Toad in the Hole August 2006 Archives

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August 29, 2006

Everybody! Everybody!

Check this out!

Posted at 04:40 AM | Comments (3)

August 28, 2006

And Now for Something Completely Different

An eggplant that looks like Spiro Agnew.

Spiro Eggplant

Hat tip to Rurality.

Posted at 05:58 PM | Comments (4)

August 27, 2006

Lit'ry Alert

It was a stark and dormy night, and I was cramming – again – in the smoker, with three of my fellow hopelessly bewildered Post-Structuralist Comparative Adjectival Theory II students, attempting to cram the logic of some post-logical Frenchman into our collective memory as if packing ten pounds of too-warm aspic into a tiny needlepoint evening bag before a long and formal Victorian-re-enactors’ re-enaction of the most stultifying formal dinner-and-dancing party pluckable from one of Miss Mulock’s more obscure novels, even more obscure than John Halifax (sometimes published as John Halifax, Gentleman) but set in the antebellum American South where there was of course no air-conditioning so any such bag would be destined to leak embarrassingly over its unfortunate possessor’s claret-colored (or coloured, depending on the airs of the author and her covert attitude toward the spelling reform attempted by Noah Webster but left to us, its linguistic and literary heirs and assigns, only half-solidified, rather like that aspic, and so prone to allowing neophyte writers to serve upon the page a concoction prone to slipping away from the reader and losing all form before spreading away onto the table of consciousness in an ungraspable if occasionally golden cascade of almost-solidified but ultimately incohesive proteins) taffeta overskirt with blue velvet insets and golden braid trim, much the way the sequence of badly translated yet ineffably bewildering assertions about colonialist consciousness and its effects (and its affect!) upon the naďve reader was leaking repeatedly out of our variously weekend-burdened undergraduate minds; however, it was not I who nodded off and left her laptop battery to burn a hole in her retro-vintage pink chenille bathrobe.

In case anybody here hasn't got the word yet, the Bulwer-Lytton Awards for this year have been announced.

Ask me why we have at least one, maybe two (unless we left one to Chaparral House) copies of John Halifax by Miss (no other name given) Mulock in the house. Go on, I dare you.

Do dorms still have smokers? The common rooms in which one could smoke cigarettes, I mean.

Posted at 05:17 AM | Comments (11)

August 26, 2006

Wish I'd Said that

Quote meon an estimate et non interruptus stadium. Sic tempus fugit esperanto hiccup estrogen. Glorious baklava ex librus hup hey ad infinitum. Non sequitur condominium facile et geranium incognito.

"About" graf in Skatje Myers' blog.

Posted at 05:38 AM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2006

Rockin' Roles

When we took our jaunt up the Sonoma coast the other day, we found ourselves hunting for a pace to sit down and have lunch. We found a very obscurely marked spot called Russian Gulch, just north of Jenner; it was a gravel parking lot, two battered picnic tables, and a (clean) outhouse. The main attraction seemed to be a short trail to the beach, through a thicket of willows and aspens and mostly following a dry creekbed.

Few birds there -- downy woodpecker, scrub jay being oddly quiet, goldfinches zipping overhead, wrentit in the scrub uphill. We had lunch and took that path through the woods to see what was there.

I kept stopping to look at the rocks in the creekbed. A varied bunch, with apparent serpentenite, granite, um shist?, and (here's where my technical vocabulary breaks down) red stuff and shuny white stuff and black stuff and interestingly streaky stuff and one thing like a jelly donut, dark finegrained stuff completely enclosing grayer speckled granite, conveniently broken open so I could see the cross-section.

Streambed rocks and beach rocks start to look like narrative after a long enough look. Serpentenite forms under the ocean, at a serious depth but not below it, and in some weird way incorporates water molecules (or so I'm told) without being perceivably wet or oxygenated ot hydrogenated. It has lots of other minerals tied up in itself, notably too much magnesium (IIRC) for most plant to thrive on, so it makes soils that lots of very localized California endemics use because there's not so much competition from the "normals."

