Saturday, February 11, 2017

Best Way To Ant-Proof a Hummingbird Feeder

Both my wife and I are fascinated by hummingbirds. For the longest time we had a pair that were regular visitors to the feeder we hung of our balcony then one day they stopped showing up.  When I went to investigate I found that the feeder was crawling with ants. I was going to have to find a way to ant-proof our feeder.

Fortunately I have a coworker who keeps a feeder outside his office window and I noticed a small barrel-shaped device attached to the cable mid-way between the top of the feeder and the tree branch it was hung from. I asked him what it was and he told me it was to keep the ants off of the feeder.  Of course, I wanted to know right away where to get one.



I found The Perky-Pet Ant Guard  on Amazon and because I am an Amazon Prime member, I get free shipping. I wasted no time in putting mine to use. The ant guard is smartly designed and easy to use.  Under the cup is a chemically impregnated disk that ants refuse to cross. I've had mine up for several weeks now and it has been very effective; there have been no more ants on our feeder.




I decided also to add a package of Perky-Pet Red Instant Hummingbird Nectar. I like the Perky-Pet brand of nectar because they are a trusted brand having been in business since 1958.  They do have a clear version of the nectar, however, I chose the red because it seems to attract the birds better and because, well, I like the color better.



The package of comes with easy-to-follow instructions for mixing.  I chose the 16 ounce recipe because that's about the amount that will be consumed in 2-3 weeks here.  I don't like to mix too much because it tends to be less appealing to the birds if it has sat too long.




After about 10 minutes I had the nectar mixed and the feeder along with the antguard assembled and hung over my balcony.  All that is left is to sit back and let our little birdy friends give us a show!

Until the next time ~Happy Gardening~

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Who Rescued Who, Us or Our Dog

Pet rescue has been one of the most rewarding acts of stewardship I have performed! In April of 2013, after much insistence from my wife, I finally agreed to adopt a pet from a local shelter. We both decided, since we live in a condo, we would prefer a small dog. Lucky for us, Halo Animal Shelter was overflowing Chihuahua’s so they decided to waive the adoption fees. We decided to leave that very day to see if we could find our forever dog.


Mocha

We arrived at the shelter early on a Saturday afternoon and were overwhelmed by the number of dogs that were available for adoption. They had over 75 Chihuahuas alone and we wanted to pick just the right one for us. After looking for nearly an hour and wrestling and struggling with all of the available choices, we decided to look down one more row of kennels and there she was, our forever dog. Mocha was housed in a run/kennel with about 5 or 6 other dogs. Some were sleeping, some were barking, and one was even snarling. Mocha stood calmly in the middle basking in the sun. No question about it, she was the one.


Waiting patiently for a treat.

 
After letting one of the staff know we were interested in her, we were bought into a meeting room and Mocha was brought in. She immediately took a liking to us and crouched down in a play posture; it was love at first sight.

Mocha Loves to Fly



 Mocha has been with us for almost four years now and has stuck by our side in good times and in bad. We gave her a chance at a happy new life and she has given us more than we could ever have imagined. Every day when we arrive home from work she greets us as if she hasn’t seen us in years! Aside from work and church, Mocha is with us most of the time. She even went on an airplane with us this summer to visit my mom. She rode all the way there in her carrier under the seat and never made a noise the whole way there and back. She has even boldly proclaimed a spot between us when we sleep at night. Adopting her was one of the best things we ever did, and I think she feels the same.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Road to Serenity

The Beatles wrote a song titled, “The Long and Winding Road.” I think that best describes the spiritual path I’ve taken in this life. Let’s see, I was raised Wisconsin Synod Lutheran, joined a spiritual recovery program, became an Episcopalian, stopped being Episcopalian, attended a Four-Square Gospel Church, stopped attending a Four-Square Gospel Church, attended a Spiritual Group, married a Roman Catholic woman, and ultimately became a Roman Catholic. Throughout it all I remained and grew spiritually. At this point I no longer have any need or desire to change churches again, I have found everything I could ever hope for to practice my faith in The Roman Catholic Church. As for my spiritual path, it winds on because it must wind on!

A recent Picture of Me in Front of St. John's Omro,
the church I attended as a child.
Ok, so let me back up a bit. I really didn’t start living a spiritual based life until my back was up against the wall and I had to turn to something greater than myself. When I was a child growing up and attending church with my mom and my grandparents, I was just going through the motions and not really connecting to anything or anyone greater than me. I eventually became an adult and stopped attending church altogether, because, well…who needs that right? I mean, when you’re young and invincible like I thought I was, I really didn’t think I needed God. In June of 1995 that all changed and I found myself between a rock and a hard place! It was then and there that I threw up the white flag and surrendered. I had been trying all of my life to run the show, and I was doing a horrible job of it. I needed God!

 I have been practicing living a spiritual life ever since that fateful day, and I am living a life I never thought possible. While I am not loaded financially, I am richly blessed with good health a loving wife and daughter, great friends, a home I own, plenty to eat, nice clothes and all of the material things I need. Most of all, I am richly blessed spiritually and have a peace inside that I could never find on my own. I have hope, I have purpose, and I have love!

