Scared the be-jay-birds out of that thing
Monday June 15th 2009, 7:58 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife


Saw a bluejay chasing a squirrel down the fenceline so fast I didn’t know that little bushytail could do it.  Just to let me know who was ruling the roost around here, Little Bird Blue came over to pose triumphantly for me.

Now look at that thing. I grew up with Eastern jays, frumpily plump. This one’s ready for a bikini and the beach.  imgp7835

Meantime, I’m not quite done with the first 430 yard skein of the seacell/silk fingering weight I bought from Dianne at Stitches, and this shawl already stretches to 18″ at a guess, pre-blocking, across 397 stitches.  Nice!  imgp7829I want it short and tied in front, a style I like with a lightweight yarn like this one is. I’m going to take a second ball and add an edging, though, so I’m not done yet. Then just add water, and the lace stretches out on its towel and shows off its stitches.

And then.  I got a package in the mail today, a delightful gift from Karin.  This is my favorite silk jacket and her Wine colorway in an 80/20 merino/nylon blend, an on-the-heavy-side sock yarn.  What a match!  And unlike most such blends, it feels so soft that I was sure at first it must have been mislabeled and pure merino in real life.  It is seriously lovely stuff. Thank you, Karin.

(Okay, now, hold still Miss Jay while I measure you for your suit. I’ll make sure to have enough yarn left over for you. How about a little ribbon tied at the back–you know, bow-‘tocks goes so well with that look.  Can’t have you being, you know, nekkid as a jaybird over there.)

Migration patterns
Sunday June 14th 2009, 7:41 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Kyle (here and here, I love his story of what he did) and his young family are moving away, and it’s hard to see them go. I gave them my cousin Grant’s name, someone they’ll likely meet at church, to help them feel at home right away in a strange city by being able to make connections right off.

Meantime, today, other old friends who’d moved away four years ago were back again and told us they were now in the area for good: they are a couple who had gone through much to adopt two children internationally while they were here before, with everybody here cheering them on, doing fundraisers to help with the expenses, sharing worries over the medical issues of one of the little ones… Their new children became ours, too.

The younger one, having not seen me since he was a small toddler, took one look at me this morning and threw his arms around me.  I tell you. I could get used to being needed like that.

They just missed the Bay Area too much to stay away.

If only all good friends who fly away could share that migratory pattern and return. (Yes, yes, Karen, I know, you’re still waiting for me to move home to Maryland.  But I do come back to visit!)

California Backyard Cake
Saturday June 13th 2009, 8:42 pm
Filed under: Recipes

imgp7793Squishy squish.  A great one for kids to help out with. I must be a kid.

Take ripe plums and squish each one through the hands till the stone is separated out; set the stones aside as you go.  Your blender will thank you.  Measure about a small flattened-off teaspoonful of sugar per plum’s worth, more if you like it less tart; stir sugar and plum guts, including the skins, and zap till it all boils for two minutes or more.  If you want, you can mix a little cornstarch in with the sugar before mixing to help smooth the texture, but it’ll be fairly thick as it is.

After it boils, you put it in a blender or cuisinart till smooth. Voila. A rich, gorgeous, scrumptious plum sauce with almost zero effort. Don’t miss out on the skins; they add the tartness and the depth of flavor, a sour cherry effect.  Pour over ice cream or cake.  Pureed blueberries and sugar is also an option, but then you really will need that cornstarch, the amount depending on how much you cook up.

Now for the California Backyard Cake:

Oven at 350.

Have a bowl ready with 2 c flour and 2 tsp baking powder.

A second bowl with 2 c sugar and 1/2 tsp salt.

A measuring cup with 1 c freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (or I suppose 1/2 c OJ and 1/2 c juice from average grocery store lemons, Meyers being a hybrid, but that’s just a guess. I use what I’ve got growing out here.)  Add 1/4 c oil or butter–the original Cretty Bocker 1950 1st Ed. Inexpensive Sponge Cake recipe said 2 tbl, but that makes for a fairly dry cake. On the other hand, if you want to use the leftovers as toast, or to have it as low fat as possible, hey, go for it.  I’m just telling you how I like it better. (Note: 6/11/12: I used a full stick and then sprinkled the top with 10 oz raspberries and ~1/4 c brown sugar on that, and I will definitely do it that way again.)

