Thursday, March 29, 2012

Most Active Birdbath Spring 2012

Wednesday, 28 March, the day began with freezing temperatures and the water was frozen in the birdbath.  Temperatures reached the 70ºF / 20ºC today and it was the most active day for animals in the birdbath.

Images captured at a rate of 1frame/5sec and slowed to 25% of normal replay rate of 30frames/sec

What a difference a day makes.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cleanest Bird In My Garden

Robins have to be the cleanest birds in my garden.  Below is a compilation over several days of time lapse images in my backyard birdbath.

March 20 through March 25, 2012

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Easy Soil Structure Test

Last year I hurriedly constructed a square foot garden.  I dug down 2' / 31cm into my "lawn".  The details can be found here on my original post.  This year I am testing the structure of the soil.  I know it wasn't as good as need be.

I found an empty jar with a lid in the recycling bin.

Out to the garden
Loosen the soil and break up the big clods
Fill about 1/3 of the jar with soil

Add water, leaving about 1" / 25mm of air at the top.

Tightly screw on the top.

Shake the jar until all the soil is in suspension.

Then shake it a little more, just to be sure.

What you will have should look like this.
You can see the heavy grains of sand immediately separated out of the suspension after the shaking stopped.

Now let the suspension settle overnight.

Close to 16 hours later, this is what I have.

What are do you see?

The sand that settled to the bottom is there on the right.
Clay, that is the major component of my soil has settled on the left.
What little organic matter in my soil is floating on the top.

The results of this test tell me that my soil is nearly 50/50 sand/clay particles.  I lack organic material.

Get out and test your soil.  Let me know what you find.


©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Signs of Spring 2012

Spring arrived today.  The Sun crossed the celestial equator at 01:14 EDT/ 05:14 GMT, Vernal Equinox.  Spring has sprung.

The birds have returned in noisy numbers.  Plants are greening and blooming.  This first day of spring, I marveled at the wonders of life, on my small piece of Earth.
Lesser celandine - Pilewart - Scharbockskraut - Ranunculus ficaria
Narcissus and Muscari - Tete-a Tete and Grape Hyacinths

Mini daffodil and Muscari
Patch at the bottom of my driveway near the road
Dandelion Flower Amidst Other Weeds in My Lawn

Norway Maple Seeds Forming
Salvia Officinalis - Common Sage

Ponder what life would be
If Earth were different
In the smallest degree

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Workplace Archetypes - Brown-Noser

Send this greeting card to someone you love to hate

The BROWN-NOSER.  The Brown-noser is a flatterer who has taken flattery just a bit too far.  

Flattery isn't bad.  As a matter of fact, Dale Carnegie in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People,  explains how you should start every encounter with just a little bit of flattery.  It is when flattery is obviously excessive that we consider it brown-nosing. 

  • ass kisser
  • ass licker
  • bootlicker
  • crawler
  • fawning
  • flunky
  • groveler
  • hanger-on
  • kowtowing
  • lackey
  • lickspittle
  • suck up
  • toady
  • yes man
  • apple-polisher
  • sycophant
     sycophant (plural sycophants)
  1. One who uses compliments to gain self-serving favor or advantage from another.
  2. One who seeks to gain through the powerful and influential. 

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

        Saturday, March 17, 2012

        No Time To Waste - Purple Martins Are Coming

        An adult male purple martin resting on a wire.
        Photo by James R. Hill III -

        Purple Martins are the earliest tropical-wintering migrant to return to North America above Mexico.  There is a website that chronicles their return on a map as reported by volunteer bird watchers.
        Map as of 13 March 2012

        Purple Martins are the only bird species completely dependent on humans for their nesting sites.  In eastern North America, it nests exclusively within housing supplied by humans.  Because of this, the martin would disappear from that part of the USA if humans stopped providing nesting sites for it.

        A few manufacturers of Purple Martin houses erroneously claim, on their packaging and in their literature, that one Purple Martin eats 2000 mosquitoes per day.  Such overzealous claims have been successful in driving a market that, in 1993, generated over 25 million dollars in annual sales.

