Sept 19. MORE tomatoes but rain’s 5 days away

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Friday September 19, 2014

a few more notes on a garden ending its summer life……and I’m a little awestruck how veggie clans call carnivores MURDERERS……you ought to see how a garden is murdered, sawed up, tossed, brutalized, savagely eaten, sometimes boiled in hot oil OR water….. veggies ALSO lead a horrible life. Just this morning at our favorite produce farm, the Pumpkin Patch, a beautiful jersey calf saw me coming back to the car, and began “hinting”, obviously, for me to come over….there were some cabbage leaves JUST under the fence she couldn’t reach….and up until THIS point in her life, believed Humans cared for her lovingly. Whew.

Onto things that move me in the garden as it passes on………… The Giant sunflowers become So mammoth, I have NO idea how the stems support their weight. IN FACT, in THIS year, I really fear that when rain really starts, the wet weight will make them collapse….they are ONLY standing now because I’ve supported the stems with steel fence posts and baling twine…..hoping against hope they blooms will dry, and through the first two months of winter, birds will dine out there regularly.

The blooms LOVED the hot dry August heat:
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giant snflwr 1
***I DID try to straighten one stalk out, and it simply broke. They are now “SET” in place for better or worse.
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This other view shows a bit better just how tall these really are (awell they WERE least 10 feet until they got so heavy they began to bend under the weight of those huge blooms):
giant snflwr 3
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The other “tall” plant for the season has now been, as I described brutally hacked, harvested, pulled and thrown in a compost pile on the back hillside. BUT. Just before they were, they offered beautiful sunset glimpses:
corn sunset
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Then the brutalizing of all tomato plants began. It began as 1st fruit ripened….that point in the season tells the grower….PRUNE BACK all the new stems, esp where blooms are starting up…..discourage the new growth, and that will encourage growth into fruit already set but small. That was a month ago. This past week, with a clear end in sight (daylight hours and rain forecasts ahead), I TRULY snapped off ALL branches without any product on it, or ANY blooms Anywhere, thinned out clogged areas to let light in, and though the plant now looks old and worn, the fruit show up to light and are seriously ripening at full speed:

The truly heavy yielding sauce tomatoes that LOVED this August, the San Marzanos show being brutalized:

last pruned marzano
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***** THE DEER FENCE has been shortened and wrapped just to include the remaining tomatoes…..the other side? ALL cleared out, corn, tomatillos gone….clearly showing murder and mayhem had taken place:
murder n mayhem garden
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Even the fabulous cherry SUNGOLD got knocked back, but that is ONE tomato, I NEVER tire of walking out there and eating off the vine. It does NOT want or NEED salt or pepper…or anything…..It’s rich sweet taste is pretty darn fabulous…..I ALWAYS miss them ….. and as I type, am just happy knowing some are out there waiting…..orange, right, warm, sweet…….yum.
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The future Leeks for 2015 harvest are at this stage, and will magically sprout next spring….bees of ALL kinds love garlic blooms….they’re now tied up so these drying blooms won;t fall into the wet soil when it arrives next week and rot:
the 2015 leeks
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There are so many peppers out there, I GOTTA get serious and find a pepper jelly recipe…harvest these tings and try one out:
red peppers 2-14
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Marigold. Such a modest little flower but some varieties get larger all summer and seem to peak as many other things are simply gone…I love these bush Marigolds:
late summer marigold
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And lastly, when MAC has set still as long as he can, and gives the Master that “look” long enough, a break is taken, and friends the Teals have given blessing to his swimming off their dock at their place out on the island, we take off….and this is the shipping channel on the Columbia Mac and I see when he dives off after the decoy ducks:
columbia rvr as shppng chnl;
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so now that leaves ONE MORE THING OUT THERE IN FULL HARVEST MODE: Spices. Basil, Parsley, Celery, Oregano, Thyme………….. and the BAY LAUREL….FULL of new single branches to harvest………bay leaf. better fresh or dry?

Off to pick tomatoes.
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sept 12. summer’s fading – GARDEN update.

