Interspecies Communication

Buzz sat in on the harmonica and spoons.
Buzz sat in on the harmonica and spoons.

The other day we were sitting on the back porch of our friends Richard and Rose Ann house. It was mid-afternoon and their porch is a sanctuary from the sun and wind that time of day. We had just installed a new hanging feeder to replace one torn down by a bear last winter. Rose Ann was chatting with us about, what else, birds. Richard was sitting nearby working on a computer with the windows open to the porch. Rose Ann mentioned she had just read a NY Times article about interspecies communication between birds. I had just read the same article and the day before and had discussed it with Burt. You can read the article HERE.

Scientists in Missoula, MT had recently discovered precise interspecies communication between birds. If you spend enough time outside and pay attention it is no surprise that birds talk amongst themselves and that they talk across species lines. What the new research revealed is not that the birds eavesdropped and heard warnings from other birds. What was surprising was that the studied birds were actually saying very specific things. Instead of saying, for example,”Hey, look out!” the birds were saying, “Look out there’s a goshawk.” The species threatened by a goshawk took note and made evasive action. If you were a bird too small for a goshawk to bother you could ignore the warning. The scientists were able to do this by computer analysis of the warning calls. So what sounds pretty much the same to human ears sounds distinctly different to bird ears. In fact, some birds of prey might not even be able to hear the warning calls. The other surprising fact was that the calls travel by way of relay (neighborhood dogs barking) at speeds up to 100 mph. That’s amazing. So the three of us were discussing this. My conclusion: Only the slow, stupid or deaf are being eaten.

So there we were three merry nature lovers marveling at some new facts. In the midst of our discourse the Mexican Jays caused a ruckus across the creek. They started squaking and screaming. We could not see them but laughed and wondered what had them riled up. Then I heard the most annoyed cat sound come from between the bird screams. A kind of halfhearted roar. It sounded annoyed. I said, “Listen. It’s a mountain lion.” A moment of disbelief from my partners was followed by consternation that there was a mountain lion grumbling a few yards away and the birds were in fact harassing it while we spoke of bird communication. A few more roars ensued. They grew faint as the jays gave chase. All the commotion moved downstream. I swear I heard the lion say, “All right already, I’m leaving.” The jays responded, “Good riddance to bad trash.” Jays are not polite birds.

Meanwhile today the Gypsy Carpenters partook of some itra-species and inter-species communication. We played music for the 3rd annual Friends of Cave Creek Canyon (FoCCC) garden party. Our friend Buzz sat in with us. Buzz is a deeply religious man and we don’t share similar views on everything but we adore (or our side of the equation, anyway) each other. We love music, hunting, roaming the west, homegrown eggs, self-reliance, food, Montana….I bring this up because I think it’s important to share the world with lots of different people and be open to having positive experience with everyone. Buzz has tried to bring me to Jesus a couple of times and I don’t mind. He has only love in his heart. I hope he remains patient with my un-believing self. Some many of you have and I appreciate the respect. It goes both ways for me. I told Buzz today I appreciate all his prayers on my behalf.

Below is a picture in black and white by (I think) Jackie Lewis. Buzz is in the background playing his spoons. In the foreground are Bob and Gloria. Bob is 96 and Gloria is 92. Bob nearly danced himself off the porch today. I’d hate to have been responsible for life threatening injury. Gloria always asks me to sing Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows. She is one hip chick. All of us are having a wonderful time sitting on a porch.

Howard and Eskild, two of Burt's regular tennis buddies, harassed us like paparazzi.
Howard and Eskild, two of Burt’s regular tennis buddies, harassed us like paparazzi.
Bob and Gloria, our oldest fans.
Bob and Gloria, our oldest fans.
Spiny Lizard?
Spiny Lizard? Dreaming of freedom. He was released later this day.
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Working, Too

Good for a giggle. A note about a note.
Good for a giggle. A note about a note.

I helped Burt install a metal roof yesterday. He passed up lengths of 13′ 3″ sheeting and I’d grab it and haul it up to the ridge while walking backwards. There I’d hold it down while Burt climbed the ladder and came over to help position the sheet. The wind blew. The sun beat. Pass, haul, wait, screw, caulk pass, haul, wait, screw, caulk. It’s hard work to install a roof. There’s lots of squatting and scampering across the low angled pitch to screw down the metal. I had a kind of crabbing scuttling stance most of the day. Later on Burt asked why I didn’t stand up to do the work. It’s easier to move when you are on your feet. He thought it frightened me. I had to tell him (confess) that standing up and bending over made me dizzy. I figured it was better to be slow footed and bottom heavy than to get dizzy on the roof. As it was I still cut loose and started a slow motion slide on my slippery bottom. I arrested when I reached some screw heads. It was fun because the slide was so slow I knew I would stop when I reached a nubbin. Now that he knows I’m not scared he’s the one who’s scared.

