Showing posts from November, 2009

Feeding the Ferals

... So, to answer the question about why I wanted a remote-controlled cat-feeder... We have a couple of feral kitties, who are part-time residents of our back yard. They're incredibly shy, and seem not very happy about the fact that Robb and I spend a lot of time outside. "Sleeves" in particular seems unhappy with our presence. This cat treats us like an unpleasant hallucination. It ignores us as much as possible, and seems to be doing the feline equivalent of sticking its fingers in its ears and humming, "la-la-la...I can't see you." "Sleeves" was, initially, a lot braver than "Cardigan." "Cardigan" would run for its life as soon as it saw us. I've been trying to convince the cats that we have no intention of murdering them, but they remain unconvinced. To earn their trust, I've been bribing them with food. The problem is that "Sleeves" is way more of a food-hound than timid little "Cardigan."

Urban Beekeepers make us smile!

... Every Third Bite from on Vimeo .

The Common Cold

... I read about an interesting study last night. Apparently, if doctors told their patients that they had a "chest cold" the patients would be content with a course of treatment that did not involve the use of antibiotics. If the patients were told that they had "acute bronchitis" (which is exactly the same thing as a chest cold), they were likely to be unhappy unless given antibiotics. Antibiotics, according to this other study , have no efficacy in treating chest colds. And, while most doctors believe that chest colds will get better in about a week, they actually hang on for much longer, usually about three weeks, and often as long as eight. Can you guess that I'm still sick? I've been calling this a "chest cold" all along. I refuse to believe that this is anything particularly serious. Certainly not Swine Flu. I'm exhausted, and have lungs that feel like they're filled with Elmer's white glue. And I'm feeling incredibl

Up, Up and Away

The only thing I remember about waking up this morning was Lisa asking me, on her way out the door, if I could think of a way of feeding our neighborhood stray cats by remote control. Several hours later, there I was in the garden with a cat food dispenser, some wire, eye screws and a few yards of kite string. I had just finished rigging up a food dish that could be levitated away into the branches of our big lemon tree. I had loaded up the bowl with food and was standing around the corner from the bowl in the middle of testing the rig when I saw two panicked cats go streaking by. They didn't stop until they reached the roof of the neighbor's garage. Apparently, unseen by me, our two regular backyard visitors were already at the bowl and eating when I started making their dinner fly away. The result: a cruel, cruel prank ... or a Samuel Beckett play .


... When we first looked at our little house, the backyard was an overgrown tangle, in which some non-gardener had tried to clear a path. The fruit trees had been brutally butchered. Nevertheless, Robb and I were really excited at the prospect of buying a house with a (tiny) mature orchard. The thought of eating home-grown fruit seemed utterly delightful. As I said, the garden itself had been terribly neglected. The persimmon tree was very unhealthy, and dropped unripe fruit pretty much every day. I wasn't sure there would be anything left on the tree to ripen. Robb and I cobbled together some scaffold, for the weirdly over-laden branches, hoping that they wouldn't snap under the weight of the fruit. And now, we're harvesting persimmons. Yesterday, we had a very windy rainstorm, and most of the leaves blew off the tree, leaving behind the gleaming persimmons. These are beautiful trees in the winter, leafless with uncanny orange fruits. We have a Fuyu persimmon, which has th

Wild Robitussin Orgies (or not ... )

... The last few weeks have been Useless Lost Weeks. I took the week of my birthday off from work, with the idea that I would get a lot of house painting done. And I promptly over-exerted myself, and screwed up my neck, so that I couldn't look up, or sleep comfortably. I could and did help out with the sea birds that had been affected by the algae bloom, and even got to release some back to their wild life. (This was a beautiful experience.) But mostly, I've been stupidly sick with a dismal chest cold. I spent the better part of one week, conked out in a Robitussin haze. Weeks into this cold, I still wake up with totally congested lungs. I hack like a Career Smoker, for most of the morning. And by about six o'clock, I'm headed to bed. On Sunday, I was invited to a party with Green Day, and what did I do? I stayed home. Sad. Really sad. ... ... ...

