One more way to stay in touch
Monday February 19th 2018, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Knit,Wildlife

There! I said in triumph, done with it for the night. I octopused it.

You what? He wasn’t sure he’d heard that one right.

You know how octopuses can squeeze into anything? I got 61″ of afghan and that ball into that ziploc. (Warning: great National Geographic video in that link, annoying announcer–you might want to turn the sound off.)

Meantime…

I was talking to a friend yesterday who has just bought a house a half hour north of us and is getting ready to move into it. This is a rare and marvelous achievement around here these days. I was wondering out loud if she’d like a fruit tree as a housewarming present.

Because I know how many times I’ve wished I’d planted mine when we moved here, rather than most of them at 25 years later when my kids were newly grown and I needed to still see something grow up year by year under my care. Plus I wanted the fruit. Plus I think they’re pretty trees.

She instantly knew exactly what she wanted and she was ecstatic–was I serious?

Absolutely! As I thought, my late father-in-law is the one who encouraged me to start gardening, and that would be the best use I can think of for some of the birthday check he gave me in December just before he died.

I checked the Dave Wilson site and they said the Blenheim (Royal) was the #1 apricot in California and the top-rated one in their taste tests. But also, as I said to her yesterday, one good thing about apricots is that they’re a little tart and squirrels don’t like tart.

It turns out she knew her apricot varieties and Blenheim was her favorite. Well then.

Yamagami’s, my favorite nursery, had the Royal variant in stock. Perfect.

She helped me get that big thing out of my small car this afternoon, exclaiming, I can’t believe you did this! I can’t believe you already did!

Take pictures for me when you get it in?

She couldn’t wait to.

And I came away thinking, how often do we get to spend money on something that will last the rest of the recipient’s whole life? That tree will keep giving and giving and giving, and you learn with the first one and who knows where it’ll take her from there.

I could hear one of my favorite doctors in my head, an avid gardener, when I asked him about the squirrels, answering happily, I have MILLIONS of apricots! They hadn’t touched them.

I said a little prayer for Jennifer’s tree to grow and thrive along with her three little kids. They need to wait a little while before they climb it, though.

A bowl of them (cupping my hands for size) in five years? An excuse for a visit.

She’s looking forward to it.



Flight and feint
Saturday January 20th 2018, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

Richard was at the wheel. We were past the toll booths, the marshes were at high water just a few feet below the freeway, and almost to the bridge over the Bay.

Tucked right at the water’s edge there in the strangest location–with no turn-around at a one-lane dirt road running a short distance between where the shore and the freeway give it just that much space from the Bay, and a mystery unto itself–is a shack with the call sign announcing that it houses a radio station. And coming in at the top of that shack, wings wide, swerving sideways at the last with talons outstretched for a fight, was a peregrine falcon! Right there!

A second one (there! There were two!) standing on the roof seemed to start to respond in kind but flinched at the last and scrambled away. Which was the tipoff that it wasn’t an exchange of an unseen fish, this was over territory.

Well, that’s one way to change the station.

In that blink we were too far past to see more.

 



Only five more months to ripening
Thursday January 18th 2018, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

The earliest blossoms, the earliest fruit set.

Got told something I thought I’d pass along: to keep raccoons out of your tomatoes and fruit, the most effective thing is chicken wire–it’s flimsy enough under their weight to scare them and they won’t climb it.



One by one
Sunday January 14th 2018, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

She chose the black one.

Someone else chose the red one (quite blown away, having zero expectation that I would knit for her. Seems my cover is not entirely blown around there–I can still surprise people.)

And I took the beige home for now so that the next person would be able to choose from a selection of more than one, too.

Simple patterns, potato-chip knitting, but in yarns you want to reach out and touch. Here, let me finish this hat for Lee and I’ll start the next one.

(Hawk update: Richard saw it swooping in front of the toyon tree.)



Watching like a hawk
Sunday January 14th 2018, 12:34 am
Filed under: Wildlife

Out late with friends, let me write up real quick…

The peach trees are showing the earliest signs of life.

There was a Cooper’s hawk a few days ago that I didn’t see on the fence till I was in the middle of opening the slider door. It glanced up briefly–and preened, tucking that head well into that outstretched wing. Clearly I did not bother it.