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Friday September 12, 2014

How does this ever happen….we’re now at 422 jars of canned/frozen things and the tomato business hasn’t started…..(130 jars are TUNA….yes, THAT won’t happen again)…. but I swear, next year, this is being cut back big time.

The garden…..LAST year things were ALL done by Sept 2…..it began a wet fall …..while this year, we’re having a heat wave this week, and under red flag warnings about dry heat and fire danger. Hence, tomatoes are ripening so fast, I can hardly keep up. What to do with all those babies.

CORN – – -For a hot year, this corn year was strange. Half pollinated ears in some cases, NONE with the sugar content they should have had, nonetheless, I will finish ‘em up today….barely froze 4 quarts…..the few remaining are gonna become creamed fresh corn where a mite of sugar can be thrown in.

Garden CLEAN up . . . . begins on a small scale today…..getting corn stalks pulled and outta there, some other things pulled…..the mole war is still on, but they haven’t learned there won’t be so much water out there anymore……they’re gonna have to dig deeper…..we must get rid of them this winter since I don’t to fight this war next year.

TOMATOES. YIKES……yep, we planted them with just a teaspoon of microbiotic mix on each plant. I have never seen the size of the tomato plants we grew this year, and the amount of fruit, although they have come on very late…..gotta stody more about these microbio kids.

there. That’s about it for now…..but had to note for future references, about this garden state in mid September 2014.

Tomatillos. Salsa ….. only a few this year.

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Tuesday September 9, 2014

Lessee. We still have 20 pints of Tomatillo Salsa from last year unused. As years rolled by, seems this item is losing its usability or interest in the kitchen, and no one requests it. I cut back on the number of Tomatillos grown, but am realizing I still have too many plants out there ripening with cute fruit…..hmmmm.

So, by Sept 5, I believe I’m done canning Tomatillos this year….two times, mostly half pints, but it was fun to do.

First get whatever prep things done you CAN do like garlic, onion:
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tomatilo8

A don’t know WHAT canners did before the Cuisinart Machine came around:
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tomatilo7

And finally, our little tomatillos are peeled and ready for the chop too:
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tomatilo6

And then, all things are combined: Onion, Garlic, Seasonings, Tomatillos & the magic of canning, Lemon Juice:
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tomatilo2

After a 20 minute cook, everything goes into the jars, then the water canner for 20 minutes:
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tomatilo1

and we are now done with Tomatillo Salsa for 2014.

The Tuna Project

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Tuesday September 9, 2014

Finally….on labor day, Sep 1, we spent the day with Marie at her restaurant, the John St Cafe canning 130 lbs of tuna filets, all cleaned, prepared on the coast from neighbor Aaron’s trip as described in the last post….

Just a quick look, we got the jars in one place, lids off separated, and everything made ready for the sterilizing dishwasher….commercial speed and size, wish I had one at home:
tun1

We then began to work the 6 heavy bags of filets……cutting and packing into jars. THESE were beautiful filets, caught from 40 miles out in the Pacific:
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tun7

NOTHING was added to the jars except TUNA. As we packed, placed lids on, we set them aside to load into the 3 pressure canners we had on hand:
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tun6

When the pressure canners were loaded, they were heated to 10 lbs pressure, and set for 90 minutes:
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tun9

At 90 minutes, they were pulled and set in a few placed to cool:
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tun4

At the end of the day? 260 jars, mostly half pints of new albacore tuna were canned. We split them evenly, and all went home tired, but happy.
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tunmarie

**scuse some of the pics….all taken with a cell phone.

Tuna 2014

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Sunday August 31, 2014

The preparation is almost done. We NEVER know just how much, if any, tuna will be available for canning since we don’t buy it at the coast off the boats…….. We have been SO lucky for the last couple of years that neighbor, friend Aaron, because of all the money his plumbing supply house makes off his work, takes he and his brothers out tuna fishing ev August…..and I mean OUT….about 40 miles out in the ocean. How do these prize so fresh TUNA end up in our iceboxes? Aaron doesn’t want them to keep….two of his brothers smoke theirs, and do a little canning.

