Monthly Archives: June 2018

Working to Eat

 

The pileated woodpecker has to work for his meals. This is Woody, who came to check out the old fir stump in my overgrown veggie garden. Notice how his tongue sticks out now and then to help lick up anything  he finds crawling around inside the wood.

After he had his meal, he flew into the forested area around the side of our house to have dessert at one of the other stumps we’ve left there.

I followed him to try to get another photo and was surprised when Junior flew in and landed in a tree quite close to me. You can tell that this is a young bird, maybe a female because of no red malar stripe (moustache). The red on her head is not as brilliant as it will be when she matures.

By the time I recovered from the surprise of her appearance, and refocused the camera, the backyard superintendents woke up from sleeping on the job, and came along barking their fool heads off, scaring the birds away.

I sighed, but couldn’t really reprimand them. After all, they are bird dogs.

 

 

The Dinner Table

My garden is a tangled mess this year because I’ve hurt my back and can’t bend down to pull out the weeds. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.) The flowers have been so generous about hiding the weeds until I’m feeling better. They’ve done such a good job that no self-respecting bird would think it was a place for humans only. One of my visitors recognized it immediately as “tamed gone wild” and made himself at home there.  He exuded confidence and a sense of ownership, only knocking once he was already  in the door.

What he knocked on was once a huge fir that stood too close to our house. We had to cut it down many years ago and only a low stump was left. After today, I’m glad, for the first time, that we didn’t try to auger out the stump and get rid of it. Apparently it made a good dinner table for Woody, the pileated woodpecker. The spellchecker insists on calling him a pillaged woodpecker, and it is partly true. He does have a pillaging nature.

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“Pillaging? … Me? A bird’s gotta eat!”

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“Now, hold on just a minute. I think some of my dinner fell off the table top.”

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“Do you think it would be polite to crawl under there to get it? I suppose if it fell on the floor, I should leave it … but it looks so good.”

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“Hmm … What to do … what to do???”

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“Oh, to heck with it. I think I can get it from up here. I’m gonna go for it.”

 

Stay tuned for the next installment, coming soon to a computer near you.

 

P.S.  I have just found out that the male pileated woodpecker has the red malar stripe (moustache), while the female does not have it. So this is definitely MR Woodpecker.

Top-heavy

So that’s what corn on the cob looks like when it’s growing. A child might think that’s what it is.

You may remember my recent post about the Colorado blue spruce. In that one, I compared the cones to candles standing on a Christmas tree. With our recent sun and rain, the cones on this spruce have grown quickly and are having trouble supporting their own weight.

I wonder if they will eventually hang down the way  cones on so many other evergreens do. I can see that I’ll have to do a followup post whenever that happens.

The Confession

I think I have a problem. I love my garden, but I love poppies even more. So, in my raised beds meant to grow vegetables, most poppies popping up are allowed to stay.

I’ve had to remove a few of the common red ones that want to take over the whole yard, but when I come to a pure white one, I just can’t yank it out. It would be sacrilege,

especially when the whole family of puritans lies down in submission.

Here is my confession:

A few years ago, when I was sitting in the truck one day waiting for the Captain to do some business in a shop, I noticed some pretty poppies in a flowerbox under the store window. Some of them had gone to seed, so I snapped off a couple of the seed pods and put them in my pocket. I felt a stab of guilt, but the seeds would have fallen, mostly on the driveway, and been lost anyway.

I planted those seeds at home and here is one of the progeny of the flowerbox poppies. The wild hairdo is unmistakable.

But wait! The story isn’t over.

In the grocery store one day, I saw the lady who owned the shop with the flowerbox window. She’s a lovely lady in her 80s, and I felt a twinge of guilt about having snapped up some of her poppy seeds. I approached her and told her that I had admired her poppies by her shop window last year.

“Oh you can take some of the seeds, if you like. Help yourself!” she said.

My face went a deeper shade of red as I cleared my throat. “Well, that’s just it. I did … last year … and the babies are growing in my yard right now. I just wanted to thank you and tell you how much they mean to me.”

“You’re very welcome,” she said. “They’re nice aren’t they? Take all the seeds you want.”

The lady has since retired and the flowerbox is neglected, but I always think of her when her pink poppies with the wild hairdo bloom.

