Posts Tagged ‘birds’

I actually have an appointment this morning. I know! My appointment book has been as chaste as a novitiate for weeks. Today I am to have allergy testing. I’d be lying if I didn’t insert here that going outside in the big bad world feels a little off putting. My instructions were to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. K. Yesterday I cranked up my car and drove it for a bit both to remind myself driving was part of my routine and to give my car a chance to recharge it’s battery. When I came back I dragged the industrial size bag of potting soil I purchased several months ago around to the front yard and worked in the dirt for a couple of hours. People walked by and stopped to say hello or waved while I was out there and it felt less isolating and more like being part of a community.

While outside beneath the massive trees lining my property (well, mine as long as I deposit a rent check) I was serenaded by the sad song of a mourning dove. Movement on one of the branches overhead drew my eye to where I could see a dove perched on a large nest in the crook of a limb. Mom, or so I called her, I’m not clearly versed on how one goes about telling the difference in doves and wasn’t formally introduced, remained on the nest while her partner flew back and forth to the ground or to other trees gathering whatever he was bringing to the table. Soon I could see three dear little feathery heads pointed towards the sky beaks open so I’m assuming dad had been tasked with providing lunch. A friend called so I stopped for a moment and went in the house to take a break. Telling her of my sweet birds (yes, yes I realize they are of the earth and not actually mine but they are on my property so for now I shall lay claim to them), she said doves were a sign of peace and restoration. Boy, could we use that right now. She went on to suggest I purchase food and a feeder for the birds and then they would remain in my yard and make it their home. What a lovely thought. I do love birds and all creatures. However, after spending $8.99 for eggs yesterday and $12.99 for instant decaf coffee I am hesitant to take on the feeding responsibilities for other living things beyond Boo and myself.  Nonetheless I ordered both food and a feeder before I had time to talk myself out of it. C’est la vie.

dove mourning nesting protection camouflage to protect them from predators

Going back outside to finish my potting I was pleasantly surprised how peaceful it made me to know the little family was settled in above me. Our world is populated with such incredibly beautiful and interesting wildlife. I never stop marveling at the vast selection of creatures provided for us to share space with and enjoy. When I was little my grandfather enrolled me in a course through the Audubon Society. Birds were a particular love for both him and my grandmother and this they shared with me. He and I would sit in his cozy den and study the different species of birds and their habitats. It was always special for me to spend time with the first important man in my life. Sadly we would only have seven years together before he passed away. My grandmother too was a bird fancier. Many of her knick knacks, which were plentiful, were decorated with birds.  When fall arrived I can remember walking behind my grandmother while she carried the red vinyl step stool to one of the huge trees shading our back yard. My job was to carry the net bag of suet which was going to be hung off a limb to feed the birds prolific in the trees where we lived.  Suet, for those of unfamiliar with the term is a mixture of fats and grains. From what I have read, it actually serves to keep the birds warm. In Nova Scotia this would be a plus in any form. Once the bag was suspended we would watch the birds from the dining room window as they circled down to pick pieces of the mixture out from between the holes in the netting. Funny, how some memories just stick like glue to your insides and remain there always.

Birds are interesting little beings with definite personalities, at least the domesticated variety. My friend Carol had a bird named Wilbur. Wilbur was a lovebird by description who shared a cage with his “wife”. I do not remember the female’s name but lovebirds, appropriately named, mate for life. The two were inseparable. Wilbur wiled away his days attending to his lady love while singing happily in his cage. The wife died unexpectedly one day leaving poor Wilbur devastated by her loss. They purchased another mate for him but he never warmed up to his new “wife” with anything near the fervor he had loved the first. The heart wants what the heart wants I guess spans all species.

I too have always considered myself a nester. My ex father-in-law told me once if he gave me a cardboard box and a ball of twine somehow I’d come up with a home. Home has always been a bit of an elusive commodity for me. Truth is I’ve never let a lot of grass grow under my feet. Having counted thirty-nine moves in my life hasn’t left much time for establishing deep roots.  That being said, it has been necessary to create “home” at whatever location I currently found myself in.


While living in Longview, Washington with my ex husband home at the time was a motel room. Working a construction job at the lumber mill we knew on arrival our stay in the glorious northwest would most likely last under a year. To lease a place to hang our hat would most likely have required a one year commitment, not doable in our case. Also, with our household goods taking up space in a storage unit in the Bay Area we had nothing to furnish it with. So, we opted to stay with other construction types at a local motel catering to nomads such as ourselves. There were two rooms plus a bathroom in each generous sized “suite”. Ours was on the second floor overlooking the pool. Each unit had a sliding glass door leading out to the balcony which gave it more of an apartment vibe. There was a small refrigerator in the room off the bedroom/sitting room which comfortably held a sandwich and a quart of milk before feeling crowded. Since we would be there months rather than days I began to look for options for cooking in place and storing food as going out to dinner or picking something up every night was both expensive and is definitely not the healthiest option.

Having no utensils or cooking implements posed a problem. Someone suggested thrift shops. Up until then I had never stepped foot in one. What wonderful places to forage in. For a five dollar bill you could get a whole bag of mismatched silverware. Who knew such riches existed at the Salvation Army? I asked my husband to construct a makeshift three shelf unit with bricks and planks on an empty wall in our room. I filled the shelves with the mish mash of well loved pots and pans purchased with my bag of silver leaving the remaining shelves for food storage. After speaking to the motel owners about wanting to cook in the room they provided me with two two-burner hot plates to cook on.  This still left me with little room to store fresh items so once again I found myself standing in the motel office asking about refrigerator options. As miracles do, one showed up to help. The owner had an apartment size refrigerator in storage. The next day it was hooked up in our “spare” room. Yay. Before long I was cooking all all burners if you will. We made some great meals in that little room that year. My ex was an excellent cook. Hailing from southern Texas he made some delicious pots of gumbo or etoufee which we shared with neighbors who regularly followed the enticing smell to our door.

