If you give a raccoon a cookie
Tuesday November 24th 2020, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

They rescued the cute orphans.

His late wife made him promise to keep feeding them.

And now… I’m quite sure they didn’t rescue twenty-five of them. Twenty pounds of hot dogs a day plus grapes and cookies. They’re adorable and he’s clearly having a great time. (But yow.)

Moral of the story: don’t make your spouse promise to do dumb things in your blessed memory. But they do clearly keep her widower company.

And on the subject of wildlife, an adult male coyote was seen trotting in the road a few streets over from us this afternoon. There’s a tiny sliver of a park by the neighborhood pool there. We did not get a reverse-911 call telling us to bring small children inside, but we should have.

I’m calling it the Universe’s wry response to all the wrangling between neighbors on Nextdoor.com yesterday about whether it’s good to let your cats roam outside killing all the birds or not.

Oh. Yeah. Knitting. Here, I finished the last dragon scale today, let me show you a few pictures.

Kind of like someone cut all the cinnamon rolls in half to share and then a little kid emptied the sprinkles bottle all over the icing.

My choices are to i-cord in red all around the uneven edges, adding/not adding buttonholes as I do, or to try to join all those swirl ends together and hope it doesn’t look seamed (it would.) Either way, it makes a nice warmth on the sides and back of the neck without crowding the throat unless you want it to. It’s a dense fabric and the upper back layer wants to be upright like that.

The original pattern simply runs the ends in right here and calls it done. But it’s not yet.

Notes on the Jewel Dragon pattern: cast on loosely, because those stitches are going to have to stretch to be the outer part of the semi-circle. You do not want them tight. Leave a long tail because it will be exactly where you want it when you will really want to be using it later to, with the working red yarn, cast on a bunch of stitches upwards to begin the second band later: a longtail cast-on that way is far better than the e-wrap the pattern calls for. I was so glad I could do it that way. Looks much neater.

Malabrigo Rios, Diana and Cerise colorways, size 6 US needles, seven repeats, and it used up a fair bit more of the multicolor than the red. Both were nearly-full single skeins of leftovers from my ocean afghan. I’m sure I don’t have enough of the multicolor to do a third band of scales but for what it is I wouldn’t want one anyway. For a cowl-type scarf that scoops down a bit in front, this is just right. Also, where it says to break yarn B (the multicolor) to start the second band of scales over on the other side, DO SO. Do NOT carry it across the back all the way across all of those stitches like I did–getting the tension perfect everywhere stretching and non stretching the fabric is not worth the hassle and color-wise it shows in and out at the red edge later. (See bottom right.)

Although, that bothers me a lot less now than it did when I saw it.

Yeah, no, though, that’s not finished yet.



Steelhead
Thursday November 05th 2020, 11:17 pm
Filed under: History,Wildlife

Watching for updates on the vote count…

…Is like tracking this fish over a lifetime. Who made it past dams thirty-two times to go from her river to the sea and back and again and again to each point where life called her, getting bitten by a sea lion and still just continuing her way forward past those dam walls that kept getting in her way till she succeeded at what she was meant to do: to leave a posterity that would succeed, too.



The Muzak needed to play Rocky Raccoon
Monday October 26th 2020, 9:20 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

I knitted a little of the plain and simple and quiet-colored hat–and then searched on Ravelry for Lucy Neatby after seeing an email from my friend Margo Lynn: color! Brightness! I bought two blanket designs, thinking, y’know, those might just be the right inspiration for the Next Big Thing. Mine wouldn’t be circular, and we don’t need the extra warmth in our climate of double knitting, but those are really cool.

She’s shutting down her business, although she will still be selling old and new patterns on Ravelry.

Meantime, locally, someone managed to snap a great picture of a young local intern at work: the computer was clearly a pain so he and his buddy got it shoved onto the floor, and can’t we all relate to that?

Falling through the ductwork seems not to have doused their curiosity. The little bank bandits are here, paw on mousepad. But they had their face masks on!



Adaptable
Thursday October 15th 2020, 8:26 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

A finished fish, and hopefully soon I’ll be able to add the picture in.

I’m definitely continuing on. I think the next one should be a cuttlefish. Cuttlefish are cool–they change colors to match whatever they want so I can make it whatever colors I want.



While hundreds of square miles burn
Tuesday August 25th 2020, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,History,Wildlife

Not a single apple on the ground for days. Nothing pecked.

Not a single fig taken before its time–and up till this point, my success rate at getting to pick and eat a fully ripe one has been a total of exactly one single one. If I leave them that one last day for perfecting, they’re gone.

