Thursday, August 30, 2007

Purple Prince Zinnia

Something pretty to look at after the ugly spider.

Shirl said in her blog that, "house sparrows have been included on an updated list of species and habitats which need protection".

I just wanted to let her know that she shouldn't worry about the sparrows since most of them are at my house right now.
These pictures were taken through the landing window, (glass and screen), so they aren't very clear. I never deadhead my purple coneflowers, no matter how ugly they are in the garden because the goldfinches love the seeds. These are about the only pretty birds I have around here and I want them to stay.

I was taking pictures of the zinnias today and noticed this on the underside of a zinnia. It is amazing what we learn when we take the time to observe things in nature. I didn't realize that spiders would eat like this, I always thought they ate what was trapped in their webs. Spiders are most certainly not my favorite things to observe, in fact I hate even looking at pictures of them in books, so I'm not even sure why I'm putting this on my blog other than it is something I've not seen before. I'll probably have spider nightmares tonight like I always did when I was young. I don't like spiders and really, most of my nightmares as a child had something to do with spiders in my bed, or hanging down in front of me as I opened my eyes. I just knew they were real, I could see them, but they always disappeared when my parents came to see what was wrong with me.
As much as I dislike spiders, and we have lots of them around here, I don't spray for them because they too are beneficial insects. The cucumber beetle that this spider is eating is harmful and they are known to cause damage to certain trees and they also eat dahlias, peonies, and hibiscus leaves.

Swallowtail Caterpillars

This evening I went outside to do some weeding; it was a beautiful, cool night and the ground was still moist from the wonderful rain shower we had last night. As I bent down to pull a weed I noticed that my parsley had been chewed. Upon closer inspection I saw two good sized caterpillars on the parsley. I had already given up on having any swallowtail caterpillars on my parsley and I had planted three of them just to attract the black swallowtail. I was so excited to see them!
This parsley plant is the smallest of the three, since there wasn't much left and the other two plants are not real close to this one, I brought them inside to make sure they had enough to eat and also to closely observe this wonderful transformation. It's been a long time since we have done this as a fun home school project, my children were five and ten years old, now they are 15 and almost 20. It brings back many sweet memories.
These are the first instar black swallowtail larva and I didn't notice the other critter in the middle until I saw it on the computer screen. I don't know what it is but I hope it isn't going to eat my caterpillars.
Isn't it amazing that these odd looking caterpillars are going to turn into a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

About Hummingbird Fighting

I saw tonight that someone on a hummingbird forum had mentioned my blog and the fighting hummingbirds. Another person commented that maybe I should "take up knitting-with acrylic yarn".
I guess I'm a little bit offended by that comment and I'd like to expound on this subject just in case there may be others who think I need to give up gardening and take up knitting.

Not too long ago I posted a picture of a praying mantis eating a beetle. I was excited over actually seeing a mantis eating something. I wasn't horrified at the thought, because it was expected behavior. I knew that praying mantis are beneficial insects because they eat harmful insects. Again, it was expected behavior.

I love to observe nature, and I know that there is a food chain cycle. Even though it is natural, it did make me sad the other day when I saw a neighbor's cat eating one of the birds at my bird feeder. I felt like I had caused the bird to be bait, but I knew it was expected cat behavior and wasn't shocked by it.

I've watched the hummingbirds fighting over the feeder for days and it was fun to watch because it was expected behavior. I already knew they were very territorial. What was unexpected behavior to me was the fighting to kill. It was shocking to see the hummingbird stabbing the obviously already injured hummingbird in the head trying to kill it. I thought a few days before that they were fighting to kill and was concerned, but thought, no, they wouldn't really hurt each other. I had no idea they could be so vicious. I thought they were just cute little interesting birds and had this sweet image of them in my mind. It was a shock for me to witness such unexpected violence.

Most of us would be shocked to see a dog viciously attack another dog, for some it is sport, for most others it would be horrifying to witness. Watching the hummingbird attack was just as shocking for me.

