Fury flurry
Monday May 16th 2022, 7:43 pm
Filed under: History,Wildlife

The crows and ravens do not fly over my yard. They clearly still have institutional memory of the fake dead crow that was out there at harvest times a few years running, and crows do not go where another crow died. Which is why I put it out there. Ravens ain’t dumb either.

So it was quite the surprise that there was this big flash of black wings beating it hard across the back yard this afternoon.

With a mockingbird right at its back just in front of its tail, divebombing harassing right there on it and calling for the death of a thousand exploding suns on its enemy and I’ll rip your tail feathers off get out get out get OUT! as the raven dove down on the neighbor’s side of the fence and up on the other side of their yard, trying to escape its fury. AND STAY OUT! as the defender swooped up to the phone line.

Clearly the raven had earned that.

The size difference between the two was just astonishing.

I think my mockingbird pair just earned themselves names: Zelenskyy, and Ukraine. (Not, you: crane. Wrong bird.)


Edited to add, before I forget: I have been told this is verified as having actually happened, and now you know as much about that as I do. Watch out for hurling pineapples. To Mom: to read the story all the way through, click on See Replies each time and his next posts will show.

Double eclipse
Sunday May 15th 2022, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Life

I looked at the sky at 6:00 tonight as knitfriends in a Zoom bemoaned stormy skies on the east coast that meant they wouldn’t be seeing the red total lunar eclipse tonight. I didn’t say, Blue and clear and bright as could be here. (I did tell myself, don’t be smug.)

Cue the comeuppance of the fog coming in on little cat feet...

During an eclipse, you know it’s there, you just can’t see it. Tonight, we know it’s there being not-there while it’s there, we just can’t see not seeing it.

A bit hairy
Saturday May 14th 2022, 9:36 pm
Filed under: History

Ron at Buffalo Wool Co (whose buffalo/silk socks are the only ones my husband wears now, and they made it through over two years of him walking around in his socks while working from home. I finally just replaced them) mentioned today that they’d donated a bunch of buffalo hair to a group gathering any kind they could get to felt and use for cleaning up the BP oil spill and he’d never heard what came of it.

Till now.

And if you pay attention to the NOAA guy in that video, they quit using the stuffed tubes of hair because then it got waterlogged and fell to the bottom of the ocean, and then how do you get it out, so they switched to a chemical method of dispersing the oil, which he acknowledged wasn’t great for the environment but better than oil and now it’s sitting out of the way at the bottom of the ocean. Cue to a picture of a mass of oil down there.

Um, wait…

And more since April
Friday May 13th 2022, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

I was looking at some old pictures: this is my oldest Anya seedling, pictured a year ago when it was finally really starting to grow its second year, and three weeks ago.

Suddenly I got why the young termite guy last week, on stepping out the sliding door, stopped right there a moment, transfixed at the changes since last July. On everything. He was delighted–and a little wistful.

I found myself so much wishing I could give him a yard big enough to grow his own fruit trees, because I knew in that moment he’d take great care of them and if he didn’t know how he’d go learn. In a heartbeat.

His moment of wonder stayed with me and finally I had to go flip through the pictures to see for myself what he’d been able to that I should have. To remember to appreciate it more.

When you see it every day it’s easy to not quite notice what the very intermittent viewer can.

Plain and simple
Thursday May 12th 2022, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

The decreases at the top always take longer than I expect them to, somehow, but run in the ends and it’s done.

Ella Rae Cashmereno Aran (I’d say more a worsted.)

I sent off a note to my niece whose son it’s for, explaining the fall and that I’d just finished the brim and had had a pattern picked out to do next when I decided to go outside to do some yard work in the setting sun. How I then found myself waiting for the emergency dentist with my hands simply working familiar, simple stitches, again and again and again and around and around and around, too rattled to think through that pattern but comforted by how the knitting took my mind off myself and towards happy anticipation of her son getting what he’d hoped I’d be willing to make him.

I told her how grateful I was that they’d asked because they had made it so I had it when I was the one who needed that.

Follow up
Wednesday May 11th 2022, 9:09 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Politics

So this post is a little like the fledgling finch I watched trying to land on the newest leaves of an apricot seedling today: kind of flapping its wings all over the place with its feet flailing before flitting off thataway.

Pete Buttigieg, talking sense and being reasonable on the whole Roe issue before the Court.

Last night I was going to start Gansey squares above the brim next on the requested gray hat–when all that other stuff happened. I took it to the emergency dental appointment because you just never know.

But my brain was just not doing patterns. Stockinette on auto-repeat only.

Just need to decrease at the top now.

My new Skacel olivewood needles showed up for tomorrow’s highly anticipated new start in brighter yarns and I’ve never had olive ones before. I know it’s a particularly dense wood. If you’ve tried them I’d be curious to hear what you think.

