Our Daily Green

Monday, April 6, 2020

The case for year round bird feeding

During this global pandemic with the COVID-19 virus, the self-isolating and stay-at-home mandates have the nation scrambling for new hobbies and activities in the comfort of their own yards. Bird watching and feeding are not only entertaining but also highly beneficial to the bird species in your region.

Traditional wisdom suggests that birds should only be fed during the winter months, as the plants and native foods are more scarce. However, with appropriate choices, your bird feeder can supplement the naturally occurring food sources.

Goldfinch by  nana_briere from Pixabay
One of the benefits of feeding during the spring and summer months is the opportunity to watch the birds' plumage change with the seasons. For example, bright yellow male goldfinches are only seen when the weather is warm.

Hummingbird by skeeze from Pixabay
Hummingbirds are another species that are present in the summer. The migratory patterns of these little birds bring them to Ohio beginning in late March or early April. They have geographical memories for reliable sources of food, so once you begin feeding them, they will return year after year. For that reason, it is better to put the food out earlier rather than later in the season. This week is an ideal time in Ohio. Hummingbirds are important pollinators, whose activity should be encouraged.

Another benefit of feeding birds, specifically, woodpeckers, is to prevent damage to your home. Woodpeckers will peck on your home's siding in the search for insects. However, if there is suet or berries available for them, it will deter them from pecking your home.

Besides the practical reasons for feeding the birds, birding is the start of a lifelong hobby and activity that requires few tools. A few important tips to get started:

1. Keep your bird feeders clean. They should be washed several times during the season with hot water and a 1:10 bleach solution to keep bacteria and disease from growing in the feeder.

2. Place your feeders near a bush or tree, which will give them a safe place to retreat from predators (such as hawks).

3. Do not feed your birds bread, as it offers little nutritional value. Another don't is chocolate, as it is toxic for them. Table scraps are also a no-no and are likely to attract undesirable rodents.

Find a reliable source of birdseed and get ready for a bird buffet of feathered friends visiting your yard. Local Soil & Water Conservation Districts are a great point of contact to the agriculture and natural resource community.

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Gardening is not quarantined! (Guest Post)

Today's post is what hopes to be the beginning of regular contributions from "Mama Green" -- who has shared her wisdom in the past with us. The last time I visited her, I marveled at her indoor garden and asked her to write an article for Our Daily Green. We have included links a company that we are affiliated with, and if you use their site, we recieve a small commission. Any proceeds will go to mom.

Visit Urban Leaf for Garden Starting Supplies

Here we are in the beginning of the first year of the 2020 decade MMXX

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

It is “SPRINGING” with greening grass, emerging daffodils, birds building nests and days getting longer. There is HOPE in our hearts for a bountiful garden this season. 

Despite being faced with a heretofore unknown pandemic, we CAN STILL look forward to planting. Now is the time to begin to nurture seeds to become plants. I treated myself to a Hydroponic Garden which placated my throbbing GREENTHUMB during January and Februart.

March is the time to begin sprouting some garden seedlings. All early brassicas, celery, eggplant and peppers can be started in March. The second week of April is time to start tomatoes, chard, cukes and summer squashes. Many annual flowers can be sown also. Wait until late May to direct seed others.

To begin indoor gardening it is necessary to supply soil (NOT dirt). Seed-starting mix is a light blend of peat and vermiculite. I add coffee grounds and ground eggshells to my mix. Keep the soil mix damp, but not wet. I plant in paper egg carton cups and add water to the tray from bottom. Cover with plastic to create a greenhouse effect. To simulate Spring Sunshine, HEAT and LIGHT are needed. I use an electric blanket covered with a plastic tablecloth to imitate warm earth…70 degrees needed for germination. Sunlight of 8-10 hours is mimicked by a grow light or ordinary florescent bulb. Light is needed when sprouts appear. Begin with light a few inches and gradually move to 10-12 inches as plants grow. Rotate as needed to avoid weakening the stems.

Often in an artificial environment, “damp-off” occurs at the soil level of the seedling. A sprinkling of cheap cinnamon powder will solve that. All utensils and pots needed to be sterile to avoid disease. As soon as the outside temperatures are a consistent 70 degrees, begin “hardening” off your  fledglings. Place them in a wind protected area in semi-shade for a few days and gradually expose them to ordinary atmosphere. 

