Picture Snob

May 31, 2010

Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening is an oldie but a goodie

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When I first came to my homestead, one of the first books I bought was Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. I also subscribed to Organic Gardening Magazine and I used those two resources to help me get started with a gardening career that has lasted 40 years. I still use it when I have a question or wonder what to do.

Keep in mind when you buy it that it is an encyclopedia. It has basic information, but if you want extensive cover of every aspect of a problem, like seed gemination for example, it will tell you have to get started, but to delve deeply into a subject you will need a book that focuses only on sprouting seeds. Here is the quick reference to guide you about what fertilizer to use with tomatoes but not an extensive listing of all varieties and their pecularities. It is the book to keep handy so you can look up aphids and get a quick take on what to do about an infestation. It tells you how to stake tomatoes and when to harvest garlic. It gives you basics about mulch, what to use and how much to use.

Rodale and Rodale press ruled the Organic world when I was first starting and the help I received from them kept me going through years and years of gardening. This is the quick I want help now reference book for the organic gardener and it will be on my work table every spring through fall. I'm very grateful for it.

At Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (Paperback)

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May 28, 2010

Handwoven Mayan Hammock is made for hammock lovers

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One of the items we used to carefully bring back from Mexico were Mayan hammocks. They are made by people who used them for sleeping and so know hammock comfort. Usually available in both nylon and cotton, these hammocks use miles of string which is woven so that it gives with body weight and you can easily turn, stretch and roll without falling out. The sides of the hammock are high and children can easily sleep in them without fear of them falling out. My daughter loved the hammock. She said it was like being in a string egg!

Here are some of the selling points:

  • Handwoven from more than 2 miles of durable nylon
  • Authentic, expert workmanship
  • Diamond weave for remarkable strength
  • Room for 3 or more; 600-lb. weight capacity
  • Bed dimensions: 7 ft. 6 in. L x 11 ft. W
  • Overall length: 14 ft. 8 in.
  • Several color options available
  • Hanging hardware not included

We hung ours in the grape arbor so that you could lie in the shade and eat grapes at your leisure. Only Roman emporers knew such luxury! And gardeners deserve a hour or so of well earned leisure so they can bask in the fruit of their labors.

At Mayan Hammock

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May 27, 2010

Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter makes the mainstream media

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I have to admit that the upside down tomato ad at Amazon has always left me puzzled. What is the point? Why bother? To someone who has always enjoyed digging in the dirt it seemed like a silly gimmick, and I wondered who could be buying this product.

Now I discover an article in the NYTimes touting upside down growing as the latest rage in gardening. The article lists several advantages of upside-down gardening. One is that it saves space. The plant is contained in a 5 gallon bucket and is in the air, not taking up room in the yard, so it's good for apartment balconies and small yards. You don't have to buy or make tomato cages or stake them. This is a real selling point because the cages are a pain often bending as you try to put them in the ground and making the clean up of the garden more labor intensive. It eliminates some pest problems. Cutworms are mentioned and that makes sense are they live in the ground and can gnaw a small tomato seedling right through. There are no weeds to speak of. The water and nutrients like manure tea goes straight to the roots and gravity does the work of distributing the food and water. The article also claims there is greater air circulation and sunlight exposure.

Well, what can I say? Maybe it works well if you don't have space. I am not about to start upside down gardening with my twenty tomato plants but I guess I will not scoff so much at the Topsy Turvy Tomato planter. I'm still not clear on why the plant does not try to right itself. My experience with plants tells me they know where "up" is and try to go there. Some gardeners in the article were going to grow both in the ground and in the air plantings and see which did better. That should be interesting. So for those of you with limited space or a knack for the new, upside down planting seems to be a growing phenomenon.

