Sunday, December 26, 2010

White Christmas

CHRISTMAS Day was full of surprises! At the end of our beds, stockings were bulging with goodies. In the living room, Baby Jesus had arrived in the manger and all the people and animals of the nativity gathered around to greet him. The snacks left out for Father Christmas and his reindeer were gone. Under the tree lay many gifts of love. We welcomed two unexpected friends to our Christmas table. Then, as the afternoon light started to dwindle, snow began to fall! This was a historic occasion - the first snow on Christmas Day in Georgia since 1882 - and had to be celebrated. While some members of our party kept the coals aglow at home, the rest gathered up coats and hats and headed out to catch snowflakes on their tongues.

By evening the snow had settled in dry areas, and was still there on Boxing Day. Not quite enough for real snow play, it still made for a beautiful landscape and a teeny tiny snowman.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tree Decorations

OUR Christmas tree is child-friendly this year. Gone are the glass baubles; special and breakable ornaments carefully packed away from curious fingers and wagging tails. Instead we have had fun making glittery pinecones, painting walnut shells gold, tying cinnamon sticks with sparkly ribbon and folding tiny paper stars.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Birds, Birds, Everywhere

WE have gradually developed a full buffet for birds in our back garden with a tray feeder, two upright feeders, a suet feeder, several pinecone feeders and a special sock feeder of thistle seed for finches. And they come! So far, we've seen:
  • Northern Cardinals (tray feeder)
  • White-Breasted Nuthatches (most frequent visitors to the pinecone feeder, also suet feeder)
  • Pine Warbler (pinecone feeder - infrequent)
  • Red-Breasted Woodpecker (upright feeder)
  • House Finch (upright feeder)
  • Downy Woodpecker (suet feeder)
  • Mourning Doves (ground, tray feeder and they even try to balance on the suet feeder - very funny)
  • Chickadees (upright feeder - infrequent)
  • Carolina Wren (ground underneath)
  • Dark-Eyed Junco (ground underneath)
  • Song Sparrow (ground underneath)
  • Blue Jays (ground underneath)
  • Eastern Towhee (ground)
  • Eastern Bluebird (suet and upright feeders)

We also see on the lawn and flower beds American Robins, Thrashers, and now and again great flocks of Red-Winged Blackbirds and Starlings. We like to sit at the back door and just watch. Sometimes we try to draw them...mostly we just watch.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let The Baking Begin!

IN honour of Saint Nicholas, the beginning of December saw us making lebkuchen, German spice biscuits. Foregoing the traditional shape of a man with a staff, we opted instead for easier but just-as-tasty shapes, using Christmas cookie cutters. By the end of the day, wonderful aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the house and the children raced to eat their dinner so they could eat some of their creations for dessert. (The biscuits didn't stay around long enough to be iced... picture credit goes to who must use the same set of cookie cutters :-)

The next project for our Christmas bakery was mince pies. Finally using a real mince pie tray courtesy of my mum, instead of the deep muffin trays, the pies turned out better than years past. I've had a bit of trouble explaining exactly what mincemeat is - first that it contains no meat, but that it does contain suet. Try portraying suet as a delicious ingredient when most people in your country know it only as bird food. Mincemeat actually is, of course, dried fruits mixed with spices and sometimes alcohol. Mince pies are a traditional pastry found everywhere in England at Christmas time - you could even call it a national obsession. See if you don't believe me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mountain Views

STUNNING views from the Cherohala Skyway, on our drive back from the mountains where we spent Thanksgiving. Popular among motorists especially in 'leaf season', this winding mountain byway crosses two national forests and offers incredible views for miles around. Now in late Autumn, however, we had it almost to ourselves.

