Basic birdwatching and bird feeding: Make feathered friends in Faded Summer!

I’ve always enjoyed seeing birds around my yard, but over the past couple of years I’ve made an effort to learn a bit more about them and provide supplemental food and water that would appeal to them. I’ve come to realize that basic birdwatching (just being a novice!), and encouraging birds to visit my yard, flowers, feeders, and water sources, is one of the most satisfying aspects of gardening.

Homebuilt platform feeder, visible from the bench at the end of my garden - and also from my work-from-home office window!
Homebuilt platform feeder, visible from the bench at the end of my garden – and also from my work-from-home office window, which is out of frame on the left!

Providing resources for birds is very simple, and a perfect activity for Faded Summer. I can’t possibly provide a comprehensive “birding guide” in one blog post, but here are the most basic elements – and a few of my favorite resources linked at the end!

Why begin birdwatching (and feeding) now?
In the midwestern United States, as in many areas, there are certain birds that are here pretty much year-round: Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, sparrows, and even American Robins, among others. But in Spring and then again beginning in August (Faded Summer!), a larger variety can be attracted and viewed due to Fall migration. At this time of year, the birds who migrate to their northern nesting grounds in Spring are headed back to their Southern homes – sometimes as far away as Mexico and South America!

So as migration season progresses, even if certain birds don’t live in this area during the actual summer months, they can still be spotted for a few weeks during the migration seasons. For that reason, it can be quite satisfying to put out certain types of food in Faded Summer! (For more about basic birdwatching, migration patterns, maps, and species, be sure to visit All About Birds – a free resource provided by the Cornell University Ornithology Lab. )

Water before food
Water is, unsurprisingly, even more important for birds than food. A great way to start your birdwatching journey is to simply set up an inexpensive bird bath, and keep it filled with fresh water. Even better, a fountain with running water! Birds are attracted to the sound and sparkle of trickling water, and a fountain will draw them quickly to your space for drinking and bathing.

My curb-picked tiered fountain... a challenge to keep  it clean, but worth the effort!
My curb-picked tiered fountain… a challenge to keep it clean, but worth the effort!

I also provide pollinator watering stations in my garden. These are simple dishes filled with rocks and water, which bees and butterflies use to hydrate and/or sun themselves.

Pollinator watering/sunning station
Pollinator watering/sunning station. It dries out quickly, so I have to refill it sometimes multiple times a day.

Placing feeders
We’ll talk about types of food in a moment, but first a couple thoughts on where to place a feeder or two. Birds love a bit of nearby cover, so if you can place your feeders near trees or shrubbery, that will give them the protection they need from predators.

Places to perch are also important. This requirement is easily met just by hanging feeders from shepherd’s hooks, and the feeders themselves will also often have built-in perches. Fences and arbors also help fill this need. Of course, you will also want your feeders and baths visible from your window or a garden seating area so you can watch the fun!

My platform feeder is on the left, with a peanut feeder barely visible behind it. There are more peanut feeders, my hummingbird feeder, and my fountain, just out of frame to the right. This is the view from my office window. The foliage and bushy flowers, the large boxwood shrub upper right, and a lilac bush about 20 feet away to the right, provide lots of cover and even nesting space.

Types of feeders and food
There are many styles of feeders, and many are designed to attract specific birds with specific food. For example, cardinals and blue jays will pick sunflower seeds and whole peanuts off a simple tray feeder, while Baltimore Orioles love grape jelly in a dish as well as oranges sliced in half. Eastern Goldfinches love sunflowers (they’ll hang upside down off drooping sunflower heads to grab the seed right off the plants!) as well as hanging feeders full of Nyjer seed. Many birds also love safflower seed.

It’s easy to go overboard with feeders and food, and it can get messy. I’ve narrowed mine down to a homebuilt covered tray, hanging feeders with chopped peanuts, and a hanging Nyjer feeder. I’ve got examples of most of these linked in Resources at the end of this post.

Goldfinches love sunflowers!
I absolutely LOVE Eastern Goldfinches, but they only come to my yard when the sunflowers start blooming. Despite their scarcity for me personally, they are in fact the official state bird of Iowa. I always feel like someone should make remarks from a podium when they finally arrive in my central Iowa garden!

A great tip, even for basic birdwatching, is to avoid commercial “wild bird food” mixes if you can. Fillers in these mixes such as milo and millet make a huge mess and attract birds that are already over-populated, such as sparrows. After a great deal of reading and trial, I’ve fine-tuned my menu and now purchase black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, chopped peanuts, nyjer, and whole peanuts in bulk. My feeders are placed near patches of seed-grown sunflowers and zinnias, which birds (and pollinators!) love.

