Tag 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, Remember that skunk?

Well, she apparently lives under our deck and she has a litter. I can’t fence her out of the yard away from her babies. I just can’t do it. So we’re learning to live with the situation. At least there is no odor. When they babies grow up and everyone leaves, we will figure out a way to close the gaps along the sides of the deck.

In the meantime, we are in the midst… wait, let me clarify. I am in the midst of rebuilding our broken fence (the rotting areas of the back fence and side fence the skunk uses to get in and out of the yard)– so I’ll have to cut a couple holes in a couple old boards. I’ll replace the boards later. I’d rather cut holes than have her rip down the new boards or dig beneath them.

I say ‘I‘ because Oscar is out of town and has been for two weeks. Which allows me to get stuff done. No offense, Tom, but husbands, aside from you, say they’ll complete a project yet somehow never get around to starting it. At least that’s been my experience. Of course in this case it’s just as well. As my plumber once said – “Do I diagnose your husband’s patients??? Well tell him to keep his hands off my toilets!!!”

I got new carpet installed in his home office. (OMG that carpet was soooo awful!) I’m fixing a broken coffee table- yeah, me, as in I’m doing it myself- so I can move it (can’t move it with a broken claw foot, it’s too heavy and I don’t want to break it worse) along with all the other furniture in the family room in order to replace the big threadbare throw rug. And then I’m tackling the hardwood floors. I’ve been studying up on how to refinish worn areas.

Yep. Jake and I are going to town. Speaking of Jake…

His robins are back, in the same nest. Mama robin has laid at least four eggs. I’m so busy feeding her worms I have no time to write. Boy, does she have it good. Since robins have a relatively short lifespan, I figure giving her and her babies a leg up is the least I can do. She sits on the nest, flutters down to the worm feeder for an occasional bite. Gets a drink out of the bird bath, maybe takes a plunge or two, and then heads back to the nest. She never has to leave the yard. Sweet. She’s even willing to share the feeder with the towhees, who have babies of their own, and two pairs of mourning doves. She’s pretty nasty to the blue jays though. Can’t say I blame her but I do miss their squawking.

What does this have to do with Jake? He hangs out in the yard with the birds. They love him. He keeps the predators at bay. None of the songbirds fear the dog. They hop all around him, preening, feeding, bathing, drinking. He likes birds. Now the squirrels… they are another matter altogether. And that skunk… Jake has grown wary.  He won’t go outside at night unless I turn on all the floodlights first. And even then he sniffs the air before he sets one foot on the deck.

He’s been a great companion in Oscar’s absence. Not hyper. Rather, he’s showing a lot of self-control. I think it’s because I’m pretty chill while Oscar is pretty loud and sporty, (kinda like Sporty Spice) and he gets him revved up.

Yesterday Jake and I had to wait on the side of a trail for thirty minutes. We happened to hit a bend in the river trail the same time as a kids’ 5-K. He and I needed to cross right at their turnaround point. There were so many participants, and the trail is so narrow, we were forced to wait until the end of the race. But you know, he just lay there like an angel and every single kid was cooing and fawning over him. Fortunately he likes kids. But if you’re an old lady in a floppy hat, beware. Jake hates nothing more than a floppy hat. Fortunately we didn’t see any floppy hats yesterday, although today we did see an old lady wearing an enormous floppy straw hat and, of course, even though she was across the road Jake had to bark at her.

Well, I’ve talked long enough. Will chat again soon. Love, Julia XOXO!

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

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, We’ll call this past week The Week of Loss. Oh yeah, tomorrow is the 4th…

Not a fitting post for the Fourth of July but what the hey… I’m not feeling all that festive.

Mr. Robin vanished. Oh, I know well enough what happened to him. The neighbor’s cat happened to him, that’s what. Now his wife is left alone with four mouths to feed. Yes, nature (and cats) can be cruel, but still I am sad. Mr. Robin and his wife have been living in my yard for four years now. He was unique. Determined. Single-minded. I always recognized him with his silly macho Mohawk head-feathers. He was our alarm clock, welcoming the sun from the top of our highest redwood tree every single morning. The saddest part? The mournful chirps from his wife– two days of crying. I could hear every single chirp. She cried as she cared for the babies. Broke my heart.

Mr. Robin

Mr. Robin

Dear Mr. Robin, you are missed.

In one week, three people died– two of my childhood friends- one from previously undiagnosed cancer, one from a heart attack, and just yesterday my husband’s cousin died. All three died young, but due to lifestyle they’d aged well before their time. I mean, in one case when I heard the news I said, “Wait a sec… I thought he was already dead. I thought he died of a heroin overdose twenty years ago.” As you can see I hadn’t kept in touch, but my cousin had– She’d remained friends with both gentlemen. (This is what I get for avoiding Facebook. Never know who’s dead and who’s alive.)

My husband has a small family. There are only six cousins on his mother’s side of the family so to lose one of them is a huge deal. But it was not unexpected. The last time I saw his cousin was at a wedding eighteen months ago. To claim the man was in ill health would be an understatement.

He said to me, “I’m waiting for the big one. My life is shit. I am miserable. I’m in pain. I just want to die.”

My husband asked if his cousin seemed depressed. I said, “No, more like resigned, frustrated, unhappy. But no, not depressed.”

Well, he had the big one, a cardiac arrest in the field. Unfortunately he had no advance directive and when the paramedics arrived on the scene they resuscitated him. He was without oxygen for fifteen minutes before CPR. He never regained consciousness. Was on a ventilator. Again, unfortunately, the doctor treating him was very aggressive. Despite the fact that the man was DEAD he took him to surgery to unblock his coronary arteries, then he took him back into surgery to graft some vessels into his legs because there was no circulation (DEAD), and he wanted to begin dialysis because, obviously, if you’re DEAD, your kidneys aren’t functioning. Thank God he suffered another cardiac arrest twelve hours after the first and his son overruled the doctor and said, “Don’t do anything. Let him go.”