 I believe that there is a spiritual path for everyone and it is my hope, that through this blog I can share my experience, and learn from the experiences of others. I will share some of the methods I have learned to grow spiritually and in turn hope that you, the readers, will share your experiences with me. Please feel free to comment and connect with me; I welcome all comments whether you agree with me or disagree with me as long as they are in the spirit of love.

Until the next time, Happy Gardening!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Redefining the Garden


I cannot believe it’s been over three-and-one-half-years since my last post!  Much has happened to keep me away.  To start with, I got married to a wonderful woman from The Philippines who has completely transformed my life.  My wife and I also agreed that a bachelor pad with 1970’s era d├ęcor wasn’t a fitting home for a married couple.  The result of this agreement was a complete makeover of our condo, much of which we did ourselves. We also began attending a local Roman Catholic Parish and me, not being Catholic, went through the process of becoming one in April of 2014.  We also took a few trips to California, Vegas, and Minnesota to visit my Mom.  So yes, I was busy, but that’s not the real reason I haven’t posted; the real reason has been a bad case of writer’s block!

In the time prior to my absence I was posting primarily about gardening and plants.  However, I often found myself straying away from the topic, instead writing about cooking, sustainability, farmer’s markets, travel, etc.  I began to realize that what I really wanted my blog to be was a way to help and encourage myself and others to care for ourselves, each other, and our planet.  In other words, I wanted to write about stewardship.

Stewardship, according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, can be defined as “the careful and responsible management entrusted to one’s care.  I struggled and procrastinated for a long time while trying to come up with a post that would bridge the gap from my old gardening blog to my new stewardship blog without changing the title and losing traction.  Finally, the thought occurred to me, I would broaden the scope of and change my own definition of the garden.  When I began to put more thought into this subject I realized that the garden could be a metaphor for our planet Earth which would include caring for all of its resources both living and non-living.  To put it simply, my future posts will be focused on sharing ways that will allow us to care for our planet and all of its inhabitants, and most of all, each other.

To do this I have come up with five main topics that will include all I am interested in writing about. I call them the 4 s’s not to be confused with the 5s’s used in lean enterprises although that in itself would make a great topic for numerous posts.  My 4 s’s are as follows: Stewardship, Spirituality, Sustainability, and Self-Sufficiency.  I may or may not come up with more s’s later. In upcoming posts I will elaborate more on each topic and all future posts will be labeled with one of the 4 s’s.  I can’t wait to get started!


Until the next time, Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Heavenly Place: My Visit to La Paz Waterfall Garden in Costa Rica.

In January of 2010 I was fortunate enough to visit The La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Peace Lodge in Central Costa Rica.  I cannot begin to describe the incredible beauty of this place other that to say I had to pinch myself to see if I were awake or dreaming.  I think when God created this place he did it just to show those fortunate enough to visit what a little corner of heaven looks like.  Since the blazing summer heat is preventing me from doing any gardening projects, I thought I would share a little of my knowledge of this gorgeous place and maybe even entice a few people into visiting.
 
The trail to the falls is shrouded by clouds.






The La Paz Waterfall Garden is perched on the side of Poas Volcano between two of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Poas Volcano National Park and Braulio Carrillo National Park in Heredia Province. It is about a 30-40 minute drive heading north from Juan Santamaria International Airport.  The park’s close proximity to San Jose makes it a convenient way to sample the beauty of the Costa Rican cloud forest during the day and still be able to enjoy the city nightlife.
 





To get there, take The Pan Am Highway (1) East from the airport for about 1 mile and turn left onto highway 3 which is easy to find because it leads into the area where all of the airport hotels are located. Continue on through the city of Alajuela for about a mile until reaching the Boomba Le Tropicana Hotel and restaurant. Turn right here and go 3 blocks and turn left onto Calle 9 Anastasio Alfaro which is still highway 3 by the way.  Stay on the street for 9 blocks and then turn right onto Avenida 7 which will become highway 125 and is the most direct and scenic way to go to the park. At this point you have passed through the most difficult and confusing point of the trip (Costa Rica’s roads are not very well marked and there is rarely a direct route anywhere). From here the road climbs and winds its way into the highlands and passes through many quaint and sleepy little villages.  Just take your time and enjoy the culture and the scenery.  There are often roadside markets and stands selling fresh fruit, vegetables, and other locally produced goods.  I especially recommend the local cheeses which resemble cream cheese and are great with toast and jelly for breakfast. As the road continues on the villages yield to open fields and eventually the cloud forested highlands on the flank of Poas. After about 30 kilometers, there will be a T in the road, and at the time I was there, there was a produce store selling fresh fruits and vegetables. Turn right at the T, the park is about 5 kilometers further on. I will warn you at this point, the scenery will take your breath away.  Imagine every thing you have every heard about a tropical Garden of Eden and multiply it by 100 and you will have La Paz Waterfall Gardens. It’s green, it’s foggy, it’s misty, it’s cool, it’s heavenly; it’s well worth the price of admission.