In winter, I add suet cakes in small hanging “cages” which woodpeckers enjoy – but I avoid these in summer because the ingredients not only melt and make a mess but can also coat feathers and make flying difficult.

A favorite visitor in my garden is the ruby-throated hummingbird. In my previous home I had about a dozen of them. Currently I only have three. I’m told it’s likely the same three, returning year after year – which is pretty amazing when you consider how far they have to migrate! They are beautiful and SO entertaining to watch! I put up a couple of hanging feeders every year and fill them weekly with homemade nectar. (Honestly, the red-colored store-bought nectar is expensive and unnecessary!)

Glass hummingbird feeder
I like this style feeder but the plastic perches get broken easily so it’s not the sturdiest choice.

Making homemade nectar is so simple! The recipe is four parts water and one part granulated sugar. So, for example, 2 cups of water and 1/2-cup of sugar. Boil the water, then remove from heat and add the sugar. Stir until it’s dissolved, then let it cool completely before adding to the hummingbird feeder.

It’s important to rinse out the feeders and clean them when replenishing the nectar because mold can quickly start and grow. Hummingbirds will avoid the feeder if it’s dirty!

Another style hummingbird feeder
Another style of hummingbird feeder, with trumpet-shaped ports. Hummingbirds love trumpet-shaped flowers, so this one is popular! The yellow centers are supposed to be “bee guards,” to keep bees away. They don’t do much to discourage ants, though.

Ok not gonna lie, I ADORE crows! They are smart, social, and so interesting! And many people have had the amazing opportunity to actually befriend neighborhood crows by providing supplemental food and exchanging “gifts.” I would love for this to happen to me, but so far it hasn’t.

The best (and only) helpful hint I can give you on this topic is to search for videos about “befriending crows” on Youtube or even TikTok. It appears the trick is to be consistent, providing treats (whole peanuts or cat food kibble) at the same time everyday – which explains why I’ve had no luck with this. I need to make a more concerted effort – maybe this will be my year!

Here are a few of my favorite birding resources and products. Please note that all links are Amazon affiliate links – this means if you click through and make a purchase, it costs you nothing but I do earn a small commission which helps support the blog. So, understanding that all of these items (or similar) are probably available to you locally, thank you for any purchases you might make! Also note that my platform feeder is homebuilt and my fountain was a curb find (see photos earlier in this post) so I don’t have links for those.

“Birds in Your Backyard” – a great “beginning birder” book!
National Geographic Bird Identification Guide

A lightweight, inexpensive bird bath – I had this one at a previous home. It’s lovely, but depending on placement it might require being weighted or staked so it remains upright in a storm.
A heavier ceramic bird bath – just one example among hundreds.

Hummingbird feeder – Again, dozens of styles of these, but I use this general design a lot. Skip the red nectar!
An oriole feeder to hold jelly and orange halves – I’m trying this one for the first time this year!
Metal mesh feeders for chopped peanuts. The starlings had taken over my tube-shaped mesh peanut feeder, so to discourage them I switched to these ball-shaped ones. Too hard for bigger “bully birds” (sorry starlings, you know it’s true!) to cling to, and even the smaller birds have to work harder to get the peanut pieces out of the smaller holes so the peanuts last longer.
Cage-style suet feeders for cool- and cold-weather months. Woodpeckers love suet cakes, and these feeders are inexpensive and easy to refill.
I’m trying this “tail prop” design suet feeder for the first time soon!
Kaytee sock-style feeder for Nyjer seed – attracts goldfinches.

Metal mesh and sock-style feeders.
Metal mesh and sock-style feeders. I’ve always liked the picture on the right of the goldfinches – I love seeing them in my yard, and that one on the crooked pole just seems very non-chalant!

Final thoughts
If you would like to enjoy Faded Summer by making a few feathered friends, consider putting up a platform feeder and a metal mesh peanut feeder. You can start out with just black oil sunflower seeds and whole peanuts on the platform, plus chopped peanuts in the mesh feeder. Add a suet feeder when the weather gets cool, and definitely let me know if you make friends with any crows!

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Tablescape ideas: A sunflower-themed table in Fall Colors

When I prattle on about “Faded Summer” (which is often!) I like to say that the unofficial Fifth Season is meant to serve as a bridge between “Summer Brights” and “Fall Bolds” – meaning colors of course! Well this table is a perfect example of what I mean by “Fall Bolds” – a beautiful range of reds, oranges, and golden-yellows.

