We are proud of and fortunate that our yard is home to a wide array of fascinating plants and wildlife.
Only a good friend would know that we want pictures of creepy crawlies and save them for us for our blog!
But, last year Rich encountered a wild animal that he wishes he’d avoided. A deer tick found and bit him, although he never saw the tiny eight legged creature. A classic symptom of Lyme Disease is a red rash shaped like a bull’s eye. But Rich never had one. Instead he became overwhelmed with lethargy.
“I never felt sick, just tired, and kept thinking I’d be fine in a day or two,” he said.
But the fatigue dragged on for months, so he called our family physician who urged him to come right in. She gave him a thorough check over, and prescribed a chest X Ray and a Lyme Disease blood test.
Pumpkins are amazing plants. Intriguing and delicious, they are one of America’s gifts to world food and are fun to grow and eat.
Pie pumpkins are smaller with thicker stems.
Pumpkins were domesticated and cultivated by Native Americans long before Columbus. They valued them as a nutritious food that would keep well into the winter. Not only is the meat nutritious but also the seeds are packed with important vitamins and minerals
Pumpkins exist in enormous diversity. Today, most people buy one in the fall and carve it for Halloween, or just use it as an ornament. Then it gets tossed out. Most sold for carving and decoration are field or cow pumpkins. They are edible, but the ring of flesh outside the seed cavity is usually thin and the meat is stringy and needs straining. Transforming cow pumpkins into pie takes work.
Corn is one of the world’s most important agricultural plants. It’s loved by both people and wildlife. Corn is readily available and inexpensive. When used appropriately, it is an outstanding addition to a backyard feeding station.
It’s surprising how little most people know about its history. Corn is a human created plant that does not exist in the wild. It has no ability to reproduce on its own, and without people planting and tending it, corn would become extinct.
Wheat, oats, rye, millet, rice and barley originated in the Old World. In contrast corn is New World. Domesticated from a wild ancestor in Central or South America thousands of years ago, corn cultivation gradually spread north and east as Native Americans traded seeds. The Spanish conquistadors named it “maíz” from the Taino Caribbean culture whose people called it “mahiz.” By the time of Columbus, corn was an important human food throughout what became the United States. Early European explorers brought seeds back to Europe and it was soon grown around the world. Today China is a major corn grower but the production epicenter is the American Corn Belt. Billions of bushels are grown in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, but cornfields can be found in nearly all states.
Geneticists have developed dozens of corn varieties. Best known may be the delicious sweet corn enjoyed at summer picnics or as popcorn at the movies. It is a major ingredient in livestock feed, and most corn is indirectly eaten as beef, eggs, poultry, pork, and even domestic catfish. Corn derived ethanol powers vehicles and it is used to produce syrup to sweeten beverages and has hundreds of industrial applications.
Corn is an outstanding wildlife food. Gardener’s know! Keeping deer, birds, and raccoons out of a patch of sweet corn is a major challenge.
Corn is readily available for wildlife feeding in grocery, farm and bird feeding specialty stores. It’s usually less expensive at farm stores and can be purchased either as whole (sometimes called shell), dried on the cob or cracked. The shell corn name comes from the Native American practice of using a clam shell to scrape hard kernels off the cob. Shell corn is intact kernels too large for most songbirds to swallow but eagerly eaten by deer, wild turkeys, blue jays, squirrels, pheasants and many other species. Cracked corn has been run through a machine that breaks the kernel into pieces small enough to be eaten by tiny birds as well as all those that can eat the full sized grain.
Corn is not the best choice for the most desired feeder birds. Chickadees, finches, cardinals and many others prefer sunflower seed. Corn’s advantages are its low cost and attractiveness to English sparrows, pigeons, starlings and other less desirable species. These birds prefer to eat on the ground. At Winding Pathways we sprinkle cracked corn on the lawn a distance from the sunflower stocked feeders. It helps lure less desirable birds away from the more expensive seeds. Almost daily a flock of wild turkeys visits the yard and devour every scrap of corn.
Squirrels and deer also love corn and readily gobble it down. It’s sometimes possible to buy dried corn still on the cob and many people enjoy watching mammals chew the kernels cobs.
One late October afternoon we set up a few bird feeders in the back yard. Within minutes a procession of nuthatches and chickadees began feasting on sunflower seeds. It amazed us how quickly the birds were able to locate seeds. Gifted with amazing eyesight and intimate knowledge of their territory, birds watch every move humans make and seize any opportunity for free breakfast.
Setting up a backyard feeder brings colorful wildlife to brighten otherwise dreary winter days. Bird feeding is amazingly popular. Upwards of half of American households put out at least a few seeds. It is an outstanding activity to involve a child in.
Bird feeding can be amazingly simple and inexpensive or complex and costly. This blog covers just the very basics. Specific bird feeding tips and bird information will be posted often on the subscription part of the Winding Pathways Website.
Sometimes people wonder why few birds visit their feeders. Usually, it’s simply because their yard is devoid of diverse plants that support different bird species. An array of trees, shrubs and ground level plants provide birds with food and places to hide. Anyone wishing to attract a diversity of birds should landscape for them. That can be a multi-year project. In the short term putting some discarded Christmas trees or brush in monoculture yard will help attract them.
Offering several types of food in a variety of feeders also enhances success. One of the best feeders is a picnic table. Just scatter sunflower seeds on it. Cardinals, in particular, like to feed on a large flat surface and rarely visit silo type hanging feeders. We put out suet for woodpeckers, sunflower seed for a diversity of species, corn for squirrels, millet for doves, and corn for our squirrel friends. But, if we had to choose just one type of seed and feeder they would be black oil sunflower scattered on the picnic table!
Every fall zillions of acorns cascade down into lawns, tumble roll off roofs, and pile up in American driveways. Raking them up is a dreaded autumn chore. Anyone who collects and disposes of acorns is tossing away delicious food.
The charming but pesky chipmunk is an amazing forager and storer of food.
Wildlife sometime create yard mischief. Raccoons, possums, and skunks tip over trash cans in the middle of the night. Chipmunks tunnel under walls, moles heap mounds of dirt. And woodchucks and cottontails raid the garden.