Beat four eggs for about four or five minutes, till very light.  Add a tsp of vanilla. Have the lemon juice and oil or butter come to boiling in the meantime.  Add the sugar/salt to the egg mixture; then slooowly pour in the boiling lemon juice.  Quickly beat the flour mixture in and put the 13×9″ Pam’d pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes. (30 in mine.)

imgp7795Serve with plum sauce poured over each piece. Yes, that’s a lot of tartness.  If you want it sweet, you can mix the plum sauce with powdered sugar to make a frosting to coat it instead.

Happy summer! (Trying not to drip plum sauce on the keyboard.) Cake and sauce shown in their natural state two minutes after it emerged from the oven, when I couldn’t even move the pan yet for the photo without oven mitts.  Ya gotta watch those indoor squirrel types–they’re dedicated to the cause.

Turning tail on it
Friday June 12th 2009, 6:19 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

imgp7780Yesterday a small scruffy-tailed gray squirrel started eyeing my birdfeeder with a determination he’d not shown before.  So did a black squirrel, but it quickly decided the thing was not in range and not worth the effort.

That gray one, though, started stalking it. It approached it from every possible angle for hours, amusing me just on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling glass, including climbing the man-eating plant with the prickly trunk that in 22 years I have never, ever seen a squirrel on before.  But it was eight feet away and far too low. Forget that one.

It tried going down from the awning. No go.  It climbed the ladder to the left: that was the right height and straight across, but it was a good ten or twelve feet away.  Hmm. It laid there on the ladder, lifting its head every now and then, judging the distance, willing the birdseed to move closer by the power of its little mind.  The feeder stayed obstinately put.

imgp7779I glanced over: the thing had climbed the near pole, four feet away, took a flying leap right through the twiggy branch I’d hung that was nowhere near strong enough to support it, and had lucked out and landed on the feeder, which went swinging wildly. The squirrel had a panic attack.  I was coming with the camera.  The dang seed wouldn’t come out! Frantic frantic panic panic GIMME THE FOOD! as I approached, trying at the last second to pull the top off with its teeth.

I reached for the door handle for a better shot and it was just too much. There was no way it could jump back to that pole.  Caught.  A surge of adrenalin and it managed to leap up from the top via that string it hadn’t found a way down from earlier, up onto the awning, and away.

It never came back.  Neither did the black squirrel.

Round one to the feeder.

(As I knit away on Dianne’s Caribbean colorway seacell/silk from Creatively Dyed Yarns… Gotta throw in a little knitting content occasionally or I hear about it.)

Thursday June 11th 2009, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

imgp7763Thank you all for the kind messages about John; much appreciated. And re the Zofran, no longer needed for now.  Yay!

imgp7760(Can you see the speck above the Rotunda?  Up! In the sky! It’s a bird! There is one, honest.  And below, fledgewatchers doing the garage band thing.)

Last night I found myself with a chance to go see the peregrines in person, in the evening when the UV was far less of an issue and when I hoped the traffic wouldn’t be horrible even if I couldn’t use the carpool lane on the freeway: originally, Michelle was going to go with me, but that hadn’t worked out.  It was 6:45, it was a half hour away, the San Jose library would close at 8–I just suddenly made the decision to go anyway.  I grabbed my keys and took off.

I had been told the 8th floor there was a good viewing area, and I was fortunate to find a parking spot on the street a little past the library in a handicapped zone. Walking inside, I had no idea how to find what where; the security guard’s face lit up when I told him why I wanted to find my way upstairs.  Yes! The falcons!

From the upper corner, I got a good view of the side of City Hall: the nestbox, the louvers above the windows to the side starting just below it, the hallway lights turned off on the two top floors for the fledglings’ sakes.  And best of all, the peregrines.

A parent was up there near the top, identifiable by its white chest so tiny in the distance.  I had binoculars, not a great pair, but something, at least.  Two babies over there, one over that-a-way.  Clara (I was told later it was) then went soaring slowly around and around City Hall, floating effortlessly in the wind currents, taking her time, surfing the skies.

There were far fewer details than what I could have seen looking at the cam on the computer at home, but to see them alive and in person!

imgp7764And then it was hitting eight and I headed out.  But this time, going to my car, I knew what I had had no idea of when I’d pulled into the space: my car was half a block directly to the side of the building that the peregrines were on, in some ways a better view even than from the library. Fabulous!

