Monday, October 17, 2016


Saturday loomed overcast with a forecast of rain.  Rain would be very welcome but I had an Estate Sale to go to!!  It was advertised as having several barns full of stuff and an old farm house.  This was just up my alley!!  So off I went.  It was a trip back in time to the Napa of the past.  It was located off Vichy Avenue where there used to be a family swimming pool and picnic ground called Vichy Springs.  As I child I spent many happy days out there with my friends and family.  As I grew into a teenager- we went out there to see and be seen in our bathing suits of course.  Many happy memories for me.  The road took me this way and that and finally to a fancy gate that had been left open for the sale.  I passed through the gate, past a very nice house and then to a dirt road.  The road led past several very old barns and I parked near them.  I walked up to the farm house from there.
The first thing I heard as I approached the house was RAVEN talk.  Oh the ravens were flying this way and that, talking, cajoling and calling!  The house was located right next to a narrow vineyard which was itself right up against the eastern hills of the Napa Valley.  The distance to the hills was about 300 yards at the most.  The bottom edge of the hills was covered with oak trees. The upper hillsides were covered with chaparral.  It was the look of Napa of my childhood minus the vineyard.
It was very lovely to have a home that close to nature.
I spent quite sometime watching the ravens.  They were coming and going with what appeared to be nuts of some type.  They were stashing them somewhere up the hillside. I think it was walnuts as there appeared to be walnut trees on the property.
At the sale I did find a bunch of old wooden thread spools, an English trug and the best thing- an automatic card shuffler.  Several days before the sale Chuck and I had been teaching our granddaughter to play Crazy Eights.  She watched Chuck shuffle the cards and wanted to try.  She is four and just could not do it and got frustrated.  When I was young my grandmother had one of these shufflers and I liked to use it so I bought that sucker for my granddaughter to use!  So it was a good day for Estate Sale finds.  But it was a bad day for Napa.  When I paid for my items I was told the property had already been sold, it all would be demolished and bulldozed for another Napa McMansion.  I was so sad.  This is happening all over the Napa Valley.  People with lots of money are coming in and buying up property and building these giant houses which are second homes or maybe third, who knows.  Anyway- another one bits the dusts.
The ravens will be OK because the hillsides, oaks and now the vineyard will still be there.  There is a lot of open land above the property in the eastern hills.  But still.........

