31 August 2016

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar

Birds and Bread PuddingI know, I know.  The flyers in the image are not hummingbirds, but they are birds that come partake of the "bird buffet" we have set up out back.  And I've been thinking about adding something for the hummers.

I've tried having a hummingbird feeder in the past – more than once – and, to be honest, I found it to be a bit of a pain.  Each and every time I got lots of bees, wasps, and ants.  Yet nary a hummingbird would visit.

It's been a bit disappointing, as they are a hoot to watch.  My grandparents had a window feeder at their place in Arizona, and it was a joy to watch the hummingbirds flit about.

But since we've moved to the mountains, I have actually seen hummingbirds fly by without any effort on my part! So I figured maybe, since they're already here, I would give another go at getting some to hang out for a while.

I bought a small feeder for a buck, and set out to make my own nectar.  Finding a recipe was easy:  4 parts water, 1 part white sugar.

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However, I discovered there was at least a couple of different camps:  those who boiled the sugar water, and those who did not.  Of course, I wanted to join those who boiled not.  But I don't want to hurt the hummingbirds, so I dug a little more.  Here's what I found:

Hummingbirds.net says, "It's not necessary to boil the water. The microorganisms that cause fermentation don't come from the water; they are transported to the feeder on hummingbird bills."

AllAboutBirds.org says, "If you mix up small quantities of sugar water every day or two, there’s no need to boil the water. But if you mix up larger batches and refrigerate part for later use, then it’s wise to make the mixture with boiling water."

A list of things not to use is found at Field Guide To Hummingbirds:

  • Honey – "Once diluted to feeder strength, honey becomes an ideal food for a variety of microbes, including some that can cause disease."
  • Brown or even brownish sugar – Too much iron.
  • Artificial coloring – "The vast majority of hummingbird flowers put the color on the outside, not in the nectar…[T]he dyes used in most 'instant nectar' products and the food coloring in your pantry, are like nothing the birds would ever encounter in nature."

And, finally, from a most respected source:  Audubon.org says,

Choose a hummingbird feeder that comes apart completely for regular scrubbing, inside and out, with a bottlebrush and hot water. Use only a mix of four parts water to one part plain white sugar—never use honey, which promotes dangerous fungal growth, molasses, or brown, raw, or organic sugar, which contain levels of iron that could be lethal. Plain white sugar perfectly mimics the chemical composition of natural nectar; don’t waste money on commercial mixes. It’s not necessary to boil the water, but keep any extra nectar refrigerated, and empty the feeder every few days, more often in hot weather. Never use red dye; nectar is naturally clear, and the coloring could be harmful.

Happy feeding! (And please wish me luck.)

Handwashing Crochet Blanket and Feeding Hummingbirds-001

Shared at This is How We Roll and Happiness is Homemade.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs' tails wag.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  The price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

From my mountaintop to yours!

30 August 2016

How to Hand-Wash a Crocheted Blanket (in an RV)

100_8093Today is laundry day.  (Oh, joy. Right?) We don't have a washer and/or dryer in the RV.  I hope to one day have an outdoor washing area to do the bulk by hand (I dream of having this wringer), but that is not our situation at this time.  So I go to a local laundromat.  The cost for a "regular" load is $3.50 to wash and $1.00 to $1.50 to dry.  Since there's just two of us, we can usually get away with just one load a week for our everyday clothes, but anything such as sheets and bed quilts require an additional load (and an additional $5).

I'm pretty diligent with the bed sheets and top quilts, but have to admit the other blankets aren't getting the attention they deserve.  One of my crocheted blankets is now crying for that attention.  It's pretty dingy and smells a lot like dog.

Here's where I interrupt the flow and share about my heirloom crocheted blankets:  I have six of them, all handmade for me by my grandmother.  The first one I remember receiving was very frilly and girly – light and bright pastel colors with one whole side being tasseled.  I still adore it.  It's in my mother's storage right now, and unfortunately does have a small hole in it.  I might have gotten that one while in elementary school; can't quite remember.

