Monday, June 29, 2015

I Saved a Life Today

I was mulching this afternoon, in a fine mist, thankful that we weren't getting a downpour of rain AGAIN. We've already set a new record for the most rainfall in a single month ever. (We're currently at just under 12" for the month.) There's still one more day left and it's supposed to...wait for it...RAIN. *sigh*

But anyway, as I was mulching, I noticed OhNo, one of our outside cats, a short distance away, under the Japanese maple tree, being quite attentive. A little too attentive. That could only mean one thing, and after last week's rabbit parts being strewn all over the yard, I didn't want a repeat performance.

I walked over and sure enough, there was a young bird - a cedar waxwing! - sitting by the tree trunk, terrified. It looked as if its wing was damaged because of the way it was holding it out, but I didn't want it to suffer further injury from a cat that was just...well...being a cat.

I scooped it up in my hands and was thankful to have gloves on because it tried to bite my finger, although I doubt it would have been too painful. I walked away, trying to decide where I could put it that it would be safe, yet not far away from its nest, wherever that might be.

The hanging container by the pool house seemed to be a good choice, offering protection from the weather and high enough that OhNo or one of the other cats couldn't get to it. I walked out to the Berry Barn and picked a raspberry and a blueberry and offered it up as a treat.

It really loved the raspberry but didn't quite know what to do with the blueberry. And then it fell out of the container and OhNo was right there. Oh no you don't! I once again gathered up the bird and decided I would put it in the only location where I knew the cats couldn't get to it.

The Berry Barn.

Wait. What???  Didn't we construct the Berry Barn to keep the birds from getting to the berries before we did?

Oh, the irony...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fiskars PowerGear2: A Review and a Giveaway!

I love to prune. I mean LOVE it. Ask my husband and his face will cloud over, because he hates pruning. He gets ouchy about it not because he actually hates the act of pruning; he hates that I love it so much. He isn't convinced that pruning trees and shrubs is altogether good for them. It's one of the Top Ten Things We Argue About. (I know you have silly things that you argue about with your significant other too, so stop laughing.)

When Fiskars, a company who has been in business for 365 years now (!!!), asked me if I wanted to try out some of their PowerGear2™ products, I got all giddy. It's not that we don't have any pruners or loppers, or hedge shears, because we do, but to get to try out some brand new ones? Let me have at 'em.

Here's what they sent:

PowerGear2™ Bypass Pruners

  • PowerGear® patented gear technology multiplies leverage to give you up to 3X more power on every cut
  • Fully hardened steel blade stays sharp, even through heavy use
  • Rugged DuraFrame® construction provides superior strength and reduced weight
  • Contoured, rolling handle fits the shape and natural motion of your hand for comfortable use and reduced hand fatigue
  • Maximum cutting capacity: 3/4" diameter

PowerGear2™ Hedge Shears

  • Powers through tough branches that traditional hedge shears struggle to cut
  • 10" blades cut all the way to the tip
  • Shock-absorbing bumpers help reduce the jarring conclusion at the end of cuts
  • Tough steel construction with riveted handles offers lasting durability
  • Rounded ergonomic handles with Softgrip® touchpoints enhance comfort and control

PowerGear2™ Lopper (18")

  • Patent-pending design with modified gears and cam mechanism optimizes your cutting power in the middle of the cut where the branch is thickest and you need it most
  • Fully hardened steel blade stays sharp, even through heavy use
  • Rounded ergonomic handles with Softgrip® touchpoints enhance comfort and control
  • Low-friction coating helps the blade glide through wood, prevents the blade from gumming up with sap and debris and helps the blade resist rust
  • Bypass blade style
  • Maximum cutting capacity: 1-1/2" diameter (Larger-sized PowerGear2™ Loppers allow cuts up to 2".)

I'd actually won a pair of PowerGear2™ loppers at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, but that was in early March and with the weather we were having after we got home from that, not much pruning was being done. But I've had a chance to try these out for a little bit and here's what I think:

Overall, all three products I tried were easy to use and with one exception, I had no problems. These are quality tools that come with a Lifetime Warranty. What I liked most about them were the relatively light weight, compared to some I've used, and the mechanisms operated extremely smoothly.

We I had quite a bit of pruning to do on both trees and some flowering shrubs, so last week I really put the loppers and the pruners through their paces. Easy breezy, and I mean that. I've got a little bit of arthritis in my right hand (my pruning hand) and they both cut through what I was pruning so easily that there was no stress on those joints at all. Fiskars actually did an extensive study of how the human body interacts with tools and used what they learned to ergonomically design these tools for the optimum comfort and performance.

Also, the non-stick surface of the blades made cleaning them a breeze. That was especially important to me with the hand pruners. It seems like I'm always cutting something close to the ground or unfortunately, using them in a closed position to dig dandelions out. (Yeah, I know, pruners aren't supposed to be used for digging, but when they're in my hand and there's a dandelion...) With the spring we've had and all the rain, mud happens.