Monday, June 6, 2016


We recently decided to take a break from regular life and go up and visit the redwoods in Mendocino County.  On arriving at our destination, I found a RAVEN feather as soon as I exited the car!  Wow- I knew this would be a wonderful visit.
There are ravens wherever you go up along the Mendocino coast.  They are flying from the redwood trees down to the beach and back.  Quite a display BUT the most incredible display of ravens was found just outside of Point Arena at the Garcia Indian Casino.
We decided to take a ride to the casino for a lark and I wanted a coca cola.  It is located on a bluff above a beautiful valley.  It is a tiny casino and I decided to pay my respects by playing $5.00 in the penny slot machine.  After a considerable time I had a balance of $5.04 on my account. So I decided to cash in- I was up 4 cents and I got a free coke.  So we decided to depart.
On going outside we were met with the most incredible raven sight ever!  There must have been over 100 ravens flying around in the sky overhead.  They were flying this way and that in a clump, then would split off and come back together.  Many were flying in pairs.  The pairs were doing aerial displays, flying, twisting, flying upside down, spiraling down toward the ground.  The Blue Angels have nothing on these guys.  It was an incredible display of flying power!
Sometimes a great group would land in the meadow and all raven stomp around looking for something and then they would all take to the sky again.  We stayed in our spot in the parking lot for 45 minutes watching as the ravens had a great time.  I have never seen so many ravens in one spot in all my life.  I have seen many mated pairs along the coast and in the trees near our abode.  But this was a conclave of juveniles all having a good time and perhaps selecting mates.  Many were flying in pairs and doing the most incredible aerial displays.  Wow- it was the sight of a lifetime.
What was amazing to me was that people were coming and going in the parking lot and not one lifted their eyes to the sky to see this wonderful display of nature.  It was sad really.
On the home front- I hear raven most days.  He is flying high over our house and sometimes lands in the trees along Redwood Creek.  Redwood Creek is right next to the house next door.  For this reason we see a lot of birds that like water for a habitat.  I put two chicken eggs out every day and some peanuts in the shell hoping to attract raven.  The eggs and peanuts disappear every day.  I do not know what is getting them but there are no egg shells left behind.  If it were a crow there would be shells left behind since they cannot pick up the egg and fly off like raven can.  We have many creatures around so something is having a good lunch.  Unfortunately for me, the deer are eating my hydrangea plants and nibbling at the camellias, so creatures are happy with the food supply.  We also have a bee hive in the redwood tree.  The tree has a split at the top and the arborist says we need to put a brace with screws to hold the split together.  So we need to get the bees removed.  We had a swarm from that hive last May.  A beekeeper was very happy to come and get it because it was only 9 feet above the ground, over the sidewalk and under the street light.  How convenient was that?  He parked his pickup under the hive, got on a ladder and at dusk he clipped the branch holding the swarm and it fell right into a cardboard box!  I do not think we will be so lucky with this bee removal job.  It has to be done so that the tree guys can get up into the tree.  We will call the beekeeper again and see what he recommends.
So life goes in Napa Valley.  I get reports of Bold and Shy up there on Mt. Veeder- 9 miles up the road.  They are doing fine, poking in people's compost piles, getting treats from others.
I read an article in the Audubon magazine the other day about crow funerals.  It was noted that crows hold what appears to be a funeral.  They gather where a fellow crow has died.  This confirmed my impression of the raven I encountered  at Bodega Bay that was standing over the remains of its mate.  It had been standing there for most of three days as told to me by observers of wildlife there at Bodega Head.  Humans are not the only ones that miss their departed mates/friends. And so I end on that note, thinking of our friend Dick that we lost in the past year.  Enjoy life as you can as it appears to be fleeting- go watch some wildlife!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Here in California we have been praying for a rain.  Most of our rain comes between December and April.  This year we have had some good rains BUT we have had some lovely days with temperatures in the seventies.  This wonderful weather necessitates trips to the beach.  Our closest beach to Napa is Bodega Bay.
In early January we decided to go to Bodega even if the weather was not beautiful. We were in need of a beach retreat and the negative ions.  We had just lost a lifelong wonderful friend to an auto accident and needed our souls refreshed.  So off we went. 
When we arrived at Bodega Head, the wind was blowing, the waves were crashing and the raven pair were sitting on the railing where we parked.  What a great welcoming committee!  It appeared they had been waiting for us and our treats.  I had a great time feeding them peanuts in the shell.  This is no mean feat as the seagulls are ever present and very aggressive.  So I had devise to ways to get the peanuts to the ravens without seagull interference.  This amounted to throwing crackers to the seagulls in one direction and peanuts to the ravens in another.  The ravens appeared healthy and happy despite the rain coming down.  Ravens can look mighty unhappy in the rain.  Bold and Shy on Mt. Veeder often appeared to be sulking when it was raining in the redwood forest.  Perhaps these sea shore ravens are more used to wind and rain and take it all in stride.
Three weeks later we again visited Bodega Head.  It was a beautiful day, warm, no wind, lovely.  BUT there were no ravens in sight.  I have never visited Bodega Head without seeing ravens.  Very often they are flying above the bluffs, doing acrobatics in the sky.  This was very worrisome.  There were however many whale sightings.  The whales pass Bodega on their journey from the birthing areas in Mexico to the cold northern seas.  We had our binoculars with us and could see the whales backs as they came up for air and then dove back into the ocean.  What a sight!  I was sorry to have missed seeing the ravens and hope they are enjoying themselves in another area of the Bodega coastline.
In February we experienced another wonderful 70 degree day. We were scheduled to take care of our 3.5 year old granddaughter that day in Sebastopol.  Sebastopol is only 30 minutes from Doran Beach at Bodega Bay, so off we went to Doran Beach with all the accoutrements of a beach day with a young child.  When we arrived we were greeted by the resident pair of ravens that live in the trees near the beach. I really want to get my granddaughter to be interested in ravens.  I need a raven maniac buddy.  So we threw peanuts to the birds and I talked up RAVENS to her.  Alas the pull of the water was too much and off we went.  She is a dare devil so she requires careful watching.  She thinks she is a surfer and has her own wetsuit, very cute.  It was a grand day but I did not have much time to admire the ravens as we were very taken up with digging and piling up sand. It was another lovely day at Bodega Bay.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Raven Art and Monarch Butterflies

