El Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Mártir is named for the guy gate keeping in heaven. For a long time (until just this minute) I thought it was some guy with a last name Mártir. Wrong. That’s just a tag on Saint Peter (rock of the church) reminding us he was martyred. Another big oops there. I might have known once but had forgotten he was killed for his beliefs. And this lack of knowledge strikes me as very, very odd. I was just in this guy’s basilica inside the Vatican. My research today, quick and dirty, revealed the church believes St. Peter was crucified head down on the every spot of the basilica’s altar. But details are sketchy and it sounds like early church politics played a role in Peter’s unseemly demise. I guess the church, like so many other things, chooses not to tell the stories that cast it in a bad light. Things like the stories that demonstrate these guys couldn’t agree even in the time of Christ on what Christ was teaching. Nothing has changed. We do know that early Dominican padres founded a mission at the south end of the mountain range and the mountain range and park take their names from that mission.
The park was formed in 1947. It’s home to Picacho del Diablo (the devil is always around) the highest peak in Baja at 10,157′. Numerous large avian species take advantage of the remote and rugged terrain. Both bald and golden eagles are known to frequent the area but most important are the California Condors. The condor reintroduction program has increased the total number of these mighty birds from 22 in 1982 to nearly 500 worldwide today. About half the birds remain in captivity for breeding purposes. Wild populations are not yet stable. This spot in Mexico has had less habitat loss and environmental degradation than US release locations. Consumption of both micro trash and lead ammunition are the greatest threat to individual survival. The birds in Mexico have successfully reproduced on their own.
Burt and I have seen these birds at three of their release sites and this was our second time spotting one in the Parque Nacional. Eight years ago we saw two. One flew over head on the ridge that divides the Baja peninsula, one side waters head to the Pacific Ocean and on the other they reach the Bay of California. The second bird was in the road trying to eat a red yogurt cap. I got out of the car and retrieved the cap. Think of that bird and those whales and fishes and sea life and pick up that micro-trash you see. It all flows downhill.
The gNash and Dodge are rolling uphill towards Montana and we’ve got a hanger-on. The usual Gypsy Carpenters crew minus Mimi (DEP, sweet kitty) plus foster puppy Chava are all festively packed in the king cab of our 18 year old Dodge and it’s got all the makings of a drunken party. There’s daily fights, spilled drinks, vomit, public scratching, and that’s just the dogs. Only Elvis and Burt are completely satisfied with their space. Nobody crowds them and gets away with it. Meanwhile Olive, Chava and I are jockeying all day, everyday to make do with what we can get. You’d think we’d swiftly work out a compact of who sits where when but noooo. Chava is growing faster than a kudzu in July so it’s a turf battle everyday. What worked before noon on Friday was no can do by Saturday night. Mood and climate also impact the degree of bodily contact allowed. Too hot? GTF off of me says Olive with a gap toothed crooked snarl. Too Cold? Climb up on my lap, there’s room for you both, says me. Just when everyone settles down somebody (me, Burt, or Chava) has to go to the bathroom and the proverbial pot is stirred again. And despite Chava knowing I am his boss he still treats me like a mom he can walk all over. Chava even tries to nurse on my forearms as he falls asleep. What a cutie-pie.
In the midst of the hourly land rush there have been countless bowls of spilled water and the aforementioned vomit and deafening barks in ears. Burt’s worried the floor boards are rusting from the constant moisture. I’m worried I’m growing mold on my perpetually wet bum. There are legs, teeth, and tongues everywhere and they have not figured out how to coordinate. Maybe that’s a good thing. Imagine them working together to thwart us. The mental and physical effort to keep two old dogs and one new puppy safe and satisfied is not 30% greater than the two dogs alone. I’d say the well trained but scarily growing puppy is a 100% increase in energy cost for Burt and me. He’s so fast and less solidly reliable to hold a stay or wait. By Monday morning he might weigh less than Olive but he will be stronger than Elvis and Olive combined. And he just eats and eats and eats. Which means he poops and poops and poops.