Last year we were given about 48 lbs of fileted, cleaned tuna the Saturday night Aaron returned from his trip.

This year? The charter service no longer cleans the fish off the back of the boat, so they had to remain overnight in Seaside for cleaning this morning. Aaron’s brother will bring them all back sometime mid-afternoon…. The ‘word’ is that THIS year, we’re going to get 21 tuna that averaged over 20 lbs each….. Cut that in half by the time they’re cleaned… WHAT? We will likely have to do some real work soon…..100 lbs of tuna?

Lucky for us, friend Marie shares her restaurant kitchen with us for the canning and we SPLIT the result. Aaron will want about 12 jars. So, it looks like we will get for ourselves about 40 1/2 pint jars, if my estimates are anywhere close to what happens.

So. We await the arrival of the tuna, and getting it into Marie’s cooler for the night. We will meet her there about 10:00 tomorrow morning and with 3 pressure cookers, begin packing jars, cleaning them, cooking them, cooling, and repeat, repeat. TOMORROW…..is going to be a FUN work day…….MORE on this later.

Whew. 21 TUNA. Are you kidding?

Pickles 2014

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday August 20, 2014

so. Once again, the 4 cousins gather together in August to not only remember the elder matriarchal women who worked 22 hours a day in summers gardening, harvesting, preserving, canning, storing food for their families, but to also, “once again” HAVE the treasure OF those memories sealed up in jars and here for our own enjoyment.

It seems a while back now that the last of those “Grandma Ray Pickles” were being used up, all her own children already passed away except the youngest, Aunt Merle who still MADE them from her own garden way over in John Day, Oregon. We called her, she happily agreed to teach us just how to do this, so off we went for a weekend as pickle students….I’ll never forget that. The pickling of our own began that year with us, cousin Nancy M, and Merle’s own daughter Nancy P coming from Seattle…. and we’ve been pickling one weekend every August since. In that time, we lost dear cousin Nancy P. to the dreaded Mursa virus, so her own son, J & partner Bhakti replaced Nancy…..and we continue on.

Pickling these days involves a trip to the produce capital of the Portland metro area which lies just below our hilltop house on a massive island marking the confluence of the great Columbia & Willamette Rivers. It’s composed of 20 million years of river downflow containing volcanic, ash, and other rich sediments. The farm property there is invaluable….. There are produce farms where you can pick your own, organic choices, etc. OUR choice has long been one called The Pumpkin Patch…. http://www.thepumpkinpatch.com/ . . . a family owned place where no spraying is allowed.

So Friday morning is a drive to Pumpkin Patch to buy: 5 large 25# bags of smaller pickling cucumbers, dozens of dill weed branches, lots-o-garlic, serrano & Habanero peppers and a round of misc veggies that catches our eye. On return home, the work begins immediately for the cucumbers must be cleaned and placed in a water soak for the next 24 hours. So here we go with a table set up from sawhorses & plywood pieces, bowls, and cucumbers ready for work:

day 1 cleang cukes
**yep, note my stand was set up in the shade.

and we get ready:
1pickles cleanng cukes

Ah! Getting those dang Garlic cloves out of those clumps of husks and dry peels……..Rodger discovered the method….placing the clumps between two stainless bowls and shaking ‘em up…. it’s a much easier task after that…..and here we were after an hour:

day1 garlic

After about 4 hours, here’s our finished product that will sit quietly until the next morning’s arrival of our workmate cousins to chop, dice, place and ornament:

day 1 soak after cln

Ornament? Yes, half the fun is placing the seasonings/grape leaves/dill/peppers into the bottle as well:

didn't make pickle cut

Soon, that kitchen is simply in motion for a few hours:

cuzn picklng 2014c

And here, we await the hot-water bath finish of one group of jars before we can begin the next one. Friend RHONDA joined us because she is going to begin THIS week pickling on her own with hubby Bob. It IS because of Bob & Rhonda that we now have grape leaves growing on our own place, so we never have to buy them:

cuzn [pkl mrk rhnda
**Bob & Rhonda will also join us for the Dilled Beans project next on the list.