There were two additional high points of our trip to Shell Beach, other than our special visitors that came to see us.  Best friends, second cousins from Illinois and Lexy and Karen with granddaughter Malia all enjoyed the beach and the wonderful weather.
The two high points:  On a trip to Solvang, a Dutch village that I had not visited since I was 10 years of age, I found a lovely piece of RAVEN art!  What a find!  There are so many gift shops in Solvang that if it is manufactured in the world it is found here.  And since RAVEN art is manufactured somewhere in the world, it was here!  The piece is a platter in black and white with the raven with a red berry in its mouth.  If I ever get with it and learn how to post pictures on this blog.....  I got a new camera to do this chore but the darn thing shows shadows on the edges, boo.  So I have to try and return it and then maybe I can be au current and post pictures!
The other piece of art came from The Ephraim Pottery West in Cambria, CA.  Cambria is a lovely little village along the coast.  It also has gift shops but not like Solvang!  The piece of art is a vase called the "Messenger".  It is olive in color and has the RAVEN wrapped around it.  The seller told me to keep the paperwork with the vase as it will be discontinued soon and the price will go up.  I am not concerned about this but she did say it may prevent someone in the family from taking it to the Goodwill should I die any time soon!! 
Ephraim Pottery has several wonderful raven pieces but alas and alack I could only afford one.
While we were in the Pismo area the Monarch butterfly grove was opening.  This a grove of trees where the Monarch butterflies come every year to over winter.  We saw Monarchs fluttering around on their way to the preserve.  In 2011 I bought some milkweed seeds at the preserve to plant in my garden in Napa.  This is the plant that is necessary for the Monarch's survival.  I planted the seeds and every year I had a big milkweed patch but alas no butterflies.  When we arrived home after our recent trip to the Pismo area- HARK!!!.... all the leaves on the milkweed had been completely stripped.  The Monarchs had found the milkweed!!  It made me so happy to see this and to know I had contributed a tiny bit to the survival of the Monarchs. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Crows of Shell Beach

We are vacationing in a two story house in Shell Beach which is a little community  near Pismo Beach, CA.  The house is located three doors from the Pacific Ocean and has a lovely view of the ocean, the pelicans, sea otters, seals, dolfins, whales, oyster catchers and a peregrine falcon in a yucca tree!  But corbies are not left out!  Every time we visit two crows show up and sit on the second story rail of the deck.  As soon as we arrived, they arrived.  Now this is most peculiar.  We have stayed here over the years and I always feed the crows peanuts.  But do they remember me?  Of course they DO!  Corbies are very smart and know a good thing when they see it.  I had brought along a bag of unsalted peanuts in the shell.  I went out of the balcony and distributed them on the railing.  
The crows did the usual corbie thing, approach that nut, jump back, examine it, did it move?  Get up courage and grab one, then try and stuff another one is their bill.  Since crows are not as big as ravens they cannot stuff as many in their bill as the ravens can.
We brought along our black and white cat Jack.  Now Jack is an indoor/outdoor cat at home.  But he has to stay inside here. It is his own fault!  I bought him a collar with a name tag with our cell phone number and the address.  He got that thing off in a New York minute.  Now he has to stay inside and does not like it much.  His entertainment is watching the crows walking along the deck railing and doing their crow antics.  He likes that fine.
So crows, car and people are doing fine in Shell Beach.  The weather is beautiful, too beautiful.  It is October the rains should come.  Every day is beautiful and we are enjoying the sunshine and sparkling sea.  However I could go for a rainstorm to moisten the earth.  Meanwhile we will enjoy the sun, sea and crows!

