Mystery solved
Friday September 04th 2015, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Friends,Wildlife

Got a note this morning from my next-door neighbor: she was taking some water saved from washing vegetables outside to pour on some of her plants and found the chewed-up bubble wrap in the farthest corner of her yard from our house. She had a good laugh and took care of it for me.

Good to know it’s not waving to the world from the top of the redwood tree.

But don’t let it stop you
Thursday September 03rd 2015, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Today: saw a Downy woodpecker, for the first time ever here, and it came again and again and again to the birdfeeder. Testing, testing, one, two, three, and no, you don’t peck through the tube, you have to go to the feeding portals. It figured it out quickly and was quite happy hanging upside down and reaching in. They’re not usually seedeaters, but this one was interested. Curious.

And last night.

What was THAT? we looked at each other. Man, that was loud! I could picture claws ripping up the foam roof as the animals scrambled around each other up there.

I grabbed the squirt gun, stepped outside past the patio in the dark and aimed the weak but hopeful stream in the general direction. I figured they don’t jump, so no worries there. Going back inside, the raccoon fight or whatever it was had ended, probably at the sound of the door opening as much as anything.

It wasn’t till today that it occurred to me that actually, given that we’ve had a few within a mile or so of our house, if it had been a mountain lion, yes, it could have.


Byssus way
Wednesday September 02nd 2015, 10:13 pm
Filed under: History,To dye for,Wildlife

The bubble wrap has disappeared, whether upward or downward in those trees I do not know. Squirrelwork!

Silly stuff aside, I want to learn how she does this. I want to understand the chemistry of all of it. If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a BBC article here about an Italian woman who is the last person keeping alive a tradition going back to, in her family’s tradition, the days of the Biblical King Herod’s great-granddaughter: she harvests byssus, the dried saliva of a clam, and adds a mix of spices that not only dye the clam silk but make it luminous.

The clam is a protected species but so is she–the Italian coastguard overseas her dives.

She is the Antonio Stradivari of fiber artistry. No one else can quite yet create what she does. She sells nothing and gives away everything according to the needs of those around her.

The reporter did not know enough to ask her how she changed the fibers into what she does, whether she works it still wet straight out of the sea or dried like her sample, whether she pulls it wide like a cocoon of terrestrial silk–is it all one long thread?–and spins it from there, or just how her yarn comes to be from its raw material. How is it done. I want to pull up a chair and learn (I’ll take my brother Bryan, he speaks Italian).

And I can only hope all the attention doesn’t cause poaching of her beloved clams.

On the hunt
Tuesday September 01st 2015, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Wildlife

Someone on the neighborhood listserv mentioned that SunGold kiwis were available at a certain Asian grocery store. Sun whats? Yellow kiwis? What–? I was intrigued, and I wasn’t the only one and so the thing happened.

They’re yellow on the inside, ready to eat when you get them, juicy, softer than the green types and a lot less acidic, have an essence of mango to them and they are really, really good. This specific variety was apparently new as of 2012 so there’s not a lot out there yet–if you can find some grab them. A lot get sent from New Zealand to Japan, so I guess that’s why the Asian grocer knew about them.

Dave Wilson Nursery sells a red variety. Who knew. One guess as to what I went looking there for, but, nope, not yet.

The other thing today, though, I did not get a photo of; the iPhone was right at hand but the moment had a great big Do Not Disturb sign all over it.

This past spring when I watched the ravens threatening and mobbing my Cooper’s hawks, stealing their prey and stealing their nest? I kept an eye out for a new big nest up high out there somewhere but it just never happened as far as I could tell.

A finch ricocheted off the window this afternoon, appearing unhurt but still I heard it as I looked up.

A few minutes later–clearly not in chase, then–a juvenile Cooper’s hawk flew in past the bird feeder following that same trajectory to that same spot. Only, he u-turned gracefully at the glass, brushing it ever so gently with the very tips of his wings as if to confirm for himself that it was indeed a solid surface: useful and a danger both, then. Alright.

He landed on the edge of the wooden box, right at his father’s favorite spot for people watching, and chose to observe me sitting quietly observing him.

In awe.

What a gorgeous bird. Deep chestnut marled with the brilliant white in the chest lit up in the sun, the back that would later be blue-gray a matching brown. This was not the baby hawk bouncing around in the amaryllises that I got to see a few years ago, this was a raptor who was well into learning how to command the skies on his own. Who knew his own power. And yet he came down to me.

