Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Number 93

Our 93rd species was spotted last night on my way home from town.  As I was passing a neighbor's new gate, I noticed a white bird-ish shape perched on a oak branch overlooking the road.  I hadn't noticed anything there before, and when I stopped to peer at it, discovered the lovely heart shaped face of a male Barn Owl looking back.  We figured they had to be around - they're not uncommon after all - but neither one of us had actually spotted one where we were confident in our identification.  We both agreed that it was a good omen for the nesting prospects of the several Barn Owl nestboxes that Dino has recently installed on our place. (Photo US Fish and Wildlife, in the public domain.)

On the subject of which (bird boxes that is), Dino and Audubon compadres have had several work days the last couple of weeks for building new boxes intended for the abovementioned Barn Owls, plus Wood Ducks and passerines such as Bluebirds and other cavity nesters.

I took last week off work, it was a little rough getting myself back into the office on Monday, but now look!  Four more days off, one of which will be spent eating good food!  Nifty!

This photograph was taken on a not-quite futile fungus hunting expedition over the weekend.  I found this oak bathed in pretty afternoon light near Lion Creek on our Northwest Territory.  A friend who saw this photograph states she can see a horse in it (that would have to be a spirit horse however).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November Road Trip

Week before last we took a road trip south to attend the memorial service for Dino's aunt.  We took a couple of extra days to play tourist. It was a major road trip, over 700 miles of mostly back roads through some of the most beautiful areas of California.  (Have I mentioned that I love where I live?)  We went to three wildlife refuges, took a side trip to a national monument, took the coast route south, and saw mile after mile of farmland, which has always fascinated me no end.  The cotton crop is being picked.  Slide show photos: the seahorses and all bird photos by Dino except the sanderling.  Others by yours truly.

Thursday was the first leg of the coast part of the trip.  We stopped in San Luis Wildlife Refuge, not too far from home, in the wetlands area of the Central Valley.  The flying critters were jam packed, and unfortunately that included a terrible number of hungry mosquitoes.  Leaving that aside, we did some heavy duty birding, being especially enchanted by the Sandhill Cranes. 

From there we headed toward Monterey, where we arrived in plenty of time to get checked into our comfy but not fancy motel, which as it turned out was only a 10 minute walk to Asilomar State Beach.  After we got situated, we headed to the beach and found that the tide was out enough that we could do some tidepooling.  I hadn't taken my good camera with me, just the iphone, and I did not get good shots of some of the neat critters - crabs and anemones, but the gadget did a pretty good job on capturing the beautiful sunset.

The next morning we lingered in the room a bit, eating breakfast and having a couple of cuppas, and then headed to the aquarium neighborhood.  We were still a bit early, so we walked along the waterfront and did some more bird and Harbor Seal watching, until the aquarium opened.

Love!  The seahorse exhibit was so neat, and although I do love seahorses, I fell in love with the Sea Dragons.  There were a couple of different species, the one in the slideshow is a Leafy Sea Dragon.  I was fascinated by watching their little fins pulsing -  the fins aren't the leafy things.  They have two little fins on the top and near the tail.

Then, on to the jellyfish exhibit, always interesting.  Another area I could just stand mesmerized.  That blue is how the photos came out of the camera - I don't know what the lights are used for these exhibits but wow on that color.

After the aquarium, we spent a couple of hours on a tour of the Tor House, the home of Robinson Jeffers.  We had to make an appointment, because only six people are allowed at a time on the tours, which are strictly led by guides.  I can see why, people would start carrying off bits and pieces of the place no doubt.  Most of the house and all of the nearly 40 foot stone tower were built by Jeffers, by hand, who rolled the stones up the hill from the beach.  We all got to climb the tower, via the secret passageway.  (Actually just hidden behind the door, but fun anyway, if a bit claustrophobic.) 

Next leg of the trip was down the Coast Highway.  Not the speediest way to get to where we were going, but on a nice day, the most beautiful. 

Sunday was our day to head north to home.  Instead we took a southerly direction (so typical of Dino, it's uphill both ways with him always but it's always interesting) and went to the Carrizo Plain National Monument.  This side trip was with the hopes of seeing a California Condor, which had been spotted somewhere in the area, according to the eBird software Dino uses.  We didn't see any condors, but the bird watching was great, I saw a couple of new species for me, including a prairie falcon.  The shot of Soda Lake, a large drainage basin which is seasonally wet show that this obviously is the dry season.  This area is also one of the best areas to see some of the naked slashes of the San Andreas fault - the background of this photo shows the Temblor Range.  Nothing was shakin' while we were there, however.

