Homemade Hummingbird Nectar: Recipe and Reasons

clear nectar, red feeder

clear nectar, red feeder

A friend and I just had a conversation about hummingbird nectar.  She said she makes her own.  I said I buy mine.  She said she has very few birds at her feeder. I said I have plenty.  So what’s the deal?

After reading much about hummingbird food, I think it’s not the food or the color, but rather the population of the birds in an area.  I must have a large “charm” of hummingbirds in my neighborhood, or perhaps even my yard, because like last year they are everywhere.  I don’t know if they over-wintered here or they are migrating, but I see them feed and often return to one specific tree (a pear tree near the window feeder).  I’ve looked for a nest but can’t see one, which is not surprising considering how small they are.11184x

I’ve also learned that hummingbirds live on average of three to five years, and researchers have tagged and identified one female at 12 years old.  Who knew?

But back to the nectar.  I’ve changed my mind and will make my own nectar without food coloring.  Since learning that hummingbirds can live a relatively long lifespan, I think those chemicals and preservatives might harm the birds over the long haul.

hummingbird vs. bee

hummingbird vs. bee

What I need to do is cook up a batch, which is simply four parts water to one part white cane sugar.  NOTE:  if the concentration is too strong the birds will feed less often, but if it is too light, they may move on to a more suitable nectar.  So maybe it should be five parts water and one part sugar, an amount that might bring them back more often, but keep them happy with the amount of sugar in solution. I’ll make just enough to fill the feeder once so there is no leftover to store, and really clean my feeder more often. This is where I wish I had a working dishwasher as these feeders are a pain to clean.  But I’ve read how the bacteria brought to the feeder by bats, bees, and other critters can harm the birds, and I’m more motivated than ever to keep my tiny birds healthy, happy, and humming away.  They are such a joy to watch.

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Hijacking the Internet

confusionIt has happened so many times in the last couple of weeks, I was beginning to think it might be peculiar to my server, or maybe even my computer.  I’ve gone to look for something, some general piece of information, and the first page of my search is nothing but sites that require membership, either free or for a fee, to access the information.

Want a contractor?  Pay me.  Want to find a good nursing home?  Pay me.  Looking for information about a doctor?  Pay me.  Looking for school information?  Pay me.  How about a phone number? Pay me.  Looking for someone in particular?  Pay me a lot!

Today I was looking for information about the origin of the Easter egg as research for a sweet little post I had planned.  But I found too many different explanations, and decided it was too much trouble.  How would I know which was true? And pop-ups are everywhere; my computer asking me to respond to a request from the site I am on to “track” my location.  Why do they need my location if I can’t see theirs?

Is it me, or does anyone else feel the Internet is getting harder and harder to navigate? There is something fundamentally wrong when a “Pay Me” site can buy its way to the first page with SEO, and we have to dive deeper and deeper to get the information that was placed online for free and access it for free.  Oh well, I guess nothing really good lasts forever.

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Car Repair Numbers Game

Our beloved Priuses are part of the massive recall for something that probably won’t affect me because I don’t haul heavy things and I don’t drive fast.  I understand there’s another recall coming.  Between these oil changes, tire rotations, other preventive maintenance, and now recalls, I’m not sure who’s boss – the cars or us.

But my biggest concern happened recently, and at first it seemed innocuous but now it seems important.  While driving home on a highway with a 65 mph speed limit, I often find myself surprised at the cars whizzing by me and even more surprised to find I’m driving below 60.  So I’m now in the habit of using cruise control.  Yes, you heard right.  I use cruise control to keep my speed up, not keep it down.  So the other day when I pushed the button to engage my CC I found it curious that my speed was not maintained but rather gradually creeping lower.  My CC wasn’t working.  And after 20 tries it still wasn’t working. Cursing at my bad luck, I drove home and then promptly put a reminder on my icebox to tell the service techs at my upcoming appointment that the CC was broken. But then the next day it was working.  I thought of it as a “reboot” of the car’s computer when I turned it off.  Isn’t that what they say about your computer misbehaving?  Reboot it by turning it off and then on again.