In between roofing Burt added another layer of mud to the bathroom at our other job. Today he is in Sierra Vista ordering the shower glass and stocking up on groceries.

Mudding in the bathroom.
Mudding in the bathroom.
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Bathroom Remodel Progress

Here you can see the replaced insulation and some wiring.
Here you can see the replaced insulation and some wiring.

The bathroom sheet rock is installed. Mudding is next. Mudding and texturing lead to painting but it takes a few days because every application of mud or texture or paint must dry before the next layer can be applied. Things dry quickly here with a humidity of only 10% so I expect it won’t be long before we are tiling. That’s when things start to look pretty.

Glass for the shower needs to be ordered. We were planning to do it over the phone but today we realized the mounting wall is stridently out of level and the glass will need to be cut crooked. We’re currently thinking we should visit the glass place in person and go over the specifications. We’d hate to have it cut backwards or at the wrong angle. Once they cut it we own it.

That’s all for now. I hear the rumble of our diesel truck. That means Burt is done for the day.

Here is the shower plumbing. Note that the mixer is set to the side so it's easy to reach. Bathers won't get jolted by cold water when they turn on the shower.
Here is the shower plumbing. Note that the mixer is set to the side so it’s easy to reach. Bathers won’t get jolted by cold water when they turn on the shower.
This is flat taping. It is the only job I do better and faster than Burt.
This is flat taping. It is the only job I do better and faster than Burt.

Hole cutting

Notes for later.
Notes for later.
Say's Phoebe chicks at lunch.
Say’s Phoebe chicks at lunch.
Burt screwing off the sheetrock.
Burt screwing off the sheet rock.
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Busy Busy

Sara Gay
Sara Gay in Portal.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there. No sad stories this year. We’re going to focus on the fun of the last two days in Portal. Once again there is a lot happening.

Our great friend, accomplice, and mentor Sara Gay stopped in for a quick visit. What an honor to have her veer off course from her annual migration from Baja to Michigan to stop in and see us. I met Sara Gay in Todos Santos at Spanish class. Our teacher didn’t show up that day and she made me speak quite a bit. As a former journalist she knows how to get answers. SG plays tennis with Burt, frequents our musical events, and provides support when we do our bits of investigative work. We enjoy each other’s company immensely. Alas, the road beckoned and we only enjoyed a few hours together before she headed north.

The visit with SG was Friday night. Saturday morning we were up at 5:15 AM to get ready for a bird count in the Peloncillo Mountains. The Peloncillos are the range just east of the Chiricahuas. Peg Abbott, of Naturalist Ventures, asked if we wanted to help her out on this annual census of birds. The whole county and much of the world was counting birds yesterday. It was International Migratory Bird Day. Burt, Pat Owens (THE Pat Owens of commentary fame right here on the Gypsy Carpenters’ Blog), and I accompanied Peg. Mostly we served as spotters. Peg was the expert identifier and we were the aides. Pat took on the heinous job of record keeping. She had to keep track of all species and the numbers we identified. It was a lot of work. Together we found 56 species in just about 5 hours all while driving and walking through the Skull Canyon area. The secret to the short hand is to use the first two letters of the birds (usually) two worded name. Here’s a quiz: BA EA, MO DO, PY OW, AC WO….Not all of these species were found by us yesterday. I picked them to give our non-Portal readers a chance to win. Actually, only one of the birds listed above was seen yesterday and it was seen in enormous numbers.

Skull Canyon is located on private land and is normally behind locked gates. We were very happy to have the opportunity to explore this new area. Back behind the gates we found the original adobe homestead and remnants of two dams used for water storage. Burt also found some pictographs but I will not reveal what or where. I identified a new-to-me bird and had to take my ID to the boss. It was a little grey jobber and so it was important I make a clear description of why I thought I landed the species. Peg and I discussed it a few times. It went on and off the day’s list but finally we went with on the list because we both felt certain we had heard the call correctly. Peg did not see the bird but heard it. I had used my iBirdPro to listen to a recorded call for comparison. Peg compared by memory. It was another amazing day tuning into our immediate surroundings and learning about other inhabitants of Mother Earth.

Birding is hard work. The mind and body are concentrating in much the same way as when a person is fishing or hunting. Listening, peering, creeping, staring…Action verbs all around. We arrived home at 2:30 famished and listless. A couple of chocolate shakes at the Portal Cafe momentarily revived us. In the Gnash we took a couple of late afternoon naps. We had more on our schedule.

