Just received my copy of Nancy Zafris’s THE HOME JAR, her first short-story collection since the award-winning THE PEOPLE I KNOW. I’m taking her workshop this coming weekend, as part of Valerie Fioravanti’s Master Teacher workshop series.
Zafris is the series editor of the Flannery O’Connor Award for short fiction, and the former fiction editor of The Kenyon Review. She’ll appear this Friday, April 26, at Stories on Stage, along with Sacramento writer Geoffrey Neill. Performers (story readers) are Big Idea Theatre’s Wade Lucas and Leo McElroy.
Sacramento Poetry Center (1719 25th Street) will host the event. Doors open at 7 p.m.; show starts at 7:30. Wine donations are welcomed (and thanked with a free raffle ticket), and a $5 entry donation is requested.
Come see/hear/enjoy! Hope to see you there.
We’ve got a little island of lilies growing in the front yard, where the ground is damp and fertile. Squirrels love this bit of mini acreage, and spend most of October burying acorns and other nut stuffs, building their stores for winter. But by early April it seems they’ve forgotten their stashes: the acorns have sprouted and sent dozens of leafy green shoots through the earth, all of which lean sturdily toward the sun.
Today, I pulled one of those shoots and discovered this intriguing specimen — an acorn with a tree at the top and a root at the bottom. I asked Steve to hold it while I took a photo.
Meantime, Steve planted a second sprout where an ancient alder once stood. As soon as I focused the camera for a third photograph, Donner (a/k/a “Nosey”) ran up to inspect the goings on. I don’t hold out much hope for this little oak, with you-know-who around.
While I was planting and photographing saplings, Steve was checking the status of house finch nests in the eaves. Here, he’s got a mirror attached to a 12-inch rod (sort of like an enlarged dentist’s tool), which he positions over the nest while shining a light onto the mirror. This nest (a portion of which is spilling over the side of the wooden beam) shows three eggs. In total, we counted 4 eggs, 0 eggs, 5 eggs and 3 eggs, respectively, in the nests currently occupied.
Here Steve is (and me with my camera poised over his left shoulder) demonstrating the proper procedure for spying on nests and eggs.
Steve and I checked the mallard nest late yesterday afternoon, and found all ten eggs broken and scattered about. Steve brought the critter cam into the house and loaded the disc into his laptop, and we quickly learned the culprits were two raccoons (see Marauders here). Disappointing, but there’s good news, too – we also found a Cooper’s hawk nest toward the fence, adjacent to the ravine.
We won’t see as much of our resident red-shouldered hawk while the Coopers are nesting, but then we shouldn’t see as many crows, either. Which means MAYBE our poor, beleaguered robins will see success this year.
Steve and I cleaned the goat shed yesterday, which meant knocking down a winter’s worth of spider webs, mucking three inches of stale wood shavings, and then carting them out to the pasture. Steve was the shoveler/carter, and after he’d hauled the second load, he called out, saying, “Renee, come see.”
I strode out to where he stood, fearing the worst, worrying some poor dead thing hadn’t survived the season. But as I approached, Steve pointed to a tangle of tall grass. “Mallard nest,” he said.
I bent to better see what he was talking about, and there it was – a barely visible indentation filled with three buff-colored eggs. The mallard pair, which we’d spotted in our back yard over the last few weeks, had chosen a nest site under one of the largest oaks in the pasture. The hen had scooped out a small bowl on the ground, laid what turned out to be ten eggs, then covered them with a few leaves and bits of grass, believing, I suppose, the coverage provided adequate camouflage.
We’ve since set up the critter cam, hoping to observe her comings and goings for the next three weeks. The worry is that a raccoon or skunk, or maybe a fox, will happen along and spot or smell the eggs, and eat them. It’s a stressful time for all of us, but it’s joyful, too, and we’re hoping for the best.
Join us this Saturday, March 9, at 5:00 p.m., for Sacramento’s premier literary event, Authors on the Move, when forty local writers will discuss their most-recent books. The event takes place at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento, 1209 L Street, and features dinner, drinks, and the evening’s keynote speaker, Gail Tsukiyama.
Come have some fun with us!
We’re hosting a dinner party at the house tomorrow evening for readers who bid on “Dinner w/the Author” at Author’s on the Move last spring. We’re late getting to it, as the guests had conflicts in early summer, and I had conflicts in fall. But we’ve agreed on a date and now here it is, and I’m excited to meet our new friends.
Meanwhile, this year’s Authors on the Move is set for Saturday, March 9, and features 40 fabulous regional authors representing fiction, historical fiction, memoir, mystery, non-fiction, poetry, science fiction, thrillers, and young adult.
Hope to see you there!
A few days ago, when I was playing ball with Donner, I walked under a bird house in which a white-breasted nuthatch had nested last spring. A bird shot out and startled me, and later that evening I asked Steve if the nuthatches were already investigating nesting boxes. He said if it’s a resident bird it might just be checking things out, but for the most part nuthatches won’t begin breeding until late March or early April. And here’s a fun tidbit: Birds sometimes hang out in nesting boxes to keep warm.
Today, at a toasty 61, Steve and I thought it would be a good opportunity to tidy up the nesting boxes on the Wren Ranch (remove old nests, sweep out the earwigs, tighten screws on the backboards). This box, for a western bluebird, originally rested against the trunk of an alder near the pond, but Steve moved it to this fencepost late last fall, hoping the birds wouldn’t abandon it, as they have twice before.
This is a new box, also for bluebirds, which we installed today — four posts down from the first one.
This, too, is a new box. Maya gave it to me for Christmas, and Steve and I hung it outside his office window this afternoon. If we’re lucky, the Bewick’s wrens will use it.
We’re not sure anything will use this box, which I ordered from Etsy a year ago. We had no luck with it last spring, and Steve thought maybe the entry hole was too small. He enlarged it today, and we’ll see what comes of it.
Another Etsy house. (That’s Donner passing through — a nice shot of her, ahem, background.)
This is the barn owl nesting box, sitting atop the goat shed…
…and here, also for fun, is a photograph of the birds’ favorite feeder — it’s loaded with dried fruit, nuts and berries. I have to refill it, on average, every four days, and what I spill on the ground Donner laps up. She likes peanuts best.
Although it’s 36 degrees out (and our fingers and toes are frozen!), Steve and I pulled the old house-finch nests from the eaves today, garnering a sack full. In all, we counted eleven, which is fairly typical for a good house-finch year. Nest number six had a dead baby in it; I felt bad about that, since I’m sure it was the young bird that either fell, or was pushed from, the nest last spring. I found the little guy on the ground after a trip to town, and I knew its chances weren’t good when I replaced it in the nest, seeing that its siblings were far larger, and very close to fledging.
Nest number nine contained these three eggs, so we know Mother Bird abandoned it. The eggs don’t weigh as much as a penny, but a ha’-penny might do it.