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Dec 17,2013- RainyDayGiftGuide: Home & Garden...

Home and garden gifts are the easiest to select. There is so much to choose from that we like to recommend a good place to shop in addition to offering a list of items. Those looking for a good source should head over to Gardener's Supply Company and look around.

Gardener's Supply Company has expanded their offerings from their inital gardeny things to now include inside-the-home stuff. Many items are exclusive to them, orders are processed quickly, and they ship fast. For the Holidays, orders made before Dec. 19 noon EST will be delivered before Dec. 25! Those looking for specific recommendations, read on :-)

For the home:


November 20,2013- Fall Colors...

This Fall, we have been seeing the colors through the viewfinder of our Fujifilm X100S point-n-shoot camera and we have to say, it has been spectacular! The Fall colors starts up in New Hampshire in early October and makes it way down to Boston by early November. We think it also moves from Western MA eastward...not really sure why. Maybe there are just more trees out that way so it "feels" like the colors were moving east.

Anyway, the photo above was taken in mid-October at Northampton around the same time as the ones below at the Boston Public Garden. Clearly the colors at the BPG has not yet peaked while those at... [more]- Fall Colors


October 28,2013- Mt. Kearsarge NH...

The weather forecast for this past weekend was "dry and sunny." We were happy to hear that as we were driving up to New Hampshire to see the last of the Fall colors. Our destination was the area around Lake Sunapee with a day hike up Mount Kearsarge.

The trails up Mt. Kearsarge are moderate (to some of use that made the hike). There are two paths to the top. The more direct route is 1.1 miles and took us past some rocks which had to navigated before reaching the summit. We took the longer route of 1.8 miles for the... [more]- Mount Kearsarge: Fall 2013


October 25,2013- Fall Colors Arnold Arboretum...

The two times of the year when the Arnold Arboretum is at its most spectacular are Spring and Fall. As this spot is just a few miles from the office, we try to drop by as often as we can. The weather on Wednesday was beautiful and we had some free time before lunch, so we stopped by for a stroll. The timing was perfect as the Fall colors were on full display!

Everywhere we turned were spectacular bursts of color. However, taking photos of Mother Nature's largesse was tricky. Drifting clouds constantly shifted the light and made the dramatic scenery unpredictable. One second a tree would be brilliantly back-lit, the next it would... [more]- Arnold Arboretum: Fall 2013


October 4,2013- BirdCam Pro FirstUse...

We set up the new BirdCam Pros this week, invited our Blue Jay friends to stop by, and ran through some of the camera's features to get a better feel for how they compare to the original BirdCam. After working with the Pro for a few days, here is a summary some of our FirstUse thoughts.

BirdCam Pro features and what they mean for the user:

  • Improved weatherproof casing: longer camera life
  • Higher resolution 8MP camera: more detail
  • LED flash: useful for night shots
  • WiFi SD card compatible: convenient for hard to reach setups
  • Physical buttons for often used settings: quick and simple setup
  • Precise focus adjustments: see discussion below
  • Color LED display: see discussion below

Getting the focus set precisely is now possible with the Pro. This is because the focus ring is no longer constrained to four click settings. However, some trial and error is still required to... [more]- BirdCam Pro FirstUse


September 30,2013- BirdCam Pro...

The Audubon BirdCam has made it easy to get snaps of visitors to the bird feeders in the RainyDayGarden. Wingscapes, the maker of the BirdCam, released an update to that amazing automated camera a few weeks ago. Today, we are going to take a FirstLook at what is new about the BirdCam Pro.

The BirdCam Pro now has a higher resolution 8 Megapixel sensor and a built-in LED flash. Like the original BirdCam, the Pro will take photos when the infrared motion-detector is triggered. However, the Pro's triggering capabilities have been extended to include a timer. So now it will be possible to not only capture birds visiting the feeder, but flowers opening, spiders web-spinning, and... [more]- BirdCam Pro FirstLook


September 16,2013- Drumlin Farm...

