Jul 152014
 
Bird feeding on Amaranthus caudatus. Photo credit: Diane Kennedy of Vegetariat (http://www.vegetariat.com).
Great Green Bush Cricket on Amaranthus caudatus.

Great Green Bush Cricket on Amaranthus caudatus.

Amaranth is an ancient grain. Its family name is Amanthaceae, with nearly 900 species worldwide. This article focuses on the non-native species Amaranthus caudatus, a species grown by the Aztec Indians of Mexico 8000 years ago, and which has naturalized in my area, Northern California. Yes, that the popular amaranth in our garden is not native was a concern to me when considering it as a topic for this blog site. However, I am taking the time to discuss it here because of its generous gift to both humans and wildlife as a food source.

Mature amaranth in the fall surrounds garden seating.   Note the pale color of the seed heads -- time to harvest seed.

Mature amaranth in the fall surrounds garden seating. Note the pale color of the seed heads — time to harvest seed.

Amaranth likes disturbed soils. It gets its common name “pigweed” because it frequently thrives in the disturbed soils of barnyards, especially pig pens. But because there are so many plants commonly referred to as pigweed, I use “amaranth” in this article. Furthermore, I do not use Amaranthus caudatus‘s other common name, “love-lies-bleeding”, because that’s just plain weird! We’ll stick to “amaranth”.

Young volunteer amaranth in the author's garden.

Young volunteer amaranth in the author’s garden.

A curious thing happened in our garden recently. We reclaimed a garden bed that had laid fallow– it was an excellent undisturbed wildlife brush pile creating excellent soil!!! The soil was pushed back off off walkway slates and churned into a planting mound. It was disturbed, first time in a couple of years. Up came amaranth, all along the borders of the bed, some on the mound. Yes, there’s cucumber in there somewhere.

Young amaranth in the author's garden competes with dock and rhubarb.

Young amaranth in the author’s garden competes with dock and rhubarb.

The young amaranth leaves have been a delicious salad addition. Tastes a little like soil to me, but I appreciate the not-iceberg-lettuce! hearty flavor.

These amaranth (foreground), by fall, will have been thinned, will grow to over 6 feet tall, and will drape luscious tassel-like, seed-rich flowers.

These amaranth (foreground), by fall, will have been thinned, will grow to over 6 feet tall, and will drape luscious tassel-like, seed-rich flowers.

Amaranth is considered an insectary plant, and that’s no wonder considering how many zillions (don’t quote me) of flowerlets there are, with each needing to be pollinated before becoming a seed.

Amaranth stalks are filled with pith, a welcoming overwintering habitat for insects.

Amaranth stalks are filled with pith, a welcoming overwintering habitat for insects.

The substantial sturdy stems of amaranth can become so ridged and thick that an adult’s hand just reaches around it. Inside is a porous pith — perfect burrowing material for insects. At harvest time, don’t forget to leave some stalks in the garden to encourage wildlife to overwinter in your garden. Besides, you will never get the last seed from the Medusa of flowers, but hungry songbirds might. So leave harvested stalks in your garden. One person’s “debris” could be a whole ecosystem’s habitat.

Birds feeding on Amaranthus caudatus. Photo credit: Diane Kennedy of Vegetariat (http://www.vegetariat.com).

Birds feeding on Amaranthus caudatus. Photo credit: Diane Kennedy of Vegetariat (http://www.vegetariat.com).

Bird feeding on Amaranthus caudatus. Photo credit: Diane Kennedy of Vegetariat (http://www.vegetariat.com).

Bird feeding on Amaranthus caudatus. Photo credit: Diane Kennedy of Vegetariat (http://www.vegetariat.com).

The advantages for including amaranth in my edible garden, which is within our “habitat food forest”, keep adding up. Buckwheat and amaranth pancakes for us, pollen and leafage for insects and small critters, seed for birds, a soil builder, and an overwintering material for insects and soil critters.

Enjoy your wildlife habitat garden!

Tony

Some Extra Photos:

 

Amaranth caudatus growing alongside Bird Bath Beach in the author's garden. Note rocks in the bath -- steps to the deep end for wasps, bees, butterflies, and birds.  Also note the driftwood perches to allow birds to check for safety before committing to the water.

Amaranth caudatus growing alongside Bird Bath Beach in the author’s garden. Note rocks in the bath — steps to the deep end for wasps, bees, butterflies, and birds. Also note the driftwood perches to allow birds to check for safety before committing to the water.

 

The red pigment in amaranth was used by the Native American Hopi tribe to dye cloth.

The red pigment in amaranth was used by the Native American Hopi tribe to dye cloth.

Amaranth seedlings (purple, back right) are tiny in relation to a sunflower seedling (green, with seed still attached).

Amaranth seedlings (purple, back right) are tiny in relation to a sunflower seedling (green, with seed still attached).

 

Drying stand for amaranth. The flower clusters will be "milked" so that the seed will drop onto the sheet for easy collection.

