Friday, April 27, 2018

Tips for creating a backyard bird haven by Jennifer Davis

There is a new noise in the wind when we walk out to our cars or head out for our morning walks. It is the sounds of birds chirping in the trees welcoming in a new day. Spring is at our doorsteps and the bird songs we are now hearing is proof.  
So, the question becomes, what can we do to welcome them back; to make sure we can enjoy their songs, colors and fun playful nature? 

For some it may be by hanging a favorite bird feeder, or bird house; for others it may be making sure to plant that super sweet flower that some birds cannot resist or putting out a birdbath to watch from a near window. However you welcome these beautiful birds back to Maine, their display will not disappoint.  

Each variety of bird enjoys foods that are a little different. Did you know that blue jays love peanuts
and corn or that cardinals and orioles love oranges? Sunflower seeds are popular among many bird species including finches, nuthatches, chickadees, cardinals and jays. Sugar water or certain flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds.  

Birds such as woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, and chickadees also enjoy different varieties of suet. Safflower seeds are likely to attract cardinals, grosbeaks and mourning doves while thistle seed will make you a neighborhood favorite for finches. The best way to see the birds you enjoy is to put out a food they love.  

There are many different types of bird feeders, some for seed and some for suet. Some birds even prefer one type of feeder over others. For example, cardinals prefer tray feeders because they are flat while tube feeders work best for chickadees and nuthatches. Whatever feeder you choose, be sure to put it in an area that can be seen from a window and that is safe from potential predators.  

It is important to check your feeders regularly to ensure the feeder is clean and full. The birds that you attract will look forward to the food that you provide and count on it to be there.

Those who have a bird bath know how fun it is to watch a bird enjoying the water. To keep the birds coming, be sure to clean your bird bath regularly with fresh water. It is important to remember that stagnant water can lead to unwanted mosquitoes using your bird bath versus the desired birds. Wash the bird bath out with a disposable washcloth to remove any seeds or feces from the bath. “Use a solution of one-part vinegar to 9 parts water when cleaning your bird bath,” states the Audubon.  

Adding a fountain adds enjoyment for the birds and further prevents unwanted insects from using the bird bath. The birds that visit your bird bath will appreciate their clean bathing space and you will get to enjoy seeing them return.

However you decide to enjoy the birds that visit your yard, take the time to sit back and watch. 
For more information visit or Remember, if you feed them they will come, especially if you offer their favorite foods in a clean, safe environment.

WEDC works to establish a successful and ongoing Windham Farmers’ Market by Lorraine Glowczak

The Windham Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) was the host of a Farmers’ Market Organizational Meeting on April 24 at 7 p.m. at the Windham Public Library with the intention of establishing a successful and ongoing market in the Windham area. A second identical meeting was also held on Thursday April 26 at the same time and location.

Tom Bartell, WEDC Director and WEDC Administrative Assistant Lisa Fisher led Tuesday evening’s
meeting. The discussion included topics such as the best market layout, required infrastructure, best day and time to offer the market, best date to begin the operation, with suggestions for attracting enough vendors to make the Windham Farmers’ Market as successful as possible.

“Windham used to have a Farmer’s Market,” explained Fisher. “People have missed having a market in the area and we want to try to recreate it to benefit all involved.”  

It is well-known that farmers markets contribute to the success and welfare of not only the farmer, but to artisans, entertainers, food vendors as well as the community. They provide a cost-effective way for farmers and artisans to sell products with low fixed costs and without high retail overhead.

Individuals in the area benefit with the access of fresh, healthy and locally grown foods. Additionally, farmers markets can provide community-building, community-defining and community-sustaining ways to life, introducing and educating children about the food they eat and where it comes from. Pecoraro of Mulberry Farms of Raymond was one of the attendees at Tuesday’s meeting. He reiterates the important role a farmers market plays and points out the differences between foods purchased at a grocery store compared to what you buy at a market.

“The big difference between grocery store produce and what you get at a market is twofold,” Pecoraro began. “First, most often you get to speak to the person who grows the produce you are purchasing. You get to find out what fertilizer was used, if there were any pesticides applied, when
produce was picked, etc. You don’t get that sort of knowledge at a grocery store. Second, the food that is grown locally is much better tasting and nutritious because it hasn’t traveled up to 3,000 miles. 

Food at a store is also made with the intention to have a long shelf life. As a result, the produce purchased at a grocery store loses nutrition and flavor.”

