A month-long exhibit of paintings by Nicasio artist Thomas Wood opened Saturday at Toby’s Feed Barn Gallery in Point Reyes Station and drew an enthusiastic throng of art lovers.

Wood has been represented in dozens of exhibits, and a review of a show 10 years ago can be seen by clicking here. That review also describes the artist’s impressive background, including the surprising fact that his painting California Hills was on display in the US embassy in Belize from 2005 to 2008.

Thomas Wood with his 36-by-50-inch painting Point Reyes National Seashore, which during the exhibit sold for $3,600.

Audubon Marsh.

Masked (except while sipping wine) a number of folks were particularly fond of this group of paintings.

Inverness’ Chicken Ranch Beach.

Redwoods, Morning. (While the fog is still clearing.)

Black Mountain from Inverness Ridge sold for $1,600. Sales in general were good, and the artist was pleased with the results.

To get away from the present grim realities of human society, as were discussed here last week, this week we’ll take a few looks at the fascinating realities of the non-human society that’s seen around Mitchell cabin.

This past week, my wife Lynn spotted a bobcat in a persimmon tree next to our front steps. It’s not that we live in a literal zoo. Bobcats are fairly common here and elsewhere in Point Reyes Station.

Pouncing. A bobcat pounces on a gopher not far from our deck.

Coyotes. Predators even more noticeable are the coyotes. This one is looking at my parked car. Most nights the coyotes on this hill howl to establish territory. Contrary to widespread opinion, coyotes do not howl to announce a kill, for that would invite other coyotes to steal the prey. 

Grey foxes are another set of predators we see fairly often. These are just outside the kitchen door scouring up the last of the kibble I had earlier given to some raccoons.

Badgers. Where did they go? When I first moved to this hill 45 years ago, there were a number of badger burrows. I spotted this pair one morning when I looked up from the breakfast table. They were easily visible on a nearby hillside. From their burrow’s entrance, the sow and cub were keeping an eye on the world. New badger holes used to be annual events here, but I haven’t seen a new one in five years or more.

Chipmunks are totally absent from our hill. This one apparently wandered over from Inverness Ridge a decade ago, but it didn’t stick around.

Gray squirrels can be a nuisance, and controlling them is an annual topic for discussion around here. The squirrels like to eat the cambium layer just under the bark on pines, often killing the ends of the limbs they munch on.

The possums we see around here are Virginia Opossums, which are native to North America. Their lifespan is typically around four years. Possums are marsupials with counterparts found in Central and South America, New Zealand, and Australia.

To quote Wikipedia: “A marsupial is a mammal that raises its newborn offspring inside an external pouch at the front or underside of their bodies. In contrast, a placental is a mammal that completes embryo development inside the mother, nourished by an organ called the placenta.”

A jack rabbit in our backyard. As noted here before: “Jackrabbits were named for their ears, which initially caused some people to refer to them as ‘jackass rabbits.’ The writer Mark Twain brought this name to fame by using it in his book of western adventure, Roughing It. The name was later shortened to jackrabbit.”

Raccoons and skunks end up eating together so often they get along with each other fairly well.

A blacktail buck makes his daily appearance grazing beside Mitchell cabin. Of all the creatures I see, the bucks seem to have the most regal bearing.

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Here are some thoughts about the world and a few portraits of some local critters. This cute couple is a stray cat, Newy, we’ve adopted, and a curious blacktail fawn. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Where do our world views come from? My outlook has been grim enough of late to start me wondering. In large part, our views are shaped by news reports, and the media out of necessity draw attention to matters going awry. I’ve certainly been troubled by the past couple of months’ series of unrelated disasters around the globe — ranging from the Taliban takeover of far-off Afghanistan (with 1,700 civilian deaths) to a 7.2 earthquake in neighboring Haiti (which killed more than 2,200 people).

Likewise a quick scan of headlines reveals that wildfires are burning everywhere around our drought-stricken planet, from Russia to Greece, from Alaska to California. In this state, wildfires have burned more than 1.5 million acres so far this year.

 

A weary raccoon snoozing on our deck. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

The Covid pandemic keeps spreading too. In the past seven months, 209 million cases around the globe have been reported, including 4.39 million deaths. Marin County accounted for approximately 1,600 of those cases, including 240 deaths.

Ironically the pandemic has simultaneously reduced the number of newspapers headlining all this. According to a report published by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, the pandemic so far has closed more than 70 local newsrooms throughout America. As a retired newspaperman, I consider these losses another disaster.

 

While the raccoon prefers a nap on our deck, Newy catnaps in a nearby tree, both seeming a little gloomy. Perhaps fire weather is also getting to them. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Falls are in the air.  Moreover, we all must deal with close-at-hand disasters of varying magnitude. Charlie Morgan, handyman and popular KWMR emcee, collapsed from a heart attack July 31. My friends Jon Fernandez, Andy Baker, and Gary Blevins all suffered bad falls in the past month. As for me, I fell headfirst down our indoor stairs on July 30. For the next three weeks, I frequently experienced jolts of pain when I tried to do much with my right hand, such as type.

Finally on Wednesday, Kaiser Hospital determined I’d fractured a bone in my right shoulder. Sounds like I’ll be wearing my arm in a sling when I go out for the next couple of months. It’s not a major disaster — especially compared with death and with violence — but only now with the help of multiple painkillers am I again able to focus more on the rest of the world.

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I’m taking a week off from writing a posting and will let my wife, Lynn, fill in. Just typing this brief explanation is a bit painful. Friday afternoon I bought a new pair of shoes and put them on in Mitchell cabin when we got home.  Unfortunately, the heel on the shoes is thicker than what I’m used to, and coming down from our loft, I tripped and fell head first down several stairs.

Luckily, my head wasn’t hurt although my glasses were broken. Along with scapes and bruises, the ligament joining my right arm and shoulder blade was badly pulled, so my right arm is momentarily in a sling. The wound is painful, irritating, but not much of a disaster. So without further adieu, here’s Lynn (at far left):

By Lynn Axelrod Mitchell

On Saturday, July 17, CERT trainees and volunteer trainers met at the Coast Guard property in Point Reyes Station for the final training requirements for the Community Emergency Response Team.

Because of the pandemic’s shelter-in-place issues, CERT officials worked out a hybrid of online training preceding the in-person day of activities. Ordinarily all of the training would be in-person. 

This also was the first year that current CERTs ran the in-person activities. Those of us participating as trainers had received all our training from active Fire Department personnel. We arrived from our various West Marin communities. A few active-duty Fire personnel slipped in to help. We were guided by Bolinas Assistant Fire Chief Steve Marcotte (far right, group photo) and Maggie Lang, Acting Marin County CERT Coordinator. We dropped our masks for this photo but otherwise wore them all day.

CERTs are activated to help ‘hold the line’ during disasters and emergencies until the professionals arrive. Training in-person included fire extinguisher use, basic search and rescue, triage/bandaging, cribbing (ie, how to lift heavy items off victims without relying on muscular strength alone), radio communications, incident-command system, disaster simulation. CERT certification allows for workers’ compensation coverage during an official activation. 

If you think you will want to help during a community emergency, you may as well get some training. Volunteer CERTs are asked to help when they can. More information can be found here: https://readymarin.org/cert-hybrid-training/

 

Yours truly trying to look reasonably competent using a hand-held radio. (My left hand, flipper positioned, is possibly a holdover from childhood ballet school days but, in any case, is not required.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing everyone good health & safety,

Lynn, Coordinator, pointreyesdisastercouncil.org 

 

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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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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