Here is a link to the NYTimes article: At NYTimes/a>

At Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter

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May 26, 2010

Sweet Petunias House Flag is a cheerful reminder of spring

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The weather is always a topic for the gardener. It rules our lives. In Northern California we have been experiencing a cool, wet spring which has surprised everyone. The old timers used to say about gardening, "Don't put a thing in the ground until June 1st." Of course I always tried to push the season a little. But for many years, it has been possible to plant corn in late April and the second planting in mid May and have all the warm weather vegetables in the ground and flourishing by June. Maybe that change had to to with global warming. But this spring has been a throw back to when I first got here and I've been surprised and a little pleased by the change.

In recent years, spring lasted for a very short period. There would be a few nice days and then suddenly it would be very hot and very dry. It brought on fire season early and many summers ended with smokey skies and fire alerts, so this late rainy spring has made us all feel safer. There is plenty of water and the fire danger will be way down. The small firs and pines are loving it. They have grown a foot at least and are still pushing up. The peas and onions, the carrots and broccoli have sprouted and grown nicely.

However the tomatoes I planted fresh from the greenhouse, have suffered. Some of the newest growth died back. But I am surprised that the corn and beans I planted the second week of May has sprouted in spite of the cold rain and wind. Today was the first sunny day we have had in a while and I spent all day in the flower beds weeding, having to change into my coat and wear a hat when the wind came up. I gave manure tea to the tomatoes and peppers, thinking that will give them the confidence they need to continue growing. They have not put out new leaves since I put them in the ground.

Once the flower bed was weed free, I planted the petunias I bought at the nursery. Their bright colors always cheer my heart. I gave them the manure tea also and have come in the house to start the fire and warm up. It isn't supposed to freeze tonight, but more cold storm is on the way Tuesday. I'm happy with the garden this year, although it's late. And it's almost June, when it's safe to plant!

I found this Petunia flag while I was looking for a present for my sister. I think she'll like it!

At Sweet Petunias House Flag

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May 25, 2010

Strathwood Recliners mean high end comfort

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Hopefully sometime in the hustle of digging, planting, fertilizing and getting your garden ready to produce, you'll find time to sit back and enjoy the spring. We've had a cold spell that shocked the tomatoes and nipped some leaves with frost, but I've watered them and given them manure tea and they will make it, especially now that the weather has warmed up. I had planted the first planting of corn and a row of beans, and they have not shown themselves yet. I'm hoping they still will come up.

All the cold weather vegetables are fine. The peas are growing; carrots, broccoli and beets have germinated. It's been their kind of weather. I have yet to plant the squash family or the cucumbers. So it's in the interim between plantings that the thought of just sitting and enjoying the sun, the lawn and the garden comes to mind.

These Strathwood recliners are truely wonderful. Strathwood is known for it's great line of outdoor furniture and these recliners adjust to an infinite number of leg and back positions so you can find your most comfortable position and change it when you wish without getting up. The recliner has a sturdy steel frame and flexible fabric seating. It is really easy to set up and take down, comes in a wide variety of colors and some models have a canopy cover to protect you from the sun. Sweet! Time to relax and enjoy!

At Strathwood Anti-Gravity Adjustable Recliners

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May 24, 2010

The Search for the Perfect Timer continues


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It's time to get the hoses, the sprinklers and the timers out. It hasn't been terribly hot or dry, but nonetheless, summer is coming here in Northern California and with summer comes irrigation. I usually get set up with two timers in the garden plus some soaker hose on the strawberries as they are always thirsty(and hungry, but more about that later). Then I have one timer and a hose and sprinkler with each that I move around the yard to keep it nice and green.

What this means is that I have used many many timers to save myself the trouble of remembering to turn the water on, and more importantly to turn it off. I'm going to do a series on various times that I have tried, some successfully and some not. I got an Orbit Sunmate single port digital timer for review last fall, but waited until we might be using timers to review it. Digital means you can program it and single port means that it is to be used with only one hose and sprinkler.

