For Dragonflies And Me

  (Snover, Michigan)
Enjoy the everyday life I love to live!
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Nifty Bird Feeders, Homemade Hummingbird Nectar, A Lovely Garden Path and Taylor's Yummy Oatmeal Pancakes!

I was in the kitchen the other day leaning on the counter looking out one of the windows when a male & female Purple Finch landed on the feeder.  I quick called over baby Aaron and picked him up to watch them.  We were actually only about seven feet away so the view was quite charming.  Aaron got big eyed of course and started pointing and oohing over them.  The birds were quite relaxed due to the 'usual' noise coming out of the house- this was no big deal and continued to eat and enjoy the sunny day.  Soon another pair settled in and things were even more splendid. As I have mentioned in several of my entries, we are big bird watchers and we enjoy feeding them very much.   Although all the bird feed can get a bit expensive I do believe it is well worth the efforts and the rewards of being able to see one of Gods most intricate & beautiful creatures so closely. I have large climbing Sweet Autumn Clematis' growing on both my front arbor and my pergola and the birds just love them. They gather for shelter as well as nesting! Last week I put a bird house in the inside corner of my front arbor well in the vines and I am pleased to say I already have a pair of sparrows nesting in there! 

If you enjoy feeding the birds, here is a really easy bird feeder recipe that you and the children can make to stretch the seed out a 'little' bit longer .
*Nifty Bird Feeders~ General Recipe: Mix about a tablespoon of white corn syrup with approximately 1 cup of bird seed~  Make as much as you want and then using a rolling pin, roll out onto counter or table until about 1/2 inch think or so.  Using cookie cutters have the children cut out shapes; re-roll any remaining seed mix until you have used it all.  Using a thin dowel, no larger than a pencil make a hole about 3/4 of an inch below the top edge of the bird treat; using yarn, thin wire or twine make a loop about 12 inches or so long to hang it out with.  You can also form into suet size to put into your suet holders.
*To make suet cakes use smooth Peanut Butter mixed with a couple tablespoons flour and mix in bird seed of choice, form into cakes and fill your holders.  Keep these in shady areas because they will melt in the heat of August. You can store these in the freezer for up to 3 months, so have fun and make ahead when the peanut butter is on sale and you have time! 
*If you do purchase pre-made suet cakes, save a few of the plastic holders they come in so you have a form handy and they will be the right size.
*Hummingbird nectar is super easy to make without buying the expensive mixes.  Simply add to four cups hot water 1 cup of sugar; stir until sugar is completely dissolved then add  2 drops of red food coloring if you want to, but it is not necessary. Put in fridge to cool down and then fill your feeders- hang out and enjoy the flock that will come. 
*Be sure to plant a row of Mammoth or Giant Grey Striped Sunflowers in your veggie garden or some in your gardens, you will be entertained in the fall by many birds looking for food!
*If you don't have room for a large bird bath somewhere, you can use large Terra cotta or plastic plant saucers for them.  Put down on the ground next to a large shrub so they have somewhere to fly and be sure to keep clean water in it.

*A Pretty Cobblestone Walk ~ see attached photo
One of the first things I did when we purchased our home was plan all the 'future' gardens and then some. There was nothing here when we came except on overgrown apple tree, an ugly shrub next to the front porch steps, two lilac bushes, a hydrangea bush  and one big beautiful Maple in the back yard. Some might be saying, "Well that's not too bad."  Well maybe it's not to some and the ease of that would be just fine & dandy~ not so for me.  I want gardens that surround and abound, both veggie and flower.  In my opinion they go hand in hand~ you can't not have flowers in your veggie garden anymore than you can't have herbs and a few pretty chard or potato plants mixed in the flower beds.  So the planning started.  One thing I had to have was a cobble stone walk.  A good friend of mine, also a gardener, had a form, soooo I put Neil to work, of course I helped, after all someone had to tell him what to do :-) ! He is my muscles when I need certain hard scapeing done, so we got the neighbors cement mixer, bought several bags of  concrete and went to work.  First I dug up the sod from the planned walkway; next I put down black plastic ground cover to hold back the nasty grass that would surly want to rear it's ugly head up into my path; next we put down about four inches of sand. Now we have a gravel/sand pit right across the road from us, so this is free for the taking for township residents.  If you don't have access to free, then you need to buy enough to lay at least 4 to 6 inches of sand down for the stones to mold into. Now I needed my 'muscles' and as usual he came through beautifully. He mixed the concrete and filled the form on and on until the walk was complete.  I wanted it to be more special though so I had each of our children press their little patties (hands) gently into a stone, then I carefully printed their name and the date in another stone beside it.  I added marbles and made smiley faces with them in neighboring stones as well.  I also had Neil & I do the same and put our wedding date and a heart made with marbles in ours (see photo attached).  I wanted a bit more so I took some maple, fern and hosta leaves and pressed them into several of the other stones.  Now after several years they are all still perfectly visible and are a happy reminder of a hard days work. 