Two days ago Burt went for lunch with a client at the Portal Cafe. At the cafe he spotted a man wearing a Collings Guitars t-shirt. Normally this would not be worth commenting on but Burt felt moved to ask the guy how many Collins guitars he owned. It turned out zero. This man knew Collings himself because they had worked together for many years. Burt had just introduced himself to Tom Ellis, mandolin builder from Austin Texas. Tom is also a former Austin Lounge Lizard. He was an original member of the band. Long time readers might recall that we also know another original Austin Lounge Lizard, Tom Pittman, and that we spent a few days in Austin visiting him and his wife about 5 years ago. What a coincidence. This new-to-us Tom actually carved the headstock inlay of Burt’s Santa Cruz guitar. Tom Ellis makes his living making very fine mandolins and doing inlay work for other instrument makers. Tom Ellis was here in Portal helping with a bird photography workshop. The boys made a date to play music and that date was set for the same day as our big bird count.

Seven o-clock at night is very nearly bed time in the Chiricahua Mountains. Yesterday 7:00 rolled around and we dragged ourselves and our instruments over to a cabin at Cave Creek Ranch to play music with a man of much greater skill who has friends that are music legends.  Talk about intimidating. Even worse, I mas planning gave him my mandolin to play and I would play the fiddle. At the ranch I met Tom. He was trying to get a picture of an elf owl in a hole. The elf owl would not cooperate. It was cold and dark so we retired to their accommodations to play some tunes. Tom and his wife Becky were entirely charming and tolerant of our amateur status. I played within my abilities and we sang some obscure songs and we had a great time. A love of music and the natural world made for natural kinship. The photography tour guide, Larry Ditto, came in for a few final songs and enjoyed himself, too. At 9:30 we closed up the day and headed home. It was a good day.

Here’s a link to Ellis Mandolins. If anyone has some cash, I’d sure like one. I had a chance to play Tom Pittman’s Ellis mandolin 5 years ago and it was the only mandolin that made me want to give up mine. Here’s a link to Larry Ditto Photography.

Original adobe homestead ruin/
Original adobe homestead ruin. Pat and Peg peep.
Gopher snake in the shadows.
Gopher snake in the shadows.
Peg surveying the open spaces.
Peg surveying the open spaces.
Check out the pinnacles. One is barely hanging on.
Check out the pinnacles. One is barely hanging on.
Stock tank peephole.
Stock tank peephole.
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Burt’s Big Birthday Bash

Pre-Olive love snuggle
Pre-Olive love snuggle

Burt’s going to be a septuagenarian very soon. On Friday, May 15th, a week from today, we are celebrating his birthday at the Portal Cafe. Come on down at 5:00. The Gypsy Carpenters are providing the entertainment. I hope some of you will provide the crowd. Spread the word. Everyone is welcome.

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Domestic

Burt and Baby B.
Burt and Baby B.

I have a new job. I am a domestic. Mother’s gigantic helper. I mean that physically not spiritually.  My clients are comparatively wee to me. Continuing in the spirit of no work is beneath me and let’s see if I can lend a hand where a hand is needed I am now employed cleaning and cooking for a new mother. This isn’t your normal first baby situation. This mother is living in an unfinished house, her husband is away for work for three weeks and she broke her leg. Caring for herself and her 2 month old son, the dogs and chickens and house is a lot of work on a bum leg. Some might say impossible.

When we first arrived I’d heard through the Portal grapevine that this position might be available and I wanted to apply but I hesitated. How do you suggest yourself for the most intimate and trusting of jobs? Hello, let me do your dirty laundry and ask personal questions and handle your baby….I hesitated but knew I had the skills. At fifteen I was taking care of my aunt and her baby (Cousin Cara of Short and Sweet on the blogroll) when my aunt was incapacitated by an eye infection. That job required applying ointment to a grossly distended and watery eyeball twice a day as well as diaper changes, cleaning and cooking, and general Lucille Ball-like antics of incompetence to keep all entertained. My homemaking skills are greatly expanded if a bit rusty. Not wanting to make anybody uncomfortable I didn’t ask for the job but the job came and got me. My boss, she shall remain nameless and all but the most mundane of details shall not be shared, drove over here and offered me the job. She wanted ME!

So yesterday I started. Laundry, bathroom cleaning, dishes, wasp nest eradication, chicken feeding and watering, and, most importantly, a bowl of fried spaghetti. I made my boss a bowl of fried spaghetti. Pure love in a bowl. My favorite food in all the world. Thanks mom for teaching me how to make fried spaghetti. Boss had hardly eaten and it was already 11:30. I’m going to have to keep my eye on her.