I'm taking the week off work, it's been lovely to doodle around the house and take multiple walks.  I've been doing a lot of Audubon work so I don't get too used to being lazy.

Fingers crossed for more rain at the end of the week.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wood and Walls and Websites

I'll start in reverse order.  I've been working with a friend to develop her new website, Mindful Palate, which will have all sorts of yummy recipes, some thoughts about mindfulness, a little magic, and a hidden button to a secret place.   I designed the logo too, a bit of shameless bragging there, but it all turned out very well if I do say so myself.  And, the recipes are great - I made the butternut squash one last weekend and found it most delicious.

Dino has been working himself to a frazzle on getting firewood cut.  He likes to be at least a year ahead, and we've got some good stacks going now.  I helped last Saturday on this project:  Dino worked the chain saw (good choice) and I hoisted the cut pieces into the bed of the Ford.  Glad I've been doing all that weightlifting - it came in handy for this;  I needed help with only the last huge round. 

Lifting heavy things also comes into the stone wall that I decided to build near the road.  It was in the spot where a big oak came down one Christmas four or five years ago.  Dino had gotten the road cleared of the tree, and also pushed the logs and rocks out of the way.  I've been eyeing that spot all this time, mulling over the idea of making a little wall.  Now that I'm describing the thought process, I think really I just wanted to organize it, one of my favorite things.  If the project had involved bags, boxes or baskets it would have been truly primo, but being able to use the wheelbarrow made up for the lack of "useful pots to put things in."  I'm not entirely certain I'm done with the area - there is an untidy area on the other side of the road that may need some work as well.  This photo shows the wall after the first phase, it's more cleaned up now.

I'm taking another stab at getting some fall vegetables going, specifically snow peas.  I planted about 10 days ago, and noticed a couple of sprouts last weekend already.  Dino has been vigorously applying his best anti-ground squirrel techniques and I am hopeful the little devils *insert worse word here* will leave these infant peas alone.  We had a good crop last year and many excellent stir fries.

Excellent Snow Pea Stir Fry Recipe (four ingredient style)
Pick a pile of fresh snow peas, and clean the strings out.
Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to your favorite perfectly seasoned cast iron frying pan
Heat the oil, add the peas.
Let them cook a few minutes, until they get that amazingly gorgeous bright green color, then add the garlic.  Fry for 1 more minute, then add 1 tablespoon low sodium tamari and mix all of that for another 30 seconds.  Remove from heat.  Enjoy.

I noticed this tree the other day, at the perfect time of the late afternoon.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fun with Legos!

My son loved (loves?) legos, but I admit I'm kind of glad he didn't take it this far. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Birds and Fungi and Stuff

Yesterday was mostly devoted to the usual chores, plus a few hours in the vegetable garden thrown in before lunch.  That allowed me to finish up the trench filling-in that I'd started a couple of weeks ago;  I ran out of dirt to fill the holes the first attempt I took.  During the week sometime, Dino got the tractor up there and took some dirt from one spot and deposited it in another one, conveniently close to the trenches.  I shoveled and raked and smoothed and did that enough times so that it looks about as good as it ever will up there.  I had some fun with making some great rake marks in the dirt.  I also pulled out the disappointing tomato plants and got that bed cleaned up.

Today, I didn't wake up till nearly 7!  That's practically unheard of for me - my usual weekday hour is 4:15 and weekends, weekend mostly I'll sleep till 5:30 or maybe 6 before I can't stand it any more.  I rustled up some grub and a cuppa and doodled around on the computer for an hour and then grabbed my camera bag and started walking.

Dino had told me about a humungus fungus he'd seen inside an old oak tree near Turkey Crossing and I wanted to bag a shot of that as that would be the only fungus shot taken in the month of September, during any of the years I've been photographing fungi.  It's like getting a life bird or something.  It was easy to find, and yep, it was a big one all right, about 18 inches across at its widest.

On my way to the fungus, I had one of my patented wildlife encounters.  I'd chosen a route along the fence at the bottom of Rodeo Meadow and as I was walking through the line of trees where Lion Creek comes through, I heard Big Rustling Noises.  Pigs.  I don't know what it is with me and pigs, but it seems that often enough I see them way before they see me.  In this case, I'd started to come around a big rock to get a better view, when one of the sows decided to emerge from the creek bed headed right for the same spot.  She grunt-oinked in alarm and took off at high speed, with the rest of the critters trailing along, heading up the hill toward Deer Ridge.

