2810[high]5: Volunteerism Builds Community

One of the many things that makes Matthews great is the community spirit, the space where volunteerism thrives. We today we give a High[5] to five volunteer opportunities.

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Brace YMCA: The Y needs volunteers for all sorts of things, from administration duties to helping at Camp Boomerang, giving your time helps others thrive.

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Greater Matthews Habitat for Humanity: With Habitat the volunteeer needs abound. Work on the build sites, in the ReStore, or with the administrative team. If you feel more comfortable working from home, sometimes there are opportunities to provide meals for the builders.

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Matthews Community Farmer’s Market: Show up early and buy your weekly groceries, then fill in a volunteer slot. The Market needs help with the Community House, morning set up, noontime take down, and more.

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Matthews Fire Department: Certainly more demanding than the other volunteer roles, but volunteers for the fire department are essential for the safety of Matthews.

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Matthews Police Department: Another essential role for the safety of Matthews, Citizen Volunteers for the police department are trained for directing traffic, security patrols, and resource support to officers. If that’s too much action, you can help at the front desk or data entry.

2810[high]5: Places to Practice Yoga

Matthews may not have a dedicated yoga studio, but there are plenty of opportunities to get your Savasana fix. We’ve rounded up a few, but if you know of more, share them in the comments!

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Matthews Community Center: Fit a work out in over your lunch break with Chris Robertson on Mondays from noon to 1 p.m. 100 E McDowell St, Matthews

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Lifetime Fitness: Join Mandi Murrow Brown on Tuesday evening at 7:15 p.m. for heated Vinyasa yoga. Email Mandi for more info. 9915 E Independence Blvd, Matthews


Stumptown Park: Elinor Edvi Miller will guide you through Vinyasa and deep stretch yoga Fridays at 9:30 a.m. on the stage in the park. 120 S Trade St, Matthews

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Brace YMCA: With classes for every skill level every single day, there’s bound to be a class for everyone. You’ll have to have a monthly Y membership, though. 3127 Weddington Rd, Matthews

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McDowell Arts Center: Practice yoga while surrounded in art, Katrina Whelchel leads slow flow yoga in the arts center on Thursdays from 6 to 7:15 p.m. 123 E McDowell St, Matthews

Spring Plant Sales: Creating your native garden

Photo by Debbie LeBlanc Foster

Photo by Debbie LeBlanc Foster

If you're a gardener this time of the year is like Christmas all over again!  Lots and lots of native plant sales where you can get your fix.

Two of my very favorite sale are at Wing Haven and UNCC at the McMillan Greenhouse.  Both have excellent selections of plants and, great for beginners, knowledgeable people to answer your questions. Both have a Membership Day the day before the sale opens to the public.  Believe me, it's worth it to join!  Just show up the day before and pay the membership fee.

Wing Haven's sale started Thursday, April 4th and runs through Saturday, April 6th.  Hours are 9-5.

UNCC is next week, from Thursday, April 11th (12-3) through Saturday, April 13th (9-3). 

You'll see perennials, groundcovers, vines, shrubs and trees, along with annuals.  And there will be plants for sun and plants for shade.

Get there early and follow signs for parking at each location.

See ya there!

Photo by Debbie LeBlanc Foster

Photo by Debbie LeBlanc Foster

Chicken Keeping: The Rules and Regulations

Photo by Debbie Chopas

Photo by Debbie Chopas

In the age of DIY everything, the popularity of small-scale homesteading, and a reflection on simpler pastimes, chicken-keeping has been gaining popularity over the past decade. Chickens are funny birds, and watching their fluffy waddles can make for a relaxing afternoon. If you’re thinking about getting poultry this spring, though, familiarize yourself with the Town regulations. Knowing the process will save you a lot of headache if your neighbors aren’t on board with your fowl friends.

First, know where to build your coop and how large to make the structure. According to Town Ordinance 91A - Animals, § 91A-42. PERMITS FOR FOWL, EQUINE, CLOVEN-HOOFED ANIMALS, ETC, before purchasing or adopting your chickens, you need an inspection by Animal Control, a division of the Matthews Police Department. Only one permit is required per household, no matter how many birds you have, and that permit must be renewed annually. Animal Control will check to make sure your new hobby won’t make your neighbors sick or unreasonably unhappy. Many of the guidelines are good to follow just because they will keep your birds healthy.

For your neighbors’ sake: Your coop and run must be at least twenty-five feet from the adjoining property line.
Build a castle: The chicken house must be at least 18-inches in height and well-ventilated. You can have up to 20 chickens per acre, but you must have a minimum of 4 square feet of floor space per chicken.
No piles of poop: The run must be well-draining, kept clean, and free from objectionable odors.
No free-ranging: Your chickens must always be confined within the run.
You’ve got to bag it up: The town is specific about handling poop. All droppings and body excretion shall be placed in a fly-proof container and double-bagged in plastic bags.