After work (it was all of 2 hours) Burt and I headed to Sierra Vista for a huge supply and tool run. With demo done it’s time to buy building materials. Home Depot lured me into their ProServices program with a 10% discount (passed on to our clients) and an incredibly competent client specialist. Shelly was the bomb. Her abilities and bright attitude made me want to work at Home Depot if I could help people the way she helped me yesterday. It also made me want to buy at Home Depot if I could have Shelly helping me every time. So often we interact with the mildly discontent aisle drones that we become mildly irritated, too, but this staff person knew her job and did it with a genuine desire to please. It was a pleasure to pass the time with her.  And now we now have a new compressor and tile saw and 40 2x4s and a truck load of other supplies to get the bathroom and guest houses going.

Our post-shopping marathon was rewarded with a Screaming Banshee pizza in Bisbee, Arizona. Pizza so good we bought a second for take-out to eat today. One slice of artichoke heart and garlic went down my gullet to fuel the blog.

Today I head back out of the bubble to drive boss and baby for vaccinations. No anti-vaxers here.

Bored Olive.
Bored Olive.
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Demo in a Day

Cholla flower. It's the same color as my hair.
Cholla flower. It’s the same color as my hair.

The desert flowers continue to amaze us with their intense coloration. I can’t imagine what they must look like to birds and insects with wider arrays of color detection. It must be a heady time for nectar and pollen collection.

This picture of our friend Ismael showed up on Facebook today. Yesterday it was Albañil’s day in Mexico. On May 3 builders put up a cross on their projects asking for protection of themselves and, I presume, their buildings. Construction is a dirty and dangerous job no matter where you’re working. It made me smile to think Ismael, a man how works for us and our friends, is busy as we get back to work ourselves up here in Arizona. We’re making more money to pay him to work for us again when we return to Baja.

Today was a day of demo on the bathroom remodel job. We started at 7:45 and were done by 2:00. It all went fast and safely. Hardly a rat dropping was seen. The cast iron tub required help from a pair of local laborers and two dollies. It’s now languishing in the yard. That tub is so heavy I now know why you find them used as planters. Nobody wants to move them any further than they have to. With demolition done it’s already time to build. Pictures of demo above.

Ismael. National Albañil day in Mexico.
Ismael. National Albañil day in Mexico. Picture courtesy of Janet Gillespie.
This is a color I like to call yellow.
This is a color I like to call yellow.
Ron moving the season's first rattler.
Ron moving the season’s first rattler.
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I’m out of a job…for now

Rob and Burt residing the lab.
Rob and Burt residing the snake lab.

We are converting the lab where Findlay Russell kept scorpions, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes into a guest bedroom and office. Russell died in 2011 and so far the people that knew him never fail to mention his short lab coat and his arrogance. The short coat detail makes me laugh. It sounds like he resembled Dr. McCoy of Star Trek. Russell’s obituary mentions that he built his Portal retreat by himself. Last year we expounded on the short comings of this brilliant man’s building skills. This year there isn’t much to complain about. Russell did a better job with stick construction than he did with the masonry building we remodeled last spring.  Dr. Russell did a lot of ground breaking work in the fields of toxicology and toxinology as a you can see in this Wikipedia Summary HERE. I like to think this building was less infested with rodents compared to last year’s project because the snake stink still lingers.

I’ve been laid off and I didn’t even know it. Today I wandered to the job site and found another man doing my job. I was mortified to hear Burt telling somebody else to do the things he usually tells me to do. Is this the end of the Gypsy Carpenters? I don’t think so. Rob won’t fit in the trailer even if he can lift a sheet of plywood by himself. I was busy making calls for Portal Irish Music Week 2015. Tomorrow I’m going bird watching. I might get used to being a full time slacker.

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Working Days

The snake lab before.
The snake lab before.

I had my first day on the job yesterday and nobody got hurt. I was climbing ladders and overhead nailing with the big gun. I did mis-measure the first 5 or so pieces I needed to measure. I have to remember how to read a tape measure every year. It was a good workout, mentally and physically.

The building we are working on these days was formerly some kind of reptile laboratory. Snakes, I think, were the main thing. We are transforming it into an office and bedroom. Gutting the place to the studs was handled before our arrival. We lucked out and got to skip the really dirty work on this one.

Today Burt worked and I sorted 5 months worth of mail. Thanks, Sue, for collecting, forwarding and adding 3 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. Binge eating Thin Mints helps me get through the pile of paperwork. I also finished our 2014 taxes today. I am here to announce the Obama Care tax credit worked out perfectly. It was easy to figure out how to do the tax credit with TurboTax and we came out neither too taxed nor too subsidized. It’s a huge relief to have this behind me.

Me, trying the remember how to read this.
Me, trying to remember how to read this.
Overhead nailing.
Overhead nailing.
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