Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city is hip and urban – and you can, too.

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New project: build a nest box for bluebirds and chickadees!

It’s been on my todo list for a few weeks to build a couple of bird houses with the scrap wood I have leftover from other projects and so finally I did the job JUST IN TIME for spring migration.

In fact, almost too late – except that some species breed more than once. Those birds who are have been sticking around or arriving earlier already have young, and and some just arriving are getting ready to find a nest box. AND that’s what I’m going to provide!

And so can you. Do it this weekend!

Resource: NestWatch’s All About Birdhouses has everything you need to know about different birdhouses and nest boxes for different types of birds, and also how to set them up with a nest camera!

Cornell Lab of ornithology

I turned this into a new kind of post called a Portfolio post. I decided it was a nice way to do it with a picture gallery, and I could create a series of DIY projects that way. Go check it out. It’s called “Using Old Wood To Build A Birdhouse.

Leave a comment if you do get this project under way / done. I’d love to see the results!

Get your trowels ready! Montréal’s garden giveaway is coming up.

The spring gardening season is upon us with even more speed than it usually assaults us, since winter lingered just a little longer than some people had hoped.

So it comes as small surprise that the Ville and its annual “embellissement” campaign (this translates to “embellishment,” but also “beautification”) is coming to many boroughs just a little late, on the fourth weekend of May, this year (with exceptions).

This annual campaign gives residents of Montreal a panier — a basket — of seedlings for their gardens and balconies: impatiens and begonias, an annual flower such as echinacea, fine herbs like sage, rosemary, and basil, and sometimes mint and tomatoes or cucumbers. Also included is as much compost and wood chips as you want to take.

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Sugar ants aren’t pests – they’re harmless and helpful!

Photo caption: A legion (hah, get it  – not army, but part thereof!) of sugar ants committed mass suicide in my bottle of honey. In honour of those that might resurrect – I can see some of them will – I pooled it in the sink and gave them a chance to extract themselves (sugar ants are resilient to injury). A few less foolhardy brothers and sisters are supping from the edges.

People don’t know what to make of the teeny-tiny ants that march indoors like school children on spring and summer days (when they should be outside!). They can’t be mistaken for carpenter ants. But, like the many other species that aren’t carpenter ants, all searches end up on results about killing them. As if they were as dangerous as carpenter ants. Carpenter ants won’t hurt you, but their infestations are dangerous to your house – they devour wood.  

Common talk, mass media, and the extermination industry has effectively enabled people to think that insects are disgusting and undesirable. We know this is just flat-out wrongheadedness. All it takes to realize that bugs aren’t your enemy is to observe them objectively, and if that isn’t enough, it always helps to do a little research.

Of course, when you try to do some research, you have to get past the “get rid of” them websites. The truth takes lot more digging. So that’s what this blog post is about.

Tapinoma sessile is the name of this kind of ant. Here’s the path I took:

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I found a baby bird in distress. What do I do?

If you’ve been looking up at the tops of the trees, or watching neighbourhood feeders, you’ve noticed the flitting of unfamiliar birds, newly arriving on their spring migration. Or if you’ve been walking around with open ears, you’ve heard the sweet call of the robins and almost-raucous regular trill of the red-winged blackbirds. Spring has arrived and it’s in full swing. And so we must hone our attention on our surroundings (not a hard task!), while for some us, work begins.

The expansion of urban habitat and housing and mirrored buildings means only one thing to birds: imminent danger. There are three things we all need to take responsibility to do for birds, and this message is so old now that NOT doing something about it is delinquent.

(I just found out that free-standing houses cause 50% of bird strike deaths. Big buildings the other 50%. Not 20:80 or something that seems “more reasonable.” Your house and my house is deadly.)

Do what? The Top Three things to do are in an Audubon article (Fall of 2015):

  1. Put decals, tape, strings, or another form of “frit” on your windows – all windows reflecting trees within 5 storeys of the ground! – so that birds can see them and avoid crashing;
  2. Turn off building lights at night, and
  3. SPEAK UP about this to everyone who will listen, but building managers and city councils, especially!

I’ve written about bird crashes and the resources to prevent them before, and it’s also happened to me (this story has a good ending, and it’s instructive on what to do if you have a little window-crasher). One even happened to me last week, though I’m persuaded that the little bird was startled and survived:

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