She’s Not A Bird Dog — She’s A Bird Monitor!

One of my favorite things about spring is filling the bird feeders. I know that it would probably make more sense to fill the bird feeders during winter when the birds are far less likely to have an abundance of food, but for selfish reasons I typically only feed them in the spring.

Spring is when I have time to sit and enjoy watching the birds at the feeder. There are feeders set up along the back of our house so that no matter where I’m sitting, whether it’s in the kitchen nook, the dining room, or at my desk in the great room, I have a view of a bird feeder. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the birds find the feeders even after months of them being empty. It takes less than an hour before the first sparrow visits.

Besides myself enjoying all the activity at the bird feeders, Bell enjoys it just as much. She will sit at the back door staring at the birds flying from feeder to feeder for hours. If it’s warm enough and I put her cushion out on the chair, she will sit there even longer.

One thing about Bell though, she is not a bird dog…she is a bird monitor. She lets me know when there are birds at the feeders, but has never tried to catch them. Just by the position of her ears, she tells me when there are or aren’t birds at the feeder.

If her ears are down, this means there aren’t any visitors. But when her ears go half way up, ahhh, then you know there’s activity.

Ears are getting perky – definitely activity at the bird feeder.

Bell has never chased any of the birds in our yard. In fact she’ll walk by the bird feeder and quite often the birds won’t even leave. She will walk within two feet of them, and they just keep on feeding.

When I fill the feeders, birds are not the only visitors we receive. Unfortunately there is an abundance of squirrels in our neighborhood and the minute those feeders are filled, the squirrels are determined to get their share. To their utter disappointment, however, Bell will have none of that. You see, as much as Bell is a bird monitor, she is even more so of a squirrel evictor.

When her ears perk up as high as her ears perk

and she stands on her hind legs to look out the door

This is when you know a squirrel is nearby. She runs to the sliding door and chases those squirrels out of our yard.

This goes on all day long. I have seen as many as three squirrels at one time in our little plum tree trying to get into the bird feeder, but the minute Bell bounds out the door, they scatter. Bell especially likes it when she traps a squirrel in the tree. She will pace around the tree, run up and down the patio, and try her hardest to climb up the tree trunk for however long it takes that squirrel to get up enough nerve to bolt out of the tree and over into the security of our neighbors fenced-in yard. One morning Hubby and I watched her happily keep a squirrel captive in the tree for 45 minutes before she finally walked far enough away from the tree for the squirrel to make its escape. She certainly slept good that afternoon.

This squirrel escaped to our neighbors roof and sat there growling at Bell for the longest…

Bell definitely has a job! She doesn’t bother the birds, but is sure to chase away those pesky squirrels. The fact that she’s a bird monitor rather than a bird dog is something I am truly – Simply Grateful for!

All clear – Just Bell and the birds!


The Gardening Gods Have Blessed Me With — Clouds!

Clouds. Think of the cooling shadows of summer which benevolent Nature spreads over her darling forests and gardens – summer shadows of wonderful depth and brilliancy like the wings of a mother bird over her young.

~ John Muir

Clouds! Yes there are finally clouds in the sky and judging from horizon there are many more are on the way.


Free! Free I say. I can finally step outside and breathe in the hot, fresh air of an early taste of summer. Let no more the confines of these four walls hold me captive.


Reprieve! My garden was given a reprieve from the scorching rays of the sun, granting my plants a fighting chance at surviving the elements in what can be a hard, cold world (hard, hot world in this case).


I will never again take for granted the luxury of a shadow stretching across the afternoon sky or the cool breeze that always seems to follow.

Thank you dear Gardening Gods, I am grateful for your gift, and as always — Simply Grateful.

An Early Taste of Spring

Michigan weather has got to be the most fickle weather around. One day we can have three inches of snow on the ground and temperatures below 20 degrees and the next it’s sunny, not a sign of snow left on the ground other than the quickly drying melted puddles, and the temperatures exceed 60 degrees. This was the case this past weekend.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all beautiful and borderline warm. The highest temps were reached on Saturday when we hit a balmy 62 degrees late in the afternoon. Kids were outside playing, some even in shorts; dogs were being walked; joggers were tearing up the pavement; and I spent some time working on my garden plans for this coming spring.