Colour Changes in Poppies

My favourite poppies were always these purple ones. I have no idea why, but maybe because they were so different from all the others. Even the leaves are different.  A few years ago when my first purple poppies grew, I  only saw purple ones. Then one year there were some reddish-purple ones. Some kind of hanky-panky going on.

Then we had one of that purple sort, come out very red. By the way, if you click to enlarge this photo, below, you will see the little beetles that are eating its petals.

Here are some of these reddish ones in a group. Notice the powdery mint green leaves that differentiate them from the field poppies.

Speaking of the regular field poppies, they are usually red, but there are variations. This one has a purplish center.

The one below has a red center.

Here they are camping out together.

At last, here is my special find of the day. This is one of the purple variations (those of the minty leaves), but not only is it red, with a dark center, but it has ragged petals. These petals were not ravaged by wind or some animal eating them, but that is their natural look. Kind of like a kid with messy hair, but oh, so cute.

Every  day when I water my garden I accidentally blow a few flowers off their stems. I hope that the next day they will be replaced by new flowers. I encourage this by dead-heading the seed pods in the early part of the season.

I wonder what will be out there tomorrow.

All Spruced Up

Did you know that the Colorado Blue Spruce is the state tree of Colorado? I did not know that, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit. This tree is amazing on so many levels. It is tough and prickly, and in the plant world, that spells survival.

Have you ever tried to touch one, or pull on it? Ouch! The Latin name “Picea pungens,” means a spruce (or type of pine) that is prickly, puncturing, or stinging. Just touch one and you’ll see what I mean.

They make a great wind break when planted as a hedge and they tolerate cold temperatures. They are listed as a Zone 2 plant, which allows for very cold weather. No wonder Colorado likes it.

The Colorado spruce in this photo is actually in my neighbours’ yard. I zoomed in on it when I noticed its beautiful cones standing tall like  candles on an old-fashioned Christmas tree, or many levels of lights on a chandelier.

Just slightly off topic is the background of the photo. You are looking at the sandy bottom of Comox Bay at low tide. Only a small streak of blue crosses it and that is the river coming out into the bay. A few hours later, that whole sandy area will be covered with water when the tide comes in. If not for the river, the tide, and the gooey sand a person might be tempted to walk across to the other side.

Wear a bathing suit, as you might have to swim back.

Almond Bars

This is a very easy recipe (ingredients listed at the end), but I have to warn you, it is really sweet. I cut back on some of the sugar and it is still sweet.

*** You can easily use half the sugar or less and it will still be good. I’ve tried it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First, put into your food processor, 2 cups of white flour, 1/2 cup of icing sugar, and a cup of butter. Pulse it a few times to cut the butter into the flour mixture so it is evenly mixed and is the texture of soft sand.

Put the mixture into a 9 by 13 baking dish (I like my glass one), and gently but firmly press the mixture down to flatten it. This will be the crust which will resemble shortbread. No need to grease the pan.

While the crust is in the oven baking for 10 to 15 minutes (until it is just turning a pale golden brown), chop one cup of almonds (or you can use already sliced almonds).

Break four eggs into a measuring cup and whisk them around with a fork. Add 2 cups of sugar (I put much less and I had to substitute some brown sugar because I ran out of white), the cup of chopped almonds, 1/3 cup of corn syrup (you could probably use honey), 1/2 cup of melted butter, 2 tablespoons flour, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or vanilla or lemon or whatever you want).

Pour into the food processor and give it a couple of pulses. Then check on your crust to see if it is golden brown yet.

Take the baking pan out of the oven and be ready to pour the egg and almond mixture onto the hot crust.

As soon as you have the liquid mixture poured onto the crust, put the baking dish back in the oven, still on 350, and bake for another 25 to 28 minutes.

When the time is up, the topping should be a rich golden brown and be slightly puffy. This will collapse in a few minutes as it cools, and that’s fine. It’s what you want it to do.

As soon as you can no longer stand to wait, pour yourself a cup of coffee (or tea), and cut some squares from the pan of almond bars.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Crust –

2 cups flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar)

1 cup butter

Topping –

2 cups sugar (I think it’s way too much…)

1 cup chopped almonds

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup melted butter

1/3 cup corn syrup (or honey?)

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

 

The finished squares freeze well on a paper plate inside a ziploc freezer bag. Funny thing is though, they disappear quickly no matter where you store them.