It's supposed to be simple to program and indeed it is! You put in two AA batteries and turn a dial to clock set to put the current time in. No other buttons to push. That was a little startling. You just turn the dial to start time and set the time to begin watering. It's really simple once you realize that's all you have to do. The next dial setting how long you want the watering to be and you click in the minutes desired. Turn the dial again to say how often you want the watering. There you can choose every six hours up to seven day intervals. Then you turn the dial to Auto. I have to say this is one of the simplist timers I have ever programed. Even better, somehow I misplaced the instruction and was able to access them online and print them for myself without hours of searching and/or phone calls.

This timer has a rain delay so that you can stop the watering for a few days or less, and has a simple manual override so you can get an extra watering in when needed. I have hooked this on to the faucet and so far it has worked perfectly. All in all a smooth and very easy set up. Oh, but hey, if you're digitally challanged like me, you need to know to take the 6:00am plastic sticker off the time window before trying to set the time. I kept thinking it wasn't working, because the 6:00am didn't change as I tried to set the time. Duh! Otherwise for one port timers, this simple machine gets a 9 out of 10 for set up!

At Orbit Sunmate 91213 One-Dial One-Outlet Hose Tap Timer

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May 21, 2010

My lilacs are blooming!

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"In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-washed palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle -and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-coloured blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break."

Walt Whitman was mourning the death of Abraham Lincoln in this poem, and he uses the lilac as a metaphor for his love and respect of Lincoln. I'm so happy I have a blooming lilac bush. It's taken several years to nurture it as it was planted in hard rocky soil by the tool shed. My mother had lilacs by the back door and my grandmother had them in her yard. They were a part of my childhood and their color and fragrance bring back memories of past springs.

Lilacs originated in Asia and came to Europe from Turkey and were brought with settlers to the US around 1750. There are many(about 500) varieties of lilacs and some are hybrids with double flowers. I prefer the old fashioned kind. They are the perfect harbinger of the beginning of spring and a joy to the eye and the nose!

At 2 Purple Lilac Trees 15 to 25 Inches Tall

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May 20, 2010

Why does the American Cancer Society object to naming environmental causes of cancer?

After the President's Cancer Panel issued a warning that chemicals and their lack of regulation is a major cause of cancer, the American Cancer Society has criticized the report, saying the warnings were overstated. This is the main reason I no longer give to the Cancer Society. They seem much too wedded to the idea that is it all a matter of lifestyle change.

Of course it is true if you eat less fat, more vegetables, and more particularly stop smoking, you reduce your risk of cancer. I have a cousin who sells life support and health equipment and he looks at smoking statistics and opens his business where there are many smokers. He knows they will be needing oxygen, repirators and all the other paraphanlia that goes with failing lungs and heart.

However, to deny the importance of chemicals as a cause of cancer is to shut your mind to the impact they have on our lives and our health. And for some reason the American Cancer Society does this. They sound somewhat like the tobacco companies when the report of the damages of smoking were published. They say there hasn't been enough research.

However, the President's Panel recommends these precautions that you can take to reduce your exposure to chemicals and they are well worth following:

  • Protecting children by choosing foods, house and garden products, toys, medicines and medical tests that will minimize exposure to toxic substances.
  • Filtering tap water, and storing water in stainless steel, glass or other containers to avoid exposure to BPA and other plastic components that some studies have linked to health problems.
  • Buying produce grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, or washing it thoroughly to remove them.
  • Buying meat free of antibiotics and added hormones, and avoiding processed, charred and well-done meat.
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May 19, 2010

Peltor Professional Noise Canceling Earmuff - Save Your Hearing

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Now is the time we start up the mowers, tillers, and weedeaters. I want to remind you to protect your ears while using these machines. I really love running the mower and tiller. All the everyday concerns fade away and you are just connected to the job at hand, watching the grass fall away, or the soil become crumbly and ready for seed. I avoided ear muffs for years, thinking it looked dorky, but having lost some hearing in the high frequency range, now wear them faithfully while moving or rototilling. It really is much more peaceful as well as protecting your hearing. So a word to the wise here. Get the ear muffs.

