Category Archives: Ravens
Raven birds living at PsiKeep
The hills are burning in the valley of Jericho
the bones of the deer are mixed with ash
a carpet of silver haunting the hilltops
wind blows across barren lava flows
exposing a cycle of ancient ruin
which has come round at last
And a seed of the first blade of grass
waiting for the rain to come.
The dragon is still churning through the smoldering wasteland in the east.
25,118 acres have burned and today it is 98% contained.
One dog is in the ground and the other is hiding in the shadows under my desk. The boxes with my precious, irreplaceable things are stacked unpacked on the porch. I should feel very thankful that I still have a porch to come back to. I think of the people who lost their homes counted and uncounted in the final tally. But in the end I am exhausted. I am in denial about the loss of Voice and I am not taking it very well.
But oblivious to my sorrow, paradise is raging all around me. The euphorbias in the Garden of Unearthly Delights are blooming. Some have actually never bloomed before.
The apples are hanging like clusters of grapes on the branches of the apple trees.
The raven pair are feeding on the crab apples in the orchard and the local herd of deer have come down to nibble at the chicken food again . All is well at PsiKeep but the caretaker.
Griffins and Mandelbrot for the Header Image
Apollo pulls the sun across the heavens with a chariot drawn by griffins.
The griffin is a composite of an eagle and a lion.
It represents the unity of strength and wisdom
Both are needed in this time of change.
I must be the last person to have seen Fractals the Colors of Infinity narrated by Arthur C. Clark in 1994 but it came around again via Brasscheck TV and I got a chance to watch it online on the eve of the Solstice. Yes this is what I have been creating for years, little/big, worlds within worlds. I have been sewing that idea a stitch at a time. The Mandelbrot coat is coming. Look for it around the time of the winter solstice.
The sister website: psikeep.com is up and running
Check out the link for information on the San Clemente goats at PsiKeep Ranch and more detailed information on the PsiKeep Center for the Arts.
The Raven Family
The raven pair has raised a single raven. It is enormous. The three are everywhere calling to each other. The forest is filled with the sound of raven.
The Mushroom Wedding Arch
Work is beginning on the upright sections of the Mushroom Wedding Arch. The left and right inner and outer panels have been carved and now need to be integrated with the front and backsides of the uprights.
A Fox has moved on to PsiKeep
For last two evenings a gray fox has been spotted in the orchard. For several months something has been slowly decimating the chicken population at PsiKeep. Eight new black Australorp chicks were purchased and are being raised in the chicken coop.
This morning a fresh fox scat was found on top of the lid of the trash can near the coop, as if signaling that the fox has staked out his territory. Aside from the obvious insult I did not notice any hair or feathers in it.
One good outcome of the presence of the fox is that it seems to have chased off whatever creature has been raiding the apricots at night. Each morning numerous half-ripe apricots have been found lying on the ground beneath the trees. The fruit is chewed open with the pits are missing. Whatever has been knocking the fruit down from the trees is more interested in the seeds! Huh? But the last two nights the apricots have been undisturbed. The fox is on the prowl.
A day at PsiKeep begins with a bloat and ends with a bang.
Treating Bloat in San Clemente Island Goats
This morning I found myself dealing with a case of bloat in one of my does. As I was setting out the feed I saw that she was a balloon! She was as wide as she was long and standing listlessly under the trees by the feeder. By the time I got the olive oil and a turkey baster prepared she was lying down and looking pretty miserable. It was easy for me to catch her and put her up on the stanchion. I administered 2 turkey basters full or about 120 cc of olive oil slowly against the inside cheek of her mouth. Two hours later she was back down to a normal size and eating. Lucky I caught this one in time.
Singing Plants in the Garden
It is the time of the shower of the Pleiades and summer is dwindling into autumn with the promise of one or two furnace days ahead. I was walking back up from the goat pens through the Garden of Earthly Delights, the euphorbia and cactus collection at PsiKeep.
The ordeal of treating the bloating goat made me sit down on one of the ledges of the terraces and rest for moment. This is not something I normally do. I am always racing to the next project as soon as I complete the current one. I have a hard time relaxing. I am the one who orders the relaxation tapes back in the days when we were using cassettes and never broke the cellophane seal on the package. A long time in the grave for resting.
But this particular morning I forced myself to sit down and take a look around at what I am trying to do with this place.