All in all, it’s a relatively easy process to get the permit, then it’s up to you to stay on top of following the rules. The reward of fresh eggs makes the small hassle at the front-end well worth it.

Creating a Wildlife Habitat, Part V: Sustainable Practices and Certification

Image courtesy National Wildlife Federation

Image courtesy National Wildlife Federation

Hope you've enjoyed this series on how to create wildlife habitats in your yard, school, place of worship and business.

Let's add one more requirement - sustainable gardening practices. This means being aware of what you're using and under what conditions. Some people will choose to go the all organic route, while others may have a problem that may need to be addressed strategically with a chemical.

Choose the most environmentally-friendly tool for the job and follow directions carefully. Avoid spraying on a windy day because you might contaminate your food and water sources.

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Now we’ve covered the essentials.

Food, water, cover, places to raise young, sustainable gardening practices? Check!

There's just one thing left to discuss: how to certify your wildlife habitat; it's incredibly easy. Visit the National Wildlife Federation Certify page and fill out the simple application form. There is a one-time fee of $20 which goes to National Wildlife Federation. You'll receive a personalized certificate with a number for your site, a subscription to the Garden for Wildlife e-newsletter, a one-year membership to NWF, a subscription to National Wildlife magazine, 10% off NWF catalog merchandise (great for items for your yard and gifts for nature lovers), and an option to purchase a sign designating your yard as a Certified Wildlife Habitat with National Wildlife Federation.

Speaking of the signs, I highly recommend purchasing one. It's a great way to help educate your neighbors, clients, and anyone else who happens to pass by on how easy it is to provide habitat for wildlife. Prices range from $30 to $99. Check out the joint NC Wildlife Federation and National Wildlife Federation sign below with Ranger Rick! I also added a picture of the higher-end sign.

Here's hoping that I see lots more of these signs sprouting up all over Matthews as more people jump on board!

Image courtesy National Wildlife Federation

Image courtesy National Wildlife Federation

Signs are a great way to help educate your neighbors, clients, and anyone else who happens to pass by on how easy it is to provide habitat for wildlife.

2810[top]5: Spring Flowers

By now we’ve had enough of the February and March showers (fewer April showers, please) and the gardening bug is itching. Today we have five pretty spring flowers to brighten the waning winter landscape.

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Azaleas: Though the knockout roses have displaced the popularity of the azalea, there’s nothing more southern than a fiery hedge of azaleas in full bloom.

Try a native variety such as Flame, Pinxter, Smoothleaf, and the rare Plumleaf, which blooms long after other varieties have faded.

Carolina Heritage Nursery has several types and is often at the Matthews Community Farmers Market.

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Geraniums: Actually pelargoniums and not true geraniums, these colorful flowers popularly adorn front porches from early spring to summer.

Make sure to cover them when a hard frost is coming.

Scented geraniums have edible flowers and leaves and range from chocolate and nutmeg to orange and lemon. Dry the leaves for homegrown potpourri.

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Irises: Native flag irises are popping up to greet the spring, with other non-native varieties trailing behind. The deepest purple varieties are nearly black, offering serious drama for those who enjoy a little bit of edge.

Have a low-lying wet area in your yard? The native Flag and Louisiana varieties don’t mind wet toes.

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Snapdragons: Not only do snapdragons add color and character to the garden, but the flowers make a gorgeous addition to bouquets for indoor arrangements.

Why Grow Them? Snapdragon puppet shows are a favorite pastime for the Burke family, move their “mouths” and make them talk!

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Violets: We’ve already professed a love for the Violaceae family (violas, pansies, Johnny jump-ups) but right now the wild violets are putting on a spectacular show.

Pro Tip: If you don’t spray your yard or have dogs peeing on them, go out and collect the leaves and flowers for a wonderful addition to fresh salads.

Around the Table with the Burkes: It’s the little victories


…I have three small tornadoes
destroying every room immediately
after I’ve cleaned it.

My parents came for a visit last week (a “visit” where I use them for free labor and my dad’s construction expertise). I’m frantically trying to prepare my house for sale, no small task when my other half is away from home four days a week, and I have three small tornadoes destroying every room immediately after I’ve cleaned it. Mom and dad cleared more than a few things off of my list, though it still seems like there is stuff EVERYWHERE. All of the house projects made mealtime difficult, as we reached the end of each day too tired to think, so shortcuts were key to filling empty bellies this week.