So you guessed it, a week later it wasn’t working again, but this time I wasn’t about to forget, and yesterday I left explicit instructions with the tech to look into it.

Surprise!!!!!  They couldn’t find anything wrong.  How did I know this when I dropped the car off?  How did I know exactly what they would say, that they could not “replicate” the problem, and therefore couldn’t fix it?  But I was ready.  My friend and I were having lunch and killing time while waiting for my car and I discussed just what I’d say when faced with their predictable nonchalance.

“When a patient comes to me and tells me he had chest pain last night, but he’s pain free now, I don’t send him home.  I look for the problem.  I run tests.  I investigate potential causes.”  Actually I’m paraphrasing, but I knew how the tech would respond.  “Well,” the tech went on to say, “people have health insurance, and things like that can be life threatening.”  Then I said something about CC issues also being life threatening, and I had car insurance called a “warranty,” and it wasn’t free but rather built into the price of the car, so I was paying for it and I wanted my car fixed.  This was said with my innate New York accent which carries both the element of surprise and a threatening tone.

But it wasn’t really until I got my husband on the phone, who lives out of town, that all this rancor changed to guy talk and now I’m driving a new Corolla while they do an MRI or chest X-ray or blood work on my car and fix it completely so that I can stop thinking about all the Internet horror stories I read about Toyota’s very long and well-documented problems with their cruise controls.  Speed control was second only to electrical problems since the rollout of the first Prius.

My husband says it’s a numbers game.   He feels because it’s an intermittent problem they’ll just send you on your way and wait until you return with a more serious issue (like an accident).  And if this sounds implausible and callous, you need to read what GM is going through now, and how they got there and who died in the process.  I have no intention of being a statistic.  A shrew, perhaps, but not a statistic.

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Two Hours Later

I had just put up the post To Kill A Mockingbird about two hours earlier when my husband comes flying up the stairs panting that a bird was stuck in our water heater and he couldn’t free it.  What????  I ran downstairs to find a bird buried head first into a sticky platter that our pest control guy had placed on top of the tank to catch a mouse.  The platter is so sticky, if you touched it you’d have trouble getting free.  I don’t know what’s in this stuff, but I wanted a non-poisonous solution to the mouse problem.  Remember, at the time I had a cat.

And speaking of cats, Bowtie rarely had the opportunity to kill a bird because she stayed mostly inside the lanai.  A few times she snuck out of an open door, only to return an hour later with her tail between her legs and heading straight for her food bowl.  But Cosmo, the male cat who preceded Bowtie, now he was a bird chaser!  He was also a snake chaser, which is how he died.

But when I saw the poor bird, I panicked.  I made a small tug with a gentle hand and she flailed about making a noise I’ve never heard come out of a bird.  There was a spade within reach, and in one strike I cut her neck in two.  The crunching sound brought my lunch into the back of my throat and we put the poor thing in a bag, platter and all, and then into the trash so that another animal would not get “stuck.”

And then it dawned on me.  This first post, so few moments earlier in the day, about To Kill A Mockingbird, brought my action into focus.  I’d just killed a bird.  Was it a mockingbird?

So I had to rush out to the bag and open it to see what I had actually killed.  The tail feathers were long and variegated between light and dark, and the coloring was right except for some brownish red on the underbelly that I couldn’t really see well.  It seemed small for a mockingbird, but also small for a robin.  But that’s the call I’m going to make. It has to be a robin.  I couldn’t handle it being an actual mockingbird.  Not now.  Not today.

And no, I’ve never killed a bird before.

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To Kill A Mockingbird

There are legions of people who drink a lot and many others who take drugs regularly. But more and more I am finding women who integrate healthier ways to calm themselves in this ever-increasingly crazy world.  Many of my aging friends are taking up new sports, learning to swim, biking, kayaking, walking, playing racquet sports, using Yoga and meditation; all of which have a calming effect.  Now will I ever give up my little orange pills?  No.  I need them to fly. But considering I take a half-pill on average every three months, I doubt I’m an abuser.