A dark shadow on the awning–and a Cooper’s hawk in the tree just past the fence. Wait–are there two? As if to answer, that shadow turned into a hawk flying to the other one. Two!

And another sighting, curving right right at the window.

Seems to me we are coming up quickly on nesting season, then. Territory has been claimed.

 



A brief interruption
Sunday January 07th 2018, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Food,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Quite to my surprise, my stomach demanded a divorce from dinner. Richard is utterly unaffected. Maybe it was (hopefully it’s only) the recalled romaine lettuce? It arrived in a produce box, overnighted in the fridge, but all I ever did with it after that was I threw it away after I read the recall alert and quickly washed my hands.

I think I just need a good night’s sleep. I’ll tell you the cowl story tomorrow. It’s a happy one.

Oh and–there was a new chunk out of the pumpkin too big to be from a squirrel.

The skunk smell was stronger inside than outside this morning (I really should not have opened that door) and the car got it, too. It probably took cover under there afterwards.



Trespass
Saturday January 06th 2018, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Food,Wildlife

So here was the plan: today the weather was clear. I was going to get a few things at Costco and then do a quick run to Trader Joe’s, in part because we are supposed to be absolutely inundated with rain Monday and that is something I don’t want to feel any complaints about–we need that water. There will likely be some flooding and there will definitely be some bad driving on the road then. We were running low on juices and Richard is still recovering from the flu and it made no sense not to get it all done today.

I wanted to finish that cowl but it was time to put it down and just go.

I decided to run home between the two stores to put the cold things away. Walking in the door, I noted that the pimply Halloween pumpkin (chosen for its oddities) was still holding court there as always but it had finally been discovered by the squirrels. Maybe time to chuck it into the city’s compostables bin, but the thing still had character to it, I was busy, and I left it there for the moment.

This, into the fridge, that, into the freezer, I walked down the hall for something–

–wait. Can you–is that?

I opened the front door and shut it again fast. Man. I didn’t see the skunk but it was right outside there somewhere in the early dark and it had already declared loudly how very unhappy it felt. I hadn’t heard the neighbor’s dog bark to set it off, and besides, it was closer than that–maybe there were two of them arguing over territory? In our yard? Wouldn’t that be peachy?

It was probably able to watch me standing there in the light of the doorway even if I wasn’t seeing it.

Let me assure you Sir Pepe Le Peu that you are welcome to all the pumpkin you want. Gourmet variety, I assure you. (I would have to open the gate and step further into the dark to chuck it and if the skunk was on the other side of that gate than I would be scaring it into a corner to do so. Let’s not.)

I waited a few hours before I finally risked all and Wonder Womaned it out of there: we now have milk and apple juice and cream for that sticky toffee pudding recipe I want to try. Do I go for the classic, the full-calorie version, or the dairy-free oat flour healthy one (with regular sugar) that sounds like it’s actually more like Trader Joe’s’s that was so good? Is there an Instant Pot recipe? Anybody made this, any suggestions?

The door is now closed tight for the night. The pumpkin awaits (as far as I know, anyway.) Let the wild rumpus begin.



One half inch less of drought
Wednesday January 03rd 2018, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

I know the rest of the country is worrying about record cold and snow (stay safe, y’all!), but over here, our half inch of rain today and more in the forecast after an exceedingly and worryingly dry December is our big news.

I watched a young squirrel on the fence, head low, looking miserable: it stood there staring, as if trying to figure out how on earth it was getting soaked and what it should do about it. (Well, you know, you could climb the toyon and get some leaves between you and that water. It’s coming from above you. You did notice that didn’t you?) It finally leaped into the air with a slow-wiggle-twist nose-to-tail, and with all four feet airborne still going straight up, at the last did the sharp doggy shake. And stuck the landing.

And the Olympics judges go wild! 9.4!



Not quite the typical conversation on Christmas
Thursday December 28th 2017, 12:06 am
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

See if you can see it, Mom.

I looked at the close-up photo of their dense bush. It looked like a near relative of my California Coffeeberry. Uh, I see leaves, lots of leaves. Um… Nada.