(And yesterday’s post should have been titled, Another one bites the dust. I think my brain is back.)

I took a gross picture of my face. My husband, with better lighting, took a grosser one and sent it to all the kids. Um, thanks I guess?

The new dentist called this evening to follow up to make sure things were okay. I like this guy.

Rudolph the red-nosed
Tuesday May 10th 2022, 8:24 pm
Filed under: Life

You know how sometimes you think you should get something done and then life makes you?

I haven’t been to the dentist since just before the pandemic. Yeah, I ought to, but yeah, I floss religiously and they’re looking pretty good, and unnecessary exposure, so, yeah, whatever.

Turns out my dentist had back and heart surgery starting in March and his doctor basically told him, Retire. Now.

So when I went looking for any missing teeth–no, looks like they’re still attached, yay–as I picked myself slowly up off the ground, I found out I had nobody to call to ask if I needed an emergency appointment.

I’d gone straight down and bounced off my front teeth. They are loose. Not knowing what else to do, I put a note on the ward chat and six different people instantly recommended the same one and it’s actually someone I know a little and he says yes that needs to be seen and he is having me in to his office at nine pm and it’s actually quite close by. He kind of apologized that he couldn’t get out of (whatever it was) sooner, and I was a little dumbfounded that he would worry about the inconvenience to me when I’m the one who should definitely be apologizing for messing up his time.

Do your back teeth still connect when you bite? he asked over the phone.

Yes. They feel a little funny, but, yes.

He was relieved. “That’s a good sign.”

(Update: no breaks in the teeth. I lucked out.)

Watching, listening
Monday May 09th 2022, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

After a restless night worrying about baby birds I woke up just after dawn and ran to go check but it was of course the coldest point and too early.

But there was a mockingbird perched in the same nearby spot on the telephone wire as the night before–much fluffed up against the cold and his eyes looked closed but his head was upright: asleep but at the ready.

He was instantly all attention a half hour later when I came back and uncovered the tree.

There are to be four of these unseasonably cold nights and then that should all be over with. I will fold the frost covers up and out of the birds’ sight.

I covered the mango again tonight just after sundown, hoping that that was late enough, and when I had the first layer halfway over, out flitted a mocker from the apple tree. Not coming straight there–no, you don’t give it away, you zig zag and head there kind of sideways in fits and starts when you’re a nesting parent.

But which nesting parent? And was one in there already?

I stopped, pulled things back to make room for it to dive down in the branches, went inside, and when that didn’t work, went out of sight inside for a few minutes (knowing the last of the light was fading fast.)

Nope, s/he’s sticking to that spot. Okay, so I came back out and finished the job as it maintained its and we will both do the best we know how and I know where to find him in the morning.

The other thing I wanted to mention: Spencer, who is three until September, the grandson I played Chase Me! with last month while his siblings played Legos–his daddy started Facetiming me for Mother’s Day at a moment when his youngest was far across the room and down the hall.

Spencer saw my face on that screen and instantly came running! He was so thrilled to see me! (I adjusted things on our end so he could see Grampa too because that level of enthusiasm just has to be shared.) They’d gotten doughnuts for Mommy, and he’d done this and this and this and this! and he was so excited to get to tell me every detail of his day! Everything. Not that I heard all that, but I could throw in a, That’s cool! and a, Yay!

I had never heard him talk that much in his life and I was loving it, while his older siblings grinned and yeah okay’ed and little kids gotta little and waited their turns quite nicely.

Doughnuts for them all and stories and love. Life is definitely good.

Bless the beasts and the children
Sunday May 08th 2022, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

It’s going to be cold tonight. The mango tree is in full flower, and those flowers die below 40F and somehow the Christmas light strings had gone out. Not wanting to risk the entire year’s crop, I pulled one of the big frost covers out there.

Then another just to be sure. It’s always easier to get the second one over because it’s sliding over fabric rather than all the dips and bumps and little sticky catches of the blossoms that are individually so tiny and that you so much don’t want to break.

That’s when I noticed it. The mockingbird on the telephone wire watching me from above.

The mockers hadn’t even allowed the cottontail to get near that tree today–turns out if you chase aggressively enough a rabbit will run fast enough to be quite satisfying to the one with the beak. And stay away! I mean it!

The second mockingbird was nowhere to be seen.  I stayed and watched awhile, but no, there was just the one, and as far as I could tell it was silent.

There had to be. There were babies under that frost cover. I should have remembered sooner that I’d been thinking that’s where their family must be, I need to bring someone out there who can actually hear them, oh goodness. I lifted a corner, wondering if the tree would be warm enough, wondering if the silent parent above would find its way back in there and be able to maneuver to wherever under there it needed to go if I left it like that, but I was pretty sure the answer was no.