Here is the second reason I was in Rodeo Meadow to start with (aside from the fungus).  This is a picture of one of the new nest boxes Dino's manufactured and installed on our place.  This is a duplex box, tres fancy.  The big box is intended for Barn Owls and the little one on the side is a bluebird box - well really for any passerine that's a cavity nester and likes that size opening.  Funny that it's possible to double them up like that, especially given the barn owl's penchant for eating other birds, but it works.

Mid-afternoon we took a walk together to the mailbox, with a stop just above the abandoned houses for a long look at two juvenile golden eagles perched in a large gray pine.  Neat!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

For All You Small Engine Lovers Out There

Dino was greatly taken with this video from the East Coast of Arkansas.  Favorite quote: "If you want a Maytag that don't smoke, buy a Briggs & Stratton."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Number 92!

Quick update to crow (ha ha) about the newest addition to our list:  Double-crested Cormorant.  Dino spotted said water bird as he crossed the bridge over the Chowchilla last week on his way back from a town trip.

Photo below:  in the public domain, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sings: Runs Down the Road All Day

Weekend before last, Dino looked out the kitchen window and spotted a Roadrunner in the front yard.  It spent several minutes exploring the area just above the front garden fence until it finally headed down to the creek.  I hadn't seen a roadrunner around here before - I've seen them in the desert in Southern California - and have harbored jealous thoughts of everyone here who has seen them.  The same bird returned around supper time to scavenge around the front garden area.  I saw it again Sunday morning and watched it as it lurked underneath the hummingbird feeders and seemed to be calculating how high and fast a leap would be required to snag one.  Evidently, it decided that the whole operation would be a waste of energy because it didn't try.  The tail on the roadrunner was longer than the actual body of the bird.  I felt so excited and interested by this that I sang the Roadrunner cartoon theme song (aloud a couple of times) and said Meep meep! at random moments, causing mild eye rolling on the part of my wonderful spouse.  When I played the aforementioned song, Dino grumbled something or other about "unmitigated violence against canines." 

Then to really make the day special, I found a present underneath one of the bell pepper plants when I went up to the vegetable garden to water:  a big clump of yellow mushrooms!  Fungus in California in August!  Granted, it sprouted in a well-watered vegetable garden but I delayed not a bit in getting my camera gear set up.  I've taken photos of this species before;  I believe it's Lepiota lutea, a fungus commonly found in gardens.  I suspect the spores came from the compost I dug into the bed before I planted this year.  This photo shows them before they'd opened up their caps; they were fully unfurled when I checked them after supper.

My ride to work last Thursday morning turned out to be interesting.  I'd gotten about a quarter of the way up the big grade (the paved area) but had to stop because I found an SUV stopped and blocking the road.  Turns out, he'd stopped because someone had driven their Jeep off the side of the steep grade and plowed it into an oak tree.  It had landed about 10 feet down, and thank goodness for the tree or it would have been a much bigger drop.  Neither one of us could tell if anyone was still in it.  We pondered how to get down to check.  I'm not exactly unacquainted with steep hills, although it's not what I'm fond of particularly, and I headed down.  I wasn't dressed for it but what the hell.  Actually, I had on a cotton polo shirt dress and my battered slip on mule/clogs whatever  you call them.  (Good gate opening footwear).  The right windows had that dark window covering on them so I couldn't see in and I did my best to scoot around to look through the front windshield, but didn't see or hear anyone.  The engine was just barely still warm, so whatever happened had been some time before.  The way the vehicle was listing downhill made me decide not to go to the driver's side door as getting crushed was not on my agenda for the day.  I climbed back up and the neighbor decided to drive about a mile further up at the big hairpin where I've gotten a cell phone signal in the past to call it in to the sheriff.  Cell phone reception is the absolute pits there, you have no idea.  By some miracle, he got through and he waved me on so I could get to work.  By the time I was making the homeward trek in the afternoon, the Jeep had been yanked out and parked at the bottom of the grade.  That must have been an interesting task for the tow truck driver, although I expect it wouldn't have been the first time someone's gone over an edge. 
I realized when I woke up the next morning that I should have had one other consideration in mind when it came to washing up after my little downhill excursion.  That is to say, I have a couple of monster poison oak rashes now on my arms and legs and isn't it lucky that it's the middle of August when the damn stuff is at its lowest ebb or I'd be even more of a mess. Dumb of me, I know.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I had some fun day before yesterday with a wardrobe malfunction.  I put on one of my summer dresses, a floral number I bought some years ago at a thrift store.  When I got to work and started getting my stuff out of the truck, I felt a little more air circulation in the area of the back zipper than one would have expected.  The zipper teeth had started to separate for almost the entire length of the zipper, exposing my back and underthings.  Luckily, for once no one was in the parking area and I scurried into my office and wore yoga clothes for the rest of the day.  I figured that I'd gotten my $3 worth out of the dress and decided not to have a new zipper put on, and ragbagged it.