I'm just a city girl, always have been, I don't knit, never have and don't plan to start now, but I do love flower gardening and learning about nature, even with the unpleasant and unexpected lessons.

Edited to say: Obviously some guys feel differently about hummingbird fights. The hummingbird on this blog is actually bloody from a fight.

American Painted Lady

My butterfly garden is swarming with American painted ladies. Yesterday I had about 15-20 of them in my small garden. (Click on the picture above to enlarge it.) I must be easily amused and fascinated because it amazes me how the coloring can be so different on their wings. The wings seem so thin, yet the color is so different on the underside compared to the top.
A volunteer sunflower in the back yard near the bird feeder.

'Pinot Girgio' hibiscus, I love the pink blush around the white petals.
This grasshopper was hiding out in the moonflower.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hummingbird Feeder No More

Today I saw a hummingbird sitting at the feeder. Something didn't seem quite right with it because it was staying still for too long and it kept shaking. A few moments later another hummingbird came up behind it and began to stab this bird in the head over and over until it fell to the ground. It appeared to be the same two birds that were fighting the other day. I was very upset and shocked at seeing this horrible attack and quickly opened the window to shoo the mean attacker away. I went outside to check on the hurt hummingbird and thankfully it was able to fly to a nearby tree, still not moving much and seemed to be a bit dazed, but at least it was alive. I removed my hummingbird feeder and won't use it anymore. It really took away all the pleasure of watching these interesting little birds. It isn't worth it for me to have a feeder if it causes the hummingbirds to be so violent with each other, in fact it feels rather selfish. I always thought that feeding the hummingbirds was a good thing, that it gave them a much needed food source, now after observing this behaviour up close, I feel very different about feeders.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lots and Lots of Zucchini

I'm hesitant to even mention this in a post, because I feel funny about having a stat counter on my blog, and for some reason I have felt uncomfortable when other people have mentioned the stats on their blogs. This was just kind of humorous to me so I thought I'd share it. Hopefully it won't make anyone feel uncomfortable to know that I occasionally do check my stats, mainly out of curiosity to see what it is that draws people to my blog, by looking at the point of entry.

On July 12, I posted a recipe for zucchini bread, who would have thought that that one post would generate so many hits on my blog. It tells me one thing, it must have been a very good year for zucchini. A few days ago I checked my blog stats just out of curiosity, and I saw quite a few entry clicks for the zucchini bread, so I counted them; in just one day, 42 out of a hundred people that visited my blog did so for the zucchini bread recipe.

I've also gotten a lot of hits for the squash casserole and the restaurant style salsa. I guess there are a lot of people harvesting zucchini, squash and tomatoes now and looking for ways to use them. I hope they will try the recipes and enjoy them and whatever the reason for the visit, I'm so glad they came to Robin's Nesting Place.

This and That

An American painted lady.
These first three pictures were taken with my Sony Alpha-100. I don't use it much because I only have the lens that came with the camera, and it doesn't do macro very well with that particular lens. I had just ordered a new lens hood for the camera and got it in the mail today. That helped a lot and the pictures are better than usual. I'm not used to using an SLR so I need lots of practice.
My daughter is a nanny for two precious little children. We had them at our house today and we were at the window watching the birds together. The little boy was playing with the verbena and I just had to get a picture of his chubby little hand.
It was so hot and humid today, so I filled the birdbath with ice water. Within minutes the birds flocked to it. I've never seen this many birds at the birdbath before. They splashed all of the water out rather quickly so I had to refill it. You would think ice water would too cold for them but I've done this a few times and they seem to enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hummingbirds Again