Part of the task….keeping lids sterile, and the water bath….never a full boil, rather a hot simmer going on with water level about half-way up the jars…..the purpose of this bath is simply to get the jars to “seal”……

heat is on

A batch awaits the water bath:

pickles await boil

Cousin Nancy M bravely continues on despite the arthritis bothering her hand……

nancy sore thmb

The tribe lines up the final production batches for a number count which finished at 95:

cuzn picklng2014 b

And a POSE:

cuzn picklng2014 aug

There WERE a few cucumbers left that night that Mark & Rodger finished the next day…..these were the very last lonely kids left for what ended up being a PINT Jar:

last  of cukes

The lonely Last pint:

jar lonely2

Last label:

jar lonely

The weekend has taken its toll on Mark & Rodger who added another 24 jars of finished “Grandma Ray’s Pickles”:

pickling1

Ah….next project mid-week next: Ginger Peach Jam. After That? Dilled Beans.

Last Post May? oops. very late diary entry Aug 4 …summer summary

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Monday August 4, 2014

It’s obvious I’m not even recording a ‘diary’ history for my OWN use anymore. Last entry was May 8. In fact, there’s just an outline here of things I might use looking back a year from now……….. awful writer I am.

May 10 forward…….

We departed for Chicago for a 2 1/2 week trip on May 17. It was a fabulous time from beginning to end. Doug & Leon hosted our stay in the beginning at their home in Elgin…….enjoying their historical home’s comforts, the local best dining choices, and talking….a lot. Grand time. We prepped with them a tiny bit for some of their friends who always join at their house as it’s right in a city Race route….met some of the heartland’s finest.

A highlight of this visit was visiting the Peggy Braetbart Nature Museum visiting Doug’s butterfly Gardens…
IMG_2599
it was an amazing science experience with the tour of the labs where many of the creatures are raised. Whew.

Taking the river tours featuring Chicago outside architecture is a learning experience…..this is one FINELY designed city.

We trekked from there northward to River Falls, WI where Bev Hoppe held a grand dinner evening at her home for her kids, cousin Jeff and us….I will never forget that evening. We were treated as if we’d been lifelong best friends…….. We also got to see some beautifully constructed artistic wooden pieces built by Bill Hoppe, who Bev lost just a months prior….. What a night we spent! Bev and Beth took us on a hike for birding, seeing grand waterfalls at Kinninnick:
kinnikinick everyone
, rock climbers, dining at a re=built Post Office, shopping, another grand day…. Then we drove the 40 miles to Minneapolis to stay with Brenda & Thomas a couple of nights and catch up with their lives…..we’ve missed them since they returned to the heartland from Portland a few months prior. Thomas with the kids Ben & Eva:
i min walker cntr ben thm eva 3

Neither of us had ever been to WI OR MN . . . . .so everything we saw was fantastic…..those lush rolling hills of hardwood forests are beautiful.

We came back to Chicago to stay with my cousin Dennis n Nan who live in a beautiful home SO close to Soldier Field, its what you see out one of their back windows….. From here we toured the city with NAN as our guide for the architectural secrets, a day at the art institute with Tate Hunt as our guide…it was sure great to SEE Tate again….hadn’t seen him since the blogger gathering in 2005? Gavin, also a friend made through the blog world joined us from NY……what a great few days we enjoyed in Chicago.
cgi art rdg gav tate

**Don’t forget to talk about Wrigley Field……in its 100th anniversary year, yes, we took the tour.

We arrived back home to some hard work trying to get a garden started at the END of May (the penalty I can report now as I write this in August……little fruit ripe yet, it[‘s still all big huge plants)…… going to Classic Pianos who had FOUND the very jewel of a piano I’d been wanting for some time….these fabulous brothers gave me all the money I’d paid for the old tinny one back toward this new one that they had found and held for me for a month……
kawaii new 2014

a very nice little Kawaii Upright….almost sounds like the baby grand I mistakenly gave up a few years ago.

