What’s for Dinner?

Mr. Muscle came this morning and whipped my three raised beds into shape in time for planting. You can almost see the food sprouting out of them already–peas, beans, carrots, kale, zucchini (ONE plant only), pumpkins, spinach, lettuce, beets,  and radishes. Three long boxes, each divided in half–it’s like six blank canvases. My fingers are just itching to paint-plant.

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Three raised beds crafted by the Potter many years ago.

But I have other diners at my table to consider. Because the rabbits also relish my lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, and peas, those seeds get planted in the one box that has a low fence around it. One year I was able to plant a “spicy lettuce mix” in an unfenced area and they didn’t touch it–but it was too spicy for me, too, so that was a lost effort.

For years the peas mysteriously disappeared every spring–every single seed–and sometimes before they had even sprouted out of the ground. I suspected the rabbits of hopping the fence, but nothing else was touched. Eventually I noticed a Stellar’s Jay methodically working his way down the row of peas. Now I also cover the whole fenced area with a berry net.

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Crocuses nestled up against some hyachinths

I found another mystery last year when I noticed many of my beautiful purple crocuses ever so neatly clipped off. Already this year, the bed is looking like a bridal path of scattered purple petals. The culprit? Rabbits again. Turns out their tastes run beyond veggies. Some of the crocuses are eaten right down to the ground.

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No way could I blame the disappearing little green figs on the rabbits. Every fall, after the fig tree drops its leaves, it holds onto a second crop of small, hard green figs that never develop. Later we rake up a lot off the ground, but I’ve noticed squirrels in the tree making off with the rest.

After the peas are up several inches, I can move the netting onto the blueberries. Small birds still figure out intricate, secret routes underneath the netting, but I manage to save some for myself this way.

The August a flock of crows was slashing their way through my beeautiful juicy yellow pears was also the month a crow died in my neighborhood–by sheer coincidence, I swear. When we hung the two wings in the tree, the crows shrieked for a time, and then left. I hange those two wings each summer and I’ve never seen a crow in the tree since.

One summer I saw signs from a bear underneath an old apple tree that had several broken limbs. Every few years a few beautiful deer wander through and sample from the different apple trees. I figure they’re comparison shopping.

The wildlife and I exist side by side. I love seeing them all, even the crows. We enjoy trying to outwit each other, making life entertaining for all of us critters.

Breakfast with a Jay

Steller’s Jays are almost as common as crows in my yard. I don’t complain about their raucous rants because I think they’re such a handsome blue-black bird and because I like their attitude. They scold me loudly when I walk out the back door if they happen to be nearby. They’re found all along the Western Coast, from lower Alaska down to California.

Stellers Jay, British Columbia

Stellers Jay, British Columbia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several years ago as I sat at my kitchen window eating breakfast one spring morning, a Jay landed in the gravel driveway outside my window, just beyond the blueberry bushes. He deposited two little pellets, and then, as I watched, a few more. He flew off and I didn’t think too much about it until a few minutes later when he landed in the same spot and deposited a few more.

He had my attention. I went outside to check after he flew off. The “pellets” weren’t hard to spot–he had a neat little pile of 16 bright yellow corn kernals! When I went back into the house, he flew back down and picked up one or two kernels from his treasure trove and flew to a nearby branch. Was this his breakfast time, too?

Corn kernels? My best guess was that he found them in a neighbor’s chicken pen five houses away. I had to leave, but when I checked a few hours later, not a kernel remained. I read later that they often cache seeds and nuts in the ground or in trees for eating later.

English: Steller sea lion on rocks

English: Steller sea lion on rocks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Steller’s Jays were first described by a European on an Alaskan island in 1741–Georg Steller, a naturalist on a Russian exploring ship. Captain Cook later used Steller’s journals during his exploring expeditions. Of the six species of mammals and birds Steller identified and named, two are extinct (including the Steller’s sea cow) and three are endangered or in decline (including the Steller’s sea lion). The Steller’s Jays are doing just fine.

A juvenile Western Scrub-jay in Santa Cruz, Ca...

A juvenile Western Scrub-jay in Santa Cruz, California, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re just back from a trip to the San Francisco Bay area where we watched our Jay’s relative–the Western Scrub Jay, also a handsome bird. Compared to our Steller’s Jay, it’s a little more trim and has a longer tail, plus it lacks the pronounced crest of the Steller’s Jay.