We took each other in and I silently welcomed him to my home. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

Wings lifted high, tail widening–and rounded, confirming Cooper’s, not Sharp-shinned, as if there were any doubt, and he was off.

He swooped back the other way a few minutes later towards the redwood. I laughed in delight.

And so a new generation finds its path.

Crosby Stills Nash and squirrel. And John Denver.
Monday August 31st 2015, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life,Wildlife

The shawl: blocked. Done. I totally love it.

Remember the bubblewrap around the awning pole to keep the squirrels from jumping onto my bird feeder? It worked for months.

Yesterday, however, the lower two-thirds of it disappeared. What was left was still around the pole–but chewed on. What on earth eats bubble wrap?! I could not find the rest anywhere.

Till suddenly in the early evening there it was running down the fence line, a squirrel tripping over it each step as it glanced sideways at me with its mouth very full, looking at me like, I *know* you want this, it’s MINE now! It leaped into the tree in a sudden panic, struggled mightily to continue, snagged the thing and gave up and fled.

Oh now that looks lovely. (I apologized to my neighbors. They laughed and said they couldn’t even see it from their side.) That’s their tree growing straight over our property in front of the redwood, and under there is the 60-year-old corrugated roof to our shed gently blanketed in decades’ worth of redwood needles. There’s no climbing on that thing–it would collapse in a heartbeat. The limb lopper can’t reach. At least it’s not at the top of the redwood.

But I guess for the moment we’ll just have to let its freak flag fly.

Meantime, we got a card in the mail from the Census Bureau, which was doing a mid-decade test to see if they could move the whole process online. And so by force of law our household was to fill out their questionnaire at this URL by tomorrow, with a phone number to call if that weren’t possible, in which case they would send out an in-person census taker.

The thing checked out and yes they were actually them so I took care of it.

Richard walked in the door tonight to find me doing my best John Denver impersonation. Sing it with me: “I Filled Out Your Census!”

Trying to type with an icepack–but it’s definitely all good
Sunday August 30th 2015, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

Just one long row at a time, I told myself.  Then rest the hands for the rest of each hour–I didn’t want to push them into a more lasting inflammation than the little bit going on. There is not a single painkiller I can safely take.

Other than icepacks. Done.

On the hour I picked those needles back up again. Then I put them back down.

Yeah that all worked just fine till about 8:00 p.m. when I just kept pushing on through till ten with one nagging break to go read a newspaper article, because I was so close to being finished and I so wanted my inner vision to become real and accomplished and right there in front of me at long last. This one had been a long time coming.

I started this shawl during my cousins reunion trip over the Fourth of July–where I forgot my instructions so I just had to make it up as I went along.

Ad-libbing may be freeing but it’s also a whole lot slower: you constantly have to stop, take stock of where you’ve been and where you’re going and how much yarn you have left and make sure it’ll be what you want it to come out looking like and that you’ve got the yardage to do it. Will it pinch in below the shoulders? Stop weigh count consider.

It made for slow progress. But it was becoming something new entirely and the closer it got the faster it was finally going and by the time I went to bed last night I knew exactly what every single remaining row was going to be and I was totally falling in love with it like never before.

It’s the lace weight that Melinda of Tess Designer Yarns surprised me with and it exactly matches a favorite shirt.

Tomorrow: cast off. Block.

Wear, with an inner thank you Melinda’s way every time.

“Oh sure, I could go!”
Saturday August 29th 2015, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

I was missing being able to eat a just-picked ripe peach or plum but wishing for a trip to Mariani’s was as close as I was going to be able to get. Today was not a turn for the better and I’m thinking I’ll take the doctor up on her offer come Monday of making sure I don’t have pneumonia.

I did have the one single Indian Free peach from my new tree that I picked about a week ago, maybe as much as a month early, to give the tree a rest and to thwart the critters–after all this waiting I thought it better that we get it imperfect than that the squirrels get it all.

Today: hey look–it had softened up and was ready. And so after all these months of anticipation, knowing we weren’t going to get it at its best, we cut it in half.

One side was white, the other a deep rosy pink. It was sweet enough and there were already nuances of flavors you don’t get from a grocery-store peach–wow, just wait till we get these at full ripeness. What a marvelous tree. This was already good.

But one very small peach. One could only wish for more.

Someone loves me. And the folks at Andy Mariani’s sent a get-well message home with the box.