As I sat there watching the San Pedro cactus and several of the other euphorbia, which I had planted a month ago, I noticed that they were glowing. I stepped closer to investigate. I could see that it was the position of the late morning sun above and behind the cactus and that the light was bouncing off of the fluid in the plant.
But there was something else. I could almost hear the sound of the capillary action as the inside the plant thrust upward, step laddering cell-by-cell toward the sky.
Out at the edge of the nub where new tissue was unfolding into the geometric five and six faces of the plant, there was a singing but there was no audible sound. It was an empathy of the same fluid within me unfolding, becoming, rising toward the light. And for a moment I felt at one with all that was around me. Blood, sap water, all the intricate fluids of life thrusting from the great wellspring of the earth into the infinite facets of being.
Of course I had to run into the house and get my camera and take the photos of the plants and then I had to write down what I saw and put it into the computer all the while leaving that small miracle trailing behind me while I walked into the day with my shopping list of things to do.
Sculpting the Mushroom Wedding Arch
Construction has stumbled to a standstill. Three out of the four sacks of cement I opened were setting up like a fast-set mixture. Something in the dry ingredients is wrong and as soon as I add the liquid to the cement it begins to set. It is crystallizing in the bucket before I can even trowel it out to spread on the surface of the sculpture.
I had called the company several days before leaving messages regarding the cement but no one had returned my calls. When I could no longer sculpt the gills of the mushrooms I stamped up the stairs to the phone and prepared for battle. After a number of phone calls and email messages I got the right number and that person referred me to the area rep.
I started out by representing myself as a contractor loosing money on a job because of the faulty cement. I figured I would get a better response than if I represented myself as a sculptor but this guy recognized me right away. “Oh your that instructor who is using our product in the way it is not supposed to be used.”
I could not believe it! I must have talked briefly to this guy back in 2009 when I had another problem with the chemistry of their product. I told him that I had been using it “in the way that it was not supposed to be used” but that it was working for me for a number of years and that maybe they ought to rethink how their product could be used. It might even open up a bigger market for them. But that was not the issue. The cement was setting up in the bucket before I could apply it “in the way it was not supposed to be used.”
After some haggling he said he would see about exchanging the fifteen sacks and would call me back on Monday.
This year’s raven offspring have flown away. I occasionally see them. When they arrive they are like gang busters, squabbling and squawking with each other. The littlest one I call “Little” is still alive. I did not have much hope for that one since he was so far behind the others in growth and size. But he is still hanging in there and seems more aggressive and forward than the other two.
The parents remain guarding their territory.
They spend most of the day in the blue pines or prowling in the goat pens. I feed them once a day and they have plenty of water so I imagine they have found paradise. The only time they disappear is at dusk when they fly off somewhere to a roost for the night. I have no idea where their roost is located.
This is not the image you want to see at the end of the day. Ten miles away it holds a warning of things to come.
While the saga of PsiKeep continues you might like to visit my new and second blog at http://tenabraecafe.wordpress.com/. Sign up at the Tenabrae Cafe for a notice of new postings. Looking forward to also meeting with you there.
I thought that the story of the ravens was moving off stage for a while. The raven fledglings were up in the trees learning to fly. Each day I watched them leap from tree to tree gaining dexterity as they tested their wings and self-confidence. Ah to begin on the earth and to journey to the sky. But this journey is not without peril.
I woke yesterday morning to the frantic cries of the adult ravens shrieking their warning call outside my window. I got up to see what was going on. The ravens only make that call when there is an intruder.
The goats were trampling something in the pen. At first I thought it was a squirrel. Then I saw a wing. It was one of the raven fledglings. I charged down the hill in my bare feet and pajamas only to slip and cut the bottom of my foot as I ran to the goat pen. I shooed aside the goats and lifted the raven to safety. At first I thought it was dead but it raised its head in my arms as I carried it up to the house.
Examining the bird I saw that there was some real damage beyond my ability to repair. One leg was badly fractured and one wing looked like it was also broken but not as badly as the leg. I washed the wounds and packed them with antibiotic cream and wound powder to staunch the bleeding. I brought the raven into the house. The raven seemed to come out of shock by the afternoon and I gave him some water and fed him later in the evening. But it was not until the next day that the veterinarian, who specializes in the treatment of birds, was able see me.
The veterinarian was over in the next county and it was a long, hot drive across the mountains in my broken down car.