Wildlife Updates:  the other day at supper, Dino spotted Something inside the front garden, which is surrounded by a six foot wire fence, and reached for his binoculars.  He thought it was a bobcat, but it turned out to be a beautiful gray fox.  We both watched it through our binocs while it nosed around, and picked up some of the rubber drip tubing to chew on and shake, which of course made Dino a tad unhappy.  When it was ready to leave, it defied gravity and sprang up to the top of the fence at the point where the steel poles meet at one of the corner and tiptoed along the top.  There didn't appear to be a lick of effort on the fox's part in doing this - it was really neat to watch.

Last, while Dino was on a nestboxing expedition, a young tree swallow was in the process of getting banded, managed to get away and tried to fly, only to land in a big pool in a nearby creek.  The bird fluttered enough in its attempts to fly again to attract the attention of a small mouth bass, which sadly snapped it up and ate it.

I was taking photos of a pretty yellow wildflower the other day, when this Western Pondhawk dragonfly, Erythemis collacata, decided it wanted to become famous on the Internet and continued to return to the same stalk near my camera setup. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Varmint City Around Here

I'm close to being resigned to having no vegetable garden this year aside from the tomatoes and peppers.  The *%#^$ ground squirrels have gotten all of the rest of it, now even the little squash plants.  I'm pretty sure they at least nibbled the tomato plants too, and hopefully found them not tasty enough to devastate. I guess it was a dry enough winter and the squirrels produced a bumper baby crop this year and they don't have enough other food to eat?  Dino suggested that I install myself behind one of the big manzanitas in the orchard with a pellet gun and pick them off one by one, typical man thing to say.  As if.  Not to say that I don't have a big grudge. 

Furthermore, the grasshoppers are busy growing and chewing.  On one of last weekend's walks, I was snapping some shots of an interesting native plant (oh, that was probably an invasive too) and amongst the leaves:  yes.  A six-legged plant muncher. 

However, with the success of two kestrel nests around here - three fledged and five darn close to it - and given the fact that the favorite food of kestrels is grasshoppers, I feel downright thrilled that some hoppers are going to be food.  Soon and the more the better.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Challenge or Two

I spent a couple days last week at my parents' house in the Bay Area to visit.  Dad fell and broke his hip and although he's doing really well, I wanted to see him and see what I could help Mom with.  Boy, this aging stuff is not always Fun with a capital F.  One of the tasks I set myself to was to pull a few weeds in the raised beds Dad has worked for darn close to 40 years.  The soil was so beautiful that the weeds almost leapt up into my hand; it could hardly be called work at all.

When I returned on Sunday, I had just enough time to get some laundry done and a couple of other chores.  I took the day off Monday and spent the whole day in the Lower Garden pulling weeds.  Now, this was a Task.  Since I'd tried and failed to explain to Mom the difference between weeding at their house vs. weeding at our house, I decided to take a picture.  This shot shows the path from the top of that garden area, with big roses along the fence on the right and another rose bed with miniatures on the left, culminating in a quince tree - the trunk is visible.  Everything but the roses and the quince are weeds of some sort.  Icky filaree, dried grasses and false dandelion.  I spent six hours at it and filled I'm not sure how many wheelbarrows full.  And unfortunately, I didn't even finish cleaning up the whole garden, but have big plans for this coming weekend.  Woo hoo, long weekend = Weeding!

Side note:  I splurged a few weeks ago and bought a new lens for my camera:  a Lensbaby Control Freak with double glass optic and the macro converter kit.  This is the band saw in the shop building.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kestrels, Culverts and Pretty Blue Visitors

There are now five nestboxes occupied by kestrels; two of the nests were found occupied only within the last couple of weeks.  One of the "routes" or areas where a cluster of nestboxes was installed is going to be decommissioned for the year.  Dino is visiting today to put plugs on the entrance holes to this particular group of boxes - none of which were chosen by kestrels this year.  The concern is related to fire danger, with the grass in that area having grown tall but now rapidly drying out, it seems better be safe than sorry when it comes to driving the ATV to check the boxes. 

