Category Archives: Kitchen & Gardening

National Hummingbird Day — Small But Mighty

Image from our Praise for the Pollinators 2022 Wall Calendar. Illustration by Colin Johnson.

The first Saturday of September is National Hummingbird Day! Let’s celebrate this amazing and beautiful pollinator.

In the hummingbird world, parenting responsibilities rest solely on the mother’s tiny shoulders. After her jelly bean–size chicks are born, she provides them with protein in the form of miniscule insects every 20 minutes. Two weeks later she turns her attention to teaching her fledglings the art of aeronautics — how to hover, dive, and defend their territories, how to catch mosquitoes in midair, and even how to snitch prey from a spider’s web before its owner can get to the catch. She also passes along her knowledge of which flowers replenish their nectar most frequently. With their mama’s guidance, baby hummers enter adulthood by their one-month birthdays fully prepared to assume their role of pollinator.

Here’s some more fun facts about these miraculous creatures from The Old Farmer’s Almanac:

WHAT IS A HUMMINGBIRD’S SIZE?
These diminutive birds weigh only about 4 grams — or .141 ounce! That’s tiny! For comparison, a U.S. penny weighs 2.5 grams. The egg of a hummingbird weighs just 0.4 gram to 2.4 grams. A newly hatched bird is just 0.62 gram. However, when it’s time to migrate, hummers pack on the grams for the long trip — sometimes doubling their weight.

They are among the smallest birds, too, with most species measuring 3 to 5 inches long. The smallest bird, the bee hummingbird, is only 2 inches long — and weighs less than 2 grams.

HOW FAST DO HUMMINGBIRDS BEAT THEIR WINGS?
Hummingbirds, with their iridescent colors and fairly short wings, beat their wings as fast as 80 times per second! They do NOT flap their wings — they rotate them in a figure 8, which makes it even more remarkable! In fact, their name comes from the fact that they move their wings so fast that they make a humming noise. Hummingbirds can hover, stop instantly, and fly in different directions (even upside down) with exquisite control.

HOW FAST IS A HUMMINGBIRD’S HEART RATE?
Hummingbirds have a very high metabolic rate, with heart rate of 1,260 beats per minute and breaths of 250 times per minute.

The long flights and wing-beating can make a hummingbird weary. As often as every 15 minutes, they look for a place to rest on trees and shrubs with small leaves. Particular plants include birch trees, butterfly bushes, and honey locusts. Don’t worry if you do not have these plants in your yard — your hummingbird might also rest on your feeder’s hanger.

WHAT’S A HUMMINGBIRD’S LIFE SPAN?
The life expectancy of a hummingbird is from 3 to 6 years. The oldest surviving hummingbird was 9 years old. Females outlive males by several years, probably due to the males’ high energy costs of defending territories and the long spring and fall migrations.


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Celebrate Pi

Photo from Pillsbury.

We love celebrating special days during each month of the year. It’s even better to celebrate by sharing pie!

Pi Day is an annual celebration of the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is observed on March 14 (3/14 in the month/day format) since 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant digits of π. In 2009, the United States House of Representatives supported the designation of Pi Day. UNESCO’s 40th General Conference decided Pi Day as the International Day of Mathematics in November 2019.

Math Solutions offers more intriguing information:

Pi Day is when mathematicians and math lovers around the world celebrate pi, often approximated to 3.14, which is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

The circle is often the first shape many learn in childhood, and can be observed in nature in pinecones, apples, oranges, the cornea in our eyes…the circle is everywhere!

The first calculation of pi was done by Archimedes of Syracuse (287-212), an ancient Greek mathematician and astronomer. He calculated the area of a circle with the use of the Pythagorean Theorem.

Pi has been used by different cultures throughout history. The ancient Babylonians and Egyptians used approximations for pi when calculating the area of a circle. Zu Chongzhi (429–501), a Chinese mathematician, created his own ratio that approximated pi in much the same way Archimedes did. Georges-Louis Leclerc (1707-1788), a French mathematician, showed that Pi could be calculated with probability.

Since its discovery, pi has been used every day. Engineering, construction, GPS, simulation, radio, TV, telephones, power generation, motors…all of this is possible thanks to the magic of pi! Some historians even debate whether pi was used when the ancient Pyramids of Giza were constructed because the structures are nearly perfect geometrically.

If you want to make pie to celebrate pi, here are 100 recipes from Taste of Home. Yum!

And here’s a fun video about pi from TEDEd:


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Artist Spotlight — Salli S. Swindell and Nate Padavick: They Draw & Cook

They Draw and Cook 2020 wall calendar

We’re so happy to welcome the family of artists from the popular website They Draw & Cook™. This 2020 illustrated recipe calendar of the same name will treat your senses to a feast of colorful culinary inspiration featuring a diverse array of styles and delectable dishes from different cultures.