So I stayed.  I saw a young’un taking off and flapflapflapping furiously, trying to gain altitude, finally getting high enough to ride the currents a moment too but perhaps too tired from all the energy expenditure to keep at it long.  Later, one running the ledge when Mom arrived and two more flying over from the louver to join in.  One, however, stayed on the louver, their latest favorite place.  Having claimed the most perfect spot, it wasn’t giving it up.

There are three babies up there–I wish you could embiggen this.  I saw their huge wings outstretched and then folding in again, again and again.imgp7770

I saw, once the Momma-mobbing was over, what looked like one juvie on her return ever so gently missing and hitting the wall above the louver, wings outstretched, before settling down with her siblings.  Like this, (thank you, Eric!) which happened a day or two earlier; some of them are still working on their landing gear.

Veer, however, is quite the flyer. He’s been practicing the prey handoff thing, and actually, after I wrote the other day that that was something they had yet to learn, I got a report that he had actually done it for the first time that very night. He had received a large pigeon in a handoff from Clara, they flew together to the top of another building, and then when she went to fly off to the other babies, it was, Hey, don’t leave me!  He took off after her.

Without the pigeon.  Making excuses.  Mom! I don’t know how to cook this thing, here, you do it!

Clara noticed, swooped back, collected it and reinstated the dinner menu, and one can just picture the eye-rolling to go with the wing-rolling.

I loved Eric’s picture of Clara above while some of the juvies played at hand-it-over. If you mouse over it and see the comments, you’ll understand, given the end of yesterday’s post, why I guffawed out loud when I read them.

The whole thing was absolutely thrilling. I was so close.  There were quiet moments, with a baby pancaked here and others sitting there and Clara on guard above, where nothing much was happening for about twenty minutes, with the dark gathering quickly.  I reminded myself that I am a knitter: I am well versed in quietly waiting for things to unfold and come to be.

The other thing I want to mention?  Every person I encountered, whether I interacted with them or not, had an air of happiness about them. Quite a few glanced with a smile towards the top of City Hall or above: San Jose State kids waiting for a bus, downtown diners, random people walking by on the sidewalk.  The peregrines–so nearly disappeared permanently from all of life so recently–were right there, in plain sight, alive, graceful (or at times still just aspiring to be, like the rest of us) and glorious.

And life was good.

Juvenile peregrine theme song
Wednesday June 10th 2009, 1:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Politics,Wildlife

With apologies to Paul Simon (and an extra verse added by special request of the peregrine group)…

The problem is all inside your wings, Clara said to Kya
The answer is easy if you practice, and eventually…
I’d like to help you in your struggle to fly free
There must be fifty ways to leave your louver.
Fifty ways to leave your louver.

Dive out of the way, Jose. Set a flight plan, Esteban. Watch your Clara, Tierra. And set yourself free.  Look and fly clear, Veer. Try it today, Ilahay! Just hop off the ledge. Fledge. And set yourself free.

The watchers said it grieves us so that Carlos went astray
We wish there were something we could do, to make him show again
But Esteban is here. A peregrine papa too, now, teaching,
Fifty ways to leave your louver.  Fifty ways to leave your louver.

Dive out of the way, Jose. Set a flight plan, Esteban. Watch your Clara,
Tierra. And set yourself free. Look and fly clear, Veer. Try it today,
Ilahay! Just hop off the ledge. Fledge. And set yourself free.

Glenn said it’s really not my habit to intrude
But the more I see you’re grounded and your directions misconstrued–
Don’t want to box you in. But at the risk of being rude
There must be, better ways to leave your louver. Better ways to leave your louver.

Dive out of the way, Jose. Set a flight plan, Esteban. Watch our Clara, Tierra. And set yourself free.  Look and fly clear, Veer. Try it today, Ilahay! Just hop off the ledge. Fledge. And set yourself free.

Tierra said why don’t we all just sleep on it tonight
And I believe in the morning, we’ll begin to see some flight
And then Veer kicked her. And she realized, they probably were right
There must be, fifty ways to leave your louver.
Fifty ways to leave your louver.

Dive out of the way, Jose. Set a flight plan, Esteban. Watch our Clara, Tierra. And set yourself free.  Look and fly clear, Veer. Try it today, Ilahay! Just hop off the ledge. Fledge. And set yourself free.