This Peltor's dual cup patented Twin Cup design minimizes resonance that protects you from maximum high and low frequencies. This patented design provides the highest noise reduction rating for an earmuff tested in an approved laboratory. It is effective, lightweight, and comfortable.

At Peltor H10A Professional Noise Canceling Earmuff

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May 18, 2010

Your Organic Garden is getting a big boost

I just read this in the New York Times: The President's Cancer Panel is the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream, so it is astonishing to learn that it is poised to join ranks with the organic food movement and declare: chemicals threaten our bodies.

It's about time someone made the connection official, I think. I've been saying that for years and worrying and fretting about my grandchildren's highly exposed life in Boston. The lawns there have little flags warning it is not safe for pets or children to play on them. How insane is that? When I work at the local school, the lunch served there makes me understand how you can be fat and undernurished at the same time.

I have friends who don't eat organically because it is more expensive and they haven't room to grow their own vegetables. Growing organically is more labor intensive. The wine grapes grown in our valley where organic until an industry person come in for a consultation and told the owners how much cheaper it was to spray Roundup rather than covercrop and till. "Why you can't even start up the tractor for that price!" Our county had an ordinance against spraying herbicides. The Forest Service was planning on using Agent Orange on their tree plantations, sprayed from helicopters until the local people concerned about their water supplies, objected. The Forest Service and PGE honored this ordinance, but not private companies. The ordinance was unenforceable and was down graded to a resolution under Reagan. Courts ruled that counties could not have stricter regulations than the state and the farm lobby in the valley fought for spraying.

So it has been a very disheartening time for the organic movement with constant assaults on labeling. The Bush administration wanted GMOs to be labeled organic. So to see a government commission ready to say that chemicals and environmental pollution are main causes of cancer is a very encouraging change.

Read more at New York Times

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May 17, 2010

Spring finally seems to have arrived

One of the great pleasures of a gardener is to go outside in the morning and look at her/his plants, the seedlings, the soil and budding leaves and flowers. This morning I took a tour of the seed rows I planted before this last storm. I was so surprised and gratified to find the peas which I was sure would be rotted, sprouting! It just goes to show that nature has a mind of her own. Some of the mesclun is also showing it's first leaves. It brings such joy to the heart to be a part of this process, to be sowing and hopefully reaping the fruits of your own labor.

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The strawberries are covered with flowers. I will weed them once more; to get the most from the bed, it has to be kept well weeded and fertilized. In many places the strawberries are so thick the weeds aren't a problem but in some places the grass has infiltrated the plants and I will have to dig it out. But strawberries, quarts and quarts of them are on the way.

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There is still some kale, which although flowering will provide tasty leaves for stir frys until the lettuce is ready to begin eating. And I have several cilantro plants that overwintered and are going to seed where I will let them reseed and replenish that tasty garnish.

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May 14, 2010

The asparagus is thriving in the new bed! But what kind is it?

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Last year I planted a bed of asparagus. My old bed had petered out producing a stalk now and then and also self seeding itself in various places in the garden, the strawberry patch and under the grapevines. I got tired of trying to weed it. It was planted next to the fence line as I thought that was a good place for perennials since it wouldn't need tilling. However, the grass from the lawn outside the garden kept creeping in. I tried everything to stop it. I put down some old boards, the then put black plastic under the fence and everything eventually failed and the weeds moved in.

So the new bed is in a section of the garden that is going to be used for mostly perennials. I built up a bed with chicken manure and dirt from the garden that is about a foot high. Since this bed was in the midst of some spearmint, I put old roofing tin around the sides of the bed to keep the mint out. This along with some heavy weeding this spring did a good job and I put a strip of black plastic down the middle. Next time I go to town, I'll get some straw to cover the bed.

