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These days it’s hard to predict what I’ll find when I go out the front door of Mitchell cabin.

 

Eight to 10 raccoons hang around Mitchell cabin most evenings begging for food, so finding a raccoon asleep just outside the door isn’t unusual or worrisome.

 

Finding a skunk, however, puts me on alert. Years ago, a friend gave me a grinding stone found in the hills near Gilroy, and we keep it on the deck with water in the bowl for birds and other wildlife. Nowadays, among the other wildlife that’s taken to dropping by for a drink are a couple of skunks.

 

Skunks and raccoons get along surprisingly well. The raccoons are deferential, and the most aggressive the skunks ever get is to shoulder one aside.

 

When I put out a few handfuls of kibble for the raccoons, two and occasionally three skunks sometimes show up to peaceably partake in the repast.

A mother raccoon with four kits. The mating season for raccoons is March through June.

Stuck at a border crossing between two pastures, horses belonging to Point Reyes Arabian Adventures (as seen from our deck) provide us with an especially orderly view of animal life.

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There’s been quite a bit to report these last few days, ranging from a camera crew spending a day at Mitchell cabin to having a clutch of baby swallows fledge shortly before their mud nest fell off a cabin wall and shattered on our deck.

Preparing for a podcast interview, gaffer Arthur Aravena (left) and cameraman Jake Futernick set up lights in Mitchell cabin’s loft. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

On Saturday, a crew from Pegalopictures in Los Angeles showed up to interview me about The Point Reyes Light’s investigation of Synanon. That probe occurred back in the 1970s when I edited and published the newspaper.

Synanon, which was founded as a drug-rehab program, evolved into a violent cult. Among its various crimes, Synanon tried to murder Los Angeles attorney Paul Morantz by hiding a rattlesnake in his mailbox. The snake’s bite almost killed him and prompted law enforcement to belatedly pay attention to the group, which was then headquartered in Marshall.

Pegalopictures’ podcast will air in coming months. Podcasts (digital files for the Internet) can be called up on YouTube at any time. Less than a day after my interview, Pegalopictures began promoting it (above) as on their horizon.

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Fuzzy Slippers in Sausalito — Before the pandemic, I used to go the No Name Bar every Friday night with architect Jon Fernandez to listen to live jazz featuring the Michael Aragon Quartet. This past week, the bar resumed its musical performances. Aragon, the drummer has now retired but showed up Saturday with the band Fuzzy Slippers. From left: KC Filson, keyboard; Rob Fordyce, guitar, singer, and band leader; Michael Aragon, drums; Luis Carbone, congo drums.

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Cliff swallows, as I’ve been reporting, built a nest in the eaves over our kitchen last month. They do it almost every year. Because the nests are made of mud stuck to the wood, they sometimes fall off and shatter.

A cliff swallow flies away from its nest Saturday.

 

A chick in the nest waits with a gaping mouth to be fed.

The disaster of cliff swallows is evident on our deck.

We found the smashed remains of the nest on Tuesday, a day after the three chicks in the nest fledged. Along with their droppings soiling the deck below them, their mud nest lined with grass left us with quite a mess to clean up. Even so, it had been fun having the swallows around.

 

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This week I’m departing from my traditional format and going commercial. I want to sell my second car, a 1992 Nissan glass-roofed convertible. It runs well but has a few dings in the body, such as a rust hole (taped over) in the right rear fender. As a result, I’m asking only $450 for it — which is too little to warrant traditional advertising.

 

Lynn and I this afternoon took the car on a farewell ride up Tomales Bay, and I used the opportunity to shoot a couple of photos.

‘Twas a happy outing with the sun warming us and Sibelius’ joyous music providing a pleasant soundtrack. 

 

Unlike the rest of the car, its CD Player with AM/FM radio is relatively new. It, therefore, includes BlueTooth, Pandora, a telephone hookup, and more.

 

Here is how the hard-top convertible looks with its glass panels in place. When the roof is open, the panels lie on the floor of the trunk.

Potential buyers can see the car up close. Just email me at davemi@horizoncable.com so we can arrange a time.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

A Great Blue Heron stepping out in front of Mitchell cabin Monday. Herons and egrets drop by occasionally to hunt for gophers. This guy later speared one coming out of its hole.

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A compendium of bloopers spotted on hospital charts is making the rounds in West Marin:

• The patient refused autopsy.

• The patient has no previous history of suicides.

• Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.

• She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

• Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

• On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.

• The patient is tearful and crying constantly.  She also appears to be depressed.

• The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.

• Discharge status: Alive but without permission.

• Healthy appearing decrepit 69-year old male, mentally alert but forgetful.

• Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

• She is numb from her toes down.

• While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home.

• The skin was moist and dry.

A deer and heron together went looking for breakfast awhile back. Herons are crepuscular, meaning that they’re most active around sunrise and sunset.

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• Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.

• Patient was alert and unresponsive.

• Rectal examination revealed a normal size Thyroid.

• She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

• I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.

• Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

• Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

• The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

• Skin: somewhat pale but present.

• The pelvic exam will be done later on the floor.

• Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

 

 

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As often happens, just when I was wondering what to blog about this week, the wildlife around Mitchell cabin showed up to provide material.

A cliff swallow sails up to a nest under our eves. Over the past month, swallows have built the nest two stories up over our kitchen.

By now, the first clutch of eggs has hatched. Given how high the nest is, Lynn and I found it amazing that parts of three shells landed fairly intact on a woodbox below after being pushed out when no longer needed. A bit of blood can be seen in the near shell.

From what I read, “The breeding season for swallows lasts from March through September. They often produce two clutches per year, with a clutch size of 3 to 5 eggs. Eggs incubate between 13 and 17 days, and the chicks fledge in 18 to 24 days.”

This makes me suspect we’ll see another crop of chicks this summer,

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A blacktail doe and one of her fawns nuzzling each other struck Lynn and me as an extremely happy scene. However….

Lynn was far less happy when the doe and fawns headed to the nasturtium bed she recently planted, forcing her to start walking up to the deer family before they moved on.

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A bumblebee heads downhill to its swarm’s hole in the dirt. When we were getting the fields around Mitchell cabin mowed and weed whacked on June 10, as was reported here, the workers did a great job but had to leave one patch of grass untrimmed; when they went near it, they were met by a swarm of bumblebees. By being alert, I was able to sneak into the patch twice a few days later to finish the job. In the process, I finally located their well-hidden nest. I’d not seen one before.

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Some oddities are always the same, so to speak. Last week I posted the photo at left of a raccoon and fox I’d seen dining together just outside our kitchen door 10 days ago. Thursday night I spotted the same dinner companions but with positions reversed. There’s nothing like a few handfuls of kibble to bring about inter-species harmony.                                                                                                         

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

My wife Lynn dealt with the tedium of the shelter-in-place lockdown in part by watching British murder mysteries in the evening. I myself seldom watch TV and instead endured the lockdown by watching the wildlife around Mitchell cabin. Here’s what I’ve been seeing.

 

A raccoon and a gray fox got together for an ecumenical dinner outside our kitchen door Monday night. Raccoons can be aggressive when other raccoons try to horn in on their kibble snacks, but foxes and skunks get a free pass.

 

Wild turkeys are regular visitors to our fields, often accompanied by a lonely peacock whose screams sound like a woman crying out for help.

 

 

A stinky trio, three skunks march around the field above Mitchell cabin in tight formation.

 

 

Jackrabbits are showing up more as summer approaches.

 

A squirrel stops by our birdbath for a drink.

 

A roof rat and towhee have an ecumenical dinner of their own, quietly snacking on birdseed atop our picnic table.

 

The local bobcat walked downhill toward Lynn Monday while she was transplanting nasturtiums in our garden. When the bobcat saw her, it didn’t abruptly flee but merely trotted off into a neighboring field. My homeless friend, Billy Hobbs, tells of having an unconcerned bobcat walk quite close to him while he was sleeping along Papermill Creek near the Green Bridge. “I’ll bet it’s the same one,” he said Tuesday when I told him of Lynn’s encounter. (For the moment, Billy is being housed in Motel 6 at county expense.)

 

Other predators that keep us company are coyotes who howl for our entertainment more nights than not.

During the pandemic lockdown, enough people were staying at home that coyotes began more freely wandering about in nearby San Francisco, with experts estimating there are 40 to 70 of them.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

Roof rats are a fact of life throughout West Marin, causing extensive damage by chewing on stored belonging and particularly on the wiring of automobile engines. A couple of times over the years, Cheda’s Garage has repaired rat damage to my cars.

Roof rats on Mitchell cabin’s deck eating leftover seeds scattered for the birds.

Of recent, the rats have annoyed my wife Lynn by eating the buds off a potted camellia I had given her as a Valentine’s present several years ago. On Tuesday, Newy, the stray cat we’ve adopted, went digging in a wine-barrel half that holds a clump of bamboo. Immediately an adult rat jumped out of a second hole on the other side of the barrel and ran off.

Newy kept on digging and soon caught a baby rat. Here she leans into the barrel to inspect a rat hole before sticking her claws into the creatures at the bottom. She had already snared one newborn (at left) and ultimately caught a total of four. 

The newborn roof rats were so young their eyes hadn’t yet opened. Nor had they grown fur coats. Nature red in tooth and claw reveals where Newy grabbed the first unlucky creature.

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Jesus to the rescue. As noted here last week, the grass around Mitchell cabin needed to be cut ahead of the fire season. In addition, the fields were becoming dotted with clumps of prickly thistles. As I’ve done in previous years, I called Jesus Macias who showed up Monday with a riding mower and two weed-whacking helpers.

They did a great job but had to leave a small patch of grass near the kitchen uncut because of a swarm of bumblebees there. Luckily I was able to cover myself up so completely two days later that I managed to weed-whack that patch without getting stung. A small swarm did form, but I left before they went after me.

Reader Mike Gale, a Chileno Valley beef rancher, responded to last week’s reference to the Mother Goose rhyme’s timing for cutting thistles: “Cut thistles in May,/ They’ll grow in a day;/ Cut them in June,/ That is too soon;/ Cut them in July,/ Then they will die.”