Remember these past years where I’ve put a fake dead crow out at night (so they don’t see me and don’t think I killed it) to keep the real ones from wanting to come in my yard? I was never sure that really worked, but I didn’t do that this year and this is the first year I can remember where I’ve had flocks of crows fly over my house. Morning or evening: every single time I go outside. It’s like they know I know where the fruit is so they’re checking it out–and it could well be, given that crows evolved scavenging the edges of human civilization and cast offs, so much so that they can read human faces and expressions as well as a dog can.

The trees they liked to be just far enough away in next door are gone now, and maybe that’s part of it, but they didn’t start coming directly overhead and in waves until things started to ripen.

The ability of–something–to tear through and rearrange the bird netting has been impressive, and the breaking of young fig branches in the process, disconcerting.

Not a single crow around since the fires started. It seems they don’t want to be high overhead in all that smoke. One single squirrel briefly came in view, for that matter, and it did not want to run fast nor exert itself but I still told it it had to leave. It did.

Rather than coming fleeing down out of the hills in numbers, at least this far out the wildlife seems simply to have vanished.

Not a single apple.

Not a single fig, not even the ripening one right there clearly in easy reach where the netting doesn’t go that far. Anything could have swiped it. Nothing did.

I’ll take it.



Flash light time
Sunday August 16th 2020, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Life,Wildlife

A restless night of not much sleep, not registering that there was a big storm going on out there, and I gave up and got up at a time when it just happened to be quiet out there.

I was washing my hands standing under the skylight when a flash of light startled me into glancing towards the light switch, not fathoming, just as the BOOM!!! hit and the power went out.

Found out later that one of the many lightning strikes had hit a few blocks over.

Thunderstorms?! In the Bay Area? In August? Rain? In AUGUST? A hundredth of an inch, as it turned out, but hey, that’s enough to sprout the fall weed seeds.

More and more house-rattling. I had been planning to go pick the one fig that should have been ripe first thing this morning. There was no going out there.

And then it seemed to settle down and all the booms stopped.

I really wanted that fig. I thought maybe I might chance it.

It wasn’t really raining (oh! Well, not enough for me to have heard from inside), just the slightest sprinkle.

For all that the fig, it turned out, had not finished ripening in the night and I left it there to be stolen later by the squirrels (which it was.)

Ten steps back to the door, I was halfway there, when out of the gray-not-blue, another BOOM! skittered me inside so fast! I could just picture the obituary: Lost Grandma because she just couldn’t bear to give up that one single piece of fruit to the rodents, but it was not the fig that got roasted.

They say we may have a repeat tonight of either yesterday’s PG&E shutdown or another weird storm and a third power outage, so dinner was the fastest thing I could cook so we wouldn’t be stuck with half-raw chicken and a fridge we couldn’t open.

Edited to add: I’m guessing that one of the biggest fire tornados ever may have helped create the atmospheric conditions that led to that storm.



Are we surprised
Wednesday August 05th 2020, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Wildlife

My next door neighbor told me he heard that sound and groaned, “Oh no!”

A different cop came.

The insurance agent, like last time, didn’t get back to me today so there was no rental car yet and the med that I’d gotten in the car to go pick up had to be picked up, so Richard walked the mile and a quarter to the pharmacy on the grounds of needing the exercise, then grabbed an Uber home.

Clearly we’re going to be driving a rental car again for however long it takes this time to get the catalytic converter part in stock.

And so we’re putting off the new driveway, again, because you can’t risk getting that stuff on the rental. Nor can you get it on the new mattress, and that hasn’t arrived yet, so delay delay and delay some more, with apologies to the contractor.

So this is fun.

My friend Tony was talking about the skunk at his house. I invited it to come live under my car.



Creature from the green lagoon
Friday July 31st 2020, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The almost-still-a-baby squirrel stopped in its tracks, staring, while I stared back, wondering if it was old enough to be entirely on its own like that. You’re a little thing!

I seemed to be some kind of…creature. I moved, I had feet, but where were the legs? (Blame the jersey maxi skirt.) I didn’t seem to have a face. (Mask, and the helmet wasn’t fastened on so it had slipped down my forehead to the glasses and the straps were dangling freely.) Were those eyes? What WAS I??

We stood there ten paces apart like that.

Alright, alright, move along, you’re a baby, you need to learn not to be a swaggering city squirrel–always remember you’re a prey animal and to run away from things bigger than you because a raccoon will snack on you in a heartbeat. Meanie that I am, I deliberately walked right towards it.

With nowhere else to go it made a screaming break past my path for the single tree in the front yard.

Ya gotta teach’em while they’re young.



Phoebe minded
Tuesday July 21st 2020, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

It used to be I would see a Black Phoebe maybe once a year, twice if lucky.