Bouncing Back

... I've been sick with some brain-numbing, happiness-sucking, chest-congested cold. I've been feeling very grim, and while I do know that this is the illness speaking, I somehow managed to muster the energy to treat Robb to a full-on rant about how I fear that our country has gotten into the habit of thinking very selfishly. It seems to me, in my unhealthy state of mind, that we've lost our capacity for compassion, for imagining ourselves in another person's circumstances. Instead, it seems, we've taught ourselves to say, "What's in this for me? If I don't benefit, then screw the other guy." Does anyone but me know about the banning of the insecticide DDT? DDT was a synthetic insecticide that was hugely popular in the middle of the 20th Century, and which was shown to travel up the food chain, and destroy the eggs of larger birds. It was banned in 1972, at the birth of the environmental movement. I was wondering aloud to Robb whether in toda

A hive of activity

... We've been thinking and planning for a backyard beehive this spring. Here's a very inspirational little slideshow we just came across.

A bird in the hand ...

... So, just how does one move a sea bird out of a swimming pool? Very, very carefully. I wanted to share some photographs I took of one of the volunteers at the International Bird Rescue Research Center. I was incredibly impressed by his technique, working with these wild animals. Every move this man made was done with deliberation and care. Assisting him was really an honor. The birds have to be taken out of their pools, so that they can have medical exams. I had the job of standing at the opposite side of this pool, and slowly waving a net above the water, in order to "herd" the birds toward the submerged net of the catcher. The trick was to dissuade the birds from swimming out of the reach of the catching net, without completely freaking them out. Birds can literally die of fright. Once the bird is caught, a towel is placed over the net, so that the bird cannot fly out, and the net is stabilized. The net doesn't tip over, and nobody trips on the net. Then the bird

Red Tide, Oil Spill, and Some Very Sad News

Here's a link to another news story that I can't seem to post on the blog. I often listen to the news on the long drive to the bird rehab center. One of the stories on the radio this weekend was about a mid-air collision between a Coast Guard plane and a Marine helicopter, down in San Diego. One hears a story like this, and the sadness one feels is real, if somehow abstract. The loss of life, the grief of the survivors touches one's heart, even if all the parties involved are strangers. I followed the updates on the unsuccessful search for survivors on my long commutes over the past few days. It was only today that I learned that this was the same plane and crew who flew the hundreds of injured sea-birds down from Oregon, so they could be treated by the wildlife hospital where I'm volunteering. I cannot find words to express my feelings about this strange intersection of events. Not surprisingly, everyone at the bird center was trying to think of the kindest way t

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” -- Mahatma Gandhi

... I've been thinking a lot about the huge chasm between Good Intentions, and Actually Getting up Off the Couch and Doing Something. The funny thing is, at least for me, the Getting off the Couch part is way harder than the Doing Something. I'm certainly not the one saving these birds' lives. I'm the helper-to-the-helper-to-the-helper-to-the-team that is trying to help these birds, so that they can return to their wild lives. I wonder, how many people are like me? How many people have good intentions, but don't feel that they have the skills or power or whatever it takes to make the world a little bit better? How many people have meant to help out, but never picked up the phone to see if volunteers are needed?

Sunday Update

... Here's a link to a local news story about the San Francisco oil spill. I spoke with the director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center, and he said that the oil is floating in big globs, that sort of look like floating black pizzas. Unfortunately, birds can be found sitting on the floating globs. I continue to work with the birds affected by the Oregon/Washington algal bloom. The good news there is that some of the birds have responded so well to care that they have been set free. Since these birds were migrating south when they were "slimed" by algae, they can be released in Northern California. All the birds were set free in an area unaffected by the oil spill. I worked on a variety of tasks today, mostly backing up people with more skills and experience than I possess. The gentleness and care with which these wild animals are treated is truly awe-inspiring. I'm stupidly tired, and don't have the energy to mess with photographs tonight. So