Baby Robins… Throwback Thursday

Baby Robins… Throwback Thursday

Our busy spring included many changes and one of the things I really enjoyed was watching this clutch of baby robins. The beautiful blue eggs are like little jewels in the spring months and I was so excited to see these inside an electric panel box near our house. With a small opening about two inches round, this was a perfect protected space for these baby robins to grow.  So for this Throwback Thursday (perhaps I should call it “catch up on things you forgot to share” Thursday?) I hope you enjoy these images of “my” baby robins.   Baby Robins May 1: Robins usually lay one egg per day, creating nests of 3-6 eggs. The Iowa DNR says, “She then sits on the eggs for 16 to 17 days and spends another 16 to 17 days at the nest feeding the little hatchlings. Iowa robins usually try for two successful nest attempts between April and August.”  It looks like a lot of room in this box now, but just wait until the last photo! Baby Robins May 10: Its hard to say exactly how old these baby robins are here (somewhere between 1-9 days?).  Oh these little guys are not cute… What does the robin life cycle look like?  Here is a breakdown of each part of a baby robin’s development broken down by the number of days. Egg 12 – 14 Nestling 9 – 16 Fledgling 10 – 15 Total 31 – 45 Baby Robins May 13 As you can see, the nest is starting to get crowded!  The other feathers seen here are from our chickens and must have been picked up by the mother robin in the course of building her nest. Q. How long do robin babies stay in the nest (nestling stage)? A. Baby robins jump from their nest when they are about 13 days old (but the range is 9 – 16 days old). Q. When do young robins learn to fly? (fledgling stage) A. After leaving the nest (fledging), it takes another 10-15 days for babies to become strong fliers and independent birds. Baby Robins May 17: If my the camera on my phone hadn’t marked the date for these images, I would never believe how different these baby robins look after just four days. Eyes wide open, feathers developing and certainly more activity. It is hard to tell, but at this point one of the babies died. It was still in the box and later in the day the adult robin had pushed it out.  Developing five strong robins this far is still much better than most averages. Baby Robins May 23: This is the final image of “my” baby robins before they left the nest.  When I teach classes on butterfly gardening I usually give folks a hard time about how carefully the watch over “their” caterpillars and make sure there is enough food for them to pupate. It isn’t really ours at all, but it is easy to develop an attachment to the show nature provides us.  ...
2017 New Caladium Varieties

2017 New Caladium Varieties

Each year caladium growers from around the country reveal their new caladium varieties for the public. Okay, caladium growers from Florida reveal their new caladium varieties. You can see a quick tour of their fields in this previous post. During a quick visit to Orlando we made a point to stop by the Florida Flower Trials at Harry P. Leu Gardens to take a quick look at the newest varieties being tested. I would certainly admit to being biased with my love for caladiums, so seeing these new caladium varieties was a top priority. I was excited to see some of the new colors and shapes, with more lance leaf caladiums entering the market. I fully admit that I have weird “plant geek” tastes for plants, so I was instantly drawn to the new ‘Tinkerbell’ from Bates Sons & Daughters. I love it! If you are looking for a plant to light up a shady area, then I wouldn’t look any farther than the new ‘Summer Breeze’ from Classic Caladiums. Large leaves with bright pink veins will be a great way to add some sparkle to shady spaces. The other standouts included: The folks at Plant Care Today have put together an article on caladiums, Your Complete Guide To Planting And Growing Caladium Bulbs, with a history on how these gorgeous plants came into cultivation.  As they point out, tere are two basic types of Caladiums. They are: Fancy Leafed Type Caladiums: They come equipped with very large and elegant heart-shaped leaves (or nearly so) on long stems. This type is usually between one and three feet tall. Lance or Strap Leaf Caladiums: These compact versions are smaller, thicker and narrower, often reaching only a height of one foot. The leaves are long and slim and more abundant than those of the Fancy Leafed variety. This type of plant tends to produce more leaves and make them an excellent choice for a pot or a window box. Don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to one type or the other!  Try some of each next year and enjoy the qualities of...
Visiting Seed Savers Exchange

