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Still Closed

Thursday, 18 Feb 2021, 15:26 GMT-0600

Yes, Café Trudy is still closed. Please return for the 70 degree weather they’ve promised us next week.

icles on a purple chair

Rescue

Thursday, 18 Feb 2021, 14:46 GMT-0600

There was ice on the patio under snow under ice. And then it started snowing again.

I stood at the patio door and looked out. At the Desert Willow which seemed to be bearing its ice burden well. At the Apple Trees which had begun blossoming a week ago and might be toast. At the Mexican Honeysuckle whose orange blossoms were weeping orange stains on the snow. At the frozen birdbaths. At the footprints in the snow. At the small bird sitting in one of the footprints…

Wait. What?

There was a tiny bird sitting motionless in a deep print in the snow. 

I opened the door and stepped out. The bird didn’t move. I walked up. It didn’t move. I reached down. It turned its head and looked up. I picked it up between my hands and went inside.

It was very small, very soft, brownish-grey, and had a streak of yellow in its wings — baby Lesser Goldfinch perhaps. It didn’t move as I stood in the kitchen, but it was watching me.

holding the bird I found in the snow

The fair and industrious Trudy fetched a small box and put a towel inside. And a syringe. And some birdseed. We got it to take a quick drink. I set it in the box on the towel and closed the lid. Trudy returned to work. I returned to the recliner. Izzy hopped onto my lap. 

Ten minutes later, Izzy’s ears perked up. There was a scratching, pecking sound coming from the box. A minute later, her ears perked up again. More scratching and pecking. I went to look. Prying the box slightly open, I could see that the bird had hopped to the top of the towel and was calmly peering out.

Not enough time to warm up, I decided and so shut the box. After five more minutes, there was louder, more determined scratching. I took another look. The bird looked up at me.

I reached down, picked it up, went outside, and slowly opened my fingers. The bird faced into the breeze. I held the finger of my other hand toward it. The bird looked at me and then hopped onto my finger. And then onto my forearm. And to my shoulder where it turned around, took a jump, and fell.

I picked it and wrapped my fingers about it. Then opened them and held out the other finger. It hopped up. Then onto my forearm. Then to my shoulder where it took a jump, flapped its wings and was gone.

A Cool Pergola

Wednesday, 17 Feb 2021, 17:39 GMT-0600

This is the pergola over the back patio. We’ll need to remember this when summer comes around.

icicles on the pergola

Now. If we could just get some water to come out of the faucets.

Ice in Austin

Wednesday, 17 Feb 2021, 15:49 GMT-0600

ice on the branches in Austin

A Wintery Mix

Wednesday, 17 Feb 2021, 15:14 GMT-0600

A winter has descended on Austin unlike any I have seen in the (many) decades I have been here…

1. Finches and Birdseed

The bird feeders have been well stocked (and millet-free) since before the snow started falling, thanks to the fair and industrious Trudy. Although in the early afternoon Starlings scare everyone else away, in the morning the Lesser Goldfinches own the place. They peck at the seeds in the feeders and pick up the jetsam strewn about on the snow covered ground. Every once in a while, a yellow and black flash will arrive, but mostly it’s the greyish/greenish/brownish females and juvenile males.

Trudy stands transfixed at the kitchen window watching them.

2. Waxwings and Possumhaw

Down the street, there is a magnificent Possumhaw near the curb. Sadly, ours is male and so produces no berries. This one down the street is decidedly female, and its berries have been untouched until recently.

I glanced that way yesterday in the morning after the five inches of snow fell overnight. There was a fury of activity: Cedar Waxwings swooping in and swooping out, fluttering in the branches, frantically hopping on the ground where many red-orange berries were lying on the white snow. Today half of the berries were gone. Well gone in a sense, because strewn about on the snow- and ice-covered street and yards of four nearby houses was evidence (shall we say) of the berries that used to be.

3. Oak and Moss

There is a massive Live Oak on Old Fredricksberg Road just where the hill begins.  

It lost a limb last night as the freezing rain coated the trees. This tree in particular is struggling since it is between the street (which must have taken half its rootball) and a sidewalk (which was poured recently as likely damaged the other half). Its canopy is thinning. The Ball Moss is moving in.

Covered in ice, the weight of all that ball moss must have been tremendous. A large limb had crashed onto the street overnight. The ice-covered branches and twigs shattered as it hit the pavement. It was no longer so much an oak limb as a pile of ice shards, broken off bark, kindling, and piles of frozen ball moss.

