Sunday, January 10, 2021

Growing old together

Isn't it romantic
A walk in the white winter woods
A sugary sweet smooch among the owl hoots

Isn't it fun
A bonfire above the frozen alfalfa
Bubbly brown mallows and ice cold beer

Reminiscing about where we've been
Skateboarding along del playa
Dancing with the girls DT

An email about getting caught in the rain
Avocado and CD surprises
Phone numbers scratched on paper

Eating quesadillas in my studio
Talking to the plants and listening to Of Montreal on Higuera
Tall cans and tunes over the shower radio at Montana de Oro

Motorcycle rides to the pines in a pink helmet
Growing palms and tending fruit trees
Tending to our hearts

Big eyed winding through white country roads
New red birds and orange tractors
Grey hair and tiny wrinkles framing kind eyes

Every single simple moment before this moment
Brought us here
And still we grow old together.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020


1) Weird Fishes / Arpeggi by Radiohead
2) Bros by Wolf Alice
3) Fake Empire by The National
4) The Wild by Mumford and Sons

Sunday, November 01, 2020

The Best Thing We Ever Saw - Final Chapter

To bring you up to speed, in 2018 a pair of barn owls moved into our owl box in our backyard in Arroyo Grande, California. I documented the activity and you can read the previous posts here:

Today's post is the final chapter of that first year. Another pair (or maybe one of the 2018 crew) raised their young again in 2019. I'll share another post with pictures from 2019 to follow.

Flappy was the first owlet to fledge so in my last story he had just made his first few flights while his brothers watched eagerly from the door. 

July 31
Flappy emerges early and jumps out of the box right away, landing straight on the willow. Then he makes a risky attempt and flies clear across the yard to try to land on a wire. He misses and falls to the ground. In defeat, he hops over to Steve’s work table for a rest. From there, he flies to the top of the box for more dancing and jumping. He flies into the nursery and then reappears on the phone wire above.

Pally and Squeaky are getting anxious at the door. We can see Pally really wanting to follow after his brother but is so nervous flapping his wings inside the box and looking all around. Finally, he makes a jump for the willow and crashes hard. He recovers and stays still while Flappy encourages him to flap his wings! He flaps and flies into the big tree and misses and falls to the ground. At the same time Squeaky jumps to the willow. He isn’t ready but he is missing out on the fun so he plunges for the willow. He is so discombobulated he isn’t sure what to do. Flappy joins him in the willow to coach him through it. Together they flap their wings. 

Flappy returns to the top of the box for a rest. Pally makes his way to the wood pile and walks back and forth along the ridges of the wood. He seems confused and never flaps. Squeaky stays in the willow not sure what to do. Flappy gets bored and goes back inside. 

Squeaky attempts to fly to the box from the willow but can’t get any height. He gets stuck on the pole and falls to the ground. 

Night falls and we aren't sure if Squeaky or Pally found their way back. Mom comes by to drop off food and there's lots of squeaking but it's hard to tell where the noises are coming from.

Steve turns on a light to check it out and sure enough Pally is on the pole of the wood pile and Squeaky is still on the ground underneath the box. They look a little out of place. Squeaky gets scared and flaps his way along the ground into the safety of the willow. 

All night long we hear screeches and screams, crashes and chaos. The sound of metal clanking and who knows what - sometimes sounding very close to the patio outside our bedroom window. The raucous doesn't end so we have to close the window.

In the morning I check the box to see if Flappy and Pally are sitting in the window like usual, but it's just Flappy. 

Maybe the other two never made it home? I scan the yard and wood pile looking for evidence. And then, I spot beautiful golden owl feathers nestled in the willow tree. The binoculars reveal it isn't just one owl in the tree..but both Pally and Squeaky!! Together, they are cuddled up among the branches and curly leaves. Pally, once again, being his usual best pal ever to his brother. 

Meanwhile, Flappy is enjoying the peace of having the box to himself and sits in the window fast asleep. Will Pally and Squeaky find their way back to the box today? We shall see!!

August 1
After work, we check on the owls and Pally and Squeaky are still in the tree fast asleep!!! 

