Loud & Clear, Big & Fast, Slow & Just Right

A newsy, catch-up post

BigFast1When the world is full of danger, fear and catastrophe, it’s a good time to plant.  At my house, we make improvements slowly.  We’ve been looking over our property borders for two years, considering what might make them more inviting to our senses, and to neighboring wildlife.  We brainstormed for a while and decided to add three little fruit trees beside the driveway, and some smaller evergreens and bushes along the fence.  BigFast3We buried some sonic thumping spikes to encourage the moles out back to dig farther away from the house.  Yeah, they aren’t as effective as trapping or poison.  So what.  There are more earthworms farther up the hill, and that’s what the moles prefer to eat.

Birdfeeder 1If you want to encourage birds to visit, the easy way is to bribe them.  We’ve put out a hanging house for small nesters that holds suet, a bottle-based hummingbird feeder, and bought the kinds of feeders and food preferred by woodpeckers and finches.  We’ll be adding some kind of running water source and a deer lick soon.

Birdfeeder 2We haven’t been away from home for more than a day in the three years since we moved to the Olympic Peninsula.  First, we took a day to enjoy some of the music at the 20th Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts.  Festivals are my favorite way to learn about music I generally wouldn’t hear on the radio.  Among the dozens of fine performers appearing on four different stages, two acts pleased me particularly.  Tony Furtado won two national banjo competitions in his twenties, and he’s been expanding his repertoire into guitar, songwriting, teaching and touring for two decades.  Tony’s set was precise and expressive, and his band was uniformly excellent playing a range of styles from ballads to blues to bluegrass and beyond.

My other favorite was a quartet of Irish players based in Olympia called The Burren Boys.  There’s something endlessly infectious and energizing about jigs and reels that makes you feel as if you are dancing, even when seated.  These guys can play them for hours, with barely a sentence or two between songs.

The next morning we drove to Neah Bay, the Northwest point of the whole country.  It’s the ancient homeland of the Makah, a people who live by the sea.  Five hundred years ago, Mother Earth drew a blanket of mud across their village of Ozette, preserving six longhouses and thousands of artifacts from the passage of time.  Beginning in 1970, the area was excavated, revealing the life lived by these people for two millennia before the coming of the Europeans.  The artifacts, and a replica of one of the houses, are displayed in a wonderful museum, complete with gift shop and DVD presentations.

Mary and I stayed in an adorable A-frame cabin named “The Bird House”, out on a spit of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  When we walked the beach at low tide, we saw Bald Eagles perched on the rocks.  They were less than 50 yards away, and seemed unconcerned by our approach.  I’ve never seen eagles in the wild so close!  Bald Eagles make the largest tree nests of any bird, up to 4 meters (13 ft) deep, 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) wide, and one metric ton (1.1 tons) in weight.

Upon returning home, we found out Spice, our guide dog puppy in college, has been paired with a 27 year-old musician who lives in Los Angeles County.  Being around live music was a big part of Spice’s life in the year we raised her.  It sounds like just the right match.  I’ll write more about the young man if I get his permission next week when we speak.  The two new partners are completing the final phases of guide training together, and if all goes according to plan, graduation will be on June 8th.  We’ll be passing Spice to him on stage, to officially begin the next part of their lives together.  After that we’ll continue working with other dogs at the Puppy Club until winter, when we hope to begin training another prospective guide.



Filed under animal communication, Music, photos, Travel

10 responses to “Loud & Clear, Big & Fast, Slow & Just Right

  1. Michael, You and Mary are living a very rich live! Good for you two.

  2. Mikey,
    I know all about bird bribery but the wild birds stopped coming after I omitted the raw peanuts from the wild bird seed mix. After 2 months and the wild seeds untouched I relented and put just enough peanuts though the seed to entice them back. Agh, they are like spoiled children! .. are peanuts junk food for birds?

    I’m delighted to hear that Spice is progressing well in her training, reaching goals and edging closer to becoming the very very special dog that she will become in the life of this young musician.
    I think it will be very hard to see her go off into the big wide world for good, but you are part of an amazing team of people who train amazing animals and just like a child you have given her a secure, happy and loving start in life and training for a “career” where she will also be loved and appreciated beyond measure, and that’s a legacy to be proud of. Bravo.

    Himself and I have been to the Burren in Ireland… the landscape is completely surreal in places and it’s easy to understand after you’ve been in such a haunting landscape how it’s soulful influence has permeated into the music.

    I love the idea of the preserved Makah village, it would easily be my favourite thing to see I think… history, wilderness and a closeness and understanding of the land, what better combination and totally fascinating!

    • You know how teenagers can seem to convert any sort of junk they eat into fuel? It’s kind of the same with birds. They both exhibit exceedingly rapid metabolism. Small birds come equipped with high-performance, low-mileage engines. They burn out in a much shorter time than we do, but while they live, they can do amazing things. Their food preferences are for the highest fat/highest protein content they can get, so peanuts are a good choice, almost as high-octane as insects. Those hummingbirds are flying so fast, all they want from us (and flowers) is sugar water, one part sugar to four water. They eat bugs for protein. Astounding.

      I had never heard of that Makah village, but I learned it’s considered as important a find as Pompeii. It was extraordinary.

      Thanks so much for coming, and I’m glad you enjoyed this!

  3. Although I don’t have any wildlife living around me to encourage into my garden, my birdfeeders bring me endless joy.

    I’m so touched by Spice being matched to the right person. So special.

    Thank you for all the updates. Loved your newsy post.

    Sending lots of love to you and Mary from across the ocean.

    • I’m such a snob. I’ve been expending my energy on these home improvements, work and dieting (down 25 pounds!), and didn’t feel very inspired to write because I assumed my thoughts weren’t especially deep or meaningful. Sometimes I forget that this space is also a way to keep in touch with my friends. Thank you for reaching back to me.

      You’re going to absolutely love the story of Spice’s owner, which I’m betting he will allow me to write about. It’s right in that region of inspiration that you and I share understanding through. But we must give the two of them space for another five days to strengthen the bond. It’s a new relationship. Delicate.

  4. Your bird house is just lovely… and I understand what you mean about slow home improvements. My boyfriend and I have lived in our current house for around two years, and we’ve only just started recently to put our stamp on it (a few days ago we bought a rhino trophy head for our wall, made entirely from cardboard and floral wallpaper!). The next step though is to move into a house with a garden- and I have to say yours has inspired me!

    • Your new trophy art sounds delightful. We still haven’t decided what to do with her many awards from writing for the telly. We used to put them all in the third loo, which we promoted as our “AWARD-WINNING bathroom”. We’ve only got two now. No room. Perhaps the Emmys could be adapted to become faucets, or a knocker for the front door. hmmm
      Thanks for reading. I’m glad to see you have some new ones up too!

  5. Love the bird feeder! I actually had to look up what a deer lick was. (You’d think it would be self-explanatory…?)

    Thanks for posting that song, Mikey! I’ve never heard them before. I loved it so much I even forwarded the video to my boyfriend.

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