June involved everything June does in Portland…..getting geared u-p for summer…. It began with making the strawberry freezer jam! Yum. That’s followed 2 weeks later when the Cascade Delight Raspberries ripen at West Union Gardens….more jam……
berry jam 2014

Then we await the July creation of Apricot Jam, then the Triple Crown Blackbery Jam, and right NOW, aug early, I am awaiting making Peach Ginger Jam.

JULY – brought a visit from a fabulous Niece, Shauna, hubby Moe & beautiful kids Miriam & Sommer……. we had MORE fun than I could have thought so I am happy they’ll be in Utah for a year, maybe we’ll get to see them again before they had back to Ontario, Canada where Shauna’s a bus prof of history. Midieval History.

And, LATE in July, STILL trying to get that veggie garden up to speed and fighting MOLES as I’ve NEVER had to fight them before (I suppose because we haven’t sprayed anything Monsanto out in our yard for a few years….so it’s healthy, yes, but it’s a losing battle against moles…..in FACT, IF….the FIRST year I’d ever tried to grow a vegetable garden involved what the fight has been this year, I seriously DOUBT if I’d EVER kept gardening….. ). Well, July 18……. while watering that garden with the soaker hose, a mole tunnel collapses the corn plants I’m standing next to, and I dive to the ground hoping to plug it without losing 5′ tall plants…..my pinkie finger hits something hard, and I end up with a condition called: MALLET FINGER
fing2
WHICH…….will hamper what I do for 8 weeks. I went to E/R next day, and to the doctor Monday, and now have a small plastic cast to hold the finger straight (all the tendons were torn loose)….. can’t get it wet, can;t do much…. big oops.

I have this cast replaced/updated for the first time tomorrow morning.

That oops explains my poor typing, and…..during the family pickling weekend THIS coming saturday-sunday…..I hope I’ll get my share of work in. I’m prepping the kitchen and supplies now…….6 of us will be here to make 140 quarts of grandma Rays Pickles……again…… it’s now a family tradition.

Well, I’ve missed a LOT of trivial fun bits of life we enjoyed this summer, it’s been a most interesting one, and maybe someday I can get a few pics thrown in here…..but for now, this will have to do.

AUGUST……month of more home-made potato salads
potato salad
, watermelon, peach jam, home-=made ice cream, BBQ, fighting moles, watering, enjoying a summer night or two on the town, and on and on and on and on…………..love summer.

Are you Kidding? Mid May almost here?

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Thursday May 8, 2014

It is hard for me to believe that time is NOT passing faster….I sure am not getting as much done as I should….and we’re leaving town in 10 days. I shouldn’t be throwing a few pics up here for my “diary”.

So, here’s a ‘hurry up and get this done’ post about my current spring thoughts.

**AT cousin Nancy’s took a picture of a very old maternal family reunion at my folks house in 1954:
ray reunion 1954
**I “believe” I can work with this in “Photoshop” or something to help it out……..lots of memories

Now. The garden finally got “tilled” with the trusty old big machine that started on the 2nd pull…. (BECAUSE….thanks, cousin Dennis! I’m using boat/marine gasoline (leaded) you buy at any boat dock)…and your machines never get gummed up again.

Looked great after it was done….
2014 grdn tlld n rows

With the ‘promise’ of warmer dry weather coming, there are a few lettuce plants out there that are almost ready to eat…..and it IS May when deer start to show up eating young plants. The deer fence went up on the “sunny” day yesterday, and I’m glad it’s done:
deer fence 2014

The Rhubarb is doing very well, first cutting already gone to Marie at John St Cafe….2nd cutting very soon:
4 rhbarb grwng fast

And I only have one little of our “mini-greenhouse” starter boxes going….this cabbage, parsley, etc was planted yesterday too:
41minigreenhse

ALONG, Skyline, our 10 year old “Kerria” is doing fantastic, beautiful small yellow “Japanese Roses” that last about 3-4 weeks:
41kerria

**AND I LOVE the arrivals of our songbirds this spring…..it’s continuing right on track, in fact, we’re seeing MORE birds than last year…….it appears that the drought/dry winter in California was a lot easier for them to migrate through than the extremely stormy winter last year. Example? HUMMINGBIRDS: So far last year Jan to May 10? 40 quarts……consumed. THIS year? to May 10? 80 Quarts! We’ll be busy with those kids for a couple of months, for sure.