As was noted, however, Mother Goose rhymes were originally penned 300 years ago in the more-northern latitudes of England and France, where the growing season starts later. Thistles in West Marin need to be cut a month earlier. “Yes, this is the time for the attack mode,” Mike wrote me. “Unfortunately thistles are probably the last species to be affected by the drought.”

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Still swallowing. Another item in the last posting concerned cliff swallows building a nest in the eves above our kitchen door. We’ve now seen at least two adult swallows in the mostly completed nest, prompting me to read a startling fact about cliff-swallow nesting.

“Individuals often lay eggs in other individuals’ nests within the same colony,” the US Fish and Wildlife Service reports. “It has been observed that some [of these] parasitic swallows have even tossed out their neighbors’ eggs and replaced them with their own offspring.”

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Italian thistles in our field.

A clump of thistles in a field outside Mitchell cabin ambushed me this week. I tripped over one and fell into the clump. It was so painful I told myself, “I need Jesus’ help. He’s rescued me before.”

So I called Jesus Macias and asked him to bring his tractor mower and weed-whacking brethren over next week to chop the thistles. They’ll all be here Monday.

Cut thistles in May,/ They’ll grow in a day;/ Cut them in June,/ That is too soon; Cut them in July,/ Then they will die. — Mother Goose rhyme.

Mother Goose rhymes were, of course, originally penned 300 years ago in the more-northern latitudes of England and France, where the growing season starts later. Thistles in West Marin need to be cut a month earlier.

Eleven years ago I published a posting titled the Mother Goose Method for Getting Rid of Thistles (click here to read), and to my surprise it continues to garner readers every year, making it one of my best read ever. Somehow people keep finding it.

However, I don’t know how much you can infer from that. The best-read posting by far on this blog is A Chat with the Trailside Killer (click here to read). which I also posted 11 years ago. The fact that mass murders continue to haunt this country may explain readers’ continued interest.

Blacktail doe hidden by tall grass. Important as it is to cut back our thistles it’s probably even more important that Jesus’ crew will be cutting the grass just ahead of the fire season.

A cliff swallow sits in mud nest it’s helping build.

Last week I wrote about the various creatures that sleep at Mitchell cabin. Now we’re adding another. A family of cliff swallows is building a nest above our kitchen door. It happens every year, and other swallows will probably soon build neighboring nests.

They’re fun to have around, but it’s always sad when one of the nests comes loose, falls off the wall, and shatters on our deck below. For now we’re being careful to avoid shutting the kitchen door hard enough to shake the nest.

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This week we’ll take a look at who’s been sleeping around Mitchell cabin besides Lynn, me, and our previously stray cat Newy. These days it’s not just a matter of sheltering in place but also of finding shelter.

A tranquil doe. My wife Lynn found this blacktail deer sleeping on our front steps Tuesday morning. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Snoozing raccoon. Early Tuesday evening I was surprised to find this raccoon sleeping on our deck quite close to our front door.

Sleeping place invaded. A short while later, another raccoon began snoozing a few feet from our kitchen door only to have two skunks show up to finish off the handfuls of kibble I’d given the raccoon. It appeared to pay only drowsy attention to the skunks and stayed put.

Two raccoons asleep on our front deck still later Tuesday evening. Mitchell cabin has obviously become a secure enough retreat that a variety of wildlife nap here.

Billy Hobbs (left).  Aside from his hair on a windy day, Billy is not exactly wild, but he has been homeless for more than seven years since the breakup of a 25-year marriage.

When I first met Billy, an artist, he was living on the street in Point Reyes Station. After the weather got bad in the winter of 2019-20, Lynn and I offered to let him stay in our basement. Last year I let him sleep in my second car, which I parked on Mesa Road downtown, moving it every 72 hours to comply with the law.

At present, Billy, 63, is being sheltered at Motel 6 in San Rafael, with county government picking up the tab. Wednesday afternoon, his friend Gaspar drove Billy out to Point Reyes Station so he could visit his onetime hangouts. Thank God, Billy at least for the moment has a secure place to sleep. Society too often treats the homeless as if they were all wild animals.

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Cartoonist William Hamilton, 76, (above) died five years ago last month in Lexington, Kentucky, when he ran a stop sign near his home and his car was hit by a pickup truck. “I don’t know whether he had a malaise or was distracted,” his widow Lucy said at the time.

This being near the fifth anniversary of his death, it seems an appropriate time for a retrospective look at several of his cartoons, most of which were first published in The New Yorker.

One of his more popular books, Money Should Be Fun (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1980) “lovingly satirized high society,” The San Francisco Chronicle commented at the time of Hamilton’s death.

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The expressions on the two faces say almost as much as the caption.

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The themes of alcohol and adultery run through many of Hamilton’s cartoons, not altogether surprising in parodies of the wealthy.

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Here the eaves-droppers’ expressions tell much of the story.

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William Hamilton started drawing for The New Yorker in 1965. His drawings also appeared in Newsweek, The New York Observer, Town and Country, and other publications.

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