Do you remember those days, oh so long ago, when your parents told you about the birds and the bees? Depending how Mom or Dad approached or explained the topic, it could have been very exciting. Well, today’s essay will not be quite as exciting, but it will have a lot of useful information. As you may remember, last week's column was about honeybees. Today I want to talk about the honey that those bees provide for us, and then I want to move on to taking care of the birds that will be visiting your yard over the next few months — how you can care for them and keep them coming back.
What is honey? Basically, it is the food made by bees through a long process, starting with the nectar gathered from plants. Once back inside the hive the gathering bees give the nectar to the worker bees that consume, digest and regurgitate it. That is basically how honey is made. The smell, color and flavor depend on the types of flowers visited, be they orange, clover or apple blossoms. As it is made, the honey is store in the hive in cells that form the honey- combs.
We have to give the bees credit for creating one of the most delicious foods we know. It is more, a whole lot more, than something to sweeten a breakfast bun or a cup of tea. I think that one of the most amazing properties is that it never spoils. I have read that edible honey has been found in Egyptian tombs that are thousands of years old, although I do not think I would want to be the first to taste whatever was in that jar.
Here is a quick and tasty recipe involving honey:
Remove the legs from 1 ½ pounds of raw shrimp, do not remove the shells, combine a cup of boiling water, 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, 2 ½ tablespoons of honey (I like wildflower or clover) in a large bowl and stir until the salt dissolves. Now add 2 cups of ice cubes and stir until the mixture cools. Add the shrimp and refrigerate for 20 or more minutes. Remove the shrimp and pat them dry and then toss with 2 more teaspoons of honey. Preheat the grill to medium high.
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In a bowl combine 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil, a quarter cup of finely chopped parsley, 3 tablespoons of finely chopped white onion, 2 tablespoons fine chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried) and two minced garlic cloves. Stir well and set aside. Arrange the unpeeled shrimp on the grill you have coated with cooking spray. Cook uncovered for 2 ½ to 3 minutes on a side until charred and cooked through. Add the shrimp to the bowl with the vinegar mixture, toss well to serve and arrange on a platter and serve.
OK, let’s see how to take care of our fine feathered friends during the upcoming cold, frigid weather. I know I welcome them every morning as I look out the window while I am having breakfast, watching them scurry around, not wasting a seed and darting in and out of the feeders. I have two of them, each filled with different foods and they are set so that the squirrels can’t get to them. The top is made so they slide off if they land on it. And then there was the problem of climbing up the pole and trying to get at the birds from that angle. Well, a little axle grease solved that issue. Each season, after a few futile attempts, they give up.
When I began watching these birds so many years ago, my first interest was in the number of different birds that visited each day. And, different groups came at different times of the day. During the dead of winter, if you have the right foods (we will talk about that next week), you might see sparrows and finches, chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches and cardinals. And each year, late in the winter I always look forward to seeing a pair of mourning doves. The parade is endless.
Next week we will look into bird feeders and where to put them and types of seeds that they like.