Monday, May 30, 2011

Hide and Seek with Lulu

Lulu likes to play hide and seek.  Since she doesn't move too fast it is the perfect game for her.

I went into the back garden to see what was happening and came across Lulu laying in the garlic bed.

Since she had snuggled down in the hay she had some shelter from the wind but still was able to get enough sun to be warm and toasty.

"What you looking at?" asks Lulu, "I'm not eating them.  I just like laying here - the hay is nice and cushiony and the sun is warm on my back."

Lulu hiding under the cedars.  I think she figures that if she can't see you, you can't see her.  Now we all know the story about the ostrich with its head in the sand?  Well we have Lulu with her head in the bushes.

"Shh, I think I found a great hiding place," whispers Lulu.  "No one will find me here.  Plus these trees block that nasty wind."

Lulu hiding in the rhubarb.  If she would have moved either to the right or the left I would have been looking for hours unless she decided to stick up her head so I could see her or made soft clucking noises when I got near so I would notice her.

"Ooh, this is a GREAT hiding place!" exclaimed Lulu, "Mom will never find me.  Oh-oh!  Hi Mom!"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fruit Trees in Bloom

Here's what's blooming in our yard right now.  The apples blossoms are opening.  The buds are dark pink but when the blossoms open they are so pale, they are almost white.

We have a number of varieties of apple - some early and some late but they all seem to bloom at the same time.

On sunny days, (which we have had few of this spring) the bees are buzzing in and amongst the blossoms.

Here we can see one busy bee making the rounds.

The saskatoon bushes are full of blooms as well.  We were given the bushes last year and they had a few blossoms but did not amount to much.

If you are from Saskatchewan, as I am, one of your favorite pies is saskatoon berry pie.

The blossoms are quite a bit smaller and scragglier than the fruit trees but I'm looking forward to harvesting them if I can get them before the birds do.

Here we can see the apricots forming where just recently there were masses of flowers.

The pear tree has never been so full of flowers since we moved here.  I guess the pruning is paying off.

You can see that the pear blooms are white and the petals are longer and farther apart than the apple blossoms.

If even half of the blossoms set fruit, we will have to thin the fruit dramatically.

Personally, I think that peach blossoms are the prettiest.  They have already finished blooming and will hopefully set fruit.  They are the touchiest trees we have.  The first year here, there was a late frost and it damaged the peach blossoms so no one in the area had any peaches.

We have several peach trees and the blooms are all different shades of pink.

This is my favorite tree as the blossoms look so rich.  Our peach trees are not all doing well.  One of them split last year from poor pruning and high winds.  With others we have had to prune away dead branches.

This tree has much paler pink blossoms than the above trees. 

Here are two peach trees with quite different shades of blossoms.  You can see that the first tree has been pruned severely because of dead and broken branches.  Hopefully it will survive.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Hummingbirds are Back!

The hummers are back!  They started to trickle in a few at a time in the last couple of weeks.  They are late this year as we have seen them in April in previous years.

Since it has been so cool, windy and rainy, they have been going through at least one feeder of sugar water a day.  I make my own instead of buying it.  I use 1 cup of sugar to each 4 cups of water.  Boil mixture and let cool.  Store leftovers in fridge.

This is a Calliope male hummingbird.  You can tell by the red feathers that stick out around his neck.  I have been researching on line to find out what kind of hummingbirds we have.  Here is one of the links to the Calliope.

Notice how the neck feathers stand out from the body.

We have 4 main species of hummers is British Columbia:  the Calliope, the Anna, the Black Chinned and the Rufous.  Others may show up but these are the four main species that migrate here.

Here we see a little "wing action" as the little guy gets his footing and gains his balance.

The females are not as highly coloured and so I have trouble telling them apart.  I haven't seen enough pictures of the different females to be able to distinguish between the species.

Notice the little toes grasping the feeder.  In real life the birds are so tiny that those little toes look like little black threads.  They are so delicate and tiny.

Hummingbirds do not use their beak as a straw but stick out their tongue and lick up the nectar.  It is said that they lick 10 to 15 times per second while feeding.

A hummers wings flap between 50 and 200 flaps per second.  That is why many pics show their wings in a blur.

Here we see one fellow coming in for a landing.

Sometimes we are lucky and the hummers are more interested in food than being territorial.  Those days we can see a number feeding at the same time.  Once last year we had two birds on the same perch sharing the same hole in the feeder.  It was quite cute watching them bob down for a drink and come up while the other bobs down.

Here is another sweet little female.

Hummingbird species can interbreed and create hybrid species so identifying them can be very difficult.

Here is a gorgeous Rufous male.  We have had one dominant Rufous male appear every spring since we have been here (three years) that we called "The Little King".  He was territorial and often not let others eat at "his" feeder.  When he wasn't eating, he would perch in the mountain ash tree and guard his feeder.  If another hummer arrived he was there chasing them away.  One day, it seemed like two hummers outsmarted him.  One sat in a cherry tree north of the feeder and the other sat on the fence south of the feeder.  One would fly to the feeder and Little King would chase them away. In the meantime, the other hummer would fly in and get to eat until King noticed him.  Then the chase would be on and the first bird would fly in from the other direction and have a snack.  This went on a long time with them buzzing back a forth.  No pictures were taken as they were just blurs buzzing and zipping back and forth.

His neck feathers are very iridescent depending on how the sun shines on him.  The Rufous travels the furthest of the hummingbirds in their migration.  They travel over 3000 miles from Alaska and Canada to Mexico for the winter.  Amazing isn't it?

Here is a link that has a number of interesting hummer facts.  There are many other sites as well if you are interested in these amazing little birds.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Turkey Noodle Casserole

We love turkey and all its trimmings.  I always make extra of everything because the leftovers are as good as the original meal.  We had turkey for Easter and after a number of days of leftovers there was still a goodly amount of turkey left so I made a turkey casserole.  I based my recipe on this link.

I find that most casseroles that contain pasta have a tendency to be too dry as the pasta soaks up the sauce.  Keeping this in mind, I adapted the above recipe.

1 900 gm pkg spaghetti
1/4 c butter
2/3 c sliced onion
1/3 c flour
4 c milk
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 pkg bacon
2 c shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1 can sliced mushrooms
3 to 4 c cooked turkey cubed
1 can cream of mushroom soup mixed with 1 can of water

Cook spaghetti in salted water until cooked but still firm.  Drain and rinse in cold water.  Set aside.

Dice bacon and fry until crisp.  Drain and set aside.

Cube leftover cooked turkey.  Set aside.

Grate cheddar cheese and set aside.

Melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender. Blend in the flour  then gradually add milk stirring so no lumps form. Season with seasoning salt, pepper and paprika. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and add 1 cup cheese and mushroom soup mixture, stirring until cheese melts. 

Stir the drained spaghetti with the sauce.

Add the cubed turkey. 

Add mushrooms.

Add bacon.

Stir well to mix all ingredients.

Pour into a large buttered casserole dish or roaster.  (I usually use a roaster for most casseroles so there is no chance of the sauce bubbling over.)

Sprinkle on the remaining cheese.

 Cook at 350F for about 30 minutes until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. 

Serve with a green salad and enjoy!