Flour power
Friday August 28th 2015, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Recipes

Pansy cookies. Seriously. I have to try these. Only, would you trust a flat of pansies from the garden center to be pesticide-free? We seem to be quite out of homegrown this year… (With a shout-out to Margo Lynn for the link.)

Got any Morello that?
Thursday August 27th 2015, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Still not free of fever at night, still sick, but today I could do stuff. (Yeah, I watered the trees Tuesday because I had no choice. It was a near thing, though.)

Today I saw a green pop-up ad selling olives and I wasn’t buying–I went out there this evening, clippers in hand.

When the tree guys stump-grindered the last of that dying olive tree, there was this wide, deep pile of sawdust afterwards. Not long after I planted my sour cherry in the middle of it and hoped.

It’s still this tiny little thing.

In the last month somehow clusters of quickly-hardening stalks have risen from the dust in a half-circle at the outer perimeter there. The first time surprised me; after that I kept an eye out and got to them earlier. I put large rocks where they’d been but wait a week and up they come again, sometimes in a new spot.

It’s not much of a contest, though, especially the ones trying to work their way out from those rocks. But it does make me wonder how much the English Morello has had to fight for root space–and it came with a broken-off major root. You don’t get first pick on bare-roots in March. But I did get my tree.

And so, wearing a flouncy silk skirt that I put on this morning to make myself feel better even if my body didn’t just then and knowing I was clothed ridiculously for working in the dirt (but eh, it handwashes), I got the tips of those clippers down below the soil line and just cut cut cut.

Because if I stopped and rested and changed I knew I might not get it done.

And then here’s the amazing thing: in March it was all yellow layered flat flakes of sawdust there. What was coming up in my hands was a well-crumbled rich, rich black soil any gardener would leap to have.

I think that sour cherry is going to end up just fine.

Got to stop
Wednesday August 26th 2015, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Politics

On air. As the reporters interviewed.

I am not by any means someone who feels there is no place for gun ownership. My husband and sons were taught at a rifle range at scout camp when they were younger. Grizzlies will happily eat you in Alaska. Etc.

But the blunderbuss and frontier of colonial days is not what we have now and our laws need to reflect current reality–and technology. If that requires a Constitutional amendment I’m all for it, although I will point out that before the current makeup of the Supreme Court the original version did the job quite well.

Parents cannot legally leave small children unattended but in Virginia a toddler by law can shoot a gun as soon as he is able to hold one up long enough to do so. Any size magazine. Cheers.

The thing about politicians is that by being voted into office they have a little more power than the rest of us do and we willingly give them that power.

And then some of them claim they have none because, y’know, peers. Or they sell it, or at the very least sell us out.

When someone invented a gun that could only be operated by its owner he got blasted by the NRA and sent death threats. Here was a champion of the Second Amendment who was threatening the income stream of the other gun manufacturers–because you wouldn’t want to have to, y’know, pay for any kind of licensing agreement on his invention.

Death threats. For trying to make guns safer.

There is now on average a multiple-victim shooting every day in America.

Every single politician who has voted for there to be zero restrictions whatsoever on guns is choosing to be complicit in those murders. Full stop.

Bug zapping
Tuesday August 25th 2015, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I was watering one of the peach trees tonight and standing maybe three feet from the Meyer lemon when movement right at the near edge of it caught my eye.

The only time I’ve ever seen a California Gnatcatcher up close before was when one was fleeing crows and struck the window, falling onto the sidewalk. Joe Lerma saw it happen, the guy working that day installing our new furnace and ductwork, and the little thing’s recovery awhile later meant the world to him. Good guy.

Right there three feet away, then another, then another, a trio flitting through my dwarf lemon with more dancing just over the fence.

It felt like having that Disney Snow White thing down just so.

They were apparently eating the mosquitos that had been trying to home in on me. Hey! Cool! Help yourselves! An ant on that leaf? Dessert.

The lemon tree must have been the perfect spot for them: lots of dense thorny cover to zip in and out of.

I had my iPhone in my pocket for the timer function re my hose and when I pulled it slowly out and aimed it at them they allowed it. I snapped away, trying hard to get them and that hummingbird that zoomed into the almost spent flower I had nearly cut down not five minutes earlier but had left for that very reason.

I know there’s one and I think there were two gnatcatchers in this photo. Tiny little birds. All cheer, no fear.

Doorbell-ditched chocolate
Monday August 24th 2015, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Two friends wanted to come by a couple days ago and I had to tell them that between the deep cough and the fever, they really didn’t want to be here.

