Category Archives: robins

Dear Tom, this morning’s harvest~

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Garlic. Purple potatoes. A couple leftover spring onions.

Yesterday I harvested asparagus, three bunches of celery, and a big bunch of broccoli. Now that the garlic is out of the ground I’ve got to get the clover-stuff out of the bed. Last year I purchased plants from a new nursery and unfortunately contaminated one entire bed with this yellow clover-ish weed. You can see some with the garlic.

My four baby robins fledged! Now a pair of mockingbirds have moved into the robin’s nest. They spend all their spare time begging for worms (making sounds like a puppy) and attacking Jake. Unlike the great horned owl, he can safely ignore them.

Yesterday we went to a beautiful beach. Jake had a wonderful time. He ran around like a maniac, then he and Oscar took a three mile hike. Unfortunately my climbing days are over until I’ve had surgery and rehabbed, so I walked along the shore and collected semi-precious stones. Then we drove over the Golden Gate into San Francisco to meet our youngest and her boyfriend for coffee. He lives at the very top of one of those hellacious hills and yes, I drove. Driving up the hills scares me to death. I always feel as if my car is going to flip upside down. Down doesn’t bother me. But believe me, I’d rather be driving than sitting in the passenger seat. I remember the first time I rode in the passenger seat up one of those hills – I was nineteen years old. I insisted the driver stop and let me out. I walked up the hill.

Last night we got lost in the mountains outside of Lafayette, looking for a retirement dinner. One of my husband’s managers is retiring after 40 years. The event was held in the middle of the wilderness (not kidding) at the end of a single-track road after we’d wound our way through a maze of country roads. Reminded me of the roads in Scotland but without the necessary turnouts. We had a hill on one side and a cliff on the other. We somehow managed to make it there without encountering another car (3 miles). The way home was another matter. All I can say is at least we were on the hill side, not the cliff side.

I only mention this retirement dinner because it made me sad. This woman has dedicated her life to her job. She’s married but has no children and only one sister. Her co-workers are both her family and her closest friends and now she’s leaving them.

There was a photo retrospective running on a loop on a big screen television.

Oscar’s co-worker is a happy healthy 70 year old woman. She radiates warmth and intelligence. But I experienced this weird disconnect as I watched the slide show. I’ve only known her for a couple years and I know little of her history. I was, to be frank, stunned. She was a glamorous young thing. She had model looks, kind of a combination of Bridgette Bardot and Twiggy. I had this completely inappropriate thought – If anyone ever makes one of these retrospectives of me I’ll come back from the grave and kill them. I think it’s kind of the same reason movie stars don’t watch their old movies. We’re young and then one day we get old. It ain’t always pretty.

Time does fly, doesn’t it?

XOXO! Julia

 

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Dear Tom, Bigfoot struck again!

Seriously. No frakkin’ shite.

I’ve been keeping quiet about this because y’all will think I’ve lost my marbles. Well, maybe I have…

Two weeks ago, about 7 a.m., I went out into the backyard. I was alone. Hubs had left for work and the dog was already in the car. Usually the dog goes out first thing in the morning, but that particular morning he refused to go outside and instead wanted to get into the car to wait for our hike. Thus I figured I’d take the opportunity to feed my wild birds. It’s hard to feed the birds with the dog around because he barks like a maniac.

The setting:

My backyard. We have a fenced backyard. A line of majorly tall redwood trees. A six foot wide easement behind the fence that used to run all the way from the main road to the end of our block, opening into what used to be an orchard. On the other side of the main road is forest, a creek bed, and more forest. Both our gates are padlocked. Locked. No one can get in without either climbing over, in which case Jake would go after him, or breaking down the gate. Which would make a whole lot of noise.

It was a cold morning. Maybe 28′. Frosty. I went out to check my mealworm feeders first. When I walked back to the deck I spotted this footprint on the first step leading up to the deck~

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I did a double take. That is not my foot. Besides, as you can see, I was wearing flip-flops.

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If you’d been there, you’d actually have seen that the foot was much wider than mine, (not to mention the fact that my little toe does not look like that!) and you would have observed that the person/thing only placed a portion of its foot on the step. I couldn’t find any additional footprints because the deck itself was wet.

I freaked out.

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My husband said- artifact. I said- artifact of what? A foot?