In addition to checking the kestrel boxes put up with the Yosemite Area Audubon Society members, Dino is also working with a master bander, helping to check large groups of nestboxes - including wood duck and barn owl boxes in addition to the kestrel boxes.  He's also learning how to band the kestrels.

On the home front, Dino added a big piece of pipe to a culvert that got dug out on the road last week.  Here's the nifty new spot:

Saturday morning, as I was sitting in my easy chair drinking my first cuppa, I heard a really weird cry, which certainly brought me quickly to my feet. Turned out to be this beautiful blue boy, accompanied by his drab brown wife.  They spent some time under our bird feeders, scavenging, and seemed to join up later with one of the turkey groups that have been coming around for the same reason. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Four Nestboxes Now

You thought it would be something other than kestrels?  Granted, Dino is the one doing most of the work at the moment, what with yours truly not being retired yet.  Today, he's doing two of the monitoring routes - I don't expect he'll be home till after dark.  Anyway, total count as of this morning, is four kestrel nests - another nest was found this past weekend by the monitors.  Since kestrels incubate their eggs for approximately 30 days, sometime soon, hopefully there will be cute pictures of fuzzy little baby birds!

Besides the kestrel work, Dino is also helping monitor wood duck and barn owl, and I believe, bluebird boxes for another project.  It's darn close to a full time job, or as he jokes, "fool-time".  It sure is interesting though.

It's a disappointing wildflower year, but I saw the watercress in the ford blooming this last weekend.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Kestrel Update, plus Hey It's Spring, There Are Weeds

All of the nestboxes have had at least one monitoring visit and some have had two.  We have one kestrel pair nesting!  It's not a very good occupancy rate, but to borrow a sports analogy, there's always next year.  It's a long term project and data from other nestbox monitors indicate that it does take a few years to really get up to speed.  That and possibly some continuous loop Luther Vandross or whatever the kestrel equivalent might be.

Here is the mama-to-be, incubating four lovely eggs:

The last couple of weekends, I've been heading up to the orchard to work on removing tons of that blankety blank filaree.  Over four sessions, I wheelbarrowed at least 16 very full loads out of there.  I found a few of what I call wildflowers vs. weeds and those got to stay.  Last week, Dino splurged on a new push-type string trimmer and whacked the bejeebers out of them, leaving some for me to hand weed under the trees, roses and in the daffodil areas.  If it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not really as I quite enjoy weeding, it's just whoo, so much!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

First Monitoring Outing

We waited till late afternoon before we  both felt brave enough to take a shot at doing the first nestbox monitoring.  (What with the nutso weather, hail, rain, snow, hail again, rain again, sunshine for a while.)  We've got six nest boxes put up either on Dryad Ranch or on adjoining neighbor's places and we were eager to see if any birds had decided to check them out.

We gathered up the ladder, the clipboard and monitoring data sheet, a long pole and a specially-made plug for the nest hole and headed out.  We didn't see evidence of kestrels, but two of the boxes had evidence of another species, probably starlings, and as we approached a third, we saw a bird fly away from the vicinity of the box.  We are leaning strongly toward thinking it was an owl of some sort, possibly a Western Screech-owl.  That box had definite signs of interest, with a depression in the wood shavings we'd placed in it, and no evidence of grass or sticks that would indicate starling activity.  The other three boxes - no signs of bird interest yet.

I also got out and about before lunch to do a decent fungus hunting foray in between raindrops and was gratified to find some.  It has been a very disappointing year for fungus because of the lack of rain and I didn't want to let a good opportunity go to waste.  Of course, tomorrow would probably be even better, but alas, I'll be trundling off to work in the a.m.

Here is a shot of our pretty landscape this morning from the top of Ant Hill:

And of course!  What you were waiting for, the requisite fungus shot.  This little darling was found in a crevasse in a big downed pine not far from Altar Rock.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

California Farmland

One of the joys of doing the nest box work was being outside in the (mostly) beautiful spring weather, in the range and farm land of our beautiful state.  I am fascinated on a regular basis by the fruit orchards so common as we go about the back roads.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nest Boxes

The last several weeks have been All Kestrels All the Time.  Yesterday, Dino and I installed the last of a total of 79 nest boxes designed to attract American Kestrels.  Dino has been working non-stop on this project since December and we were celebrating yesterday evening for sure.