A short chilly hike led upwards through the forest, via a few diversions to climb trees, before we popped out surprisingly in a blustery field at the top of the mountain. These grassy balds are one of the unique features of the area and in the past were often used to graze livestock. With no cows to hand, we used the bald instead to view the changing colors of the sky and distant mountains before running back down to our warm car.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tree Fruit Game

WE were out on a walk during Thanksgiving weekend in the mountains and came across many fallen tree fruits, the size of tennis balls. A few still hung on trees without their leaves - a curious sight -but most lay on the ground. We collected some and discovered that despite their size and weight, they float. They were useful too - when thrown from a small bridge into the stream below, they became perfect puppy-fetch-fodder, over and over again. Turns out they were Osage Orange, or Hedge Apple. Some interesting facts:
  • The fruits are often kept for 2-3 months indoors, where they act as an insect repellent
  • The hard bark was often used to make bows and arrows by Native Americans, and is considered exceptionally good wood for instrument making
  • The orange root can be used to make yellow dye.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Snakes on the Plain

THE discovery of a small brown snake lying in the grass in a park, with a big chunk out of its neck, led to discussions about snakes - what they eat, where they are found and whether they are harmful. It turns out there are 36 different kinds of non-venomous snakes in Georgia, and 6 venomous.

What's the difference between venomous and poisonous? It's all in the delivery and the motive. Venomous creatures store toxins internally, delivering their toxic delight by fangs or a stinger to capture prey. Poisonous animals on the other hand usually release poison through their skin, when the animal is touched or consumed. Venomous animals use toxins to make dinner, poisonous animals to avoid becoming dinner.

Easy catch though it was, we left the ailing snake in the grass to become someone else's dinner.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Walk About With My Lantern

FOR the first time we experienced Martinmas with a really large group of people. All four kindergarten classes at Emma's school, along with their families, gathered after dark. Everyone carried a lantern - the children's made in school, others brought from home. The ceremony began quietly, and we walked a magical candlelit path through the woods in a long procession, quietly singing lantern songs. In the middle of the woods, a blazing bonfire invited us to gather and sing together, before we quietly peeled off back to our cars, a generous chunk of gingerbread pressed in everyone's hand.

While the story of Martinmas is of St. Martin, who cut his cloak in two to share with a freezing beggar, the theme of bringing light to the dark, hope to the foresaken, is especially poignant for young children.

"St. Martin, St. Martin, St. Martin rode through wind and snow
On his strong horse, his heart aglow.
He rode so boldly through the storm
His large cloak kept him well and warm.

By the roadside, by the roadside, by the roadside a poor man arose
Out of the snow in tattered clothes.
Kind sir, please aid me in my plight
Or else I'll die from cold tonight.

St. Martin, St. Martin, St. Martin stopped his horse and drew
His sword and cut his cloak in two.
One half to the beggarman he gave
And by this deed his life did save."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkin Time

AFTER several years of this, I have got over the grossness of the pumpkin goop that you have to pull out by hand, but I don't think I'll ever actually enjoy this part of the carving. Nevertheless, a beautiful Jack o'Lantern came into being, and the seeds became a crispy snack. Other pumpkins became pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup. Mmmh!

Jack o'lantern, jack o'lantern
You are such a funny sight
As you sit there at my window
Looking out at the night.

You were once a yellow pumpkin
Growing on a sturdy vine.
Now you are a jack o'lantern
May your candle light shine.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Herbal Lesson

"There were once two mice who set out on a journey. They were hungry and thirsty, and were happy to find some dandelion and wood sorrel to munch on. A little while on, one mouse was bitten by a wasp! Luckily, they found some plantain nearby, so he chewed up a leaf and applied it to his bite. Within a short time, the sting went away. They continued on their way. Later, the other mouse felt a cold coming on so made a tea from echinacea and soon stopped sneezing. That night, as they made camp, the mice saw a grandmother elder tree. She had made syrup from her berries and offered it to the mice. She said that if they respected plants, plants would send their healing powers to them. "

This is an abbreviated version of a beautiful and enlightening hands-on introduction to herbalism for preschoolers, led by a friend. Later, Emma looked for all the herbs we had talked about in our garden - and found several.

"We must take our children into the woods and introduce them to the plants and teach them of their connection to the earth. In instilling in our children a respect for plant medicine, we not only care for their tender bodies but help pass along the seeds of a tradition that is as old as human life itself."

- Rosemary Gladstar, herbalist

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wild Insects

WE'VE come across some interesting insect life in our back garden: first, a little bug that looks somewhat like a ladybird in size and shape, only it's brown and squared off at its tail end. This turns out to be a bean plataspid or kudzu beetle, a new arrival to Georgia that feeds on kudzu. Plenty of that around - not in our garden but close by. The beetles sit mostly in our vegetable patch - particularly the sweet peppers - and huddle in twos or more. They're apparently quite a threat to agriculture, but they don't seem to have wreaked too much havoc on our little garden so we've let them be.

