Return of the Birds

This is April 10, a bright sunny, warmish day. I took the photo of birds sitting on one of our new feeding stations a week ago. Why did I worry that the birds wouldn’t like eating seed one foot away from our kitchen window? They were timid at first, but within 24 hours, they were flocking back to the two feeders that we placed inches away from our faces staring at them, washing dishes in front of them, chopping celery, frying eggs. They get to watch us cook and clean up. We get to watch them eat and  fuss among themselves.



The cat is intrigued with the new set up too. I thought she would never leave her post on the window sill, but she does. It’s not round-the-clock bird TV. The birds don’t seem to mind her either, as long as she doesn’t lunge. She leaves nose prints on the glass, which requires more Windex.



I don’t wish to feed my birds GMO corn, so I’m mixing white millet seed with black sunflower seed. The chickadees prefer the sunflower seed while finches prefer the millet. Everybody’s happy. Except for the pinon jays. The jays, who used to flock in to our bird tree and drain the feeders in one sitting are no longer hitting these feeders. I deduce that pinon jays need a place for the entire family of 30 to land at once and feed together. Otherwise nobody eats. I have seen a lone scrub jay zoom in, gobble quickly and fly off, but he’s the only big bird who’s attempted the new situation. Or perhaps the jays are afraid of me, Jim and the cat, whereas the little birds are not.

I take pity on the pinon jays periodically, fill a hanging bowl with sunflower seeds, watch them wolf it down and fly off. They are clearly confused and disgusted with the new arrangement.

By the way, up at Martin’s Feed store where I buy my sunflower and millet, I mentioned that I won’t feed my birds any GMO corn. The sales guy told me that they will be getting in non-GMO corn. Can you believe it?! For the birds!


Now that Spring is officially here, the two of us are feeling like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We are still alive and kicking. The cats are healthy. What more could we want?

A garlic bulb reminds us that light brings forth new life. When I was about to mince a garlic clove and found it sprouting in the cupboard, I decided to plant it in a bowl with stones and some water. It liked the idea and kept growing. Here it is on March 12:




And again on March 22:



And once more, today, April Fools Day:




Now the cloves have split apart. Each clove wants to be a separate garlic plant. It’s over ready to be planted . . . somewhere. Is it too early to go outside? Will the deer eat garlic tops? Does it need special soil? How much water does a garlic bulb need? Should I  buy potting soil and make a big pot for these silly garlic cloves that came from City Market? I chose not to kill the garlic bulb when it began to spout (in the past I’ve tossed them in the garbage). So NOW–when I’m attached to it and it clearly wishes to follow Nature’s prime motivation–what is my responsibility?

We’ll leave that dilemma and move on to the next one: The Birds. The bird tree was cut down on March 24. This was a big specimen pinon tree 8 feet away from our  kitchen window.  There is another “bird tree” further out. You can see it in the photo below.

Since we like to see our birds close up, we installed a couple of hanging feeders next to the kitchen window.  This one  has a wire cage around it, which prevents the pinon jays from cleaning it out pronto.




The second feeder shown below has no barrier.  When these were both hung in a tree, our birds flocked to them in the morning and evening. This morning, a brave mountain chickadee and a junco made several trips for sunflower seeds. I’ve not seen any pinon jays yet. We wonder if the birds will get used to the feeders placed so close to the kitchen window.



We plan to hang our finch feeder with thistle seed on the bird tree, which is actually an attractive tree that will thrive and fill out.  By the summer, we’ll have it figured out. That is, the bird situation.

I’m wondering what to do with the space formerly occupied by the big pinon tree. A bronze sculpture of a grizzly bear or ???

You’re wanting to know the outcome without all the foo-foo. Today, March 27, it was positive. Jim’s heart is back in sinus rhythm for the first time since he’s been monitored and diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. He was told when he was in the navy that he had “a heart murmur,” and he believed all his life that was all it was. He was first diagnosed with A-Fib about 5 years ago.

He had a leaky mitral valve, which was repaired last September via open heart surgery. He is now healed from the surgery and his cardiologist recommended we proceed with an attempt to reverse the atrial fibrillation. If it’s not fixed, it could result in a stroke.

So here’s the saga:

Since we live in Buena Vista, Colorado (pronounced Bee-you-na Vista, not the Spanish pronunciation), it’s a 2.5 hour drive to the Presbyterian/St. Luke Hospital in Denver. This is where his cardiac team does business. His anesthesiologist wanted to know why our town’s name is articulated in such an un-Spanish way. We enlightened him  that it was the founding mother of our town, Alsina Deerheimer,who named it Bee-you-na Vista upon its incorporation.

We left home Wednesday, March 26, around 11:00 a.m., heading to Denver.  This is a view from Trout Creek Pass, about 15 minutes out of town on highway 285. This valley is called South Park.  It takes us an hour to drive across it.


Jim was driving. I was photographing. Here’s a picture of one of the snowy peaks from highway 285 in South Park.  I’m shooting across Jim through the window with a telephoto.



