Sunday, March 9, 2014

Michiana Master Gardeners Spring Celebration

I manned a booth at the Michiana Master Gardeners Spring Celebration this last weekend. There were various nature and gardening related booths set up outside the main presentation hall. People had time to chat, mingle, and check out the various topics and ideas. Sally Roth was the main speaker . . . read about her presentation at the end of the post.

Indiana Master Naturalists were there with materials, handouts, and more. I really have enjoyed what I learned, the friendships, and volunteer opportunities I have explored through this group! There will be a group starting again in Elkhart county in September. Great time to check it out! See what I've written about IMNs here.

I was there representing Woodlawn Nature Center. With the theme, I brought some things in about natural weaving, looking at animals that weave, environmental artists that using weaving in their work (like Andy Goldsworthy), and then ways to use weaving to document gardens and hikes through portable or large looms. It's an intriguing concept! I've blogged about it here. Many were interested in the Nature Nook Book Group as well. 

Sunrise Hydroponic and Aeroponic Produce was available with the Tower Garden. This unit that holds 24 plants and is available with monthly payments. I've looked into aeroponics before and was impressed with how these work! They are lcoated at 2935 W 700 S, Topeka, IN Their motto is growing clean and green! The voicemail is 260-593-0241 ext. 2.

Wild Birds Unlimited from Mishawaka had a variety of feeders and bird seed available. I look forward to checking out their store in their new location!

Green Meadow Houses and Feeders had several different options available, including a horse and buggy feeder. They use eco-friendly polywood and are maintenance free. They are located at 0725N 840W in Shipshewana, IN. Their phone is 260-768-7863.

Wellfield Botanic Gardens is impressive as usual! Looking forward to visiting the gardens more to see the spring changes and check out all the building and new gardens that are going on there. I've blogged about them many times!

Linton's Enchanted Gardens had numerous bird feeders, home decor items, and more to check out! They have such a good eye for setting up displays and a beautiful store. I enjoyed the class I took there. These are usually free on a variety of topics!

A friendly Indiana Master Naturalist made a display on invasive birds. He said he learned so much about mute swans. I think they are beautiful and really enjoy watching a pair nest on a large pond near our house; however, I realize many of the issues they present as well. There were many Indiana Master Naturalists attending as Master Gardener's or through the displays. It was fun to see everyone!

I joined Indiana Native Plant & Wildflower Society while there. I appreciate the information they share in their Facebook group and in their newsletter. They meet regularly in the north chapter, with hikes and informational meetings. I snagged a list of plants to plan an area I'd like to improve near our bird feeders. They have a native plant sale going on right now, so I'm looking forward to a buying a few things!

Of course, Michiana Master Gardeners Association was out in full force. All the members were wearing their name tags. They do impressive volunteer work throughout the area. People came from all over the area for the program.

Better World Books had many of Sally Roth's books for sale, as well as gardening books in general. They also had cards by Mark Daniels, who does beautiful work of birds! I follow him on Facebook and watch the updates as he makes his creations. Neat to see the process!

Another person had many plants for sale, as well as unique ideas for upcycling containers to start seeds inside.

The South Bend Elkhart Audubon Society was there was well. I enjoy their hikes, publications, and resources. What a great group of birders! Here are posts I've done of past excursions.

Premier Optics from Middlebury was also available. I didn't realize there was an optic store so close! The address is 14544 CR 12. The hours are 2:30-5:00 Monday-Friday and Saturday from 7-4. The phone number is 574-825-7106.


The highlight of the day was listening to Sally Roth speak about enhancing backyard habitats to attract birds. What an interesting person! She is an excellent speaker and shared useful information. She even did a few demos. I want to try some out at home. She is a self professed nature nut. She used a slide show with pictures and then talked, talked, and talked! We laughed, laughed, and laughed!

Sally had several themes to create a "safe haven in changing times". To attract birds, she encouraged the following:
1. Add cover. The birds will feel safer and will stick around. She talked about multilevel marketing or creating several layers and heights for birds. Flowering trees are a great bet as they attract insects. She even suggested planting a dead branch! That's easy and inexpensive and can be done as soon as all this snow melts. Move plants away from the house and put them on the edges of the property. Plant in groups. Use a trellis to create staggered levels. And I wondered why the birds were always on the boys' bikes on the front porch--they were looking for a nearby place to perch!

2. Put feeders close to windows. They have to slow down to approach and will not get hurt as much. She did a cool trick where they put patio doors inside a garage door. They could put up the garage door and sit inside with windows facing their feeders. They put potted plants and dead sticks in pots out on the driveway for cover and added their bird feeders. What a cool way to fake a habitat! 

3. Insects are the #1 food source for the birds, except goldfinches who mostly use seeds only. She talked of hummingbirds going to spiderwebs to eat.

4. Add water! She showed an inexpensive way to make a bubbling spring on the cheap. She dug a hole and put a container inside. She added a submersible pump (cost $8-12--solar could also be used), added hardware cloth over the top with a hole for the pump, and covered it with rocks. Fill it to the brim for less algae growth and top it off from time to time. Many birds, including warblers, drink at ground level. Add small shrubs nearby such as pussy willows, lilacs, etc. She said to write her who comes to your water!