Of course the weatherman has now predicted that between tomorrow and Thursday we are supposed to get somewhere between 8 and 12 inches of snow. Really!? But then again, why should I be so surprised, this is Michigan after all.

Oh well, at least when it’s cold and snowy I can try to play catch up on blog posts and laundry, that is if the family isn’t up for a family movie night or something like that. Either way, I can definitely whip up some to warm us all from the inside out. Check out my latest post at Simply Grateful Cooking.

Cold and snow once again on the way and spring is still a little ways off, that’s okay. Michigan weather is a lot like life — always changing — and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Preserving Damson Plums – The Hot & Cold Of It

Besides canning plums for future consumption or projects, the other two methods of preserving them would be to either dehydrate or freeze them.

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With so many plums this year, I was able to try both methods. To find out about dehydrating plums see my post Dehydrating Damson Plums at Simply Grateful Canning.

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To find out about freezing plums check out Freezing Damson Plums also at Simply Grateful Canning.


Getting down to the nitty-gritty with the plums. I have only one more canning project to post and then a really cool recipe using either fresh or frozen plums inspired by a dish my mother-in-law used to make for Hubby which was a recipe from his grandmother. Posts coming soon!

The excitement of almost being done with the plums is overwhelming. I can hardly sleep just thinking about not having a single plum to pit for another year. Of course for weeks I couldn’t sleep just thinking about all the plums I did have to pit, so maybe it’s just that I can’t sleep — the wonderful effects of menopause…but we’ll save that for yet another post.

For now, we are down to about five pounds of plums and counting, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Plums, Plums, And More Plums — The End Is Here!

Hard to believe, but I finally finished picking the last of the plums from our plum tree this afternoon. Grace and Zeb helped me drag the 10-foot ladder from the garage and after two and half hours we’d picked the final 29 pounds and two buckets of rotten fruit.

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The one drawback to having a plum tree is how much work it is. Plum trees are very susceptible to a fungal infection called Brown Rot and of course our tree has it. Our tree has had it for at least 10 years now, yet we are able to control it and actually get an unbelievable amount of fruit from our little tree.

This year we harvested 153 pounds of usable fruit and I have canned all but about 15 pounds that we were able to give away and the 29 pounds we harvested today — recipes certainly to follow.

Harvesting all this fruit took about two weeks, four ladders, four lawn bags for pruned branches, six 5-gallon buckets for rotten fruit, more baskets, bowl, and containers than I can remember, and more hours than I want to think about. Having a plum tree is a labor of love and dealing with the Brown Rot is certainly a challenge (see today’s post on Simply Grateful Gardener Keeping Your Plum Tree Healthy — Dealing With Brown Rot), but the bounty is our reward.

I am so happy plum picking is done. As much as I love all the plums and the bounty we were blessed with, I also love not having all the work involved with maintaining the tree hanging over my head for another year — and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

All Aboard The Strawberry Train — Strawberry Propagation


For about a year I’ve been trying my hand at a bit of propagation. As it stands, I’ve got a 50/50 chance of success.

In the spring I tried propagating a lilac bush with clippings.


Unfortunately, this failed! Sorry Suzanne — we’ll have to try something else.

Last summer I propagated tons of tomato plants from suckers. This was easy and seemingly foolproof — only because I actually got it to work.

So with my track record currently even, I decided to see once and for all if I’ve got what it takes to propagate, this time with strawberries.

The strawberry plants I planted last spring began spreading after their first round of berries early this summer. Although there are other methods to propagate strawberries (splitting plants or by seed), I decided to use the runners.


First I filled some small pots with a mixture of top soil and compost/manure.


Then I carefully set the pot in the rocks or mulch and took hold of a portion of the runner where there was a node.


Finally, with a clothes pin I pushed the node beneath the surface of the dirt and covered as much of the node as possible without covering the leaves.


Now I’ll just wait and see if roots form and then I can cut them from their host plant and plant them someplace else.