Visiting Seed Savers Exchange

On a perfect summer day last week, Mike and I made the trip to Decorah, Iowa to visit the Seed Savers Exchange. I’ve heard about Seed Savers Exchange for many years, but since our trips to Iowa were often very short, we just didn’t have time to include this in our itinerary. Not so now!   Seed Savers Exchange Mission: We conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.       The very charming Lillian Goldman Visitors Center was our first stop. I probably should have taken a photo of the inside of this building, with walls filled with their seed offerings and various gardening books and tools, it was a little bit of heaven! I purchased several packets of seed and off we went to explore the test gardens. “Diane’s Garden” is certainly a highlight!  Surrounded by a white fence with a gorgeous red barn as the backdrop, this garden is packed with flowering plants, vegetables and herbs. Many are labeled (and I have a feeling the few labels I couldn’t find have been engulfed by the plants!) and makes it easy to go inside and purchase additional seeds. Seed Savers Exchange hosts many special events throughout the year and on the day we visited they were preparing for an evening concert. These Heritage Farm poppies struck a cord with me. For many years we would visit a nearby neighbor who would grow these beautiful flowers and then share their seed pods with us. Their clear pink flowers aren’t too long lasting, but the strong seed pods seem to make up for this. It was nice to see the plants being grown in a garden setting as well as in more rigid trial beds. It is much easier to appreciate how these will behave when grown at home when you can see how they interact with their neighbors. In addition to the gardens, there are miles of trails for exploring the property.  I won’t lie, it was hot and I only had sandals on, so our hiking was limited. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the folks at Seed Savers Exchange even allow visitors to bring leashed dogs on their visit.  If you are traveling with a pet there are no excuses to not stop by here!   Our bit of walking did take us to the historic orchard on the property. The Historic Orchard has over 900 varieties of apple trees and the newly planted Amy Goldman Heritage Orchard featuring Midwestern apple varieties. These apples don’t look like your grocery store apples. They are different colors and sizes and the Seed Savers Exchange serves as a sort of “vault” for these historic varieties. Just outside the charming town of Decorah, we spent about an hour and a half here but could easily have stayed longer with better shoes and cooler temperatures.  Visiting Seed Savers Exchange was a great first stop to our day and we were happy to spend time enjoying the restaurants and breweries which also call Decorah home. Ready to plan your visit? Go ahead, enter this in your phone and find out just how long it will take you to get here. Address: 3074 North Winn Rd Decorah, IA...
What does poison ivy look like?

What does poison ivy look like?

What a way to start a blog post, eh?  “What does poison ivy look like?” has been heard a few times around here lately. We are clearing out an area of old trees, shrubs and underbrush and my lack of familiarity with some of these plants is prompting this question.   So, what does poison ivy look like? Leaves of three, let them be… Leaves of five, let them thrive.  This little rhyme is keeping me in check these days with my poison ivy “sightings.”  Look for plants with leaves in groups of three as an initial indicator. Not to get too technical, but I have to put in here that technically these are leaflets, comprising a single leaf. As a vine, look for hairy roots that are holding on tightly to a tree or wall. This plant, Virginia Creeper, is the plant most often confused with poison ivy. It can be a spreading plant on the ground or a climbing vine, but its five count of leaflets will help to rule it out as the cause of unwelcome itching. The folks at GreenPal have put together this handy infographic for identifying poison ivy. It helps me to see these poisonous plants next to each other, and, even though they gross me out, the photos of how your skin looks after an encounter with poison ivy. If nothing else, the next time you hear “what does poison ivy look like?” you will be all set to help sort out the...
DIY Retaining Wall Makeover

DIY Retaining Wall Makeover

Its been a crazy busy time for us– there seem to be an unending number of projects and tasks for us to take on in our new home. Nonetheless, this DIY retaining wall project has been one of my favorites!  We spent about two hours working on this and I couldn’t be more please with the results. Just see for yourself… We were lucky to have a pile of this limestone already on site. Before starting we decided to use what we had, not to buy any more, but hopefully to get the height we needed. The old railroad ties originally used for this retaining wall have seen better days. This is on the backside of our house, and the saying “out of sight, out of mind” was probably never more true than here. The others around the house have been replaced, but this is tucked between the deck and garage and didn’t seem too important. Until now, that is! Our first step of this DIY retaining wall project was to remove the old railroad ties that were already in place. Due to the fact of their 20+ years in this location, they were easy to pull off and remove. It is difficult to see, but when we did this project in late April, the hostas and ferns in this bed were just starting to show buds. It was nice to have most of the soil stay in place so as to not disturb these too much. As you can see in the first photo, they haven’t skipped a beat and look great now. With the old wall removed, our first layer of limestone had to be done right. This first layer was leveled and extended a few feet further (under the deck) than the earlier version. We did our best to alternate long pieces of stone with short pieces, hoping that for our next layer we wouldn’t have any seams right on top of each other.   To keep this DIY retaining wall project as simple as possible, we didn’t cut any of these stones. We tried our best to get the “seams” at the front to be tight so that if the stone was broken at an angle, that angle would be open to the interior part of the flower bed. On the corner we also alternated the crossing of the ends to help with some added strength. The layers continued to build really well!  It was surprising how quickly these came together. Knowing that we were only using the limestone we had made it easy to know when to stop– and also when to not be too picky!  As we got near the final few layers we tried to keep some of the longest pieces as our top piece. The smaller sections were easy to secure and include lower down. The before and after of our DIY retaining wall project. What a difference a couple of hours will make!    ...
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