GARDENING BY RONELLA: Ticks, snakes, hummingbirds and more
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Jul 17, 2013 | 102 102 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I am sure that most people have heard of the two diseases that are carried by ticks, but I have learned of another disease, called Bobcat Fever, which is also carried by ticks but affects only bobcats and the common house cat. According to my niece in Franklin, Tennessee, it is prevalent in their area of Franklin where there is some woodland surrounded by developments. It is transmitted by bobcats to house cats but is found only in indoor-outdoor cats. It is always fatal to the cats. Bobcats are often seen near the houses in developments and sometimes even in parking lots because they are being squeezed out of their natural habitat.

Ma and Pa only had to contend with venomous snakes and hawks that caught their chickens. Ma didn’t shoot a gun but she had the big “dinner bell” which sat on a post near the kitchen door and that bell tolled for Pa to come running. It had once been used to call the many sons of the house to come to dinner from the fields up and down the creek. Ma loved to relate the story of being shot by her stepmother. Ma still lived at home with her father and stepmother and one day they heard the chickens squawking and knew there was a hawk after them. Ma ran out from the back of the house and her stepmother ran from the front with a shotgun and just as she cut down on the hawk, Ma came from around the corner and got a full load of pellets. Her stepmother was crying and begging for forgiveness and eventually the doctor came and picked out the pellets, leaving a few which Ma always carried in her back. Ma loved to tell the story and it explained why Ma lost any desire to use a shotgun, if she ever had any.

Did you know that the common ruby-throated hummingbirds, though native to the East, are found from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico but not past the Great Plains. They provide more pleasure than most any other bird. Did you know that they must eat almost continuously, only surviving the night by going into a deep torpor to avoid the need for food. They love the nectar-rich blooms in our gardens. Their favorite garden plants include bee-balm, cardinal flower, columbine, hollyhock, particularly the red ones, red salvia and trumpet vine. Did you know they also eat aphids, mites, spiders and other small insects. To attract hummingbirds to your feeders, have one or more of these flowers near the feeders. If you have observed hummers in your garden and are not familiar with the ruby-throated hummer, the male is the one with the bright red throat, an iridescent green back and the forked tail. The female has no red throat and her tail is blunt with white spots. Poor female?

I believe that more people enjoy the hummingbirds than any other birds. A friend told me yesterday that he was so happy to move from an apartment to a house with a backyard so he and his wife could feed hummingbirds again. Another little piece of information about attracting hummingbirds is to tie a piece of red cloth on the top of the shepherd’s crook that holds the feeder. They seem to think it is a red flower. I also planted several red zinnias around the base of the crook.

When I was a child, we had a trumpet vine on an outbuilding, which attracted hummingbirds, which we children loved to watch. A teenaged cousin came to visit and was learning to tie fishing lures. He thought that the hummingbird feathers would make a fine tie so he tried shooting one with a small rifle. He, of course, didn’t kill one but my father came out and caught him shooting at the birds and gave him one big lecture and he said, “Why, Uncle Dick, you can’t kill a hummingbird. I will show you”. He shot at one and killed it. The fir really flew at that. But, when the nephew cut the tip of Daddy’s fine birddog setter’s tail off, just the hair, that ended my cousin’s creation of flies. A fine setter with a blunt tail, setting birds, was not a pretty sight to my father. I remember so well how beautiful the sight was of the hummingbirds swarming all over those vines.

I just read an interesting little piece of advice on getting rid of stumps the easy and fast way. Bore several large holes in the stump and fill them with pure Epsom Salts. The stump will begin to decay and deteriorate in a couple of weeks.

Don’t forget to keep your hummingbird feeders filled this summer and keep plenty of water outside for all birds and the squirrels and the neighbor’s cats. I am amazed at the number of squirrels that drink from my birdbath. I use a flat dish for a waterer so young birds can drink from it.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions and suggestions.
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