The next discovery I first thought was a fungus - threads handing from a dead pine needle suspended in a tree. But after much research, this turns out to be lacewing eggs. They are laid on hair like filaments, said to prevent the larvae from cannabalizing each other. The larvae are so voracious that they have been considered for biological insect control. Curious!

The final, less pleasant, find was a nest of thousands of little black flies. I have yet to identify them, but they looked like fruit flies and swarmed all around us at dusk. The nest was around the base of a tree and was a seething mass of emerging tiny flies. Creepy and crawly, to be sure!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Beanpods, Acorns and Autumn Finds

WE'VE had so much fun collecting nature items this Autumn and finding different ways to use them. Acorn people, leaf fairies and crowns, doll food from nuts and berries, pinecone animals.

One of our most surprising finds was a gigantic seed pod. We've still not managed to identify it, but it is about 30cm long! It was used in many different ways; I believe it was its role as tractor ramp that caused it to finally give in and beg to be returned to the earth.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Memories of Kiawah

WHILE Grandma visited, we spent a few days at the beach in one of the loveliest spots on the coast. An island resort, this area is also dedicated to nature conservation and has strict regulations on anything that could disturb the peace or ecology of the island. Our rental house backed up to a narrow inlet, where we could watch crabs scuttling out of the sand, elegant snowy egrets fishing and raccoon tracks in the mud. Glorious sunsets, sandy beaches, mysterious marshland, salty air and sparkling waves.

No-one welcomes the loss of an unborn baby, but if it had to happen, I'm glad it was here. I'd like to think he or she caught a glimpse of this beautiful place as they returned to heaven.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Brave Knights in the Storm

AMID threats of horrible weather, we decided to face the dragon and go ahead with our Michaelmas celebration. One by one, families arrived in wellies and raincoats and children were directed to a huge cauldron of steaming golden liquid to dye their silk capes, scarves and sashes. We held circle in a covered outdoor area then split the children into two groups for an age-appropriate Michaelmas story. Then we all met up again in the backyard for a rainy day dragon hunt. A fun game had around twenty children chasing a green-draped Thomas, who led them into the neighborhood park where the children ran about searching for dragon tears. Back at the house, a feast of dragon bread, soups and other homemade goodies awaited to warm up the soggy but happy small knights.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Energy Hike

A good friend has an amazing ability to connect with all things around her, so we were excited when she invited us to experience the energy of trees with her and her children. At a nearby state park, we first met a giant hollowed out tree. Then Emma was invited to seek out a tree which spoke to her. We concentrated and tried to feel its energy. I won't say that I had a deep conversation with the tree - my skill in this area is evidently underdeveloped.

However, the outing was definitely thought-provoking and there was a deep feeling of peace as we stood in the middle of the forest, fully focused on the life all around us.

I was also reminded of a book we've enjoyed: Meeting Trees by Scott Russell Sanders, where a boy learns about the characteristics of trees as he takes a walk with his father.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Great Tadpole Release

SEVERAL months ago, the children and I came across tadpoles during a walk by the river, and brought some home with us. The kitchen sideboard was the only Alexander-proof place for our open-topped aquarium... until he learned how to climb on a stool. Then the tadpoles endured a rigourous training in evasive action. The predator could strike at any time, and their only hope lay in the predator's mother catching him on the sideboard. A few months down the road, each time we returned home, we checked anxiously to make sure the tadpoles hadn't set off on the great escape. They all had four legs, and the tails of two of them were getting smaller and smaller. It was time to take them home. So we trekked to the stream where we had found them, said thank you for allowing us to watch them grow, then said goodbye. They didn't swim at all at first, and I was concerned we had released them to their doom, but after a short walk we returned and found them happily paddling about.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hummingbird Heaven

WE'VE had a hummingbird feeder up all summer, but only noticed a hummingbird once. However, on a hike by the river this week we had a wonderful surprise. We passed by a man taking picture upon picture, seemingly of the bushes above a rather unappetizing looking bog. He showed us how the bushes and trees here were full of ruby throated hummingbirds! I couldn't zoom in far enough with our camera, but if you look closely in the picture you can just see one perching on a branch.