Dino got some great help from quite a few other volunteers from the local Audubon Society, hosting work parties in our shop building to manufacture the boxes, not to mention assistance in erecting the metal poles and nest boxes in the various locations around Madera and Merced counties where the boxes were placed.

It was really a lot of work, but the hope is that the boxes will attract a multitude of kestrels in these open grasslands areas where there are few naturally occurring nest cavities they can use.  We did hear the other day from a fellow Audubon member that she had seen a male kestrel on one of the first boxes that got put up, so fingers are firmly crossed.

The boxes will be monitored through March and April, possibly into May, meaning that volunteers will visit each nest box every couple of weeks to see if it is being used for nesting, which species is using the nest, how many nestlings hatch and so on.  The data will be used by the Peregrine Fund which provided some funding for purchase of the nest box materials, in an ongoing project they are starting this year to study kestrels.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pig Hill: Aptly Named

Much of my weekend enjoyment seems to take place on the walks we take.  Last Sunday, I ended up taking two. The first I accompanied Dino to the mailbox at the red gate, a little over 3 miles. And then after I helped with some shop building/storage container organizing, I made good on my threat to do a Pig Hill hike. We'd gotten talking about good walks that get the old heart rate up and I realized I hadn't done one of those in a while. It's a good steep hill - not a cliff or anything but a decent challenge.

Just as I started up, right where the field starts sloping upward, under a big oak tree I spotted something white that looked suspiciously like bones. I always check those out. As I got closer, I could see it was a skull and initially I thought it was a horse. But as I kept looking, it was too small to be a horse, and then I saw: tusks!  How appropriate for Pig Hill. I finished my walk up and back, then scouted around the area to see if I could find anything else of the skeleton - no. I carried it home - four pieces, top, jaw and the two tusks which had fallen out. I stuck it in a bucket of dilute bleach and found an old scrubber and washed it off nicely. 

I didn't have time during the week to do any photography, but come yesterday morning as soon as I had some decent natural light coming in, set to work. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I'd Rather Be Hiking. Also, #91!

I just got word from Dino that he saw two Rough-legged Hawks (Buteo lagopus) today, making that the 91st species for Dryad Ranch!

We got some nice rain over the weekend and Monday (finally).  At one point as I was standing at the kitchen window looking out, Dino came flying down the driveway on the tractor: dodging hail. That was it for the tractor work for the day.

I still ended up taking a couple of walks in the on/off drizzle. Although I feared I would be disappointed, as we'd only just gotten the rain, I was rewarded by spotting a few cap and stem mushrooms already popping up, and these turkey tails. The bonus was two types of slime mold, a sub-interest, which is very hard to photograph until such a time as I finally spend the bucks and throw some hardware at the problem.  Oh, look at this two millimeter red dot on a log! Anyway, turkey tails are usually orangy brown, but these new ones were green. Neat.

It was so amazingly beautiful walking; I swear I could smell the rain sinking into everything and hear all the trees and critters and living things breathing a big sigh of relief. As I got to the top of Deer Ridge, I found myself experiencing that sort of in the moment joy where you are just a human fully in the world, you could just as well be the wind or a pine cone and there's no silly mind chatter, just clean air in the lungs and wide open spaces. (Like this:)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Exploring the Contents

As Dino continues with organizing the marvel that is the shop building, he is making wonderful presentations of the old tools he has inherited and acquired over the years.  I claim he has all the "tools known to man", but he emphatically denies this.  The other day, he had a number of them out and was de-rusting and oiling.  Even though I am almost entirely hopeless at using hand tools, I remain fascinated by all the shapes and intended uses (about which I am also clueless, mostly).  Some of the tools are over 100 years old.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Taking Off

We made it through another Christmas season, with an annual trip to my folks house, a visit with Dino's sisters and an interesting side trip to see the USS Iowa in Richmond.  As it was Christmas Day itself, we weren't able to take the tour, but instead peered through a chain link fence for what turned out to be a pretty good view of it. 

These paperwhites bloomed a couple of days after Christmas; they were a gift from my sister and they are still blooming!

Dino has been super busy the past weeks what with participating in Christmas Bird Counts (Oakhurst, Mariposa and Merced) and working on the kestrel project.  That is shaping up very nicely, it looks like, with a number of possible areas surveyed and assessed.  Dino is in the stage of receiving approvals and permissions and is confident that a decent number of nest boxes will be built and put in place for this year's nesting season.  We'll be putting some on our property as well for the kestrel population of this area.

This beautiful photo of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk was taken by Dino on the Merced bird count.

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