He insisted it was there.

Huh. I looked some more, wondering how I could be missing such a thing. Okay–wait, there, I see the edge of a paw? Maybe?

Yes, and… He gave up and pointed it out: see the jaw?

No.

There.

OH! Is that the teeth?!

This (he swiped a finger wide around) is the rest of the jaw.

Ohmygosh!! And your hand was right there reaching in to retrieve that ball!?!

My son found out they really do have possums living in his area after all while playing with his kids. He’d never heard of any around there before; clearly, they hide really, really well. And dense bushes where nobody could see them, with tasty dark blue berries? What more could it ask for?

Food. It was what was in its Christmas stalking.



Burning issues
Wednesday October 11th 2017, 10:26 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Wildlife

The light coming through the windows during the day was yellow with a tinge of orange. Outside looked like sunset at  2 pm. We got a reverse-911 call telling us just how bad the air quality was and to stay indoors if possible and where to find out details; the recording repeated the URL.

Your city or county probably has a reverse-911 warning system but it might only go to landlines; check, and sign up your cellphone if you can. There were people in Napa and Sonoma who didn’t get warned of the fire in the middle of the night because they had VOIP and their old landline phones didn’t work when the power company cut the electricity to keep a substation from blowing up.

My neighbor has a dead tree limb hanging off the power line just across the fence, and with the news that the fires apparently started with trees downed by the winds sparking the PG&E lines I am suddenly much more aware that yes, I do need to bother the city about that.

Meantime, the breeze made the air suddenly and startlingly visible: little swirls and twirls blowing southerly while I tried to process seeing open air moving (and did it settle downwards a bit at the end of the puff?) Later a larger swoop again paintbrushed the pointillist ash particles. And just like that, they disappeared back into the jaundiced background and held still again.

I left the door half open while filling the bird feeder and that was really dumb.

A scattering of dove wings as the hawk appeared out of nowhere and across the roof and away and wow did he move fast. The power of nature!

An evening commute thrown off by a bomb scare, to which the only rational response was an Oh come ON in the direction of the perpetrator.

Meantime, I got three pounds and 2500 yards of merino yarn wound, scoured, spun out, and drying for the morrow, and I am looking forward to working with simple wool and wood of my choosing: nature, domesticated.



October skies
Tuesday October 10th 2017, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,History,Knitting a Gift,Life,Wildlife

We are about 75 miles south of the fires raging in California’s wine country, with San Pablo Bay as a large break of water between here and there.

But the firesky sunset was intense and the clear awning over the patio glowed a deep, unfamiliar bright yellow that was both novel and startling and I could only pray for the people who went to bed in a calm night and woke up to walls of flames coming right at them, neighborhood after neighborhood. Would I have the presence of mind to grab for my hearing aids and glasses before I ran?

It is smoky and thick and smells like burning plastic outside.

Yonder Cooper’s has a tail feather coming in in the center. Like its daddy, when I needed it, there it was and it let me enjoy its presence for several minutes. It is new at that, though, and I am mindful of its skitteriness. Then it lifted to the fence and stayed a bit longer but flinched that the camera had come out while its back was turned.

The second photo was taken trying to capture it taking off. Crouch, wings out, leap! Faster than a speeding iPhone 4S!

Re the Crohn’s, today was definitely going in the right direction. Grateful for that and hoping hard.

The candy-cane-plied red and faintest beige yarn came out looking more brown the further you get from it (and when it’s wet. Which it is here.)

And… The smoke alarm just went off. Oh fun. That doesn’t mean the air is that bad…?

Six smoke alarms and a bit of teamwork later, we have new batteries and we have peace and quiet and we have a definite appreciation for how good we have it that they were not actually telling us to grab whatever we could and run.

 



Junior
Thursday September 21st 2017, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Wings all at once, a dove panicking in the wrong direction, and I looked up at the sounds in time to see the hawk doing a careful u-turn right at the window: he knew where that glass was.

But instead of further pursuit of whatever was surely flying wonky by then (I was surprised it could at all after that hard smack, and apparently so was he), he landed on the wooden box and turned to me at near eye level.

