The bees and the birds
Wednesday April 28th 2021, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Wildlife

With blueberries, cherries, plums, apples, and peaches already underway and the pomegranate and mango blooming I was a bit overdue for watering the fruit trees and it got unseasonably hot at 83–they needed it.

So there I was as I got to work, wondering why I’ve never gotten around to paying someone to install a drip system and realizing it’s because I like the rhythm and the process in getting out there and paying attention to each thing I’ve planted.

It hit me from halfway across the yard.

Now *that’s* how I remember those mango flowers! They’ve been opening for weeks but the nights have been cold and the scent just wasn’t the intense perfume it had been. I’d wondered if maybe I did lose some of my sense of smell last year after all?

Apparently all it had needed was some heat. My tropical tree was absolutely reveling in it and telling the world that this is how it’s supposed to be! Celebrate! Bring on the honeybees! It was throwing a party for the hive across the fence.

The side door next door nearest both opened wide and I hope the neighbors got to enjoy it, too. It was absolutely heavenly.

On a falcon note: the San Jose nest got three eggs in their do-over and are quietly incubating.

Peregrines start brooding after the third egg arrives.

Which means when the San Francisco nest had their fourth egg it was laid late, hatched late, and has been noticeably smaller all along.

The parents feed the eyases first that try hardest to get to the food–Darwin at work–and the little one would beg and stretch right with them and fall over on his beak. He just wasn’t as steady and he could not get as high up there as the others. It’s like a short person playing basketball: you can have a lot of talent, but… He (a lot of us are assuming male; we’ll know Monday at banding) was usually the last one fed, and sometimes the meal was pretty scant by then.

Parents simply won’t feed one that they don’t think will make it and there were murmurings of concern amongst the watchers. But they did, they fed him, he’s the spare to the heirs and there is no lack of pigeons in San Francisco so he’s gotten enough.

Today the mom flew in outside their nest box with a meal rather than straight in and it was the little one that hopped right out of that box and came for it, grabbing some himself when he thought she was going too slow.

The others perched on the edge, watching: how did he *do* that?! Finally, one hopped down and joined them, then a second, but the last one just stayed up there watching, not hungry enough to risk that very small leap.

Four hours later, they were all out of there and doing some exploring. Another meal.

Another week or two and the parents are going to drop the plucked prey in front of their grabby sharp-edged youngsters and make a break for it.

I typed that and immediately a new video showed up: that is not what the dad had wanted to do just now but that’s what happened. Have you ever seen a falcon do an eye-roll? It was hysterical. He circled behind them, trying to figure out how to get into the scrum as the meal in the middle got torn four ways. He gave up and left.

The mom flew in, looked the camera dead in the eye, like, Oh come ON, let’s do this RIGHT, snatched under there and grabbed the food away and started feeding the suddenly noisily begging babies acting like babies again.

There was just not much left at that point, though, so she was off on the hunt for more. Came right back and fed them again, this time with both parents there keeping an eye on their boisterous kids.

Who tried to flap their wings during their exploring, but with the feathers only barely starting to grow past the baby fuzz they kept flopping over like the little guy.

Who watched them and then did it, too.

Monday April 19th 2021, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Peaches, coming along.

The thorns that came out from the rootstock of the Page orange, now guarding the figs and allowed to grow (to a point) for that very reason.

It still always surprises me somehow to see not just anticipated and hoped for but actual fruit growing out there.

Oh and: Grace the falcon laid a new egg this morning before dawn. Inside the nest box. Where her second clutch will be safe.

Not a figment of imagination
Wednesday April 14th 2021, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

I actually googled yesterday re whether or not Black Jack figs produce breba crops, because mine never had; I’d seen a few tiny dark stubs over-wintering and gotten all excited about it till they’d dropped off in the spring, but that was it.

I found arguments about whether or not they were really only a seedling of Mission figs that came out bigger, but no answer.