When you begin to “PARENT” plants treat them as you would a child. Gentle coddling at birth, patient training as youngsters and “tough-love” as adolescents. Nurture them with food and water, affection, and protection. Talk to them, give them music, and love. They will reward you with wonderful GIFTS!

ISOLATION and SOCIAL DISTANCING are NOT necessary when you deal with “green and growing” entities. They are products of Mother Nature, one of God’s marvelous gifts to us. GET GROWING!

byline: Carol Perzy
Greenfield Gardens
Litchfield, Ohio

Friday, March 27, 2020

A simple guide to sourdough starter and bread

For many years now, I've been a bread baker. My grandmother taught me how to bake bread when I was a little girl, and for our wedding present, she bought us a Kitchen-Aid with a dough hook. 30 years later, that mixer is still a workhorse in the kitchen.

In the past few weeks, as panic buying kicked in around the nation facing the COVID-19 virus, all the dry yeast disappeared from the store shelves. While I normally keep a jar of yeast on hand, I was unable to find more and saw my supply rapidly dwindling. In the past, I have made a sourdough starter and bread, but honestly, keeping the starter fed and active just wasn't one of the things I wanted to do to have bread on a regular basis.

However, times like these call for a new normal, and with very little yeast left, I knew I had to whip up a batch of starter.

Alas, most of the starter recipes called for rye flour, and I didn't have that on-hand, just all-purpose, bread, and wheat flours. I decided to experiment in small batches.  Purists will shun using yeast in a starter, opting for natural fermentation, but I didn't have the right flour or the patience.

After combing the internet for information, and relying on my experience with a poolish, I decided to create my own starter using 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast, 1 cup of warm (115 degrees F) water, and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. I mixed it up in a jar with a lid, using a plastic spoon (you should not use metal with sourdough starter), and left it on the counter at room temperature for the next 48 hours, stirring periodically, whenever the liquid separated from the starter.

After 48 hours, I fed the starter with another cup of warm water and a cup of flour.  I stirred well and again let it rest another 24 hours, again stirring when the water separated. The starter seemed to be coming along nicely, smelling yeasty and filled with bubbles. Again in 24 hours, I added one more cup of water and flour, and let it rest. I knew I had the base for my next loaves of bread.

Once the starter is finished, it can be refrigerated. To use it in a recipe, bring it back out for 24 hours to come to room temperature.

Many sourdough recipes are labor-intensive, but I really had already invested several days in the starter, and again, I lack patience and really wanted to find out if my experiment was going to work. Keep in mind that when you use the starter, you'll need to replace the amount you use with equal parts of water and flour and again leave it out for 24 hours to ferment.

I adapted a simple recipe from Commonsense Home by Laurie Neverman that I successfully adjusted to suit our needs. See the link for the original recipe and additional notes.

  • 2 1/3 cups fresh sourdough starter
  • 3 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 – 1 cup  warm water (115 degrees F) 
  • Scant tablespoon salt
  1. Mix sourdough starter, flour, and salt together. Use enough water to make bread dough (a moist dough is preferable to a dry dough). The dough was very sticky when I started with 1 cup of water, so I will do less next time. 
  2. Fold the dough over itself, repeatedly until everything is well mixed. Again, the dough was so sticky that I couldn't really knead it, but I didn't want to dry it out too much, so I folded it over and over gently on a floured surface. 
  3. Shape the dough into a loaf, place on a baking sheet, and cover lightly with a towel and allow the dough to rise for 4 hours. This was when my dough flattened out dramatically, again because the dough was so wet. 
  4. After 4 hours, I punched the dough down and divided it in half to make two loaves. I knew it needed a loaf pan to hold its shape. I sprayed the pans with non-stick spray, and let the dough rise another 4 hours.
  5. Bake at 400°F (205°C) for about 45 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned. Cool completely and slice. If you want the crust to be softer, put it into a bag to cool. Otherwise, leave out for a harder crust.
I am quite pleased with my first sourdough experiment. I'm sure there will be additional tips I pick up with more experience. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, I'll try to help!

Happy eating and home cooking. Stay safe and physically distant until this passes.