Saturday, January 25, 2014

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher :: Part II

I have seen the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher! You guys, this is epic. This is not a local fellow. He hails from far east... think Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma for summer breeding, the Mexican Gulf states during migration, and they winter in Central America! But for weeks we have been the local hub-bub of birders in search of this rare and handsome bird, as I shared in a post last week.

The Bird Watchers are much easier to spy than the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and just as noteworthy, I think. They often don wide brimmed hats, carry either binoculars, or cameras with fantastic lenses. They look up. They look eager. And when they've see the bird, they look triumphant, exuberant. It's lovely to behold.

Geoff and Maria reported a Bird Watcher sighting to me, back at home, where I was sautéing onions and carrots for dinner, and turning dough. I was feeling totally engrossed in the tasks at hand, but the call from Maria gave me that same restless impulse I felt the last time Geoff spied Birders in the neighborhood. I turned off the stove, pulled up my boots, grabbed my camera and hit the road! Lucky, too, because this was the most successful sighting yet.

Michelle, Anita & Dave

I came face to face with fellow FIRST 2102 Team Paradox Robotics parents, Anita and Dave! What?? So cool. (Yes, I can bring bird watching and robotics together in the same post. Seamlessly.) What fantastic good fortune for me, because Anita really has a great handle on the local birding scene. And as we stood together scanning the trees and phone lines, our bird appeared! I feel like I've won a prize, witnessed a miracle. I love how anticipation and time, and sharing the hope of observing something unique with enthusiasts is so exhilarating!

No pictures of the bird. I'm glad I was looking in the right place, at the right time and got to see the bird at all. My camera wouldn't have captured the moment, and I would have missed everything if I'd tried. Maybe Charlie, with his Canon and this 600mm lens, captured the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. You will find plenty of beautiful images of this bird through a Google Images search.

While this is nothing like Big Year, it certainly has been a Marvelous Month for backyard birding!

Saturday and A Cat

Mister Washburn Gunter Foo

He's the washingest cat I ever have known. He washes in the morning. He washes in the dark. He falls asleep washing. He washes in his sleep. He is a neat and tidy kitty, a spotless a clean kitty. And when he's done, we gently inform him, You missed a spot.

Friday, January 24, 2014

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Here's a Flashback Moment! 2013

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Striking Hot Iron

The first round of forging came Saturday night, when Alex and Max got the campfire white hot, and decided to try hammering the metal scrap Alex found at the beach last year. But, no. No, it really began in February, 2001, when I taught the boys how to build fires, and let them start all kinds of fires for heat, for cooking, for fun. Every campfire since those first, Tacupeto fires, have raised the questions... how hot is the fire, and can we melt metal? Whether in our backyard, at a local park, or camping along the California Coast, my children have always enjoyed learning about, and experimenting with, fire. And for several years I know they have been eager to build a forge. An awesome part of their high school... they've all taken metals and worked with welding, and some blacksmithing. Maria cannot wait for her turn!

Okay... so, after dropping a bar of aluminum into Saturday's campfire, and finding a gnarled and beautiful molten heap in the still hot ashes Sunday morning, their interest in this forge business was reignited. Lucas was over later that day, and they got to work. Using some cinder blocks (I love free-cycling curb gifts! Thanks, neighbors!) they made an oven over our fire ring (I love free-cycling gifts! Thanks, Anna Banana!) Up to the minute impressions from FB friends were helpful, too, and thanks to Aunt Carol and her reminder that Grandpa Van would strongly suggest they roll back those straw bales! With Maria operating the fan, and even old fashioned bellows at work, the forge reached temperatures high enough to heat a piece of metal to red hot, which according to Wikipedia may have been as high as 1400 degrees Fahrenheit! The end of the 1/4" thick metal was slowly, steadily hammered down to as slim as 1/16th". The best part, of course, was how much fun they had.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bird House & Barn

... A Farm Report

Koa and Lilikoi, milling about, and probably hopeful that I've brought scratch or something from the kitchen. It's after eight, but no one's laid any eggs, yet.

Good morning, Mako. Mako lays pretty blue-green eggs, size small.

When we buy eggs in the market I choose the carton of Large eggs. Not the Jumbos, and not the Medium. Standing there, before all the options, I realize eggs come in sizes, but it's easy to forget. Over the years I have see carton after carton, one dozen eggs of like size and shape. Uniform, and consistent, and one comes to expect all eggs to be more or less about the same.

Our hens are starting to pick up the pace with their egg laying, and the varieties of color are fun and beautiful, and the size differences are interesting, too. If we're scrambling eggs, I can grab whatever is on hand. But when it comes to baking, I am having to take a little more consideration. A recipe might read, "Two large eggs," and some of our eggs are larger than others, but are they actually "Large eggs?" How do our large eggs compare with the sizing standards set by United States Department of Agriculture? So, when we want to follow a recipe carefully, and not confuse our small eggs from a truly "Small" egg, we have started weighing them. I've only done it a couple of times, and lucky I did, too, because our so-called large eggs, it turns out, are actually "Small," and our darling little small eggs, by the chart, are Peewee! Like I said, I've only bothered once or twice, because I am not usually concerned about the sizes... but somebody laid an egg that begs to be weighed and recorded!