And it’s all been worth it. We’ve taken our time and let puppy stretch his legs in new places. When we first got Olive we did the same thing. We visited the Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Mártir just like we did eight years ago with Olive. A condor even flew over head on Chava’s first hike, the steep 4 KM climb to the Mirador (lookout) where you can see the Bahia de California from the top of the mountains. Human year equivalent 90 year old Elvis waited in the gNash. We told him it was boring. He only ate a little bit of a window shade in retaliation.
Today finds us at Burt’s Father’s unibomber home in California. We lovingly call it this because it’s a 50s era mail order log cabin with no potable water and a hot water heater only turned on once a week for Jack’s shower. It’s a dark place. If and when I take a shower in the cool rust waters, the dribble hits me in my bellybutton. I tweak my back wetting my hair and I come out smelling like a can of nails left under a drain spout. Not worth the effort. I’ll wallow in my dog water stink and vomit a few days more.
After 4 years of working and playing (let’s be honest) with neighborhood kids we’ve had a drastic contraction in numbers. For a couple of years we had a steady eight to ten kids, mostly girls, show up for art and English and extracurricular activities. Sometimes the number would well to nearly twenty. More kids showed around parties and field tips or after rumors of gifts. Last year tension developed between two factions in the group. The tweeners (10-12 year olds) started picking on each other and lines formed between a group of kids in our immediate vicinity and a group of kids from further away. It was annoying to mediate between the two groups. This year I wondered what would happen. I really didn’t want to deal with a pack of boy crazy girls learning how to get their nasty on with each other. In Spanish.
It all started out pretty easily. The group of further away kids naturally stopped coming. They were older and had newer interests. They drifted off. No big deal. Now all I had was my immediate neighbors and a few ‘cometas’. Cometas are people that come occasionally to standing gigs. Like that woman you see in your yoga class three times a year. They streak by and get a little attention because they are so rarely seen. The group was reduced to essentially four kids, a pair of sister pairs. It seemed a little sad at first but it was so much more manageable. For an instant.
The eldest girl has been disruptive for three years. She has stolen. She has lied. She has inappropriately touched other kids. Even though she was now one of only four and they were next door neighbors she still couldn’t stay out of trouble. Now that she was 11 and we’d been working with her for more than 3 years I was starting to lose hope that we could get through to her in a positive way. Mid-winter she intentionally but secretly damaged a piece of art in our home. We had a meeting. A written agreement was drawn up. A contract on behavior. A chance to formalize the many second chances we’d already given this young girl. This girl is so smart, lovely, and troubled. She breaks our heart. We all (not just Burt and I) want to see her succeed but she can’t escape her negative behaviors.
Last week she orchestrated a scam where she convinced the other kids to tell me there was no school on a certain day and then get me to agree to do something fun with them. It was a brilliant and spontaneous lie. She said, “We don’t have school tomorrow.” The other kids merely backed her up. Two are so young I’m not sure they even knew they were lying. The next morning as I drove to yoga I noticed a bunch of kids going to school as usual. Uh oh. Well surely they parental units didn’t let the scam go through. I texted the neighbor that takes the gang to school and I asked her what was going down. She said, “Nobody showed up for their ride today. I was wondering why.” I knew why.
I got to the driver’s home and I told her the kids were ducking. So I went to one house and asked if the kid went to school. The mother told me her daughter had begged and cried to skip school so she could do something with me. Mom relented. Note, this kid didn’t lie to mom. I explained to the mother I would never knowingly schedule anything on a school day. The next home was the home of the criminal mastermind. I asked the grandma where the kids were. Grandma said, “There’s no school today.” I had to tell her that there was school and that her granddaughter had lied to her. From inside the house I hear the mother’s reaction as she realizes we’ve all been taken by the kid’s lie. Meanwhile the mastermind comes outside to great me, laughing at her success, and I in a fit of anger say, “You will never come to my house again. You’ve had all your chances. We had an agreement and you lied to me, your grandmother and your mother.” I gave a very dramatic but grammatically flawed speech on lying and the importance of school. I could here mom yelling inside. I feared a beating was coming. I left feeling sad for so many things. I was struck that her caretakers didn’t know the school schedule.
