Today's photo is a yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), a medium-sized woodpecker found in Maine. These birds feed by drilling holes in the tree and drinking the sap. They can be found in Maine during the summer, but migrate south to the southern US, Mexico and Central America in the winter.
Yellow-bellied suckers sometimes visit suet feeders, but are most often seen in wooded areas. This male was seen on a chokecherry tree near my bird feeders.
According to All About Birds at Cornell Lab, the drilled holes made by the Yellow-bellied sapsucker are called sapwells. Sapwells also provide sap for the Ruby Throated Hummingbird.
If you see this bird in your backyard, or you observe rows of tiny holes in a tree, be on the lookout of hummingbirds who may stop for a sip of tasty sap.
Chickadees are a common sight in Maine, especially in the winter. While the black capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is the most common chickadee in Maine, you may see Carolina chickadees, Boreal chickadees or even hybrids as the result of crossbreeding. These little birds flock to bird feeders gobbling up sunflower seeds while singing their cheery song of chick a dee dee dee. Interestingly, they were named by English settlers who first called them a chickadeedee. The name was later shortened to chickadee.
Chickadees are said to symbolize courage, curiosity and bravery, but that is not what they conjure up for me. Chickadees always remind me of my mother and her love for the natural world. These tiny birds were always her favorite as they flocked around her whenever she stepped out with fresh food.
Seeing or hearing chickadees brings a smile to my face as I know my mother's spirit cannot be far away.
This year I grew Heinz Processor tomatoes for the first time and was very surprised with the results. These tomatoes were amazing producers and proved to be a great processing tomato. Here’s a breakdown of my thoughts about Heinz processor tomatoes.
Production: These prolific producers started producing fairly early and kept going until the threat of frost in the fall. One tomato plant produced an amazing 71 tomatoes with many small tomatoes still forming on the vine. Most of the plants produced 40 or 50 tomatoes.
Fruit Size and Shape: These tomatoes proved to be uniform globe-shaped with most of the tomatoes falling within the medium (3-inch) range. They were similar in appearance to Early Girl tomatoes.
Flavor: These tomatoes were not as flavorful as a beefsteak tomato and might not be your favorite for slicing on burgers or tossing in salads, but they were fantastic for canning salsa, diced tomatoes and other sauces.
Overall Pros: Heinz processor tomatoes were hands down the most prolific producer I have ever grown. These meaty tomatoes processed well and retained a good flavor when canned.
Overall Cons: Although their flavor was better than supermarket tomato varieties, they did not have a robust tomatoey flavor expected from homegrown tomatoes. I liked them in salads but prefer a juicier slice of tomato for burgers and sandwiches. If you only grow tomatoes for eating fresh, this tomato probably shouldn’t be your first choice but they are a great choice for canning.
Heinz processor tomato plants were massive. I grew mine in 48-inch wire tomato cages, but that still wasn’t enough to support them. I added fiberglass stakes to stabilize the wire cages, but that still didn’t do the trick as the entire plants toppled by mid-August, bending both the cage and the fiberglass stakes. If you choose to grow Heinz processor tomatoes, make sure you have heavy supports in place when you transplant the seedlings.
I will definitely grow Heinz processor tomatoes again next year, but there are a couple of things I will do differently.
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