Bold Fall Colors in a sunflower themed tablescape

I was going for a sunflower-theme tablescape, because the table was in honor of National Sunflower Day which is typically the first Saturday in August. I was going to do more of a muted color palette (you know – a Faded Summer version) but I found those gorgeous silk sunflower stems at the consignment store and just had to use them, so that put me squarely into “Fall Bolds” territory.

Bold Fall Colors in a sunflower themed tablescape

Everything for this table was either thrifted or from other secondhand sources, except for the flatware which I purchased a couple years ago through Amazon. It’s “Napoleon Bee” by Wallace (affiliate link – if you make a purchase, it costs you nothing additional but I earn a small commission to help support the blog!). I use this flatware pretty much any time I do a flower- or garden-themed table of any kind. It is high quality stainless.

Wallace Napoleon Bee flatware in a sunflower themed tablescape

The centerpiece of course features those beautiful faux flower stems, and a fun ceramic pitcher in a perfect golden sunflower hue. I set it on a burlap placemat and also added a woven trivet for additional texture. The salt and pepper set carries through the “chunky pottery” look of the dinnerware.

Sunflower themed tablescape in bold Fall colors

The place setting consists of thrifted bold red dinner plates and green-bordered salad plates that feature a kind of petal shape. I don’t have a full set of salad plates with any kind of sunflower design, but I love this look because I think it mimics a flower rather well even if it’s not a literal representation.

Sunflower themed tablescape in bold Fall colors

Napkins are again in bold Fall colors and have a bit of texture as well. The silver napkin rings are simply a metallic element to echo the flatware.

Sunflower themed tablescape in bold Fall colors

The glassware for this table is the vintage Central Park pattern by Anchor Hocking. There are actually two shades of green in this pattern – one is more olive-toned and is called Ivy Green. I have three of those. The other is called Fern Green, and I have one in that hue. I prefer the Ivy, but I do have to use both when setting a table for four until I manage to thrift a fourth one in Ivy.

Sunflower themed tablescape in bold Fall colors

The one salad plate I do have with an actual sunflower on it is actually made of melamine – I’ve only found the one, but I felt it deserved a spot (even if by itself!) in a sunflower-themed tablescape so I set it on top of a handmade ceramic pillar-candle stand. You can’t really see the stand, which serves as a riser, but I envision some small “finger food” being passed around on this plate. Stuffed mushroom caps, perhaps?

Sunflower themed tablescape in bold Fall colors

A couple shots from different seats around the tableā€¦

Sunflower themed tablescape in bold Fall colors
Sunflower themed tablescape in bold Fall colors

And the put-away shot where everything is gathered up to go back into the cupboards.

Sunflower themed tablescape in bold Fall colors

Here’s a Pinnable image in case you’d like to save this post for future ideas!

Pinterest Image for Sunflower Tablescape Post

I’m sharing my sunflower-themed tablescape over on Susan’s blog, Between Naps on the Porch, for Tablescape Thursday! Be sure to click through for more inspiration!

Posted in Tablescapes | 2 Comments

Five simple ways to decorate for Faded Summer

“What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps one in a
continued state of inelegance.”
– Jane Austen, 1796

I’ll be honest, “Faded Summer” is kinda kickin’ my butt this year because Mother Nature is really clinging to the “Summer” half of the equation. It’s been hot, and very dry here – we’re a four-season state, and our lawn has been crispy and brown since the middle of June. I can say with certainty, I will be ready for Fall this year when September ends.

BUT! Even if it’s oppresively hot outside, the beautiful thing is we can still enjoy the unofficial Fifth Season inside with a few quick Faded Summer decorating ideas that serve as a transition into Fall. Keeping in mind the Faded Summer color palette, the chance to use slightly heavier textures, and motifs like crows, apples, and sunflowers, here are my Top 5 favorite easy decor changes to make for Faded Summer!

Kitchen and bathroom linens – go for solid muted colors or plaids in towels if you can’t find any motif-based designs you like. If you use a valance over your kitchen or bathroom window, or a fabric shower curtain, consider an inexpensive seasonal replacement.

