Tag Archives: westie

Putting Up Eastern Bluebird Nest Boxes

I’ve always wanted to attract bluebirds with bluebird houses, but my backyard is not the right habitat.¬† I’m pretty sure any bluebird nest box I put up would only be filled by house sparrows ūüôĀ¬† But, our cabin in Wisconsin has a long driveway that seems like the right kind of habitat.¬† I was inspired to put up the nest boxes after watching a fascinating local PBS show about the Bluebird Restoration of Wisconsin project (BRAW).¬† It was one of those interesting shows you stumble on when don’t have cable.

In Wisconsin, by the 1980’s Eastern Bluebirds had declined by almost 90% because of changes in farming, competition from House Sparrows and European Starlings, severe weather in its central and southern winter range, and the loss of nest sites, making them a pretty rare sighting for a long time.¬† But, through the hard work of BRAW, bluebirds have become a common Wisconsin sighting and now they are worried birders will become complacent and won’t continue to provide nesting habitat for them.

Following BRAW’s instructions on what a Bluebird nest box should look like, I purchased two Woodlink NABS style bluebird nest boxes and settled using a 6 ft section of electrical conduit as the pole.

Eastern Bluebird House

Bluebird houses should have a round opening of 1 1/2 to 1 9/16 in, have a base of 4-5 inches square, and a hole to base height of 4 1/2-6 in. Either the front or top should open to allow for checking and cleaning and the nest boxes should be placed 100-150 yards apart.  These dimensions are optimized to help prevent predators from nesting in the boxes or killing the eggs or nestlings. More detailed information can be found on the BRAWS website or NABS website.

Setting up the Nest Boxes:

First, we loosely attached 2 conduit straps.

Eastern Bluebird Nest Box

Then we flattened one end of the conduit to make it easier to pound into the ground.

Eastern Bluebird Nest Box

We knew the conduit strap was too loose to just use to mount the nest box, so we improvised and thickened the mounting spots with some duct tape and a piece of wood shim.

Eastern Bluebird Nest Box

Eastern Bluebird Nest Box

Fasten down the screws tightly.

Eastern Bluebird Nest Box

And the nest box is attached!

Eastern Bluebird Nest Box

Ready for the birds to come.¬† I hope I’m not overly optimistic that they’ll nest here since I’m not sure the habitat is ideal, but at least I’m giving it a shot.¬† But, no nest box mean no nests for sure ūüôā

Eastern Bluebird Nest Box

Daisy enjoyed the building trip and something in the bushes caught her eye.

Door County, WI

And I have to give credit to Steve for helping me put these up in the miserable spring weather we’ve had–that day was drizzling and 40¬į.¬† It was a bit of a trick to keep everything dry as we were working on it.

Eastern Bluebird Nest Box

Do you have any bluebirds nesting on your property?

More Eastern Bluebird resources:


Happy New Year 2016

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2016! ¬†I truly appreciate all who have visited my blog this year. ¬†Here’s a look back at some of my most popular posts of 2015! ¬†

Tomato Florida Weave

1.   Taming My Tomatoes With A Florida Weave:  My tomatoes were a mess, so I tried something new to try and keep things in order.



Blue Jay

2. ¬† ¬†The Blue Jays are Back (and That’s Not a Good Thing): ¬†What to do when you have nuisance¬†birds at your feeder?




Garlic3.  Warding Off The Vampires:  This was my first try at growing garlic.  Easier than I thought and definitely worth the effort.




Multi stemmed Freeman Maple Autumn Blaze4.  So Long Beautiful Maple Tree:  Sometimes things go terribly wrong with plant.  In this case, construction and cold brought about the demise of our beautiful Freeman Maple



IMG_38415.  November in Chicago:  This fall was quite an unusual one.  Here in Chicago, the plants were quite confused as to the time of year and it made for an interesting fall.



clematis wilt6. ¬†Something’s Wrong With the Clematis¬†and¬†Clematis Stem Wilt: An Update to Something’s Wrong With The Clematis: ¬†The wet spring affected a lot of plants. ¬†Many of us saw some terrible die back of our¬†clematis due to Clematis Stem Wilt. ¬†Hopefully next spring everything will rebound.


westie7. ¬†Little White Pepper Thief: ¬†Apparently Westies love peppers. ¬†I didn’t get any sweet or hot peppers from my garden this year because of my little thief ūüôĀ



rabbit nest8.  Spring Surprises:  Even when you think you know everything in your garden, you get surprised!




Callicarpa9. ¬†Beautyberry Bushes: ¬†Did They Survive the Winter?¬† After a¬†winter like we had, I¬†thought I had lost my new bushes. ¬†But, they are one of the last to leaf out in the spring, so I’m glad I was patient. ¬†



IMG_349510.  Fall in Northern Michigan/Stumbling Upon Club-Mosses:  This was one of my favorite posts of the year.  Not only was fall in Northern Michigan stunning, my mom and I stumbled onto a forest area full of a club mosses.   Very cool to see and explore.