However, my favorite tool to cure what ails me is watching a movie.  I don’t know what it is about me that allows my brain to so easily become a bit part in a movie.  I love all kinds of films; action and adventure and sci-fi are among my favorites.  But most of all I like period pieces.  Anything by Merchant and Ivory (I think I own most of what they’ve made) puts me in a different world.  Even TV stuff like the new Turn, with all its historical references and constant death threats, takes my mind off what’s wrong around me.  It’s made-for-TV, I know, but I like seeing life, even as hard as it was at this turning point in our nation’s history, lived simply.  I sense those people slept better than we do now.

If music is involved, which is the case in most films, then a period piece can be incredibly calming.  The Cider House Rules music can take me from near hysteria to near REM sleep in minutes.  The movie itself just makes me cry.  But, and here finally is my point, there has never been a movie that could turn my mood quicker than To Kill a Mockingbird. From the credits at the beginning, with that old box filled with childhood keepsakes and Scout, or was it Jem?, humming over the recurring melody, I am at peace.  I begin to gently roll with the marble.  The movie says everything I would ever want to tell the world, if only it would listen.

In 2006, the British librarians rated Harper Lee’s novel ahead of the Bible as the book “every adult should read before they die.”   Many here in America wanted the book banned from our schools.  But whatever you feel about this book, or the movie, this is my drug of choice, and will remain so forever.  Listen HERE.

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Cat Love

A friend and I went to the local shelter to cop a little cat love.  I’ve been going through withdrawal since the passing of my Bowtie, and though I swore I’d never have another pet, I merely proved what a heathen I am. I’ll never get through this life without another cat.  It’s unnatural somehow for a house to be without one.  It’s difficult for me not to have one to love.

Besides the fact that they kill mice and eat bugs, their main job is to explain the unexplainable noises of a house at night. Now that Bowtie is gone, every little creak and groan wakes me with wonder.  Sometimes I even think I hear her crunching on her dry cat food, and that’s a sound I can no longer explain.

So anyhow, we travel down this nasty road remarking why all shelters must reside on nasty roads, and are surprised to find a humongous new building that looked more like a Hampton Inn than a county animal shelter.  And it got better.  The inside of this place was incredible, with philosophical posters, colorful walls, waiting areas, play areas, high tech computers, and everything was immaculate.  The cages were even cleaner than the floors, and volunteers were everywhere feeding and playing with the pets, removing immediately anything that might cause an odor, and attending to our questions like concierges.

I didn’t find the two kittens that would have caused me to cave.  I’ve been reading that two cats are better than one and kittens are more easily trained than cats.  I always liked being Bowtie’s best friend, but in retrospect I think she would have preferred someone furrier. But the sticker shock is still with me, and I quickly realized why this place was so upscale. Two kittens, fixed and with shots, would have set me back $250.  Ouch.  And while I understand the value of knowing their cats are healthy, vaccinated, and now not part of the problem of cat overpopulation, I also believe that the price would, and more than likely does, inhibit some perfectly worthy cat owners from adopting.  And that’s a shame.  There were a lot of cats in there looking for a home, one of which had been there for 15 months. She’s a calico and beautiful.  I’ve been dreaming about her.

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Learning From WordPress

Malaysia

Malaysia

I have a habit of checking the “hits” on my blog and lately noticed I’m circling 30,000, which is a big deal for me but maybe an eye-roller for you.  I like seeing who’s reading, if not exactly who they are in my subscriber bin, I enjoy identifying the flags on the map.  Malaysia caught my eye this morning because I recognized their flag from all the news about the missing plane.  I wondered why anyone in Malaysia would be reading my silly posts, but I’ll take it as a compliment.