And it gets even weirder. Just last week I found two footprints on the step leading up to the deck~ a right foot and a left foot, huge footprints. I ran to get my husband and grab my phone so I could take a picture. Unfortunately as we both ran outside, Jake ran out with us, tried to take the turn too fast, crashed onto his side, and rolled right over the footprints (the deck was icy) and he smeared the prints. We could see them, but not clearly. Not like the print above. Jake smushed the toes. Here’s what remained after his smears had dried somewhat and the deck had thawed- you can see the dog hair where he fell:

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So what am I to make of this?

A. How did a person manage to climb over a six foot fence, at night, yet make no noise whatsoever? Because German shepherds do bark… at everything.

B. Why would said person be walking about barefoot when it’s cold and wet outside? We do have winter here…

C. Why are these feet so dang big?

D. Why me?

In other news, we went to the PBR in Sacramento- OMG! It was soooo fun!

Miss you, Tom! XOXO! Julia

 

Dear Tom, I am loving my birdies!

I get so much pleasure from watching and feeding my birds, hours and hours – despite the occasional hawk. But of course I love hawks as well and want to be one in my next life- not anywhere near a wind farm though. Wind farms are deadly to raptors.

Here’s the list of birds in my backyard:

Towhees.

Spotted Towhees.

Mockingbirds.

White Crowned Sparrows.

Golden Crowned Sparrows.

Savannah Sparrows.

Fox Sparrows.

Hooded Junkos.

Dark-eyed Junkos.

Western Scrub Jays.

Blue Birds.

Robins.

Cassin’s Finches.

House Finches.

White-breasted Nuthatches.

Goldfinches.

Bewick’s Wrens.

Cedar Waxwings.

Olive-sided Flycatchers.

Red-eyed Vireos.

Warbling Vireos.

Mourning Doves.

Bullock’s Orioles.

Anna’s Hummingbirds.

Black Phoebes.

Oak Titmouses (Titmice?).

Evening Grosbeak.

Mountain Chickadees.

Chestnut-backed Chickadees.

It’s so much fun because they know me and they know Jake and we are both allowed to get very close to them. In fact, they love having Jake about because the redtail hawk won’t bother them when he’s outside.

Things are a bit better. As I await surgery to repair my hip– gotta get that repaired before I can get the knee surgery– I joined a health club, and I’ve been swimming and rowing every day. I’ve had to decrease my hiking to two miles a day, four days a week. That’s about as much as I can do and I’m still pretty slow. Tomorrow I hope to visit a sports medicine physical therapist. If there is a way to avoid hip surgery I’d just as soon find it, but a torn labrum does not heal. It can only be sort of fixed. Regardless, I did get two batches of lemon curd made yesterday. Yay! Already gave most of it away. And I’ve frozen the juice for two more batches. Of course the tree is still loaded with lemons. Want to come help me harvest? 🙂

Perhaps I’ll get around to photos one of these days.

Needless to say, 2016 isn’t looking quite as bleak as it was just a week ago. Of course don’t ask the poor hubby – he’s the one responsible for insane Jake’s exercise now! He might have a different opinion of 2016, especially since his team, the Minnesota Vikings, lost today. He’s a Minnesota native.

(I’ll whisper this secret down a deep well at midnight- While I found Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to be marginally entertaining, I also found it to be pretty much a disappointment. My son and I had a long discussion about it today. Sometimes a discussion can make a less interesting movie more interesting. He liked the movie, but then he’s been a big Star Wars fan since he was a baby. Me? I expected better, although when one considers the three horrendous prequels, The Force Awakens was genius.)

Oh! The PBR is back! Gotta love those bulls! I’ll give you a little taste. I know most of you aren’t as blood thirsty as I am. (Big Airtime fan here):

Love you, Tom. Miss you! XOXO! Julia

 

 

Dear Tom, Time for Jam City!

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Wild Plum.

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Black Plum.

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Nectarine.

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Apricot.

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Peach.

Oscar and I went out to pick blackberries yesterday – found a great patch, one of the best in years – but occupants of a homeless encampment had picked pretty much all of them. Yes, they can use the fruit, but I would have loved making the jam!

Garden News:

I’ve harvested my first crop of onions. They are curing in the garage – I’ve actually been using them for months and I planted another couple rows. The garlic is curing along with the onions. We dug up fifteen pounds of potatoes yesterday – although I’ve sort of been digging all along as they’ve been ready for harvest. I still have another bed that won’t be ready until fall.