This year, with the squabblesome finches peaceably gleaning weed seeds out in the yard rather than at the feeder, there’s a phoebe every day. Every insect on the patio, that member of the flycatcher family is searching for it and it’s going to find it.

A second phoebe showed up today and was quickly shown the neighbor’s yard, and then the first flew back, victorious.

It likes to perch on the tomato cage.

It especially likes spiders, and since I like seeing this bird that was so rare here for so long and that’s not spooked by my being so close by and that has this white heart on its chest with a black bolero jacket above, I haven’t been sweeping the webs out of the awning of late.

It got its snack–but the snack grabbed back.

No worries. The bird landed on the tomato cage and surveyed its territory awhile, and when it left, the clump of spider web, since it was not needed for nest building in July, was left behind.



Chopped stick
Monday July 06th 2020, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Wildlife

Lots of sawdust and sound today.

It’s so strange to look out the skylights and not see the silk oak a.k.a. grevillea tree anymore. There will be no murder of crows next spring when its weird orange flowers would have come on. It won’t be dropping any more major limbs on us. The new owner wasn’t risking it, and besides, whatever it may have looked like 70 years ago, it sure didn’t now.

The workers dropped large enough chunks of trunk to make the house jump, and sitting on the couch it felt exactly like the first jolt of the 5.4 quake that happened while I was in the same spot some years ago. I got up and took this picture through the leaves of my Chinese elm of the last nine feet or so of it (the yellow dead center there) before it too thumped down hard.

The old guy behind us breathed a sigh of relief and emailed me that he’d been cleaning up a bucket’s worth of leaves from that messy tree every single day for all the decades they’d lived here and now he won’t have to anymore.

My pear tree will have a much greater chance of finally blooming next year with all the new sunlight.

They took out the weed trees that were about to grow through the fence along our front walkway, too. I had had no idea just how shaded we had become until suddenly it was brilliance out there. My roses can make a comeback now; I’ve missed them. That fire hazard growing towards the sun and over my house that the insurance company was so upset over is gone. I miss them, but I don’t, and I won’t ever have to shell out big bucks to trim them straight up from the fence line to keep them happy anymore. Which, as I showed the new owner, would over time make them liable to fall on her house.

Gone. Done. Her yard will start over.

The tall ash in the background is in the yard next to Adel’s. It had a large nest this year, and I wondered if the hawks had moved there after the redwood vanished.

Last night, a Cooper’s swooped over our heads and up into that ash tree near that nest. Its young have surely fledged by now but territory must be announced–and youngsters like to stick close to home the first few months.

So they’re okay after all that came down today.

The owner of that house walked around the corner, talked to the tree crew a minute during their break, and got their business card. Hopefully for a different tree.



Put that down you know where it’s been
Sunday July 05th 2020, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Something I had wondered about all my life.

How on earth do you get fish showing up in every body of water you pretty much ever heard of? When the places are not connected at all? I mean, it’s not like fish fly.

The Washington Post reports that a carp, to take one type, can release a hundred thousand eggs.

So: some researchers fed 8,000 carp eggs to eight mallard ducks, and 18 eggs, it turned out, were still viable after passing through the ducks’ digestive systems one to four hours later.

By which point the birds could be miles away from where they ate that meal.

It’s as simple and logical as that.

Scientists are little kids who grew up and still wondered about duck poop.



Sometimes a little space and a little time to itself can let the magic happen
Friday June 12th 2020, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I stumbled across an old photo while looking for something else: four years ago with the late, much-missed Coopernicus, the people-semi-friendly Cooper’s hawk.

Several weedy-looking trees were taken out two years before because they were starting to damage the fence, and although they were not the most glorious looking they did offer greenery and it felt bald and bare with them gone. If you click on that link (scroll down, the first picture is from my visit to my sister in Atlanta) that’s where the mango went in a year later.

The hawk’s spot now: for nearly thirty years those coffeeberry bushes had stayed small; I thought it was just the variety they were. But once the sun became unobstructed and they had the root space all to themselves (I got rid of that I think buckthorn upstart in the foreground, too), look at it now.

Two years ago a friend gave me a miniature hydrangea from a florist so I planted it in a spot beyond the coffeeberries, and now they shade it. It has naturalized and blooms freely all summer just the same.

And to their left, the tart cherry, which for three years refused to grow higher than my waist as I fought off Japanese beetles and it fought off old olive roots, has finally come into its own and has in the last month topped the fence. Its flowers fed the white-crowned sparrows, its fruit has been feeding us.

Things are looking up.



Lockdown day 50 tops it
Tuesday May 05th 2020, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Glancing next door from my kitchen this afternoon, there was a fire extinguisher.

On the roof next door. Just sitting there, nobody in sight.

Okay.