This past Saturday was a good top-down day. So we thought it would be nice to drive out to Lincoln MA and visit the chickens at Drumlin Farm. Drumlin Farm, part of Mass Audubon, is a real working farm and a wildlife sanctuary all in one. The day was so nice we ended up walking around the entire place.

The last time we were at Drumlin Farm was in March of 2012. That visit was when the farm was just coming out of Winter. The fields were just starting to be worked and nothing had been planted yet. This visit was... [more]- Drumlin Farm


September 6,2013- BirdCam Mount...

We had been thinking about how to set up the Audubon BirdCams in the garden. We could have used the stretch cords which came with the camera to mount it on a tree, but we wanted to position the unit closer to the action. There are a few different bird feeders in the garden, and our intention is to point the BirdCam at each of them for a few days and see what we get. The best way to do this is with the Wingscapes mounting arm. It was designed exactly for that purpose.

The mount arrived before Labor Day weekend and we posted a FirstLook of it earlier this week. Today we will show the installation and some of the... [more]- BirdCam Mount


September 2,2013- BirdCam Accessories...

We have been having a lot of fun with the Audubon BirdCams. The one we set up on a TrekPod on the second floor has been capturing some very candid pics of visitors to the feeder (sparrow, blue jay, cardinal). The other unit is slated for the outside but its setup has been on hold awaiting the arrival of some accessories.

The BirdCam pointed at the window feeder on the second floor is powered directly from the AC outlet via an AC/DC adapter. The adapter is able to output a variety of voltages from Radio Shack. We find these variable-voltage adaptesr to be a better value than device-specific ones because of their versatility. However, they are not for outdoor use. As we want to put the second BirdCam out in the RainyDayGarden we need a way to power the unit which is... [more]- BirdCam Accessories


August 16,2013- Wingscapes: Audubon BirdCam...

A couple of Audubon BirdCams arrived last week. Finally, the interns will be freed from standing behind the blind waiting to snap photos of visitors to the new feeder! We posted a FirstLook of Audobon's weather-resistant motion-activated camera on Monday and spent the next few days determining how best to set it up.

The BirdCam can run on batteries (four D-size ones) or off of an AC adapter (9v-12v). We wanted to try things out inside first, so we decided to go the AC route. The weather-resistant case has a standard-size socket (1/4-20, which means one-quarter of an inch with 20 threads per inch) at the bottom for attaching the unit to a tripod. However, we ran into a slight problem when we first tried to mount the BirdCam. We found that the platform of many of our tripods made it impossible to mount the BirdCam when the AC power plug was in its socket. After a bit of head-scratching, we finally realized the TrekPod would be perfect for this application. The TrekPod worked because its magnetic discs that attached the... [more]- Wingscapes : Audubon BirdCam FirstUse


August 12,2013- Wingscapes: Audubon BirdCam...

Setting up an automated camera to capture visitors to the various feeders we have around the RainyDayGarden has been on our ToDo list for years. The problem was triggering the shutter when birds landed. We could hack a motion-detector from a security system or use a pressure-sensitive perch to do the job, but we never got any further than the brain-storming stage with those ideas. We have seen the efforts of others who have gone the DIY route with webcams and small point-n-shoot cameras. They were educational from a "how to" perspective, but seemed rather cumbersome and kludgy.

After not finding a build-it-ourself solution that we liked, we researched what commercial options were available. By far the most popular unit appears to be the Audubon BirdCam made by... [more]- Wingscapes : Audubon BirdCam


July 22,2013- Fujifilm X100S: Macro Filters...

When the Fujifilm X100S camera arrived in the office in April, we were excited by its potential. After having used it for a few months, we are completely bowled over by its capabilities. The quality of the images and the ease with which we were able to create them was not a total surprise for us. However, we were caught completely off guard by what we were able to do with the camera in Macro mode. In June, we posted a write-up on using the Fujifilm X100S for close-up photography. At that time, we thought we had found the camera's limit, then we pulled off a couple of shots that tells us the X100S still has a bit left in the tank.