Rumors reached me that the girls were grounded. They weren’t seen for two days. I softened a bit and have agreed to meet with the troubled kid and talk with her about the road ahead. I’m pretty certain she won’t be welcome in my classes but I want her to know we can still be friends and can still talk. I worry about her but there’s nothing I can do by myself. She may learn to live another way or she may not. So far the lying and cheating and stealing are working for her.
It’s been over a week. The girl is still banned from classes and another has chosen not to come in solidarity. The two youngest are leaving their older sisters behind and coming to class on their own. I am so proud of them. Today we went to the beach. I think it’s important to remember I have been working with these two kids since they were four years old. In so many ways it was already too late for the older kids to trust me.
1. I endured an all day, every 2 hours glaucoma test. Pressure is rising but not too high. I can’t recommend this diagnostic approach.
2. Annual skin check. The dermo wants us to bathe every day and add moisture. I say no. I’m gonna stick with my less is more routine.
3. Our windows are almost all here. They showed up and put some in. We haven’t paid so don’t fret.
4. We’ve been singing twice a week in a professionally conducted choral. More later. It’s hard work.
5. Elvis required his own emergency vet visit. Nothing was found but he was so snippy he had to be sedated for the exam. Twenty-four hours of sleep fixed him.
6. The kid’s class blew up and reformed after the older kids lied to me. In a scam that nearly succeeded they told me they had no school last Friday so they could do something fun with me. Too bad I drove by the school and saw kids going to school. Then I had to go to their parents and tell them about the scam. The main instigator lied to her parents and drug her younger sister into it. And actually convinced them there was no school. Another kid didn’t lie but convinced her mother my class was better than school (it might be). I told that mother I would never let the kids skip school to do something with me. Awkward. I banned the oldest kid and main instigator. I put the next oldest kid into the penalty box and I let the youngest kids off the hook with a stern warning to not be lemmings. I’m not sure if the youngest kids even knew there was school. Their schedule can by confusing. In fact there is no school his Friday.
7. We played Bridge.
8. We went to the mountains.
9. I returned to yoga class.
10. We have a house concert/hootenanny this afternoon. So I skipped yoga to rest. I still need a lot of rest.
11. We depart in ten days. A destination filled June is planned.
Olive being Olive ate something and it nearly killed her again. Or was it stress? or a bad reaction to her vaccines. Whatever it was it caused Olive’s gut to blow up and her face to look sad and she was in pain. At 10 PM we rushed down to the vet and an x-ray revealed…now, you should be saying x-ray, 10 PM…I didn’t know there were x-rays in Pescadero, I didn’t know you could see a vet at 10PM…Yes!!! You can get x-rays in Pescadero. You can’t even get pet x-rays in Todos Santos. And our vet is available by text. She’d just seen Olive for her shots the day before so she knew it was a sudden change in health.
Back to the reveal. The x-rays revealed a huge heart in all the bad ways. Olive has a bad ticker. We’re in a chicken or the egg situation. The heart might have gone haywire due to pain. There was an underlying heart murmur that might have made everything worse. The stress of a new puppy or vaccines might have triggered something. For the second time in less than a year it looked like Olive might not make it. Ten days later and she’s almost normal and just like me she takes a heart medicine. She’s little bit less enthusiastic about jumping (me, too) but still very active. There are plans for an EKG. She’s on a diet and has already lost weight. We’re not certain she doesn’t have pain in her hind end or spine. She won’t say. She’s a bummer like that. That 10:00 visit cost $30 with x-ray and medicine.
Lorna and Janna spent winter Wednesday evening’s playing party Bridge with the Gypsy Carpenters. It was a lovely time. Now Lorna is leaving for the season and our game dissolved. Burt and I won last night with a score of +1 to their -1. Not much of a win, more of a draw. I’m sad because I’ll miss the Bridge but mostly because I’ll miss spending time with these two. They’re both great people and fun to hang with.
Lorna, on the right, is our Todos Santos club director. She mentored three of us through the club director’s test two weeks ago. The test was a drag but I think we passed. If we did pass we’ll have some needed back up for Lorna and the ability to offer sanctioned games when Lorna is gone.
I blame the lack of posts on my lack of energy but it might be a more deep seated ambivalence. I don’t have much to say. There’s been a lot happening but most of it I’ve written about extensively so it’s not inspiring me to write more. A few weeks ago we participated in the Global Big Day. So I’ll share a little about that.