About an hour from home, we drove through the hamlet of Jefferson. The only distinction you might notice is that the speed limit slows to 45 mph. I wanted to stop here for lunch–but where?  Jim wished to forge on to the next hamlet.



The next hamlet on Highway 285 is Bailey. It’s larger than Jefferson with several dining options. We like China Village, offering decent Chinese food, home cooked by a friendly Chinese fellow. The portions are huge for lunch, so Jim and I shared, and still we were stuffed.


After reaching Denver, doing some shopping, and rolling into our cousins’ house where we were fed a fantastic salmon dinner, we hit the hay. We needed to be at the hospital at 7:30 am. Jim’s procedure was scheduled for 9:30 am.

Jim was faced with a preliminary unexpected procedure–a trans-esophageal echocardiogram (TEE). In this procedure, a tube like a small rubber hose with an electrical device on its tip  is inserted down the esophagus even with the heart. It is able to give a picture of what is happening in the heart. The doctors needed to know if there were any clots in Jim’s heart. (We failed to ask what would be done if there were. I assume that the cardioversion would have been called off until his blood was thinned further and the clots were gone.) There were no clots. So the cardioversion was a “go.”

Prior to this day, Jim was instructed to take a certain dosage of his blood thinner, Warfarin (coumadin) until the results of his “INR” were 2.0 or above–for 2 weeks in a row. Today his INR was 2.7 and everyone was happy.

Jim had been concerned about what he might feel during the cardioversion, which is a shock to the heart, lasting about one second and is done only one time. The anesthesiologist laid his fears to rest. He assured Jim that the drug he was going to give him would cause him not to feel anything. . . and during the TEE (which would come immediately before the cardioversion)  he would be so relaxed and sedated that he would be only slightly conscious and probably would feel next to nothing during the TEE and absolutely nothing during the cardioversion’s electrical shock.  This proved to be true.

I was in the waiting room reading an article by Tony Hillerman about Canyon de Chey while all of this was transpiring–realizing of course that Hillerman was dead, and hoping that wasn’t an indication of anything happening in the procedure room. The travel magazine was 10 years old and the article made me want to go there and have a Navajo guide take Jim and me on a tour of the canyon floor. Bucket List.

Dr. Vijay (who had performed the cardioversion) came to the waiting room about 10:00 am to tell me that all was well, that Jim’s heart was now in sinus rhythm, and the TEE had shown there were no clots. All the tension drained right out of me and I felt relieved as we walked back down the hall. Dr. Vijay wrote instructions for Jim’s follow-up. He said that if Jim’s heart stays in sinus rhythm for 3 months, the chances are good the A-Fib will not recur.

Here’s a picture of Jim shortly after the morning’s procedures–after he was unhooked from at least a dozen monitor wires.  The TEE causes a sore throat, so Jim didn’t feel like eating anything except ice water and ice cream.



We are very happy that this additional step toward cardiac health is behind us. We must make an appointment to see Dr. Vijay in three weeks.

The wind was blowing a gale when I returned home after my Monday writing group. It was the worst wind I’d felt in I don’t know how long. Jeff McGinnis and his 8th grade son Hayden McGinnis were hard at work.  Jeff is a wildland fire fighter who has done lots of tree cutting and fire mitigation. Hayden was helping his dad clean up the slash.



The first thing I noticed as I drove in was our big tree behind the kitchen.



Jim and I had made the decision over dinner last night to have it cut down all the way and not leave a 6-foot stump for the birds. We felt a stump with our bird feeders hanging from a of lone branches would look awful and make us sad. We we would rather get used to the open space.

Directly  behind the bird tree is our new smaller bird tree. You can see it behind Jeff’s head, as he fells the last of our large tree.



I put the feeders up and the birds have already made themselves at home.




Meanwhile out front, the change is startling. Here’s  before:



And after:


It will take some getting used to, but Jeff told us that the tree was rotten inside and it was dying. I wonder if it was getting too much water from the downspout.  Jeff did some detailed trimming on the remaining tree so now it looks better as a standalone specimen.

The third tree they cut was a small one. Here’s its remaining footprint. We will do something attractive with that area.



The mate to that  tree is still with us. Jeff trimmed it away from the garage.



The father and son left us with the wood, neatly stacked:




And piled the branches into the county fire department trailer:



The trailer rents for $40/load. A good deal. That includes delivering it to your property and removing it to the landfill, where the slash will be chipped. This service is through the Chaffee County Fire Department.

After Jeff and Hayden had finished, I talked to them about coming back in the fall to do more clean-up/fire mitigation on our land. Jim and I like these guys. We are lucky to have found them through our insurance agent.





Last fall while Jim was recovering from open heart surgery, we received a letter from our home owner’s insurance company located in Denver, 130 miles away. Essentially, the letter said someone would be coming out to inspect our property and we would be notified of steps needed to mitigate for fire–otherwise they might cancel our insurance.

