RaeDi at Hummingbird Hollow

Thoughts on Food, Words from the Heart, 'The Little Winged Ones'….

Tag: Anna Hummingbird

Summer of the Blackberry… Blackberry Vinegar, Tarts Too

 

This has been the summer of the blackberry.  The best crop we have seen in years.  There were at least a gazillion of large plump berries swollen with sweet juiciness. Everywhere you looked all you could see were blackberries all free for the picking, wild, organic and growing where ever you looked.

It has been over twenty-five years since I moved here from the East coast.  The longest I have ever lived in one state.  Actually this is now the longest I have ever lived in one town.  That is saying a lot, but a whole other story for another day.

When we arrived here about a week ago this same time years ago I could not believe all the blackberries.  They were wild and growing in all directions.  It should probably be the state fruit and flower! I think this years crop was very much like it was many years ago… lots and lots of blackberries!

We would be living out of our suitcases for the next couple of weeks until the movers arrived with all our belongings.  What we did have was a freezer which was empty and children who had been cooped up in a car for a couple of weeks coming across the USA.  They had lots of energy that had been kept at bay and I was needing something that would settle them down… something that would keep them busy… blackberry picking… they even asked if we could go blackberry picking when they seen all those deep black colored swollen berries.

We set out several days picking blackberries.  Gallons, I cannot remember how many gallons of blackberries we picked and froze.  Each day when we would arrive home everyone including me had deep purple hands and mouths that matched.  I wondered how many pounds of blackberries we had consumed while picking the prized berries.  Not one complaint did I hear in all the days picking blackberries.  We had so much fun; they were as wounded as I was from the thorns… all over our hands up our arms and even our legs. (And we were dressed for it!)  I had at least one wound across my face… you learn real fast how to pick blackberries and face toner hurts on wounds!

The only problem I could see was they expected me to make blackberry pie as soon as we received our household goods… I let them know that as soon as we emptied the boxes with the kitchen supplies and had everything needed including the pie pans I would make them one of the biggest blackberry pies they had ever seen.  I knew in saying that I would put on hold for at least one afternoon getting our new household in order… it was worth it that was the best blackberry pie we had ever had.  A big deep-dish blackberry pie with vanilla ice cream, the pie was still warm and the ice cream was melting, it was just the way we liked our pie.  I think we devoured that complete pie that evening.   I can still see their faces as they sat down to a huge piece of pie and a couple of big scoops of ice cream me telling them thank you for all the help with not only the berry picking but too with helping me unpack and setting up the house too… with their help we moved/arranged/rearranged furniture for days.  They even learned not to hang a picture above eye level.  I can remember later after being in someone’s home they would comment the pictures were hung too high or too low.

I think they enjoyed helping me… this was the first move that they were just big enough to help with lots of instruction.  Have you ever noticed when something is new and is exciting… young children don’t think of it as work to them it is a new adventure…  I think by the time we moved again it was hard getting them to help move and rearranging furniture was not an adventure any more.  It still surprises me what a little girl going into kindergarten, little boys (twins) going into the second grade and a sixth grade brother can do when they set their minds to it!  They were such good little helpers.

While picking blackberries we were never alone, they are always watching!  A young male Anna Hummingbird, I wonder do they report to the others what we are doing!  He is upset about something, did we take his blackberry?  Someone seems to be in trouble!  He is so little, sitting on the stem of an apple leaf!   There colors seem to blend in no matter where they are at!

This year T and I did a lot of picking of blackberries, I will admit T did 75% to my 20%; we’ll give him another 5%, maybe more (!)… We got gallons and gallons of blackberries.  We picks, washed, drain dried then froze them single layer on baking sheets.  It makes it so much easier.  If you need a cup you just take a cup, not a lump or two or even the whole package.  This way when I want to make the preserves and whatever else I can think of to cook all I have to do is get out a large bag of berries and measure.