All in all it was an interesting experience that I will file in my memory book under “innovation”.




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Yesterday was one of those stellar days with not one thing to complain about.  Our phone, which I sometimes disconnect and hide in the drawer with the kitchen utensils opted to be quiet, and the sun twinkled on the lake below the house.  Wish I could bottle and market that feeling of inner peace that sometimes descends on me.  Perhaps call it “Happy Days”, for those mornings when you’ve read the paper and watched the news and allowed your brain to absorb the content.  A quick spray of Happy Days and the memory of which congressman, governor, or celebrity had dropped his pants, entered rehab, fathered an illegitimate child, or removed items illegally from jeweler’s display case, would immediately disappear being replaced with thoughts of baby kittens and rolling on a bed of hundred-dollar bills.  I like it. 

I made a light dinner of artichokes steamed in lemon and garlic water, and a salad Nicoise.  We sat on the deck and watched the hummingbirds as they mimicked a dogfight competing over the holes in the feeder.  Birds fascinate me.  They’re just so graceful and come in such a wide variety of shapes and colors.  Even the homely buzzard can look beautiful when floating in an updraft over the tree tops.  As a little girl my grandmother and I always hung netted bags of suet from the trees in the back yard during the spring and summer months.  Birds were her favorite creatures.  Most are among mine.  There are always exceptions.

My first husband’s brother and his wife had a parrot, who answered to the name Rudy, literally. I’m not certain what the extent of his full vocabulary was, but it was impressive.  As birds go, he was large. Rudy spent a good deal of his days perched on an intricate network of branches in his hosts living room, eating seeds and nuts distributing the shells in a wide pattern on the carpet below.  They also shared space with their dog Puppy, and Mathilda, the resident feline.  Puppy was a lovely, even-tempered animal.  Why the dog had such a sweet disposition I could never understand, because Rudy took great pleasure in testing his good nature.  One of Rudy’s many words was “Pup” which he spoke clearly in a surprisingly human tone. The minute Pup would lie down for a quick nap, Rudy would wait until he had  just dozed off and then announce his name loudly followed by a  shrill whistle.   Obedient to a fault, the old dog would get up and wander around the room looking confused. This was repeated frequently during the day, and considered great party entertainment.   If I had been Pup I would have packed my Milk Bones in my duffel bag and headed south.

In contrast with his brilliant azure and yellow feathers Rudy’s disposition was much less attractive.  For starters he hated women, in particular my sister-in-law, Elaine.  His person of choice was her husband Bob, and he only had eyes for him.  As he was allowed free rein in the house, this could often become problematic. Rudy had a nasty jealous streak and was prone to passive aggressive behaviors.  When agitated he might lift Elaine’s makeup from the bathroom counter or pluck strands of wool from her sweaters.   Although never actually attacking her, he would show his distress by violently dancing up and down and screeching at a mind numbing pitch.  In truth, he scared the pants off of me.  If my bird behaved like that way the only thing he’d find himself perched on would be toast points served with savory wild rice.

At that time I was living in Southern California but my job took me to the Bay Area quite often.  If I stayed overnight, I would occasionally stay with my brother and sister-in-law rather than a hotel.  We’d known each other since we were just out of high school so were great friends and all loved to cook.  On one particular visit, I decided to stay on through the weekend.  I slept on the couch during those visits with one eye on the bird, who for the most part ignored my presence other than to toss an occasional “Pup” in my direction to see if my light was as dim as the dogs. 

Before I went to sleep that Friday Elaine mentioned they had to go out for an hour  the following morning.  She suggested I crawl in their bed after they leave and sleep in.  Worked for me.  Their couch had a definite dip in the middle so after a couple of hours your toes were nudging your forehead.  True to her word she woke me.  I plopped into their overly full water-bed nearly catapulting myself out the bedroom window.  Pulling up the covers and dozing off I was awakened by a loud flapping sound emanating from the hallway.  A green mass of feathers flew into the room and perched on the end of the bed.   Rudy, obviously having lost his mind, began pacing back and forth on the footboard like an agitated bank robber.  Then he began to babble, scream and whistle while pecking agitatedly at the swollen plastic mattress by my feet.  Warm water dampened my socks. I pulled my feet up and the covers  over my head and laid very still. Back and forth he walked on the end of the bed giving me a sizable piece of his mind and an obvious critique of my character.  At one point during this tirade he turned his back on me.  I was up out of that bed and down the hall before you could say “Pup”. Locking myself in the bathroom, I remained there until Elaine and Bob came home with breakfast some time later and rescued me.  After that I opted for the hotel room.

Potato salad is my favorite during the summer months.  I have a number of varieties that I throw together but particularly like this one with lamb or steaks.

Grilled Red Potato Salad

2 1/2 lbs. small red potatoes
1 red onion, chopped coarsely
1/2 large green pepper, chopped coarsely
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup minced fresh tarragon

Scrub potatoes and place covered in water in large saucepan with skin on. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 mins. Drain and cool slightly. Cut in half.

In large mixing bowl combine potatoes, onion, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Stir until well coated. Place potatoes cut side down on grilling grid and place on grill rack. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 10 mins. or until nicely browned. Turn occasionally.

In large bowl combine potatoes, onion, green pepper, and parsley. Set aside.

Whisk together remaining oil, lemon juice, mustard, sugar, garlic, and salt and pepper. Combine with potato mixture and toss well. Place in serving bowl and sprinkle with tarragon. Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers. Serves 8-10.

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