Sunday, August 31, 2014

Who put the Hum in the Hummingbird?

For many years, Hubs and I have purchased colorful hanging baskets for our summer patio with the intention of attracting hummingbirds.  We have been successful in getting to see the little flying-wonders occasionally, but not with as much frequency as we would like.  We found the plant that seemed to attract them most was fuchsia.  Here are some examples of what that looks like:

Indeed, even quite apart from attracting hummers, these are lovely hanging baskets that remain colorful all season and seem hardy and heat-tolerant.  

This spring, we were in one of our favorite stores, The Andersons General Store.  (I apologize now to those readers who don't have this store near you.  There are 2 in the Columbus area and 3 in Toledo where it is based.)  Anyway, we were in the pet department so Hubs could pick up some birdseed, and there was a large display of hummingbird feeders.  I spent some time looking at them and reading the little tags, and I decided to get one.  I'm not sure why I've lived 55 years on this planet without getting one of these, but let me tell you, my life has been changed forever by the addition of this to my world.  

The first one I bought was a Perky Pet brand that looks like this:

This is called a "pinch-waist" feeder, and mine looks exactly like this except that the little yellow cages are rounded.  It came with a little packet of powder mix to make the nectar.  I mixed it up with water as the directions indicated, filled up my jar and hung it on a plant hook outside the porch at New House.  It wasn't long before a hummie came to partake of the sweet nectar.  This packet of powder had red food coloring in it.  One packet filled the jar, and I left it out for about 2 weeks (this is a mistake which I will address later).  

Once we saw that the feeder was attracting hummies, we decided we were going to need to buy more nectar.  On a shopping trip to Meijer, we found jugs of red liquid food in the pet department, so I tried that. 
I cleaned out my feeder and filled it with this red liquid.  Then I watched as a hummie came, checked it out, and quickly went away.  Sadly then we waited for a few days and had no more hummies sipping.   

Meanwhile Hubs decided he wanted a feeder for Old House, so he got one that was different than the first one.  This one looks similar only it doesn't have perches by the feeding tubes.  There are lots and lots of feeders on the market.  Some are more decorative and artsy and some are more utilitarian.  Personally, I prefer a feeder with perches because some hummies will sit for awhile and that is fun to see.  

We have a bird supply store here in Westerville called Wild Birds Unlimited.  I called them and explained the situation and the lack of interest in the liquid nectar.  The clerk explained that hummers don't typically like the store-bought liquid because it has preservatives in it.  She recommended powder and said they sell it, so we went to get some.  In the store, the clerk recommended a can of powder they sell that is called "Songbird Essentials".  One of its selling points is that it makes clear nectar. The clerk explained that some people feel the red food coloring is not good for the hummies - and it really isn't necessary.  The red on the feeder is what attracts them. In fact, you will see that almost all commercial hummingbird feeders have red parts.  So, I bought a can.  A 24 oz can makes 4.5 quarts of nectar, and that's a lot when you consider that you only put about 1/4-1/2 cup in a feeder at a time. 

In talking with the clerk we learned some other valuable information.  She explained the importance of cleaning the feeders and changing the nectar often, especially in hot weather, because the sugar water goes bad and the feeders can get moldy - neither of which are healthy for the hummies.  She said that the water should be changed at least every few days, and even daily if it is really hot.  After learning that I realized that it really isn't necessary to fill the feeder completely because they can't drink it down before it needs to be changed.  Now I only fill it about 1/4 full - not even up to the pinched waist. 

Hubs put his feeder out at Old House filled with this same canned nectar and had success with hummie visitors.  He also did some research online about home-made nectar because he didn't really want to keep spending $10 per can.  He learned that you can make your own nectar very easily.  
       Recipe: 4 cups of water - bring to a boil on the stove.  Remove from heat.  
                  Add 1 cup of sugar and stir until dissolved.  Allow to cool to room temp before putting in feeder.
                  This can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.  Be sure to bring nectar to room temp before                       putting out in feeders.
Also we heat our water in a metal pan that is NOT coated with non-stick coating.  When Hubs was just a young-'un, he had a pet parakeet, and he learned then that birds can be sensitive to the fumes from that non-stick coating.  If a pan with a non-stick coating is left hot and dry on the stove, the fumes can kill a pet bird.  (Normal cooking shouldn't be a problem.)  We have chosen to keep our sugar water as natural as possible rather than take chances.  

In the couple of months that I've had a hummie feeder, I've too often seen the sad sight of a hummie coming to the empty chain while the feeder is inside being cleaned and refilled.  They sit on the chain and look around.... and fly around looking for the feeder.  I decided to get a second one, so that I could have it ready to put out immediately when the first one is taken in for cleaning.  Then I don't have to rush and the hummies don't have to wait.  Here is the 2nd style I got:

The only reason I bought this was because I couldn't find another like the first one.  I like the fact that it has a perch.  I also like the fact that this one is easier to clean because there aren't really any separate parts to remove.  However, if this hangs in the rain, rainwater can get in the feeding holes and dilute the sugar water. Also, the reservoir is larger and has to be fairly full so the hummies can reach the good stuff (although they do have very long tongues), so more nectar is wasted in cleaning it out before it can all be consumed. 