        So, you might be asking, if Purple Martins don't eat mosquitoes, what do they eat?  Numerous recent studies revealed that Purple Martins eat larger insects such as dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, katydids, mayflies, cicadas, beetles, flies, wasps, midges, and flying ants.

        The way I see it, you don't want to make or buy and install a martin house if you think they will eat their way to a mosquito free patio for you and yours.  You will do it because you marvel at their arial acrobatics and want to provide homes for these beautiful birds.

        Not every location is acceptable to Purple Martins. I don't want you going out spending $200 to end up housing English House Sparrows and European Starlings.  First, do some research. 

        Below you will find links to sites about Purple Martins and Free House Plans:

        Skil Tools Project - Plans

        ©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

        Thursday, March 15, 2012

        St. Patrick's Day - Shamrockin'?

        Did I miss something?
        When did St. Patrick' Day become a costume event?
        How do green beads relate to the Holy Trinity?

        Is this just a logical morphing of the holiday?  As in the use of the word myth to mean lie or fun used as a noun?

        I guess, as an old man, I have become conservative when it comes to some things.

        I have to admit that shamrock covered zentai is fun.

        ©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

        Wednesday, March 14, 2012

        St. Patrick's Day

        I saw a sign for a bar the other day that said, "Everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's Day."  I am not so sure everyone is Irish, but I am sure quite a few.

        St. Patrick's Day was has been celebrated in Ireland since the 9th or 10th century.  Celebrating a Roman Catholic feast day usually started with the family going to church in the morning.  It was more of a religious holiday than anything.  It certainly has changed over the years with the USA initiating the changes.

        With the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's, began a massive emigration from Ireland.  Between 1830 and 1914, almost 5 million Irish emigrated to the USA, alone.  Today, near 40 million Americans claim "Irish" as their primary ethnicity.  With the USA population in mid-2011 being 311 million that means over 1/3 of the USA population claims to be Irish.

        In 1848 several independent Irish societies around New York City united their parades to form one official parade that continues today.  It is a way to connect their proud Irish patriotism with sentimental memories of the old country.

        Mick Moloney's Green Fields of America
        During "Tin Pan Alley"(1890-1920) days of music publishing, many an Irish ethnic tune was created by non-Irish.  My friend Mick Moloney, folklorist, did some research in this area which resulted in a magnificent album of Tin Pan Alley music targeted toward the Irish.

        Other commercial entities saw a hugh earning potential in the Irish.  Many a commercial item became synonymous with St. Paddy's Day celebrations; shamrocks, shillelaghs, leprechauns and their caricature ears, hat, shoes, pot of gold, rainbow, harps, clay pipes and of course beer and whiskey.

        Many of the 40 million claiming to be Irish in the USA believe drinking to be the best way to celebrate their Irish roots on St. Patrick's Day.  Non-Irish beer companies see a hugh market in St. Paddy's Day celebrations.  As do costume designers.

        Excuse me!  When did costume wearing become a part of St. Patrick's Day?

        http://Parade Leprechaun Adult Costume
        Can you imagine wearing this on St. Patrick's Day?

        Over the years I have come to appreciate traditional Irish music, song and dance.  If I go anywhere this St. Patrick's Day, it will be to the Commodore John Barry Club in West Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, PA for the ceilidh organized by The Philadelphia Ceili Group.  I'll do a few reels, a jig or two, maybe even a hornpipe.  If I'm asked I will give in to a Shoe the Donkey or a Gay Gordons.  Of course, I'll have a Guinness or Jameson Irish Whiskey to help my feet loosen up a bit.

        Just to clarify, as far as I know, I don't have any Irish blood running through my veins.  Maybe the sign at the bar is correct.  Everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's Day or wants to be.

        ©Damyon T. Verbo - All rights reserved

        Sunday, March 11, 2012

        Guarantee Germinated Seeds Before Planting

        It will soon be time for the 2012 initial planting of my square foot garden.  I have the seeds.  Their germination is first.