So far I have done some wonderful little blackberry tarts, do you think T would have picked blackberries every afternoon for weeks without a little incentive!  This is still salmon season… berry picking and salmon catching is a lot of work you know.  I too know how blessed I am to open the freezer door and see the salmon and the blackberries and I realize how good the two together would be too!  Blackberry glazed Baked Salmon or a nice blackberry sauce with a pinch of fresh dill drizzled over freshly grilled salmon, so many things are coming to mind!

Then I wanted to do something I have never done before… I wanted to make some Blackberry Vinegar… I was game this year and we both love blackberry balsamic vinegar and why not!  There are so many uses…  First I would have to call Mom and ask her how to make Blackberry Vinegar.  I love to do something that is new to me and something that I would not have thought to do other than in the circumstance I am right now with an abundance of wonderful sweet juice filled blackberries.

After talking with Mom she made it sound so easy…

Blackberry Vinegar

Put the amount of blackberry you are using in crock or stainless steel bowl cover with vinegar put plate over bowl and let sit for at least three days.  Then the decision was what kind of vinegar, she uses white vinegar, I have read where you can use white, cider, white balsamic or malt vinegar.  Since she had used the white I decided the first round would be with white.  I let it set for the three days and then strained it through cheese cloth that I had triple layered to make sure I got everything; I wanted my blackberry vinegar to be real clear.  I could not believe how clear the juice was not one speck of anything… I did not press the berries; sitting in the vinegar for those days it extracted all the blackberry juice out of the berries.  I then put the strained juice in stainless steel pot and brought the mix to a boil and turned it down to simmer and added about 2/3 cup of sugar stirring until dissolved.  Mom and I decided to start with this amount and to taste (carefully it is boiling hot) and I liked the taste, the berries were already so naturally sweet this year.   I added about one tablespoon of mustard seeds and let the whole thing simmer until it had reduced by about 1/3.  I then bottled it (I used my re-useable bottles with a snap ring bottle top from my Lorina Sparkling French Sodas that I save just for purposes like this.)  I got two full bottles of blackberry vinegar.  (In the picture you see one is used… I made some wonderful Bruschetta that I will be posting next!)

I did save about 2 ounces aside; I have read where blackberry vinegar is very good for sore throats and is used for many medical ailments.  Right now I have a terrible summer cold that T decided to lovingly share with me.  I told him that his love for me does not mean he has to share everything with me!

I sipped my Blackberry vinegar, it was so good!  I should have taken a picture of it after I poured it in its little goblet… the color was a deep jewel black-red… as beautiful as a deep ink black wine from Cahors  (I was reading this post by Roger Stowell… it lingers on the mind doesn’t his coq au vin look delicious! Look at that color!)

The one thing I worried about in my sipping was if it would cause me to have a conniption coughing fit (I had finally finished with the coughing fit(s) side of this cold yesterday and my head was so thankful, it lasted for about what seemed like three days… each time the coughing fit happened it gave one the headache of someone who had a bad head injury! The blackberry vinegar actually felt good… like a good wine going down my sore throat.  The added mustard seeds gave it a little added warmth!

I know this vinegar will be exciting and incredible for any use I can think of.  I am so glad that I decided to make blackberry vinegar.  I hope to maybe make some blackberry syrup with some of my prized now frozen blackberries.  I took a walk about and found that we still have a lot of blackberries ready to be picked again, I wonder if I can talk T into ‘helping me’ pick the last of this seasons blackberries….

Blackberry Tarts

The dough recipe can be found here. It is a wonderful sweet pastry dough and very flakey.  It is perfect for fruit tarts.  Preheat oven to 375˚.  The blackberry pie recipe is one my Mom and I have been using for years.