I’ve been taking photos of that tree these past two weeks as the leaves have been coming out just because I love how they look, but I never saw any sign of fruit. Nor all winter. Nothing. And yet there are two of these today! Figs in April! The leaves haven’t even finished growing to full size yet!

This past winter felt long and chilly and yet it was the first one in memory where it never went down into the twenties. That might account for it.

I know brebas are supposed to have much less flavor and sweetness than the crop the tree puts the whole summer’s heat into.

But who cares when August is so far off. A roasted fig stuffed with cheese, maybe a little honey drizzled on at the last if it’s not naturally sweet… Okay, so, put something else in the oven with them to justify the time in there. Blueberry cake or something.

They’re so big already. I put some clippings from my husband’s last haircut around them to try to fend off the rodentry. Not right up against the fruit itself because I figure chances are good that any birds still nest-building are going to be thrilled to find those locks, but, in the vicinity.

Meantime, halfway around the house, the juncos are waiting for the Morello cherry leaves to hurry up so they can hide the nest they want to build.

It’s blooming slowly from the ground up.

Oh, and in case you needed it: Mick Jagger gave the pandemic lockdown a piece of his mind yesterday.

Listening to baby birds
Tuesday April 13th 2021, 8:48 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The San Jose peregrines seem to be trying again after losing every egg, this time using the nest box–although we won’t know for sure till the clutch actually arrives.

San Francisco, meantime, had three hatch and then at last the fourth egg decided to get with the program. The youngest and littlest always seems to be the last one fed but it does get fed.

The surprise to me in that longer video was hearing a dog bark. That skyscraper nest is 33 floors up!

A possum’s rear end
Saturday April 10th 2021, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Got up this morning, walked across the house, looked out the window–and after a moment of not wanting to miss this at all and of it moving very slowly down the top of the fence, sniffing all the way, I ran for my phone. Tried to get a photo from the window on that side of the house. Nope. So I ran back to the family room just a moment before it disappeared into the neighbor’s yard behind us.

It was big and it must have been a female: during the spring, mama possums are out during daylight hours looking for extra food. They’re not rabid. They’re hungry. I’m just glad that with all the future fruit on my trees (not to mention the ripening oranges) that she decided my yard would not provide.

Man that one had a thick jaw. And belly.

I went and put my phone back.

Darn if the thing didn’t come back this way again the moment I did, this rat/pig thing the size of a large cat. They have opposable not thumbs but back toes for climbing and I suddenly had no doubts it had stolen as many of my apples as any raccoon.

Maybe. Looking them up, it turns out that for an animal that big they still only live two years on average. I’m guessing their play dead defense can be very helpful to the right predators.

This time it turned right at the T-intersection of fences and went along the backyard of the good folks next door. Again it was moseying along, sniffing (being nocturnal, they don’t have great eyesight) and in no particular hurry.

Again I ran for the phone. Again it slipped just beyond clear sight as I raised the camera.

We’d created ourselves a little game, hadn’t we.

Brown/gray vague blobs blending into the trees in the distance through multiple panes of glass. I managed to find them in the photos.

Which will be added when the computer quits playing possum with them. So you get mango flowers instead.

Friday April 09th 2021, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Some photos came through. These are the Anyas I planted a bit later than the first set.

The one from last year, having not been nice and warm and inside at night and having to make do with the natural seasons, is playing catch up.

Grape Kool-aid got the first gray squirrel that attacked my Stella cherry on Wednesday to leave and not come back; then yesterday, a black squirrel tried and that time I Graped again and shook cinnamon on the limbs.

There has been no sign of a squirrel since. Which is great, because last year they were stripping those flowers just as fast as they opened. They only seem to do that with the cherries.

I wonder if the salmonella outbreak that has been affecting the birds has cut down the squirrel population, too. It seems like it.

Quite to my surprise I discovered the first pomegranate bud of the year. And while I was looking at it, I heard the loud cry of a large bird overhead that I didn’t turn around in time to see.