        Seed germination in cool weather can be hit or miss.  Snow, heavy rain or near freezing temperatures could slow down or stop germination of seeds planted directly into the garden soil.  To increase the chances of successful germination, I plan to germinate the seeds indoors.

        I will not be using sterile planting medium in pots.  I germinate the seeds in plastic sandwich bags.

        Gather all the necessary supplies on a work surface.  
        1. seeds
        2. zip lock plastic sandwich bags
        3. unbleached cone shaped coffee filters
        4. filtered tap water  
        Dampen the coffee filters with filtered tap water.  Don't want them  soaking wet, just damp.  

        Place the seeds from one package on the interior of a coffee filter.  Make sure there is some room around the seeds.  Placing them too close to each other will result in the tiny roots intertwining.

        Then enclose the seeds in the coffee filter.

        Place the filter into a plastic sandwich bag.  Each bag must be labeled.  Either place the seed packet into the bag or use a permanent market on the outside of the bag.  Place the bags atop your refrigerator to provide warm air temperature.  Check the bags daily for germination.

        When the first leaves of the sprouts emerge, transplant them into the garden plot.  As a precautionary measure dig a hole in your plot and pour in some sterile seed starting mix.  This can be purchased mixed or you can create your own mix.  Then place your seed on the mix at the recommended depth and cover with more of the same mix.  Water thoroughly.  Tag the seedlings position with some kind of marker. Tongue depressors, popsicle sticks, twigs covered with the seed packet or white plastic knives are just some of the items you can use to mark the seed location.

        Proceeding this way you know the seed has germinated when it is place in the ground.  I will put my seeds into plastic bags on Monday.  I expect to plant this Sat, St. Patrick's Day.  A traditional spring planting date here in my area.

        ©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

        Thursday, March 8, 2012

        How To Make A Thistle/Nyjer Seed Feeder

        For the last two years, I purchased Thistle/Nyjer seed feeders, like the one above.  Made of fabric, the goldfinch rip them apart getting out the seeds.  They didn't last more than one season. 

        I tried to make replacement feeders from some fiberglass screening material I had in the garage.  As you can see in the photo on the right, the goldfinch ripped open some sizable holes in the fiberglass.  Unlike the sock fabric, the fiberglass material didn't stretch.  Many a seed found its way to the ground, wasted.

        This year I am taking a different approach to the feeder.  I decided to reuse a soft drink bottle made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) as the main body of a feeder I am building.  I originally thought of using a 2L bottle, but that seemed excessively large.  So I opted for a 1L bottle.  I happened to have one in my recycling bin.

        I found quite a few products available online.  There are feeders that range from two perches to thirty perches.  There are feeders that even have feeding holes under the perches.  Seems the goldfinches are the only bird that will feed upside down.  So I printed out some images of the feeders and scaled the distance from the perch to the feeding holes and the length of the perches.  What I figured was the perches were spaced every 4"/101.6 cm with the feeding holes 2"/58 mm above each 1.25"/31.75mm perch.

        Knowing I would be blogging about making the feeder, I sat down one night and wrote down the materials and tools I thought I needed to complete the feeder.  Here are my lists:
        1. Marker
        2. Measuring device(s)
        3. Scissors
        4. Power drill 
        5. 3/16"/5mm drill bit
        6. 1/8"/3mm drill bit
        7. pliers with wire cutter
        1. 1L Soft drink bottle
        2. Adhesive tape
        3. 3/16"/5mm wooden dowel
        4. Paper for layout
        5. Heavy wire
        6. Light wire
        1. Gather all the tools and materials
        2. Clear a working surface
        3. Wash interior of soft drink bottle
        4. Remove bottle label
        5. Measure bottle height
        6. Cut paper
        7. Fold paper
        8. Mark holes on paper
        9. Arrange paper around bottle
        10. Tape paper to itself and bottle
        11. Drill 3/16"/5mm holes for dowels
        12. Drill 1/8"/3mm feeding holes
        13. Assemble heavy wire ring with eyes
        14. Attach light wires to heavy ring
        15. Make hanging bale of heavy wire
        16. Attach bale through eyes
        17. Dry bottle before filling with Nyjer seeds
        18. Clean drill filings from dry bottle
        19. Fill feeder with seeds
        20. Screw cap onto bottle
        21. Hang feeder outside
        22. Clean up the work area
        I will go over step by step my procedures to create the feeder from scratch.