There was lots of serpentine-ish rock in that streambed, along with the volcanic stuff (granite, e.g.) and lordknows what else. What a set of journeys, from deep sea to uphill , from deep earth to the crystallizing air, and back down in a roll that rounded off their sharp bits, until they fractured and gained knifelike edges which would be rounded again by next winter's rains concentrated into this little creek, and so on over and over until they reached the sea and its counterforces

breaking wave, rock

to be tumbled and rounded some more.

beach gravel

There they lie, for now, each story next to its neighbors', a concatenation of accents from more distances than mere surface-dwellers can imagine.

Some of these plum-sized stones lie in matrices that speak of even stranger journeys, embedded in what's evocatively called "puddingstone."

plum in puddingstone

And the rocks support plants that tell other stories, more immediate, like a buckwheat that gets enough to thrive in so unlikely a crack -- and even has neighbors there.

buckwheat in rock

And a surprise if you know the plant: yards from even brackish surface water, apparently miles from freshwater, a plant I still call Peltiphyllum peltatum because that name's too pretty to lose, "Indian rhubarb," something that grows on streamsides in the woods.

peltiphyllum on gravel

And of course it's saying that the creek's still running underground in August, still moving fresh water to the willows and alders and their understory companions and beyond, right out to the ocean.

Posted at 06:23 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2006

Today's Life Lesson


Take nothing for granted.

For the next thrilling installment, I'll upload a few edifying pictures of rocks from today's jaunt up the Sonoma coast and back via Petaluma. Not very bird-y, but we did see a couple of ospreys overhead.

Posted at 02:31 AM | Comments (3)

August 23, 2006

Days of Fast and Abstinence

Due to some really weird goings-on in my computer, I'm on a Web-browser fast till after the 28th or whenever I get all the passwords and such transferred to Joe's computer. Add the factor of mudwrestling for time on that compurter, and you get reduced time for blogging on Toad. Sorry, no film files of the mudwrestling.

Patience, please.

I can read and comment here all the while, though. Could be worse. Shep the Snake is eating again, and Matt the Cat may have forgiven us for the anti-flea application. And he stood up to the loose German-shepherd mix who came charging and barking up onto the porch last night; Joe let Matt in fast and gave the dog what-for, but I think he was repeating what Matt had said. I didn't know his tail could get quite so big. Stop that. Matt's tail.

Meanwhile, I'm putting the following on the Shit List:

People who wear too much perfume in the produce store.

More later, and suggestions for the Shit List welcome.

Posted at 06:55 AM | Comments (15)

August 21, 2006

I'll Go See Snakes on a Plane

when someone convinces me that the snakes win.

Posted at 01:29 AM | Comments (3)

August 19, 2006

The Arrogant Arborist Gets Humble

If this were a young bonsai subject, I'd be making, oh, one of several shaping cuts I can see as possible, to train it into the story it was to tell. Bonsai are actors, onstage to embody the scripts their trainers are writing in them. The stories, if they're believable, are based on the bonsai artists' close observation and understanding of what wild trees' lives are, what wild trees' bodies inscribe on themselves as their autobiographies.


But this is a wild tree, growing on the edge of a pond on Mount Tamalpais. It's one of the models, the examplars, of what a bonsai artist is working to tell.

A wild tree can't make mistakes. If what we see in a wild tree isn't in accordance with the rules of good bonsai, it's because those rules are for us to follow, not for the trees; the rules reflect our limitations in time and narrative. A wild tree can't make mistakes because its life is absolutely in accordance with the actual, not the fictional, laws of Nature, a record of its own possibilities and of what it has survived and what it has made of its situation, of the weather and the place in which it lives. It is absolutely honest. It is what we try to read, to deduce the history of the place and the world, to figure out the real rules, the natural laws.