So here are some other beautiful arrivals: The American Goldfinches:
American Goldfinch

The gorgeous tiny Wilson’s Warbler has been here every day, lately with a lady friend, yes:
Wilson's Warbler male, Wilsonia pusilla, perched in pine tree.

The Yellow Rumped Warbler showed up alone, then next day, 4 of them, but now…..they’ve probably moved into the woods for mating/nesting:
yellwrmped wrblr 2

And of course, our favorite champion songbird caller, the Black Headed Grosbeaks are here, and beginning to nest already:
blck hd grsbk

We have one pair of Evening Grosbeaks who’ve decided our feeder stations are just right…..they were here about 5 days, and yesterday, there were 9 of these beautiful birds at the feeders….with some “luck” maybe we’ll have more than one pair stay around for the summer:
eveninggrsbek1
**above’s a “web” pic**

MAC is donating to the nest-building effort for the birds….. We captured enough of his shedding hair to fill this suet cage….and the chickadees are using enough, that THIS pic, is the 2nd time I’ve filled it:
4dog hair nest mtrl

**On the dog walk, captured this fun MOSSY tree trunk fallen over…..it had every appearance of being ready to come after us:
41itsalive2

With very dear friend SHEILA ELLAM (R’s ‘best’ friend in High School) for a few days, we did tour Portland’s most famous gardens, the Rose Gardens in Washington Park. Roses weren’t out yet, but the Rhody’s and other things were at their peak here, just a few weeks before the Rose Festival in June. THERE WERE two I want IN OUR yard, but have NO clue what they are…..I believe this will take a bit of research:

Plant #1:
pdx mystery plnt 2

Plant #2:
mystry plnt 1

And that’s it……got to run…… a Pork Shoulder has been cooking in the crockpot for 10 hours…..I believe our dinner is about done. Yum.

Hummingbird note april 2014

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday April 23, 2014

for recording updates in the wildlife diary – – – here at home, 1100′ NW Portland:

2014
Rufous Hummingbirds, according to the Audubon Society, 1st pass through ‘lightly’ late February….these birds are usually northbound migrants and will end up nesting in BC or WA.

They arrive when it’s rather cold……..after living in No. MX all winter:
1hummerbabyjun062004 009

At our address along NW Skyline, we usually see the first arrivals mid-March to 1st April…..THIS is the FIRST year I learned that females can be on a nest within 3 days of arrival! Whew! I KNOW their nests are tiny, but so are they! WE DID get activity busy enough that 3rd – 4th week of March that I was impressed…..about a quart a day of food was being consumed. Then they all seemed to disappear……as weather warmed a bit, blooming in the yard, insects, etc.

But I began to realize they HAVE been nesting………until……. April 21, evening, light rain falling and……. The feeders began to get swamped with activity….. and that repeated yesterday, getting even heavier….. and by nightfall, I recognized the fact there were juveniles in the mix…..not just Rufous, but the larger puffy Anna chicks as well……and those poor little chicks, hatch out, and find out you’re in a cool very rainy place:

hummerbaby

SO. the FIRST mating, hatching, raising, has succeeded.. . . . parents will continue with this first batch another couple of weeks, and settle in to raise a 2nd set of kids….. TODAY, 3 QUART feeders will be placed at the heavy use locations….and a couple more feeders placed further out in the yard …near the fir trees I think nests are in.

WHEW! This is joy to watch these tiny whirrrrrring sounding birds ……
cold hummers

….and….. even though rufous will be aggressive with each other around the feeders, it seems they don’t even give recognition to the Anna’s….viewing them as NO threat to the food….they leave Anna’s alone. Learning continues here about this fine little bird.

I still love the absolute radiant beauty of the Male Rufous:
hummer rfous male nice

mmmmmm

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