Hanging out at the branch office
Thursday November 10th 2016, 12:08 am
Filed under: Life,Lupus,Mango tree,Politics,Wildlife

Slower growth than summer’s but still coming along there.

Meantime, the neighbors kept a compost pile for years near the other side of the fence from my mango tree.

They weren’t trying to be part of the amateur beekeeper trend, but one day a swarm liked that spot and moved right on in. I don’t think they try to harvest any honey, they’re just glad to be doing their part in supporting the population. Even if inadvertently.

Which, when they told me, explained why I get so many.

Now that the weather is chilly at night a few of those honeybees are getting their feet snagged on my frost covers again, not quite making it back to the hive for the night. Or sometimes it looks like they just got there when I arrive in the morning.

I can’t pull them off. Too close to the stingers and I don’t want to dismember the poor things. I don’t want to walk across the yard to put the cloths away and have a bunch of upset bees around me, either. So I give the underside of the cloth a good pat with an extra layer or three of fabric between us to free them, one by one; a flick if that didn’t do it.

It was good and sunny by the time it was warm enough for the day’s grand unveiling and I grabbed the big straw hat by the back door on my way out.

And so the usual routine. Six this time–off you go. Sometimes they fly free, sometimes they plummet, needing energy and warmth or (I hope not) dead. But always, always, they are ever so polite about it to the big human thwacking around their feet.

Most of today’s simply fell to the ground. The birds would soon be checking for snacks.

Stepped just inside as I shut the door behind me while reaching for my hat.

I had just long enough to wonder what burr-type thing had fallen from where to have landed on my hat or was it falling apart? My favorite! But I had seen no such thing moments earlier and it didn’t feel like broken straw edges.

Nor do straw edges bounce up and down in your hand in agitation as one’s hand closes to grasp them. Mine quickly opened and I stared, and one upset honeybee, very much invigorated and very much alive, made its quick escape to parts still unknown within the house.

And still it hadn’t stung me for all I’d put it through.

May I be as forgiving and slow to anger against the stings of yesterday’s election. I can only pray.

A has-bin
Sunday October 30th 2016, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Lupus,Wildlife

Three skeins per row today, four tomorrow.

I threw out some fruit that we hadn’t eaten soon enough and it was particularly sweet as well as having gone bad.

Our city-supplied composting bin is out the side door just off the kitchen and under the overhang so that I don’t have to walk out in the sunlight to deal with food scraps. Lupus and all that.

This morning: this.

Can a raccoon jump that high? Onto a surface like that? (Too big a jaw, too fast and too nighttime, I don’t think it was squirrels.)

Did it climb a tree, jump down onto the house, and then jump off the overhang onto the lid? We’ve had raccoon paw prints on the skylight so we know they can get up there–jumping off the roof, though, I’m far less sure of.

But however it got there, that lid would be so easy to lift, so easy to open, to reach right into that fruit, if there weren’t this…this…darn deadweight sitting on top of it.

Did it get in to all that delicious rottingness inside?

That one I can answer: not yet.


On a rainy day with a sick husband
Thursday October 27th 2016, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

The Baby Crawford peach tree at nine months.

Saw the translucent outline of what was clearly the hawk on top of the awning, and as I watched his beak announcing he owned the place I thought, show me your beautiful self, c’mon.

A minute or two later he did a little swoop down right in front of the bird feeder and back up to the other side, a six foot leap for a thirty-one-inch bird but just enough for me to laugh in delight at his doing what I’d hoped for. As if I could tell him what to do. Right.

I watched a gray squirrel walking slowly across the near edge of my neighbor’s roof, turn to look our direction and suddenly race screaming away at the speed of life.

Listen, if the hawk were hunting it would have grabbed that cocky black squirrel on the fence that’s been trying to stare it down. Leap away into the orange tree? Nah, why bother.

The gray ones always seem to have more sense.

The Cooper’s headed off at last in the opposite direction, flying low and giving me a better view this time.

Meantime, a picture for Dani: my Alphonso mango, now 22 months old.