You can’t click on the flags and get information, but you can quickly Google the country and get about as much information as you might need to answer a Jeopardy question.  It’s a pretty flag, not unlike ours, but with a distinct Islamic feel with that moon and starburst.

From this tidbit I went to learn how many countries there are now (they do come and go), and we’re currently at 196.  I’ve been to Scotland and Wales and had no idea they weren’t actual countries.  Much of this is driven by semantics, but technically they aren’t independent.  HERE’s  just one of many sites that gives a breakdown on Scotland.

I used to think that what goes on across either pond meant little to America, but that was before 9-11.  While it can be a bit scary at times, learning about other countries, especially in the Middle East, brings much of what I hear on the news into focus.  No one really believes that the network news is comprehensive or even true, so getting information from a variety of sources has always given me a clearer world view.  I like having both sides to all those stories.

And anyone can start this learning process right here on WordPress in the flag section of the stats!  But beware.  Like the Bing picture and tags that start my every day, you may find yourself on your computer longer than you like.  I consider it brain exercise, but it’s doing very little for my butt.

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Pickleball Mania

Sweeping the Country!

Sweeping the Country!

My friend Kathy had heard from her friend in Florida about a game called Pickleball.  Since we’re usually online while we’re onphone (like the “con” on a sub) I looked it up to find pages of amateurish ads and home movies clearly intended to garner interest.

And they did.

Within minutes I’d found a game in Morganton, and by one o’clock that same day we were sitting on the benches watching two sets of four play a tournament.  There were trophies and “kissing” paddles, and we were intrigued. At the end of it all we were invited to try our hand, which was hysterically funny but a good workout, and by evening we were back online, totally hooked, and looking to buy paddles.

That Morganton already had a group going, and their times were in the middle of the day (not in the morning which was best for us) I contacted my local rec center to learn there was recent interest and he’d order up a Pickleball set for us to use.  I initiated a Meetup.com Pickleball site and told some friends.  Six were expected, and eleven showed up.  We’re on our way to a good group, mostly women, but I imagine that will change when the rec-center men see how much fun and sweat is being generated.

For the entrepreneur, now is a good time to design some pickle ball clothing.

For the entrepreneur, now is a good time to design some pickle ball clothing.

Why all the minutia?  Actually I’m promoting two things with this post.  One is Pickleball, of course, and you can Google it for those very same pages and learn where you can find a group, how to buy equipment, and all the rules.  Mostly though you’ll find hours of video of people, old geezers like me, running their sagging buns off on a Pickleball court, which is not unlike a tennis court only smaller.  But, and this is a big but, there’s a trend afoot that’s bringing in younger players, kids, teenagers, and inexplicably, twenty-something men who are treating this like they’re at Wimbleton.  Playing doubles, which is the norm, keeps the game tight and we don’t fall as much.  I’m speaking for myself of course.  And this is the beauty and the draw of Pickleball.  You can make it as competitive or as fun, or both, depending upon who you’re playing with.

The other point in this post is Meetup.com.  If you haven’t tried this you should.  I put up a site in less than 10 minutes, and within two days it was cleared by Meetup and published. I own one Meetup account which affords me three Meetup groups.  If you’re in a rural area, or even if you’re not, this is the ultimate way to start a social group.  Meetup is full of hikers, kayakers, ball players, card players, movie-goers, travelers; you name it.  It’s been an enormous benefit for me as a newbie to Western North Carolina.  I’ve met hundreds of people though this venue, and made dozens and dozens of friends.  I’m grateful for the opportunities Meetup has provided.   I’ll let you know about Pickleball at the end of the summer, but I suggest that you don’t let the name fool you into not trying it.  It’s amazingly fun.

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The Shops Are Closing!

Cranberrys & Lace

Cranberrys & Lace

A couple of years ago (while I was still in Florida) I wrote a blog about how “diminished” our towns would be if all the independent boutique-style shops closed. In particular I was speaking about yarn-shop patrons succumbing to the lure of the Internet.  Apparently the situation that prompted that blog has worsened.