Blackberry Filling:

     Ingredients:

  • 5 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup quick cooking tapioca pearls
  • Just a little fresh ground nutmeg (does not take much!)
  • Pinch of lemon zest
  • Small pieces of cold butter (I put one small piece in each tart)
  • 1 egg beaten with just a dash of cold milk
  • a little sugar for dusting on the pie crust

I mix or whisk all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Put part of the blackberries in a very large bowl.  Spread about a ½ cup plus of the dry mixture on top of the berries and toss a little, add some more blackberries and sprinkle some more of the dry ingredients over the top of the berries until you have used up all the berries and dry ingredients.  I do not like to mix the mixture too much; you want the berries to stay whole as much as possible.  I toss the mixture in the bowl as I go along as gently as possible.  Set this aside to absorb and mix together on its own while you:  I get all my tarts ready with the bottom crust then:

I spooned the filling into each tart shell.  Once I have divided all the berry mix in the tart shells I put a small pat of cold butter on top of each tart.   Once I have the tart shells tops on I brush the beaten egg and milk mixture on top of each tart.   I make a slit in each and sprinkle a little sugar on and  put in the oven (on a baking sheet) that has been preheated to 375˚.  I bake them for about 35-40 minutes and start watching depending on the oven it can take a few more minutes.  Once golden brown they are done.

We like our served warm with some french vanilla bean ice cream.  If you have any leftovers be sure to refrigerate.

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Little Winged Ones… Hummingbirds In Flight

Female Anna

(Be sure to double-click on the photo(s) and you will see an enlargement and all the details…)

I was sitting out on the back deck this morning.  The sun was so bright and with a hot cup a tea in hand I was feeling pretty good.  The past couple of weeks it finally seems like summer.  More sun than clouds and rain.

As I sat there I was watching the little winged one play.  I wonder what it would be like to have such energy, but I guess if my main diet was nectar I would be overly active too.

Female Anna and a Female Rufus in background

They stole my heart years ago, but living here at what we call Hummingbird Hollow has brought more than just entertainment from the little winged one.  With it came a want to know more about them.  I have spent the last dozen plus years watching, studying and being delighted in all there antics.  I am in the process of doing the illustrations for a book I wrote called Midnight Nectar about the frolics, behaviors and lives of the little winged ones.  I can honestly say there is never a dull moment here.

Female Anna

As I sat there I was spellbound by their aerial feats… I watched a Stellar Blue Jay come through, immediately the hummers gave chase.   They stayed with this blue bird through the apple trees on to the plum trees and then into the thicket and back again.   I am in awe as I watch them take on the bird that is over eleven inches long compared to their two-plus inch length.  Their tenacity is not to be compared to anything that is their size.  I have watched them take on cats, dogs, any bird and us two footers if we get to close to their nests or if their young are just out of the nest.  They are very territorial and if you get within their terrain at any given time they just may let you know you need to leave.

However, if they know you they will come right up and check you out, some of ours look in our windows and watch us.   We have noticed that if their feeder is low on nectar juice they will come and look at us through our windows until we check the feeder.  They will at times watch us through the windows while we are getting a clean feeder, filling it and then meet us where we hang the feeder.  At times they will follow us around the yard.   They love to chat with us, they are very vocal in all ways.  Generally they are easy to live with and are very amicable.

Male Anna

The Stellar Blue Jay is a very noisy bird; they have a lot to say and with such sass.  They have a cheekiness… brazenness that is beyond compare to all winged ones no matter the size.  With their young they are so vociferous, boisterous, bossy and overbearing.  I feel sorry for them.  I think they leave the nest as soon as possible.  It does not take them anytime to be completely on their own and off to a whole new area to live.  That is what I would do!

Male Anna

The Stellar Blue Jay  are a beautiful bird, just a little overbearing at times.  I tried to get a picture of one of them and they knew it and they made it very hard for me to get a good shot in.  They are one of the reasons we do not do many bird feeders, they go through and knock all the seeds out so they can eat all of the sunflower seeds.  They are pretty but have an arrogance that dulls their beauty.

Stellar Blue Jay

The sun was shining through the trees and every time I just got focused, the bird would take flight.

It did not want a picture taken!

This Female Rufus has decided to check me out – eye to eye!