That single limb just to the left of the stake? (To which the tree is attached by pieces of old ace bandages, it outgrew the ties it came with awhile ago.) When I prune the new tip growth in the spring it’s going to grow a new limb for each one of those leaves, more or less. It will look like that cluster on the upper right and balance things out a bit.

The whole tree moved like a hula skirt in a Hawaiian dance with the wind that this storm came in on.

I’ll keep that stake there awhile yet. It does no harm.

The decoy
Tuesday October 25th 2016, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

As the butternut vine grew it outgrew the birdnetted pop tent and so I had a series of them covering it along the way.

One had a single squash inside it apart from the others, and though the prickly acanthus stalks worked as a tent edging for some time, after it rained those turned soggy and the squirrels finally braved squeezing past them to get inside there. Chomp.

It was really too early to pick it then, and I knew if I removed it they’d go after the others. So this one became the sacrifice. But I made them entertain me for it–seeing a squirrel inside a cage while stealing the food I worked so hard for has a certain bemused karma aspect to it.

In the last two days they started in on the bulbous end and once they tasted that they went after it hard. Who knew squash guts were the best part? It looks halved and scooped now and the whole process fascinates me, seeing what they like and how fast they do what. Call it my science experiment.

The remaining three ripe butternuts were where the plant was basically over for the season and I picked them this morning. I left the mangled one uncovered now: Have at it, folks.

Meantime, this afternoon I filled the bird feeder, turning it upside first to shake out the last of the previous batch of safflower; you don’t pile seed onto that last bit again and again, for sanitation’s sake you always start over. It’s about to rain, the birds seemed to know it, let’s get a good meal out here for you guys, too.

McDonald’s for doves. No waiting for the finches up there to kick some down.

A minute or two later I looked up again to see them scatter, in flight each a strong gray rib along a suddenly-opened, invisible Chinese fan in the air, the finches below playing the part of the more colorful paper linking them together as the points at the bottom of each segment–and there was the Cooper’s hawk, doing that familiar tight U-turn mid-air, not before the window but in the center of the yard. It pulled its prey in tight at the far end of the curve, and so once again it knew where the other bird was going to be for him to reach behind it with his feet just so even at the moment he presumably couldn’t see it: he plotted his trajectory against the dove’s perfectly. Those big talons would tighten and that would be it.

The only proof it had actually even happened in that tiny blink was a small poof of feathers settling down right below that point.

Squash. Served.

Coming along
Tuesday October 11th 2016, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Spinning,Wildlife

I didn’t quite fill three bobbins before the white ran out.

Four-ply was surprisingly thick, so, two by two it was: 234 and 224 yards’ worth, with a bit left over on one bobbin that I then plied it with an end-of-bobbin of brown cashmere, making 78 yards. (Hmm. Baby hat?)

The yarns I was working from were very close in thickness and yet I used up 98 g of the merino/silk and only 67 g of the butter merino.

Now to go scour the mill oils out. The strands should bloom, fluffing out a bit with the wools felting together slightly. A little preshrinking is a good thing.

Meantime, yet another Cooper’s hawk sighting today–there have been several of late. Again it was one with its juvenile markings, which are starting to fade now; its chest kind of looked like that last hank. I think I’ve seen both a male and a female juvie in the past week.

Tuesday October 04th 2016, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Wildlife

While we were back home.

Karen and Richard and I went to go see our old friend Scott, whom she and I grew up with. He’s an avid birder, and I often think of him while enjoying my Bewick’s wrens, favorites of mine and a life bird of his, wishing I could share my little flock and somehow help reestablish them on the East Coast: they’re extinct there but plentiful in this area. And only in this area. All those songs those tiny birds sing!

It is safe to say his health issues are more than a match for mine.

It was so good to see him and hard to leave when we had to later that afternoon, but Kathleen would be waiting and this was a time in her life when she particularly needed her friends present when she could see us.

We turned on Waze (which routed us around more than one accident in the rainy days we were in town), pulled the car away, turned a corner towards the left, another left–

–and there was a Cooper’s hawk. Fully in view, close to the street, an actual, perfectly-placed, of-all-the-things-it-could-have-been, a Cooper’s hawk on a large low stand-alone branch of a tree in someone’s yard.