I went over to the house, almost too dark now to see, because maybe the power to that line had somehow tripped? It was either that or the rabbit had bitten through the cord.

There’s the red button. I pushed it and hoped and went to check.

The Christmas lights were back on. Oh good.

Hopefully a parent was already brooding the nest for the night. The fact that both were often in the air this past week going after the squirrels suggests that there were babies, not eggs, and that they were far enough along to be able to maintain their own body heat to some extent. Now I’d added mine to the mix: the warmth that had been there when the parents had chosen the spot.

I said a prayer to the G_d who knows every sparrow, the one who taught mockingbirds how to sing new songs as well as my own loving mother taught me hers, and wishing them all a happy Mother’s Day night, hoped hard.

The burned saplings growing back in the yarn
Saturday May 07th 2022, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

The knitted redwoods are ready to go.

Twenty-something years ago, we used to make the drive from the San Francisco Bay area to Salt Lake City every summer, usually for five days, after Richard’s sister who lived there was diagnosed with lymphoma. We wanted to see her and her family and that was the way we could make it happen.

A CD would get popped in in the minivan and my husband’s favorites in particular would get played again and again and again and again (with me trying not to say more than once, For the love of pete can we please play something else?! Do those have to be every single trip?)

Tom Paxton. Willy Nelson. Pete Seeger. The Dave Matthews Band picked by the kids as they got older was pretty good, though I’d have gone for some James Taylor, myself.

To his credit, Richard did occasionally fiddle with the radio dial, but there’s a whole lot of nuthin’ going through Nevada.

Those albums became imprinted on my brain as part of, we’re doing a hard drive and we’re getting past my fears of driving past those thousand-foot drop-offs and the roadstop McDonald’s that missed half our order (again! Please can we do the Arby’s next time dear) and you don’t find out till you’re a mile or two down the road and you just go forget it because you’re not doing those miles over and you let a kid have your burger so they don’t go hungry because we’re going to see Cheryl and to show her kids they’re loved and we are not getting there late.

Especially after their dad decided he was afraid of being widowed and alone and was determined not to feel that pain.

I’ve met men who later cheated on their wives but never to the degree that one did. She was so much better off after their divorce.

We came.

There were zero cures and three known cases of remission of the type she had when she was diagnosed on her 40th birthday but she was determined to see her kids grow up. (They say they can cure that type, now.)

And she did it. She did it. Eight years. She made it through her son’s wedding looking far better than I would have expected and got to see him married to the best young woman she could have hoped for, and the two of them so happy. And they still are.

J., his baby sister, was a freshman in college along with my oldest when her mother passed six weeks after.

This afghan is for J.

What I wouldn’t do to be able to give her her mom back instead. But I can offer love and she can wrap it around herself at any time forevermore and know that I’m thinking of both of them.

This new Tom Paxton song for Ukraine came courtesy of my friend Anne today and I found myself near unexpected tears.

With the sound of his voice, all those memories and associations of piling four kids in the car and making that long thirteen hour drive across mountain and desert and salt flats, driving, driving, driving, heading towards people we loved to make good memories with them while we could.

And thinking of all those families who, if they’re lucky, have piled into all those cars to drive drive drive to flee the country and friends and places they’ve loved, wondering if they’ll ever see them again.

We are with them in heart and song and we will play it over and over and over and over. For them.

Bulldog birds
Friday May 06th 2022, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

There’s a pair of mockingbirds whose nest is either somewhere down in the dense tangle of my mango tree or else close to it.

They know what squirrels do to eggs and baby birds and they are not having it–they take turns divebombing them, this one from this direction and then when it turns tail, that one from that, so as always to be attacking from behind and in tandem any time one comes towards my yard in that corner of the fence line.

I watched one squirrel today try to cautiously sneak in on the upper telephone wire and then drop down at the last to the lower one on the approach.

Here they come! He was out of there, away from my yard, my cherries, my peaches, and for that matter the garden next door. Those beaks and potential fur-grabbings were not worth it.

It’ll be awhile before my August Prides get ripe but the earliest ones, now up to ping pong ball size, have begun to take on some quite premature pink. This is usually when they start getting raided.

Swoop! Swoop!

Go mockingbirds go!

Wikipedia says that they live up to 8 years in the wild but 20 in captivity (compared to the single year of your average squirrel out there.) And that they remember where their nests were the most successful and return to that spot the next time.

The squirrels don’t like the smell of the mango, probably for the latex in the sap, and even when it has ripening fruit they avoid coming too close to it. The mockingbirds may well have figured that out.

This could be a trend. I like it.

All I need now is to teach them barking bulldog sounds. They’ve earned that addition to their courting repertoire.

