They were just helping
Thursday August 16th 2018, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I remember wondering as a kid how on earth a measure of fruit–or Peter Piper’s famously pickled peppers, for that matter–could come in…pecks. Who thought of that word and put it in that context? So strange.

After gleaning these from the ground (which, truth be told, is an easy way to harvest) with, if you turn them over and around, a single beak mark in each, I think I get it now.



Halfsies?
Tuesday August 14th 2018, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

I got my first fig two days ago, and it was just about a breakfast unto itself. I’d almost forgotten how enormous Black Jacks get.

There were two more that would have been perfectly ripe today and I was quite looking forward to them. Halve them, put some Brie in the center and put in the oven to roast… Just one more day’s heat to make them perfect.

Yeah well and early this morning one was snapped right off and this was the other, quite hollowed out and nearly all gone–I was going to have to work harder than that.

So I did. (I also chucked this and washed my hands a good one after the photo–who needs raccoon spit contamination?)

I happened to look out the back window this afternoon to find a squirrel twirling away on a branch. But they don’t even like figs! Well maybe now they do. How did it… I scared it away, but by the time I grabbed a hat and a sun jacket and came around the outside of the house to reset that netting it was back at it again.

So I worked a little harder on covering the survivors up. That had worked up till then and I wanted it to keep working.

I at least got better netting this year: it’s heavier and it doesn’t glom on and tear things as if it had been glued to the leaves.

I sprinkled chili flakes liberally. More stabby acanthus stalks. Then I got some of the older stickier netting and pulled it over any gaps.

And that was that. No more sign of squirrels. Success.

Till I walked out this evening to see if everything had gone as well as I’d thought.

Somehow the scrub jay hadn’t gotten the memo that the bird netting had been reinforced. It had managed to get in there between the two layers but it couldn’t find its way back out in its sudden emergency and it really really wanted to as I approached. Its blue wing appeared to snag on I couldn’t see what while the rest of it fought furiously to get free, with me two feet away and the netting between us. It felt just like my finches had the moment before it had stabbed them to death, awkwardly and too slowly because it’s not good at being a predator.

Neither am I. I gave it a verbal what-for just to reinforce whose figs those were and at last it found that one open-enough spot, burst out of there and zoomed up into a tree. Okay, good, you didn’t damage yourself.

More acanthus stalks. Spiky spiky spiky. Although that’s more a mammal thing. (Picking a splinter out.)

More hopes of getting the best-tasting figs in the world, ie picked fully ripe at the break of day. I’ve waited a year for this.

If nothing else there are still some very green ones to give me time to plot my next move.



Caaahs and effect
Sunday August 05th 2018, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

I was showing my sister-in-law around the fruit trees in back when suddenly she did a startled double take.

Oh, that’s the dead crow.

The !??!

I explained.

She burst out laughing, just like I did when the lady at the bird center told me all the crows in the area would caaaah a funeral together at their fallen comrade, and then leave and not come back–because they didn’t want to be where a crow had died.

The trick, though, is to set it out at night and then retrieve it at night so they don’t associate you with harming it and that peach tree it was under was long since done and I’d only been remembering the retrieving part during the daytime. Which wouldn’t do.

I have seen zero crows in the yard–though I did see one croaking away at full blast at the top of the tree next door yesterday, where it had direct eye contact with the deceased. No translators were available.

What mine really seemed to protect against was squirrels–they clearly did not want to go near that beak.

Nobody has confessed to ruffling its feathers.

But at this point I figure it’s been dead out there for three weeks, and if I put it over in the apple tree it will have moved and thereby be deemed alive–telling the squirrels to scram and the crows to come celebrate. Free food!

Jennifer’s guffawing did it. I remembered. I bagged it.



Quoth the raven, Nevermore. Nor a first helping either.
Wednesday July 18th 2018, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I did a doubletake this morning: how on earth did THAT get there?!

Maybe it was a possum or raccoon hunting a mouse hiding under the frost cover?  It had been dragged a good way across the patio and was chewed on and peed on where whatever it was had finally freed its leg from it.

Or maybe its dinner.

Meanwhile, over at the August Pride tree with ripening peaches, I had bird netting pushed in on one side (I’ve learned not to put it on top of a growing tree–peaches have scrawny limbs and they grow too deformed with the netting) and frost covers that had been dragged to catch as many burr-type weed seeds as possible, tucked around the trunk to keep critters from having firm ground to stand on much less any kind of comfortable. Lots of stabby acanthus stalks for good measure.