Then Richard, on the edge of the bug and not wanting to infect anyone just in case, didn’t show up at church Sunday either.

This afternoon I went to go get the mail and there at our doorstep, wrapped together in twine in a bow, were these two bars of chocolate and a get-well card containing an offer to run any errand I might need done while I’m down. Note that the Chocolove so far has been opened, sampled, and exclaimed over–definitely buying that one myself first thing. We will taste-test the second one tomorrow and stretch out the anticipation a bit: life is good.

A huge shout-out to Courtney and Alice and how could I not feel better after that?

Out on a limb
Sunday August 23rd 2015, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life,Wildlife

It was a three steps back kind of day. A little discouraging, and the fever had begun to come in cabin flavor too.

And yet, when I had to crash and go lie down again, look who fluttered in. Same as yesterday: a dove in the camphor tree outside the clerestory window, keeping watch over her little flock by day. I watched her consider a few spots, then walk over to where there’s this little horizontal leg in the limb where it was just right. She turned around and around there, checking out all angles, just making sure of her safety, then back to facing me.

It was a good spot. She stood there a moment, then quietly settled down on her feet. She let her wings relax to brush the limb and then she simply shared the day with me for a good long time, however long I might need her, it felt like: she had all the time in the world.

When my first attempt at a picture was a complete whiteout she even let me walk closer for a better one, although she did lift her wings a bit.

Then she let it be.

It was strange and normal and lovely all at once, and I am grateful.

The interweb
Saturday August 22nd 2015, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life,Wildlife

I knew that some birds collect spiderwebs for the cushioning and great tensile strength those give their nestbuilding.

I knew that many songbirds with a failing nest, i.e. where none of their young in the spring survive, will mate again and raise a second set of young in the summer. And so starting last week I started noticing the occasional finch here and there acting as if it hadn’t quite nailed this landing thing yet–and I’ve been watching one yesterday and today doing feed-me begging that females do when choosing a mate and new fledglings till their parents start turning away from them. I’m assuming, given the date, it was a fledgling bugging her dad.

What I hadn’t quite put together was that the number of spiderwebs on my floor-to-ceiling glass on one and a half sides of this room just explodes in tandem with when those birds need that resource: in the early spring, the sides of the windows are always suddenly quite covered and everyone from Bewick’s wrens to chickadees to finches want a piece of it. Then when nesting seemed to have settled in in earnest this year (instead of two flirting Bewick’s wrens there was only ever one seen at a time, the other clearly minding the eggs) I cleaned the windows. Just like I do every year, only for the first time I was paying attention to the timing of all this.

They stayed clean.

And then suddenly all at once about a month ago the view out was looking like it was dressed for Halloween again. I resisted the strong temptation to clear it out immediately.

There are not as many young as in the spring, but they’re there. The scrub jay knows it, too–he’s suddenly testing to see if I’m still on his case, trying again to scare them into a collision for an easy meal and has to be reminded he’s no longer welcome here now that he’s learned to mimic the hawk’s hunting.

A bird in the squeezing talons of the Cooper’s hawk simply stops breathing. With a crow-beaked scrub jay? Brutal, inept, stumbling stabbing for as long as it takes as the smaller bird struggles and suffers. The hawk has no other menu. The jay certainly does.

But it speaks the language of territory and this territory is mine and it sees me. OUT. I open the door and it doesn’t even try for the fence line, it’s over it and away. This week, though, with me spending a lot of time sick in bed, I’ve simply let the feeder go empty several times and let the flocks disperse. Easiest way to manage it.

I filled the feeder today and was up to watching the birds awhile.

It’s about time to start cleaning those leftover cobwebs. They’ve served their purpose. Give me a few more days.

Friday August 21st 2015, 10:54 pm
Filed under: History,Life

France. High-speed rail, 554 passengers on the train.

I am in awe of the two American soldiers who had a bad feeling about that one guy, heard him loading an automatic in the bathroom and when he came out shooting, clearly planning to start at the back of the train and kill his way forward, jumped him along with another American and a Brit and despite being unarmed and despite being shot at and stabbed, they succeeded in wrestling him to the floor and getting his hands tied behind his back with t-shirts.

One account said the soldier who was stabbed in the neck had run ten meters towards the shooter’s gunfire.

Wow. Just, wow.

Prayers for all those injured and a huge thank you to those good men for being willing to put themselves on the line for everyone else.