The organizational meeting was a success, but the discussion is ongoing. If you are interested in being a part of the organizational team to contribute toward a successful Windham Farmers’ Market or would like more information, contact Fisher or Bartell at 207-892-1936.

Tips for gardening with children by Briana Bizier

Gardening with kids can be a fun and rewarding way to introduce children to new foods, to help foster a sense of connection with the natural world, and even to begin teaching them about biology and ecology. However, as with any activity involving children, a little advance planning and a lot of flexibility will pay dividends.

Here are a few tips to help you get started.
1. Consider Going Organic
Let’s face it: There are few things in life as tempting as a ripe tomato fresh off the vine. Children love to eat vegetables from the garden, and they often want to eat those vegetables in the garden, without the extra step of going inside to wash what they’ve just picked. If you decide to garden organically, without toxic pesticides or chemical fertilizers, you don’t need to stop your kids when they want to pop a cherry tomato directly in their mouths.

Organic gardening is also better for the environment, and it will bring a wider variety or interesting and helpful creatures to your garden, like butterflies. Going organic means incorporating some hands-on techniques, like pulling tomato hornworm caterpillars off your plants. In my experience, kids love hands-on techniques, and searching for enormous, green caterpillars is something most children would do for fun.

If you’ve never tried organic gardening, rest assured there are many resources available, both online and in our community. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice!
2. You Don’t Need a Farm
Even if the only space you have for a garden is a flowerpot in a sunny windowsill, you can still grow something your children will eat!

Many herbs grow very well in containers, and some varieties of vegetables have been bred to do well in small spaces. Seed catalogues will note which varieties do well in containers, as will plant information tags at a nursery. These plants are quite happy to live in inexpensive or improvised pots, even plastic buckets, as long as you provide plenty of sunshine, water, and quality potting mix.
A container garden is a fun place to grow salad greens and edible flowers, such as nasturtiums

Adding a few bright, orange flowers to a bowl of salad greens is a great way to get a child’s attention, and most children are delighted to try eating something they helped to grow.

If you’re feeling more adventurous but are pinched for space, a community garden is a great place to grow your summer vegetables. Raymond’s community garden is located next to Raymond Village Library and the Windham Community Garden is located next to the Windham Police Department on Route 202. Both still have plots available for a low annual fee.

3. Choose a Wide Variety
Gardening adventures always involve a fair amount of trial and error. I’m still a novice gardener, and I’ve never had a summer where every single thing I planted has flourished. (I even had a very embarrassing summer when my zucchini plants died. Luckily, we had enough cherry tomatoes that summer to distract the kids!) To avoid disappointment, for both children and adults, try planting several different types of vegetables.

It’s also a nice idea to plant vegetables that will ripen at different times. Peas, lettuce, and radishes can be planted now, even though we’re still a month away from the last frost. With any luck, you can be harvesting radishes and lettuce while your tomato plants are just getting established.
Besides, having a garden filled with unusual varieties, such as purple carrots, strawberry spinach, or striped eggplants, can tempt even the pickiest of eaters to try something new.
4. Be Flexible
In parenting, gardening, and life, it pays to be open to new experiences, and to keep a healthy sense of humor!

Last summer, we planted purple carrots. They grew beautifully, and the kids checked them every day to see if they were big enough to pull and eat. One morning, however, the carrot tops were wilted to the ground. I pulled one out, only to find that some little creature had eaten the entire carrot from underground.

I was upset. My children were thrilled. Suddenly, the garden was a place of mystery and excitement! My three-year-old and seven-year-old spent the rest of the morning poking around the garden with sticks, trying to find holes made by our mystery rodent. That carrot incident led to an impromptu lesson in ecosystems for the kids, and a lesson in keeping a sense of humor for me!

Four-legged pests aren’t the only problem when you’re gardening with children, especially small children. I planted several bell peppers last year and tried to baby them as much as possible through Maine’s cool, rainy months. But we never got to eat a single pepper. 

When the peppers started to disappear, I thought perhaps deer had ransacked the garden; instead, it was my three-year-old son. The moment those bell peppers took on a tinge of yellow, he picked and ate them. All of them.

I’d been looking forward to trying at least one of those painstakingly nurtured peppers but, as my husband reminded me, at least our son liked to eat his vegetables.

And that, after all, is the ultimate purpose of a kid-friendly garden.