My sweet kitty and I love to look outside; it is one of our favorite pastimes right now. I'm not a T.V. watcher, for one thing there isn't anything I care to watch and another thing is I get too bored just sitting there. You would think it would bore me to just sit and look out the window but it doesn't. It is fascinating to sit and see the birds, butterflies and bees. If I weren't watching I would be missing so many interesting things.For example, yesterday I posted about the territorial hummingbirds, and boy were they ever territorial today! What a show they put on for us. I put some fresh nectar in the feeder and four hummingbirds, (the most I've seen at one time), came immediately and began to fight over it. It was amazing to watch their acrobats and see them flying so many different ways. Two of them almost came right into the open window where I was sitting, (the window is only opened about six to eight inches). This isn't a good picture, because they are so fast, especially when they are fighting, but if you look on the ground you can see the orange on the male. He was the one guarding the feeder yesterday and he was losing the battle today. I believe the other hummingbird, which you can see flying up from the ground, might be a juvenile male, because he has a small red dot on his throat. I thought they were going to kill each other. Most of this fight took place right in front of the window. Would they fight like this over flowers? Is it the feeders that make them so mean or is it just their nature? It's no wonder they are so fast, they are constantly looking over their shoulders for an attack and they have to be fast to outrun the other hummers. I was thinking today that they need hummingbird Ritalin or something to calm down a bit. Boy, are they ever mean and hyper little creatures.


The rain that we received over the last couple of days has renewed some gardening interest. I had to run a quick errand today, I hadn't planned on doing any shopping, but for some reason the car drove me to one of the home centers. I'm so glad I went! I had been wanting to get more of the Russian sage and I bought three. I planted my first one last fall and I have enjoyed it so much. It did great through the drought and of course I love anything purple. They had this beautiful hibiscus ('Pinot Grigio') with flowers almost the size of a dinner plate. I couldn't pass that up. I also bought three Fountain Grass Pennisetum Alopecuroides 'Red head'. What a long name! I do like the 'RedHead' part especially since my husband and two children are red heads. I have quite a few grasses already, but most of them have the feathery blooms and they are O.K. but I love the plumes. They made me happy during the winter, and not much can make me happy about winter. These were on sale for $10.00 so I bought $30.00 worth of winter happiness today. It was an investment purchase.
I got this little gardening apron, for a couple of dollars, while my mom was here on one of our shopping excursions. I used it today for the first time. It has really deep pockets, great for my camera, garden scissors, (used for dead heading), and my gloves, ( I use latex gloves and sometimes need several pairs while I'm working).

I got the three grasses planted today, but it was so humid I couldn't stay out. Hopefully in the morning I'll get the rest planted.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Refreshing Rain

We finally have received a good rainfall. It stormed most of last night and off and on all day today. The ground is saturated. The grass looks so much greener and the flowers and other plants are refreshed. I did just a little weeding tonight and those weeds just popped right out, I tried the other day and it was like pulling weeds from cement. I plan to get some much needed weeding done tomorrow. I am hoping our long dry spell is over because I really need to plant a few shrubs and a couple of trees, and I want to plant some perennials.

Tree Face

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I went riding around to look at some land out in the country, we missed our road and had to turn around in this driveway. Of course I had my camera in my purse, so I was able to get a quick shot before we backed out of the driveway.


Most of the time I take pictures with my beloved Sony F717 camera; I took these pictures today with my little Canon A630. I'm going to start using this camera more often. It took better pictures of the hummingbirds than my Sony.

Territorial Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are very territorial and I witnessed that firsthand this morning.
The male hummingbird would sit it the nearby tree watching carefully over his nectar source.
The female would come in to get a drink ....
and the male would chase her off. This scene was repeated several times this morning. I could hear them coming before I could see them. They are amazingly fast.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Monarch

I spent some time this afternoon sitting by an open window and watching the activity in my butterfly/hummingbird garden. How exciting to see so many different creatures in my garden! I took a lot of pictures, but right now as I'm preparing this blog post we are getting a thunderstorm along with some lightening so I better make this post brief and only show the monarch pictures tonight. I'm so thankful we are getting this much needed rain, things were so dry today. I started to water but didn't, I'm really glad I made that choice now.
This verbena bonariensis is by far the most popular thing in my garden. I don't think I'll deadhead these and just let them drop seed.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Recipe for Homemade Pizza

For many years I was too intimidated to make homemade pizza; I'm so glad I learned how. They are so much better than any store bought or delivered pizza and are not hard to make at all. I'm a bread lover and I don't like bland pizza crust, so I created this recipe for a crust that is flavorful and delicious.