Some hummingbird facts:
  • The extremely short legs of the ruby-throated hummingbird prevent it from walking or hopping. The best it can do is shuffle along a perch.

  • It beats its wings 53 times per second.

  • They build their 2" wide nests directly on top of a branch, using spider web threads to hold them together.

  • The oldest known ruby-throated hummingbird was over 9 years old.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Caterpillar Discoveries

WHAT an amazing diversity of caterpillars we've seen recently! If you ever want to send a family into a frenzy, put an interesting caterpillar close by. Emma goes running for our caterpillar field guide. Alexander runs to investigate, wants to pick it up, squeeze it, check out its underside, put it in his pocket or sometimes make it a bed. I run to gently guide this inquisitiveness into more caterpillar-friendly activities. When reassured that our little friend is safe, I run to get the camera. Come back, take photos, look it up in the book and ... well sometimes find out that the little friend is actually ravishing my vegetables and kinda sorta wish I hadn't got to Alexander in time. Now how to remove the offending creature without sending very confusing messages to the children....?

Shown are a salt marsh caterpillar on ironweed (seen close to river) and a tobacco horn worm on my tomatoes! The size is not due only to perspective; the caterpillar was actually about 4" long. It sat on one tomato plant for about four days before mysteriously disappearing (not by me - it really did disappear). It was so well disguised, it looked exactly like a curled up leaf.

Friday, September 10, 2010


WELL I thought we had picked enough apples to last us a lifetime. (We certainly picked enough for me to carry once the little ones grew tired of carrying their own sack.) But after making some jars of apple butter, a crumble or two, apple sauce and our favourite - apple leather - I found myself going to the farmer's market and having to buy apples from - horror - Washington State!! Not that there's anything wrong with Washington State, just that it's an awfully long way from here, when there are orchards right here in Georgia. Maybe we'll squeeze in another day trip to an orchard before the season's over.

Way up high in the apple tree
Two little apples smiled at me
I shook that tree as hard as I could
Down came the apples... mmh were they good!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Happy Birthday!

HAPPY 5th birthday Emma and happy 2nd birthday Alexander! We celebrated Emma's birthday with a few friends at a nature center, and Alexander's at home with a special grillout in the back garden.

Here we are at Emma's birthday breakfast, and baking Alexander's cake. I felt really prepared as I had found some nice recipes for healthier-but-not-too-healthy birthday cake, and printed them out the night before. So much for prepared...we were just getting ready to bake when I found we had no eggs left, so we tried out an eggless recipe instead. It worked out ok but I am resigned to the fact that I will never win any baking awards :-)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ice Lollies

WHEN it's so hot all you really want to do is get in the pool or drink something really cold. Ice lollies are good too so I went out hunting for lollipop moulds. Who would have thought a simple mould would be so hard to find? I could have had a set of planes or flowers or Dora the Explorer or all manner of themes, but no simple, small shapes. So I bought a packet of mini craft sticks and we went with ice cube trays, which were just the right size for a little icy snack. We had fun pureeing fruit and making our own lollies... but waiting for them to freeze was hard. Finally they were ready! We had blueberry and raspberry, which I think could have done with a touch of sweetener; peach strawberry was the clear winner for the children but I enjoyed the freshness of watermelon with lemon basil.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Steps in Fermenting

I learned about the health benefits of the age-old tradition of culturing or fermenting foods this summer. Examples of these are sauerkraut, kim chee, kefir and yoghurt. Then I wanted to learn how to make them for myself. Over two classes, we covered fermented vegetables - like sauerkraut - yoghurt, dairy kefir and young coconut kefir. The last is most intriguing. The water from inside coconuts is especially rich in potassium and other minerals, while fermenting turns the acidic sugar into bubbles, creating a refreshing frothy soda-like beverage. For all that, I have to say it's not our favourite.

However, yoghurt and dairy kefir have been a big hit in our family and I can't make them fast enough. I've been using culture starter, but will soon be using grains to make kefir. Stay tuned to hear how this turns out!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Swamp Hibiscus

LAST year I acquired a swamp hibiscus. Only after I got it home, did I read the label and see that it needs a damp environment. No way would this survive in our dry garden!

