Saturday, February 22, 2020

Great Backyard Bird Count Wrap-Up 2020

I had someone ask me how many different types of birds I saw during the Great Backyard Bird Count. In our City event on the Saturday of the bird count, between the three groups, we collectively found 34 species of birds. Gardens Park includes several different types of habitat, both terrestrial and aquatic so it is a great place to walk and count birds. I counted for about 30 minutes late in the afternoon on the Friday just sitting at my back door and watching what came to my feeder, water feature and the surrounding area. On the Sunday of the bird count I walked my 4+ acres for about an hour and a half. Between these two times at home I identified 16 bird species. Some birds flew past too fast to be identified and some hid too deeply in thickets and hedge rows to get a good enough look at them to id them. Photos of a representative bird from each of the 16 species are found below.

First row: Blue jay, Carolina chickadee, Carolina Wren, Cedar waxwing
Second row: Eastern bluebird, Eastern phoebe, House finch, House sparrow
Third row: Mourning dove, Northern cardinal, Northern mockingbird, Red-tailed hawk
Fourth row: Ruby-crowned kinglet, Turkey vulture, White-winged dove, Yellow-rumped warbler

Not all of my photos were taken this year but most were taken the same time of year. Click the image to enlarge it.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Jujube Butter

I took pictures late last summer when I made some jujube butter from a larger than normal crop of the fruit so that I could write up a blog post about the process. I wish I had managed to write it then because I would have still remembered exactly what I did to make the jujube butter. It was delicious. Now that I am trying to get back to writing a post a week I will write down my best recollections.

The picture of the colander full of jujubes shows the harvest that I turned into a batch of fruit butter. I do remember a few specifics. I looked at some jujube butter recipes as well as apple butter recipes and
put together a plan from what I liked from reading all of them. I sure wish I had made notes when I was done. I did cut out the single pit (it is much like a date pit) from each piece of fruit before beginning to cook. I also left the skins on, unlike the instructions in the jujube butter recipes.

What I am unclear about is whether I cooked the fruit before or after using my food processor to puree the jujubes or what other ingredients I added. I think it is most likely that I put the jujubes in a large pan, added some water and simmered until tender. I may have added some cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves or honey as these were suggested additions in the jujube and apple butter recipes I looked at. (All except the honey, I traditionally substitute honey for sugar when possible.) I think it was after cooking that I blended
everything in the food processor. Perhaps I simmered it some more if it did not have a firm enough consistency yet. Hopefully I will get a bumper crop again in August and manage to create another tasty batch of jujube butter and take good notes. If I do, I will update this post.

When the jujube butter was finished I scraped it into a container. It had the consistency of a thick icing. It was very good on toast but my favorite thing to spread it on was heated, store bought frozen pancakes. I did not even need any dairy butter when eating the pancakes topped with jujube butter.

Have you made jujube butter? If so, I'd love to hear about your process in the comments.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Artist Spotlight - Ellengant Creations

My husband and I have seen and almost purchased the work of this talented polymer clay artist for ourselves for years. (I did purchase one of her fish ornaments for a family member several years ago.) She is known for creating whimsical sea creatures and dragons. Last year she added cats to her hand crafted menagerie. Her name is Ellen and she came up with a wonderful business name that I think perfectly captures her work, Ellengant Creations.

So what about this piece we purchased last fall? Ellen created it almost two years ago for a group show in Mansfield, "Inspired by Nature". My husband and I
were both enthralled with it, however we could not justify the purchase at the time. We both saw the piece again at BRIT's Fall Gallery Night Artisan Market last year and decided it was time for it to come home with us. It fit in perfectly next to a corner cabinet near the top of the stairs. The variety of technique, sea creatures and textures draw you in. This is a very elaborate work and the more you look at it, the more you discover. At a glance one thinks, "Oh that's nice."
Upon careful examination one thinks, "That's amazing!" From the painted canvas background to the polymer clay canes, fish, barnacles and more this piece is truly a work of art that evokes the wonders to be found under the sea.

In addition to a photo of the entire polymer clay on canvas piece, I have added closeups of some of the bits I particularly like. You can click on the images to enlarge them and better appreciate the details.