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.



Well at least it reminded me to prepare
Friday March 30th 2018, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Garden,Lupus,Wildlife

I was looking forward to seeing the fully-open flowers in the morning.

When I got up there was no sign they’d ever been there.

I checked around the ground for snails and cut back some of the ground cover too close to the tree that they could have climbed over from.

As the day went on some new flowers showed white at the top of the tree and I was looking forward to the sun getting lower so that I could go out there and get a closer look.

What I got to see instead was a squirrel this afternoon hanging upside down from the very top of that branch, the very top of the tree, snarfing my flowers. My flowers! There would be no cherries up there, either.

This is how I learned that yes, you can run halfway across the yard with the handset in hand snarling at squirrels in the middle of a conversation with your parents, who are suddenly quite confused as to how the conversation took *that* turn, and not have the line drop out on you.

One very surprised squirrel scrambled out of there at top speed.

I explained what all that had been about.

Meantime, yonder squirrel (or its double) after awhile came slowly back along the top of the fence to within leaping range but stepped no farther. It looked at me from across the yard and through the window. I gave it The Look. It hung its head. It looked at me. I was still giving it The Look.

It gave up and slunk away.

After the phone call was done I went out there with my forgotten-till-now spray bottle of *grape Kool-aid, still good from last year. I was going to make those buds not tasty and not wanted. ZAP. Away with you!

Those were the very first Stella cherry blossoms of the year and thankfully there are a lot more coming.

—–

*Wikipedia: “Methyl anthranilate acts as a bird repellent. It is food-grade and can be used to protect corn, sunflowers, rice, fruit, and golf courses. Dimethyl anthranilate (DMA) has a similar effect. It is also used for the flavor of grape KoolAid.” Let me add, and squirrels think it’s nasty stuff, too. They might actually have a point, but hey.



The apartment house
Wednesday March 28th 2018, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

We got into the car and shut the doors and just then the mockingbird landed on the edge of the roof right in front of us with a little twig in its beak, its toes curling over the edge, checking for predators that might be watching, eager, ready.

So cool.

But then it saw us seeing it right there and it knew it must not give away where the nest was coming to be, just as Richard was wondering if it could squeeze into the holly bush and I was answering yes of course–and there’s clearly a wren nest in there, too.

This is our 31st spring in this house and the first one where I was sure they really could squeeze in there. Or, with those stabby leaves, that they’d even want to.

The mockingbird eyed me and did a little hop into the air with Olympic ice skater grace that landed it facing the opposite direction as if to lead our gaze far away to the left. See? Not over there. Nope nope nope not even thinking about it.

We pulled out of the driveway, and as the car was being shifted into drive I glanced back as the mockingbird dove into that small side gap on the upper right side of those dense, prickly leaves and completely vanished from the world.

No squirrels or crows would be attacking its babies. They were going to be safe and snug inside here.



It was a dark and swarmy, nigh
Tuesday March 27th 2018, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Great picture, I know, but the sun was behind those trees and I didn’t want to go too far out there.

My first thought was a confused, termites swarm after the first rain of the season and this sure ain’t it.

My second was, is that the hive? There was this frantically kinetic cloud of yes it was bees, zipping in ovals over our yard and the neighbors’.

I had a sudden thought a few minutes in and checked the inside reader re the mango tree: 88F. It was warm outside but not that warm–I needed to turn those Christmas lights off, and the auto version that takes care of that has been nonfunctional for a month or two. Which hasn’t been an issue; it’s been cold enough for them to just stay on, pretty much, but not today.

A wild hive (or someone’s escaped domestic one) has been living just immediately on the other side of the fence from that tree. It simply moved into the compost pile there one day and stayed, taking care of the neighbors’ garden and mine.

I walked out there slowly, hopefully non-threateningly, and pulled that plug.

A few ran circles around my face but other than that they left me alone.

After awhile some of them seemed to need to rest (while
a few zipped off towards my peach flowers) and little by little, as I watched from safely inside again, wishing I could dare go out there with a camera again, wishing I were taller so it would be of any use, quite a few landed on the top of the fence. So many that it started to glow gold in the afternoon sun. One would occasionally pop up and zip around some more like a toddler on its second wind.

I had errands to run and when I came back there was no sign of them, and whether they were swarming to follow their queen to someplace new or settling back down now after a major upset I have no idea.

But I have now seen bees swarm, and it was quite the sight.



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!