It ain’t pretty but you can barely see it from the windows, so there’s that (or so I tell myself. Don’t look.) Note the (stuffed) crow standing guard, no longer ‘dead’ but perched on top of the, um, valance. The squirrels have definitely been avoiding its threatening beak even though it hasn’t moved for days. They don’t even want to run down the fence line in its direction: a few steps and then a freak-out and a leap towards the neighbors, again and again. It’s very gratifying. There are no peck marks in the fruit, either.

Clearly a living dead crow works better than a dead dead crow.

One frost cover there had been trampled last night, too, a branch broken most of the way off the tree–but all thirteen peaches are still there. It’s a small crop on a small tree but I’ve worked hard for it.

Rock a bye baby… Something probably did not have fun landing on those stalks. They are the porcupines of the landscaping.

I added a lot more acanthus and some of the dog fur my friend Kathy had given me a few months ago for nesting birds.

The peaches took on more yellow today. I even gave one a slight, wistful tug, but no, August is their name and August is what they want. They’re supposed to look like this.

Two more weeks. Wish me luck.

—-

p.s. Pachelbel’s Canon played with rubber chickens. Because of course.



Bleaching fast. Send bird poop.
Wednesday July 11th 2018, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

It was one of those headlines that makes you go, Wait, *what*?

But what would be the best way to fix the problem? Rats are wily. I’m thinking maybe neutered feral cats, perhaps older ones to shorten the number of years till they too are gone and the natural order can be restored.

Save the coral. Kill the rats. These really are connected. Who knew.



There are fewer squirrels, too
Tuesday June 19th 2018, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

An idle wondering followed by an inner, oh, come on, now. Yeah they never found those, but give me a break. Those animals are born to wander and wander they do: they’re long gone.

The peaches, look at those peaches. I hadn’t thinned them anywhere near what they should have been (though I did some) but I’d figured the critters would take care of that and they weren’t likely to leave me much anyway, right?

A very few have been nibbled on. The rest are–well, there they are.

Oh wow, that was almost a year ago. Okay, so I really had no reason to connect it with my untouched fruit. Even if the mountain lion and her cub growling in that guy’s redwood across town were never seen again. He was someone who’d tagged mountain lions in his job and said he’d seen people walk right by a bush one was hiding in and they never knew it–that generally they’re really quite shy around people.

Well that’s comforting.

The neighborhood listserv was talking about the county saying it was a coyote that had gotten someone’s cat and someone else chimed in that she’d seen a mountain lion in her back yard two weeks ago at (wait–that’s close to us!) and another (probably the same one) had been seen over on this street.

Blink.

Well the problem with our well-fed urban raccoons and possums and skunks was that they had no predators around but lots of food to choose from.

Apparently now so does a very big cat.

You know, I have this weekly chore of watering all the fruit trees starting after dinner and continuing till dark, seven minutes per tree seventeen trees, going in and out repeatedly, and I did that tonight.

But I confess to being a little skittish standing under the bigger older ones as the light was almost gone. At least I had a hose in hand. Part of the time.

Maybe we’ll finally get around to installing them a drip system.



Begin: the rest is easy
Thursday May 17th 2018, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,LYS,Wildlife

My first success at trying to photograph it.

The new Cooper’s hawk hasn’t yet been harassed by the ravens–and so, for apparently the third time this week, he took his dove dinner to the middle of the yard, out in the open. (Pardon the broomstick.)

Just like Coopernicus did when he was young.

Meantime, I went off to Cottage Yarns to try to find me some seaweed colors, and I did find some dark green but I’m not quite convinced it won’t turn into cowls instead. It’s hard to match the brightness of that Cian colorway.

Here’s what I’ve got so far: I cast on the entire width of the afghan, figuring I would put most of the stitches on hold and work one strip upwards at a time. Right now though I’m not so sure I won’t just simply do it all of a piece.

It took till today to figure out what bugged me about the original pattern: it’s four squares wide. The eye is unsettled at low even numbers–it wants odd ones. It’s got to be five. My swatch said I needed five anyway.

I’ve got ten stitches for each side, eleven rows, and I’m calling that bottom border done.

I want a reclining octopus taking up enough of one side to help divide the interior into the visual thirds that it should be. The seaweed needs to extend well into a second row’s worth to help with its third.

I got me some finagling to do.



He forgot he could wing it
Thursday May 10th 2018, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Raising those new feathers to the sky and flying is the easy part.

It’s the learning to land that takes practice.

This young falcon’s first flight landed him in a spot where his parents apparently couldn’t get food to him, so he went hungry for twenty-four hours. Now that’s a long time for any teenager, and when it got to be too much he made a break for home.

Nope. A little too high. (His brother sees him.) Well then I’ll just…

(I meant to do that, as his brother’s feathers flare wide in surprise.)