Monday, September 7, 2015

All Things Raven

I have been having a very Raven month.  I have had the fortune to spend time up on Mt. Veeder at a cabin behind my former house.  This allows me to visit with my raven pair, Bold and Shy.  What is amazing to me is that remember me and my EGGS!!!!  And my Peanuts!!   As soon as I arrive up at the cabin, I set up my project for the day at a table on the deck.  I am usually painting a watercolor card for my three old grand daughter.. who appreciates my art!  As soon as I am all set up, I yell RAVEN at the top of my lungs. After a short while, here come the ravens.  They are probably thinking, who is this fool and what does she have for us today?  This past visit I played with the ravens by placing the peanuts on the road which is quite steep.  The ravens would peck the peanut shell to get the nut out.  They would do this by putting one foot on the peanut shell and banging on the peanut with their bill.  Once the peanut was free of the shell it would start rolling down the steep hill.  Then the fun began!!!  Ravens hop hop hopping trying to catch up with errant peanut, jumping up and down until they got it!!! Since I would not be back for some days for another visit... they received six eggs over the span of my visit.  They were very satisfied with this arrangement.

This morning I am enjoying a cup of Black Raven tea, a darkly delicious blackcurrant tea.  This was a gift from my friend Ruth.  It is so nice that my friends indulge my obsession with the big black birds!  It is from, the Eastern Shore Tea Company and I can recommend it.

Another person who indulges my raven obsession is my daughter Alexis.  She recently attended the Gravenstine Apple Fair.  She found there a great Raven card for me.  It is drawing of the Twin Peaks in San Francisco with a raven sitting atop each peak.  I have visited Twin Peaks several times to commune with the resident ravens there.  They are a hardy happy lot from all appearances and they rule the peaks.

We recently revisited Anchor Bay.  It is on the northern coast of California where the redwoods come down to the ocean.  It is a lovely spot and oh how many ravens there are there!  There are ravens in the trees and on the cliffs overlooking the ocean.  They are constantly flying all around.  They are used to people and come looking for treats.  If you do not produce a treat within a reasonable time- they squawk and fly off- disgusted!  Alas I had no eggs or peanuts with me.

 There was a HORD of acorn woodpeckers living in a telephone pole near our lodgings.  I could not believe it.  They had hollowed out the pole to a great degree.  At nightfall there was a woodpecker head sticking out of every hole up and down the tree.  A number of the birds were also inside the pole which they accessed from the top of the hollowed out pole.  It was a pole FULL of woodpeckers!  The lodging also had a water tank that had been painted with a flying raven- what a great place to stay.  It was truly a great visit to the north coast.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Back to Mt. Veeder with Bold and Shy Ravens

I am happy to report that I am spending the month of August up on Mt. Veeder with Bold and Shy, my raven friends.  The cabin that I am staying in is very close to our former residence on Mt. Veeder  and thus the cabin is in Bold and Shy's territory.
My first day there I set up my table on the deck with my drawing materials, then I set out an egg and some peanuts in the shell onto the deck railing.   Within 15 minutes I heard a little soft raven sound coming from the tree over my head.  I looked up and there was a big beautiful raven.  He was letting me know-- HEY- I am here!!!  Let the feeding begin!!!
I checked out Raven for awhile, then decided to put the egg over by some logs.  Raven flew over to a tree branch and sat just above the egg.  Then he did the usual raven inspection, jump down, hop toward the egg,  jump back in case it attacked......finally got brave enough to grab it and fly off with it!  After awhile both ravens turned up and we did the egg at the log again.  Bold raven got that egg.  Then we spent the rest of the afternoon visiting.  When I left for the day I put out more peanuts and another egg on the deck railing. As I drove off the birds were already down on the railing to have a snack.  It is no wonder these birds know and remember me!!!  The EGG lady.
On a sad note, the beautiful view was obscured by all the smoke from the fires burning up in Lake County.  It is so dry and the fire danger is severe up on Mt. Veeder.  There has not been a forest fire up there since the 1940's and the dry wood burden on the ground is very significant. There has been a wood chipping program up there for the last 8 years to help alleviate the fire danger.  This encourages people to trim trees and brush and gather dead wood on their property.  The county then chips it for them.  This however does not help with all the dead wood up high on the mountain.  We are really hoping that there is no fire up there this fire season.  It would be very bad for the residents and the wildlife, bobcats, cougars, turkeys, raccoons, skunks, squirrels and ravens of course.