Me checking out the local transportation.



Speaking of admission, as with most attractions in Costa Rica there are two sets of prices, one for foreigners and one for Nationals; guess who pays more  haha.  Don’t worry though; the price is well worth it.  Anyhow, here are the prices for foreigners: 
Adults are $36.00, children 3-12 are $21.00, children under 3 are free. I recommend getting there when the park opens around 10am and taking advantage of their fantastic buffet which is only $13.00 for adults and $7.00 for children. The buffet features many Costa Rican dishes as well as a few American items such as pizza and French fries.  There are plenty of tropical fruits and even soft serve ice cream when I was there.  After a morning of hiking around the falls you will be sure to work up an appetite which the buffet will be sure to satisfy.
 
The river La Paz, below the falls.



There, with all that out of the way lets talk about the falls themselves.  The La Paz Waterfall Garden is built around a series of five waterfalls.  From top to bottom they are, Templo, Magia Blanca, Encantada, Escondida, and La Paz.  To allow visitors to get up close and personal with the falls, the proprietors have built a series of stairs and catwalks.  Visitors can get so close to the falls that they will get wet. In fact you can actually get under Magia Blanca making for a great photo opportunity, just be sure your photographer is not under the falls or you may not have a camera anymore.   I recommend putting cameras and other electronic devices in Ziploc bags because there is about a 99% chance you will get wet. When I was there, I was only able to visit Templo and Magia Blanca because the catwalks to the other falls were not yet repaired from the 6.1 earthquake that happened here in 2006.  I am told it is once again possible to visit all the falls and that the damage has been repaired however if anyone has information to the contrary please comment. I have to say that the falls are absolutely magnificent and truly worth seeing.
 
Me getting soaked by Templo Falls.

 


Magia Blanca Falls



Catwalks make for easy access to the falls.

The falls, however, are not the only worthwhile attraction in the park. There are also fantastic displays of wildlife, insects, and plant life on exhibit at the gardens.  There is a butterfly garden with over 25 species of butterflies, a jungle cat exhibit, a reptile garden, an aviary, a monkey sanctuary, and even a trout lake. I was really entertained by one of the monkeys who seemed to really enjoy playing with his food. I spent most of the day at the park and still didn’t get enough.
 

A Whiteface Monkey Enjoys Playing With His Food!

 
 
A Rare Tree Frog in The Reptile Garden.

Here Kitty Kitty


  
If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica, I highly recommend the La Paz Waterfall Garden.  Even better, spend the night there at the peace lodge.  I will never forget the mystical time spent there and hope someday to return.  The La Paz Waterfall Garden was truly money well spent and a memory that will last a lifetime.  For more information on La Paz Waterfall Garden, visit their very informative website.



Until the next time ~Happy Gardening

For More Information on Visiting Costa Rica, I recommend:
 Frommer's Costa Rica 2013 (Frommer's Color Complete)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Our Aroma Rice Cooker, Makes Cooking Rice A Breeze


One of the best investments we have ever made in our kitchen is buying a rice cooker.  Since I am not a real big rice eater, I never really saw the need for one, but when my wife’s visa got approved last fall, I knew a rice cooker would be a welcome addition to our kitchen.  Since rice is a very important part of her diet, and I knew she had a rice cooker in The Philippines, I thought it would be fitting that she had one here.  That left me with a dilemma: with so many different models and sizes to choose from, I didn’t have a clue as to which one to choose.

After a few days of research and with much help from my wife, I decided on an Aroma 12 cup digital rice cooker.  Let me tell you, this little machine rocks! It cooks a perfect batch of rice every time and with a price tag at under $50.00, it has many of the bells and whistles of cookers priced over $100.00. We have had this rice cooker for almost a year now and it works perfectly, and we have also had many opportunities to use some of its great features.
 
Our 12 cup Aroma Rice Cooker with handy dandy steamer tray!


One of our favorite features, of course, is the steamer basket that fits over the rice basin. Since we both love garden fresh vegetables, and steaming them is the perfect way to preserve their nutrients, this works great.  Not to mention the energy saved by cooking everything at once instead of using 2 burners on a conventional stove.  Our Aroma rice cooker also has a brown rice function which makes cooking this and other grains such as barley a breeze!  Add to that a keep warm function which really helps with timing when we are when we are cooking other dishes. There is also a steamer function for the times when we only want to steam veggies or seafood. Many of the Aroma cookers can also be programmed to cook the rice at a preselected time.  Just put in a little rice in the basin and some veggies in the steamer rack and dinner or lunch can be ready when we arrive home.

   
 
















The Aroma rice cooker is not just for cooking rice and steaming vegetables but can be used to make soup, stew, chili, beans, and even desserts.  It is well built, easy to clean, and very attractive. We have a 12 cup machine which is perfect for a couple but Aroma also has smaller versions for singles, we recommend at least an 8 cup in any case and a 20 cup if you have a family. We love our Aroma rice cooker, and we know you will too.  I only wish I would have bought one years ago as it really makes cooking convenient.  Until the next time, ~ Happy Gardening~