It took about 20 minutes to move the mess out of the road. Thanks to Pete who pulled over to help move the huge main branch.

Well-Masked and Well-Oiled

Wednesday, 17 Feb 2021, 12:51 GMT-0600

A man in a mask sat in a chair in the performing arts center parking lot. He said to wait 20 minutes and then to walk to the blue tent.

At the blue tent, there was a man in a mask who pointed to two people in masks at a table. These two looked at my drivers license, put a yellow band around my wrist, gave me a form to fill out, and told me to give it to the people over there.

Over there, a woman in a mask took my form, checked my yellow band, took my temperature, and told me to go in through the main doors. A man in a mask pointed me to the other end of the lobby. A woman in a mask looked at my wrist band and directed me to another woman in a mask who directed me to another door where yet another woman in a mask stood.

This woman was wearing scrubs. I was getting close. The walls were lined with numbered tables, suitably spaced. There were people with rolled up sleeves sitting beside each table and nurses administering jabs. I stood on a sticker on the floor six feet behind the person in front of me. 45 seconds later, the woman in scrubs pointed me to Table 2.

“Just a little pin prick,” the Table 2 woman said. She put a bandaid on my arm, gave me a CDC vaccination card, and directed me to the far side of the room.

I listened to several more people in masks and followed long, yellow arrows on the floor down a hallway to the auditorium where yet more people in masks gave instructions. I sat in Row 15 suitably distanced from the others who had just got their jabs. 

A woman  stood next to our row and gave instructions from behind a muffling mask. After fifteen minutes, she said we were free to go.

Altogether, it was a well-masked and well-oiled machine. 

Winter Questions

Monday, 15 Feb 2021, 14:08 GMT-0600

Winter wildlife — got water?

finch in winter

Winter not-so-wildlife — what’s this between my toes?

Izzy in winter

Closed for Business

Monday, 15 Feb 2021, 13:59 GMT-0600

It hasn’t been this cold nor have we had this much snow since I moved to Texas in 1982. Café Trudy is officially closed for business.

cafe trudy in the snow

Resonant Popping Carrots

Saturday, 06 Feb 2021, 19:55 GMT-0600

The test was halfway through. It was time for lunch. The kids had slipped their answer sheets into the test booklets and given them to the teacher who stacked them on a table at the front of the classroom.

She was about to pass out their lunches when I walked in. I was her lunch relief. She was free to go. I passed out the sack lunches from the cafeteria: a sandwich, a baggie of carrots, an apple, and chocolate milk.

When they have lunch during standardized tests, they are absolutely not allowed to talk. Thirty minutes of silence. With lunch distributed, all I had to do was keep them quiet.

There was a girl in the middle of the room who was reading a book. She wasn’t going to be a problem. And there were several whose heads were down and others staring blankly into space. No problem with them, either. But there were four boys in the far corner who were already chatting.

“Guys,” I said in a low voice. “No talking.”

Thirty seconds later, they were whispering.

“Guys.”

After the third time I got up and walked over. I tapped on one of the desks. “Come on guys, that’s enough.” 

And it was. Until they opened the baggies of carrots in their lunches.

Pop! One of them bit a carrot and it made a resonating sound.

About 30 seconds later. Pop! Another carrot. The resonant tone was different, and it came from a different part of the room.

Pop!

Pip! Pep!

Pip! Pep! Pop!

To my knowledge, there are no rules against resonant carrot popping. So I just ignored it all. And after about five minutes, the popping stopped. 

I think they ate all their carrots.

Always in the Room

Thursday, 04 Feb 2021, 22:32 GMT-0600

We had finished the notes. They had finished the practice problems. Four students were talking on the far side of the room in voices that were gradually getting louder. One of them cursed. 

I looked up. He looked at me. His hands were clasped.

“Sorry,” he said.

I smiled but shook my head slowly.

“I’m sorry to your grandmother.”

There is one rule about language in our classroom. I teach it on the first day: I expect them to speak as if my grandmother is in the room. Because, I tell them, she always is.

“You’re grandmother is in the room?”

“She is.” 

This turns out to be an effective way to frame things. I am not the bad guy. And without knowing her, they somehow know her well enough to regulate their own language. 

“Mr. Hasan’s grandmother!” I sometimes hear one of them whispering to another.

She is always in the room.