The folks at UABCS (wah-bes) or the Universidad Autonimo Baja California Sur organized a community event for Global Big Day, May 4, 2019. Normally, Burt and I spend this day intensively birding our home range trying to see the endemic species of Baja California Sur so I wasn’t much interested in a community event that would interfere with my personal birding. Emer and Joaquin convinced it was a good idea to bring the community together on this special day to raise awareness. They also asked the Gypsy Carpenters to play music. So I caved. Burt was unconscious and having his hernia repaired. I had a fever of 102. My ability to resist was compromised. Three weeks later Burt and I drag our lame butts out of bed at 4:15 AM so we can get to the estero in San Jose del Cabo for the 7:00 meet-up to bird the estuary. Neither of us was in good shape. Burt sat in a chair on the estero’s edge with the newly acquire Chava and rested his hernia repair. I birder for two hours with a group of 8 experienced birders. A second group of nearly 20 first timers went off with Emer as their guide. That was a great thing. Afterwards we played music under a tent at a display table as the university students met with the public and shared their knowledge. I can’t really say if it went well or not. I was simply too tired to care. In the weeks before grand ideas of a mad rush to get to the mountains and bird the late afternoon were bandied about. By 11:00 AM Burt and I were done. We headed home with no plans to do anything but rest.
A few hours later we were semi-conscious in out gNash living the good life. Nowhere to go and nothing to do. I was a little bummed at the lamest bird list in years for Big Day but I was happy to be under my covers half asleep. Then I got a text. Lupillo, the best birder I know in Baja, was trying to decide how to finish his Big Day. He was already at over 70 species. (I had 30ish). He was debating the mountains or the Todos Santos area. Hint, hint. Lupillo has no car. If he came to Todos Santos he would need a driver. He didn’t come right out and say, “hey, will you drive me around so I can bird?” It was a subtle, “hey, what are you doing?” So I said, “If you come here, I’ll pick you up and drive you around and you can spend the night with us.” And so Lupillo got on a bus and arrived in Todos Santos at 4:30 PM and I picked him up for phase two of Big Day. I was not excited. That’s how hard this recovery has been.
And so began a mad cap three hours of incredible discoveries. Our first stop was on the north side of La Poza where a drunk man threatened us with bodily harm for looking at his house. Dude, we were just walking by with binoculars. Chill out. Immediately on arriving at the water’s edge I saw an unfamiliar bird, Lupillo got very excited. Lupillo does not get excited. It was a red phalarope. What a cool little bird. It was running around in circles feeding on the shoreline uninterested in our approach. Five minutes into this unexpected excursion and I had a life bird. I was feeling a little perkier. Adrenaline from the drunk helped, too.
Right after that I got Lupillo his first blue grosbeak in breeding plumage. Then we saw some baby killdeer. I’m almost over being embarrassed by my bad IDs in front of experts so you can laugh when I thought they were plovers. Google them. Baby killdeer sort of look like plovers if you don’t notice that the parents are right there guarding them and their plumage is super fluffy. On our way back to the car we found a Wlison’s phalarope. Another lifer for me. The drunk guy had gone inside his house so we reached the car unmolested.
Lupillo and I hit a couple of other spots. Mostly drive bys. I did not want to walk. We got the barn owl in town because we know where it lives. We searched for some rock pigeons and found none. After dark we drove out a dirt road near our place in Pescadero and got the elf owl, a whiskered screech owl, and a common poorwill. At 8:00 I waved a flag of surrender and told Lupillo we had to stop. I was at 67 species for the day and we’d helped push Baja California Sure to over 100 but I was wasted. We headed to the hill we call home. I put Lupillo in the rumpus room with some food and collapsed.
The next morning we did a few car tours and bagged another lifer, the purple martin. It flew overhead while we were looking at a Harris’s hawk. I went from total surrender under my blankets to bagging three lifers in my home territory in under 24 hours. I teased Lupillo that I would still be trying to identify the phalarope if he hadn’t been there but really I never would have seen it because I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed.