See for yourself how our eggs measure up!

Yes, this is the one that inspired me to compare! The picture doesn't do it justice. We should measure its volume, too.

We're all hoping our dear Cuckoo worked up to this colossal achievement. No one feels comfortable imagining this as a first attempt!

I found the handy chart, at Wikipedia, very helpful.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's Been Awhile!

Licorice Pizza
Del Taco
Slam Books
Ultimate Frisbee Golf
Open Forum
Body Surfing
Racquet Ball
Rocky Horror
Apple Computer
The Fund Run
Class Rats
D & D
School Dances

It's wonderful and strange the places, names, faces, and activities that come to mind when I've been revisiting junior high school a very small, unique school. It's wonderful and strange, too, to compare notes, laughing over memories, and learning things I didn't know at the time, shifting my understanding, appreciating the journey, recognizing the way life connects us, and reconnects us. I know there were "important" ideas and feelings that I let lead my beliefs and choices then, and it's a happy gift to be able to see what mattered, what I can let go of, and enjoy realizing that all the parts brought me to this present, this life, where I am happy and grateful. It makes me less anxious, less willing to be led by doubt and fear, insecurity.

Thirty-three years ago, Jen and I were classmates in a small school. In a small school you are friends with everyone... you know everyone. But, of course, in jr. high there were best friends, and carpool friends, shared-interest friends, she's friends-with-my-friend-so-we're-friends-too friends, slumber party friends... an intricate and elaborate maze of adolescent sweetness, drama, immaturity, sincerity, misguided beliefs, insecurities, obsessions, crushes, and hilarious nonsense. I love recalling the hilarious nonsense! The boy who could chew five pieces of Hubba Bubba bubble gum at once, with braces! What was his name? Never mind... he doesn't deserve to be be remembered for that!

Jen and I poured over a yearbook. Who knew we had such big hair?? And those OP shorts. They really were short, guys. As short as the shorts were, they almost met the striped tube socks that were worn up to the knees. The pictures are so faded and faint, but we had the best time making out faces, and recalling smiles, habits, nicknames, outings. I know, 'you had to be there,' and the details aren't too interesting if you weren't there, but Jen and I were totally engrossed, and laughing... at ourselves, at those things that seemed "important," and shaking our heads about silly things we thought mattered, but didn't. I'm shy, and that's fine, but I can see that these opportunities to empathize and share, to engage with people who knew you when, and who want to know you now, are good and worthwhile. At least, this is what I am learning.

Jen lived in Big Sur, and has been visiting there, again, trying to make a difference to her friends who endured the Pfeiffer Ridge Fire. She thought some native seeds, wild flowers, would be a nice gift to share. It's healing, after a fire, to think ahead to spring and how the forest will grow and restore itself. I was happy to know some great nurseries we could visit to help fulfill this wish. Jen and Maria fell in love with these darling little Cyclamens. Maria's is on the dining table, now, and Jen's is with her Grandmother. She found a beautiful and soft little fern, and we agreed it would be a cheering and colorful spot for her Grandmother to enjoy seeing at her bedside.

Jen never signed my yearbook! Peter signed it twice, and even included a promise to sign it a third time. Jill signed at least twice and then another time, two years later, so I thought this was enough of a precedent for Jen to sign the 1982 yearbook in 2014. It's never too late to wish a friend 'a bitchin' summer,' with hearts dotting the i's.

Love the lessons, new and old, I am still learning, and spending the day with a generous, kind, beautiful, interesting friend.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Five Good Things

Now, it can rain. We've had a perfectly wonderful weekend, with all the blue sky and sun we could hope for in late January. I've been concerned about this dry-weather business, but when family can enjoy backyard fun, from sunset through moonrise, running with chickens, eating under the stars, and barely a chill in the air... well, that's a treat you simply cannot refuse. Alex and Max built us a lovely campfire, Liz and Beckie came with a feast suitable for a week of sumptuous cookouts, and Maria was over the moon to have two new cousins, Mark and Chloe, to play with. Kai is a dear and doting grandfather, and uncle. The only thing nicer than our weather, was the easy, relaxed time we shared with our fun, generous guests. I guess we should let the rain hold-off until Naoko and her children fly home, so they can continue playing in the winter sun!

On this Monday, I have no problem thinking of five good things. I've spent a few days enjoying more good things than I can count. It's been lovely.

Good Things...

1. Recalling everything I love about my aunts, Beckie and Liz... some of my earliest memories are of their dear voices, happy laughter, beautiful faces, and big hearts.

2. Making new friends, meeting new family, and enjoying time together.

3. Mom's Night Out, with Jola as host... more new friends, and more blessings.

4. The forge that Alex, Max, Maria, and Lucas put together and the cool projects developing there.

5. Winning ground on the Domestic Perils front... more clean spaces than not!

Good weather, good friends, a good haircut? What are you enjoying this fine morning?