A side note. My son John got T-boned by someone speeding fast, totaling both cars. He lucked out in that his passenger wasn’t hurt and only John’s shoulder got reinjured: it was operated on after a high-school wrestling team injury a few years ago.  He hurts, but oh goodness.  Thank you dear God for saving the life of my child and the others.

And of course, since he’s not currently a full-time student while on a mission for the Mormon Church, our insurance won’t cover him even though we pay the same premium as before he left. But that’s just noise at the moment compared to what matters.

Sparrow me the details
Tuesday June 09th 2009, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

imgp7740We hung up the birdfeeder May 20th and waited for the birds to show up.

And they did not.

Maybe they were waiting for the raccoons to invite them to the party: Hey, look, we know this seedy joint.  It’s a real dive, but the chow is great.  C’mon in!

I woke up this morning to find the handle pulled straight up on the mini-trashcan, but with the new tape (next step: bungee cords) it was firmly keeping a lid on it.  And then, finally, this evening, a sparrow was darting around the porch, checking it out. But–but–guys! Isn’t that always how it is! You hear of a great new place, you finally go, and the health department or something shut the joint down already!

Crum.  It pecked uncertainly at the concrete next to the can.

Bird. The seed. It’s hanging, right up there above your beak, don’t you see it? You know? Where you fly?

Nope. It flitted hither and yarn like a knitter with a bad case of startitis.

imgp7757That did it. I’d been thinking about it for awhile.  There was a loose spot in a metal brace, part of the awning near where the feeder was hanging from; I tried to push some twine through the gap.  It wouldn’t go. I went back in the house, got a dpn that hadn’t been used on a sock in a long time, poked at it, and finally, got it cast on.

I looped that twine around the top of a small dead branch and hung it up there.  My thought was to give them something woodsy and comfortable for them to perch on and then make the jump over from.  Maybe they like to zigzag their way in, the way we’d seen some feeding their young.

Not three minutes later that sparrow, which I’d scared off, had come back and had found its way to it and another bird had flown straight to the feeder.  Three minutes.  After waiting nearly three weeks and getting, after that jay had been twirled off like a two-year-old on a carousel the first morning, not one single one.

All it took for the bird life to respond to food in plastic packaging was to add a little nature to the scenery in the restaurant. Who knew.

Enough of that
Monday June 08th 2009, 8:43 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

imgp7741And so pardon me a moment while I try to track down a mystery.

A few days ago there was an amaryllis knocked off the picnic table on the patio, smashed on the ground.  Who did that? When did–I didn’t do that, did I? I’m certainly not that deaf, I’d have heard it.  Huh.  I picked the plant up and repotted it.imgp7737

A few minutes ago I went out to water the tomatoes at a nice dusky time of day, and there were two more on the ground, one with a smashed pot and one simply in Amaryllis Down mode.  Curious.  Michelle? No, not me, Mom.

And then I saw it.  The birdseed trashcan.  The lid over thataway.   But…but…  Raccoons don’t eat that stuff, do they?  Do possums?  In my experiences growing up in a house in the woods, the ‘coons were good at prying open the cans, the possums at falling in after them and getting stuck.  Dad would brave the teeth on those things, take a broom, tip the metal can over, go THWAP on the bottom, then go back inside the house and wait for them to stop playing possum and leave.

But this was a very small trashcan and easy to climb back out of at their size.

Some animal had apparently been climbing up on the table to divebomb the thing trying to get the lid off.  And it had succeeded.  How did I not notice that earlier?  I packaging-taped it back on in two places, moved the can further away and moved the more fragile amaryllis pots away from the edge of the table, and hoped that would do it.

imgp7747I need a motion sensor attached to a floodlight and our Flip.  (They wouldn’t eat my first tomato of the year, would they?)  I want to see this thing in action in the middle of the night, for the amusement factor if nothing else.  A coon playing falcon–look! Up in the sky!  It’s a bird! It’s a ‘coon! It’s–super-seeded! by the tape.

Meantime, if you’re interested, here is a marvelous collection of falcon pictures taken by one of the fledge watchers, and here’s a few more.  Veer bellyflopped yesterday off the nestbox ledge onto the louver just below and right onto his sister. They were all practicing their flying and landing skills today: one they will eventually master is being able to fly backwards below another one in order for prey to be passed between them.

