Thursday, March 28, 2013

FAQ: Is it okay to add paper to my composter? I was told that paper could be poisonous.

Q. Is it okay to add paper to my composter? I was told that paper could be poisonous.

A. Yes, it is okay to add paper. Some inks used to contain heavy metals, but that is very seldom the case nowadays.

When composting paper, there are a few other things you should consider.

The composting process requires air circulation. Flat sheets do not allow enough air to circulate between them, therefore the paper should be shredded.

Do not use paper that is mixed with anything not compostable. For example, my paper shredder has a slot where I can run old credit cards through it. Those bits of plastic added to the composter and finally to my garden would eventually fill the planting bed with sharp little objects to pierce my flesh.

Even shredded paper, if added in large quantities, may be difficult to compost. Be sure to mix the paper with other organic materials.

Don't forget to stir the compost occasionally.

My other articles about composting include other important tips.

Return to

How To Make Bird Watching Easy For The Elderly

We're visiting my 90-year old mother-in-law. She loves watching daily game shows and wild birds from her comfy chair. Watching her watching them, I'm thinking what I might suggest or do to make her life and those of her care-givers easier and pleasanter.

I'd begin by turning off the game shows, but that would only benefit me. The benefits should be mutual. Besides, I'm just visiting.

I turn my attention to our bird-watcher and the wild birds.

Mom is basically confined to the upper floor of her split-level home. Two bird feeders are suspended by wires from gutters so they are visible through her living room window. One is a long tube feeder. The suet feeder is a simple single-cake cage.

Some bird-watchers delight in all God's creatures. Others prefer some over others. Mom loves most, but discriminates against grackles, cowbirds and starlings. Today we've been visited by many species, including grackles, cowbirds and starlings. When the undesirables appear, Mom strikes the window glass with the end of her cane to scare them off. Of course, all the birds fly away for a few moments. Then they all come back. At this moment, the pests are ganging up on the feeders while titmice and cardinals, crestfallen, wait on nearby branches.

I'm considering whether anything should be done about this. The disadvantages of the voracious bullies are that they aggravate her, eat too much bird food, and intimidate the smaller birds. The advantage is they keep Mom exercising by swinging her cane, though she notes she is weakening and can't "raise cane" like she used to.

We bought the tube feeder for her several years ago because it has a greater capacity. Since my brother-in-law is usually the one who maintains it, we figured he wouldn't have to refill it so often. She complains he doesn't refill it often enough.  It was empty this morning.  I filled it not two hours ago.  About one-third has been eaten already. At this rate I'll have to fill it again before nightfall.

Birds enjoy water as much as food, and it's fun to watch them drink and bathe. A hanging bird bath would be the ticket.

The feeders are reached by climbing a 6' step-ladder. That inconvenience alone is a discouragement from frequent refilling.

Here are a few ideas to make bird-watching more accessible and pleasant for the elderly, and to make life easier for their care-givers.

Provide high capacity bird feeders so they don't have to be refilled so often. The greater the capacity the better. Though larger feeders cost more, the benefits far outweigh their expense.

If your elderly friend or relative has limited mobility, place feeders within easy view of their bed or favorite chair. Some open-tray feeders and suet cages can be mounted directly on window glass with suction cups. Others can be mounted on brackets at window sill level.

Whether they will be refilled by themselves or their caregivers, feeders should be positioned for easy refilling. Feeders near ground level don't present many problems, but elevated ones do. Hanging feeders and those mounted on or under windows might be placed within easy reach of  open windows. If that's not possible or wise, perhaps a system of cords and pulleys can make  hanging feeders easier to manipulate from the ground.

Bird baths provide more pleasure for the birds as well as for bird-watchers. Pedestal-mounted baths are well-known and popular. Deck-mounted baths are specially suited for condominium and apartment residents. Hanging bird baths are perfect for placing near windows for easy viewing.

For a special treat, consider purchasing a window-mounted bird house. These have open backs and are usually attached to the glass with suction cups. They're great for watching nesting birds right up close.

If you discriminate against some species, there are lots of deterrents on the market. Common pests include squirrels and aggressive birds like those I mentioned before.

"Squirrel-Buster" tube feeders are very effective, as are those with "baffles" such as the Birds Choice NP431 Pole Mounted Tube Feeder.

Hot Pepper Suet Cakes and Logs repel squirrels. Birds apparently don't notice or mind the heat.

Cages and roofs mounted on open-tray feeders exclude squirrels and larger birds. Window-mounted open-tray feeders are often available complete with cages and roofs.

Next time you visit a senior friend or relative, give a thought to how you could make bird-watching more accessible and pleasant. They, the birds and you will benefit.

Return to