Thursday, June 28, 2012

Robins in the Grapes, a harrowing story

So far we've had four robin nests on the Scordato homestead this year and two of the four have made it. The following is an account of the robin's nest in the grapes. I posted the empty nest at an earlier post. Here is the progress of this nest, as we had to help them out a bit. So, on June 13th the chicks started to hatch out and I managed to catch this rare moment when the last egg still had to hatch. Usually when I check nests, each day it's like: four eggs four eggs four eggs four chicks But I got this shot, fuzzy as it is:
Here is another shot with all four chicks, can you tell anything different from the previous pictures?
It may be hard to tell from the pictures, because the camera kept focusing on the surrounding grape foliage, but once the babies hatched out of the eggs, their weight tilted the nest at about a 45 degree angle. While this Momma robin chose a nest site that would be covered by the grape leaves, she was still not an engineering genius. On Saturday and Sunday of father's day weekend, I kept checking on the nest a few times a day. At one point, three of the four chicks were on the ground, but there was one, I swear I put him back in the nest 6 times. I didn't think he was going to make it he got so behind in feathers and size. I nicknamed him "runty." On father's day morning Runty was out of the nest again. So when we got back from Dad's father's day breakfast, he made a shelf out of scrap from the chicken tractor extension he has been building, and we drilled the shelf underneath the nest to make it horizontal again. Sure enough when we took the shelf over to the grapes, there was runty, and a sibling back on the ground. We put the nest on the grape post and while the platform doesn't actually touch the nest, it does support the vines underneath and the nest was stabilized. But would Runty make it? Yes, here is a picture. As you can see Runty in the front, has less feathers, but is holding his own.
And here is Momma robin, dutifully collecting worms to feed them all.
By the time this blog is posted, the fledgelings will have left the nest, all four of them! I'm not sure if the shelf will stay as Andrew has to prune this row and there will be less cover for them. Momma robin may have to build a new crib is she want's one more batch...Robins can squeeze in three clutches between April and August.
You can see the shelf in this picture here.
And, here is their close up. Let's wish them well. I saw a statistic that says only 1 in 100 robin fledglings survive to their second spring. Who knows, maybe it will be Runty, who is in the nest, just not pictured, I swear.
I am planning a huge post soon entirely devoted to the growing vineyard in our back forty. I'll have pictures of the grapes when the first bud out, and some more information about what Andrew is growing.

Berry Pickin'

Everything is early this year because of the unusually warm spring. This means that lavender has bloomed and gone when really I should be cutting now instead of pruning back. We usually pick black raspberries during the Fourth of July weekend but this year the farms said they would be played out by then so we had to squeeze blueberry picking and black raspberry picking in the same weekend. Because of the lack of rain, the black raspberry crop was poor this year. We toiled for like two hours in the hot sun for barely enough berries to make three pies. Since black raspberries are my favorite food, this is really disappointing. It's hard to find frozen black raspberries in the store, they are expensive and not very good. I usually try to pick around 15 pounds. I was lucky to get 7 this year with my friend M and Andrew helping me pick.
I got hooked on black raspberries from my Grandma and Grandpa Perdue's house in Saint Paris. They had wild black raspberries all along a fence row by their long lane. Nothing beats black raspberries. They are smaller, juicier, sweeter, and hard to find and pick as they have more thorns, and often grow in places where the insects are vicious. I love black raspberry pie and am incredibly grateful that Graeter's make a wonderful black raspberry sauce that I can find at Kroger. Black raspberries in a bowl warmed by the sun aren't bad either. We had much better success at Berryfield farms near Centerburg and Mt Vernon. They have been irrigating their blueberries, do not use pesticides, and had very competitive prices. We got the tip from Amanda (see Made in a Treehouse in the blogroll) and had a great time. In less than two hours we picked 18 pounds of blueberries!
We actually ended up picking in a row with one of the owners. He said that starlings are the hardest birds on the blueberries, and that honeybees aren't the best pollinators for the bushes, that bumblebees and mason bees do most of the heavy lifting. He said blueberry bushes can live up to 40 years when taken care of, which is on par with grapes. Most of the blueberries went into food saver bags to be vacuum packed and frozen so in January I can make scones, muffins and who knows what else. We may make blueberry ice cream later this summary so stay tuned. I put two cups of berries in each bag.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Indoor Projects: Bake!