The asparagus is going strong and it's very tempting to pick some to eat, but I am restraining myself. All the information says, you need to let it go for two years before harvesting and although this asparagus looks vigorous and huge, I going to obey the instructions. This plantation I thought was Jersey Knight, but looking at the stalks, I have decided I got Purple Passion. I'm so pleased with the them whatever their name.

At Territorial seed

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May 12, 2010

Mowing the lawn is good exercise and Lawn Boy is a good buy

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The last rain made the grass grow tall again. In May the lawn growth usually slows down and I only have to mow every few weeks. This much rain is unusual and the grass was getting high enough that the mower wouldn't be able to take it down.

But I really enjoy mowing. I put on earmuffs to muffle the sound and let the world fade away as I follow the mower around the yard. I have mowed the yard enough that most rock and tough places are gone. I let the cut grass fall on the lawn and leave it there. It builds soil eventually. If you catch it in a grass catcher, it does make good compost because it will get hot and help heat up the other compostibles.

I have a lawnmower with a Briggs and Straton mower. This one is a Lawn-Boy. All three models don't require and second thought or a second pull. If you want a lawnmower that is budget-friendly and back to basics, this is a good buy. There is no need to prime or choke when starting. Lawn Boy includes their 3 Year Tru-Start Commitment that will guarantee the mower will start on one or two pulls for up to three years or they will fix it for free. That is a boon to those of us who feel exhausted after pulling the rope on our mower multiple times. This mower has a free 3-year power train warranty and a 2-Year No Worry Warranty with full coverage. Moreover the Lawn Boy is carbon compliant so you're not polluting.

At Lawn Boy 10646 20-Inch 6.75 GT Briggs & Stratton Gas Powered Variable Speed Rear Wheel Drive Self Propelled Lawn Mower (CARB Compliant)

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May 11, 2010

The great wildflower experiment results are mixed

In December, I seeded the bare dirt around the new house and also on the flat below with rye seed which usually grows easily anywhere and with some wildflowers around the house to brighten up the area and to save walking in mud in winter and breathing dust in the summer.

We have some of the results below:

The rye woked well. It grows fast and loosens the hardpan. Even in the places where it germinated sparcely, it keeps the soil in place and soaks up water so that you're not walking around in mud.

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These sweet little Baby Blue Eyes were the first wildflower to germinate.

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The rye did well on the flat especially in the wet areas, but where the ground was really packed hard, it hardly germinated. I think I'll have to get someone to disk the upper left bare ground in this picture.

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Part of the problem with the growth is that the area was not fertilized. Still, the clovers and wildflowers and some of the rye will reseed and native plants will move in to take over. All it needs is water this summer which I intend to supply.

Here is as close as it comes to what was advertised.

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May 10, 2010

Composted Chicken manure is a great fertilizer and helps build soil

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I used to use steer manure which sold cheaply in sacks of 40 lbs. for, well, once upon a time, 99 cents. I used it for years thinking my garden was organic and at some point realized that the fertilizer came from stock yards, where the cattle were crowded together, fed inorganic feed, and given antibiotics so that my organic garden was not at all organic.

Now there are all kinds of organic fertilizers on the market, both steer manure and chicken. I prefer the chicken manure as it's a little higher nitrogen. You can get bat guano which is higher nitrogen, and now I'm thinking there is no way that bats eat badly. That has to be organic. I tried blood meal which is supposedly organic, but then it must come from cows fed organicly. There is another problem with blood meal. In my local, it attracts small animals, like racoons and squirrels, mice, who dig up the soil to get at the very meaty smell of blood. I stopped using it although it is very high nitrogen and acts quickly.

So my last trip to town I bought E.B. Stone Organic Chicken Manure for use on the heavy feeding crops like corn and tomatoes. Some people say tomatoes don't need much feeding, but I find they do much better, more disease resistence and larger fruit with lots of fertilizer.

