Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Cedar Waxwings Are Here!

Have you had a day like I have? The anticipation and excitement of the holidays are over. Family is gone and house is put back together. So, you relax with a cup of tea to look outside at the brown leaves, brown grass, brown trees when all of a sudden a dash of color catches your eye? Mother Nature has teased us with a succession of color with the Cardinal and Bluejay, then Pine Warbler and Goldfinch and now she treats us with the Cedar Waxwing! Enjoy these sleek, tuxedoed, black-masked birds while you can because when their food source is gone so are they.

The Cedar Waxwing is a medium-sized, sleek bird with a large head, short neck, and short, wide bill. They are pale brown, gray or olive on the head and chest with the color fading to soft gray on the wings. They sport a belly of pale yellow, a bright yellow tip on the tail and have a crest that often lies flat and droops over the back of the head. Their face has a narrow black mask outlined in white. The wings, with brilliant-red wax-like droplets on the feathers (hence their name), are broad and pointed. The square-tipped tail is fairly short and rufous underneath. Waxwings in the Northeast United will have an orange tip on their tails, caused by eating the berries of Morrow’s honeysuckle. I suppose this is much like feeding your baby too much carrot and sweet potato baby food and its nose turns orange.

Most often you hear these birds before you see them. When you hear their high-pitched “sreeeeee “whistle, look up and you will see a huge flock flying at break-neck speed stopping short of crashing head on into a tree.

In winter these birds flock together to come and eat berries. They are mostly frugivorous (fruit eater). If you have Dogwood, Cedar, Juniper, Holly, Cherry Laurel or Privet, you will have Cedar Waxwings. They will also eat early spring buds of the maples and elms. When they have eaten all the berries, they move on. At this point you will remember you have left your white car parked outside.

Often Cedar Waxwings pass berries to one another as they perch in a line on a tree branch. Occasionally a waxwing will become drunk from eating fermented berries. These birds also groom each other. Mating season begins in late spring and runs through late summer. The male courts a female by doing a hopping dance and passing berries or pieces of fruit to the female. If the female is interested, she will do a hopping dance and pass the fruit or berry back to the male! The pair may do this a number of times in a row!

Sounds like some folks I know who think they can dance after having several drinks!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


In the bulb there is a flower;

In the seed, an apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence,

Seeking word and melody;

There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future;

What it holds, a mystery, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning;
In our time, infinity;

In our doubt, there is believing;
In our life, eternity.

In our death, a resurrection;
At the last, a victory

Unrevealed until its season,
Something God alone can see


Saturday, January 4, 2014


In 2012, Time magazine listed the top 10 New Year’s resolutions that were most often broken as:

1.  Lose weight and get fit
2.  Quit smoking
3.  Learn something new
4.  Eat healthier and diet
5.  Get out of debt/save money
6.  Spend more time with family
7.  Travel to new places
8.  Be less stressed
9.  Volunteer
10  Drink less

After reviewing this list (and being guilty of breaking one or two in the past), I decided not to set myself up for failure. Putting my thinking cap on, I have come up with my 10 New Year’s resolutions that if I follow to a ‘T’ I will have success. Plus my garden, the birds and other creatures living there will benefit.

  1. I will not plant vegetables or fruit-producing plants in the shade. Just seeing the sun from the area where the plant will go does not mean ‘sun.’ Most plants need at least 6 hours of FULL sun with vegetables needing 8-10.
  2. I will invest in good gardening tools and equipment. Selecting, investing in, and maintaining tools that are dependable can save much time, money, energy and frustration.
  3. I will not be deceived by weekend specials at the big box stores. Most of these ‘deals’ offer plants that bloom in the dark, grow 40’ in one year and eliminate household odors. They include grass that never needs mowing and plants that never need watering. Be wary fellow gardener!
  4. I will never plant more of ‘anything’ that I cannot maintain. Recognize your limitations (physical, mental, financial and time). Choose easy-to-care for plants that are tried and true performers in East Texas climate and soils.
  5. I will not believe in miracles. Miracles are too precious to be sold in little plastic bottles. Products with secret ingredients that ‘cannot’ be listed on the label are suspect. Keep plants healthy with periodic applications of the appropriate fertilizer. Healthy plants are less susceptible to disease and insects.
  6. I will be wary of sales. A dead plant is not a good deal. Sales are generally for dying plants, excess supplies of non-adapted plants or poor-quality plants.
  7. I will consider sources of information carefully. I will seek out sound gardening advice from authorities (local garden experts, extension agents and Cecil).
  8. I will not over-indulge my plants. Plants will not grow faster or bigger with kindness! Do not put twice the amount of fertilizer recommended,  water too often or spray with pesticides made double strength. Avoid the “if a little does some good, a lot will be better” philosophy.
  9. I will plant the right plant at the right time in the right spot. Don’t try to cheat by planting too soon. Trying to have the first tomatoes of the season among your friends will only damage your plants and reputation. Learn the requirement of each plant for your landscape (light, water, soil, extra care or protection, pruning, etc.).
  10. I will recognize my mistake(s) and take action. Make the right decision first to avoid suffering consequences for years. Don’t think you can take a regular crape myrtle and prune it to dwarf size because it blocks your window. Constantly pruning shrubs to fit a location can easily be remedied by replacing with appropriate sized varieties.

Now, see these resolutions will be easy to keep. And, most of these resolutions include the Time top 10 in some fashion as well. Except for the drinking - you must have a glass of wine in the garden now and then.
Garden on!