If you want a hummingbird feeder, here are my recommendations:
  • Get a feeder that has lots of red on it and has perches for sitting.
  • Get a feeder with a smaller reservoir because too much is wasted with a big tank.
  • If you decide to go fancy/artsy, get one that is small and easy to clean because mold can grow in nooks and crannies.
  • Get a feeder with an ant moat.  This is a place to put plain water to keep ants from walking down the hanger, onto the feeder and getting to the ports. 
  • Get a feeder with bee guards (these are the yellow cages) - although I have not yet seen any bees on the satellite feeder, but there is an ant moat in the middle.
  • Make your own sugar-water or buy a powder that has no preservatives or food coloring.
  • Be prepared to clean your feeder every few days in hot weather and to take it all apart if necessary.  
We are told that some hummies hang around Central Ohio through October, and the clerk at the bird store recommended keeping feeders out until the hummies are gone because they come to depend on them, especially in the fall as the flowers are fading.  She said it is a myth that feeders lure them to stay in the area too long and then they don't get away before the cold gets them.  She said they know when to leave for winters in Mexico.  

And now, what you've all been waiting for: our very own pics and videos of our little hummies:

Video - 39 seconds with a Hummie - This Hummie is on Hubs' favorite feeder at Old House.  It has a very large bottle, and he learned early on not to fill it very full.  You will notice how long the tongue is as you watch this!
Here is a still of that same hummie:

These first 3 photos are of a female, and the fourth one is a ruby-throated male.  The camera doesn't do them justice.  

Hummies also love our zinnias.  We believe that the combination of the feeders and the zinnias have kept them around.  At Old House, where there are now lots of zinnias and 2 feeders, we can sit outside and watch the hummies for hours.  They hang around and go from flower to flower to feeder and back to flower. They also are very territorial, so they will chase each other away from a spot they want for themselves. However, we've seen 2 sit peacefully together on the same feeder, and on the same fencing.   I never realized before that they would perch out in the open; I always thought they only perched in protected tree-cover. 

I've noticed two styles of feeding.  There are the sitting sippers who will perch and sip repeatedly, and then there are the dancing dippers who never land but hover and dip repeatedly.  Some always seem to go to one port, and others will try all the ports in a feeder before flying away.   

Here are some more of our favorite videos:

Lest you think they are all flighty, we have a video of one sitting on a fence perch for 6 min and 43 seconds.  Since it would take days to upload that video, you have been spared of watching it!

So that's it for my Hummie Post.  Our new feeders have brought the wonderous little fliers to us for much pleasure.  I hope you get to enjoy some Hummingbird Fun, too!

Thanks for reading - I'll see you again soon!


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Enough Said - Movie Review

Enough Said  stars James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  

This movie was released in the fall of 2013.  Overall, it was well reviewed and won some awards.  It is a romantic comedy, and I found it very enjoyable.  

Gandolfini plays Albert and Julia plays Eva.  The two characters are single and middle-aged, each with a daughter that will be leaving for college in a few months.  That commonality gives them something to talk about when they start dating.  Albert and Eva meet at a party where they both declare that they don't find anyone there attractive.  Later he calls her and asks her out to dinner, and their relationship begins.  

At this same party, Eva also meets a woman named Marianne (played by Catherine Keener).  Eva gives Marianne her business card indicating that she is a Massage Therapist.  Marianne later calls her for a massage, and the two women strike up a friendship. 

The basic conflict of the movie is that Eva is building a romantic relationship with Albert at the same time she is building a friendship with Marianne, who just happens to be Albert's ex-wife!   Eva figures this out early on in both relationships, but continues to "see" both people.  I'm not going to spoil it for you, so if you are curious about how it all works out, you will just have to watch the movie.

One thing I liked about the movie is that all the characters were quirky and real.  There seemed to be genuine chemistry between Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus which made it seem even more real.   There was another layer added to the movie in realizing that James Gandolfini passed away in June of 2013 before the movie was released.  As I watched it, I had in the back of my mind that this actor wasn't going to see the movie released which was very sad and made the movie more poignent.  

This is one I recommend for a nice enjoyable couple of hours. Nothing heavily dramatic or tear-jerking, but interesting in it's complexity.  

If you've seen Enough Said, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!  Come back again soon!

Boyhood - Movie Review

I am guessing that most of my loyal readers are familiar with this movie since it has been advertised a lot in recent weeks.  I was lucky enough to see it shortly after it first hit the theatres - I was really looking forward to it.

My readers may remember some movie reviews from earlier this summer - a series of 3 that are "Before..."  They were all written and directed by Richard Linklater and stared Ethan Hawke as was Boyhood.  The premise of the series of 3 was that they had the same actors playing the same roles but each movie was 9 years later than the previous, so the story was a continuation of the lives of the fictional characters in 9 year increments. Each movie was told mostly in real time, and each consisted of a long conversation between the 2 main characters.  The premise of Boyhood  is very similar although there is more action, and there are a lot more characters. In this case, the filming was done a little bit every year for 12 years using the same performers.  Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play the parents of Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (she is 2 years older than he).  The story follows the life of the boy from when he enters school until he graduates 12 years later.