Those juveniles need a baby peregrine theme song: “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Louver.”

Monday June 08th 2009, 3:08 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Politics

Remember when the employee of Caremark, the prescription distributor my insurance company contracts with, told me they weren’t sure they wanted the liability of selling me my prescribed Humira?  At a time it looked like nothing else would keep me alive?  I wanted to say to them, all drugs have side effects and if you can’t handle that simple fact of life, what on earth are you doing in this business?  And why do you have any say whatsoever?  You’re just a supplier. My insurance has (FINALLY!) approved that Humira.  It is approved by the FDA for the disease I have.  Send me the flippin’ med, fer cryin’ out loud, since it’s one I cannot pick up at a drugstore and cannot do anything about on my own.

And we all know how that one went. Nada, despite frantic phone calls from us, from my doctor, even from that Caremark employee’s secretary responding to me by walking around the floor trying to find where that woman went so she would finally take my call again and do the right thing.

And then my readers saved the day by bombarding them with messages till they not only caved when the weekend was over, but they actually grovelled.  Which was a little too satisfying for my own good.

So. On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, as I’ve written here, I was in Urgent Care again in great pain with a new flare, and one of the things the doctor I saw did was to prescribe me Zofran.

When my Crohn’s flares, I barf.  I never did once during all my pregnancies and I used to pride myself on having an iron stomach. Shows you what I knew.  So.  It is somewhat unusual for Crohn’s to cause barfing, and I can assure anybody that thank you, I’d prefer to be normal on that one.  But all the iron-stomach thinking and determination I’ve tried gets me nowhere these days: in the hospital, they had to keep me on two different high-powered IV anti-nausea meds at a time pretty constantly.

I could draw you graphic pictures of what I do on Phenargan, the entry-level med. Let’s not.

Based on all that, the Urgent Care doctor prescribed me Zofran instead, and rightfully so.

Which the insurance company denied. And not only denied, but since it was a holiday weekend, they had nobody on staff to even begin to appeal it to to get me through the long weekend. The doctor filling in for my Dr. R. reiterated to them a few days later my need for that med; with my very low blood pressure, barfing is an emergency and I need to have access to it.

I got a letter Saturday. Not from Blue Cross, my insurer, but from Caremark, who, like I say, they contract with, and who my local pharmacy had to get the okay from.  And I quote:

“The request was denied for the following reason:

The patient is not receiving moderate to severely emetogenic chemotherapy, total body irradiation or fractionated abdominal irradiation. The patient is not less than 18 years of age with a diagnosis of gastroenteritis and dehydration.”

I don’t have cancer so go ahead and barf. Nice.

And we wonder why the insurance companies don’t want the accountability that would be a natural part of the competition of having people having a choice of a government plan vs. them?  Right now, their only accountability is done legislative piece by piece, state by state, as outraged people get the one part of medical neglect they’ve been subjected to fixed by the demand of the law, while other parts wait for someone to suffer loudly enough.

My friend and hero Marnie took on a quarter million dollars in medical debt to adopt her kids, because at the time insurance companies were allowed to deny coverage to babies till they’d proven they were healthy their first month and forever if they weren’t.  That loophole was so egregious as to spark a Federal law outlawing it, too late for her.

We need a better system.  We need the will to do it. I’m not one demanding a single payer, but I do say, and loudly, that the insurance companies MUST be held accountable.  And the only way to do that, short of lawsuits that drive up healthcare costs and enrich the lawyers, is if they have true competition, which they do not now.  You know why they’re fighting so hard against the government providing an optional plan.  They’d have to change.

Piece of Pizz’a
Sunday June 07th 2009, 4:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

There was one other thing I didn’t mention yesterday on the very remote possibility I’d be spoiling the surprise. In the late morning, we picked Richard and Kim up at the airport, got to share hugs and tell him happy birthday in person, and took them out to lunch at the place of his choosing. Pizz’a Chicago.  (I can just see all the locals suddenly smiling. Good place.  And the one place where even Michelle can safely eat pizza, which she loves, if we’re careful.)

Birthday cake at home.  Then we dropped them off at Kim’s aunt and uncle’s house a few blocks away, where they were getting ready to surprise her grandparents, who also live in town: it was their 60th anniversary.  They were expecting a small celebration. Ain’t gonna happen.