I only used the hedge shears a little bit, because we really didn't have a lot of that type of work to do just yet, but I found them to be just as smooth to use as the other two tools.

I mentioned one problem earlier, and that was with the hand pruners. I'm a hand pruner hussy, in that I will try any pruner that I can get my hands on. You can never have too many pruners, right? I've tried a LOT of them and I have my favorites. I'm still getting used to these, because they have this really cool ergonomic feature, in that the handle rolls as you squeeze them shut, to help eliminate blisters and hand fatigue. That's different and it feels different.

The pruners, I think, must be designed for a larger hand than mine (which is small), because I felt the need to hold them closer to the blade than I think was intended. I say this, because more than once when I squeezed them shut to prune, I caught the fleshy part of my index finger in the rolling mechanism and it pinched. To be fair, I've had a similar problem with another brand of pruners (in about the same position of the handle), so I think it must be more me and the way I hold them than it is the pruners. But I wanted to mention it. I'm going to keep using them though, because they really do perform well, and perhaps I'll get over that pinching business.
That said, Fiskars is allowing me to give away five pairs of the PowerGear2™ hand pruners!  


So if you want a chance at winning a pair of them for your very own, just leave a comment to this blog post and tell me, yes or no, if you like to deadhead/prune your flowers or not. Some people hate the job, and some people love it. I love it, but if you hate it, you're probably going to want these to make quick work of it.

When you leave a comment, be sure to also provide a way for me to contact you, should you be the winner. (Email address is fine.) The giveaway will run until midnight EDT, Sunday, June 28, 2015. I'll use to randomly pick five winners from all the comments. Good luck!

Giveaway rules here.


Fiskars website:

Twitter: @Fiskars_HQ

Instagram: @Fiskars_HQ

Google+ : +Fiskars 

Fiskars sent me the three tools featured above for purposes of testing and review. All opinions stated here about the tools are my own, based on my experience with them. No further compensation of any kind was given. This blog post contains my affiliate links for Amazon. If you decide to purchase anything through these links, I thank you. It won't cost you any more, but it may add a few cents to my account.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A New Way to Feed Hummingbirds: The Hummerbar® ( A Review )

Summer seems to be a busy season for so many things around here - taking care of the garden, going on trips, and receiving new products to try. Here's one I got a few weeks ago, just before I left for Toronto that has me intrigued. From Perky-Pet®, it's a hummingbird feeder extraordinaire!

Called the Hummerbar®, the one I received is a two-foot long tube that holds the nectar for the hummingbirds, with 22 ports (11 on each side) that allow many hummingbirds to feed at one time.

It hangs via two cords, which we attached to one of the crossbars on our pergola, right outside our family room window, so we could watch the hummingbirds feed from it. It was easy to get it level, because there are push-button cord clamps that allow you to adjust the length of the cords.

Here you can see the cord clamps and a glimpse of the
easy-to-remove rubber stopper on top. The end caps come
off for easy cleaning.
I waited until it was hung before filling it (they recommend filling it just halfway so that no nectar spills out), through a hole in one end that has a removable plug. In total, it took no more than five minutes to get it assembled, hung, and filled.

I've had to send my regular camera away to be fixed, so I haven't gotten a good photo of the hummingbirds at ours just yet and so far I've only seen one at a time feeding from it, but I've not had it up that long, nor have I been home long enough to observe it for any length of time. But here's a video of a Hummerbar® showing several feeding at once:

Hummingbirds are extremely territorial and I've seen three of them attempting to feed at our old, smaller window feeder at the same time and they're always jockeying for position at it. But this feeder looks like it would give them a wider berth so that several could feed at once without them feeling threatened.

It comes in a four-foot length too, with 44 feeding ports, which would give them even more room. (Although it's always kind of fun to see their acrobatics when they're trying to dominate the dinner table.)

The Hummerbar® is available at Amazon and directly from Perky-Pet. I don't know if your local Wild Birds Unlimited store would have them, but it would be worth an ask to see.

This is one of our ruby-throated hummingbirds just waiting on me
to fill up our feeder!

I received the Hummerbar® free from Perky-Pet® for the purposes of testing and review, with no further compensation. All opinions expressed here are my own. This blog post contains an Amazon affiliate link. Any purchase of any item made through that link costs you no more, and may put a few pennies in my affiliate account. Thank you!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fruit-infused Water is a Refreshing Treat! (+ a giveaway!)

It's the height of strawberry season here and while I like my strawberries best just-picked off the plant, there's a plethora of ways to enjoy their ruby red juicy goodness. I just for the first time have started enjoying them another way - in water.

When I was contacted about testing and reviewing the Fruit Infusion Pitcher by Kitchen Frontier, I jumped at the chance. I'd not used such a product before, although I'd had strawberry cucumber infused water in Seattle one time, when I was attending the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in 2012. It was delicious.

My pitcher arrived and while I generally hate plastic-y anything, this BPA-free hard acrylic one is not objectionable. I don't know how it will look when it's had a few trips through the dishwasher, but right now I find it quite attractive. It's also shatterproof and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Fruit Infusion Pitcher by Kitchen Frontier

Juneberries on our serviceberry tree.
(Amelanchier sp.)

So I went out to the strawberry patch and picked some, sliced up a peach, and also picked some juneberries from our Amelanchier or serviceberry tree (yes, they're edible for humans, too!) and loaded them into the infusion chamber.

Once this was full, I screwed it into the lid and popped the whole thing onto the pitcher. (It snaps on.)

Then I put it into the refrigerator and waited until the next morning to try the infusion out.

The pitcher has a capacity of 93 ounces.

The infused water has a slight pink blush to it.

The flavor of the water isn't intense by any means, but of course that increases the longer the fruit is immersed in the water. It was refreshing and a nice departure from just plain water.

If you wanted a more intense fruit flavor, you could slightly crush the berries or whatever other fruit you put in the infusion column and wait a couple of days before serving it. But I found that overnight was sufficient to subtly flavor the water.

Now, here's the really good part for you. Kitchen Frontier has offered to send a free pitcher to one of my readers. All you have to do is leave a comment to this blog post, telling me what fruit you would use in the pitcher if you win one. (Maybe you'll give me a new idea for what to use in mine! I'm contemplating watermelon next.)

Be sure to include a way for me to contact you, should you be the winner. An email address is ideal and to keep the bots away, you can write it like this: ourlittleacre at gmail dot com.

The giveaway will run through Sunday night, June 22, 2015, at midnight EDT, when I'll use to randomly pick a winner. What a way to celebrate the beginning of summer, eh?  Good luck!

Giveaway rules can be found here.


I used to pick a winner from the 24 entries and it picked commentor #17. That means Sally Wannemacher, you win a pitcher! I'll be contacting you to get your shipping address so Kitchen Frontier can send it to you! Congratulations! And thanks to all who entered. You can purchase one here at Amazon, if you're interested!

I received a Fruit Infusion Pitcher from Kitchen Frontier free of charge for the purposes of trying it out and posting my true opinion of it. As always, my opinions are my own. This blog post may contain an affiliate link to Amazon.

Monday, June 15, 2015

What Happened to Our Pine?

We've been inundated with rain this spring. I hate to ask for it to stop though, because it's about this time of year that it stops and doesn't return for a couple of months, which has me doing rain dances. But really... enough for now!

We had a particularly windy storm pass through this afternoon that put an additional half-inch in the rain gauge, and except for a brief break, it's been raining ever since.

During that break, I walked out to the garden to take a photo of something and noticed a large branch from one of the pine trees lying on the ground next to it.

It almost looked as if it had been pruned away, but when I looked up at the tree, I could see that it came from the top. Closer examination of the broken end revealed what looked like rot that may have been a result of insect damage or a fungus.

Something's not right here...

There is a small amount of dead material at the place where this broke away. I know there are a number of rot diseases that can affect pines, but I'm just not sure what this is.

Can anyone shed some light on it?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Our Little Acre's First Cherry

Several years ago, I acquired two small cherry tree seedlings at a garden writers event, which I planted in the northeast corner of our property, where most of the other fruits are. (Apples, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries...)

The first couple of years, they grew as they were supposed to and we caged them over winter to protect them from Thumper's destructive behavior. Two winters ago, we forgot to do that and we paid the price. The cherry trees were gnawed off all the way to the ground.

I thought they were goners, as the trees weren't all that large to begin with, but as the weather warmed, we began to see little shoots of green coming from the roots. The trees both survived, but it was clear that they were going to be more of shrub now than a tree. No matter.

This spring, one of the trees bloomed.

Three glorious blossoms meant that for the first time, there would be cherries at Our Little Acre. Only three, but three is better than none.

And then something happened to two of them. They simply disappeared. It was early in the game, so who knows, but now we were down to one. I didn't want to lose it so that meant I would have to protect it from the birds and whatever else might enjoy a ripe, red cherry.

Today, I noticed it had turned red. 

Since I don't know what variety the cherry trees are (I forgot to tag them), I don't know if they're a true red when they're ripe or if they're a little darker than that. I'm going to keep a close watch on it to see if I can determine when it's perfectly ripe.

In the meantime, that precious lone cherry is wrapped up in netting because I'll be darned if our very first cherry is going to the birds. Now, just what to do with it when it's finally ready to be picked?


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