Posted at 05:58 PM | Comments (2)

August 18, 2006

Friday Critter Blogging

A pair of ravens memorizing our license plate number, Drake's Beach, Point Reyes, Marin County, California.

raven pair2

Posted at 03:40 PM | Comments (6)

August 17, 2006

More on Those Terns

Not exactly blogwhoring.

Joe wrote about them this week for the Planet.

Posted at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)


This is our resident male Anna's hummingbird, who we call "Himself." He sits in the fruitless mulberry street tree out front and watches vigilantly, lest any other bird infringe upon His! Territory! -- particularly on the hummingbird feeder on the front porch. We do get other hummers, who generally pop in when Himself is off chasing some other hummer across the strees, or patrolling some other bit of His! Territory!

Himself the hummingbird

Then he chases them, of course, and sometimes the first or yet another hummer sneaks in, and off they all go again. So far, all I've seen have been Anna'ses, including at least one female and a couple of immature males. They might all be relatives; don't know. There's lots of post-breeding season hummer traffic around here.

He'll fly over and give us what-for if we get too close to the feeder when we're on the porch, or check us out if we're wearing some bright color. And when a stray lovebird of some brightly-colored sort, clearly someone's lost pet, came through the neighborhood and hung out on the utility wires next door awhile, he was rather perturbed and kept flying up to the stranger and questioning him/her. The lovebird didn't respond to our calls or offered sunflower seeds and eventually flew on, but seemed mostly to ignore Himself. Oh the ego-bruising!

Posted at 07:10 PM | Comments (1)

Then Again (Environmentalists)

The other side of that Earth Island encomium -- which I do not stint at all in giving to most of the individuals I was talking about -- is that Earth Island is, like practically any institution of its size and age, contracting a case of Edifice Complex. The PTB there are winding up to pile some big new headquarters building here in Berkeley with, oh, a restaurant and green building methods and some sort of enviro art gallery or museum or exhibit space or something along with the offices, conference room, whatever.

And I keep thinking: Just what my poor city needs, another honkin' big building. Whoopee. Real environ mental, that.

Posted at 04:11 AM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2006

Yeah I'm Old

We were walking past Union Square tonight and a young woman clad in orange drawstring pants, an iPod, and a joyous expression ran full-tilt past us, and my first thought was, "Bare feet on concrete? Ow!"

Posted at 06:23 AM | Comments (8)

August 13, 2006

Personal History

Scene-setting: I worked as an LVN after getting my license via a government-sponsored employment-training program (CETA, which no longer exists) in, oh, 1975 or '76. I spent most of the years between then and late 1983 working part-time (because everyone should work "part"-time!) at Children's Hospital in Oakland.

One minor story from my checkered past in medical practice:

We, like many professionals, had to take continuing-education classes to keep our licenses current. The hospital ran some of those, some for RNs and LVNs together; one I took was an ethics short-course. This would have been about 1979.

During the class, the inevitable burning question arose, especially from those of us who worked in the Intensive Care Nursery. Technically, I was a "floater," but I'd evidently shown some competence so I was in the ICN most of the time. Come to think of it, that's where I was when they'd first hired me away from the registry. The question: We're spending upwards of a million dollars on some of these babies, and so many of the problems that brought them here are preventable. Why on earth doesn't society spend a tenth of when we spend here on simpler things like real education, more available good nutrition, ways for girls to escape bad family situations? (It seemed that rather a lot of our patients had the same person as father and maternal grandfather, and/or were premature because of violence done to their mothers.) The government ends up paying for a lot of what we do here anyway, of course; it's way beyond most people's means and insurance, whatever their class. Why can't we spend a fraction of that in prevention?

Well, I thought about that over the lunch break, and when discussion arose that afternoon I ventured a speculative answer. One thing, I said, might be economies of scale. The equipment and supplies we used were outrageously expensive, and would be more so if they couldn’t be sorta-mass-produced and marketed. Also, education and shelters and distribution of good food wouldn’t add so much to the Gross National Product as all the hefty salaries and supply purchases that came out of the way things actually were being done. So, in a sense, those sick ghetto babies were filler, or a kind of contemporaneous guinea pig, for the babies of other classes who would need our services at unpredictable rates and times.