So imagine my surprise when the plant not only thrived, but we found a bud on it. Then a few days later, a glorious red bloom! The plant has since flowered three times, each time lasting only two days, but so beautiful!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Amazon Girl

JUST because we don't have a stream in our back garden doesn't mean we can't make one with a hose pipe. This works particularly well if you run the water over an area of bare earth, and clay makes such lovely red mud! Just the thing if you want to hide or swing through the trees like Jane of the Jungle.

(Come to think of it, these are the knickers that Emma always puts in Alexander's drawer. She says she knows it's 'clean dirt' but she doesn't like them now they're not white any more.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Snack Garden

OUR vegetable garden has not been prolific, to say the least. And the few vegetables that have grown have not made it to the kitchen. The latest two vegetables - a red pepper and a cucumber - were on their way to the kitchen, via four little hands, when they fell into two little mouths. It's snack time Mama!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Anti-Zoo

I do not like the zoo. I appreciate the conservation and education efforts, but the environments seem so contrived. Though local creatures might not be so glamourous, it's so much more exciting to find animals in their own environments! Here are some of the animals we've seen, heard or found sign of on a guided night hike at a nature centre and a couple of our own day hikes: tadpoles, crawfish, toad, raccoon tracks, snake, downy woodpecker, tree frog, bull frog, cicada.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Caterpillar Invasion

THERE'S not much left of our lawn. It's patchy parched grass, but still some little moth and her friends thought it would be a great place to lay their eggs. For when we went outside this morning, the lawn, patio and brick wall were covered in little caterpillars. The closest we could find in our field guide was army worm, though this is usually found in agricultural fields. So if anyone knows what this is, please let me know! We collected some in a large plastic jar with some grass, but the caterpillars didn't fare well in the heat so we released them again. They were around for only two days, then vanished again. Could they have all been eaten in this time? Where did they go?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jams, Jellies and Chutneys

AFTER all our recent fruit picking excursions and farmers market visits, it was time to do something with all these baskets of fruit! And so it happened that the afternoon was filled with chopping and boiling, sticky-fingered children, singing, laughing and a delicious-smelling kitchen. By the end, we had managed to assemble quite a little stock pile of yummy preserves. We had: peach-ginger chutney, peach jam, blueberry jam, tomato chutney and stewed blackberry and apple which we enjoyed over ice cream at dinner time.
I don't use any 'real' method of processing, rather the inversion method, which is no longer recommended by those in the know. I've never had any problems canning this way, however I did discover that you're only supposed to invert the jar long enough to seal the vacuum and not for a really long time like - ahem - overnight. My blueberry jam was upside down long enough for the jam to set, which left a gap of air at the bottom of the jar. I wasn't comfortable with this so ended up reboiling and recanning this jam.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blueberry Picking

I had never been blueberry picking before. But I understand that our first experience was far from usual. Over 50 years old, the blueberry trees (not bushes) were the size of apple trees! The owner of the small orchard was telling us how it had been passed through the family and lovingly tended over the years. This care was evident and Emma and I gathered bucket after bucket while Alexander trolled the ground, his face competing with his fingers for the most-purple award.

It was a blisteringly hot day, but the avenue of trees kept us in the shade. Nevertheless, after lunch at a nearby park, a babbling brook was a welcome sight and we all plunged in to cool down.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Worm Palace

WHAT else would you do when visiting a muddy creek than build a worm palace?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cleanliness Rebels

I realised today: I actually kind of enjoy other parents looking at me with a mixture of disgust, amazement, and occasionally awe when I allow my children to do something theirs would never be permitted. We're not talking harming animals or talking back to adults. It usually involves dirt. Lots of it. Like today when we were at the playground and a mother was throwing a very verbal wobbly at her maybe 7-year-old. Because he'd taken his shoes off and now his socks were dirty. Well, I understand the despair of the never-ending laundry pile. I really do. I also fight the 'socks-AND-shoes-on or socks-AND-shoes-off' battle. But when all's said and done, they're only socks. I shouldn't comment really... my two were not running on the grubby play equipment and wood chip ground surface in socks. Actually after fifteen minutes we hadn't yet made it past the sprinkler at the entrance. Can you say 'soaked to the skin'?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Beach Table

AFTER holidaying at the beach, a beach sunset seemed like a good topic for a watercolour painting. Emma wanted to display our paintings on our nature table, so we rounded the table out with a few sunsetty silks, some of our favourite shells and a jar of rugged flowers.