Her grandfather was in Stanford Hospital the same time I was, and Kim’s mother would visit me after visiting her dad in cardiac.  Sometimes life teaches you not to take things for granted; sixty years together? Hey! Everybody! Let’s ALL celebrate–to life! And so their children and grandchildren showed up.

On the falcon front, Esteban Colbert (aka Papa bird) sat on a ledge on City Hall motionless for four hours yesterday, while his adult-sized chicks, who have not yet learned how to hunt–fledge first, one thing at a time–got hungrier and hungrier.  It has been reported that one parent will fly at a group of pigeons lined up across a lightpost, and as they skitter away, the other will snatch one from behind.  When you’re flying at 200+ miles per hour, you want a cushion of air under your prey, not a metal post.

But this time EC was, from his son’s point of view, sitting on his duff. So Veer flew right at him and then pushed him off that ledge!  His Pigeon English conveyed the message loud and clear: feed me!

Later, Veer was seen chasing after one himself.  You can just picture his father smirking–nothing like a little motivation to get a kid to do some work that he’s new at and uncertain about.  (A one-on-one parent/child hunting lesson happened as I was typing this. Squab-on-the-wing. Tastes like chicken.)

We’d have offered up a slice if pepperoni/veggie had been their thing.

Twenty-five years ago
Saturday June 06th 2009, 4:30 pm
Filed under: Family

Hi, Mom and Dad, it’s a boy! Just like I told everyone he was going to be (although, no, there was no ultrasound done; it just had felt like this one was definitely a boy, and so he was.)

“You missed my birthday,” growled Dad good-naturedly.

I told him that well, the doctor I wanted wasn’t on call the day before, and I wasn’t going to have my baby till he was going to be the one to deliver him.  End of story. Sorry about that.

Well, in that case, he guessed I was forgiven.  And Dad got a good laugh out of it, knowing that yes, I would indeed have gone out of labor if I hadn’t gotten the doctor I wanted.  I’d inherited Dad’s stubborn streak.

All the stories I could mercilessly tell on this 6’9″ little boy of mine.  The fingers dipped in the oil floating at the top of the natural peanut butter that he then ran down the newly-painted wall, at age two, of the house we were trying to put on the market.  We had to sand it down before we could paint it again.  Of the time he…

Well, let’s just say he was a normal, active little boy.  He filled all the lines on the massive x-ray chart at the clinic and they had to start a new page.  He is someone who I had to explain to a pediatrician (not his regular one, who knew him) as, this one doesn’t feel pain much, and if he *does* complain of pain, something’s wrong–listen up.

As a kid, he got hit by a car on his bike (just like his dear old Mom did at age nine) and ignored it and went to go play in his soccer game anyway and thought he could get away with not telling anyone–he didn’t want to let his teammates down.  He got bitten by a gopher he was trying to pick up to protect it from the kids on the playground who were stomping on its mounds.  Got a heart of gold, that kid does; we were assured that gophers don’t carry rabies and that the gopher had definitely been provoked, even if not by him.

He volunteered for a mission for the Mormon Church, being willing to go into the chaos that was Haiti, studying Haitian Creole, and then being reassigned to southern Florida when all Americans were ordered out of that country for safety’s sake shortly before he was to arrive.

Thus he was in southern Florida during all those hurricanes a few years back; he cooked and served hot meals for the Red Cross shelter, and lived for a time near Barbara Walker’s home.  (She and I swapped a few hurricane stories on the phone once.)

He had placed sixth for fluency in French for non-native speakers for all of northern California in high school; Haitian Creole, the old slaves’ French, was easy for him to pick up.  And thus, in one of those Red Cross shelters, he was able to translate for a woman with a severe heart situation to the paramedics, writing down in English what she was telling him.  He was told he’d saved her life.   A news crew came in, looking for a human interest story in the storm, and people pointed him out.  But there were hundreds of salisbury steaks needing cooking and people who were hungry.  When he later emailed me the link to the newspaper story, he added, Mom, your, um, hero son–they got in my way! I had work to do!

And he told me that if he never accomplished anything else during his two-year stint, he now knew why he had to learn that language and receive that calling: to be able to be there in that place in that moment when that woman so needed him.