I didn’t get shouted down for that exactly, though of course there was vigorous discussion… Hmm, actually I remember shocked silence and then a general switch of topics, and then vigorous discussion of the new item.

But some of the nurses there, RNs who had evidently pushed to hire me a few years before and told me they felt good and reassured when I was on-shift and who I’d considered good friends, who’d lent me rides home when I didn’t have a car and to Siggy’s annual Christmas parties and shared lunches and gone out for a post-shift drinks – some of them stopped speaking to me after that. Believe me, in such an atmosphere of stress and crisis and general pain, that hurt. One needs social support to bear it. And, typically, it took me forever to figure out what was going on. I’ve always been remarkably slow on certain social cues.

Bear in mind that I hadn’t said "you"; I’d always said "us" because that was the way I saw it. I didn’t see us as dupes, but as people doing damned well under circumstances we hadn’t made. And I’m not blaming them either, really. While some of us shared annoyance with certain colleagues who seemed always to behave as though they were on one of those medical-hero TV shows – I’d said something once about almost being able to hear the theme from "Medical Center" leaking out of someone’s ears as she worked, and I got appreciative laughs for that; I’d articulated what was bugging her co-workers about her – we all needed to feel heroic sometimes or we’d collapse in a heap. Hospital medicine is run to a great extent on the numbing and energizing effects of internally generated epinephrine. How can you do that stuff for weeks, months, years on end without convincing yourself at least sometimes that you’re being a hero?

And of course you are one, at least some of the time. What I was trying to say, the idea I hadn’t yet fully formed or communicated, was that our heroism was being as used-up as the kids’ unnecessary suffering. But the idea that it wasn’t all really necessary or inevitable, that we were being jointly betrayed by people and the structures they’d built out of short-sightedness or greed or whatever inertial process makes societies, was too corrosive to bear. I think I understand it, but man, it hurt.

As I recall, it was pretty soon after that that I took a six-month hiatus so Joe and I could drive around the country chasing birds. When I returned, I was on a different shift, and assigned to a different floor. I still floated to the ICN sometimes, because no one else on the floor was willing to and they’d ask me to when that came up, and I was fine with it. I don’t recall being made to feel unwelcome there either, so I guess half a year was time enough to forgive and/or forget.

Posted at 04:22 PM | Comments (3)

Building Butt

This is the view from the windows of the office of Earth Island Journal, at the central headquarters of the enviro organization Earth Island Institute in beautiful North Beach in San Francisco.


And if you stand up, you can see this purple-leaf plum, almost the nearest tree.


There's a lonesome bronze loquat ("bronze loquat" is a tree species, not a metal sculpture) on the same side of the street as the office, but you have to open the window and lean out to see it.

I got to thinking of this when I read the post and thread about being or not being an "environmentalist" -- really, calling yourself one or not -- on, IIRC, Feministe. A bunch of people go to this place in the noisy middle of a big city for a varying number of days each week, mostly to facilitate work done elsewhere. Earth Island is an umbrella organization with a number of "projects." Projects are centered in various places like California, Kentucky, Alaska, Borneo, assorted places in Africa and Central and South America. This changes from time to time, as part of the mission is to incubate these direct-action projects by giving them office space and services, publicity, communication, outreach, and stuff like that for a percentage of their income. Quite a few of them seem to think this is a good idea, and so they stay on; others, like the Bluewater Network, become free-standing organizations in a few years.

I suppose not all of EII's central staff and directorate is underpaid, but I know of rather a lot who are. And this working environment here isn't exactly Nirvana for tree-hugger types, is it? So, yeah, recycling the bottles is great, we all do it, don't we? There's always more that can be done, and guilt is useless. And you know what: You don't have to be a tree-sitter to be an environmentalist any more than you have to run an underground railroad to an abortion clinic to be a feminist. But calling yourself a feminist right out loud in public is also a way of standing up to be counted, of being shoulder-to-shoulder with people who have the same major convictions you do, however PO'd you might get at them about the particulars.