I love trying to make more plants from the ones I currently have, it sure beats having to buy new plants all the time. It might not always work out, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up.


Our strawberries are still thriving and the second batch of berries are just beginning to come in, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Pollinating Success – We’ve Got Pumpkins

At the risk of jinxing our crop, I have to share some pictures of the tiny pumpkins that seem to be surviving after I gave them a little help.

Just five days ago I hand pollinated three female flowers in the pumpkin patch because up until then every baby pumpkin that began to form, turned yellow and died within a few days (Hand Pollinating Pumpkins).


Deciding that pollination might be the issue causing these pumpkins to die, I hand pollinated the three female flowers I found open. This is what they looked like this morning.

DSCF0063 DSCF0066 DSCF0067I have gone out to the patch every morning to see if there are any additional female flowers to pollinate, but so far I’ve only had male flowers. There are several females beginning to form on the vines though, so I will keep my fingers crossed that male flowers will bloom on the days that the female ones do so I can pollinate away.

Without getting too far ahead of myself, I can’t wait to pick these pumpkins and make fresh pumpkin pie! I know a lot can still go wrong with these little guys, but for now I am going to enjoy watching them grow and do whatever I  can to help them survive.

Sometimes even Mother Nature needs a hand and I am glad I was able to help, for this I am — Simply Grateful.


The Bugs Keep Coming! Enter Japanese Beetles

Well, I no sooner eliminated the cucumber beetles on my cucumber plants, and two days later I head over to the bean garden, right next to the cucumbers and notice tons of shiny greenish-gold beetles eating the leaves. There had been absolutely none there the day before and now a good portion of the leaves on the stakes holding the pole beans were eaten away and there were even a few on the bush beans. Great!


How disheartening, but easily remedied. Although I wasn’t sure the spray I had mixed for the cucumber beetles would have any effect on these new beetles, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try until I had some time to do some research. I started by spraying just one leaf, one that was infested heavily.


Within two minutes all the beetles had fallen to the ground. Excellent. I sprayed the remaining beans and by this morning, we were beetle free.

I have noticed a few lingering beetles, Japanese that is seeing as I did some research and found out exactly what I was dealing with here, that have moved to the peas and one even made it over to the corn across the yard, but until I’m sure they are there to feed, I’m holding off spraying anything else.

My garden is full of lots of visitors, some good and some not so good, but as long as I keep on top of these buggers and don’t allow them to take over, everything should be okay, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


Garden Visitor – Green Darner Dragonfly

This morning as I was taking in the garden and enjoying its progress, I happened to notice a visitor hiding among the pumpkin leaves.


This Green Darner Dragonfly stayed all day under the leaves.


Before I headed inside this evening for the night, I checked one last time to see if my visitor had moved on.


Nope, still hanging out in the pumpkin patch.


Even if I don’t get a single pumpkin this year, finding this beautiful wonder of nature taking refuge under the leaves makes planting the patch worthwhile. There is a reason for everything, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Their Love Can Weather Any Storm


This afternoon we had some severe thunderstorms hit our area. The rain came down in buckets, thunder and lightning filled the sky, and the streets quickly filled with water.

As I sat listening to the storm in our great room, I suddenly heard the distinct cooing of a morning dove. I carefully opened the shade on the window overlooking the A-frame in the cucumber garden and there on top of the structure were two soaking wet morning doves.

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This couple must have gotten stuck in the storm.  I am not sure if it’s true, but I heard that birds will not fly in a storm. Seeing this pair of birds patiently sitting in the rain, not daring to fly, makes me think this may be so.

For more than an hour the rain pounded them, but neither made any move to leave.

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Not until the rain stopped and they had fluffed themselves somewhat dry, did they take flight.


The most wonderful part of watching this scene was that when this couple did take flight, they did it together. First they flew to a fence just beyond the A-frame, then to a fence at the end of my neighbors property,


and then finally into the safety of a pine tree.  All the while, they were together, never faltering, as one.

Love can be found everywhere, but today it was right outside my window and for this I am — Simply Grateful.