It silently watched us as we continued on our way and away.

And everything was going to be alright.

Oh yes they call him the streaked (boogie-dy-boogie-dy)
Thursday September 22nd 2016, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Today is equinox, I thought, glancing up at the emptied bird feeder; if I want the Cooper’s hawks to keep claiming territory (if they were even still around) I’d better give them a reason to, and with that I got up and filled the thing.

Finches above, a small flock of mourning doves below, showing up out of nowhere almost instantly; that’s more like it.

Then this new guy did, very much to my surprise.  Yes! The harassing ravens were thwarted this spring after all! A successful fledge!

I have never seen his parents do what he did. It made me wince a little for the trees we cut down a few years ago–but we had no choice at the time.

If bushes are all there are there then bushes are where the prey is, and so after standing sentry up there awhile, the juvenile Cooper’s hawk suddenly dove straight down. Towhee tartare, anyone?

That’s a lot of bird to fit into a lot of small spaces. It was clear he’d judged the fit first.

He zigzagged around on foot back there, popping out then back in again. He circled the baby mandarin tree (the lighter green). He did actually flush out a cowering finch but it managed to get (or lucked out on having) nuisance branches in his way first and escaped. As he followed it, his attention fully to my left, a squirrel I hadn’t known was cowering under the picnic table to my right slunk carefully away towards the large fig and raspberry pots. The trees that direction were far enough away that it had no chance should it be spotted making a mad dash across the yard.

It was not.

We had a young’un here who needed a good meal to live long enough to learn better how to land a good meal. Late September? Maybe the parents were still keeping an eye out for it, maybe not.

He went back to the fence, staring, walking down it, looking for more. He seemed not the slightest afraid of me as I lifted the phone again and again, hoping for a shot that would at least show something, like those brown wavy streaks down his white chest that told the world of adult hawks not to bother him, that he’s just a kid. He flared his striped curving tail, clarifying his family for me once and for all: Cooper’s, not Sharp-shinned.

Whether he’s claiming my longtime Coopernicus’s territory or just hanging around where he grew up because he’s too young to have set out on his own yet, we’ll find out.

But he definitely made my day.

Maybe your teddy bear just ran by
Monday September 05th 2016, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

The promised picture: Burnside Bridges colorway by Abstract Fibers. Easy four-row lace pattern used in my Water Turtles shawl.

I saw something black in the back and white in front this afternoon that made no sense, so I stood up and walked to the window for a closer look. Meantime, it ran not away from my movement but down the fenceline towards me, continuing my way in a great hurry even as I stepped outside trying to fathom just what on earth that was. Too small and movements too short and jerky to be the neighbor’s Maine Coon cat.

It was a squirrel, and in its mouth was a furry bright white object bigger than it was. Was it raiding a hawk’s stashed kill? A wide strip of pelt and an ear? But–white?

It was dashing for the safety of the redwood and the understory tree below it as fast as tripping over that thing would let it run and it was so intent on stashing and not dropping nor stopping that even a human coming in between couldn’t give it pause. It had its prize and no threat could make it give it up. (But the thought that one might could make it run all the faster.)

And so it ran right past me. Definitely not feathers, that was fur. To line a baby nest? Squirrels do produce kits in August as well as the spring, it’s a little late for that, but. But it was white. There is certainly not a whole lot of wild bright white anything around here, if any, mammal-wise; could it have been someone’s torn stuffed toy?

I knew that color would stand out and I stepped back and looked at the understory it had leaped to but they were gone.

I may see it again, like the weirdly coveted bubblewrap that took a similar route a year ago. Or maybe not.

Monday August 15th 2016, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Life,Wildlife

I picked up a peach this morning from last week’s box from Andy’s and put it right back down: an impressive puddle had been hidden under it–we should have eaten that one four days ago. I guess we handled it too many times trying to find the softest and ripest. There was a heartfelt thought of, oh if only…

I don’t feed the squirrels but I just couldn’t toss it. Not one of those peaches.