Shop 256I got an email from two friends, partners in the boutique Shop 256 in Morganton.  It’s a mix of antiques, hand-painted furniture, and a very interesting line of clothes.  Aside from being friends to each other, they made friends out of all their customers.  Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough customers and they are closing up their shop soon.  There’s a big sale going on now as they liquidate their stock.

Three days ago, in another boutique called Cranberrys and Lace, not far from Shop 256, I stopped by to say hello to the owner/operator and was shocked to hear that she’s closing in a couple of months with the big sell-off starting in April.  She was one of those shops that had a bit of everything country:  furniture, antiques, paintings and prints, lamps, linens, candles, and handmade dolls.  While this type of shop is as common as crabgrass in New England, it’s uncommon here and I was happy to patronize it.  Now I’m sick that she’s closing.  Some of her items will be in an antique mall at Exit 90 off Hwy 40, and she’ll be decorating a local furniture store with her “smalls,” but for me it just won’t be the same.

I took one of my country drives today.  It was sunny and 70, and my windows were down for the first time this spring.  The trees are all blooming white, purple, and lavender, and the daffodils have turned these mountains almost completely yellow.  The smoky smell has left the air, and now everything smells like moist dirt – one of my favorite fragrances. I visited a shop in Shelby called Country Heart, and there I learned that the owner of the building is looking to sell, so they will be moving “to something smaller.”  At least they’re not going out of business, but the owner had much to say about the competition of the Internet.  I also learned of some other country/primitive places nearby that were closing, and I came home wondering when this recession that everyone says is over will actually be over.  It’s certainly not over in Western North Carolina.

Do I need anything from these shops?  No, of course not.  But like a lot of people, I like decorating for each holiday, and trends change – which is why they call them trends.  I can buy a lot of this stuff on Etsy, Ebay, and even Amazon.  And yes, perhaps I can save a little. But I can’t drive down a country road to get to Etsy, Ebay or Amazon.  I can’t have a conversation with an Etsy, Ebay or Amazon shop owner.  And I can’t walk into an Etsy, Ebay or Amazon shop and smell those cinnamon or maple syrup candles.  I can’t pick up an item to see if it has some heft to it.  And I can’t take it home with me and set it out right away and stare at it, happy with my purchase.

I get the Etsy, Ebay, and Amazon shopping experience.  I buy almost all my books, dvds, cds, etc. from one or another.  I’m even buying plumbing supplies and some architectural items for this home renovation.  But when these little country/primitive/boutique-style shops are all gone, I am going to be completely miserable; not just missing the country drives, but missing my friends as well.

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I’m Teaching Again!!!

Welcome Spring 2-day Beginners Class, Bird's Nest on Wooden Box

Welcome Spring 2-day Beginners Class, Bird’s Nest on Wooden Box

It’s been awhile, but because I’m a packrat, I have all the printed materials of every painting class I ever taught.  So I took some to A.C. Moore to see if they were interested in me teaching there, and, well, I’m in….

The manager wanted something new and fresh, so I worked up this Welcome Spring on a wooden box, and did a supply list so that students can buy all they need from A.C. Moore.  That’s how it works. They have teachers teach so that they can sell the supplies.  Makes sense to me.

Closeup of Welcome Spring

Closeup of Welcome Spring

The exact dates won’t be known until the end of the week, but for those of you who are local, and I know who you are, here’s pictures of my beginner’s class.  The classroom can only seat eight students, but if there’s enough interest, I can run two classes.  Classes will run for two days (one day each week for two weeks) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a total of 6 hours. There will be homework, and this is freehand painting – no patterns to rely on. The cost is $50 plus supplies.  The store handles all the money, but I’ll handle everything else.  For those who know me, call me and I’ll reserve you a spot.  For anyone else in the Hickory, NC area, call A.C. Moore next week.

Hope to meet some budding artists.  I’m already working on the next beginners class, as well as a level two offering.  It’s good to be back in the saddle again.  I really enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for painting.

 

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