I mean, what the hell, I go ahead and call myself a "liberal" when the conversation doesn't quite make it to "radical" -- and when I can see that the other conversants either define "radical" in a way that I don't, or would need a big sidetrack of a monologue to get it defined to them.

So yeah, I'm an environmentalist. I'm an environmentalist when I'm recycling and composting, when I'm writing a column for the princessly fee of $75 for 700 words in the hope of getting my fellow citizens to fall in love with their urban and wildland trees, when I'm camped in the Sierra donating blood to the ecosystem and rejoicing in the western tanagers and the ditch orchids, when I'm out gathering material with Joe for some passionate and/or enlightening natural-science article, and I'm an environmentalist when I'm (for a much more decent fee, btw, but I'm a contractor) looking up from the text at that hideous monstrosity that comprises the Channel 5 studio building, the parking garage that used to be an auto-body shop, and the Hunanese restaurant, and wondering why the hell we haven't figured out how to build cities more decently than this.

Posted at 01:22 AM | Comments (13)

August 12, 2006

Just Cuz

Something about riding BART and looking at the back of a building all day wears me out. Or maybe it's trying to make promo-prose readable, and the stuff that's already readable is mostly bad news. (That's what editing at an envirorag is about. I can't believe I used to do it for two of them, but I can't believe I used to make a living torturing babies and coming home and shaking for an hour before I could sleep, either.)

But here's one of the photos I'm stuffing into Flickr, anyway, just for pretty. I took it in October of 2004, somewhere in the Ozarks.


I have blogged at least once about pediatric nursing, here: on the 25th of August last year. Huh. I wonder if there's some forgotten anniversary thing going on in my head.

Posted at 04:47 AM | Comments (6)

August 11, 2006

Just Dessert

I've spent a lot of my computer time this week in a frantic, if tedious, effort to get as many of the half-vast photo collection we moved over to this compouter (I think I'll stet that Freudian typo) from the laptop onto Flickr as I can before this one does whatever weird thing it's hinting at with the frequent Internet Explorer tonic-clonic seizures and even weirder stunts upon restart when the whole box follows IE down the proverbial drain. 'Cause the CD burner is demanding something from OSX, which is on the other computer but not this one, to complete adding the pix to a CD for backup. And it all does something weird to my real brain.

If you followed that first sentence, you deserve dessert, so here's a slice of Sky-Hi Pie from Ed and Kay's just outside Hot Springs, Arkansas.


Yes I did eat it after I took its picture. Not bad.

Posted at 05:26 AM | Comments (3)

August 08, 2006


PZ Myers should've been with us yesterday at the Aloha Fest instead of his county fair. Well, for a few hours anyway, to hear the Royal Hawai'ian 'Ukulele Band's rendition of, hmm, some march or other (their specialty is 'ukulele marches) and eat some kahlua pig and poke, and see this artifact


as well as others I couldn't elbow my way in to photograph. There was a pendant of a very soulful squid with an oddly perturbed expression, too. If I can find the business card, I'll post the artists' names.

ETA: They're
Dean and Pua Ka'ahanui
Native Artisans/Culturalists
PO Box 2914
Kamuela, HI 96473
(808) 896-4318
Ebay: puainanomaoho

I scored a Hilo Hattie LP and a live curry-leaf plant (not to be confused with "curry plant" -- this is a culinary herb), but we still haven't found our shared Holy Grail, an aloha shirt with native honeycreepers on it, size Large. Just sayin'.

Damn but that event's getting crowded. I can't talk myself into skipping it, though. Even though we couldn't find the malasadas or the Chamorro food booth this time.

