By tossing it into my gardens, it slowly breaks down and becomes part of the earth by planting time.

Items like carrot and apple peels, often feed the rabbits and maybe a deer or two.

I'm not inviting deer into my yard, and I always have rabbits, but many of the items I toss will often deter critters from chewing on my shrubs.

Vacuum cleaner dirt, dust, and hair is also a great source of nutrients and proteins for your gardens and compost piles.

Think a moment about all of the dead skin and hair your vacuum picks up with the dirt, dust, and Oreo crumbs.

Think of the proteins that slowly break sown and feed your plants.

I'm sorry I didn't mention this to you sooner,.

Start saving your eggs shells and banana peels if you haven't started already.

Here is another gardening tip from Karen Sue Houghton of Des Moines, Iowa.

To help eliminate clutter from the landfills, use old carpeting to edge your beds. I did volunteer gardening at a retirement community until I broke my back. While there they were tearing out old carpet to replace it. I had four 50' long beds, 3' wide. I ran 3' aisles so the residents could walk between the rows with their walkers. I asked the carpet people to cut me pieces 3' wide and 50' long. The old carpet I used between the rows so grass/weeds would not grow into the gardens. I placed the carpet color side down so only the brown jute backing would show. A very light mulch was placed on top of this so residents could still maneuver their walkers.

I have used carpet scraps for paths in my own gardens for years. Some have been there for 10+ years and nary a weed pops up.

Thanks for the tip Karen Sue.

This coming weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count.

A joint operation put on by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon.

This is a great project for all of you amateur and weekend scientists to let your voice be heard.

Participate in the bird count from the comforts of your kitchen table or a stroll in the woods or a preserve.

It really doesn't matter.

Your participation and counts do matter, however.

It is an important project, as it gives the experts an idea of how healthy and unhealthy bird populations are, regionally and as a whole.

It also helps with migration, immigration, and irruptive populations.

Let's make sure that 'Gardening For Wildlife' participates.

Here is the site Great Backyard Bird Count.

There were enough questions this past week on the stakes I placed in my yard to deter hawks from attacking my song birds to warrant a response.

This was an idea I came up with last fall, and I had no idea if it would work or not.

So far I have had a resounding success with this idea.

Not once have I witnessed an attack, nor have I seen a pile of feathers from an attack.

So far so good.

Any sticks or stakes will work, if you deploy enough of them.

The stakes I use are stakes I already have.

I used a pack of bamboo sticks (painted green, about 3 feet long) you can find in any garden center.

There is no specific grid pattern, I simply placed the sticks in a random pattern 10 to 12 inches apart and three or four deep.

They are also close enough together for an ambush hawk to worry about spearing itself (if that is possible).

This provides ample open space for my birds to feed, but makes a hawk think twice before it would fly into the sticks and risk injury.

I know certain species of hawks dive into trees and shrubs in pursuit of prey, but all these stakes may look like a fortress to them.

If a hawk did swoop in, the stakes are thin enough as to not cause real injury, but should allow the song birds enough protection or time to flee.

I am aware of the predator/prey scenario that takes place daily, I simply don't like the idea of setting a buffet table for the hawks.

Even if I lose a bird or two, it is better than what has happened around here the past few years (especially when I see a pile of cardinal feathers).

I had to expand the area this past weekend.

Birds move around and Friday I was witness to a female cardinal becoming lunch and Saturday, a Mourning dove.

Until now, My birds have been pretty safe and this is why I expanded the area.

Now, this idea should work no matter where you live and no matter where your feeding stations are.

It wont stop attacks at feeders, but it seems to have deterred the ground assaults and this allows me to attract more ground feeding birds (more than I could possibly get at my feeders).

I encourage you to give it a try, whether a small scale or a grand scale like me.

I am also very interested at any reports you may have (good or bad).

If this works as I hope it to, it is something to let the backyard feeding world in on.

I understand the excitement some of you have when you witness a hawk attack, It can be for me too, but not my cardinals.

If you have any more questions on this, please let me know.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

In loving memory of my friend Paul Josey (February 11, 2012). A man that truly loved the outdoors. You died too young and will be missed by friends and family.

"People can be more forgiving than you can imagine. But you have to forgive yourself. Let go of what's bitter and move on. "

Bill Cosby, Actor and comedian

Are you having difficult times, bring it to the Lord.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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