The Impromptu Bird House For Wrens

Crocheting a little wren birdhouse.

Last year we had wrens flying into the garage and we discovered they were building a nest. The nest, unfortunately, was inside my son’s tool belt which hung up high near the window.

I told him to leave it alone and let the birds do their thing. It was an odd place to have a nest because with the garage door closed, they couldn’t get in or out. Usually the door was left up a little during the day for the cats, but it was always closed tight all night long.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Did that appeal to the wrens? Maybe. They never did make a complete nest or have babies in our garage, but this year they began the same routine. They love the tool belt because it has big open leather holders that are deep. I suspect a handyman would carry his drills or whatnot in them.

This time my son was having none of it. He is not a nature lover and didn’t want birds in his belt. He dumped out the few little leaves inside and put the belt away. I know. Mean.

So I got to thinking that maybe I could make a nest, or buy one, that the wrens might use. This led to me searching for a nest to make out of yarn.

I have a website about my knitting projects called New England’s Narrow Road. I am an avid fiber artist… fancy name for knitter of things. But I wanted this birdhouse to be done fast, so I chose to crochet it.

My Birdhouse Made of Yarn

I hadn’t crocheted for a while, but it all comes back when you begin. I love knitting, but crochet is much faster and easier to correct mistakes.

I can’t tell you exactly how I made this birdhouse, but I began as if to crochet a bag – at the bottom. After expanding up and out, I made the hole. Then I decreased for the top and made the loop.

I used pure wool (Jamieson & Smith) so it would be a natural material that would last outside in the elements.

Crocheted bird house

When the whole thing was finished – it took only 2 nights of work – I washed it and dried it in the dryer to “felt” the wool yarn. This tightens up the strands of yarn so it’s less porous.

I took it outside and hung it on a shrub where I would often see wrens. This is where I stumbled across a pretty little orange flowering milkweed plant.

Crocheted bird house

I want to make more houses and possibly create a pattern that I can share with others. Around here, we have frogs and other creatures that take over birdhouses, so there may never be a wren inside. Maybe I will make a bunch of houses and hang them inside the garage!

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Sometimes We Should Keep The Weeds

Flowering weeds can attract lots of beneficial bugs to the yard.

Florida homeowners are more likely than most to hire a lawn care service. The extreme heat is one of the main reasons, but the weeds and bugs are also at the top of the list, I’m sure.

Because we never get an actual winter here in the Sunshine State, things grow and grow. Some plants die back when the weather is colder than normal, but for the most part everything comes back quickly.

When I say “lawn care” I mean not only the brave souls who mow and weed-eat in this hot and humid climate, but the ones who spray insecticides to kill everything unwanted. Everyone needs to keep the growth down, but many homeowners also have their yards sprayed with chemicals to kill the bugs and weeds.

Daisy Fleabane – attracts pollinators

This tiny flower is growing in my lawn which hasn’t been cut in a while. I might dig it up and transplant it to the backyard garden.

Daisy fleabane flowers are light lavender with big yellow centers, or can be white
Daisy Fleabane

Weeds For the Bees and Butterflies

Often weeds are something that have been around for a long time in the area where we live. They are native and should not be totally eradicated, in my opinion.

The purple flowering Spiderwort is considered a nuisance, and for good reason – it spreads like mad. It has pretty flowers, but grows in clumps that are nearly impossible to pull up from the lawn. It springs up all over, if the grass is not cut often. That means in the winter months when growth is slower gives this weed time to find places in the lawn to sprout. By March, the Spiderwort is blooming everywhere in the morning, but closes up as the day wears on. It attracts many honey bees.

Spiderwort

Spiderwort grows all along the edge of my yard. I do find it in the lawn as well and it is difficult to remove once it has rooted. If left to grow, it will become big clusters of flowers with long, grass-like leaves.

Although it is a nuisance to anyone trying to keep a pristine landscape, the flowers attract beneficial honeybees and other “good” bugs.

Spiderwort weed grows along edge of yard

White Flowering Spanish Needle

I never knew the name of this white flowering weed. It grew all along the property edge and began springing up in my old raised vegetable bed. I let it grow and it got large. When I decided to remove it, I had to dig it out.

