Monday, July 1, 2013

From The Wild Blue Yonder

That was more exciting than I'd anticipated.

Our potted tomato plants have been growing robustly and we needed to rig a system for supporting them. We came up with a plan Saturday and threw a coat of white paint on the lumber to give it a little protection from the rain. Sunday afternoon we built it.

The uprights angle up from the ground to the edge of the carport, and though they fit snugly and almost didn't need any attachment, we decided to angle in a screw at the top of each just to be sure they stay in place. I went up the ladder with a drill, making a pilot hole and then putting in a zap screw.

The first attack had happened earlier in the day when I was standing in the area. It's about six feet between the edge of the carport and the neighbor's wall. I was just standing there when – whoosh! – something flew by my head, something biggish. I spun around and saw a bird swooping away. Couldn't get a good look at him, he was pretty fast and I was pretty surprised.

That was odd, I thought. It's a narrow space, so why did it choose to fly through there? Birds! What are you gonna do?

Now I was up on the ladder, Tori standing below handing me things as I needed them. I had snugged down the first upright, then the second, and had just drilled the pilot hole for the third. I was swapping the drill bit for the Phillips head bit when – WHOOSH! – I was buzzed again, this time even closer. What the hell!

My head shot up and I saw him. He was pulling up from his power dive, wings outstretched as he played off his speed against the wind, then – Oh lord! – wheeled around and headed straight back for another pass at me! He was greyish white, broader in the shoulders than I'd have thought, and his compact body looked sleek, every feather streamlined to hasten his passage through the air. I got a nice view of him head on from about 20 feet – the small, hooked beak and piercing black eyes in his flat, almost owllike face, coming straight at me – then I was down the ladder and under the carport as he whooshed by again. The hawk was beautfully agile in the air, but I like to think I was pretty nimble for an older guy as I got down that ladder and under cover.

Tori grabbed the binoculars and found him, now lazily circling above. We went in and looked it up online and we're pretty sure he was a marsh hawk, or Norhtern Harrier. Except they got the size wrong. According to the reference, the marsh hawl is a medium sized bird. From my vantage point he was gigantic, with a wingson of, oh, I don't know, 30 feet or so, with 18-inch long razor-sharp talons and a mood to match.

Tori thought he might have been attracted to (or offended by) my shirt. I was wearing one of my more colorful Hawaiian shirts. I went in and change to a drab brown T-shirt. When I went back out, there were two hawks riding the thermals high above the neighborhood. Word apparently gets around quickly in bird circles. So Tori, instead of watching my display of power tool machismo on the ladder, kept an eye on the sky. It took only a few more minutes on the ladder, even if my attention was only partly on the work and partly above. When I got down, Tori noted that one of the two hawks was definitely circling lower, but he stayed away long enough for us to finish. The other was probably just there because it was funny, from a bird's perspective.

Now we just have to thread the string through the uprights and the tomatoes are good to grow.

As long as a hawk doesn't decide to nest in them.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING – In life, as in comedy, timing is everything. Thursday Tori added some ladybugs and caterpillars to the tree she is painting on the picnic table. She had set her water bottle on the table, and noted that the beads of water running off it had streaked the paint a little. She decided it needed to be sealed soon.

Friday she came inside and said she'd sprayed a sealant on it. She can still paint on it, but it gave the table just a little protection. It still needs a couple of coats of Verathane, but it had something.

Saturday morning it rained like hell, and even though the table is under the carport, it got wet, awfully wet. (The carport roof leaks.) And the surface was covered with water drops, all beaded up. The paint was completely undisturbed.

Good timing.

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