Maybe it would encourage them to search for food away from my ripening figs? Right? So I put it in a bowl so it wouldn’t weep across the carpeting and took it to the farthest point in the yard from my figs and the neighbors’ tomatoes over yonder and put it on a stump, the remains of one of the fence-threatening trees we cut down two years ago to make way for replanting in fruit trees.

I went out this evening to check if it might by any chance still be there, unnoticed.

As if!

You can see where more of that pink juice ran out onto that stump. It took me a moment to find the pit a yard away and yes, it really is that red.

But what is funny and intriguing and quizzical is this: a gently rounded stone with no sharp points had been placed right where I had put that peach down. It was definitely larger than the pit. It couldn’t have gotten there without that peach having been gotten out of the way first. Wherever it had come from it had not been there before and I don’t know how far they’d had to carry it and it would have been heavy in their mouths for getting it up and onto that stump.

But they did.

They left me a tip.

Tuesday August 02nd 2016, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Just because they can doesn’t mean they should keep at it. Their only reward is seeing the boxes tumbling down.

But clearly the sport appeals to them. At this point we have a lot of green Fujis in the fridge and not a lot left on the tree and what you don’t see there is the ends of the branches that were broken in the act.

On the other hand, stepping a few feet to the right, the squirrels have not yet realized that figs are food–or rather, there was one bite in one very green ditched one on the ground awhile ago and that was that. I left it there so its buddies could all taste it and go eww, too.

And so Richard and I split our first-ever homegrown summer fig today and that, my friends, was exactly what a fig aspires to be. The depth of flavor, the sweetness, the intensity that gives one last did-you-catch-that? at the end. Two more are becoming reddish brown and starting to droop and I’m really liking this idea of my forty-nine more taking turns ripening one by one.

Oh, and, the afghan? Debby’s friend’s ‘what if I wake up stupid?’ comment is exactly why I have to rip immediately when I have to rip.

It’s so good to be able to say I got way beyond those rows today. The yarn held up well to the abuse, too.

Suddenly wondering what knitting needles made out of applewood might be like… I know, I know, don’t encourage them.

Mystery plant solved. I think.
Saturday July 30th 2016, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

I had to know. I had to know what to do with them, leave them growing or harvest them small, so I finally cut a little one off and opened it up.

My squash seedlings got eaten as they came up a few months ago so I set out some much-anticipated Sharlyn melon plants in the same spot. Three times.  And the squirrels devoured them all–except that last one.

Clearly it was a new squash plant coming up late from the earlier seeds, because this is no melon.

Butternuts grow like this and turn washed-out-yellow later, right? Or is this yet another squirrelled volunteer? Because I know my neighbor on the other side of that fence grew gourds at least one year and I have no desire to commit my water to growing those.

It tasted sort-of zucchini-ish but was already a bit hard in the handle end. Any experienced gardeners reading this who’ve grown butternut?

Fly like a bird
Thursday July 28th 2016, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Wildlife

A hawk, possibly a Sharp-shinned or maybe even a Cooper’s, circled close overhead as we sat in the rental car in front of my father-in-law’s a moment this morning and set the GPS for the airport. And again as if tracing the cul-de-sac in the sky. As we pulled out, it went ahead of us a bit and circled one last time in good-bye and then away, and I exclaimed to Richard that it was the perfect ending to our visit with his dad. It had been *so* good to see him this past week and the hawk coming so close was like a connection between Texas and home, a sense of till-the-next-time.

There was more to come.

On the flight leaving Dallas before ours, there was a family–a dad, a mom, two little girls about four and five and a baby–who got to the gate just in time to preboard but it was clear it had been a hustle and a hassle making it at all in time and they were stressed. Their flight was late, which had helped a lot. The dad was trying not to be cross. But his face gave him away.

It was a risk… I didn’t want to be putting him on the spot and I didn’t know how he would react when all I knew about him was that he was not feeling overly charmed by his cute little girls in just that one little moment. But who would want to be judged forever by those public moments when you’re not the perfect parent. I wavered.