Dishes and tablescapes – of course! Visit thrift and discount stores to find dishes in Faded Summer colors or patterns that will coordinate with what you already have. A one-two punch on the table can be a plain white dinner plate topped with a patterned salad plate. (I recently found a set of four taupe dinner plates by JCP Home that have made a marvelous neutral backdrop for Faded Summer tables!) Thrifted glassware in the right hues can contribute to the look. I’ll stay away from amber-colored glassware until Fall, but shades of muted blue, rose, plum, or olive green are wonderful! Don’t forget placemats, napkins, and tablecloths, too – again, choose solid colors or plaids within the color palette if the options look too “Autumn” at this time.

Faded Summer tablescape ideas

Throw pillows – always a go-to for an easy, inexpensive decor refresh. You can slide pillow covers over existing pillows if you don’t wish to store a lot of seasonal pillows.

Faded Summer throw pillows

Silk, real, and drying flowers – Cut and bring in real flowers from the garden, even the ones that are showing their age. I love the color variations often found at this time of year within individual blooms. Grab a couple small bunches of grocery store roses in cream, pink, or yellow, and hang them upside down to dry! Clip those big beautiful hydrangea blooms and try your hand at drying them – I had a set of Limelight blooms that went from green to tan as they aged and lasted for two full years as a decor element.

Faded Summer flowers cut, drying, and dried

Vignettes, styled shelves, and wall racks – Try some new tabletop displays/vignettes in appropriate colors. I love antique books (without the paper covers) for this purpose and my small collection is varied enough that I can pull some examples to create a small seasonal display. I also have a collection of beautiful decorating magazines such as Victoria, Cottage Style, and English Home, and a basket that I use to display some of them. I change out the first few in the basket with the seasons so the cover photography contributes to the look! Change out your styled shelves with seasonal items, and use peg racks to display old shirts or jackets in appropriate colors and textures. I love the look of faded denim with a flower-embellished straw hat.

Antique books in Faded Summer bindings
Faded Summer styled shelf

Hope these categories give you some Faded Summer decorating inspiration, and remember that it doesn’t have to be expensive. Shop thrift and discount stores, and keep an eye out year-round for items that might help you create the perfect Faded Summer look to take you “from Summer brights to Fall bolds.”

If you’d like a free copy of the official comprehensive guide to the unofficial Fifth Season of Faded Summer, just click here and pop in your email address – I’ll send it to you!

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Happy National Thrift Shop Day!

It’s National Thrift Shop Day, an opportunity to recognize and support the contributions that thrift stores and other secondhand retail venues make to our individual lives and our local communities. I am not going to have the opportunity to actually shop today, so I thought I would celebrate with a blog post showcasing the many elements of my home that have been made possible through thrift stores.

While there is indeed a short list of things I won’t buy from thrift stores, it’s fair to say that about 95 percent of my clothing, home decor, and furnishings (and of course my larger-than-normal tablescaping stash) come from thrift stores.

Here are a few views around the house that simply would not reflect my actual personal style if most of the elements had not been thrifted:

Thrift store and secondhand living room
Living room view. The only things not thrifted/secondhand are the television and the slipcover on the sofa.
Thrift store and secondhand living room
The view upon entering the house. Not thrifted: the white stepback cabinet, hand-built by my sweetie.
Thrift store and secondhand kitchen
Eat-in kitchen view. Not thrifted: the microwave.
Thrift store and secondhand screened porch
Three-season front porch view. Everything thrifted/secondhand.

Of course, most of my tablescaping stash is thrifted too. Here are just a few tables I’ve set in the last few years comprised almost entirely of items found in thrift stores and secondhand venues.

Thrift store tablescape
Spring tablescape! Not thrifted, the white dinner plates (Home Goods) and the flatware, an Amazon splurge called Napoleon Bee by Wallace (affiliate link – I earn a small commission if you purchase through my link, but it costs you nothing extra).
Thrift store tablescape
Christmas tablescape. Not thrifted/secondhand: the green stemware (Dollar Tree) and the sparkly placemats (a gift).
Thrift store tablescape
Princess-themed tablescape. Not thrifted/secondhand: The chargers, an Amazon splurge.
Thrift store tablescape
Christmass tablescape. Everything thrifted.
Thrift store tablescape
Blue and yellow Summer tablescape. Not thrifted/secondhand: the blue stemware (Dollar Tree) and the white dinner plates (Home Goods clearance).
Thrift store tablescape
Fairytale tablescape. Not thrifted: the Allgala chargers (an Amazon splurge) and the flatware (also from Amazon). Both links are affiliate links. I earn a small commission if you purchase, but you pay nothing extra.
Thrift store tablescape
Christmas tablescape. Everything thrifted.

