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Wildlife drama at Ravenrock

Hummingbird migration begins. by ConserVentures


The last week has seen a lot of wildlife drama at Ravenrock.

After a summer pretty much devoid of hummingbirds, two took up stations at our three feeders on Monday (a male black-chinned, and an immature Selasphorus—either a rufous or broad-tailed). On Wednesday two more had joined them, and on Friday morning four more, for a total of eight birds doing full-on battle all around the cottage. Most of them are very aggressive Selasphorus, with the black-chinned holding his own. These guys are so pumped up they even dive-bomb hapless butterflies, who get spun around in the hummer-jet-wash.

We put up a fourth feeder, and have gone from a consumption rate of about a cup a week (including Gila woodpeckers and nocturnal nectar-feeding bats) to two cups every 12 hours.

On the mammal front, we had some of the most fun coyote action we've ever had in the area. On our morning walk on Wednesday, just past the driveway on the road to the well, we spied a female white-tail trotting towards us in the desert scrub—her tail flying, and her mouth dripping with saliva. Very odd behavior. She was stopping, listening, and then started snorting the white-tail alarm whistle. Suddenly she bolted up toward the driveway, where we saw first one and then a second coyote. She dove straight at them, and chased one around and around a small tree. The coyotes had enough, and took off to the north. No doubt the young doe had a new fawn nearby, we've seen several already this year.

This morning early, while I was out doing some yard work, I heard a coyote yipping off to the west just below our hill, and caught movement down off the state road. Two, then three coyotes were dashing towards the house at full runs—normally they trot-walk. Then two more appeared, and it became clear these five were chasing a sixth coyote, who ran hell-for-leather straight up the hill and bulleted over our hill just behind our bird-feeding yard. The chasers stopped at the bottom of the hill. In the golden early morning light their pelts were gorgeous russet-and-brown, they were very stocky and healthy-looking coyotes. Seems like we've got two packs having a territory dispute perhaps, with our property in the middle of the contested ground.

Finally, it's not been quiet on the reptile front, either, though decidedly less dramatic. A lovely small desert tortoise kept me company at the clothesline on Wednesday, and also on our walk we passed this lovely horned lizard hunting ants just off the state road. He was so well-camoflaged we nearly stepped on him.




Happy 100th birthday, Julia Child


Julia Child once said the perfect meal was a thick juicy steak and a martini.

I offer up the perfect martini (the Vesper), in honor of the 100th anniversary of her birth today.

Via the excellent blog, Why Evolution is True, here are some great links honoring her today as well:

New York Times has several article, including a summary of her contributionsby Julia Moskin and a nice remembrance by friend and co-chef Jacques Pepin. She was without question ad icon, and had an enormous influence on American cooking and dining. And of course she was hilarious in an unintentional way: gangly, awkward, and with that voice. She inspired several imitations, including Meryl Streep's wonderful portrayal in Julie and Julia (I loved the Julia parts, didn't like the Julie ones), and of course Dan Ackroyd's sanginary satire on Saturday Night Live.

I consider Julia Child to be one of the people who inspired me not only in the kitchen, but in life. She lived everything 110%, and had a wonderful and inspiring relationship with her husband, Paul. (One of the best gifts my wonderful husband gave me was a signed copy of From Julia Child's Kitchen.)

I worked my way through much of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and it made me a much more competent cook, very comfortable in the kitchen and working with ingredients. I can whip up from memory now any of the basic sauces (all the variations of brown and white, from a good meat gravy to a lovely b├ęchamel)—and I think of her every time I do.

I love her practical approach to everything, but above all the fact she was so true to food and its basic goodness. She eschewed fads and was quick to slay them in public. I also love that she had a very basic kitchen, no $20,000 super-charged 10-burner-equipped gleaming kitchen for her. You can see the kitchen she used her whole career, it's lovingly resurrected (the actual kitchen) in the Smithsonian in D.C.