It was a difficult death because he was not a nice man and he’d been pretty much estranged from his son and from most of the rest of the family for years. But, you know better than I, death is the great equalizer. Happens to good and bad alike. We are very close with his son– my kids think of him as a big brother, so my husband and son are heading to the funeral tomorrow. They’ll mourn his cousin and celebrate the Fourth of July with family down in Orange County. I’ll stay home with the two dogs and keep an eye on Mrs. Robin.

Last week was a blur– we canceled a trip at the very last minute due to family insanity. My family. We were supposed to fly to Colorado for a family reunion but the hostess of said reunion had a major meltdown and I decided a cooling off period was required. Sometimes words/actions have consequences. The consequence in this case was a canceled trip. However, it was for the best as our youngest needed help making some life-altering decisions. She was supposed to fly to Colorado with us. Instead we spent five days dealing with some pretty emotional stuff.

Isn’t that always the way it is with kids? I can’t remember ever being drama-free. I know you know this, Tom. You too have three children. But I’m good with it. You know the poor young woman who was gunned down on the waterfront in San Francisco? Exactly one week ago my husband and our daughter were standing in that exact spot. They stopped there on the way to a San Francisco Giant’s game. This is why I say I’m good with it. I can accept drama.

Really bad things happen in this world, Tom. Oscar is pretty upset. It takes a lot to upset him, but the thought of a father losing his daughter like that? And knowing it could have been him? He’s not himself today. I’ll tell him you called me a ‘git’ and maybe that will cheer him up!

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Anyway, since it is the Fourth of July, or will be tomorrow, and since you’re English and I’m American, I shall stick it to you and quote some of the Declaration of Independence:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

Words to live by, Tom. Words to live by. Love you! Julia

I miss my friend Tom. I have so much to tell him!

Today I’m making wild plum jam. In the past when I’ve made wild plum jam I’ve told Tom, via either email or Twitter and he’s said – “Wish I was there!” Or, “Send me a jar!” Or “Would love to taste it!” But Tom died a few months back, long before his time, so there’s no point in writing to him. Even though I’m tempted to do it anyway. I met Tom four or five years ago on Twitter and we became fast friends. My husband and I visited Tom and his wife, Ishbel, in London, well, Essex, actually. We had the most excellent wonderful adventures! But people get cancer and they die and it sucks.

Tom and I were mates, as in, I know that in numerous past lives we were best friends forever. Still are.

So Tom, I’m making wild plum jam. I’ll set aside a jar for you.

Oh, and here’s what I harvested earlier in the week:

fresh picked

I harvested so much cabbage I fed the neighborhood. I’ve dried jars and jars of cilantro, parsley, chives, basil, thyme. I’ve cut all the celery but one– the root stalks are already regrowing. The asparagus is done producing– I’m leaving the rest to provide food for the roots. My potatoes are ripe, harvested more today, along with a couple onions (boy have I given away onions) and some green garlic. My potatoes, red, purple, Yukon gold and russet are totally ready. I’m picking them as needed, along with lettuce and arugula. Now I just have to wait for the squash – kabocha, the only squash I will eat, my eggplant, my chilies and yes, my tomatoes. I broke down and planted a single tomato plant. It’s funny. Compared the the garden we had in Iowa, these beds look so small to me, and yet I literally produce enough to feed a couple dozen people. Plus it’s fruit season. The wild plums are ripe. My neighbor’s apricots are almost ready- they give them all to me. The blackberries look pretty good this year, although I need a suit of armor to pick them. I’ll get loads of peaches from another neighbor, not to mention my two apple trees and my quince.  Wow. I love growin’ stuff!

Oh! Big news! Mr. Robin did it! Well, actually his wife did it. Remember how he tried and tried to build a nest on my downspout? He succeeded. They succeeded.

So here’s what happened. Mr. and Mrs. Robin built a nest in one of our redwoods. They managed to raise one baby, a really cute speckly baby robin. Sturdy little thing. He’s been fluttering around my backyard with his dad, along with the baby towhee and his dad. They kinda hang together. Which is cute. Last week I was upstairs feeding my birds. Their cage is right next to our big sliding door which opens onto a small balcony off our master bedroom. I look out the door and there’s Mr. Robin on the railing, all puffed up. He was so proud of himself his head feathers were in this mohawk hairdo. He looked right at me and I swear he said to me– “And you said it couldn’t be done…”

The next day I happened to be outside playing with the dog when I heard a noise. I looked up and sure enough, he’d done it. I suspect his wife is the real architect. According to what I read the male robin brings nesting materials and the female figures out how to put them together. She’s up there sitting on her nest on my downspout right outside my kitchen window. I’ll try to get a photo but the nest is under the eaves so you can’t see much, but the fun thing is, I get to keep an eye on her. She’s already laid three eggs. She’s in the process of laying a fourth. It’s a real treat to watch robin behavior. The dad is still feeding the older kid while the mom sits on the nest most of the day. She leaves every couple hours for 20-30 minutes, I assume she heads off to get something to eat. But then I worry, what if one of the neighborhood cats gets her? Scares me when she’s gone too long. My yard is safe but there are three cats stalking the court. Fortunately two of them are super fat. The skinny one concerns me.

Here’s the best photo I can get. Click to enlarge. Yeah, she’s laying an egg.

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That’s all the news! Miss you, Tom! XOXO!

P.S. Jake and I went for a hike to day and after I got home I found a tick crawling in my hair. Ewwwww! I hate ticks!