Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year Activities

I don't know how the rest of you MidWest gardener-types spend your dreary brown winters, but beyond my feverish browsing through the plant and seed catalogues that now appear in  my mail box every day, I spend the early Winter catching up on chores and planning for next year's gardening.  And enjoying my Christmas presents.

Mrs. ProfessorRoush presented me with a Christmas gift this year that allowed me to do all three activities at once (chores, planning, and enjoying presents, that is).  Knowing that my Purple Martin gourd-type houses are on their last legs, she presented me with a second Purple Martin condo to put out this Spring.  As those of you who stoop to providing these plastic monstrosities to the Martin masses are aware, these houses must be assembled from detailed plans, and that was how ProfessorRoush spent his New Year's Eve this year; first spreading out the parts over the living room floor and then watching it slowly form a new bird domicile. What a wild and crazy New Year's Eve that was.  What, you thought I'd do it outside?  It HAS been unseasonably warm in Kansas so far this Winter, but I'm not that crazy. 

I realize that I should probably go after something more classy for my garden than these pre-fabbed S&K Manufacturing Purple Martin Houses, but these are all that are easily available from Tractor Supply or Orschlen's in this area, so that is the harvest I reap.  And, anyway, the Martins seem to love them. 

Do you keep Martins?  I've become convinced that beyond entertaining me with their acrobatic antics as I mow, my Martins really do cut down on insect problems in my garden.  Since I don't spray insecticides anymore, the area is safe for their families; ideal really with their house perched fair above the prairie grasses.  And maybe, just maybe, when the Japanese Beetles make it this far west, a family or two of Martins will create a Japanese Beetle non-copulation zone around my rose garden.


  1. We had a thriving colony of martins when we lived north of Topeka (the 1990's, give or take a year or so), but we can't seem to attract them here, despite having what seems like excellent habitat for them. Greg is quite frustrated, as we've got a great martin house just waiting for proper occupants which he religiously raises and lowers, keeps clear of sparrow nests, and so forth.

    The nearest colony is a couple miles away, as the crow flies. My favorite hypothesis is that the colonies are only now rebounding from the horrible April freeze we had 5 years ago this spring, the first year that we put the house out. As I understand purple martin population dynamics, they'll fill up current colonies before expanding out to find suitable new nesting sites.

    We're keeping our fingers crossed that THIS year will be the start of a martin filled sky for us.

  2. I hope it will be for you. I love to watch them pirouet around the sky as I mow. Do you have trouble with sparrows inhabiting the houses? You're pretty good about reading up on things so I'm sure you know to only put out the Martin houses when the scouts arrive in your area. I've even held it a bit longer. Last year I didn't go up till I saw the first Purple Martin in mid-April; they swarmed to it within hours after that.

  3. Each year we've had to clean out some sparrow nests, but the sparrows here don't seem as tenacious as some of the ones we dealt with in Mayetta!

    Yes, we do keep the house down until the scouts are reported in the area. Greg checks for the northward progression of them via a website. I can get that from him, if you're interested.

    We try not to completely lose hope until it's been a couple weeks past when the first years are back in the area.

    My mantra for this spring (among many): "We WILL get martins this year. We WILL get martins this year!" (I wonder if bird-napping would be helpful....)


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