A wonderful thing happened today, in between garden and kitchen chores (Happy Veteran's Day, everyone!). I noticed that the hummingbirds have found the feeder I put out for them, so I went out to sit and watch them. Hummingbirds visit our water 'fountain' (more like a bubbler)  year round, and they feed from whatever flowers I have blooming in the yard. However around this time of year I like to put out some simple syrup (2:1 ratio) for them, as they need more calories to stay warm during our frosty nights.

I was watching, and staying a safe distance away so as not to disturb them, when I noticed that the water in the fountain was low. I got up to turn on the hose and as I was filling the fountain, the hummingbirds buzzed around my head, a little territorially but not terribly aggressive, more friendly. So I got my camera and hung out under the Chinese Pistache tree where the feeder is hung, and waited to see what would happen.

What happened was a veritable troop of hummingbirds came to see who I was and what I was doing in their tree. They chirped at me and flew around, then apparently decided I was ok, because they sat on the branches all around me and drank from the feeder without caution. I took a ton of pictures; it was hard to decide on just one or two to show you. It was an awesome fifteen minutes of hummingbird heaven.

In the flowers, the bees are buzzing - it's a cool day, but sunny, so the bees have got to get some of their chores in, just as we do. Did you know bees won't poop in their hive? They wait for a good time to go outside and then take care of business. I saw lots of bees just hovering near the entrance; house bees taking a bathroom break? Lots more bees were in the flowers. I have a few sunflowers, lots of zinnias and cosmos still, some tithonia, plenty of salvia, and quite a bit of borage still blooming.

Some fall colors are starting to show - the Crepe Myrtle trees in my neighbor's yard, our peach tree. The blueberries are the most notable.

We spent a lot of time working on row covers today. I decided that each bed needed more coverage,  so we rearranged some things. This way, the sides are clipped tightly, but the ends are more 'fluttery' - that way oxygen flows, and then during nice days I put those ends up so that everything can just move through. Last year this system worked fine.

As you can see, we are sorely lacking in enough of the row cover - we've covered only four beds out of 13. I've got more on order. I really miscalculated. It doesn't help that this stuff is in quantities/measurements for large farms, so we're left trying to cut it and fit it to our plan. But it really helps here during the winter season. Last year we were able to harvest food all year round. I've read that when you put on a light row cover, it's like you've moved 500 miles South. For us that would be San Diego or Northern Mexico. We can grow a lot in that climate!

Last year I ordered cheapo row cover from Amazon, but this year I got a good Agribon 19 cover from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. I'm hoping that we can reuse it for next year, but if not, we're talking $150, not horribly expensive. And worth it when you consider the savings of not having to buy organic produce from the store.

One thing you have to watch with the row cover is water. This Agribon stuff stops a good amount of rain from getting in the beds, so supplemental water from the rain barrel may be needed. However, the humidity level under the covers is higher, so that helps. I did notice a lot of mushrooms in my beds last year, plus slugs. That reminds me to order the Sluggo now.

Seeds for all winter greens went in a week and half ago, and are already starting to come up.

Not much else to do in the garden but watch and wait. I did finally receive my seed potatoes, so those went in today - Colorado Rose and La Ratte Fingerling.

In the kitchen, I worked on pear butter. The pears at Whole Foods have been so beautiful that I decided to buy a whole bunch and hopefully make enough butter for teacher/co-worker gifts. It's been a fun project, and the whole house smells lovely. I cooked down 24 chopped pears, six each of Bosc, D'Anjou, Bartlett, and Red Bartlett, with a little homemade apple juice and some lemon juice. Once soft, I put them through the food mill, then returned them to the pan with a touch of cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, a whole vanilla bean, and some honey. It cooked down all day and made the most beautiful butter. And the chickens enjoyed the warm skins and seeds.

I also made chewy molasses cookies, because it felt like the right kind of weather to do that. It's sunny but chilly and the spices in the pear butter just smelled so good, I had to continue that theme. I'm hoping we'll have a few left for me to take to my staff meeting tomorrow!