Dragonflies are kind of twitchy. So we thought it odd when this one didn't move when we approached it. We were even more surprised that it was still there when we came back after we'd run upstairs to grab the X100S. The dragonfly allowed us to take a few dozen shots of it from various angles before it finally flew off. However, it was not until we looked at the photos at full resolution did we understand why it did not fly away. The dragonfly was waiting for the... [more]- Fujifilm X100S : Macro Filters


July 8,2013- RainyDayGarden Update...

In the Spring, we put up some cottages for the birds, hung a bamboo house for the Mason bees, and built a new feeder for the birds. Now that we have moved into the dog days of Summer, we thought we would bring readers up to date on the goings on in the RainyDayGarden.

May: While the rain fall for the month of May was about normal (3.22", whereas the average is 3.37") the temperature was far above the norm (77º vs. the average of 62º). Because of the warmer conditions, many of the plants kicked into gear early.

Last year, for some unknown reason, the lilac bush did not bloom at all. It was not the case this year. The sweet scent was quite evident in the garden during the entire month of May. While not as fragrant as the... [more]- RainyDayGarden Update


June 17,2013- Mushroom Update...

We received some oyster mushroom growing kits from Back To The Root at the beginning of the year. Initially, we ran into some issues getting the mushrooms to grow. The first problem was because we had placed the kit in the office so we could watch it grow. While one of the boxes had something growing after a week, something in the office was not to the mycelium's liking. The growth stopped after a few days. Then absolutely nothing happened for the next few weeks regardless of our efforts (soaking the bricks, misting them every day, etc). We finally decided to look for a more agreeable environment and start over.

Our guess was that the office on the second floor was too warm and dry. So we moved everything down to the basement where the temperature was a constant and cooler 55º. Sure enough, with in a week, we had a bunch of little mushroom caps popping out everywhere! Once they got their little mushroom engines going, they grew quickly. On some days, they would... [more]- Grow Your Own Mushrooms Update


June 14,2013- IKEA Socker: Bird Feeder Update...

The IKEA Socker Bird Feeder DIY project succeeded beyond our expectations! While the installation of the window feeder occurred more than a few weeks ago, the birds did not feel comfortable feeding from it until the beginning of this week. They did a lot of fly-bys, but nobody was brave enough to actually land on it.

One of the ways we coaxed the birds to use the new feeder was to stop putting bird seed in the other feeders in the RainyDayGarden. Eventually, they started to come around to the idea that if they... [more]- IKEA Socker Hack: Window Bird Feeder Update


June 10,2013- Tiny Terrariums...

There is nothing like a few days of steady rain to give us some space to think up new DIY projects, such as homemade terrariums. We came up with a 10-minute RainyDayProject of making little desktop terrariums out of small jars, tiny cups, and whatever little bottles we had laying about. The best are the glass ones with a lid or a stopper.

When the sun finally came out and things dried up a bit, we ventured outside and looked for moss suitable for the project. Once we started looking, we found interesting growth everywhere. Without really knowing which... [more]- Tiny Terrariums


May 31,2013- IKEA Socker Hack: Bird Feeder...

Using items from IKEA for DIY projects is something of a phenomenon on the Internet. A quick search brings back thousands of hacks and ideas. When we first came across IKEA's Socker portable greenhouse, we knew that this little gem would be perfect for all kinds of projects. Today we would like to share one of them with our readers.

There are a lot of feeders in the RainyDayGarden. While we get plenty of visitors, the feeders are a little too far away from the office windows to get a good view of our visitors. We tossed around ideas on making a feeder which could be placed close/next to a window. There are a few builds of such feeders floating around the Web. Some of them look like they work, but they all seem a bit clunky AND more work than we were willing to put into such a project. The ones available for purchase are very nice, but can cost over $100. IKEA's Socker greenhouse solved all of those problems in... [more]- IKEA Socker Hack: Window Bird Feeder


May 28,2013- Mason Bee House...