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On Saturday I had a rare evening out with my friends to celebrate a birthday and see Captain Marvel. I ate what I wanted and no one stole my French fries. Travis made pork chops, spaetzle, and green beans for the kids, which my parents were also thrilled to have when they arrived Saturday night. On Sunday Grillmaster Burke made steaks.

Lightly Sweetened Mashed
Sweet Potatoes:
Cube the sweet potatoes and boil until they’re soft. Add ¼ cup of butter, a splash of milk, and a few tablespoons of real maple syrup. Mix until uniformly mashed.

After Monday’s projects – which included deck repair, door replacement, and so much cleaning – I ordered takeout. Tuesday’s exhausting to-do list was followed by a rotisserie chicken with corn and noodles.


Wednesday I succumbed to guilt over feeding my parents shortcut food, so I roasted a pork loin and squash and made mashed sweet potatoes. The secret to my sweet potatoes, beloved the family over: after boiling the potatoes until they’re soft I add ¼ cup of butter, a splash of milk, and a few tablespoons of real maple syrup. We pretend it’s still healthy – maple syrup is practically a vegetable, right?

Travis arrived home on Thursday to chicken chili (thank you McCormick packet) and cornbread. On Friday we had pasta night, with the addition of sweet Italian sausage (baked from frozen for an hour at 350 degrees, then added to the sauce).

It was a week of quick dinners, but I’m happy we managed to avoid fast food. We also managed to sit down at the table together each night (sans Travis for three of them). It’s the little victories.

Around the Table with the Burkes: Cosmic Space Odyssey

After my bout with bronchitis, I was hopeful that the illnesses were over…No such luck as my youngest came down with a nasty cold and decided the only cure was to attach himself to me like a barnacle.

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A common mantra among the self-help crowd is some variation on the idea that you get out of life what you put in. What goes around, comes around; self-fulfilling prophecies; positive mental attitude. So I wonder if my continuing declaration that 2019 is a rough year is making 2019 a rough year. And what does that have to do with food?

My husband took dinner duty on Saturday with grilled pork chops, green beans, and spaetzle. Sunday I made roast beef with broccoli and noodles. We’re eating a lot of noodles these days.

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After my bout with bronchitis, I was hopeful that the illnesses were over and we could get through a busy week as planned – meals, activities, and meetings. No such luck as my youngest came down with a nasty cold and decided the only cure was to attach himself to me like a barnacle. Fortunately, my mother-in-law arrived on Monday (seriously, thank goodness for excellent in-laws), and she helped immensely with my older kids and getting my house in order. I went prepackaged on Monday with a frozen lasagna from Costco that was surprisingly acceptable!

Tuesday we celebrated my sick toddler’s second birthday. I made some of his favorites in the hope he would eat some real food. BBQ chicken in the Instant Pot, corn, and (shocker) noodles. He ate virtually nothing. However, he did provide his only smiles of the week when presented with cake. Cake: the cure for everything!

One of the things on my plate last week was Teacher Appreciation Week at my daughter’s school. I’m a person who really, REALLY appreciates my children’s teachers, and as Head Room Mom, I had quite a lot planned with a fun Outer Space theme! Wednesday was dessert day and I LOVE to bake, so I made Cosmic Brownies for the teachers, and – since my oven was already on – banana bread and pumpkin bread for my family. (My banana bread recipe is a favorite, found here.) For Cosmic Brownies I made a Ghirardelli boxed brownie mix and drizzled the top of the finished brownies with white chocolate colored blue, purple, and pink. In a Pinterest-packed frenzy I also made fruit rockets from strawberries and bananas.

For dinner on Wednesday we went with beef tacos, accompanied by black beans, corn, lettuce, and cheese. Thursday and Friday we went simple with leftovers and pizza night. Another week survived. Now I’m putting out into the universe that the coming week will be amazing and all will go according to plan. Whatever works!

Photos by Norah Burke

Photos by Norah Burke

Matthews Library Recommends: Reading for Women's History Month

In celebration of Women’s History Month, staff at Matthews Public Library have compiled a list of resources that enable you to explore the stories and experiences of women around the globe. You can also peruse the many Women’s History Month recommended reading lists available in our online catalog.

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 Adult Nonfiction


Young Adult Nonfiction

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For Children

Around the Table with the Burkes: Solo Parenting

The potatoes are a treat for me; my children torment their Irish and German ancestors by hating on potatoes and, as such, I don’t make them often.