The veterinarian thought he either pin the leg or remove it and the wing was not as bad as it looked. It could be wrapped and held immobile until it healed. But then what would there be? A one-legged raven who could not fly as well as a normal raven. A raven that was stranded on the earth like a chicken while it saw the other raven so close and so far out of reach. It could not survive in the wild and it was too wild to become a pet. It would always be trying to go home and home was the long and lingering death of starvation up in the trees.
Life wants to be at all costs and circumstances. We see where life has forged its way in to the most inhospitable and precarious situations and how it has adapted into the many diverse forms in order to survive. Giving life that chance seems to be part of my role at this place.
I thought I could manage taking care of a wild bird that would always be reaching for the sky. I though I could adapt my life to the bird as I have adapted my life to everything else here by putting it under my wing. I thought about animal refuge centers who might take in a raven. I thought of all these things on that long,hot ride over the mountains in a car heaving and screaming on three cylinders.
In the end it was the car that decided for us. I just could not afford the cost when my only transportation was hanging together with binding spells and rubber gum.
I was out of my league…
This morning I buried the raven.
The raven fledglings left the nest on May 23, 2013.
In the next couple of days there was a lot of commotion up in the trees. The wind was up again and the little birds swung precariously from whatever branch they had caught in their first fumbled leap into the sky. High in the blue pines the fledglings were shuttering their wings, the act of vibrating their wings in a half folded position that most young birds do when calling to their parents. They were also making a curious arrrling sound. It is almost like a growl but with “ar” sound. In raven speech this seems to say “I’m up here. Looking for help. Got food! The parents were busy flying from bird to bird offering encouragement by demonstrating small leaps to the next tree and bringing the fledglings food soaked in water from the water troughs below.
Meanwhile I have problems of my own.
The forest has spoken again: “We are getting too big and changes are coming.”
The wind brought down large branch from the massive blue pine at the lower corner of the drive. The branch crashed into the upper goat pen but never broke free. It splintered at the trunk of the tree creating an arch to the ground. This was probably a good thing since the goats were in the pen when it came down. If it had broken free, it might have crushed any one of the animals. The branch filled most of the pen and I was so preoccupied with my own concerns that I did not see that the branch had fallen. (This happened right outside my window where I was working and you think I would have heard something.) Entering the goat pen to feed the goats I did not notice that there was something wrong with this picture, until I set the food box down to open the gate.
So how am I going to clean up this broken tree?
The limb is hanging forty to fifty feet up in the air. At first I was pretty depressed at the magnitude of the toppled branch. Eventually it is going to come down and someone has to climb up the tree to cut it free.
But then I began to see this big “lemon” of a problem as my answer to a summer goat shelter. On one side the snags were driven into the ground bracing the broken limb. With some more bracing on the upper side and some trimming out of the snags hanging loose and a covering (plastic tarp at first then maybe cement when I have time)… Wow! I would have an armature for a structure that would provide protection from the wind and rain. Later I could find someone to drop the rest of the wood from the tree…
I have posted several articles on the forest at PsiKeep but a third of the property is meadow land. The meadow at PsiKeep is a tangle of vegetation thrusting up through the dried stock of the previous year’s growth. Emerging out of this cycle of thrust and die is a triumphant player, star thistle.
Over the years I have watched the star thistle slowly creeping up the slope. For the last few years I have found it growing in the orchard. This is a tough little plant worthy of some respect. Unchallenged it is growing everywhere. At the end of May what little green you see along the side of the road is star thistle, which has not yet dried out. Unfortunately a lot of people are choosing to use Roundup weed killer in a war against the thistle. This is not an option here and soon it will not be an option anywhere else. We have to find a use for this tenacious little plant because it is taking over.
There have been some attempts to find a use for star thistle. I did purchase some thistle honey once and I found that it was quite tasty. Several crafts people are claiming to have made paper from the fiber. Unfortunately livestock, including goats, will not eat the mature plants.
I came across this interesting video which presents an entirely different approach to managing grasslands
June and July simmered into the first week of August 2012. The summer cooked on as I watched how the ravens were dealing with the heat. Ravens have that all black plumage which is definitely a heat sink and they were constantly moving in the sun. I saw that their bills were always open. This must be their cooling mechanism. Throughout the month, the ravens ranged farther away from the nesting sight. Often I heard them in the woods across the road that ran above PsiKeep.
Unfortunately the story of Sammy does not end well.