Oh, hey, PZ -- that pic wasn't taken with a Nikon 50, but many of the shots here were; we got ourselves one for Yule and we really like it. It was one of two or three contenders, and mostly I liked the way it felt and balanced in my hand when I picked it up, and so did Joe.

Posted at 05:36 AM | Comments (2)

August 04, 2006

Friday Picture-Worth-1000-Words Blogging

Rest Stop

Sierra Valley is broad, flat, mostly marshes and fields turned to pastures, with a few small towns like Loyalton, home of a county museum and a sewage plant that's a good birding spot. The valley's crisscrossed by a few roads -- not all paved -- that run straight and right-angled and two lanes wide, often with a ditch by way of shoulder. Way rural. And you know, there aren't a lot of trees to hide behind, either.

Posted at 06:14 PM | Comments (2)

Speaking of Family Values

We took a stroll along the part of the Hayward Regional Shoreline known to birders as Frank's Dump, and got to see lots of good birds, including some Forster's terns scatting about. There were a couple of young ones begging, and adults obligingly brought them fish.

Hayward terns

The migration is well under way; we had red knots -- lots of red knots! -- and peep and dowitchers and ruddy turnstones and black turnstones and a surfbird yes a surfbird that far inside the Bay on the mudflats and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few; and black-necked stilts and avocets, the usual gulls and cormorants, egrets, longbilled curlews, godwits, even a flock of pintails overhead.

This walk is along the edge of a dump. There's lots of broken bricks and paving and cable and wave-worn china bits, odd drums, concrete chunks. Someone has been planting chow on the bank next to the trail: cabbages, cherry tomatoes, okra(!), squash, maybe even nasturtiums -- they're not ubiquitous there, but they're blooming in little patches among the wild radish and little bits of coyotebrush along the same stretch. I don't know what's up with that, but it does prove that it's hot enough to ripen okra on the semi-South Bay shoreline on a west-facing bank.

Posted at 01:55 AM | Comments (4)

August 03, 2006

Field Trip

Over to Gutterboy's place for some New Orleans dammit-not-new news. Bring your hankies. Bring your expletives.

When I get really paranoid, I suspect what's still happening in NOLA and south Louisiana and the Gulf is being done (or not-done) as a test, to see how much the cacocracy can get away with.

Posted at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)


One reason birds are so striking is that most of their colors aren't just pigment. With a few exceptions, those deep, other-dimensional blues and dazzling reds and all that are structural color, produces prismatically by their feathers. The first time I saw a white-faced ibis in good light -- well-lit by the sun behind me -- I was blown away. White-faced ibises look almost exactly like glossy ibises, but for a thin white band curving around the base of the bill in breeding adults. They hang out in fields and damp spots in the San Joaquin Valley and north of here; I've seen them around Davis, and flying across I-5, and in the mid-Valley refuges and in Oregon. And they're one of the big attractions of Sierra Valley, one of our usual day tours from Yuba Pass.

Someday I'll get a good shot of one, but so far these are my best.

This one was limping around a field just off the Marble Springs Road Bridge.

White-faced ibis 1

You can see the lame leg dangling as the bird takes off.

White-faced ibis 2

It didn't seem to slow it down much.

Look at the biggest size of this you can fit on your browser, and dig those iridiscent colors, the burgundy/rust and the blue/green/black/etc. I think this is a juvenile, because the head isn't quite that deep wine color yet.

The most amazing thing I saw about this bird was thirty-plus years ago, when some Audubon Society field trip maven handed an ibis feather around for us all to look at. Every color that's in the bird -- black, blue, indigo, bottle green, deep red, oxblood, iron oxide, burgundy, gold, flashbulb -- was in that feather, as I turned it in the light. A chromatic hologram!

Posted at 03:36 AM | Comments (2)

Tagged by a Meme

Blame PSotD: Five Weird Things About Myself:

I can twiddle my thumbs in opposite directions at the same time.

I can wink, but only my right eye, and that eye’s really myopic.