At around 8pm, all of the owls wake up and Pally almost immediately flies into the box on his first try! Squeaks tries to follow but can't get his wings untangled from the willow. He has to reset and try again three times. On his final attempt he makes it to the box but just barely overshoots and lands on the roof!! 

Flappy flies to the willow then to the roof to be with Squeaky to give him some wing flapping pointers. Meanwhile Pally is at the door acting like a baby - he is not as willing to fly out of the box again after being stuck in the willow all night and all day.

We soon realized Squeaky was not the best name because this calm bird did not make a peep this entire time...while Pally is hollering at the door nonstop. So we rename Squeaky to Fuzz. An ode to the baby owl fuzz that he still has all over his belly and atop his head. 

Flappy is still having the time of his life, flying around longer distances to our chimney, pointing his butt in our direction and farting!! And then into the nursery, he hovers and lightly lands on a wire. He has it down!!! He stops on top of the box to visit and cheer up Fuzz, showing him how to jump and flap and give him encouraging kisses and preens. 

Will Fuzz be on top the box all night or will he find some courage and fly around and make his way safely back to the box tonight!? Will Pally be too scared and never leave tonight? 

August 2

Flappy makes his way out first thing to begin his practice. Pally is at the door but hesitating, still haunted by his long night in the willow. But eventually he goes for it. And now we see Fuzz is in the box, so he made it back the night before! Pretty quickly he follows Pally, not wanting to be left behind. Pally flies up to the top of the box while Fuzz honors his previous name and squeaks in the willow, too afraid to move but wanting to be near Pally. Eventually all three owls make their way to the top of the box and oh what a sight. Mom flies over seeing all her babies up there, proud as ever. Flappy shows them some wing flaps and head bobs and flies off to the wire. Fuzz flies back to the willow and crashes into the leaves. 

Then Pally from up top the box wants to try something new. He flaps his wings and jumps towards the wire on the phone pole. But another wire was right in the way and he smacks right into it with a very loud crash. Pally falls straight to the ground. Fuzz and Flappy stare down at him squawking away with concern! 

August 3 and 4
No Pally in sight but Steve hears three distinct calls.

August 5
Pally is seen!! He survived! All three birds are now flying around, getting more comfortable. They are all still practicing various moves - landing on a wire and sometimes not catching their balance and wobbling trying to stay on. Sometimes aiming to land on a wire and completely missing. Each night they go back to the box for feedings.

We see them outside of the box more and more but pretty soon they won’t go back to the box at all. 

We hoped they'd stay in the sycamore tree and make it their new home, but night after night they'd fly further from the box, and eventually we stopped seeing them altogether. They grew up in our yard, and now as adults they are feeding themselves, finding their mates, and with any luck will return to our box to raise their own families.

This was our favorite experience with nature ever, and we talk about our owl friends often. A highlight of Dwight Ranch that we will never forget.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

The Best Thing We Ever Saw - Part 5

On July 30th, FINALLY, after a few paces in front of the doorway, Flappy takes flight! He pushes his body out of the opening and falls, kerplunk, into the willow tree 3 feet away. Flappy's brothers are going nuts from the box. All we can see is a mass of white fluff at the door, screaming and squawking with amazement and glee at their big brother's big life event.

We look to Flappy who is still a little stunned at the reality that he is now OUTSIDE of the box! Finally, Flappy finds his way upright in the willow and climbs to the top of the tree and finally has the freedom for the first time in his little life, to flap his gorgeous, expansive wings. 

After a few minutes of flapping and resting, he builds up the courage to try to go back to the box. He hesitates, jumps, and gets stuck at the window, not sure how to squeeze his big wings back in through the hole. His buddy Pally is blocking his way and is too excited to realize he needs to move so that Flappy can get in. Instead, he just gives his brother kisses and love pecks while Flappy is hanging on to the side of the box with no where to go. He finally finds the perch and lifts himself up and after that moment of panic, takes a breath. Pally and Squeaky give him kisses from inside the box and continue squealing with so many questions! 