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I left off last week with big plans to do some freezer meals and set myself up for an organized week of solo parenting. Best laid plans…

On Saturday my oldest son insisted we throw a surprise birthday party for his best friend who a) had already had a party, and b) hates surprises. My son was not to be deterred by these facts, so I made some macaroni & cheese, threw together a veggie tray, and ordered some cupcakes. Friends brought chicken to complete the meal. We all had a great time at the party no one actually wanted to happen.

Sunday I was struck down by whatever illness is floating around my kids’ schools, so my freezer meals were tossed out the window. However, I pulled myself together just enough to put a pork shoulder in the Instant Pot with barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and cider vinegar; 90 minutes later we had pulled pork, paired with spaetzle and green beans.

My husband’s job took him to Winston Salem for most of the week, and I felt like I had been hit by a truck, so after struggling through Monday I picked up Happy Meals and called it a night. All hail the red-haired clown.

I found myself feeling slightly better on Tuesday, so I made an actual dinner of pulled chicken, green beans, and roasted potatoes. The potatoes are a treat for me; my children torment their Irish and German ancestors by hating on potatoes, and as such, I don’t make them often. Peel potatoes, cut into 1-inch squares. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic, crushed rosemary, salt, and pepper. Roast at 425 for 20 minutes, increase to 450 for an additional 10. They’re ready when they start to brown.

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Wednesday evening was spent in the company of two toddlers, so I busted out the leftovers. An unexpected benefit of being husband free is the abundance of food in my fridge. I might get away with only cooking once or twice a week from now on. Won’t that make for some interesting articles…

Travis made his triumphant return home on Thursday. A better wife would have made a welcome home dinner, this wife (who was still sick) ordered a pizza.

Today I went to the doctor and learned I have bronchitis. Armed with this information and some medicine I have higher hopes for getting my act together next week. As for dinner tonight, we have yet to have the circular “I don’t know, what do you want to eat?” conversation, but I’m already leaning pasta.

Weeks like this one remind me why a plan is a wonderful thing to have.

Norah’s Simple Roasted Potatoes: Peel potatoes, cut into 1-inch squares. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic, crushed rosemary, salt, and pepper. Roast at 425 for 20 minutes, increase to 450 for an additional 10. They’re ready when they start to brown.

2810[top]5: Five Pieces of Beacon

The Beacon celebrates 6 months strong this week, and we took the opportunity to revisit our intentions. Presenting: Five Pieces of Beacon—a glimpse into what we cover and why we cover it. Which characteristic resonates most with you?

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Matthews is Giving. With hundreds of nonprofits in Matthews, the support for philanthropy is significant.

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Matthews is Community: Through togetherness, whether familial or neighborly, recognizing and recovering the lost art of sharing the untold stories of the people around us.

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Matthews is History: We embrace and explore the town’s rich history, celebrate our agricultural roots, reflect on our segregated past, and examine the uncharted growth carrying Matthews forward.

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Matthews is Engaged: Local government is accessible to the people, for the people.

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Matthews is Enriching: From environmental initiatives and personal hobbies to cultural activities, people enjoy learning and doing.

Around the Table with the Burkes: 2019, A Year for the Burkes

As always, my husband and I do our best in the name of elusive family togetherness.

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Thus far, 2019 has been a rough year in the Burke house (and it’s only February!). Sometimes the hits just keep on coming and it can be difficult to find your feet again. This is where I find myself at present. It’s hard, then, to do things like plan a week of healthy meals and get everyone to the table. As always, though, my husband and I do our best in the name of elusive family togetherness. I have also been unable to make it to the Farmer’s Market for a few Saturdays now, but I maintain the hope that tomorrow will be the day. So on to the week!

We had a full house on Saturday as we offered to feed our neighbors’ kids while they worked on an important home project. With six kids around the table, Travis grilled hamburgers (he is a hamburger master), served with broccoli and noodles. I would share his special hamburger spice blend, but he won’t even share it with me, alas.

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Sunday was another big group dinner. In cleaning out our freezer we discovered a giant pack of steak that was an all or nothing defrosting endeavor. We invited our friends to join us for sweet potato fries, green beans, and grilled steak. Travis put on his chef hat once more and handled it all. We went the easy route with fries we also discovered in the freezer, but when I’m feeling ambitious I slice up sweet potatoes into eight sections each, coat with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chipotle chili powder if we’re feeling spicy. Roast at 425 for 20-30 minutes, until the outsides are crisp and the insides are soft.

I returned to an old staple on Monday with a chicken stir fry and rice. Tuesday I threw together pork chops, egg noodles, and corn as it was just me and the kids. My older children eat dinner at church on Wednesday nights before choir, so Travis, the toddler, and I took out leftovers that night.