One early August morning I noticed that Sammy and another fledgling were missing. A few days later the last fledgling was gone from the group. This was highly unusual. In the weeks before the disappearance there were no signs that the parents were driving off the young. The raven family moved as a small unit constantly calling and signaling to each other and feeding together. I also observed some sharing of food with each other, especially with the food that I set out.
At the same time that the offspring disappeared, I received an email from a neighbor regarding another neighbor who lived across the valley. That neighbor had found two dogs in her goat pen slaughtering her goats. She had shot one dog and had caught the other and had it picked up by Animal Control. Were the ravens attracted to the slaughter and the scent fresh meat? Had they been shot by the over zealous neighbor?
I will never know. But I observed a change in the behavior of the parent ravens. At first they looked as if they were languishing in the trees. For days they sat silently up in the blue pines only coming down to feed in the orchard in the late afternoon and early morning.
Several weeks later they returned to the nest. I could see them climbing around the nest and quietly calling to each other. It looked as if they were making futile attempts to repair the nest but nothing came of it.
The mated pair stayed through the winter feeding on the last of the persimmons all the way through December.
This spring the mated pair hatched out the four raven chicks. As I type this I can hear, even from inside the house, the new fledglings squabbling in the nest above my study.
I knew Sammy was slowly slipping away from me as he was being accepted back into the raven family. As days past he became more shy and he would no longer eat out of my hand. Another voice was calling to him with the power and the wilding of raven survival. My voice was being blown aside like the last leaves of winter and it was as it should be.
If Sammy was to survive he must follow the ravens. But there was still the feeling of loss and emptiness inside.
When I looked closely into Sammy’s eye it was like staring into the mystery of the abyss, an unfathomable and unknowable depth, a different consciousness both alien and profound.
How the eye of the raven reflects another nation staring back at us defiant. “Hey we eat your dead. Don’t mess with us!.” Trickster. Stealer of the Sun. Goddess Touched, magical and just plain scavenger. The eye of the raven challenges our reckless sense of entitlement. He is the player waiting on the sidelines for us to step off the stage.
The raven chicks have hatched and over the weeks of approaching summer I can hear at least two chicks squabbling in the nest up high in the ponderosa tree outside the door of my house. It was about this time last year when I found Sammy on the ground below the tree…
…Back to the story of Sammy and the ravens.
It was last summer at the end of the day and I was out feeding the goats. Sammy had followed me down to the goat pen. I was setting out the orchard grass for the goats when I saw him crash land inside the pen. One of the does suddenly rushed at him battering him up against the fence at the lower end of the enclosure. I ran down the slope to intervene but by the time I got there Sammy had squeezed through the field fencing and disappeared into the forest.
After I fed the livestock I went out into the forest to see if I could find him. It was not difficult. The father bird was in the trees giving the alarm call. I followed him to where Sammy was perched on a low branch. I watched for few minutes as he climbed higher up onto the branches of the tree; I figured he was safe enough for the evening. In any case he did not respond to my calls.
Equinox Eve. Sammy was back on the porch the next morning. Tough little bird. He seemed okay after his bout with the angry goat. I watched as he ate the food I had set out for him. He filled his throat pouch with food, regurgitated it and stuffed it in a crack under the iron pyrite sitting on the porch railing. Suddenly he leaped off the porch sailing across the property to the limbs of blue pine where the parent birds were calling. If I worked at it I could almost follow him through his eyes as he flew across the tops of the trees. I could almost see from that perspective what is was like to fly above looking down on PsiKeep.
It was late in the afternoon as I watched a young doe who has been hanging close to the house. I watched as she pawed the ground about 30 feet up the slope behind the wood stack. She lay down and was very still. I was deciding to get my camera when saw Sammy crashing into the vegetable garden. I went down to retrieve him. As he was riding back to the porch on my arm, I saw that the doe was standing on her feet and nursing two newborn fawns. I fed Sammy and by that time the doe was leading the fawns into the brush.
Two days later Sammy flew up into the trees. I saw him near the two wild fledgling. No one attacked him and the fledglings seemed to accept him out of curiosity more than anything else. I did not see Sammy most of the day. But at sundown he was back on the roof and came onto the porch. I gave him some food and water and he spent the night in the living room.
Slowly Sammy began to spend more and more time with the two other raven fledglings This was the time to learn how to use that very large beak of his. Above, Sammy and one of the fledglings are pulling and tearing at an old plastic tarp on top of the chicken coop.