        Here are the materials and most of the tools.  
        I first measured the height of the bottle from the table top to where the bottle begins to reduce in circumference.  I decided 7"/ 178.8mm was good.

        I measured 7"/178.8mm from a factory cut edge toward the center of the paper and placed a mark in four places along the length of the paper.  I was using packing paper that was inside a recent mail order shipment.  That is why the paper is wrinkled.

        Next, rather than using a straight edge/yardstick, I folded the paper  using the marks and factory cut edges on the ends to create a straight line.  I tried to keep the fold straight but measured the paper along the fold to be sure I was close.  It isn't necessary to have a perfectly straight line.  That edge will be the top of the bottle and this isn't even bottle rocket science.

        Cut along that fold (with the scissors I forgot to photograph).

        You will now have a long length of paper that is 7"/178.8mm tall.  Roll the paper around the bottle, keeping the paper tight against the bottle.  Mark the paper where the factory edge touches the main body of the paper.

        This is the length of the paper needed to cover the circumference of the bottle.  I figured 10-5/16"/26.19375cm.  I cut the length longer and folded the paper to length.  I did this to add some substance to the paper, make it less likely to tear.  You can see I marked the factory edges, so I wouldn't forget.

        I decided the night before to have perches every 90º.  Now I to layout the holes on the paper.  At this point I could have gone to the garage for my rafter square.  Marking the holes on the paper would be tedious, to say the least.  Instead, I folded the paper widthwise in quarters, because there are four 90º arcs in a circle.

        First fold the paper in half widthwise.

        Open the paper to full width.  Fold each end into the center crease.

        Then do the same for the other end.

        You now have four equal vertical divisions.  Now for the horizontal divisions.

        Remember, I wanted to place the perches 2"/50mm from each feeding hole.  I decided to place a perch 1/4"/6.35mm from the bottom of the bottle.  Then the first feeding hole would be 2"/50mm above that.  There would be another perch at that level rotating 90º around the bottle.  I marked the paper 1/4"/25mm up from the bottom factory edge.  Then 2"/50mm up from that.  Then another mark 2"/50mm up from that mark and another 2"/50mm to another mark.

        I then folded the paper at each of those marks making sure the vertical folds aligned which keeps the horizontal lines straight.

        What results is a grid of folded creases with the first horizontal crease 1/4"/ 6mm above the bottom edge.

        I then marked on the paper each hole to be drilled.  The circled crease intersections are for perches the others for feeding holes.

        I removed the label at this point.  It can be removed at any time before you cover the bottle with the layer of paper.  I used a utility knife.  Lift the label a bit and cut under the label.  Do not cut the bottle, or your fingers, hand or any part that may bleed, please.

        There were two strips of label remaining after peeling the label.  I placed the bottle under running hot tap water to remove the remaining label.  There was some adhesive residue left on the bottle.  I didn't think removing the residue was important.

        The next step is to align the paper with the bottom of the bottle.  I wanted to place a perch 1/4" 12mm from the bottom.  This proved difficult.  There are five divisions on the bottle bottom, every 72º.  My layout for perches are at 90º.  The holes would need to be at the edges of divisions and just glancing the walls of the divisions.  I gave up on the bottom perches.

        Tear off some strips of adhesive tape.  Place them half on the work surface with the other half over the edge in mid-air so you will be able to grab it easily with one hand.  Stand the bottle on its bottom.  Wrap the paper around the bottle, keeping it as tight as possible.  Align the lines and place one piece of tape on the seam to keep the paper in place.