There were plenty more Spanish Needle plants and I have left a few around the garden edges. Now that I can recognize the leaves, I can pull the plant up when it is small. Otherwise, it will take a shovel to get the roots.

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Ladybug Friends For the New Garden Season

It’s 2022 and aren’t we glad to have the last couple of years behind us? New problems are brewing, and with ridiculously high gas prices, it’s best to just stay home and garden! ….. Right?

The ladybugs are already beginning to arrive for the new garden season. I saw one crawling on my eggplant and sure enough, I later found yellow eggs planted beneath a leaf!

First ladybug of the growing season!

Her eggs are tiny and yellow and they will be left under leaves. If they survive, they will all become ladybugs eventually.

Ladybug eggs

The next day, I saw that the eggs had hatched into black critters that were crawling a bit. They look like tiny, black spiders. They will soon turn into long black bugs with red markings. I wrote a page with photos about the life stages of ladybugs here.

As a gardener, I want to be aware of which bugs are good, or beneficial, and the ladybugs – in all stages – are good! But we must know how they look before they become ladybugs in order for them to survive.

Ladybug eggs hatching into black larvae
New little ladybug larvae looks like tiny black spiders

My Fear: Do Anole’s Eat Ladybugs?

I’ve searched for an answer and have not found one that is exact, but I am hoping that brown (and green) anole lizards do not eat ladybugs. Here in Florida we have both types of lizard.

There is a very large brown lizard that loves to hang out on the eggplant plant (see him below). I have seen some green aphids, and maybe he is eating those. But aphids are also ladybug food. The lizard could be eating ants, or something else. I’m wondering if he will gobble up the baby ladybugs too.

Ladybugs Do Not Taste Good

I can attest to the fact that ladybugs do not taste good. Accidentally, I had a ladybug in my mouth – it was in the water I drank – and it left a horrible taste. I hope that our lizards think so too and will let the larvae live.

Ladybug on eggplant stem
March ladybug on eggplant

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Bought a Hot Frog Tumbling Composter

Recently I purchased a Hot Frog tumbling composter, which has two spinning bins. We struggled a bit putting this thing together, but in the end it’s pretty nice. I’ll update progress as time goes on, but here is my experience so far.

Hot Frog composting bin on stand in the yard.

A Serious Gardener Needs Good Dirt

This year I am getting into gardening more seriously. I dislike where I live, but I am determined to make the most of it. The backyard has been mostly neglected since my wood-sided raised bed began to crumble. The price of wood is too high to re-build it, and by now it is packed down and full of roots and unusable. It has become a place for weeds to grow.

My yard is small. Digging a garden is hard work, and Florida “dirt” is made up of sand. I’ve opted for buying, and building, raised beds. This also helps a lot with invading weeds, grass and roots. But buying all of this is not cheap, and I also struggle with finding decent, affordable dirt.

Early Spring is a good time to begin Florida vegetable gardening. This year I started some organic seeds in little eggshells and then transplanted them to grow boxes. I shelled out money for the boxes, dirt and seeds. Getting started is not cheap, but once the planters and dirt is purchased, it gets better.

Gardens in grow boxes in Florida backyard
Growing eggplant, peppers, onions and tomatoes in grow boxes on the patio.

This is where making my own compost comes in. I can stop buying soil and amend gardens with organic compost material. I plan to save seeds from the organic plants I’m already growing.

I know the basics of creating a compost pile, because I made my own compost in New Hampshire, but now I am in Florida and it’s different. How different? I’ll let you know. The Hot Frog is purchased (link below), put together, and filling up with vegetable scraps, leaves, and yard stuff. I’ve never used something like this to make compost. It’s pretty cool… so far. I have one side about half full and give it a spin often.

Hot Frog Directions Are Lacking

After I ordered my Hot Frog by FCMP Outdoor and like the fact that it is made in Canada and not China. (this is an affiliate link to Amazon. If you purchase through this link I could earn a small amount.)

The two big wheel-like bins come in a big box with a mess of green metal piping that needs to be put together to make the stand. The directions are mostly non-existent. A little diagram is included. On our first attempt the thing was crooked. Something was wrong. That happy face / sad face thing on the paper told us why. It was kinda weird, but fixed the problem.