Drying stand for amaranth. The flower clusters will be “milked” so that the seed will drop onto the sheet for easy collection.

 

Jan 042013
 
20121228-BONB-2.MP4--hand-in-litter
Hey Followers,
Happy New Year!  Yes, I took a break for a few days.  Have been doing some garden work and filming video, but have cut back on my postings.  Here to catch up a little — hope you enjoy the barn owl box videos.  And please tell all your barn owl friends we now have 2 houses up!  Will post “20130103 Barn Owl Skypad — wood shaving floor upgrade” on Sunday.  Have a great weekend.
                              Tony

Barn Owl Neighborly Box 2 of 6 (video):

Barn Owl Neighborly Box 3 of 6 (video):

Barn Owl Neighborly Box 4 of 6 (video):

Barn Owl Neighborly Box 5 of 6 (video):

Barn Owl Neighborly Box 6 of 6 (video):

Barn Owl Neighborly Box 7 of 6 (video):

Adding wood shavings to barn owl box nest floor.

Adding wood shavings to barn owl box nest floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using eye screws to secure barn owl box lid.

Using eye screws to secure barn owl box lid. No tools needed to reopen the lid.

 

Service height of barn owl box, about 9 feet high.

Service height of barn owl box, about 9 feet high. The box can be raised another six feet, then the pole pin will keep the box held 15 feet off the ground.

 

The telescoping pole's pin has been inserted to gain full height of the box off the ground.

The telescoping pole's pin has been inserted to gain full height of the box off the ground.

 

Angle iron (90-gree straps) hold the box, mounting board, and pole together.

Angle iron (90-gree straps) hold the box, mounting board, and pole together.

 

A very large washer acts as a flange to take the weight of the box and keep it from slipping down the pole.

A very large washer acts as a flange to take the weight of the box and keep it from slipping down the pole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Job Complete -- Barn Owl Neighborly Box has been installed and is ready to recieve owls.

Job Complete -- Barn Owl Neighborly Box has been installed and is ready to recieve owls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy barn owl habitat installations. 

See you Sunday.

 

Tony

 

Dec 172012
 
Barn Owl

Today’s video shows Tony McGuigan, author of Habitat It and They Will Come, laying the prep work to installing a barn owl box on a pole along his driveway.  Today’s footage shows the plans, the box, and the planned location of the pole.  Part 1 of 6 videos.

Barn Owl Neighborly Box 1 of 6 (video):

From Tony’s project last year, Barn Owl Skypad (pic):

Barn Owl Box

Barn Owl Box. Front panel opens for annual cleaning.

 

From the web (pic):

 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

 

Go to Designing & Building Barn Owl Nest Boxes for some great info on creating a successful barn owl box AND habitat.  From the .pdf “Build A Barn Owl Box” on that site:

Simmons’ Barn Owl box has many advantages. It provides optimized protection from predators such as Great Horned Owls and raccoons. This is achieved by use of an ellipse-based entrance hole of unique shape and size and by an interior divider that separates the box into two compartments. The divider, visible via a transparent front in the drawing provides a safe living area away from the entrance. Should a predator gain access to the entrance hole, it is unlikely that it will fit completely through the hole, and the divider further prevents the predator from reaching around the divider to access the occupants.

 

Happy barn owl habitat making.  See you tomorrow.

Tony

Nov 132012
 
Great Green Bush Cricket on amaranth leaf.

 

 

You have landed on Day 2 in this 3-day series of videos depicting  amaranth seed collecting.  Enjoy!

 

First a video  re “Amaranth Seed Collecting”.   Today’s video is part 2 of 3 (1/day) for the series!   THEN some amaranth pics (below the video):

 

Amaranth Seed Collecting 2 of 3 videos

Amaranth in Tony’s Garden (pics):

 

Amaranth growing on Dragon Spine Ridge.

Amaranth growing on Dragon Spine Ridge. Note how the vibrant red-purple stands out in an otherwise green landscape. Note the "edge effect" provided by the amaranth plant -- it fills in the shrubbery between the overhead pine tree and the lower vegetation.

 

Great Green Bush Cricket on amaranth leaf.

Great Green Bush Cricket on amaranth leaf. Be careful -- look closely enough and YOU may go cross-eyed, too.

 

Amaranth growing next to Birdbath Beach.

Amaranth growing next to Birdbath Beach. Birds eat amaranth's ripe seeds. Note the wood perches that allow the birds a look-see before hopping down into Birdbath Beach. The rock and slate shard in the birdbath allow insects and birds to find their own "shallow end" to the pool.

 

Amaranth on the web:

I like the page “Growing Amaranth and Quinoa” at:

http://www.seedsanctuary.com/articles/growing-power-foods.cfm

Seed and Plant Sanctuary for Canada

                                                                                                      For chicken lovers: “Feeding the Flock from the Homestead’s Own Resources: Part Two”

http://www.themodernhomestead.us/article/Growing-Poultry-Feeds-2.html

Feeding the flock

 

 

 

 

 

Happy seed collecting and see you tomorrow.

Tony