Pancakes can have so many variations, it's simply to the cooks imagination as what to add or not. Here is a yummy variation that goes over well at our house!
Taylor's Yummy Oatmeal Pancakes

1 Package of Taylor's Bake Shoppe 'Buttermilk Pancake Mix'~ follow package directions and then add to one batch recipe:
1/2 cup whole oats
1/4 cup more buttermilk
1 tbsp. Maple Syrup

Fry as you would and serve hot with Garden Gates Breakfast Sausage patties or links and a jug of Kapnick Orchards yummy Apple Cider! 

Happy Day,
Jean,
 
 

Birds~ Watching, Feeding & Housing, Pretty Porches, and Market Square Open Faced Baguette's!

I love to watch Kyle our oldest son take his little brother Evan's hand to go fill the bird feeders.  It is so sweet and special!  Kyle has always been my bird feeder and now Evan is too.  We love to watch the boo-jays come to the giant sunflowers we planted for their fall 'fare' and see the finches devour the thistle seed in the ditch, then slowly change their bright summer yellow feathers for the drab brownish garb for winter.  Birds provide such a wealth of entertainment not to mention relaxation.

Here are few 'Bird' Friendly ideas for both enthusiasts and wannabe's!
*Don't throw your hair away- or your pets for that matter!  After you comb your hair or the pets, put the wads out in bushes or low branches of some trees.  Watch and see as your feathered friends will take them to add to their next.  Other things you can help them with is the lint from your dryers & scraps of yarn. It is so neat when you look up in the tree and see some of your red yarn up high in a nest!
*We always include a row of giant sunflowers at the one end of our small veggie garden.  It's not just beautiful but it provides so much food for the birds in the fall.  If you don't have a veggie garden plant them next to your kitchen window or some other visible spot so you can watch!
* Egg shells are loaded with calcium and birds need it to make strong egg shells. Rinse and crumble them up and scatter around under your bird feeders or on top of evergreen shrubs.  If you have chickens by chance add to their feed, you're eggs will be much stronger and if you have little hands gathering, a bit less likely to 'crack' on the way up to the house :-) !
*Give a bird a break and free rent.  The entertainment they provide will be worth the work! Put bird houses out in trees and other locations.  You can get all kinds of info on what types of houses attract certain birds.  If you want Blue Birds, start reading and preparing now!  What a special treat to have a pair of these!
*Super easy bird feeders are right in your kitchen and yard!  Here are a couple simple ones to make and are great fun for children to help with!  First gather some pine cones, fill all the cracks with smooth peanut butter then roll in bird feed of your chose.  Tie a bright piece of yarn around the center and hang where you will be able to enjoy.  Another easy one is to take some corn syrup and mix loose bird seed into it until it is moldable and not drippy, gooey.  You can roll flat & cut with cookie cutters into shapes or just make balls.  Add a string then let dry.  Hang, watch & enjoy!
*Keep a journal!  I use to keep a journal of all the birds that would gather at my bird feeders.  Just the first time.  You can make it really special by using photo's you have taken or found or water colors of those birds and adding them in along with the sitings. 

I am all about a Pretty Porch!  I absolutely love to decorate my porch, (see photo's) and make it as welcoming as possible.  Last year I painted the ceiling a sky blue and that added such charm!  I have two rocking chairs on it, one for me and one for Neil.  I love to sit out their in the early morning before everyone else gets up and do my devotions with a cup of coffee.  I get to 'hear' the whizzing of the humming birds wing's, the buzzing bumble bee and the wood pecker tap tapping in the tree.  I love the morning sounds on the porch, but the evening ones are equally interesting~ the swooping of the bats wings as they slide out from the chimney and pass by us very closely, the peepers in the pond across the road, the crackling wood in the fire pit we are all sitting around and the shrill scream of the Screech Owl in the woods.  There are a few other 'sounds' around, like the laughter of busy boys, the vroom vroom of the tractors hauling my pea stone away from the patio area, the 'crack' of the ball hitting the baseball bat from the boys playing, the girly scream of the big sister as the 'flying bat' swoops a bit too low.... so you have to listen closely for the evening sounds!
A porch in my opinion has to say, 'Come set awhile'!  So now is the time to start preparing!  Go ahead & start shopping around at all the local thrift shops for 'porch' worthy items!
*Neat old chairs that will be a welcome seat for a pretty potted plant, bird houses.
*An Old window that you can hang on the wall and swag some grape vines over top.
*A neat old table that you can set potted plants on or use as a quaint little breakfast table.
*Rocking chairs of course!
The ideas are limitless, use your imagination and let your porch be beautiful!