..and a few of my all-time most popular posts:

Curled Leaves On The Bushes (August 2014)

Creeping Thyme Problems (April 2014) and an update in August, Oops, September Garden Update 

Painting Rock Garden Markers (February 2014)

Pelicans In Illinois (September 2013)

Our Family Christmas Tree (December 2013)

Hope you keep visiting, I have all kinds of ideas to keep everyone in the gardening mood all winter.  

Remember, you can also find Stephi Gardens on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and  Twitter.


Fall in Door County, Wisconsin

Fall in Door County

In addition to going to Northern Michigan for the weekend (Fall in Northern Michigan/Stumbling Upon Club-Mosses), Steve and I  made a trip up to Door County, Wisconsin the third week of October.  It was definitely peak colors that week and it was spectacular.

The day started like this!  Sunrise over Lake Michigan.

Sunrise in Bailey's Harbor

After breakfast, we started to explore…

Fall in Door County

The forests of Door County are full of hardwoods like Sugar Maple, Beech, Ash, Red Oak, White Oak and Paper Birch.

Fall in Door County

Fall in Door County

Fall in Door County

Fall in Door County

Looking down we were surprised to see these Maidenhair Ferns (Adiantum pedatum). Always a fun find!

Maidenhair fern

Even this late, the raspberry garden is still full of juicy raspberries.

everbearing raspberries

Of course, Daisy is enjoying the fall woods as well!




August, Oops, September Garden Update

A while back I thought I was getting caught up, but then sending twins off to college this fall proved to be quite a time consuming effort! ¬†So the garden has been a bit on auto pilot for a little while now. ¬†Thank goodness it got off to such a good start this spring. ¬†Here’s some tidbits on what I would have written about, if I had had the time ūüôā

There was a family of chickadees that must have nested and fledged near my feeders.  For weeks, I was so entertained by the hilarious antics of the 3 young chickadees that truly behaved like little kids.

baby chickadee

baby chickadee

I got a lot more green peppers and Mariachi hot peppers as the summer went on. ¬†Unfortunately, Daisy was not at all dissuaded by munching on the hot peppers and continued to eat almost all this year’s pepper harvest (Little White Pepper Thief).

green pepper

Surveying the garden for her latest snack…


A couple of years ago this patch of creeping thyme was a disaster. ¬†I wrote about it in my earlier post, Creeping Thyme Problems. ¬†I was skeptical that the severe pruning was going to help, but it has. ¬†It looks gorgeous and lush, and smells awesome when I walk on it to get to the garden hose. ¬†So if in doubt, cut away, it’ll be better for it!

Creeping Thyme

Creeping Thyme

I didn’t get many sunflowers this year thanks to the bunnies. ¬†But I did get this one, beautiful Evening Sun Sunflower. ¬†Made me smile.

Evening Sun sunflower

Thankfully Daisy doesn’t seem have found the tomatoes or basil. I don’t ever seem to tire of fresh¬†tomato salads.

tomato basil salad

The raspberries I planted in the spring flourished over the summer. ¬†I even got a few tasty raspberries in the late summer. ¬†Looking forward to having the plants mature and getting lots of berries. ¬† What did I plant? ¬†See my previous post “My Raspberries¬†and Strawberry Plants Are Here!”


Two of my¬†clematis plants got a terrible case of Clematis Stem Wilt earlier this spring (What’s Wrong With the Clematis and Clematis Stem Wilt). ¬†I was hopeful that the plants would survive and I think they did. ¬†Both plants put up a couple of new, healthy looking stems that looked good until the last few days when something has decided to munch on the leaves. ¬†We’ll see in the spring how they look. ¬†At least there’s hope.


The petunias were home to lots of pollinators. ¬†This bumblebee was fun to watch as he dove deep into each flower. ¬†He seemed to really prefer the dark pink over light pink. ¬†While I have no decent pictures, I had hummingbirds also visit my yard late this summer. ¬†I don’t always get them, so it has been a treat the last few weeks to have them visit.


How was your garden this year?

(BTW Go Hokies! Go Blue!)

Little White Pepper Thief

Now that I had replanted my peppers after a “failure to thrive” issue (Not a Great Year for Sweet Peppers), I was all set to harvest bushels of sweet green and red peppers.

Green pepper

But the new plants just didn’t seem to be putting out many peppers. ¬†I thought I saw peppers growing, but then they’d be gone. ¬†It wasn’t the rabbits, none of the leaves were ever touched. ¬†It was very puzzling.

Until we were out barbequing one night, and  Daisy went exploring around the yard like she always does.




Right in front of us, she went over to the garden and popped a pepper right off the plant, laid down and munched happily away!


Now I have to add dogs to the list of garden pests!


Superbowl Snowstorm

Much of the country has been having their share of big winter snowstorms and we here in Chicago got ours this past weekend. The snow started Saturday late afternoon, and didn’t end until the lake effect finale finally moved on around 6 am Monday morning. ¬†All total, this end up the as the 5th biggest single snowfall. At my house, I measured 19.75 in of snow.

Stephi Gardens

The plows had a lot of trouble keeping up.   But I have to admit, it was one of those really pretty snows, at least until the wind picked up and the bushes started collapsing under the weight of the snow.