I take hundreds of hummingbird shots.  They are so fleeting it is not an easy task.  I am learning, but to get the lighting right and have the camera set for high-super-sonic speed is a mission and a calling that I will not give up on.  I have so many action shots; hummingbirds are almost always so full of life… highly active.  I have given myself the challenge of taking action shots that are clear and precise and tell the viewer what is going on.  That is not easy… I am going to share some of my ‘action shots’ that I have taken this summer.  I hope you enjoy them and let me know what you think.  I already know I have a long way to go, but I think I have gotten a good start….

Male Anna

Male Rufus – they make it almost impossible to get a picture of them!

Female Rufus

Male Anna

Female Rufus

Female Rufus

Male Anna

Female Rufus

Look… there are two Female Rufus Hummingbirds on the uptake!

Female Rufus

Young Rufus

Rufus Hummingbirds

Rufus Young ~ Hover, Reverse and Backwards Uplift! Amazing Little Winged Ones!

Two young Rufus Hummingbirds

Female Rufus

A Sneak Peek at Spring

  

Male Rufus Hummingbird

Yesterday, I stepped out onto the deck to call for Ninnie and to my surprise I had a guest; the first Rufus Hummingbird of the season has arrived.  The Anna’s that winter over were none too happy about the new caller.   I have to admit the Rufus are my favorite of the hummingbirds that visit us here at Hummingbird Hollow.  They are so bright; the rufus coloring against the white with the red to orange, gold and copper colors that they flash all are so striking and vivid.  (This picture of the Male Rufus Hummingbird is from last season, the one that showed up yesterday was camera shy!)

Male Anna Hummingbird

They too have lots of character.  They are bossy little things.  Maybe that is why when they are around the other hummingbirds are always so stirred up.  But, even the littlest of all the Calliope’s do not let them chase them off.  They all impress me so with the resilience they have and their stamina for being pocketsize they are so full of pure grit.  They all hold their grounds in such a persuasive way and they have such a large ‘vocabulious’ (my word if you could hear what I hear at times!) way.  They are as aggressive with their vocabulary as they are intractable and obstinate with one another.   Nothing they can do will drive away any of the little winged ones from the other, they all stay their ground.  Nothing monotonous about the way we live our lives here at Hummingbird Hollow.  Makes for very interesting bird watching I never tire of observing all their behaviors.

It is time to get out a couple more feeders.  Our nectar use will be going up daily now.  Once one arrives, the rest are not far behind.  I need to make sure my extra battery pack is ready.  It always lefts my state of mind along with it aiding my inner health when I see the sun and peaks of nature coming into color.

I too noticed the mini daffodils that I planted under the Japanese Magnolia are in bloom.  I will have to take some pictures.  Spring has sprung and I have an added skip to my step.  Seeing the sun shine through the gray skies sure helps, but seeing the first hummer arriving the same day as the little mini daffs are in bloom sure does left my spirits.  I sure hope we have a better summer this year.  We only had a few days of summer last, and between the summer of 2009 till now it has been a long haul.

Days such as today are reasons why I hesitate to move permanently to the south.  I love four seasons.  I know I need a dryer four seasons; I am still looking and will continue to find that right place of mind.  It is all a real adventure and when it is right I will know.  I want to know when one season ends and the new one is upon me.  I love snow, and the first blossoms of spring, and when fall puts on a show of colors and a summer that is full of sunshine.  Each and all have so much to offer.  I cannot see myself living where you do not see the display of each season.

The last of my Hellebore ~ Christmas Cactus Bloom

One of these days I need to take a walk through the woods.  We had some really high winds the last couple of days, enough so that I have lost my power off and on, I will need to take a walk along the beach to see what was stirred up and churned out for me to lay claim to.   You never know what you will find beach combing.  It is one of my much loved past times.  There should be lots of sea glass and old pottery bits to add to my collections.

Isn’t spring amazing? ….

 Mini Daffodils in bloom under the Japanese Magnolia, spring is on the way!

Even the Vinca Vine is starting to show face.  The blossom hasn’t yet open all the way, it too, is taking a sneak peek of what spring may bring us in a few short weeks!  I can hope!