Andrew is the cook and I am the baker. He loves to try a recipe from one of his favorite Food Network personalities and can really but in the time and energy to make some really delicious meals. Dinner is too high pressure for me. Too many things to watch and chop. Plus, what if it doesn't taste good, then dinner is ruined! I get a raging sweet tooth from the Perdue side of the family and have always eaten dinner looking forward to dessert. I love trying out new recipes. Baking is generally a winter pursuit for me, but with so many great internet sites out there, I'm trying to take advantage of the super hot days and rainy days to be more focused indoors. I'll start with my proudest baking try, my first cake from scratch! I can't remember if I reserved this book or just saw it on the shelf, it's hard for me to keep track of what I just find and what I order. But I can't wait to try more recipes in this book. And the cute vintage bundt cake pan was a bonus find. Man look at that color! It comes more from the 8 (yup, 8) egg yolks I had to whisk in before adding to the mix. The yolks are courtesy of the Scordato flock of course. It didn't require that much lemon juice, but I needed a lot of juice to make the complementary lemon sorbet from this book. I got to try out another great vintage find, this one from my favorite antique shop, Old Glory Antiques, only a stone's throw away from our house. I love how the bottom part helps measure the juice as you go. I'll be doing another post about Old Glory later, as a lot of our great pieces in the house are from this lovely Mom and Pop shop! While I ws working on desserts, Andrew was working behind our house to make our seating area by the deck. Once it is all done I'll post it up here. The deck was last years project, and the seating area is one of this years. Here is the cake cooling on the rack! While the cake was cooling, I made a simple syrup for the sorbet, and heated up some strawberries to make a topping. The pot with the discarded lemon halves is an idea from Country Living magazine. I simmered them on the stovetop for about an hour and a half in water for a lemony air freshener. Andrew said he could smell the lemon when he walked in. My sinuses, alas, did not let me note the difference. Here is the finished product, voila! And with the sorbet and a little honey drizzled over it, because you know, honey makes everything better! Stay tuned for further adventures in cake making. I think I'm going to stick with this simple cake bundt book. Even though it is slim, there are lots of possibilities. And speaking of lemons, I've been searching for the perfect lemonade recipe. A few weeks ago I tried a recipe from Even though I love the fragrance, look and used of lavender, I've discovered that I am not a big fan of the culinary flavor. I'm aiming to try it again without the lavender, because the vanilla layer really mellowed out the lemon. "Where did I get all these books?" You ask? At the library of course! Last but not least. I tried the Giant Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies from Baking Bites and I made peanut butter fudge using my lactaid milk from a recipe from rcakewalk. See sidebar for blogs)It had been ages since I'd had fudge and it wasn't bad at all. So many recipes for fudge called for condensed milk, and it's hard to substitute. Both were very good! Until next time!

Indoor Projects: Spa

Now that this year's cucumber plants are off and growing and it's getting to be hot weather, I dug around the deep freezer for some cucmber puree that I froze last summer when I was up do my eyeballs in cucumber. I made some cucumber after bath splash. The flat jars were and experiment. I mixed ground oats with the pulp of the cucumber left over from draining the cucumber juice off to make a light summery scrub. This was not a recipe, and is an experiment. I also made a triple batch of brown sugar body scrub for a friend at work. It's actually white sugar and brown sugar, sunflower oil, and optional, vanilla or lavender essential oil. One of my favorite decorating books lately is this title. THe problem with a lot of decorating books is that they look pretty but, do people really live like that? The addition of a dog or cat in the picture doesn't quite sell me. But there are still some really good ideas in here. She has a quarterly magazine coming out too, the summer one is out and I've enjoyed looking at it too. Here's a picture of Maxwell, sleeping through my puttering about in the kitchen.