5. "Everybody has their own niche, so make lots of niches!" She talked about how bark crevices hide lots of great stuff. Nuthatches search head down, brown creepers search head up. Fruit trees are great! Sally talked about having a variety of food for birds, thinking seeds and weeds. She talked about teasel (though it is invasive!) and how it was brought over to comb out snarls in sheep from Europe. She's tried it on her own hair! Let the millet grow. Plant bird seed and see what comes up. Queen Anne's Lace is another good option of the carrot family. Add various foods, such a scorn, apples, etc. She mentioned cup plants and how hummingbirds and chickadees will drink right out of the cup!

6. "Tidiness? Um, no . . . Go a little wild!" Let oregano spread--butterflies love it! Use different types of butterfly weed for your area. Don't cut back the garden as it dies back right away. Yellow daisies are great. Anna's hessop has a licorice small and goldfinches like the seeds. Plant sunflowers. Don't rake if you can avoid it--the leaf litter is a good food source. Insects and cocoons will be there. Even just not raking under hedges is a good place to start. She suggested getting a certified wildlife habitat sign for $25 (check out the regulations) so the neighbors are more accepting of the wildness of it all. 

7. "It's always about you, isn't it? Plant what you like!" She showed how she transformed 2 houses over 2 years. Each yard really only took $200 each. The total time spent doing it is part of the fun! She suggested stopping to admire gardens. People often are more than willing to share! :-) I know our neighbors have. She put in paths with mulch (watching how her dog roamed!), made some changes in elevation with extra concrete chunks, bought bulbs at wholesale prices (said daffodils are 3 cents a bulb that way), etc. She said the more plants the better in a spot.

8. She did a demo of her million dollar meal, which is peanut butter, cornmeal, and whatever other treats you want to put in. This is a good alternative to commercial suet. She mixes it to have a cookie dough consistency and puts it in a tray feeder, on the ground, or even just eats it herself. She also puts out plain peanut butter and talked about one woodpecker who cached his food about 18 inches below where it was put out. He was always surprised that is was no longer there as the other birds easily found it so close to the source! She gets millet at the grocery store, mentioned lambs quarter as very common (and edible to humans), dandelions are great, etc. She said people could make money off of selling dandelion seed for birds as they love it! When looking at bird seed, watch out for the small brown balls of milo or sourgum. Very few birds will eat it. It is mostly ignored and is a cheap filler. She dumps kitchen scraps out, uses a decoy feeder in another spot with cracked corn, and more. Wild asters are great plants. Opaque berries are high in fat which is helpful for birds. Dogwood and spicebush are good options. 

9. In looking at feeder design, she mentioned how lots of feeders can look like junk. She suggested a multi armed shepherd's hook to corral them all or make an interesting wooden one to hang all the feeders. 

10. Birds love all the summer fruits we love, and then some! Mulberries are great options, but she said to plant them by the neighbor's side of the fence. I guess some people don't like the mess--we eat them as long as we can ourselves and are happy to have so many. 

11. She mentioned having fibers and fluff available for nesting. She said some places sell bagged nesting materials. She showed a wreath of nesting materials, such as feathers, burlap, raffia, white butcher string, etc. She suggested cutting everything into 10-12" pieces. Even dog fur is a great option, citing some birds that will actually take it off a dog! She made a little container of these items with cotton balls, yarn, etc. by putting into a suet holder to hang. We've done this in the past and used small mesh bags to put out items for the birds as well. She cautioned against using dryer lint as it just mats when it gets wet. 

12. She talked about maple trees, how you can hear the sap run if you put your ear next to it on a sunny day when it is running. Bump, bump, bump! I'm trying it tomorrow! 

13. Put down the pesticides. Bugs are wonderful! She shared personal stories of birds, such as putting out raisins for the robins and how they are mean and will stab other birds. 

14. Sally talked about hand taming birds. The first time it takes a half hour of patience, propping one's hand out with bird food on it. She used yellow cake and seed which is tempting. After that initial wait, it's easy. 

15. Nuts can be expensive. She chops up the peanuts so they last longer as some birds will take the whole nut and hide it for later. Peanut butter is another good option. 

16. "Oh boy, home cooking!" Sally mentioned playing with the birds. Experiment to see what they like. They did not like tahini when she put it out. She has tried peanut butter parfaits, pizza, hot dogs, mac and cheese, etc. Sh cautioned to not put out more than they'll eat in a short while unless you also want rodents. While I enjoyed most of her other items, I wasn't sure about feeding the birds hotdogs and a full Thanksgiving spread (which she did--including turkey and pumpkin pie!). 

What a delightful speaker! I have just the space I want to develop by our bird feeder right out the front window. Many of these ideas were inexpensive and easily implemented. Great timing as the snow should be melting in the near future (I hope!).

I did a very rough count of about 350 people there. Wow! What a great turnout on a snowy day!

After the program there was a book signing. Many took advantage of this!

As a side note, I loved the little birds and decorations near the snacks. Lovely little bread birds!