The next one is the one I washed today – a simple purple and white.  She made that one for me when purple was my favorite color.  It's easily over 25 years old, maybe even well over.  I know that, because the one I consider most elegant is the rose and white squared one she made for my high school graduation (25 years ago).  Since then, she has made me a Christmas red and green, and a Denver Broncos white-orange-blue (about 17 years ago).  She also made my guy one for his Tampa Bay Buccaneers obsession. (Are you ready for some football?)

Here's a few stuffed in the linen storage area.  Not the best picture, but I was too lazy to get them all out.

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Back to the hand-washing a crocheted blanket exercise.  It's a good idea to know what kind of yarn was used before washing.  Using hot water can cause shrinkage in some materials.  The common acrylic yarn can be machine washed on a gentle cycle and tumble dried with low heat.  (I used to do that before we shrunk our living space down to an RV.) If you have no idea the yarn make-up, use cold water.

But let me add, in my humble opinion, I think crocheted items should always be hand-washed if at all possible.  You can tell a noticeable difference in the yarn -- a weakening -- after agitation.  (Maybe a front load machine wouldn't be as bad?)

Decide what (clean) basin you want to use and put your blanket in it.  A bathtub would be great.  I used the RV shower / tiny tub.  Fill with water at the proper temperature until the blanket is submerged.  Add mild detergent.  (I used dish liquid – not a lot is required.)

Agitate the blanket for a bit – swish it around, turn it over – and let it soak for 15 to 30 minutes.  Today, I soaked mine for 25 minutes because I got sidetracked with something else.  The following image is embarrassing, but I'll share anyway – I call it "time + grime + dog."

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After the swishing and soaking, you'll be ready to rinse.  Drain, refill with cold water, and repeat at least a couple of times.  I did that three times today, making sure no dirty soapy water was left attached to the blanket.  I don't know if you can see it here, but there was a noticeable difference when done.  I am very pleased with the results!

Handwashing Crochet Blanket and Feeding Hummingbirds

After the washing and rinsing is complete, the best way to dry is with the blanket laying flat.  [Note:  if hand-washing and drying crocheted clothing, always lay it flat.  You'll want to re-shape it and leave it in that position until dry.  Hanging is a no-no.]

This particular blanket is approximately 5 feet wide and 6 feet long.  I do not have a suitable place to lay it flat until dry.  So I'm breaking the rules and hanging it.  Regardless of to where you move it, be prepared.  Your crocheted blanket is going to be super-heavy.  I gathered mine up, hugged it to my chest – soaking my shirt – and yelled at the dogs to get out of the way, as I ran the 20 feet -- drip, drip, dripping -- to the outdoors and a towel I placed on a table.  Never you mind the fact that I had an empty laundry basket sitting right there (from the laundry I did earlier) I could have used.  Hopefully you'll have more sense than I.

Expect drying time to be at least 24 hours.  Mine has been hanging for a couple of hours and is still dripping.  But I think it's definitely worth the time (and mere pennies) to do it yourself and preserve your handmade item.  If you follow these simple steps, I think you'll be pleased with your freshly cleaned crocheted blanket.

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Shared at Making a Home Linky, This is How We Roll, and Happiness is Homemade.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs' tails wag.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  The price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

From my (rule-breaker) mountaintop to yours!

19 August 2016

Closer to Nature for World Photo Day

100_7908A deer cautiously entered the clearing behind the RV.  And the wild mountain beauty took my breath away.  I moved as slow as I could, but didn't manage a picture before she calmly walked back into the woods.

It's probably not a big deal to many of you, but it's such a rare occurrence for me.  I should say, it was a rare occurrence.  Since we moved, I'm blessed to see so much more – and be closer to it all.  From the clouds in the sky that seem so much bigger and more dense.  To the bees on the white clover, the flexible plant bending under the weight of the insect.  To the myriad of birds that visit us each day.  To the rooster and turkeys I hear in the distance.  To the quick-footed rabbit, and the raccoon I can't ever catch in the act, but know he's there.  And, yes, even the snake that I hope will continue to maintain his distance.

I've missed more shots than I can count! Just the other day, I hurriedly got our rat terrier Kody inside from a walk.  I wanted to grab the camera and capture a view of the mountain as the sun went down.  I was in and back out in under a minute, I'm sure, but it was gone.  The sun had descended just a wee bit more, and the whole view was changed.