He seemed to need to know. To take the measure of just what this entity was on the other side of that window and what I might do or intend. I was big. Was this a problem.

I remembered my manners: I blinked. Exaggeratedly. More than once. Knowing that he could be entirely gone in the space of one long one.

Tomorrow is Equinox and territory must be held and held boldly. I’m pretty sure I saw him chasing a crow away over the neighbor’s yesterday, movement I looked up to almost too late to see.

This wasn’t my long-time Coopernicus visitor but it most likely was his son; raptors, like so many of us, prefer to nest around where they grew up if they can afford the price of the real estate. And so, as his father before him had done come equinox and solstice, he chose to people-watch a few minutes.

Was I a challenger? Was I a threat? Would I interfere with his meals?

The striped chest gave him away as being in his first year. Fast on the wing and short on experience. I smiled and radiated love the best I too-humanly could do, in awe that yet again, I had a wild Cooper’s hawk choosing to take the time to stand ten feet away from me and look me in the eye. (Blink. Mourning doves are universally compelled to blink back at you. A raptor holds you steady in its gaze.)

He craned his neck this way and that now: See anything land around here, lady? It hit, you know?

Yes it did and no, but given how hard it hit you will definitely be able to get it on the next fly-by. When you see a dove under the bird feeder walking backwards in circles repeatedly you know its brain is as good as mine and most likely how it got that way.

Ah, over by that tree! And he was off in a wingbeat.

His name. He needs a name. I’m quite sure this one was a male. Any suggestions?



Storms and hummingbirds and hats. Not in that order.
Monday September 11th 2017, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life,Wildlife

Started the first hat for the foster kid but the dense black was spun so differently from the blue that even though they were within 10% of each other yardage per grams-wise, in real life there was no way to have the number of stitches work: either the black would be too big for the kid’s head or the blue in the next stripe too small to squeeze into. I would have known this in a heartbeat had I seen them in person first. And this, kids, is why we support our local yarn shops (when we can get there. And it wasn’t Webs’ fault; I didn’t ask.)

Meantime, the yarn I’d ordered for the other girl was felt to have more orange than was quite ideal (per the mom, after I asked her to be honest about it) and so I ordered her the Chroma from Knitpicks as you guys recommended. I want these kids to love what they get. I really do. And I can always use another ball of superwash merino around here.

And for the kid who wanted hers chunky, I went to Imagiknit, as one does, and ordered some Malabrigo Mecha, which is probably what I should have started with in the first place.

And now on a completely random note, I always wondered if a hawk would ever bother trying to catch a hummingbird, given how much work it would be to chase such a speedy little not quite amuse-bouche. The answer is pretty much not only no, but that hummingbirds seek out hawks’ nests to nest near themselves: because jays are big predators of hummingbird nests and Cooper’s hawks are big predators of jays. More details here.

I now understand better the photo Eric of the peregrine falcon group once gifted me with, showing a hummer buzzing near the matriarch Clara’s face while she looked on, bemused.

And in other wildlife news, we had a young squirrel on the fence today, staring: too young, apparently, to have ever seen water fall out of the sky before and he didn’t quite know what to make of this concept of randomly getting wet or what he was supposed to do about it.

I remember telling my kids when they were young that in my growing up, there were warm summer rains that would clean the air on a hot muggy day and cool things down a bit. But the rain itself. Rain was supposed to be warm and inviting in the heat of July or August.

I got scoffing disbelief in response. Mom. It does not rain in summer. Two, rain is always, always cold.

And yet today, at long last, we had a hot muggy summer day–and it rained. It wasn’t quite a warm rain but it was close enough to prove the possibility. Thunder and lightning, too (a little too close) and then the rain. We had a good old East-coast deluge, briefly, so much so that I even turned the computer off, wondering if the lights would go out. We have never had the lights go out in a storm in all our years here but you never know.

It let up. I turned the computer back on. So of course then it started again, hard.

And again, it let up and then started in again.

A fourth round pounded the roof after dinner.

For a grand total of (roll the drums) .1″.

Oh California. Thank you. You tried.



Wasn’t it nice of him to invite a critter buffet
Thursday August 31st 2017, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Life,Wildlife

1. Found an obvious mistake made right at the beginning and that could not be fixed, frogged the whole thing, and started over with a different yarn. Same old same old pattern because it’s mistake-proof and right then I just needed that.