Peregrinning
Tuesday May 08th 2018, 8:27 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The San Francisco peregrine falcons are about two weeks older than the eyases in the San Jose nest, and one of them just fledged.

Video of Glenn Stewart after banding the San Jose kids.

Video here of one of the San Francisco kids flapping its wings, doing little leaps, wanting so badly, and then finally OFF! Into the unknown of Look, Ma, no ground! It was quickly joined by a parent, who helped it find its way back to the nest on the 33d floor of the PG&E building.

Gliding down is the easy part. Getting higher is what they have to learn, and so far, so good.



Gone fishing
Sunday May 06th 2018, 9:41 am
Filed under: Wildlife

Oh my goodness! I just saw a snowy egret in glorious breeding-season featheriness (that tail!) land on the fence right outside the window! It was regal, a little bit dinosaur, and it dwarfed its perch.

Then it flew to the roof next door and looked over and I suddenly got it: uh oh, those koi are a-goner…



What happens when they’re the ones flying
Wednesday April 25th 2018, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

I was looking at suitcases at Costco online, looking for a lightweight one, and it hit me–don’t take it for granted: I looked at the dimensions.

Height plus weight plus depth, add up those inches. If the number’s over 60, Alaska and apparently other airlines charge you an extra $75 each way. Which adds up fast to the new suitcase you’ll want after buying some of those.

Our old ones were fabric and they’d gotten to where they made our clean clothes arrive smelling like they were on the return trip.

So I’d opened them and put them out in the sun, since that’s the best disinfectant of all (and if it works, the easiest, right?)

I think it was a scrub jay. Nailed his but good. Yeah, it scrubbed clean, but he’ll never look at it quite the same way again.



The soap opera
Monday April 16th 2018, 10:40 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Politics,Wildlife

Winter cold, rain, hail, the now-daily appearance of a Cooper’s hawk impatient with young to feed (clearly), and an earthquake–3.9, just enough to be entertaining if you even feel it (I didn’t.)

And the disclosure in court over Trump’s lawyer’s lawyer’s objections that Trump’s lawyer of late had but three clients: Trump, Trump’s fellow rich friend who likewise had a woman he allegedly wanted paid off and silenced, and (drumroll) Sean Hannity of Fox News. Meaning any time Hannity has gone off on Mueller’s investigation it could well because of what Mueller might find in the files now seized from Cohen on Hannity.

I bet he’s finding the ground a bit shaky over there.



Plus the spiky plants on the left
Saturday April 07th 2018, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Stella sweet cherry blossoms. Squirrel free. We are finally actually there.

(Not shown: bird spikes on various branches and collapsed, old and broken but clearly still useful bird netting tents around the trunk of the tree, making it so the critters have nowhere to scramble down to and no way to leap across from the fence without risking being porcupined. A little cinnamon dusting for extra effect, and I have finally stopped them from chewing off the flowers.)



Chestnut-backed Chickadees
Wednesday April 04th 2018, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

My friend Kathy dropped by about two weeks ago with a bag of combings from her shedding dog. Very soft. Grays fading to off-white, a little possum-ish in color.

I’ve been putting bits of it out among the amaryllis pots. Small clumps here, a few wisps there–I figure if I offer a buffet the nesting birds will take it the way they want it.

The Bewick’s wrens took off with just the tiniest bit of fluff. They came at first but seem to be done now.

But the chickadees–they came the first day and they keep on coming. They dive right into the biggest bunches of that fur again and again till their beaks are so stuffed that their flight away is comically wobbly.

Windspeed, little ones. 



A son of goodly parents
Saturday March 31st 2018, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Life,Wildlife

Not a single squirrel so much as ran down that fence line, as far as I saw today. Several times they came down the side fence, stopped, sniffed in the direction of the cherry tree–nuh UH, and turned the other way and disappeared into the yard behind instead. Two new cherry flowers today and they were left alone. Unsweetened grape Kool-aid solution for the win!

The blueberries might need some of that soon.

And over at the needles, beaded silk. It’s Conference weekend, and two two-hour online sessions of watching the leaders of the Mormon Church helped get a lot of knitting done, with an occasional glance over at squirrel antics.

The stunner/not-surprised-in-hindsight was the announcement that someone who grew up in our ward, whose family we know well, was called to be one of the twelve apostles. I cannot think of a better man in every way that they could have asked to represent and offer Christ’s love and compassion to the world. I’m so glad his 91-year-old mom got to live to see the day.

There are two more sessions tomorrow, starting at 9 am and 1 pm Pacific time.  Wishing a joyful Easter to all who celebrate it and every good thing to all.