The pits
Thursday May 05th 2022, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Knit,Wildlife

Newborns! (Falcon video.)

Meantime, the sour cherries on the bottom of my tree are about halfway to ripeness while the top of the tree has finally come into full bloom–and the result is, I’ve really been wanting sour cherry pie again.

There was one last bag of them in the freezer.

From the last of the season, when I was so tired of pitting all. those. cherries. that I didn’t. I simply picked them, filled the largest ziplock as full as it would go and that was it for the year, knowing full well I’d wish later that I’d pitted them but also knowing that that was way better than tossing them after waiting too long to get around to it.

Today was the day. I was motivated. I found them. I covered four dinner plates with them to let them thaw fast.

For the record: pitting them from fresh is actually, probably, I think, easier.

But there is a 10″ pie in the oven from those hundreds and hundreds of small tart cherries and it smells divine.

And then, fingers dyed a bit pink, I realized what I’d done.

J’s white afghan, having needed the mill oils scoured out of its yarn so it can be its best, softest, half-cashmere self, is soapily soaking in the tub.

Daring those fingertips to come anywhere near it.

Babies! Almost
Wednesday May 04th 2022, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

There were reports of two pips spotted among the three peregrine falcon eggs on San Jose City Hall. These are the tiny holes where a baby beak begins to do its first job. White fluff was spotted on the first, video was taken, and I am told that you can hear the tiny sounds of the eyases (chicks) as they are slowly showing themselves out.

I don’t think I can–there might be something at the very edge of my hearing with everything turned full blast, possibly–but maybe you can hear it.

Here we go again
Tuesday May 03rd 2022, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Life

I read the leaked Supreme Court draft and I think I just need to take a deep breath about that for the moment. I will say that it unconstitutionally establishes by the power of the government one religious viewpoint above others. They picked and chose what historical context they wanted while pretending anything that contradicted them didn’t exist.


I’d found a few new spots (one of which, it turned out, was indeed termites–directly above this computer, so that one was easy to spot) and with our five year warranty the guy was here again. Just him, not the rest of the crew this time, but he noted the work that had been done on the house during the repairs since he’d been here. It looked nice and he was quite pleased about that and happy for us.

I told him there was this one corner where there had been a bag of soil leaned against the siding that none of us had thought to move and check behind–and the repair contractor had found a bit of termite damage but had assured me it was all gone when they replaced that part.

He wanted to see the spot. I took him outside to it.

He tapped on the wood here, here, here, over here, and then again just to be sure: it was solid. Everything was good.

But he pointed to tiny ants scurrying to where I’d first pointed: “Those are carpenter ants. You’ll have to call a pest control company.”

I looked at him a moment in astonished amusement, started to laugh, and then waving at him said, “I did!”

That stopped him for a millisecond as he considered it from my point of view because yes that did seem reasonable, but–and then he explained that they used to, till the state changed the code and required a different license for termites vs ants and rodents and the like, and they didn’t have that license, they just do the one job now.

He also explained how the Eichler houses with their planked ceilings are a particular target for those ants, but said spraying around the base of the house should take care of it, and cut away any trees overhanging the house.

I explained that we had after finding raccoon paw prints on the cracked plastic skylight in the master bath. Another reason why we now have frosted glass ones–I didn’t want that one coming through!

He laughed.

Inside, there were a few places where quite small spots of paint were peeled away on the ceiling. Near where a couple of those cracked skylights had been.

The ants had done that, too, he explained.

So, if you ever need incentive to organize your house, get termites. The crews need to be able to see everything. But don’t put it off.

He’ll be back for the annual inspection in July.

Dr. Y the art historian
Monday May 02nd 2022, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Today was one of the great honors of a lifetime: we got invited to attend a friend’s doctoral thesis defense today. Zoom was an option.

And so I did.

I kept my camera on during the introductory remarks and then, fearing I might in any way be a distraction, turned it off and just watched, needles and hat project in hand. I and so many others had been praying so hard while he’d been so worried and had worked so hard to be ready.

But now it was happening. Once he was actually up there facing the faculty for it, he knew his stuff, he knew what he was going to say, he knew he could answer their questions, and he just nailed it again and again and again with the confidence he had put the effort into earning.

Congratulations, Eric! filled up the chat sidebar at the end as I turned my camera back on long enough for him to see the huge smile on my face.

He did it!

I will forever wish he’d gotten a chance to meet my dad–they so much would have hit it off.

Wherever he and Aubrie and their two young sons go next, if there’s room in the car, a little Anya apricot tree will start to set down roots along with them.

And if when they get all done packing the space just isn’t reasonably there, I’ll send them some kernels from this year’s crop. They want one as a memory of California, I want to send a bit of my heart into their future, and we can make this happen.