He later picked the best daughter-in-law I could ever have hoped for, and thank goodness she picked him too.  He loves her dearly for now and forever.  Happy birthday, Richard!

(I’ve been corrected–there were no paramedics at first because nobody knew the woman needed one.  She’d simply given up.  Richard got asked, since he could speak her language, to go ask her if she needed anything. Uh, yes.  She did.)

Happy birthday, Dad!
Friday June 05th 2009, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Wildlife

imgp1959I called my Dad today to wish him a happy birthday. (This is an old photo but I think it captures him so well.)

He gave me a mild scold that I’d been talking about birds on my blog and avoiding telling what’s going on.  I allowed as how that was true.  But they’re so cute!

So.  How ’bout them peregrines?  Two were snoozing at the end of the ledge this afternoon, and one gets up after awhile and decides it’s time to go play.  He (of course it’s Veer, who else) nudges his sister with his beak. She’s snoozing. He tries again; nothing doing. He picks up that big foot of his and gives her a decided shove.

Veer–let me explain this to you.  I am ignoring you.  I am ASLEEP.  Notice the closed eyes?

He puts his foot out again and broadsides her.  Waits for a response.  Nada.

Does it again, at which point she turns her head away and does all but roll her eyes, which are now finally open.  VEER!  I. Am. NOT. getting. UP!

On the other side of siblinghood, yesterday, when Kya was up on that roof drying off from her ordeal, a report came in this morning that said that she’d flattened herself down in the way that’s referred to as “pancaking,” the way the babies sleep, with feet out behind and bellies flat, to soon see one of her siblings (one report said Veer, one, Ilahay) who’d flown up there to keep her company.  The arrival pancaked down beside her and stayed there till Kya was ready to pick herself up and give it a go again.  She was not alone.

She ended up eventually safely back in the nest.

I don’t know if that was her on the ledge today with her brother or if it was another sister.  C’mon! There’s a gorgeous world waiting out there for us. I’ve seen it!  Let’s go fly!

Give it a rest for now, okay, Veer?

Oh, alright, be that way, and he half flew half ran off down the ledge and away.


And just because it’s Dad’s birthday and he wants me to, okay, yes,  I’ll add a report.  My Dr. R finally got back from his sabbatical, something I’d been waiting for (along with probably half the population in town, it must feel like to him.)

Bleeding below the endpoint of the colectomy surgery, pain above in upper GI, although less of the latter now.  So.  I’m to go on prednisone again while hoping it’s not enough to set off a diabetes reaction again, come in for x-rays next Thursday and see him again the next day, and meantime he scoped that bleeding stapled-off stump.  (The big G search engine is not my friend on any further description here and that’s probably more than you want to read anyway.)  Totally Crohn’s-y looking.  Further surgery is one eventual option, but not yet.  Biopsies taken.

And I had not told him anything about it nor said anything to her this morning, but it was all I could do not to snicker as he surprised me by telling the nurse I’d “already been prepped” for the scope: she had shoved a pamphlet at me last week with pre-sigmoidoscopy dietary restrictions.  I’d tried to explain to her that there was no colon.

She insisted.

No connection.  Does Not Apply.

She still insisted.

I drank my thoroughly-dairy-containing hot cocoa yesterday morning and this with a feeling that it was an act of defiance.

Guess who was assisting at the scope.  Not that I’d said anything to her, but.  A lesson to myself not to roll my eyes at any nurse ever, even just from within, because you never know when you’ll need them, and besides.  Who doesn’t need a little gentleness their way anyway.  It was probably at least partly a language barrier, which must be very difficult for her and I of all people, with my deafness issues, knew it.

Meantime, I am enjoying my time chuckling at the antics of teenage birds acting so much like my kids did and my siblings and I before that, while grateful to good parents who helped us learn to spread our wings well.  Happy birthday, Dad!

This flying thing is for the birds
Thursday June 04th 2009, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

How the heck do you drive this stickshift?!

Or, why the biologists committed to rescuing this species that almost came to extinction in the days of DDT are doing Fledge Watch this week with binoculars on the ground and all the trained volunteers they can find.

imgp77201This picture is looking in the opposite direction down the runway from yesterday’s photos; that is the nestbox on the right.  Every now and then the camera will close in on the bands on the birds so you and they can tell which one we’re looking at.