I love photography, though I am very much an amateur.  The large exhibit at the fair each October is a highlight for me.  I take my time wandering through all the cool "scenery." So here's my contribution to world photo day:  a few I've taken, and liked.

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From my mountaintop to yours!

09 August 2016

Baked Peaches: a Summer–Fall Recipe in Pictures

100_7986Peaches are generally available all summer long, starting mid-May here in Georgia.  But freestone or cling-free peaches, the kind that are easiest to do anything -- like eating and canning -- with because the fruit doesn't cling to the pit, are a mid to late summer juice-running-down-your-chin delight.  And who doesn't enjoy the freshness of summer fruit?

I also enjoy (and am very much ready for!) the flavors of fall.  While we're not quite yet in the pumpkin spice latte season, adding buttery brown sugar and cinnamon to summer peaches and baking them to melt-in-your-mouth softness kind of bridges the best of both worlds for me.

Feel like giving them a try? Here's the "recipe."

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Cut a couple of clean, fresh peaches in half.  Remove the pit.

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Top with a small bit of butter, a teaspoon or two of brown sugar, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Bake at 375° for about 30 minutes.

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Oh my.  Warm, sweet, soft goodness. From my mountain of peaches to yours.

Shared at The Homemaking Party, Making a Home, Tasty Tuesdays, Tuesdays with a Twist, The Art of Homemaking Mondays, and Happiness is Homemade.

01 August 2016

The More of Less: A Book Review

moreoflessI'd say we joined the minimalist movement (without the label) some time in 2014.  We went hardcore February 2015 when we got rid of 80% of what we owned and moved into a pop-up camper.  A few months later, we increased our living space to a whopping 250 square feet and got rid of 10% more.

So you might say I was already a convert before I started reading The More of Less by Joshua Becker.  Even so, not far into the book, I was still a bit surprised at some of the stats he threw at me:

In America, we consume twice as many material goods as we did fifty years ago.  Over the same period, the size of the average American home has nearly tripled, and today that average home contains about three hundred thousand items.  On average, our homes contain more televisions than people.  And the US Department of Energy reports that, due to clutter, 25 percent of people with two-car garages don't have room to park cars inside and another 32 percent have room for only one vehicle.  Home organization, the service that's trying to find places for all our clutter, is now an $8 billion industry, growing at a rate of 10 percent each year.  And still one out of every ten American households rents off-site storage – the fastest growing segment of the commercial real-estate industry over the past four decades.

And the more I read, the more I realized I was not a minimalist.  I say that because -- even though we got rid of so. much. stuff. – it was fairly easy.  I wanted to downsize, get my bills lowered as much as possible, and move to the mountains.  So I did.  (Thank-you, God, for making my dream come true.)

But after living this way for more than a year, I realize there are still things I held on to that haven't been touched in months.  I still own clothes I haven't worn.  Originally, my end goal was to make a move, not intentionally live with less.  Does that make sense?

"If we want to recalibrate to a lower level of accumulation and stay there,
we need to replace our culturally inspired greed with self-cultivated gratitude
about what we have." – Joshua Becker

This book has given me a renewed sense of purpose in getting rid of the unnecessary extras.  Mr. Becker, who also created the Becoming Minimalist blog, does not simply share his experiences in living the minimalist lifestyle.  He also shares why minimalism might be right for you, and how to go about your journey toward your version.  He doesn't shy away from sharing how his faith plays a role, and he even offers troubleshooting and maintenance tips to help power through the process.

If you're looking for clarity in deciding if the minimalist life is for you, or if you just need some help getting rid of those last ten items, I recommend reading The More of Less.  Even if you come out the other end thinking minimalism is a bit extreme and not for you, I'll bet you'll also have a greater sense of intention when deciding on what things to bring into your home.  And consciousness is a good thing.

Psst…It's available on Kindle, if you'd rather not lug about another physical book. ;-)

More about The More of Less from the publisher.
More about the author Joshua Becker.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  The words and opinions here are all my own.
Shared at Making a Home and Tuesdays with a Twist.

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