Now I’m not saying that any of these pictures – room arrangements, furniture choices, or even tablesettings – are to be considered perfection. I’m just offering them as examples of how I’ve been able to achieve looks that I personally love because of the existence of thrift stores.

Secondhand shopping can be downright thrilling – magical! – if you take the time to hunt for and cultivate your own personal style. And that is perfection!

Also in celebration of National Thrift Shop Day, I thought I would share a list of my personal favorite local and regional thrift shops and secondhand venues:

Goodwill of Central Iowa
Many Hands Thrift Market
Stuff, Etc. consignment store
The Brass Armadillo Antique Mall
The Picker Knows Antique Mall
Memory Lane Antiques
Antiques Iowa Antique Mall
Habitat for Humanity Re-Store
Hartmann Auctions
What Cheer, Iowa Flea Market
Sparks, Kansas Flea Market

And a few other local options that I don’t get to as often as I’d like:

Salvation Army Thrift Store
Animal Lifeline Thrift Store
The Giving Tree Thrift Store
Changing Spaces Consignment
Collectamania Antiques and Collectables
Iowa State Fairgrounds Flea Market
Hope Ministries Thrift Store
St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store
Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Thrift Store
A-Okay Antiques

Feel free to leave a comment with your local favorites!

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A simple Faded Summer tablescape

I think the biggest challenge in specifically creating a Faded Summer tablescape is to not forget about the word “faded.” For me, a summer tablescape could be based on a garden, a beach, a visit to Disney World, or any summer activity. And of course, it’s still summer so those themes definitely still apply.

But while it is still summer, over here it’s technically Faded Summer (for more about that, click here to pop in your email address and grab your free PDF version of the official guide to the unofficial fifth season!). To me that’s definitely garden-related because the color palette comes from the colors of fading flowers. And it’s not always simple to capture those colors in dinnerware, especially if you’re like me and rely on the whims of finding things in the thrift stores to build your tablescaping collection.

This year’s Faded Summer tablescape does a particularly good job of capturing the colors and textures of the unofficial fifth season. It still looks like summer, but a faded or more muted version of those summer colors.

Faded Summer tablescape
Faded Summer tablescape

Each place setting is grounded by a green-checked placemat in muted “botancial” green, and textured rattan chargers in deep brown.

Faded Summer tablescape
Faded Summer tablescape

I love using this antique Limoges pattern by Haviland in a Faded Summer tablescape because the pattern is pretty and gardeny but not too brightly-colored. It’s called “Trellis.” The dessert plate looks lovely over the “faded green” pottery salad plate, with the heavy-textured faded pink-check napkin underneath. The plain taupe dinnerplate makes a great backdrop not just for the rest of the plate stack but also for the food that will soon be placed upon it.

Faded Summer tablescape

Oh those lovely edges and textures!

Faded Summer tablescape

Our flatware is “Napoleon Bee” by Wallace. (<– This is an affiliate link – I earn a small commission if you click through to Amazon to order yours, but it costs you nothing extra!)

Faded Summer tablescape
Faded Summer tablescape

Our glassware/tumbler is vintage “Metropolitan” by Libbey in a perfectly muted plum tone. I adore this color for Faded Summer – it’s even echoed in the floral colors of the centerpiece.

Faded Summer tablescape

Speaking of the centerpiece, you can see I didn’t go overboard with that this year (like I might have in years past) but of course it uses silk flowers in the deepening hues of Faded Summer as well. They’re collected into a textured woven basket – almost Fall but not quite!

Faded Summer tablescape

Here are a couple more views. I placed a dessert fork in the upper left of each place setting but I didn’t get a close-up picture of it. It’s my gorgeous handed-down “Chandelier” by Oneida. It will of course be used with the Haviland Trellis dessert plate, which as a guest you would remove off to the upper left of the place setting just prior to picking up your napkin.

Faded Summer tablescape
Faded Summer tablescape

And that’s it – a simple, lovely Faded Summer tablescape that provides a visual “rest” between the tropical colors of Summer and the bold colors of Autumn. I love doing these put-away shots – they show how well everything coordinates together, just before it all goes back into the cupboards.

Faded Summer tablescape

Here’s an image to Pin if you’d like to save this year’s Faded Summer tablescape for future ideas.

I will be sharing my Faded Summer Tablescape for Tablescape Thursday over at Susan’s lovely blog, Between Naps on the Porch. Be sure to click through for more tablescaping ideas!

Posted in Faded Summer, Tablescapes | 2 Comments