Try these yummy & easy open faced sandwiches!
Market Square Open Faced Baguettes!

3 tbsp butter                                                                                  1 tsp. dried Basil from A Pinch of Spice & More
1 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms from Willowridge Farm                    1/2 tsp. dried Garlic from A Pinch of Spice
1 cup thinly sliced Zucchini from Willowridge Farm                    1/4 tsp. each Salt & Pepper from James Creek Sutlery
2 Tomatoes sliced from Springbrook Gardens                            4 Baguettes, sliced from Golden Wheat
1/2 cup sliced and separated Red Onion from Garden Gate         1 Cup shredded Cheese from Grassfields

1.  Melt butter in skillet over medium heat.  Stir in all ingredients except baguettes, cheese and tomatoes.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. 
2.  Arrange baguettes on an ungreased baking sheet.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over each half and bake at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes or until lightly toasted and cheese is melted.  Remove from oven; top each with one slice tomato.  Spoon on veggie mix; top with remaining cheese. Continue baking 4 to 5 minutes longer, or until cheese is melted.  Yummy!

Happy day,
Jean
 

 
 
 

Robins & Geese, Kitchen Gardens & Yummy Potatoes, oh my...

A few weeks ago our friends Kevin & wife Hilda spotted twenty-one Robins in their front yard! Kevin is the music teacher at our childrens school and he told the children how he and his wife gazed out their living room window in awe counting.  Back in February when Neil & I were in Saugatuck we watched about seven fairly large flocks of Canadian Geese heading North.  Well, many an old timer would say, 'The birds know..."  I believe it.  
This weather sure puts me in the mood for gardening even more!  I have several herbs planted in the green house right now; Basil, Rosemary, Parsley, Oregano, Sweet Marjoram and several others.  A few years back my daughter Taylor was reading through one of my Country Garden mag's and came across an article on Kitchen Gardens.  That was all it took for her and then, 'Mom, could we make a kitchen garden?'  Well I never say no to creating another garden, so we went right for it and now we have a lovely garden right off the side of our garage that is easily accessible from the back door and adds beauty to our yard.  We incorporated a Tea bed and several perennials along with the veggies we plant each spring.  My favorite spot in it is the Herb Garden.  I used several old drawers and other containers to put the herb's 'in'.  There are all the perennial herbs that come back year after year and then we try a few new ones each year as well. We always incorporate the annual have to's - primarily Basil! Oh how we love our fresh Heirloom tomato Brushetta with fresh picked basil and garlic.
Here are are a few tips for making your own Kitchen Garden:
*First, make sure your new garden is near an entry door to the house where you can easily go out and gather the bounty for your meals.
*Make sure there is a water source nearby that a sprinkler can be used.
*Do a 'map' of the area and what you would like to incorporate before you start.  Get the proper info on each plant and know how much space you will need for it's growth habits.  I have made the mistake of not giving enough room too often in the past and end up climbing over and through a mass of plants.
*Use container's of all sorts to add an eclectic look. This will also help keep things where you want a bit easier.
*Use flowers to add beauty & charm- you can choose edible ones as well!
I like to take before & after pictures so I can see the progress and see growth over the years.  Have fun in the garden, it is a happy place to be.
Cute Herb Tag Idea:  Take small pieces of broken old slate, painting the name of the herb on it, and spraying it with an acrylic sealer.  Place the marker at the base of each herb.  Then the next year when cleaning up the garden spot there won't be any problem with identification. 
Here is a yummy Winter Thyme Potato Casserole
Of course you can get your potatoes, bacon and thyme all from The Garden Gate Farms booth at the market...
20 Redskin Potatoes                                        
1 cup  Cheddar Cheese, shredded & divided
1 tsp Seasoning Salt                                         
1 tsp. dried Thyme
1/2 lb. Garden Gate Bacon, crisply                  1/2 cup  Butter, melted
cooked, crumbled & divided
1. Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender; drain.  cool and slice about 1/4 inch thick.
2.  Arrange half the potatoes in a greased 9"x13" baking dish.  Season with Matt's Mix & Thyme.
3.  Top with half the bacon and half the cheese.  Layer on remaining potatoes; repeat with other half of bacon & cheese.  Drizzle butter over top.
4.  Bake, uncovered at 325 degrees until cheese melts and casserole is heated through, about 30 minutes.


Happy Day,
Jean

 
 
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