No such luck this time: I saw a juvenile take off this afternoon, which was so cool, and mentioned it to a friend but told him I was sure it had to have been one of the ones who’d already fledged: it looked too steady and too sure of itself to be a first-timer.

Boy was I wrong.

At that time, according to the report that came in a little later, Kya took off.  She had a rough landing and decided to stay put on the Bris de Soleil for a few hours.

And then she decided she wanted to go home.  There was a sibling at the end of the high ledge by the nest box, watching: via the webcam, I could see a falcon in flight swooping around again and again, though I had no idea which one it was.  Then there was one swoop to just out of sight where I thought, wow, that didn’t look good. I assumed it was just a funky perspective of the camera.

It wasn’t.

The report that came in later said that she’d tried for the nestbox but hadn’t gotten quite high enough and had collided slightly with the building. She recovered, swooped around and tried again–and this time hit harder.  Down down down, falling noisily, grabbing at the vents on the side of City Hall for 30 feet with the noise getting the attention of otherwise oblivious people on the ground as well as the fledge watchers.  Everybody holding their horrified breath.  Then she caught herself, winged it, and… the people standing on the nearby garage had her coming towards them and were going, she’s not going to clear it!

And then she disappeared.

They ran.

She ended up in an alley with multi-story structures on three sides and no way she could see out.  A person was walking in her direction. One fledgewatcher yelled at the woman to stop coming closer! Another, the biologist in charge of the project, went over the fence that was in his way and took off his cap.  When he got quite close, Kya went on her back with her talons up, ready to fend him off. He stretched out his cap, she grabbed it, and he was able to swoop it and her up and hold her wings gently in to get her into a protective box.

She was then taken to the roof of City Hall, not far above the nest, where her parents divebombed the biologist–they knew what was in that box! Smart birds.  He doused her with water so that she would wait before flying again and could get some rest while he got the heck out of her way, rather than having her panic and tire herself out and do more damage.

And she’s okay.

Parenting. You send them out on their first solo drive and you pray like crazy.

Boomerang kids
Wednesday June 03rd 2009, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

imgp7695IlahayHi, Mom, hi, Dad, what’s for dinner?

Veer! Ilahay! You’re back!

Kya and Tierra were all over the nest area today, but didn’t leave it. Their siblings returned and hung out with them, joined at times by a parent, until the late evening, when Veer flew off again.

imgp7694I thought I’d share a few screen shots. The white spot in the center of the back of the one on the bottom in the third picture?  Remember my Blue Jay shawl story? One of the others was on that upper ledge, and…

I asked the peregrine group if that could damage the fledgling’s feathers, given my experience with the bleaching effect of bird poop even when washed off right away and Stephanie‘s experience once with it actually weakening the fibers in her yarn. I was assured that birds’ feathers have a protective coating on them and not to worry.

imgp7705Then one person chimed in about having once seen what her birding group had thought was a white-feathered turkey vulture. Till they saw where it roosted relative to the other turkey vultures. Oh.  Oops.

So I guess it doesn’t harm them after all.  Just makes them easy to spot.

Maybe a Nancy Drew
Tuesday June 02nd 2009, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Every night, Clara is perched on the high ledge by the nest box, keeping watch over her offspring so they don’t spring off.

Last week, the little ones would be mostly settled down for the evening even before it was all the way dark, barring their tails getting bounced on. (Veer!)

Today, the two remaining females spent a lot of time side-by-side, first on the lower ledge, and then finally, the last one, with her head bobbing upwards and back down to her feet again and again trying to judge the distance, okay, here goes nothing under me!, joined her sister for the first time on the upper.

Preening with a careful set of talons gripping the edge.  Looking out over San Jose.  Skittering backwards during wing-flap practicing, as the earlier two had done.  Finally, it was enough for awhile, and one hopped back down to the runway.  When food arrived to the ledge shortly thereafter via Mom , the other tried to eat it without the movements and the height getting to her, but finally gave it up and flew down with the prey to where it was a little safer.  Where the two could share.

But soon they were both back up high on the upper ledge or on the top of the box rather than inside it. They could now, so they did.

I looked at the cam tonight. It was late.  A parent peregrine was standing guard, as always.

And one of those eyasses was, instead of snoozing away in the box, standing on the far side of it from Mom on the lower ledge, looking out. Probably reading some chick lit under the covers with the city lights as a flashlight.