Here is my recipe for Turkey Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza with step by step instructions for those who may be a bit intimidated like I was.

I usually use the bread maker for the dough but many times, when I need to make more than one pizza, I make it by hand.

Place the ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed.

  • 1 cup warm water (I place mine in the microwave for about 50 seconds to warm it up, if it is too hot it will kill the yeast.)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2-1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 -1 tsp. garlic powder (optional)
  • 1/2-1 tsp. Italian seasoning and/or pizza seasoning (optional)
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp. powdered milk or non-dairy creamer
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
Set the bread maker on the dough cycle.

When the cycle is complete, sprinkle flour onto your work surface, place the dough onto the surface, knead it a little, and form the dough into a ball, using as much flour as necessary so that it doesn't stick to your hands or the work surface.
Roll or press the dough to flatten it into the desired shape.

I recently started using a pizza pan with holes in it and it makes the very best crust, it's perfect, and also eliminates some of the steps in the recipe. Definitely worth every penny.

If you use a regular pan or cookie sheet, sprinkle the pan lightly with cornmeal to keep it from sticking.

Lift the dough and place it into pizza pan.

Press the dough to the edges of the pan. To stuff the crust with cheese, (optional, but trust me, it's delicious with this crust), cut strips of mozzarella cheese and wrap the edges of the dough around the cheese. Press the edges firmly to completely enclose the cheese.

If you use a pizza pan without the holes, you should use a fork to poke holes in the dough to keep air bubbles from forming. Also, if your pan is small and the dough is thick, at this point you need to precook the dough for 5-7 minutes before any toppings are added to make sure that the dough gets fully cooked. The dough cooks perfect every time with my new pizza pan with holes, but before, with regular pans, I had to precook the dough.

Top with pizza sauce, (Trader Joe's has my favorite sauce).
Top with mozzarella cheese.

Top cheese with pepperoni slices, (I use the turkey pepperoni because it isn't as greasy).

Bake at 400 in a preheated oven until cheese is melted and lightly golden, as in the picture at the top.

Here are a few other pizza "recipes" using this same tasty dough:

Easy BBQ Chicken Pizza (One of our favorites.)

Prepare dough in bread machine as directed.

Boil about 5 chicken breast and season with various seasonings according to taste, (minced onion, garlic, salt, pepper, Cayenne pepper). When it's done shred the chicken and pour on some of your favorite BBQ sauce, (mine is KC Masterpiece Original). Mix well and then place the BBQ chicken on the prepared pizza dough.

Top with mozzarella cheese and bake at 400.

Garlic Cheese Bread

1 recipe of pizza dough

butter (room temperature)

Garlic powder

Parmesan Cheese

Mozzarella Cheese (or favorite cheese)
  • Prepare dough in bread machine as directed.
  • Roll and press dough into an oblong pan that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal (to keep bread from sticking).
  • Spread softened butter onto the dough.
  • Sprinkle dough with garlic powder.
  • Top with your favorite cheeses (I use mozzarella and Parmesan)
  • Bake at 425 until cheese is melted and lightly golden. It is best when it's not overcooked.

You can use this pizza dough to make pizza with any topping you like. A lot of times I divide the dough and we each make our own personal pan pizza, (one dough recipe makes three good size personal pan pizzas). When we do this I usually make myself a vegetarian pizza with roasted red peppers, black olives, onions, jalapenos and mushrooms.

I apologize for the crazy spacing on this post, for some reason Blogger wouldn't allow me to space properly.