E.B. Stone has been in business for almost 100 years and they have a full line of plant food for both garden and indoor growing. I like their understanding of organics:

"gardening organically is much more than what you don't do. When you garden organically, you think of your plants as part of a whole system within Nature that starts in the soil and includes the water supply, people, wildlife and even insects. An organic gardener strives to work in harmony with natural systems and to minimize and continually replenish any resources the garden consumes. Organic gardening, then, begins with attention to the soil. You regularly add organic matter to the soil, using locally available resources wherever possible. And everyone has access to the raw ingredients of organic matter, because your lawn, garden and kitchen produce them everyday. Decaying plant wastes, such as grass clippings, fall leaves and vegetable scraps from your kitchen, are the building blocks of compost, the ideal organic matter for your garden soil. If you add compost to your soil, you're already well on your way to raising a beautiful, healthy garden organically."

At EB Stone

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May 7, 2010

A gardener's life is submits to the unexpected

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I got my cool weather seeds planted and the whole ground cover tilled under. It was warm during the day and cool at night. The weather hadn't really settled in yet, but I had a couple of hot days where I had to water the seedlings and I started thinking about getting out timers and hoses. And I realize I didn't have a working gentle watering spray for keeping the seeds moist. But last night it started raining and it continued all night and all day today. It is pouring cats and dogs, sheep and cows, turtles and frogs! No kidding. In California in the spring, it usually dribbles a little, sometimes you get a real rain, but this is a winter time downpour that is quite unusual.

And what does a gardener do about this? Well, I am sitting and staring out the window in awe as the rain soaks everything. If it clears up tomorrow then the carrots, beets, peas and lettuce I planted will probably be fine, but this is supposed to continue for a few days! I am particulary worried about the peas which I soaked before planting. I often use the technique of getting the seeds really wet and puffed up before putting them in the ground by leaving them overnight in a jar of water. It works well when the weather is hot, but when a rain comes, like this, and it's cool, then I can loose the seeds to rot which may be happening as I speak. Some of the seeds were starting to sprout and their survival wiil depend on how far along they are and if the roots are deep enough not to be drowned out in the puddles developing in the seed rows.

But nonetheless, this Orbit Hose Spray Nozzle has seven different spray patterns and all the reviews are raving about it so I think it is worth ordering. "I know the sun's gonna shine in my backyard someday."

At Orbit 58228D Lawn & Garden 7-Pattern Plastic Pistol Hose Spray Nozzle

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May 3, 2010

The Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible: the complete guide to both the birds and the food

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This book is both enjoyable to browse because of its color photos(there are 275 photos, line art(125 illustrations), and it is useful as a home reference because of its alphabetical arrangement. It has an enormous amount of information on attracting, feeding, and observing birds. The entries vary in length from half a page to multiple pages for broad or complex topics such as the benefits of fruiting plants (trees, blueberry shrubs, strawberry plants, etc.) as a source of both food and shelter

The pages devoted to the birds themselves--from blackbirds to wrens-- offer a description of each (including a color photo), a list of each bird's favorite foods, and a discussion of its behavior.

The authors then provide extensive lists of flowers, fruit, berries, vegetables, plants, and
seeds that attract birds, and detailed information on everything from baffles, banding, binoculars, bird counts, bird watching, binoculars, and field guides to discussions of bird communication, bullies and nuisance birds, and bird migration.

There are instructions included on how to photograph and draw birds, and how to build birdbaths and feeders; and there are recipes for bird-seducing treats, who knew? which will tempt your favorite birds to come back for more. Theirs truly is a comprehensive guide for bird enthusiasts.

At The Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible: The A-to-Z Guide To Feeders, Seed Mixes, Projects, And Treats (Rodale Organic Gardening Book) (Paperback)

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April 2010 Monthly Roundup for Garden Snob

Bulbs

Container Gardens & Window Boxes

Decorations for Garden and Patio

Fertilizer

Garden Books

Garden Thoughts

Garden Tools

Monthly Roundup

Plants

Remedies

Worms, Bugs & Gross Things

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