2. Bird netting, bird spikes, and covering bags didn’t do it this time–they got my one ripe fig last night that I was going to pick in the morning when it would be sweetest. Darn.

3. The story from a few years back is there was a young male mountain lion who followed the creek beds from the mountains to the valley across downtown and into a suburban neighborhood, where a UPS driver saw him near dawn near an elementary school and reported it immediately.

And then it vanished.

A quite-elderly golden retriever saved the day that afternoon about the time school was letting out when he announced his opinion of a cat trespassing in his territory. A little one he might ignore but this one just had no business being there.

A reporter was standing under a tree filing a story update that no, the lion still hadn’t been spotted yet. (Dude. Straight. Up…)

So this morning, again around dawn, a man across town who has fruit trees and a garden that had been being raided by raccoons in the night (and has my greatest sympathies) and who is on the board of the state’s Nature Conservancy heard noise outside and went out to try to do something about it.

There were wildly swinging branches in the redwood just over the fence, and redwoods are not flimsy things–

–and a deep growl.

Holy. Cow.

And then the lion’s cub, echoing Mommy and trying to sound fierce, too.

…Well, I guess we don’t have to worry about raccoons tonight, honey…

They’re still looking for them. Our city’s hero golden retriever has gone on to that great dog park in the sky. We’ve had lions before, but never one with young. Fish and Game is on it and the cops again guarded the children going to and from school.



And just like that, the Patronus shows up
Monday August 28th 2017, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

Took it easy today and the arm was much better off for it, thank you, everybody. And to Richard for insisting I ice it for 15 minutes when it happened, and pulled out a timer and a book to stay up that much later with me so I would do it.

So no knitting today. As I was reading I happened to look up in time to see a Cooper’s hawk swoop around the patio–but leisurely, not fast, and I noted that if this was a new one, it had learned to chase into the alcove, where its prey would be contained, rather than away from it to an easier escape like last time. Progress. Except that I didn’t see it actually chasing anything.

It wheeled back out and onto the roof of the shed, visible to all, to announce just who owned this.

I tried to memorize every feather so I would know next time if it were the same one. There was an unusual solid white spot on the left side of its chest near the wing with a little bit of a connecting zigzag to two orange stripes suddenly ending there.

I remembered to blink so as not to be a predator staring it down. It had been months since I’d been able to study one like this. My phone/camera was not in reach.

And so we quietly observed each other for a few minutes, one of us intensely grateful for that and wondering if the other could somehow feel it…

As if in response it tucked a foot up away into its feathers: completely relaxed. Wasn’t it a fine day today! And then, briefly, it preened. I could only marvel at its sense of balance.

About five minutes in, a young squirrel–pre-puberty, they do not have object permanence–forgot that it was supposed to be being scared and popped out from under the picnic table. It nosed around under the bird feeder and then hopped across the yard right below that hawk. (Hello? Look up?) It made a small leap for the fence and headed across the top of it. Exit–stage left.

Seriously?

It jumped to the top of the shed.

Seriously?!

It considered. It’s fun to make mourning doves do what you tell them to but this one seemed a bit bigger. Eh–it’s just a bird. It’s fun to scare them away. And so it hopped closer.

I kind of held my breath. Seriously?

And one last leap closer. But at that point its bravado thinned and it stood there trying to decide what it should really think about this and the fact that there was now no easy escape. It glanced over the side. The wispy baby pomegranate tree could in no way hold it and to leap past it would make it a good ten foot fall.

The hawk of course was by this point studying the squirrel in return. You don’t want to be facing the teeth and the claws: you want to be coming at it from behind. (I once watched a Cooper’s do a U-turn right above one on the ground so as to be lined up just so.)

The squirrel flinched and turned away and at that the hawk came right at it in a low swoop. All it had to do was reach and grab and lunch was served.

Except that it wasn’t actually hunting nor hungry, and one does not kill prey except for the eating.

The squirrel had the instinct to hunch down hard as the Cooper’s shadow passed so close over it.

I do believe it learned some manners.