        Making sure the bottom edge of the paper is touching the work surface, place tape strips along the seam.  Then tape the top of the paper to the bottle.  The bottle is ready to drill.  As you see in the photo above the perch holes are circled.

        Put the 3/16"/5mm drill bit into the power drill.  (I thought about using a hot nail to make the holes but, I was afraid using heat might result in holes larger than needed.)  Don't push hard.  The bottle wall will collapse.  You will need to squeeze the bottle to add rigidity.  The bit may slide off the mark.  Be patient.  Whatever you do, do not place your holding hand directly across from the hole being drilled.  Ventilated hands are not in fashion this spring.  Nor is the color, blood red.  Once all the larger perch holes are drilled, change to the smaller bit to drill the feeder holes.

        With all the holes drilled, it is time to cut the wooden dowel.  The bottle is approximately 3"/75mm in diameter.  The perches need to project at least 1"/25mm from the bottle wall.  I decided to cut the dowels at 5-1/2"/14cm.

        Since the dowel has such a small diameter, I used the utility knife to cut it.  Again, be careful.  Use a gentle pressure and roll the dowel on the table to mark the cut.  Then begin to increase the pressure while rotating the dowel, bit by bit.  Be sure the work surface is sturdy and able to take the pressure you will be exerting to make the cut.  If you are using the kitchen, dining room or coffee table, use a cutting board under the dowel.  Your spouse will appreciate it.

        Insert the dowels into the perch holes.  The holes should be snug.  The bottle will need to be squeezed a bit to get the dowels through.    Leave equal amounts of dowel projecting from each side of the bottle.  If the holes are snug you will not need to water proof or place any caulk around the dowels.  If the holes are loose, silicone caulk may be used to keep the dowels in place.  Use as little caulk as possible.

        Next step is the hanging structure, starting with the hanging ring.
        The circumference is 10-5/16"/ 26.19375cm.  Use wire cutters or pliers with a wire cutting edge to cut a length of heavy wire about 1/3 longer than the circumference.  Bend the wire in half and twist an eye at the center of the wire.  I twisted the wire around a 20 penny common nail to keep the eye open and round.  The next step might take some trial and error.  You need to make an eye half the circumference from the first eye and still have it 180º around the bottle.  Then wrap the wire into a ring.

        Fit the loop around the bottle.  You can adjust the spacing of the eyes and the tightness of the ring.  The ring doesn't need to be perfect.  Close is good.  The light wire will hold the bottle in place.

        Cut two 24"/ 61cm lengths of light wire.  Wrap one end of the wire over the heavy wire and twist the wire to itself.  Then run the light wire under the bottom of the bottle into one of the and back up the other side and over the hanging ring and fasten it to itself.

          Do the same with the other cut wire using the same indentation on one side of the bottle but use a different indentation 72º from the original path taken by the first wire.  Attach it also to the hanging ring.  In order to keep the wires from sliding around the bottle place them on both sides of the perches.

        Cut a length of heavy wire approximately 12"/30cm long.  Bend 1"/25mm 180º on each end in opposite directions.  Create a gentle bend in the wire to make a hanging bale.  Place one bent end into each eye on the hanging ring and bend them so the bottle won't fall off.  Remove any drill filings from the bottle.  The bottle is ready to be filled.

        Using a funnel, fill the bottle with seeds.

        Go slowly.  Don't make a mess.
        You will notice that because I didn't drill the holes close to the bottom of the bottle, there are two holes that don't have perches.  I am hoping the Goldfinch will hang upside down to feed from the holes below the perches.

        I had to adjust the hanging bale a bit to get it to hang plumb.  Not a big problem.  I encircled the time lapse camera on my breakfast room window to give you some reference.

        This is a reference photo to the other feeder.

        There very next day the first Goldfinch was at the feeder.

        It won't be long the hummingbirds return.

        Have you made reservations for your summer vacation?

        ©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved