How to Attract Hummingbirds and Make Your Own Hummingbird Nectar

Hummingbird at feeder

Photo: S. Sompop

 

I always love hearing the thrilling, trilling sound of the first hummingbirds here in Colorado. According to Audubon, hummingbirds beat their strong, tiny wings 90 times per second. Their energetic metabolisms burn up calories fast, which is why they typically eat half of their weight in bugs and nectar every day and visit 1,000 to 2,000 flowers a day.

We hang a feeder in the shade garden, and if we’re quiet we can watch the hummers stop by for a drink throughout the summer. The stores  have commercial hummingbird nectar on the shelves right now, but a quick look at the ingredients list reveals that the mixture is mostly water and sugar enhanced with red dye #40 and chemical preservatives.

 

Hummingbird nectar

 

Instead, make your own hummingbird nectar. It’s easy and inexpensive, and all you need is water and refined sugar. According to Audubon, “Plain white table sugar is sucrose, which, when mixed with water, very closely mimics the chemical composition of natural nectar.”

I was tempted to make homemade nectar with a healthier ingredient than refined sugar — honey or raw sugar, for instance. But Audubon says NO — plain ole’ refined sugar is best since raw and organic sugars contain higher levels of iron that could be harmful to the birds, and honey can promote “dangerous fungal growth.” Goodness knows I always try to avoid that.

You don’t need to add red food coloring, either. Just use a brightly colored feeder to attract the hummers. Here’s how to make a batch of nectar, and you can increase the quantities depending on how much you need:

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

1 cup water

1/4 cup refined white sugar

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before filling feeder. Change nectar weekly.

 

Hummingbird

Photo: Monkeystyle3000

 

Flowers Hummingbirds Like

You can also attract hummingbirds to your garden or yard by planting nectar-rich flowers.

Look for blossoms in bright colors, which are more attractive to hummingbirds than light pastel hues. Tubular-shaped flowers tend to contain more nectar. Here are some varieties that are especially attractive to hummers:

Perennials:

  • Bee balms
  • Columbines
  • Coneflowers
  • Daylilies
  • Delphiniums
  • Lupines
  • Salvia

Biennials:

  • Foxgloves
  • Hollyhocks

Annuals:

  • Cleomes
  • Impatiens
  • Petunias
  • Zinnias

 

Hummingbird at feeder

 

How About You?

Does your garden attract hummingbirds? Do you have a feeder? Do you grow any special flowers in your garden that the hummers especially like?

If you want to take a deeper dive with hummingbird watching, check out Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home website and app where you can sign up to share your own sightings and observations.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Remembering the Puzzling Days of the Dandelion

bumblebee and dandelion

 

“In today’s history lesson, we’ll examine a very strange time in human history – the early 2000s.

During this troubling period, humans on the planet Earth had collectively decided that this flower was a scourge:

 

Dandelion flower

 

Taraxacum, more commonly known as dandelion, was a perennial, herbaceous plant that grew on Earth. It had long taproots that helped naturally aerate the soil. The entire plant was edible, and it had many medicinal purposes.

However, major chemical companies spent millions of dollars on advertising to convince consumers that dandelions were bad.

 

dandelions in a garden

 

During this same time period, many people grew large patches of non-native grass in their yards. Although the natural habit of plants on Earth was to diversify, the humans spent long hours removing dandelions and tending their large swaths of fescue grass.

Lawns were a lot of work. They weren’t practical or sustainable, but most people still had them because it was the norm.

A yard of bright green, weed-free grass was a status symbol at the time. Some lived in neighborhoods with HOAs that called dandelions “noxious weeds” and required their removal.

 

bee and dandelion

 

Water was becoming scarce. Droughts were increasing worldwide at a rapid pace, yet inexplicably the humans continued to use precious water on their large swaths of turf.

The humans rarely enjoyed or even stepped on their yards of grass.

 

perfect lawn

 

They maintained them mostly for show.

 

honey bee and dandelion

 

The media outlets of this era regularly reported the alarming facts that bee populations were dwindling rapidly. In 2017, Time magazine reported that 700 North American bee species were headed for extinction.

Dandelions were a natural pollinator that bees loved, but for some reason this did not stop the humans from trying to eradicate the yellow flowers from their turf patches.

 

dandelion bee

 

Water supplies were becoming increasingly polluted in the early 2000s.

Weed killers were big business. Humans purchased billions of dollars of toxic chemicals to eradicate the dandelions, clover, crabgrass and other plants that naturally sprouted up in their lawns. The chemicals seeped into the Earth’s surface water, groundwater and soil. Herbicide residue was found in many foods.

 

Ortho weed killer

weed killer

 

The weedkiller glyphosate was linked to cancer and other diseases in humans, but the chemical companies funded research studies that refuted the claims.

The chemical companies financed like-minded politicians through political action committees, and hired lobbyists to weaken and eliminate restrictions on toxic herbicides.

Despite the widespread adoption of the internet around the turn of the 2000 millennium, it was a period of great misinformation and the people had not yet figured out how to discern the truth.

While we may never fully understand the mistakes and motivations of the Earth people of the early 2000s, we can learn from their catastrophic errors in judgment and take better care of our planet Kepler-186f.

We must remember to always demand clean, independent scientific research. We must remember to vigorously keep dark money out of politics. We must always hold our elected officials accountable to preserving our planet’s resources.

Let the early 2000s always remind us that seemingly innocuous actions by a large number of people can result in terrible consequences.

Let history remind us to seek and revere the truth.

And let us never forget the dandelion.”

Dandelion

 

Lawn photo by Sir Mildred Pierce.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

A New Season

First crocus of spring

 

Our garden is awakening here in Colorado. The first crocus bloomed yesterday!

The daffodils are budding, and the tulips are emerging.

 

Daffodil buds

tulips coming up

 

It’s sunny and mild, too, so I’ve been puttering and doing a little cleaning up in the yard.

I know better than to clear away the leaves that are still protecting tender young plants and shoots, because our springtime weather is always unpredictable. So I’ve been trimming branches that were broken by heavy snows, pulling young weeds, sweeping sidewalks and watering shrubs.

The hardy vinca is starting to bloom, warmed by the sunny rocks on the south side of the yard.

 

early spring vinca

 

I often feel introspective when I’m working in the garden. Do you?

 

Spring garden

 

Grateful for a patch of ground to tend, I wonder what might need weeding and pruning and cultivating in my life this season.

 

Strawberry plants

 

Springtime signals rebirth, reawakening, and newness. As I work, I silently pray for renewed energy, for new ideas to sprout, and to see people and situations in a new light.

 

Budding branches

 

Our garden has places of disappointment, too.

Sometimes I discover that something I planted, watered, nurtured and tried so hard to grow didn’t survive the winter. Help me accept this outcome, and clear the way for something new, I whisper.

Has a new season arrived in your part of the world? Is your garden awakening? Do you have any thoughts or insights you’d like to share? I always love hearing from you.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Plan Your Garden During the January Money Diet

Plan your garden during the January Money Diet

This time of year, I love to start thinking about seeds and plants and getting my hands in the dirt.

Do you enjoy daydreaming about your future garden, too? The month of January is the perfect time to begin making plans and sketching out ideas for your ideal plot, especially if you’re on a money diet.

In the Day #3 post  (“Let’s Eat Really Great Food“), I enjoyed reading comments from a number of you who grow your own food and preserve it so you can enjoy it all year. What a wonderful way to eat well and save money. We do this on a small scale, growing and freezing produce like tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, basil for pesto, and pumpkins. I’d love to try cultivating some new fruits and veggies this year.

Grow a Garden in Any Space

If you live in an apartment, you might be able to choose plants that thrive in your climate and can be grown in containers. Our friend Jerry grows cherry tomatoes year ’round from a pot in a sunny window in his downtown Denver apartment.

Do you have access to a roof or balcony? The Kitchn posted an informative article on rooftop gardening.

If you have a small yard or garden plot, you may enjoy the “Square Foot Gardening” method to maximize your yield from a small space.

If you have a typical yard, you might be inspired by the Urban Homestead website. This family grows 3 tons of food on 1/10th of an acre!

If you don’t have a yard but long to really dig in the dirt, you might check out the community gardens in your area. The American Community Gardening Association has a nifty interactive map to help you find one near you.

Time to Daydream

It’s always fun to peruse the new seed catalogs and online offerings each year to see what new varieties have been introduced. These are some of my favorite seed companies:

The site MicroEcoFarming.com has a wealth of information about growing your own food — including tips for how to sell what you grow as an extra revenue source.

You might also enjoy the Happy Simple Gardening Pinterest board, where I collect low-labor ideas for growing good food and flowers, along with whimsical posts and photos from others who have created imaginative landscapes.

How About You?

Would you like to start planning your garden? Check out some gardening sites, sketch out ideas, and make a list of the seed varieties you want to plant this year. If you don’t have a garden, daydream about what you’d like to grow someday. Leave a comment on this page if you participate in this challenge.

We’d especially love to hear about any edible varieties you’ve grown successfully in the past. If you have favorite gardening sites and sources, we’d love to hear about those, too.

Enjoy the weekend, and you’ll hear from me again on Monday.

Happy daydreaming,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. Congratulations to Deborah, who won a copy of the book “Your Money or Your Life” for completing Challenge #2 and figuring her net worth. Watch for more giveaways this month.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Embracing a Funky Old Tool Shed

Siding: Cedar Shakes, Trim: Cedar Shakes/White, Door: Red, Roof: Light Brown/Metal - This is a custom building.

Photo by Sheds Unlimited

When we moved here ten years ago, I was very grateful that our house had a tool shed in the back yard. It’s a luxury to have storage space for garden tools, pots, soil, the wheelbarrow and other various outdoor odds and ends.

Since I’ve written for home magazines for many years, I’m often exposed to fabulous, high-end homes and landscapes. Most home design writers will agree with me that this is both a blessing and occasionally, a challenge.

It’s endlessly fascinating to hear about people’s crazy remodels and sloping lots and zoning issues and architects and builders and interior designers. It’s a rare privilege to see their incredible, perfect homes. On the other hand, sometimes I return home with a critical eye instead of a grateful heart for all that we have.

I recently wrote about a beautiful lakefront home in Montana’s  Whitefish  Lake for Mountain Living magazine. The homeowners Orlan and Debra Sorensen built the most fabulous stone garden shed you’ve ever seen, complete with a sitting area and porch overlooking the lake. You can peek at it here, and the shed is the last photo at the end of the story.

Dreams vs. Reality

If I were going to splurge on a new potting shed, perhaps I’d consider one like the custom structure by Sheds Unlimited posted above. Something charming, with windows to let in the sunlight, and maybe even with a little table inside where I could escape and read fine literature and sip something like…oh, I don’t know… a sparkling drink with fresh mint and lavender syrup.

But the reality is that our shed is of a slightly… different architectural style. Our shed, in fact, looks like this:

 

Tool shed covered with reclaimed fencing | Happy Simple Living blog

It’s rectangular with a flat roof, and the exterior is covered with old, reclaimed cedar fencing. Because it is so wonderfully utilitarian and because we’re trying to live sustainably with what we have, I’ve given up trying to class up the shed and have decided, instead, to celebrate its unique flair.

I added a few metal signs to the front of it to celebrate its funky siding, and nailed the warped boards back in place.

 

Funky old tool shed | Happy Simple Living blog

The shed is topped with a lovely faux owl that is supposed to scare the flickers away from our siding but which, in fact, does not fool fowl or the rabbits who visit the garden.

I had the structure re-roofed, and Pop kindly added vents to keep it cooler in the summer. It may not be a magazine-worthy shed, but it’s functional and fun and I am grateful for it.

How About You?

Do you have an area in or around your house where you’ve decided to simply go with what’s there? Have you decided to keep your rare pink bathroom fixtures or sturdy Formica counters and let them become part of your home’s charm? I’d love to hear your stories in the Comments section below.

Here’s to making the best of what we have, and embracing the funky!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

A Garden Where There Once Was None

New garden | Happy Simple Living blog

My son and I tackled a big project this summer. We had a vision to create a cool, shady spot under the trees for a small table and chairs.

The location was in a wild, overgrown area of the south side of the house that had always been a jumble of weeds and vines and bushes and sapling trees. Here’s the “before” photo:

 

New garden before | Happy Simple Living blog

On Demolition Day, my son used a handsaw to cut and clear all of the trees and bushes. I was his assistant, dragging and piling the branches. After several hours, much of the overgrowth was gone and a sense of the new garden begin to take shape. It was a very therapeutic day.

Later, we dug and cut and yanked out smaller stumps and roots. I spent many hours on my knees hacking at the hard clay soil, and began to sense a spiritual parallel.

So I started praying and asked God to clear out the deadwood and weedy, overgrown places in my heart. I asked for help to let go of some things that still weighed on me, and asked for healing of past hurts and disappointments.

At one especially difficult point during this time of hacking and introspection, the ground was so hard I felt like there must be a brick beneath my spade. And guess what?

 

Digging through clay soil | Happy Simple Living blog

There was a broken brick buried in the ground!

When the stumps and roots (and brick) were cleared, I asked for a renewal and refreshing of my spirit. I prayed for inner peace to foster quiet time and reflection, and a new place for creative ideas to grow.

A neighbor was giving away an eighth-ton of rock, so I loaded three buckets in the back of the Toyota and drove the four blocks to his house. Over three days, I made numerous trips carrying manageable buckets of gravel and spread it in the new place under the trees. It was just the right amount of stone.

We hung a string of lights overhead and a hummingbird feeder in a tree. A bright green metal table and chairs from Target fit right in the space, and a coleus plant added color.

 

Coleus plant | Happy Simple Living blog

 

Our dear friends Debbie and John brought us perennial shade plants in memory of my son’s dad and my former husband, Jose, who passed away this year. This is “Sea Heart:”

 

Sea Heart | Happy Simple Living blog

 

A stray hollyhock seed blew in and planted itself at the entrance of the garden,  where it bloomed with the showiest fuchsia blossoms all summer.

 

Hollyhock blossom | Happy Simple Living

 

The garden is such a peaceful place to drink coffee and listen to the birds and write in my journal.

 

new garden

 

Several friends visited throughout the summer, and the space was as cool and pleasant as I once dreamed it might be.

 

Friends visit our new garden | Happy Simple Living blog

 

The tiny space will always need maintenance. Vines try to creep back in, and weeds push up through the rocks.

But now there is a small garden flourishing in a place that was once neglected and overgrown, and I am so very grateful.

May you find a clearing amidst the noise, space to grow, and unexpected beauty in the days to come.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

When All You Need is Love

Aster | Happy Simple Living blog

For the past few months I’ve been trying to help my teenage son cope with the sudden death of his father. I’ve also been dealing with my own emotions, along with some changes in our lives. I suspect that nearly all of you have experienced loss or hardships, so you know what it’s like to be knee-deep in challenges.

During this unsettled season, the garden has blossomed like crazy in spite of just the barest efforts from me. After ten years of moving gravel and hacking at clay clods and digging in compost, this is the year the garden chose to reward us with a most glorious display. I know there is a lesson in there somewhere, or maybe not exactly a lesson but a reminder of the startling beauty and hope that can appear at unexpected times.

The other silver lining is that I feel blessed with some of the most incredibly supportive family and friends on the planet. Our family has been so deeply comforted by the people who have lovingly cared for us. Being on the receiving end of their kindness has filled me with gratitude.

Perennials | Happy Simple Living blog

The Different Ways We Try to Help

A tragedy can bring out different reactions in people. Some people can’t cope and disappear, and I understand. Some imagine how they would handle a particular situation, and say things or offer advice in an effort to smooth over the pain. I’ve caught myself doing this in trying to comfort my son. The fact is that I can’t exactly understand his pain because my daddy passed away when I was 46 years old, not thirteen.

In times of trouble, perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of others’ well-meaning-but-misguided suggestions and comments. My experience is that judgment from others in the midst of our grief adds uncertainty and feelings of guilt that are just too heavy to bear.

So I’ve been especially sensitive recently to the moments when I start to judge the actions of others. This is a habit I’m really working hard to break. I am not in someone else’s situation and I have not experienced their particular pain, so I am wholly unqualified to offer anything but empathy.

When a little righteous thought creeps in, I try to shut it right down and offer up a prayer instead. Or I do what Richard suggested to Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love, and send thoughts of light and love.

To get out of my own head, I recently explored some other folks’ difficulties from an empathetic perspective.

Clematis | Happy Simple Living blog

Please Don’t Judge Me

A new business owner confides to his friend that he is exhausted from working long hours. “You need to delegate more, and stop trying to do everything yourself,” says the friend, who has never tried to start a business. Please don’t judge me, the entrepreneur thinks. You can’t imagine the responsibility I feel for each employee who’s working overtime, how tight our finances are, and the myriad moving parts I’m juggling that simply can’t be managed by anyone else.

A mother takes her mentally challenged son out for a quick cheeseburger. While they’re waiting to order, the boy starts screaming and knocks over a stack of plastic trays. The other patrons, whose children are not mentally challenged, look at her disapprovingly and shake their heads. Please don’t judge me, she thinks as they leave. You have no idea how isolated we feel. You can’t imagine how much I was hoping to successfully pull off this small outing. You don’t know how fiercely I love this boy, and how desperately I want him to have a good life.

A man learns that he has a cancerous tumor and must have his kidney removed. He is afraid, and asks for prayers about the surgery on a Facebook post.  “Your attitude directly affects your health, so stay positive!” writes an acquaintance, who has never had cancer. “Remember that God gave you two kidneys!” writes another. Please don’t judge me, he thinks. You can’t imagine facing surgery and chemotherapy while trying to work and support a family. You don’t know what it’s like to look at your children and fear that your time with them may be cut short. 

A woman is trying to work up the courage to leave her verbally abusive, unemployed husband. A long-married friend points out that at least he’s not physically abusive, and suggests that she keep working on her marriage for the sake of their children. Please don’t judge me, the woman thinks. You don’t know what I’ve endured, and how different he is behind closed doors. You can’t begin to imagine how scared I am to set this boundary and advocate for my safety and respect.

A couple loses their precious teenage daughter in an automobile accident. A decade later, they still sometimes feel sad and tear up when talking about her. The husband overhears a friend, who has never lost a child, say, “How long is this going to continue? Isn’t it about time they moved on? It’s been ten years.” Please don’t judge us, he thinks. She was our baby girl, and we never even had a chance to say goodbye. Time has lessened our pain, but we still miss her and think about her every single day.

Clematis | Happy Simple Living blog

Love is the Answer

Last week I wrote words of gratitude to a dear friend: “You listened to me, you let me cry, you cheered me up, you sent me a great book, you understood my difficult schedule and still made time to meet me for lunch and come over, and I’ve never felt like you had any judgment or criticism or agenda with me.”

Ahhh, what a blessed gift her support has been–and how it has buoyed me. Think of those who supported you at your darkest hour, and I bet they surrounded you similarly with love. When people are hurting and we don’t know how to respond, sometimes the finest thing we have to offer is gentleness and kindness.

As a result of my recent experiences, I hope to pay it forward and get better at giving simple love and solace when others are hurting.

Rose | Happy Simple Living blog

How About You?

Was someone especially helpful and kind to you when you needed it most? What made you feel supported and loved?

Did you receive unsolicited advice, criticism or judgment during a tough time? How did you feel, and how did you respond?

I always love to hear your thoughts and experiences … and I hope your garden is thriving this summer, too.

Hugs and happy June,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Day 13 of the January Money Diet – Plan a Garden

Plan your garden during the January Money Diet

My sister and I talked right after Christmas, and agreed that there is something about the arrival of January that immediately makes us start thinking about seeds and plants and gardens.

Do you love to daydream about planting a garden in the spring? Now is the perfect time to begin making plans and sketching out ideas for your ideal plot.

In the Day #4 post  (“Figure Out What to Eat“), I enjoyed reading comments from a number of you who grow your own food and preserve it so you can enjoy it all year. We do this on a small scale, freezing things like tomatoes and cherries and pesto, but I’d like to get more serious about growing more fresh fruits and veggies this year.

Strategies for Every Space

If you live in an apartment, you might be able to choose plants that thrive in your climate and can be grown in containers. My friend Jerry grows cherry tomatoes year ’round from a pot in a sunny window in his downtown Denver apartment.

Do you have access to a roof or balcony? The Kitchn posted an informative article on rooftop gardening.

If you have a small yard or garden plot, you may enjoy the “Square Foot Gardening” method to maximize your yield from a small space.

If you have a typical yard, you might be inspired by the Urban Homestead website. This family grows 3 tons of food on 1/10th of an acre!

If you don’t have a yard but long to really dig in the dirt, you might check out the community gardens in your area. The American Community Gardening Association has a nifty interactive map to help you find one near you.

Time to Daydream

It’s always fun to peruse the new seed catalogs and online offerings each year to see what new varieties have been introduced. These are some of my favorite seed companies:

The site MicroEcoFarming.com has a wealth of information about growing your own food — including tips for how to sell what you grow as an extra revenue source. You may also want to check out the Happy Simple Gardening Pinterest board, where I collect photos and ideas for growing good food and flowers (with a minimum amount of labor, naturally).

How About You?

Would you like to start planning your garden? Check out some gardening sites, sketch out ideas, and make a list of the seed varieties you want to plant this year. If you don’t have a garden, daydream about what you’d like to grow someday. Leave a comment on this page if you participate in this challenge.

We’d especially love to hear about any edible varieties you’ve grown successfully in the past. If you have favorite gardening sites and sources, we’d love to hear about those, too.

Happy daydreaming,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo:   Elspeth Briscoe

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

A Close-Up View of the Garden

Snow peas blooming

 

In late April, I posted about planting peas.

Planting Peas

 

I was worried that I hadn’t gotten them in the ground early enough. A couple weeks later, we had a huge spring snowstorm on Mother’s Day weekend. This week we’ve had temperatures in the 80s and 90s. The peas are hanging in there, though, thanks to regular watering… Peas blooming in the garden

 

…and a dense planting arrangement around a willow trellis. Peas on a willow trellis

 

Despite the heat, the peas are forming. Growing snow peas in the garden

 

I love the way my camera helps me focus on small details. It’s amazing to see the baby pea pod emerge from the blossom.

Baby snow pea pod emerging

We should be able to start picking a few peas later this week, a thought that brings me no end of joy.

How about you? What do you have coming up? I’d love to hear how your garden is growing in this lovely month of June.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.