But by then I’d already found two cute ones in the depths of that purse and they spoke for themselves: these were, first and foremost, for the parents. A pink flamingo with black beak and eyes and a black condor, the tips of its wings and tail edged in white.

Meanwhile, the guy looking at their boarding passes was finding something not immediately right and making them stand there and stand there and stand there while everybody else was waiting to go on that plane (no pressure!) and what that did was create a sense of anticipation while giving me enough time to get me over my fear of reaching out. So there you go.

A small tap (it was the dad, I couldn’t reach the mom without falling over a trash can or a kid), his turning around, and suddenly his face lit up and then at me in wonder and then the mom’s too and they were surprised and thrilled and the wife said, “These are so cute! Thank you! Did you make them?”

“I wish, but no, I buy them from Peru but they are hand knit. We’ve had little ones,” I smiled, nodding at their children, who hadn’t caught on yet that these were for them.

They thanked me again and it was like that was what the no-nonsense airport guy needed to be done with them and he sent them on their way past the gate.

As they headed away I was relieved and glad to have seen the best in both parents having immediately come to life. That was the gift they gave to me.

Bouncing off the walls
Tuesday July 19th 2016, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

I saw a flyby in the morning, which was cool, and this evening, Richard looked up at hearing a finch hit the window–just in time to see the pursuing hawk hit it, too.

But…but…! As I remembered the time I washed the windows and Coopernicus arrived right there a couple of feet away and examined closely: yes, there’s still something there, still in this particular space as always, okay, got it.

He would circle within an inch, absolutely amazing to watch, clearly knowing exactly where that plate of glass was.

The fact that today’s Cooper’s hawk flew back out of here was a relief. But also a reminder that that particular species is often found by biologists to have evidence of healed broken bones.

Old friends
Monday July 18th 2016, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Friends,Wildlife

It dawned on me this afternoon.

The dolly had been in the garage. The male Cooper’s hawk has always liked to perch on it on the patio, but it hasn’t been there the last few months and I hadn’t even thought about it.

We used it a few days ago to wrestle a very large hand-me-down ceramic planter given to us by a friend who was moving back East, and as long as we had that thing out I’d left it in its old spot for now, a little wistful at the memories of seeing my favorite raptor on it.

And there you go. The hawk came back. So there it stays.

Meantime, when my folks had their hands full with small children, they were living in a very small house and four daughters in one bedroom was getting tight. They bought a lot in a new neighborhood starting to go up, and two of their old neighbors liked it enough that they came, too and so the three families settled into their bigger places still just a few houses away from each other.

One was Wendy’s family, and so she and I have known each other since we were born.

She lives in New Jersey these days, and she and her husband were briefly in town. They met up with us at the airport before their flight tonight and we were very glad for there being a Starbucks outside the security line where we could sit and catch up a bit. Tomorrow they’ll be in Philadelphia where her folks live now–at the same time two of my sisters will be in that town from out of state, and so they’ll get to see each other, too, and I’m so happy for them. I’d love to be able to thank Mr. and Mrs. B in person for being my backup parents all my growing up.

(Childhood memory: Wendy: You want to come over for dinner? Me, running across the street: Hey, Mom, what are we having for dinner? Okay, can I have dinner at the B’s? …I can’t tell you how many times I did that, even though my mom is a great cook.)

There’s nobody who knows you like the ones who have always known you.

The air show
Sunday July 17th 2016, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I did a quick glance for the camera but it was across the room.

It had been awhile since I’d seen the Cooper’s hawks, not even during summer solstice when they’ve always shown up in years past, but one of them more than made up for it today. Those wide wings swooped right around the birdfeeder and near the window as the doves made a frantic run for it. I didn’t realize he’d caught one and as I stood to look over the philodendron to see if he was still in the yard I startled him into flying away with it.

Part of me wondered if it was Coopernicus’s offspring and doesn’t yet know that we like to people- and bird-watch each other? Still, I should have moved a little more slowly.

All I had to do was wonder if this were still Cooper’s territory to have them announce that yes, thank you, of course it is.