A little while later I went to get the mail and heard a man arguing loudly but saw no one. Came back inside and looked out the window again.

The extinguisher was gone. His back was to me, his phone tight to his ear. I decided that given that he was not having a good day it might be best *not* to stand on a chair nor to open the door in order to get a better photo as the heated conversation clearly continued on, I mean, c’mon, leave the poor guy alone.

He was sitting on a very large canister.

Of gas.

On the roof.

To his left, that mostly-dead very tall tree.

These things do not play well together.

But it has a very large nest in it so you can’t cut it down right now.

Maybe.

 



Lockdown day 16: moose edition
Tuesday March 31st 2020, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Lockdown extended to May 3, they announced today.

Outside my daughter’s favorite Fire Island Bakery before she moved out of Anchorage there were these gorgeous trees with berries in clusters ranging from bright red and matte to shiny and black. I took pictures and tried to find out what they were and wondered if the bakery ever put them to use? Were they edible? I saw no sign of them except outside on those trees. I thought you weren’t supposed to plant fruit trees in town for fear of attracting brown bears? (Fun fact: Brown bears are not quite grizzlies: genetically they are, but they’re the ones living off salmon near the coast and they’re 25% bigger than their inland kin.)

I finally got curious to go look hard enough–ie, thank the lockdown for that. I don’t know if these are the May Day variety or a less invasive one, but, they are chokecherries. Good for attracting birds for the customers in the cafe to watch while munching their incredible tartes.

Repels moose. (And surely doesn’t attract bears either, though they didn’t mention.)

Except the ones who are winter-hungry enough or young enough not to know better around a nasty-tasting plant that is by no means native to Alaska and crowds out their favorite willows that are.

Those limbs and leaves are full of cyanide and those ruminants in particular are perfectly designed to get the fullest effects quickly.

Chokecherry trees are popular because they stay pretty and unchomped there–until the day you wake up and have to figure out how to get a huge Agatha Christied moose off your lawn.

If you want moose sausage, stick to roadkill.



Lockdown day 15: work from home edition
Monday March 30th 2020, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Lupus,Wildlife

This actually happened last week but I had to decide to tell it on myself.

The suet cake holder is hanging from the underside of the middle of the porch awning; no squirrel has so much as attempted to reach it, ever (if you don’t count the one that bounced a little going across up there, peered over the edge and gave up.)

There is a tall metal toolbox directly below it which no rodent can climb. A mover put it there last year after his dad’s estate settled and trying to wrestle it into a better place is something we would have to hire someone younger to do, so there it has stayed; it was that or the living room at the time and no thank you but at least it wouldn’t get rained on there.

So this is how it has been for six months now, with me feeding only the birds and nothing else so much as sniffing in its direction. Still, I tended to buy the chili-oil-infused cakes just to be on the safe side. I draped a thick but old 3×6 wool rug over it that is no longer quite nice enough to be at our doorway, giving the birds a better surface to hop around on and nibble fallout from while protecting the box. Every now and then I shake it out over whatever in the yard maybe needs some fertilizer. What else you guano do, right?

When the initial quarantine order came down I only had a few cakes left and the bird center was shut down–I was stuck with ordering from Amazon, but at least I was going to buy the same brand, not some knock-off that had who knew what. (Later, the bird center would be deemed Essential Functions and allowed to deliver to your car in front of the shop. Which I have yet to do.)

The ones mixed with peanuts seemed like a good thing for nesting time of year and to attract more types of birds, right? So I ordered a case of those.

I put the first one out there: one big fragrant four and a half inch square of come-and-get-it. Somehow my husband made himself a peanut butter sandwich shortly after.

I heard something and looked over to see a huge gray squirrel that had made the massive leap successfully and was gauging how to get from there up the rest of the way to that suet. I hadn’t so much as seen one cross my yard in awhile and I was just astonished to see one right there!

I burst through that sliding door after it got caught and noisily didn’t want to open as immediately as I wanted it to, while I yelled, YAAAH!!!! GITOUTATHERE!!!

It took a flying leap and away. I set up something I hoped would be a barrier along the far edges and came back in, not wanting to spend too much time in the sunlight–lupus and all that.

To the sound of my husband in the middle of a work conference call right then, and having just apologized and explained to his co-workers, the familiar voice of one of them, chuckling. At both me and my husband’s embarrassment and totally understanding. A couple of others were chiming in, laughing.

Oh… Hi, Gary…

The next time I put a suet cake in I broke it and put the two halves side-by-side in the holder so that from the phone lines through the trees over yonder it doesn’t look like there’s much left in there worth bothering with, much less falling over backwards with a cinnamon broom landing on your head like the second time it had tried. Into the stored frost covers. It was cushioned.

No more squirrels.