The asparagus didn’t produce this spring but it’s producing now. Yay! Still getting lettuce and arugula and turnip greens. Just picked my first crop of Japanese eggplants and red jalapenos. Oh! I’m now harvesting some of my Kambocha squash! The squash has to sit for 4-6 weeks to develop the sugars. I’ve picked six big suckers so far- each 3-4 pounds. Two squash plants are growing over my fences. They resemble the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. Might just take over the world. (Frankly I can imagine worse alternatives.)

Kambocha.

Kambocha.

I’ve got four strawberry pots. We don’t have a lot of fruit this year, but enough that every week I can pick a handful. And that’s a handful I didn’t have the week before!

My herbs are growing like they’ve imbibed insanity sauce. Crazy! I keep trying to keep up– of course when you dry herbs they take up less space, but still I have jars and jars of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. 🙂

And a robin update! I think I mentioned that the babies were so big by the time they left the nest they could already fly – at least two of them could. The third was flying by his second day out of the nest. They spent a week in our redwoods but have since branched out, so to speak, spreading throughout Mr. Robin’s territory. This morning I was out in front watering. One of the babies flew past me. He perched on the edge of the roof, not six feet from me. We chatted for quite a long time. Still has his spots, but he’s a handsome devil- inherited his dad’s Mohawk. I’m pretty sure he’s the baby I heard singing this morning. About 5:30 this morning I heard the dad singing his morning melody from across the street. Next thing I knew I heard this adolescent bird (cracked voice) singing a slightly different song- from right outside my window. Similar but definitely unique to him. So cool!

I haven’t seen the mom. I suspect she built another nest somewhere nearby and she’s sitting on another clutch of eggs. I noticed a couple fly catchers eying her nest up under the eves. Perhaps we’ll soon have new residents.

As you can see, I’ve been busy. Can’t believe I ever have time to write. Still have blueberry jam to make today.

XOXO! Julia

Dear Tom, about those robins and that memorial plaque…

The baby robins have flown the proverbial coop. The kiddos actually waited until they were big enough to fly– all the way into the tops of my redwood trees. Well, two of them managed to fly into the tops of my redwood trees. One was still standing on the edge of the nest when we returned home from the ball game. He looked skeptical. It was a long way down! He finally made the leap of faith– all the way into the garden. So for two days, we had a garden baby robin, or as Oscar says, “There’s one in every family.” Sigh. You’ll be happy to know he is now up in the big-ass maple.

Way to go, robins! Yesterday I set out three strategically placed feeders containing birdielicicious giant meal worms – no takers so far. I’m hoping the robins and other birds discover them. Hey, if I was a bird I’d be on those gross but very crunchy little suckers like white on rice!

Your daughter, Marie, sent me a photo of your memorial plaque. She’s the best! Love it. Makes me happy and sad at the same time. I want you to know I talked to Ish. She’s doing well. You don’t have to worry. She’s tough. Takes a tough woman to live with the likes of you!

Here lies one of the greats.

Here lies one of the greats.

I hate permanence. Death is by far and away too permanent. I’ll hook up with ya in the next life. We’ll share a pint or two or three. But no parachute jumping. I draw the line at parachute jumping.

Oh hey, tomorrow or the next day I’ll post photos of my jams – apricot, wild plum, black plum (excellent black plum), nectarine and my favorite – peach. This weekend I plan to pick blackberries so get ready for some outstanding blackberry jam, and maybe a pie or two.

That’s it for today. Love you! Julia

The Good Mom.

Dear Tom, I’ve been researching robins and robin behavior. According to the experts, after the babies hatch and grow a little, the mother robin no longer sits on the nest. Supposedly she will rest in a nearby tree during the day and spend the night in a nearby tree.

Wrong.

My mother robin loves to sit on her nest. If she’s not hunting for food and feeding the babies she’s sitting on the babies and grooming them. This despite the fact that those little suckers with their wide open mouths are getting huge. One will poke its head up under her wing and she’ll turn and give it a comforting scratch around the pin feathers. Down goes this head and up pops another one. She sleeps on the nest all night long. She’s such a tenderhearted soul, devoted to those babies. I’m sure she thinks they are beautiful. And they are, in her eyes.