Long story short–the company in question didn’t know the geographical area or our potential fire conditions and no one “in charge” would speak with us. We changed to a local in-town company. We also requested the owner of the local insurance company come out and walk the property with us. He made suggestions that we can live with.

In October we had a member of our county fire department walk the property and also a man who is a fire fighter and fire mitigator (that’s someone who trims trees and brush to make it difficult for wildfire to run wild).

Our property is not considered high fire risk, but it is in a pinon grove. The hardest to fight in these parts, we were told, are fires in ponderosa. After assessing our trees and our house, everyone agreed that it would be best if we cut three trees to protect our log house. For safety purposes, trees should not lean against the house. They should be at least 10 feet away. Also, it’s best if clumps of 5 pinons be 15-20 feet apart so fire doesn’t travel between the clumps.

So here we are. Three trees will be cut tomorrow.

Tree Number One  is hanging over our front deck and nestles up to our house.  Luckily its companion tree doesn’t need to be cut. Both trees are old and somewhat unhealthy. There is little chance of this tree causing a problem since it’s so far away from other pinon clumps. But is is considered too close to the house. Our insurance company will be happy if it is removed.


Tree Number Two lives between our house and the garage.




While it doesn’t threaten our house, it is in line with another tree further out that could ignite. Tree Number Two also has a companion on the other side of the walkway between our house and the garage. It will require some trimming, but won’t need to be cut.

Tree Number Three is our “Bird Tree,” which lives outside our kitchen window. This is a large tree that we have dearly loved. Today Jim and I decided to have it cut about six feet off the ground leaving a few branches for our bird feeders.



Tree Number Three overhangs our house and the men who’ve been out here all agree it is a problem.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand seeing a six-foot stump or if it would be better to just cut it to the ground.

Most of you know I’m a tree-hugger and believe every living thing is conscious and can be communicated with. I’ll even go so far as to say I talk to rocks, okay?  So I have talked to my trees and let them know what’s coming tomorrow. I understand that trees have spirits that can move into other tree bodies. I don’t know how that works, but I do remember reading it from a credible source. I hope my trees will pack their bags and get out of there tonight and find saplings somewhere else on the property to inhabit.

Mostly Telephoto

Saturday, March 8, was the day to capture great mountain pictures. A spring snowstorm had settled in for most of Friday, leaving the peaks wrapped in steamy vapor with hot sun boring down. Jim and I went for a ride. We call it “drive-by shooting”– our pictures are taken from inside the car.

The Buffalo Peaks (to the east of our house) never looked better:



Along the back road, an old landmark ranch house has seen better days, but cleans up real good capped in white.



Mt. Princeton himself appears taller than normal — could even pass for Mt. Everest.



Mt. Antero’s crags were spectacular in sticky white snow:



And finally, this hawk posed for us on a telephone poll. We’re not sure if it’s a Ferruginous Hawk or a Rough-legged Hawk. . . or??  Are there any experts out there who can ID this bird?



Pinyon Jay Party

I’m much more appreciative of the pinyon tree outside our kitchen window because its days are numbered. It is slated to be cut down later this month.



The reason for its death sentence is that it’s too close to the house. We went through a fire mitigation exam with a local wildfire expert and our insurance guy last fall. Three trees need to be cut. This one will be the hardest to lose. It’s our “bird tree.” It’s the one we hang our feeders on. It’s the one that Chula can see from her perch above the kitchen sink.



I refilled the feeders yesterday so that our birds would have plenty to eat through the snowstorm. The little birds – chickadees, juncos, finches and pine siskins – eat a dainty bit throughout the day. But the pinyon jays swarm in like a blue carpet. They empty a feeder within an hour. This morning I took pity on them and threw them a cup of seed on the ground.



This is only a third or a half of the number that flew in. Each time I tried to take a picture, they heard the click or saw me through the window and took off–temporarily. They returned within a minute or two.  They are incredibly smart. When Chula jumped up to her window sill, they took off. Maybe there’s a guard jay in the tree signaling to the ones on the ground. A scout jay tells the others when I’ve refilled the feeder. He is posted in a nearby tree. When he spots the newly filled feeder, he shouts to the group and they swarm in. Sometimes we’ll see 50 birds filling this tree, swinging on the feeders and decorating the branches like Christmas ornaments. A normal sized group is around 25 or 30.

Pinyon jays are known for their excellent memory. They store thousands of seeds. Studies have verified their ability to find where every seed was stored. What is even more remarkable is that bonded pairs hunt food together and seem to know the location of one another’s cache.

In late spring they introduce their offspring to our feeders. It’s an incredibly noisy time. Each fledgling (as large as its parent) is squawking its head off, beak open, wings fluttering, expecting to be fed by mom. For now, the scene is relatively quiet and orderly. They swoop in, clean out the feeders and leave in a blanket of blue feathers. I imagine one scout remains on guard.

Today snow is melting, the sky is washed clean from yesterday’s storm. Spring is on the edge.





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