Here’s some puppies instead. Meet Chava. He’s our foster pooch. He ran under our car while we were driving. Burt (all his fault) stopped to see if he was okay and in leapt Chava. Todd and Gretchen are on the line as his adoptive parents. Meanwhile we’re getting him all cleaned up and trained. Olive is not amused.
Are you ready? Some thing called BibleFreedom.com sent me an email to GypsyCarpenters.com that explains everything. If you need a good scare I suggest you check it out. You’ll have to type it in yourself. I will not give them the pleasure of a hotlink. I’ve read second hand about how fundamental Christians welcome Trump because they believe that he will fulfill some epic biblical prophesies. Second hand reading did not prepare me for the first hand fear fest of this web page. The end of teh world is just what we need and Trump will bring the end of the world. Something we can all agree on, I guess. But why do so many think this is a good thing. Why do we have such apocalyptic fantasies? Can’t we just watch Walking Dead? I personally would like to save the world and make it a nicer place to live. I’m trying in my little corner.
Along these lines, do anti-vaxxers, or my new favoritepro-plaguers, vaccinate their pets? I’ve seen plenty of dogs suffering in Mexico from preventable diseases. It hurts to see dogs with permanent tremors brought on by the high fevers of distemper, nevermind the puppies that don’t make it after weeks of intensive care. The rate of vaccination is lower and so the herd immunity we (mostly) enjoy in our US pet populations doesn’t exist. Chava was a lucky pup. He made it to about three months and is in fairly good health. He had some fleas and worms and was skinny and losing hair from malnutrition but after five days of care he’s already growing and looking better. He had his first DHPP and kennel cough yesterday. Next week he’ll be neutered an then, right before we leave he’ll get rabies and the second DHPP. Good to go world traveling.
I’m not having much fun. Neither is Burt. Burt is at least getting better. Me, I’m not convinced. Monday I saw another doctor because after finally feeling better I was suddenly feeling worse. My lungs ached. I had no stamina. There was a fry cough. I had no interest in anything. The doctor looked around and said they didn’t think there was an infection but ordered a culture to be certain. I was instructed to return to the clinic the next day at 8:00. No food, no drink, no teeth brushing. Do not disturb the environment in your mouth with anything. Bring your skeevey mouth in as it is when you wake. Check. Meanwhile they gave me prenisone to clear up the minor inflammation.
I arrived on time with gross mouth. The technician stuck a long swab down my throat. There was much gagging and drooling. I’d started the course of steroids so I was feeling pretty good again. Burt and I went to breakfast to celebrate. I was told to check back in three days. My understanding was in two days they’d know if there was a bacterial infection. If there was an infection, they’d know which antibiotics were effective in an additional twenty-four hours. Since I felt pretty good (thanks, prednisone) I presumed the doctor was correct and there would be no infection. So after the bare three days I checked in with the clinic. Sorry, your results aren’t ready. I can do math. I knew that meant an infection. They were in the last hours of finding an effective antibiotic.
The next day I got the news that I had contracted staphylococcus pneumoniea. I didn’t have pneumonia, yet, but I was very sick. Now the month that had had three days of fever, vertigo, exhaustion, and general ick made sense. The culture showed my bug is resistant to three families of antibiotics but several commonly available medicines are still effective.
So I’m done with the steroids and feeling crappy. All my research indicates it’s going to be a slow recovery. I might be cured in five days but the exhaustion may linger for weeks. I have three more days of shots in the large muscle mass of my bottom. The cardinal is a spring yard bird here.
The reptile above looks like it might be looking for a bird meal but that’s not their normal food choice. The spiny tailed iguana generally eats fruits and flowers, occasionally an insect or small animal. Eggs are a popular choice, too. That being said, the birds were having none of it. They stayed a safe distance away from this creature while it made a through inspection of our feeding station. I suspect it came by for the oranges. Our compost is just over the fence and so that might also be an attractant.
Energy levels remain low all around the gNash. Burt is not his usual chipper or energetic self. That’s to be expected after somebody opens a hole in your gut and leaves behind a foreign object. The doctor said all is healing as expected but still 5 more weeks without full exertion. The mesh is stiffening up nicely with scar tissue to plug the “rodent’s” hole. Burt is cleared to drive the automatic and in two weeks he can drive the Dodge.