It took both of us to hold the barrels and feed the long pole through the middle and connect it to the legs. So, you may need some help putting it together.

Poles used as the composter stand

Once it was together the correct way, and the big bins were added, I dragged the whole unit out to the backyard myself. It’s not very heavy when empty.

The sun is changing location, but I want the composter to be mostly in the shade. I fear that direct sunlight in this climate will burn everything up inside. I can pull it back further when summer hits so it will mostly be shaded. I plan to keep an eye on the inside temperature. It is easy to move – that is a plus.

Presently, it is sitting in the back corner of the yard where the banana trees and big shrubs grow at the edge of my property.

Hot Frog dual turning composter

What I Like About Hot Frog

This Hot Frog composter has two separate sides. This is good for starting a batch of compost in a small area. Once that side is full (how full?) I will begin to add material to the other side.

The green sliding doors are marked “Start” and “Finish” which doesn’t really make sense, but it keeps the two separate. So, I began with the “Start” side and added oak leaves and dried banana leaves along with bunches of vegetable scraps. Each day I usually add a little bit more.

One complaint that I read in a review was that water can get in, and drips out, of the unit. I can see how dripping could occur with the holes in the side. However, compost is not supposed to be wet. My unit is on the grass so dripping is not an issue, but I don’t want the compost to become soggy.

As for how water gets in, I suspect through those same holes. In my photo below you might be able to see the little flies coming out of the hole. So far, it’s my only issue – the tiny flies. Apparently they are harmless.

Why You Should Consider Composting

If you are already an organic gardener, you should consider composting your own materials. Don’t over think it. Learn the basics (what to add) and you will find it to be quite easy to do. Add natural ingredients, and nothing from the yard if you don’t know what it is. You don’t want to add some kind of poisonous plant to the compost bin.

Since I’ve become a more healthy eater, I have a lot more vegetable scraps. Instead of throwing them out, I currently put them on top of the soil in my grow boxes. It’s sort of a quick composting attempt, and better than simply throwing good scraps into the trash. Old lettuce leaves scattered over the dirt can help hold moisture in.

Sometimes vegetable bits can help keep raccoons and critters away also – (think prickly cucumber stems and stinky onions). But each time I would do this, I would also think about doing compost the correct way.

I have all the elements needed to create good compost. Grass, leaves and vegetable matter is really all it takes. Most everyone has those things. Once the compost is ready, it can be added to vegetable gardens and will add extra nutrients to the soil and hopefully attract earthworms.

This sustainable way of growing crops and flowers helps the environment and your own health.

Florida’s Unqiue Compost Material

March is Fall here in Florida. The oak trees lose their leaves and catkins (long brown things) everywhere. I’ve been adding them to my composter along with vegetable bits.

After the cold of winter (don’t laugh) we also have dead banana leaves, which I cut up with scissors and also added to the bin.

Spanish moss can be added to the compost pile. It is also useful when potting plants. Stick some in the bottom of the pot for drainage.

Compost Organic, No Chemicals Allowed

The big problem in Florida is that many people spray their lawns with chemicals to kill the bugs. Florida is a buggy place. It used to be a jungle swampland. Now, people who want to live in paradise do not want bugs destroying their idea of an ideal place to live. Lawn service companies are constantly spraying lawns.

If your yard is full of chemicals, you can not add lawn clippings, leaves and garden matter to the compost bin. Chemicals will kill the good bacteria and things that are needed to create soil from compost matter. Not only that, the chemicals will end up in your garden, feeding your plants, or killing them.

I believe in letting nature take care of things in the garden. But, once again, here in Florida, that may not be as natural as you think. Our ecology is already being threatened by invasive frog and lizard species. I’m guessing this will play a role in organic gardening here.

Below is my photo of a big brown anole, or Cuban anole (lizard). Read more about the native green, and invasive brown, anoles. South Florida is not the only place with invaders.

Brown lizard

Check out this massive list of non-native reptiles at the Florida Fish and Wildlife site. There are no photos, but what a long list!

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