Here are a couple of photos that shows Ellar's aging as the filming progressed:

My viewing companion loved the movie.  It seemed to be everything she'd hoped it would be.  I, on the other hand was a little disappointed.  I love the premise, and I found it very cool to see the actors age over 12 years as they did in real life - it's just not the same when done with make-up.  I liked the fact that you have the same actor playing a child and a young adult rather than having to change actors when a child ages.  I thought the movie was well made and maintained consistency over the 12 years of filming.

I also liked the fact that it seemed very real.  The characters and the story seemed like it really could have been a documentary of the lives of this family.  However, I found the movie to be long (almost 3 hours) and a little slow and boring in places.  (Honestly, I almost fell asleep.) I was also bothered by the fact that some bits of the story were left hanging.  Because they were covering 12 years in 3 hours, there were some necessary jumps ahead in time, but I wished that the transitions could have been smoother.  

I would recommend the movie over-all.  I think it is worth seeing because of the interesting premise of filming.  However, I wouldn't expect it to be a life-changing experience. 

If you've seen the movie, please share your thoughts with me! I'd love to hear what you thought!

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to feed the fish.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Yet Another Museum Visit!

When I use the word "Lustron", what do you think of?  Let me give you some context: think houses.

On Thursday, July 31, Hubs and I visited the Lustron Home exhibit at the Ohio Historical Society.  This is something that has been on my to-do list since I first learned about it.  There is actually an entire home on display, and the best thing about it is that visitors can walk through the house and open drawers and touch things.  It isn't a traditional museum exhibit that is hands-off.

Here is a photo of the front of the house that is on exhibit:

Here is what it might have looked like "in the wild" so to speak:

The Lustron Corporation was here in Columbus in a former airplane factory and was only in business from about 1948-1950.  Unfortunately, they couldn't keep up with orders and the company folded after having only built about 2500 homes nationwide.  They were advertised as the "new age" home of the future.  That they were virtually maintenance free was the main selling point.  The house was made out of steel panels, inside and out, and included many built-ins as well.  The exterior came in 4 color options:  gray, blue, yellow and pink.  

Here are some sample living rooms:

At the Ohio Historical Museum, the Lustron House display was complete with a "homeowner" dressed in a 1950 outfit.  She talked about the rooms as we toured the house, and also explained the fate of the company.  Here is the dining room of the exhibit house:

And then the kitchen:

My favorite thing in the kitchen was the combination dish washer/clothes washer.  This was located to the left of the sink.  A lid came off the top, and then the home owner would change out the drum inside - putting in either a washing machine drum, or a dish washing drum and rack.  Here's an ad for this feature:

I was surprised by how big the rooms were inside.  From the floor plans on display, the houses seemed like they would be very small and cramped.  There were 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom models available, and I think they all had 1 bathroom.  Bedrooms had built in closets with sliding doors, and the master had a built-in vanity as well.  There isn't much storage, and they didn't build garages, so if you wanted a garage, you had to have it built separately.  The houses were actually a little more expensive than a traditional home, which was one of the negatives.  

Here is the floor plan of the model we toured:

Here is a photo of a standard bathroom:

Here are links to a couple of articles about the homes and the exhibit:

If you find yourself in Columbus with some time on your hands,  I recommend a visit to the Ohio Historical Museum while the 1950s exhibit is still on.  It is a Blast from the Past, that's for sure!

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to feed the fish!


Monday, August 4, 2014

The Longest Ride - Book Review

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks was released in 2013 and is the 17th romance novel he's written.  Production has already begun on a movie based on the book.

I have enjoyed almost all of Sparks' books.  Yes, they are predictable, but that's ok.  I enjoy the story-telling, and I enjoy the writing style.  I found this book to be very engaging, and I looked forward to reading it each day.   I was also disappointed when it was over even though I could have predicted how it was going to turn out.

The title refers to several parallel stories.  This book is about 2 parallel romances.  One is the romance of Ira Levinson and his wife Ruth.  As the book opens, Ira has just been in a car accident, and as he languishes seriously injured and alone in the car which is quickly being buried in falling snow, he hears and sees his dead wife Ruth as she comes to him with encouraging words.  We learn about their life together and their deep love for each other as he talks to her.

In alternating chapters then we see a parallel love story developing between a young Wake Forest student named Sophia and a bold young rodeo bull-rider named Luke.   Eventually, the two stories come together as Luke and Sophia find Ira's car and help him get rescued.  "The Longest Ride" is about the love story of Ira and Ruth, but it is also about a bull-riding event that Luke experiences which changes his life.  The title is also about love and life in general - it becomes a metaphor for enduring love.

Woven through the story is a sub-plot about a collection of modern art that Ira and Ruth built through their years together.  That art collection eventually connects with Luke and Sophia as well.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good romance novel.  There isn't much "steam" to it, but it is very moving at times.  Predictable yes, but it's worth the ride as far as I'm concerned.

Thanks for visiting!  I hope to see you again soon!