Stephi Gardens

Stephi Gardens

The birds were really thankful for the feeders, even if they were covered in snow! The goldfinches, chickadees, cardinals, juncoes, red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, purple finches, and house sparrows all ventured out in the snow to visit the feeders.

No squirrels around all weekend, they must be hunkered down in their nests.

Stephi Gardens

The snow in the NoNo¬†sunflower ball didn’t bother the chickadees and goldfinches. ¬†They were visiting all day, except of course, when I was out there shooting the picture.

Stephi Gardens

This tube feeder is my “sparrow’ feeder.

Stephi Gardens

The heated birdbath kept the water thawed¬†pretty well during the storm. ¬†This is the first winter I’ve had one out. ¬†I was lucky enough to get it as a hand-me-down¬†when my mom got a new one. ¬†They’re not here now, but in the winter the birds like a place to get an easy drink.

Stephi Gardens

The arborvitaes are not faring very well with all this snow.  Hopefully they literally bounce back once the snow melts.

winter arborvitae

Daisy and I are not going out there!

Stephi Gardens

So instead we made a path for Daisy to get around.  Those little legs are not made for deep snow!   I also have to thank my boys for shoveling paths to all the bird feeders when they were snowblowing and shoveling on their snow day off of school.   This snow was too deep for me as well.  This is much better!


But, my¬†snowman ¬†didn’t mind at all!

Stephi Gardens

When the sun came out after the storm was done, the sky was a beautiful sapphire blue.

Stephi Gardens


Snow and More Snow

The last couple of weeks we have already had what feels like, and may turn out to actually be, a whole winter’s worth of weather here in Chicago. The problem is, it’s only early January. ¬†I grew up in the snow belt of Buffalo, so I should be used to this. But, over the last 20 years, I’ve become a bit more used to the weather here. And the weather we’ve had lately is highly unusual both in low temperatures and snowfall. In some cases even record breaking and we I know we aren’t alone!

Storms all seem to be needing a name these days. The Weather Channel has officially named this storm “Ion”. ¬†But, really, I find the whole concept of officially naming snowstorms like hurricanes odd. ¬†The US NWS Chicago is using #chiberia to tag photos and comments. That’s actually fun since you can easily follow storm reporting from everyone on Facebook and Twitter. Then there’s #windchillmageddon. That’s my husband Steve’s contribution. ¬† Do you have a name to add? ¬†Whatever the case, this has been quite a couple of weather weeks, and I’m sure this will be a stretch of weather we’ll all remember.

I finally got all my feeders and seed out there just in time. I wish I had already picked up the heated birdbath my mom is passing on to me since she got a new one. I think the birds could be using some spa time. She says hers is busy all the time.

The feeders are all full.

snowman feeder







The arborvitae and other shrubs are providing the birds with some winter protection from the snow and wind.  They collect in the shrubs, then pop out to the feeders.  Back and forth all day, until something invisible scares them off for a bit.




Daisy spends most of her time outdoors staring at the tree…


..and the squirrel quite boldly staring back.


Here’s some more storm images from my yard. Doesn’t look quite as inviting as in the summertime.








As of Sunday night (1/5/13), we’ve had about 8.5 inches in the last 24 hours, and about 21 inches since New Year’s Eve when this all started. The water content has averaged about 8%, making it nice and fluffy snow. While I am writing this Sunday night, the temperature has just dropped below zero with significantly dangerous wind chills. ¬†It’s not expected back above zero for about 34 hours. Brrrr. The kids are getting and extra day off so they are happy. Hope you are all warm and safe!

An Unwelcome Visitor

While we were out there discussing the ideas for the new raised gardens yesterday, this is what we saw in the neighbor’s backyard behind me…a very healthy coyote!


And while I know coyotes can jump a fence, I hope it acts as a deterent to keep him from coming in my yard!

IMG_0545 - Version 2

The coyote population has really risen the last few years.  As with many wild animals living in suburban areas, there is friction.  So, while it really helps to keep the rabbit and rodent population under control, we have had instances of them attacking family pets.  Even one incident in my neighborhood, which thankfully the little terrier survived!   So we keep just a little closer watch over Daisy, and hope the coyote is too lazy to jump over my fence.

I read a great book recently about humans and animals trying to coexist,¬†The Beast in the Garden: A Modern Parable of Man and Nature¬†by Dave Baron. ¬†Here’s an overview from Barnes and Nobles:

“When residents of Boulder, Colorado, suddenly began to see mountain lions in their backyards, it became clear that the cats had returned after decades of bounty hunting had driven them far from human settlement. In a riveting environmental tale that has received huge national attention, journalist David Baron traces the history of the mountain lion and chronicles one town’s tragic effort to coexist with its new neighbors. As thought-provoking as it is harrowing,The Beast in the Garden¬†is a tale of nature corrupted, the clash between civilization and wildness, and the artificiality of the modern American landscape. It is, ultimately, a book about the future of our nation, where suburban sprawl and wildlife-protection laws are pushing people and wild animals into uncomfortable, sometimes deadly proximity.”