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Summer Stuff, and The Mystery Reveal

Thursday, August 14, 2014

This has been the Summer of Fitness for this little family. The kids and I have been running and taking breaks with biking. We're feeling good. Phoebe and Liam are masters at spurring me and Bill to new heights. In this case, running haybales. It is much, much harder than it looks, and I am terrible at it. The hayrolls shift and roll under your feet and they're spaced just a tad too far apart for me, with  my 30" inseam, to feel comfortable leaping from one to the next in a single step, the way Phoebe and Liam are able to. 

I love this photo, from the mid-air capture of Bill's stride, to the overhanging and touchably close dark cloud, to the tiny figures of the kids. That's Phoebs and Liam waiting at the extreme left end of the hayroll line, cheering their daddy onward. For me, this photo is a big metaphor for the supreme effort of launching your kids into the world. You're doing absolutely all you can to scratch up the huge piles of money, not to mention the emotional wherewithal, to let them go. And the bales shift and roll underfoot. You just try not to fall, not to let them down.

And they're just smiling at you.
 Lookit Dad and Mom go. 
Whee! Lookit me go. 

Phoebe is soaking in her last few days at home. She and Chet Baker do a lot of cuddling, and they take selfies and leave them on my phone for me to find. 

The place is looking pretty amazing after a summer of well-timed substantial rains. We finally got a bit over an inch the night of August 11, after our first real dry spell. I was starting to water the gardens. When I heard the blessed rain lashing down at 3 AM, I sighed and smiled and crossed watering off my rather long to-do list. Thank you.

The Rudbeckia has exploded as it never has. Goldsturm, a rather invasive cultivar of the wildflower, Rudbeckia hirta, is just the thing for the parched soil along our garage. Let it go. Every once in awhile I pull up double handfuls of it to clear around a rose or lavender, but it can duke it out with the pink hibiscus. We'll see who wins. I'm betting on brown-eyed Beckie.

Liam and I are spending more time together in the car as I schlepp him to his ride to cross-country practice every afternoon. Sometimes we get to laughing helplessly. Actually, most of the time. Liam is SO funny.

 He was trying to text a grocery list to Bill on my phone. (Note that the only item on Bill's list was Epsom Salts. See photo above. Epsom salts are our friend.)

 Liam tried to type "Popsicles," but the phone knew better.

iPhones have their own skewed sense of humor and a vocabulary that comes from Mars, or perhaps Gomorrah. Pop cocked? Honestly, my phone will substitute the oddest things for the innocent words I really want. No! I'm not talking about body parts here! I never do in text messages!! Stop that! Damn you, Autocorrect!

Bill brought home the pop cocked  
popsicles and the Epsom salts and I collapsed into the tub, having thoroughly overdone it this past weekend. Chet Baker accompanied me as he always does, and stood half on, half off the scale staring at me. 

You get much better results if you leave a paw or two off the scale. Try it.

Lest you think that Chet is getting porky, he had just cleaned up his big evening bowl of kibble, and he has a bit of a food baby, which will resolve by mid-morning. We all get those.

I left you with a handful of myskeries in the last post, and I promised to tell you what they were.

No flippin' idea. Something nocturnal that eats a wide variety of insects, throwing up. I think. Screech owl, skunk, dunno. Never will. Sigh.

 Pellet from an Eastern bluebird, most likely. Fruit seeds and beetle parts. Could also be an Eastern kingbird pellet. Both cast them, and there's no way to tell for sure. But I'd bet on EABL. Not sure that kingbirds are taking a whole lot of fruit just yet. They switch over almost entirely to fruit on the wintering grounds, but probably aren't doing that yet.

 An unformed pellet, probably from a red-shouldered hawk. Mammal fur and bones, but something that looks suspiciously like a snake or turtle tail on the right side, as well. I know it looks like a dropping, but it is odorless and has no fecal matter in it. So this is probably junk from a red-shouldered hawk's crop. I've found two box turtles this summer that were opened by red-shoulders, as we had a pair nest successfully in our east valley. I would post the photos, because I find them interesting, but they make me too sad. I wish the red-shoulders would eat other things than centurion box turtles.

I told you this one. Old wax lips, which through the miracle of heat transform into lava lamp goo.

Leaf stems (petioles) of Sauromatum venosum, the Corpseflower or Voodoo Lily. Family Araceae. Makes a nasty smelling black spathe/spadix thing in May, right by my front door. Multiplies. So I pulled a bunch of it out. Removed the tubers and leaf tops to deepen the mystery. Here's the blossom (and Chet as a year-old pup!) in an old post, "Look, Darling, the Corpseflower is in Bloom!"  And much more information  and a sleek three-year-old Bacon in this post, "Digging the Corpseflower." 

OK--the big myskery. Regurgitated pellet of an American crow. At least, from the size and composition of it (fruit seeds and beetle parts), that's my best guess. They frequent the haybales; there's a family of five out there most of the time. It can't be a kestrel pellet because kestrels don't eat dewberries and blackberries. 
It isn't skunk poo because it was odorless and free of fecal matter. And a skunk would have a tough time getting atop a hayroll. 
Had to be the regurgitated pellet of a big bird that sits on haybales and is an omnivore. C'est voila. Crow. Don't feel bad. It took me 45 minutes in a deep brown study to figure it out. 

End of a Mojo Coconut Chocolate Chip Bar. And American Crow pellet. Be careful which one you grab, Zick. 


Mimi Manderly gets the pickle for guessing American Crow right off the bat in the last post!! Well done Mimi!!

I had clearly never given it a thought, but had no idea until now that things like Bluebirds and Crows and Kingbirds cast pellets! Do ALL birds do it? I brought home an owl pellet from The Wildlife Center a while ago and thoroughly enjoyed dissecting it. Of course, it didn't have the quite variety of things in it that one would get from a bird in the wild. Basically it was wee mouse bones...

Yowza--were I to visit your place, I'd be very very careful if you offered me a popsicle or a granola bar. I would indeed.

Thanks for the education. I wasn't aware that other birds, other than raptors, cast pellets, but now that I think about it . . . why not!

OMG! I was being facetious and I guessed correctly!

.....Or perhaps it IS the crows being all entrepreneurial and selling their pellets to the other birds. The myskery deepens....

Posted by Anonymous August 14, 2014 at 6:28 PM
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