Anna’a Winter Watch

“Hummingbird Hollow”

I live at a very enchanted place called Hummingbird Hollow. There are four different species of Hummingbirds that reside here the Allen’s, Anna’s, Rufus, and the littlest of all the Calliope’s. There are hundreds of the little fellas here during the season. There is lots of chuppity-chup, chip-chee-chee, and chip-see-see notes, which fill the air and is quite calming to me….

The winter of 2007 we had a storm drop over 11″ of snow in less than a day.  We have Anna Hummingbirds that winter over with us each year.  On this day, they took turns watching over their only source of nectar.   The name of this picture I did in watercolor from the  photo I took that day is called “Anna’s Winter Watch.”  Their tenacity and persistence helped to sustain them during this inhospitable time.   The snow and extreme weather did not detour their lively personality.    With some of the Anna’s staying the winter, we have their entertainment year round.    With hundreds that call our home their home during the season, we have called our place “Hummingbird Hollow.” ….

“Hummingbird darts lightly through the world, spreading its message of joy and beauty, and teaching us to appreciate the wonder and magic of everyday existence. Hummingbird brings the gift of joy. Learn to laugh and be happy”…Author Unknown

Anna’s Winter Watch   

© 2008 ….RaeDi 

The snow flakes kept descending, hours never-ending.

Their size expanding  between interludes of flurries and

      a sightless whiteout.

In a short minute of time, the limbs of the apple tree are

     leaden, heavy with snow.

The intense brightness of the snow makes it appear blinding

     and reflecting a brilliant glow.

The Anna’s sits a top the trellis , its mind only aware of

     keeping watch over their nectar.

Their only source of fuel for their endurance of this

     wintry weather.

Those few who choose to winter over, take staid, each

     their turn of this winter’s watch;

As with the snow they too will go on doing, safe keeping

     of their nectar they will persevere nonstop.

 

I have learned over the years, that from one day to the next I do not know what I will be thinking about or if I will put words to paper.  I am not sure what triggers my writing or its style.  In the poem, “The Littlest of Nests” I was just going to lay in the hammock for the afternoon and read a little, close my eyes for a few and maybe even do some sketching.  However, I had not been in the hammock long when I heard the notes of the Calliope Hummingbird.  When I found her and the littlest of nests tucked between two branches, with two little ones, the words just came to me.  The words were there when I woke up in the middle of the night and saw, “The First Snowfall of the Season.”  “Full Circle” came about when I finally knew what going full circle meant.  Whether it is poems, light stories or even events in my life, it seems with age comes putting my words to paper.  My writings are maturing as is my art and photography.  I would rather do anyone of these three things and/or traveling more than anything else in the lifetime I have left, it makes me complete.   I find with age, there are so many things that do not need to be done or that can wait, so many things that I use to “have” to do can be put on the back burner while I do the things that make my soul/spirit grow.  I like the feeling I get from doing my words, art, and photos.  I still love gardening, gourmet cooking and such.  Nevertheless, I would rather be out in nature taking pictures and letting my mind wander.   It is these times when the words are just there and I put them to paper.  For the most part, it is a way of letting my children, and future grand children know who I am, and who I was, the words, photos, and art are there for them to see and know what made me me.  I now wish that I had started this many years ago.  I hope that each one of my future family ~ as they read my words, look at my pictures and my art ~ they will see my spirit and my love of life, all of nature, people, anything and all of everything that surrounded me.  My love of my spiritual base it is the true me; it is what makes me whole.  When I am with His creations, looking at His skies day or night, seeing and hearing His timing in the ocean waves, too His rivers, mountains and deserts they all feed my soul make me feel so alive.  All His seasons, it amazes me all the colors He uses ~ every color from all spectrums’, in every direction that I look.  I am where I want to be.  The notes He made for us to hear.  The wonderful senses He created for our pleasure and the amazing tastes from every corner of this earth ~ each a culinary experience.  I have learned over the years, that from one day to the next be able to feel all the textures from sand of the ocean or desert to the petals of a rose and all that are in between, I wonder will I get to experience it all before I take leave of this life, I hope so….RaeDi

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