After we posted in early April that we had put out some bird cottages in the RainyDayGarden, a few readers suggested we also put out a house or two for Mason bees. While we know nothing about keeping bees, we have always been intrigued by the thought. Mason bees get their name from the way they seal their nests (after laying their eggs) with a mortar-like application of mud, like masons with masonry.

There are a lot of DIY ideas for making Mason bee houses, but we found a very attractive ready-made version from Gardener's Supply Company. The house is made entirely from... [more]-Mason Bee House


April 24,2013- Hanging The Bird Cottages...

When we found these whimsical bird cottages, available exclusively at Gardener's Supply Company, we knew that they would be perfect for the RainyDayGarden. They come as a set of three (one of each color), have a metal roofs, and are perfectly sized for song birds such as nuthatches, titmice, wrens and chickadees.

The blooms on the trees and vines in RainyDayGarden have started coming in. We thought it best to get the bird cottages up ASAP, but the weather did not cooperate. Things finally cleared on... [more] - Hanging the Bird Cottages


April 12,2013- Birdbath and Birdhouses...

Spring is definitely on its way. The temperature outside has been fluctuating between 40º and 60º+. April showers have been signaling to the plants that it is time to get busy. The daffodils, tulips, day lilies, and others have started to poke through the wet ground. Crocuses have been popping up, some in the oddest places, all over the RainyDayGarden. The forecast for this weekend is warm and sunny, so it will be the perfect time to clean up the garden and put up some of the new items we found at Gardener's Supply Company.

The items that caught our eye were the birdhouses with the metal roof and the metal birdbath with the three-legged stand. Both items are exclusive to... [more] - Birdbath and Birdhouses


March 11,2013- Feeding Birds in a Snowstorm...

Putting out food for our feathery friends is a great way to bring some life to the RainyDayGarden during the dead of Winter. This is especially important (to the birds) during really cold days or when there is a blanket of snow covering everything.

On cold days, birds have to eat more to keep from freezing. When it is snowing, what is available on the ground is not accessible to the birds. That is why our feeders are extra busy on snow days. We have been putting out black oil sunflower seeds, suet, and peanuts (with and without shells). The black oil sunflower seeds have a thinner shell and a higher oil content than... [more] - Birdfeeding in a snowstorm


February 15,2013- Huntington Library Visit...

While New England was being buried by Nor'easter Nemo, some of us were in L.A. enjoying our annual visit to the West Coast office. Those left behind to mind things shovel out in Boston were understandably none too pleased with the situation, but someone had to watch the interns. Anyway, in L.A. we ate at several wonderful restaurants, visited some new sites, and had ourselves yet another awesome visit.

One of the notable sites on this trip was to The Huntington Library. Founded in 1919 by businessman Henry Huntington (railroad companies, utilities, and real estate holdings, etc), the private, non-profit institution is one of the world’s great cultural, research, and educational centers. During his lifetime, Huntington amassed the core of one of the finest research libraries in the... [more] - Huntington Library Visit


January 14,2013- Grow Your Own Mushrooms...

Mushrooms are amazing. They are fascinating to photographers, biologists, and cooks the world over. As we are interested in photography, science, and food, we have found mushrooms to be absolutely captivating. One of our earliest memories of mushrooms is in the episode of The Twilight Zone where aliens invaded Earth in the form of mushrooms. They would take over the minds of the people who ate them. Of course, what makes for fun television bears little resemblance to reality (except, of course, if you eat the wrong ones). Still, that was the first thought which came to mind when we heard about the "Grow Your Own Mushroom Garden" kits from the folks at Back To The Roots.

We have seen mushrooms popping up in the RainyDayGarden after a rainstorm and have always been intrigued by how quickly they can show up. However, as we know nothing about wild mushrooms, we would never consider eating them. So when we learned about a ready-to-grow kit available for... [more] -Grow Your Own Mushrooms




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