Monday, July 5, 2010


WHAT better activity for a hot summer's day with friends than blowing bubbles! We made our own bubble mixture with washing up liquid, water and glycerine and left it overnight to 'cure'. Then took the soapy mixture outside with a collection of implements from around the house. After trying a few, the children had fun running around looking for more things with holes or circles to experiment with. We had drinking straws, cookie cutters, funnels and various toys and tools. Then we made paper bubble blowers and after a bit of practice, even the toddlers became experts! Finally, our team of intrepid bubble blowers piled into the paddling pool for a bubbly washapalooza!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


JUNE in the south is strawberry time! A fun time was had by all when picking but the real fun began later in the kitchen. Smoothies, jam, pie, mmh mmh good!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Surprise Foraging

SO there we were looking for stumps or pieces of wood that could be used as fairy houses, and we came across blackberries! That is, I thought they were blackberries, but they did look a little different from those I gathered in my youth. The leaves were narrower, the fruits were smaller and longer. Also the berries were all down low, hidden under leaves, instead of up in the sunlight out of reach. But they tasted like blackberries, so I figured they must be some New World variety and I remembered reading in Wildman Steve Brill's book that all the blackberry lookalikes are edible, so we picked away, munching merrily as we went. At home I looked it up - looks like it could be dewberries we found. They are very similar to blackberries but grow on a low vine instead of an upright cane. Or are they just one of the 15-20 species found in the south? Whatever they are, there were plenty that weren't ripe yet, so we'll certainly be back for more. Maybe better dressed for brambles and poison ivy next time! Mmmh, blackberry and apple pie tomorrow?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Veggie Reclamation

ANOTHER successful reclamation from the landfill! Actually, from the compost heap this time. I have discovered a new love, which most people throw away - watermelon rinds. A long time ago I enjoyed watermelon rind pickles in Japan and have looked for a recipe several times since then. It turns out these are also a southern US delicacy, but there are other things to make with a watermelon rind too! In fact, there is a whole website dedicated to this: ! Today I enjoyed a watermelon smoothie (flesh and rind together). It was naturally sweet and very refreshing. It was a little too textured for my taste, but a few turns through a cheesecloth fixed that. Watermelon rind salad was delicious and crunchy. Will try my hand at the pickles tomorrow, I think.

Monsters in the Woods

WE are so sad! We got to our favourite piece of woods where we can let Basil off his lead without fear of ever meeting anyone, and found it had been devoured by giant metal monsters! Beautiful trees ploughed down and tossed aside while huge ugly tracks leave no doubt which way the beasts went. Heavy of heart we followed the tracks to see how far the destruction stretched - and indeed it was throughout the small tract of previously natural land. So sad...

If there is a silver lining, the tracks were curvy and looked like they may be making the way for a trail rather than clearcutting for construction or similar. There seems to be a trend in Atlanta of installing boardwalks and asphalt paths through lovely forests where previously only the vaguest of dirt trails existed. Clean tidy nature. Great.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Good Morning Little Red, Red Bird

RIGHT after making a little 'red bird' finger puppet to use in our circle time, we saw a red bird of our own. Beautiful red Northern Cardinals are common in our garden but this was a different bird. It was far away up in the trees, in woods along a river. We couldn't see it well, but it was definitely a different shape from a cardinal, and accompanied by a grey female. We found the Summer Tanager later in our bird book. Here's an interesting fact from
"The Summer Tanager is considered a bee and wasp specialist. It usually catches a bee in flight and then kills it by beating it against a branch. Before eating the bee, the tanager removes the stinger by rubbing it on a branch. The tanager eats bee and wasp larvae too. It first catches the adult insects and then perches near the nest to tear it open and get the grubs."
Well I never.

Good morning little red, red bird
Red, red bird; Red, red bird
Good morning little red, red bird
Oh so red.