Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hyenas in Berkeley?

The first time I heard the hyenas' call was years ago, on a damp and misty winter's afternoon on the Fire Trail above the Berkeley campus. I almost sat down in the middle of the path.

Who (what?) in the world could be making that sound? And a very unearthly sound it is. So strange and unfamiliar for this part of the planet that even the dogs being walked there don't prick up their ears. And now this most unusual feature of a weekend hike is unlikely to be heard much longer.

Budget cuts. Yup, after nearly 30 years of useful scientific study, researchers of the largest captive colony of spotted hyenas have been unable to secure future funding. They have been trying various means to resolve the budgetary issues - from launching a fundraising campaign to moving the animals along to the local zoo - but the deadline ain't going away.

I don't know if hyenas have guardian angels, and can't really imagine what a hyena-angel might look like, but this bunch surely needs one, and soon.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Updates: #2

In the thangka room
Some people have all the luck. Our Brazilian friends Marilia and Marco get to hang out at the lovely Ratna Ling Retreat Center. Yeah, yeah, they are on a work-study assignment so they do have to put in some time on the job, but when we went to visit them, it just seemed completely restful and idyllic.

Fun, but hardly idyllic, was the afternoon I spent in the AFSC basement, helping afghans for Afghans prepare those lovely handmade items for shipping to Afghanistan. For a laugh, I even modeled a few of the garments (while disguised behind a borrowed pair of pink glasses). The scarf is mine, though. Thank you Michele!

Annelise practicing the hula
at the Discovery Museum
Once again, we "discovered and went". This time our library cards took us and some favorite friends to the Bay Area Discovery Museum (all for free). The taller people gabbed away, and the shorter ones had at least as good a time playing.

Be aware that a few institutions which were participating in the Discover and Go program in Oakland and Berkeley are no longer on the list - most notably the Academy of Sciences. Nonetheless, there still are loads of wonderful places to visit (for free!).

Two members of Pauline Autet's fun little ceramic project have a new home. On my front porch. They also got a small redesign, and a stronger hanging system, but can go back to their original forms any time. And if someone tries to take them, I too hope that s/he leaves a note. (And an address, so that I can hunt 'em down...)

Peas and carrots. Carrots and peas. Yes, lucky us, we have peas once again. We had carrots, but they were early, and the peas are late, so they never got properly introduced. I am (slowly, very slowly) learning that carrots are probably not the wisest thing to grow in a tiny urban backyard. But I find them to be the absolutely most fun vegetable to harvest. Just that perfect measure of resistance against your steady tug. And if you grew up, as I did, with The Carrot Seed record, then you may just understand.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Noisy Tenants, Nosy Landlady

We have new tenants. They hang out year round in the 'hood, but each spring, when they decide to have another go at child rearing, they take advantage of any local vacancy in the real estate market and move in.

I love it. I try and lure them to my spare unit by making sure that it is all clean and ready. This means fluffing up the dryer lint (don't look at me - they moved it all in there themselves) and evicting the over-wintering wasps. And if the previous tenants left a mess (unhatched eggs, one year), I tidy it all up. Finally, I never require first, last or a deposit.

So just who are these neighbors? Why the oak titmouse, of course, who's call is loud enough to chase away all those who might want to elbow (yup, birds have elbows, too) their way into a great rental space - other titmice, chickadees and wrens.

The box was a lovely gift (lucky me) from Sue Johnson who also made the wood burned image of the chickadee on its side. That was in 2004.

Since then, we have helped "raise" numerous generations of birds. At first, the chickadees had control of the unit. In recent years, the titmice have outmaneuvered the other contenders (they are just a little bit bigger, I think). I keep hoping for a wren to move into the box, but heck, they only moved into this neighborhood a few years ago.

Princess, the other interested, would-be ornithologist on the property, is not so discriminating. As long as there is someone with feathers going in and out of the box, she will perch on the composting bin and purr. Don't know what's going to happen when the babies start to peep...