On Stephen King...and Hummingbirds.

Many years ago, when I read the book,

On Writing

by the master of the macabre, Stephen King, one of his recommendations stuck:

“...put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around.”

Now, granted, King went through some tough times. During his days of addiction, his grand desk lorded over a spacious, sun-lit room, where he “...sat behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of my mind, like a ship's captain in charge of a voyage to nowhere.” After he got sober, he traded his desk for one half its size—and moved it to the corner.

My desk is tucked in the corner. And although I'm neither a world famous author nor a recovering addict, the corner desk works. Otherwise, I'd spend most of my time gazing out the window.

Of course, a window overlooking a garden actually benefits a garden writer. Because you never know what might inspire the next story, post, or article:

Yesterday, after several months of neglect, I finally cleaned and filled the hummingbird feeders. I hadn't worried much about the birds during the summer, because our garden is filled with nectar-rich plants that provide sustenance for the hummingbirds. Still, as the days become a bit shorter and many of the plants drop their blooms, I decided to add the feeders back to the garden to give the hummingbirds an additional source of food.

The result? A hummingbird fiesta.

Our garden is typically filled with hummingbirds. Trees and bushes provide shelter and places to nest, while the perennials and annuals offer nectar sources. The feeders, though, provide an extra source of nourishment for the hummingbirds—plus, they give us strategic viewpoints for the tiny creatures, which can be challenging to spot among the trees and lantana.

Clemson University's Cooperative Extension

offers excellent information on developing hummingbird habitats. Some of the plants recommended for food sources include lantana, morning glory, honeysuckle, petunia, snapdragon, butterfly weed, bee balm, Indian paintbrush, and hollyhock. We've also found that trumpet creeper, hibiscus, and red columbine attract hummingbirds in our gardens.

In fact, hummingbirds tend to favor red flowers, although they are also attracted to orange and pink blooms. However, red food dye added to prepared hummingbird food isn't necessary.

You don't need to purchase hummingbird food at the store. It's very simple and inexpensive to make at home. Because I never remember the exact ratio for making hummingbird food, I thought I'd share it with you. (Maybe by writing the formula, I'll finally remember the ratio without looking it up!)

(Do you see its tongue?)

To prepare homemade hummingbird food, use a 4-1 ratio: 4 cups of water, 1 cup white sugar. Boil the water, adding the sugar and stirring until it completely dissolves. (Boiling also helps retard the growth of microorganisms.) Wait until the mixture cools, and fill clean feeders.

NOTE: Never use honey, brown sugar, or artificial sweeteners. These ingredients can harm the birds.

Place the feeders at least six feet apart in the garden. Shade helps slow the fermentation of the nectar.

Clean and refill the feeder at least once a week, more often in hot weather. Mold in the feeders can make hummingbirds ill.

You'll find many gorgeous, artsy glass and metal hummingbird feeders. While I used to purchase the expensive feeders, I found that either the perch wasn't appropriately sized for the hummingbird, the feeder was impossible to clean, or it only lasted one season. Instead, we've been using the non-artsy-but-practical cheap plastic feeders found at the non-artsy-but-practical big box stores.

The birds don't seem to mind.

Did you know that a praying mantis can kill a hummingbird? At first, I thought the praying mantis hung around to harvest insects near the feeder. But then, it seemed a little...aggressive. A quick Google search, and I found that hummingbirds are prey for the praying mantis.

Eek. Thankfully, there were no casualties.

In retrospect, I need to move a few of the feeders. Those sweet, adorable, itty-bitty birds are viciously territorial, and they expend enormous energy chasing their competition away from the feeders.

One feeder is almost empty. And my neck is getting stiff.

Because although my desk is in the corner, the window is to my left...

...I've been spying on hummingbirds all morning.

Stephen King would not be amused. (Unless I wrote a graphic account of the evil praying mantis capturing and torturing an innocent hummingbird...)