Salli S. Swindell and Nate Padavick, a sister-and-brother design and illustration team, have created hundreds of illustrations for magazines and books. Inspired by their love of cooking and doodling, the duo founded the popular They Draw & Cook™ (TDAC) website in 2010. The idea for TDAC formed during a family vacation as Nate was trying to re-create a favorite dish while Salli sat at the counter with her watercolors. Today TDAC features the internet’s largest collection of illustrated recipes created by artists from around the world and has become a big, happy, creative playground where people share their love of food and art.

We happily curated the 2020 They Draw & Cook™ calendar from this varied and talented bunch. Some of them are professional illustrators and practicing artists, while others are passionate doodlers and drawers.


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They Draw and Cook 2020 wall calendar

Artist Spotlight — Barbara Dziadosz Loves to Cook and Draw

The Kitchen Art 2018 wall calendar features the charming illustrations of Barbara Dziadosz. The lighthearted 1950s-style illustrations featured in this calendar lend a retro feel to today’s whole-foods movement. Bright colors and fresh textures showcase imaginative food combinations that will have you experimenting with even your tried-and-true recipes — and will encourage you to include the most important ingredients of all: joy and love. Continue reading

Bee Happy: Bees’ Favorite Plant Families

Image from The Organic Kitchen Garden 2017 wall calendar. Beehive in a cottage garden © Mark Bolton Photography.

From The Organic Kitchen Garden 2017 wall calendar by Ann Lovejoy — Planning to grow your own food may start with crop lists and bedding plans, but to ensure successful yields, it’s best to include a plan to nurture bees. It’s said that bees pollinate about one-third of human foods, but in fact, many important crops, from alfalfa and cotton to almonds and onions, are largely dependent on bee pollination. Creating edible gardens that attract and nourish bees and other pollinators will boost your fruit and veggie production and support these helpful creatures.

Perhaps the most important thing we can do to help is not hinder them. Solving garden issues with natural care techniques and using certified organic products to control pests and diseases help us keep our land free of harmful chemicals. It’s important to be aware that many nursery plants with labels that suggest that the plants are “protected” from pests are actually treated with systemic toxins. Continue reading

Bilberry Sunday

The Organic Kitchen Garden 2017 wall calendar

Image from The Organic Kitchen Garden 2017 wall calendar. Colander of blackberries © Sonja Dahlgren. Click image for more info.

In Ireland, the last Sunday in July is known as Bilberry Sunday, although it seems the custom of going to the mountains to look for bilberries has somewhat died out. I found one reference online to a festival in Ardagh, Ireland, in 2015 where the participants climbed Bri Leith (also known as Ardagh Hill) to collect bilberries.

I read of one old custom where the girls would bring home bilberries and bake them into a cake to present to the one they loved. But Máire MacNeill, in her book on the festival of Lughnasa (August 1), says the boys make the girls bilberry bracelets, which are left behind when it’s time to return home. Either way, this is a courting festival like May Day, three months earlier. Continue reading

Beautiful Vegetable Portraits: Lynn Karlin’s Pedestal Series

Originally posted on Mother Earth News by Laura Dell-Haro.

Simply Raw 2016 wall calendar

Image from the Simply Raw 2016 wall calendar. Click image for more info.

Gardeners are inspired to grow their own vegetables for a variety of reasons: food purity, food security, family and cultural traditions, fresh flavors, stress relief, improved nutrition, and many more. Our tomatoes grow sweet with lip-smacking flavor, but also heavy with intent and purpose.

Certainly, identifying your own incentives is critical to making it through the darkness of winter, flush of spring weeds, and stifling summer heat to, ultimately, the bounty of the harvest season. In the elegant vegetable portraits presented on these pages, photographer Lynn Karlin brings an oft-overlooked motivation to light: reverence for beauty. Continue reading

Farm to Table: Then and Now

Image from our Farm to Table 2016 wall calendar featuring recipes and tips from Ann Lovejoy. Click image for more info.

Image from our Farm to Table 2016 wall calendar featuring recipes and tips from Ann Lovejoy. Click image for more info.

From the Farm to Table 2016 wall calendar by Ann Lovejoy — A hundred years ago, more Americans lived on farms than in cities. Most food was locally grown, and seasonal foods were enjoyed fresh or not at all. As food-preserving methods improved, our fascination with convenience took us to dubious depths of overprocessing. After decades of fast food and speedy dining, Americans hungered for a new relationship with food. Today we have come full circle. Inspired by Italy’s Slow Food movement, we prize the local and the sustainable, the authentic and the handcrafted. What’s more, America’s changing demographics have enormously enriched our dining choices with international flair. Continue reading