But there was a large feather on the ground a few steps behind me that most definitely did not come from a crow, where there had been none a moment before.

Even with the bird feeder down, even with the tall trees to either side of our property gone now, even with a new generation of Cooper’s hawk these last two years, it appears they still claim our yard as their own.

And that makes me wildly happy.

No hawk in here
Monday March 29th 2021, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

A bit of warm weather and the mango buds that have been closed tight for so long are beginning to respond: some clusters are starting to set fruit, some are just now lengthening and opening up.

The tree got a bit leggy after spending too long under the ash-damaged and -darkened greenhouse. The surprise is that the buds seem to have come through the winter better with just the Christmas lights and the endless rounds of cover/uncover with the frost blankets than with the heater and Christmas lights and the Sunbubble. It’s a lot less electricity, too.

But it requires I be home every day at all the right times morning and evening checking the sun vs the cold and doing the origami thing with that big piece of white fabric (and the next and the next.)

Funny how I seem to have been able to manage that this past year.

We lost a bunch to cold spots but many more grew to replace them. I think it’s going to be a good year for showing friends what a local Alphonso mango, the best of the best and not heat treated for import, tastes like. I hope so.

Those dense leaves must look quite inviting even if I mess with them twice a day. All that motion and upward flips of green after a bird flitted in there could only mean that it was starting to set up a nest in there.

All we can do is hope the warmer nights hurry up so I can leave them alone to raise their young in peace. We’re getting there.

The rescuers
Wednesday March 17th 2021, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

I had an instant reaction of, That one. Even if it’s really too big. I love the angles everywhere. The kitchen. The trees. The boulders. The nature path. It fades into the landscape like a Frank Lloyd Wright and then you walk inside but you’re still somehow mostly outside.

If we were moving to Portland now and were sure we could afford those property taxes longterm I’d be seriously considering putting an offer on it today contingent on physically seeing it and an inspection report. (I might change those small windows up high to plain and solid rather than segmented. Philistine, I know.) Just tell me none of the glass is single-paned.

Maybe I just need me some blue-green slate flooring like that here. I grew up with a slate floor entryway that had been quarried just down the road and my feet just want to dance on that for the inner child who once scraped her boots off where it didn’t mind the mud.

But wait till the trees leaf out in those gardens. Wow. (Which floor is the laundry on?)

Meantime, the Washington Post had a story about a man who grew up in not the best of circumstances in Washington DC–and became a falconer, rescuing injured birds while saying they’d rescued him. There’s been a documentary made about him and them.

Quote from the Post: “The Falconer” will be available for viewing from Friday through March 28. To sign up for a free screening, visit ”

Which I sure did.

Thought I’d put that out there in case anyone else wants to see it.

Falcon flailings
Tuesday March 09th 2021, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I haven’t mentioned the peregrine falcons in awhile. I was one of the San Jose nest cam volunteers for a season about ten years ago, and I always keep an eye on how they’re doing.

They got new cameras installed just before the season got underway and not only are those far better, one of them has sound.

Which you may or may not want to have on. You may or may not want to even watch. But one of the cam operators managed to capture video from both angles of when an intruder arrived, looked at the male to one side, the female to the other, and decided the 18th floor ledge at City Hall with a nest box and a resident female who had just gone in it for the first time, showing she was into this, was a territory worth fighting for.

I had long heard that locking talons was their primary means of fighting–the loser lets go–but I’d sure never seen it before. Before I link to it, let me just say H2, the resident male, won, with his leg looking a little injured but walking just fine today. He’s called H2 because at this point last year he apparently did the same thing off camera to the then-resident male and bested him.

The intruder has the bigger white bib and more brown.

Okay, here’s the first one.

And here’s the second.

The female flew in near the end to check on who her mate was going to be from here on out. Peregrines mate for life–or until their mate gets run off.

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 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.

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!

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.