Thursday night was pasta night, and tonight I’m thinking I’ll change my plans to something hearty and warm to stave off this ridiculous weather. Chili or a stew of some kind.

This weekend I’m going to try my hand at making a supply of freezer meals. My husband is headed off to Winston Salem for work, leaving me to manage our circus alone for awhile. I’m hoping an ounce of preparation (and the help of the world’s best friends) will help me maintain just a tiny bit of sanity. Tune in next week to find out!

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Creating a Wildlife Habitat, Part IV: Safe Places

Image courtesy Unsplash

Image courtesy Unsplash

In recent weeks we’ve discussed how to provide food and water. In this article we’ll look at providing cover and places to raise young.

Just as with food and water, these elements can be natural or man-made.

Cover gives an animal a place to escape predators. Trees, shrubs, rock piles and brush piles are great examples of places to dart into cover. Think about proving cover at different levels, from the ground up. Using native plants can give you cover as well as food, so you get a double benefit. They can also provide nesting sites for those animals who use trees and shrubs.

Man-made cover and places to raise young are the many boxes available. Examples include houses for bats, owls, birds and bees, just to name a few. Do your research to find out how to provide appropriate housing for whatever you’re trying to attract. Bat houses have to be at a certain height and face a certain direction. Particular species of birds require boxes of a certain size and the hole must be a specific diameter. Birds generally prefer to have cover behind (but not touching) the box, with open area to the front. You can even make a toad abode by turning a terra cotta flower pot on its side so that the toads have easy access to a cool place.

A common design for a    bat house

A common design for a bat house

In short, think like the wildlife you’re trying to attract. Location and protection is very important to wildlife.

Next time you’ll find out how to certify your wildlife habitat and how you can order a sign.

2810[top]5: Barns Around Matthews

One of the charms of Matthews, apparent by the continued success of Renfrow Hardware, is the remnants of the farm community it once was. While farmland becomes housing tracts, there are still symbols of the past dotted throughout the community.

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McEwan Moore Farmhouse: Built in 1887, probably moved to its current location. Designated historic site, currently owned by LibertyHealthcare Properties of North Carolina LLC.

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The Howie Barn:
Built in 1977 by Jack Riley using lumber from the Howie Gold mine

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The Overcash Barn: Presumably built circa 1921, at the same time as the home next to it. The barn sits on a parcel rezoned in 2018 (application 2017-663) and now owned by Willton-BB Matthews Owner LLC. The property was approved to become a 350 unit multifamily development.


The Helms Farm: This farmland was bought in the 40s from the Stillwell family, originally owned by the Harkeys. The barns were probably built around the same time.

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Hickory Hill Barn: There’s little on public record about this structure, but probably was built around 1960.

Creating a Wildlife Habitat, Part III: When Critters Get Thirsty

Photo courtesy Unsplash

Photo courtesy Unsplash

Now that we’ve covered where to create wildlife habitats, what the requirements are, and looked at how to provide food for wildlife, let’s turn our attention to how to provide water. 

This is one of my favorites, because there are so many different ways to provide it, and because you can accessorize your water features!

As with the other elements, this can be naturally occurring or provided by you. Examples of natural water sources include ponds, lakes, streams, creeks, wetlands and even low places in your yard which hold water.

Man made water sources include bird baths, which come in a variety of sizes, materials and styles. Consider having more than one and varying the heights. If you want something to double as a water feature and yard art check out the beautiful glass models and metal baths with sculptures of birds. 

Another idea is to use the saucer from a terra cotta or plastic pot. You can set these on the ground, on a stump, or on a deck rail - or all three of those. Remember, some wildlife will stay close to the ground while others will drink and bathe higher up.

One thing to consider is placement. Avoid putting a water feature close to bushes where predators, like outdoor cats, can hide.

Now for the accessories! Water wigglers are battery-operated devices that agitate the water very slightly. This keeps the water fresher longer and discourages mosquitos from laying their eggs. Genius!

Another accessory is a dripper/mister. Birds are attracted by the sound of water, so you can set this for a very slow drip or a faster one that you can use to fill the bird bath. Put water-loving plants around it to catch overflow. Or you can use the mister, which puts out a very fine spray, cooling the area around it and some birds, like hummingbirds, will flit back and forth through the mist.

A similar idea is to use quarter inch tubing and snake it up a tree. You can purchase different ends which will allow different levels of spray. You’ll need a splitter to attach to the faucet, and will attach the tubing to that. You might notice birds bathing by rubbing against the wet leaves. 

Think about adding several different water features to really ramp up your habitat!

Photo by Debbie Leblanc Foster

Photo by Debbie Leblanc Foster