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September 17, 2012

(pictures from this past week.)

The roller coaster ride begins.

At least for us in the northern latitudes.

That transition from summer, into autumn.

After all, September 22 is the first official day of Autumn.

One day we're enjoying ourselves on a nice Lake Michigan beach.

The following day, the temperature struggles to reach the mid 60's.

Nights become cool and crisp.

Yards and gardens take on that tired look.

Many gardeners including myself, fare slowly working at clean up.

Even if it is done begrudgingly.

Nature slowly moves forward.

Still, with some proper planning, your gardens can still offer you plenty of color and activity (next weeks letter).

Yes, Karen and I did indeed squeeze in another beach day this past week.

I managed to can a few pints of hot peppers, my first attempt at doing so.

A few quarts of tomatoes were canned up as well.

As long as the task isn't over whelming, I enjoy canning.

Preserving the fruits of my labor, enjoying a bit of summer the rest of the year.


I saw my first Giant Swallowtail this past week.

A magnificent insect.

So large and regal looking.

Yet so delicate.

Giant Swallowtail butterflies are about twice the size of a monarch butterfly, if that helps to put it into perspective for you.

Continue to keep your hummer feeders filled and offer higher octane.

The little guys are on the move and your feeders can mean life or death.

Just this past week, my little fatties disappeared, and two days later were replaced by a couple of skinny fellas.

The replacement birds enjoyed the flowers, but took a couple of days to come to the feeders.

Don't be in such a hurry to pull up and cut down flowers either.

Not only do your blooms offer nectar, but the flowers attract many small insects that the birds need for a source of protein.

While nectar and sugar water offer energy and helps to fatten them for the long journey, insects are required for the all important muscle building proteins they desperately need.

All to often, we seem to forget the need for insects in a hummingbird's diet.

Thank you Jean Pell for posting on your birding blog.

You can read her Blog Simple Living right here.

Jean and I go back a couple of years and we share info from time to time and well as corresponding with each other.

A hand full of years ago, Scotts Miracle-Gro wanted to get into the bird feeding industry.

They Purchased Gutwein & Co, based in Indiana.

Gutwein was well known for the Brand name 'Morning Song'.

As many birders feared, bird feed and seed was mixed with toxic chemicals.

Birds began to drop like flies, yet Scotts Miracle Gro continued this practice, and ignored safety precautions.

They were taken to court and this past week, were fined 12.5 million dollars.

A lot of money for sure, but I feel is a slap on the hand for for what many consider a deliberate act.

Thank you again Jean.

If you live where the ground freezes over the winter, time is running out if you plan to plant and transplant.

Plants need time to establish a good, healthy root system before ground temperatures get too cold.

If plants aren't established, plant upheaval from freeze and thaw will cause crown damage.

Feel free to give transplants and new plantings a light dose of low nitrogen fertilizer
yet high in potassium and phosphate
for root building.

There are special formulated products just for this purpose.

My friends that live in more moderate climates, you still have time to work the plants.

Fall is also a transition time for lawns and yes, perennial weeds like dandelions, plantain, creeping charlie and a host of others.

Autumn is the best time to feed your lawn, especially after the hot and stressful summer many lawns went through.

If you only feed your lawn once a year, this is now the time to do so.

Grass, like all perennials, have a God given ability to store up food in the roots to survive the cold.

This is oh so true for perennial weeds as well.

Like your lawns, weeds are busy sucking up nutrients so they can come up strong and healthy next spring.

Like clock work (length of day), these pests know it is time to go to work.

Some weeds even produce growth just for this reason.

I'm not a big fan of weed and feed fertilizers, but I have been known to break out a spray bottle and give the pests a direct spray.

They are so busy sucking everything up, it is almost seems unfair.

Then again, maybe not :-)

Where are all of the robins?

Unless you live in or around woodlands, you may have noticed the lack of robins the past couple month or so.

Join the crowd.

American robins are interesting creatures.

We see them as harbingers of spring,

The early bird that gets the worm and so on.

We often gauge fall migration by these
birds as well.

From early spring through the last fledgling, we see parent robins all over the place.

In our yards and parks,

They almost become hood ornaments to every car around, they fly so low and cross the street (yes, I have nailed more than one robin in my life).

Robins lead an interesting life style.

In the spring and early summer, from predawn to dusk, the males fill the air with song.

Females are busy building nests and laying eggs (one of the earliest birds to do so).

Both birds are great protectors and parents.

Busy grabbing worms, insects and whatever protein they can find to feed a hungry family.

Your prized strawberries and cherries, and other berries are also on a robin's menu.

Yet, when it come night time..........................

Males and fledglings go off to roost.

Often in wooded areas or clumps of trees and sometimes hundreds in one spot.

By morning, dad is there once again to help feed and care for the family.

As more babies fledge and become juveniles, they join the male robins in the roosting trees.

By now it is mid summer.

Nesting is all but done for the season.

Summer's heat and often lack of rain has driven the earthworm deeper underground (unless you water regularly).

Robins learn that their meal ticket (worms) have disappeared for a spell.

(Before we came along with out manicured lawns, robins didn't have lush patches of tightly cut, green lawns to forage.)

Mature fields and woodlands offer a copious supplies of insects, fruits and berries that our yards simply can't offer.

Besides insects, caterpillars and other goodies, 'Nature' provides nutritious fruits and berries from summer through fall.

Instead of robins raiding your berry patch or cherry tress, they have wild berries like blackberries and raspberries to glean.

By late summer and into fall, there are Currants, Gooseberries, to be had.

Not to mention Boysenberries, Pokeweed, Wild Grapes, Honeysuckle and other fruiting plants.

(Remember, birds also feed on insects.)

Eventually the Robins begin to return to our yards to feed on a few fruits that remain on our Viburnums and other shrubs.

Days have grown cooler and hopefully more rain.

Both will bring worms to the surface once again.

Robins gorge and most will eventually head south.

Some make a complete journey south, while others travel only as far as they must to find food.

Still, a hardy few will remain and find refuge and food, often in the likes of cedar swamps.

Next spring, we will once again welcome American robins and the coming of spring.

I hope you enjoyed this lengthy letter.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

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

God Bless.

“Love is always open arms. If you close your arms about love you will find that you are left holding only yourself.”

Leo Buscaglia

I haven't used a quote from the late Mr. Buscaglia in some time now.

If you have never read, watched or heard any of his work, I urge you to do so.

One of the many love verses spoken by Jesus in the Bible

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31(NIV)

"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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