From the perch, Flappy is still trying to figure out how to get back in and decides to flap back to the willow. He turns around and steadies himself, ready to jump and flap with more confidence. He does two big flaps and this time lifts up and lands on top of the box! Now Flappy is on solid ground AND has space to practice his moves. He dances, jumps, flaps, and looks around at this whole new world. With each jump he lifts his talons higher and higher in the air, jumping back and forth across the box, and bobbing and weaving his head from side to side as if in celebration of this huge achievement. 

Not sure yet how to slip into the box from the top, Flappy hops back to willow again. Then, after a few minutes gets brave and jumps to the next tree! Then from even further away this time, he attempts another flight back to the box, once again struggling to get in with his siblings in the way! They finally give him space and he crams through the opening...home at last. What a day!!!

7:15am - Flappy and Pally sleeping

8:30pm - Flappy made it back home, and is very tired after his first flight!

Amazing 2018

Top Moments of 2018:

  • Reconnecting with my very first friend who got married under the sweet magic of Tahoe pines. 
  • Spending night after night on the patio watching and listening our owl family.
  • Surprising my best friend since the third grade and going on a double date.
  • Doing the Braves Tomahawk chop alongside my dad and brother at a real live baseball game.
  • Exploring the many cacti of Scottsdale with my love...and going skydiving!
  • Ellen!!! (And getting caught in the rain was pretty awesome too).
  • Dancing alongside beautiful people who make me feel good about being me.
  • Getting a giant feet-off-the-ground hug from my sweet little brother.
  • When my mom and Aunt Cathy drove across 3 states to bring me Grandma's chairs...and 5 cases of white clams. My heroes.
  • Finding my grandpa on my patio after a long day at work.
  • Jay Leno, pizza by the slice, and ice cream.
  • Watching Buckethead hand out toys to kids.
  • Waking up to crazy hummingbirds every single day. *It's January and they are still here! 
  • Riding shotgun in my CEO's classic car.
  • Being cozy in Snoqualmie with my mom. We know how to do it right...avocado toast, waterfalls, rain and coffee, champagne, pizza, hot tubs, beer, shopping. And of course VIP status at Waxahatchee.
  • I played bocce ball twice this year. You guys - I told you I love sportz.
  • There's just something special about a white Christmas. Thank you Montana!(And can you even believe the Hauf had Waxahatchee on their juke box?) (And is it still called a juke box?)
  • Meeting a new friend from SLO... in Chicago!
  • I clocked more hours baking in my kitchen this year than any year since we've lived here. (You can thank my newest addiction, The Great British Baking Show).
Oh my goodness 2018 had so many great memories. SOOO grateful for a good year. I already know 2019 will be super great because...umm...

Okay now go enjoy my video and turn up the volume!!!!!

1) Under the Pressure by The War on Drugs (yes, still obsessed)
2) Dreams by the Cranberries (my latest favorite kitchen dancing song)
3) This is Me from The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Best Thing We Ever Saw - Part 4

Throughout the rest of July, I set up a photoshoot every morning and evening. Eventually, the owlets got used to me and their initial shyness waned. They remained calm and curious even as I climbed my ladder and snapped an insane number of photos, paparazzi-style. As each day passed, they spent more and more time sitting at the window half-asleep, day-dreaming of their first flight. 

Steve and I became familiar with each of the owls so we named them. We called the oldest owlet, Flappy, because he was the most eager to fly, and spent the max time planning his first move at the window. And as we learned a little later, he practiced flapping his wings inside the tiny box to the dismay of his siblings (adult barn owls have a wingspan of up to 3 feet!). 

The next in line we called Pally, because he was always cuddled up next to his best pal Flappy. He nuzzled his brother and later continued to live up to the name..(stay tuned!) 

And the third one who we rarely saw because his big brothers hogged the view, we called Fluff (which we later changed to Squeaky because his fluffy adolescent feathers went away, but he sure was the squeakiest of the bunch). 

Day by day, their baby fluff faded, their color turned golden and their faces rounded more into the classic barn-owl heart shape. We knew it would be any day now before their first flight, and we waited patiently. The owlets were eager to meet the world.

Please excuse the poor video quality. They became most active at dusk which made it most difficult to film in little daylight.

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