I keep a stapelia on the office windowsill, q.v.

I got braces on my teeth last December, at the overripe old age of 56. If I make it to 60, theoretically I’ll have straight teeth.

There are people who think it’s weird that I’m a woman named Ron. It’s a heavily pruned Veronica. I’m Ron in almost every context, public and private. I use Veronica only for official stuff, checks and such. Ron and Veronica have very different handwriting styles, as I discovered when I was autographing the book I wrote as, of course, Ron.

Now I'm supposed to tag five more bloggerpeople.

Feathers of Hope
Moving Right Along
Simply Wait

OK, it's a damned meme, but I do believe it's my first. I suppose I could have included "I'm really bad at coming up with lists" and "I write for money but I don't touch-type."

Posted at 01:51 AM | Comments (7)

August 02, 2006

Posy Poses

Monday morning, just before someone was due to arrive here with a fistful of papers to sign (Someday I'll complain here about the sheer paperwork involved in getting old.), I was sitting at the computer here and caught a familiar whiff. Garbage including rotten meat. Oh, great timing. The stapelia on the windowsill was blooming, and I'd sworn I'd get photos.

There it sat in the sunlight, coyly opening a petal or two at a time. And shyly stinking.


I pulled the curtain shut because the sun was making me and the camera squint, and Stinky the Stapelia kept unfurling.


On cue, the flies appeared. Stinky stinks because she's pollinated by flies. They walked around the petals, emitting sharp little buzzes and, apparently, also emitting eggs.


See those little whitish tubular things just below the center of the flower, the ones that aren't quite aligned with the stripes? They're wriggling.

That, and the scent that was swelling like the orchestral background of a corny movie's end, compelled me to move Stinky out to the front porch for the duration.


The petals opened and then flexed backward. The flies kept on coming. That was OK, because I'd perched Stinky just above Joe's collection of carnivorous plants, e.g. these:


By evening, the stink had abated and domestic harmony was restored. Stinky's back on the windowsill and the flower's wilting. I trust the carnivores got a share of the feast, at least the grubs I brushed off. Cooperation rules, even (maybe especially) among plants!

Posted at 06:22 AM | Comments (8)

August 01, 2006

Family Values

When we got to Yuba Pass, we grabbed the first campsite that had shade. That was probably a mistake, because it was next to the meadow there. The wet meadow.

Wet mountain meadows are really productive: lots of flowers, lots of birds, lots of bugs which is why there are lots of birds. There's the rub, though. Rather a lot of those bugs are mosquitoes. This spot is 6700-some feet up, and it gathers snowmelt from still higher. There's a changing flower show all summer, and there are boggy patches along the edge even now, with elephants' heads and corn lilies and such. Willows. Little aspens.

So we set up and commenced to spend three days slapping and scratching. Not all day; this spot is mostly a base for excursions into Sierra Valley and the Lakes Basin. We're still scratching now and then, but things are much better. (And Sara, I'll remember that cinnamon oil thing next time I get to Lhasa Karnak.)

The big gain, though, was that we happened to camp just at the base of a lodgepole pine riddled with fresh sapsucker holes. In fact, it was riddled with sapsuckers -- three youngsters like the one here:

Juvie sapsucker

And a parent, of whose sex I still am not certain; Joe thinks it's Mom:

Adult sapsucker

While we were there, the parent drilled and enlarged holes constantly, and the youngsters sidles around eating from them, jostling each other, emitting soft musical yelps and coos, sometimed rather ineptly drilling at some twig or other, flying back and forth to the other side of the meadow or into the woods.

I was afraid we'd put them off, especially when we blew up the bed
(Stop that. inflated the bed)
a double-plus big fat air mattress, with a rechargeable pump that sounds like a hairdryer on steroids. Nope. They never paused, never paid us the slightest attention. We sat and slapped and scratched and grinned at them with great pleasure, on balance. And that's a lot of itching to balance.

Posted at 05:00 AM | Comments (2)