She possesses the courage of a lion. I’ve watched her chase off ravens and crows and jays and other robins. Yet she doesn’t mind the swallows or the finches or the hummers or the towhees, or the crazy dog or me. When I water plants in the afternoon, she follows along behind and studies the wet places, digs for worms and bugs. Mr. Robin is equally interested in my activities. He waits all day until I clean out the birdbath– then he flies down and bathes in his clean water.

You know what excites him? He loves it when I turn on the garden hose. Right now I’m sprinkling the fruit trees. The second I turned on the water, before I could even move away, he flew right past my head and landed in the puddle, found a big worm and flew right by my head again, brushing my hair with his wing tip. No fear. We’re buds. We’ve been buds for four years now.

I think the pair like this yard because the dog keeps out all strange cats, squirrels and raccoons. It’s a good place to raise babies–as long as they aren’t run over by a dog careening through the yard with his basketball.

Click on the photo below to enlarge it. You can see Mrs. Robin standing on her nest, keeping a close eye on a pair of ravens. I called Bob the Plumber (also an award-winning bug photographer) but he’s too busy to snap some close-up photos. The best I can do is take a picture through my kitchen window.

A protective mama robin.

A protective mama robin.

Dear Tom, You will never belive what happened with the robins. Gives me hope for humanity.

drama queen

Oscar says Mrs. Robin is a drama queen. That may be… but still.

Two days after he vanished, Mr. Robin reappeared. He showed up at the nest and boy, did he get a scolding. Reminded me of you and Ish when you’d pushed a few too many of her buttons!

Here’s what I heard– “Where the hell have you been??? I’ve been worried sick. You couldn’t sing a note to let me know you were okay? You couldn’t make an appearance? I thought you were dead, you stupid bird, and now you show up like it’s no big thing? Well, it is a big thing. Now get crackin’, Robin-monkey! These babies can’t feed themselves.”

And boy, did he ever. He, in fact, took over feeding duties for the rest of the afternoon. She took a bath in the birdbath, smoothed her ruffled feathers, perched in a the maple tree, chased off a couple ravens…

Oh the humanity! (And the joy on my part!) The squawking was loud and long and Mrs. Robin was every bit as irritated as you might imagine.

I observed Mr. Robin for several days and I realized just what he’d been up to. He’d been enlarging his territory, driving away a few rogue robins because he needed more places to find bugs.

A robin’s territory can extend from one-third of an acre to several acres. Initially our robin’s territory consisted of our yard, one-third of an acre, and our neighbor’s yard, three-quarters of an acre. Now he’s driven off two other males and he’s claimed our yard, the yards on either side of our yard – so that’s one-third plus three quarters plus one acre, and he’s added one of the yards across the street, another one-half of an acre, and the yard of the home behind us, another one-third of an acre. He’s been a busy bird. Two other robin couples had to move to make room for him.

This has been so cool to watch. And he did it again. He scared the bejeezus outta me this morning. Here’s what happened~

Jake and I went out for a hike. When we got home I heard the weirdest keening sound coming from the backyard. We went outside to see what was going on and Mrs. Robin flew right up to us. She landed on the garden fence, a foot from me and began this awful keening chirp, just like she did when Mr. Robin left the first time around. But this time it seemed she was speaking directly to me.

I was really worried. She sounded so upset and she seemed desperate, asking a human for help, that I was afraid something had happened to her babies.

I asked, “What’s wrong? Do you need help? What can I do for you?”

She closed her eyes and continued to make that sad sound.

I reached out a hand. I said, “Here, c’mere. I’ll help you.”

She opened her eyes and looked into mine, but she didn’t fly off. I nearly managed to touch her belly. She began to cry once again.

I decided something absolutely horrible must have happened. I brought Jake in the house and she followed right behind, landing on the window ledge outside the kitchen window. I kept an eye on her. She didn’t approach the nest at all, not for two hours. And I knew it, I just knew it. Somebody came and killed her babies and she was distraught. I wanted to give her a hug.

And then, after two long hours, here came Mr. Robin. She flew up into the redwood tree after him and you have never heard such an argument, such squawking and flapping of wings, gnashing of beaks. She had a fit. He’d done it again. And then the storm passed and they both began to feed the babies like crazy.

This afternoon all is well in Robinsville.

I told Oscar the story. He said two things: Write it down and Mrs. Robin is a drama queen.