Elderberry Treasure

The best jam ever

The great thing about books, real live paper and ink books, is that in addition to sitting on your shelves collecting dust, sometimes they call out to you, to just take a quick peak inside, for old times sake, or to jog your memory a little bit. When you listen to them, sometimes there’s a forgotten treasure waiting for you.

I don’t remember now for sure which book it was that I pulled off the shelves of the Valley apt. bookshelves. I want to say that it was the book about writing short stories, which would make sense since I’ve been listening to many of the New Yorker Fiction Podcasts lately, and have been thinking about short stories. But, whichever book it was, I was pleased to find some interesting reading, and something else.

Back in December of 2008, we got a wonderful Xmas present from two very dear friends of ours – a jar of homemade Elberberry jam and a card that went with it, lovingly prepared and shared with us. The jam is long gone, but the card – the card survived in a book about short stories. And it was wonderful, nearly 2 years later, to find it, and be reminded again of the card-creators-jam-makers that made them both.

The inside of the card

The Card always brings a smile to my face. The inside reads:

“Wild Organic Naturally-grown and ripened Elderberries Hand-Harvested in the Woodchuck Country of the Southern Sierra at the Peak of their Flavor; Refined Natural evaporated cane juice from Environmentally tilled tropical plantations cultivated by Happy, Documented Legal Immigrants paid a Fair Living Wage (but a wage that does not support large families which would contribute to the problem of overpopulation over-taxing the Planet’s Resources); Dextrose and Citric Acid produced by Caring Chemical Engineers who are Members of Union of Concerned Scientists, using lab apparatus – made only from 100% recycled and certified “Cradle-to-Cradle” technology and materials; and Sustainably Harvested, Naturally-Aged Fruit Pectin from Old-Growth pectin groves.

Our unique, Special Issue October 2008 Vintage of Hoffman Mountain Wild Elderberry Jam commemorates five consecutive years of high-standard first ascents on the southern escarpment of Hoffman Mountain on the western slope of the High Sierra. Nourished by plentiful organic fertilizers (Bears are common in the area), harvested beside the Little Rancheria Trail by itinerant adventurers, gently simmered with love to the peak of perfection in the charmingly quaint stone-hearth Country Kitchen of the Old Climbers’ Home in Mill Valley, California, these Elderberries are guaranteed to bring a wild reminiscence of tumultuous Sierra Autumn Sunrises to your family’s table.”

And that is why digital books, for all their convenience, are not as good as regular books.

My Baby Bird

The Cutest Baby Bird
It was the strangest thing, and has been quietly haunting me ever since it happened.

We were on our way out the door to surprise a friend on his birthday, saying goodbye to a guest who had spent the night and was now on his way to Colorado, by bicycle. Tom had taken the first load of things out to the car, when he called me, and pointed out a small baby bird, still slightly downy, hopping and cheeping on our walkway. It didn’t seem able to fly yet, and could only manage a few feet in a flutter.

That was interesting, and I thought maybe I’d go out and take a picture. I sat down on the sidewalk, and started taking pictures, and the little guy (girl?) started hopping toward me. I held still, delighted to be getting a close-up view, and trying not to frighten it away. I shouldn’t have worried about that. It hopped straight up to me, and cuddled in next to my leg. When I moved away, it followed me and settled in again. It seemed cold (in spite of the down coat?), and desperately cute.

The baby bird hopped right up to me and snuggled in for warmth.
The only explanation for this one being out on its own, that I could think of, was that he’d been kicked out of his nest by a stronger sibling or something, and left without help from his parents, hopping and peeping as it was, it was probably going to end up as a coyote snack, if it didn’t die of exposure or starvation first.

Normally, I can be fairly stoic when it comes to natural selection. In nature, sometimes even the really cute little guys get killed and eaten, but then the cute little guys rarely make a personal plea. They rarely come right up and ask for a little warmth. It had snuggled up to me. It had started a Relationship.


I know nothing about how to care for a young bird. I didn’t know what kind of bird it was, or what it would normally eat. If we fed it, would it still learn to forage for itself eventually? Even more of an issue, we were leaving for a 3 day weekend in San Diego. We couldn’t take it with us, or care for it while it was here. so, we settled for leaving an old fleece jacket on the sidewalk with the little bird, and continued packing the car. Almost immediately, the bird settled into the jacket and I was able to pick up jacket and bird and move it to a more sheltered location. Then we left.

What kind of bird is this?
Tom wondered aloud whether we’d really done it a favor or not. Starving to death doesn’t sound like a good way to go. Maybe it would have been better for it to have been left more exposed, to die more quickly from a predator.

We’ll never know. When we got back, the little bird was gone.

I learned later, that sometimes when a young bird is first learning to fly, it spends some time hopping and flapping furtively on the ground, with the mother bird nearby, before getting itself straightened out and getting on with its life. I choose to believe that is what happened to my little bird.

Of all the birds in Yosemite, this little brown bird is my new favorite kind of bird… or would be if someone can tell me what kind of bird it is.

Cousins in Yosemite

Cousins at Glacier Point
Cousins at Glacier Point
My beautiful cousins from Florida are now living in CA, and they came to visit last weekend in Yosemite. It was wonderful to have a chance to catch up with them, and show them around. They were so thoughtful – they brought me a delicate orchid as a birthday present, and a birthday card. These are so much more spectacular than the small native orchids that you find around the park growing wild.

On Saturday morning, after late night arrivals for both cousins, we got a leisurely start with Quiche (courtesy of Kim) and strawberry scones (courtesy of Stephanie and Tom, respectively), and then hit the trail. Fortunately, because Tom and I had left one car in the Valley, we were able to start the hike down the Panorama and Mist Trails from Glacier Point, rather than driving down in the Valley and battling for the few remaining parking spaces. The hike was wonderful.

As seems typical lately, Tom and I slipped into flower picture taking mode, and brought up the rear of our procession for the first part of our hike. I saw some purple nightshade for the first time. The Brewer’s Golden Asters were out in great numbers. Whisker brush. Monkey flowers. Pacific stonecrop. We decided that we need to keep a journal of some sort to catalog all the different flowers that we saw along the trail including things like time of year and any other interesting things. That would be a fantastic record to have.

Tom and Orestis playing funny boy games along the trail
The waterfalls were more spectacular than usual for this time of year because of our big winter/snow season, and the mist a welcome reprieve from the heat on the trail. The best part was just having the chance to get to know each other a little better.

Dinner was interrupted with the need to go and retrieve Kim’s car, from where we left it at Glacier Point, but the ice cream and the conversation was excellent. Stephanie decided to get up early instead of driving late, sneaking out of the house at 4am on sore legs and feet from hiking, only to work a full shift on her feet for the day. Next time, maybe we should try rafting instead.

Kim and Orestis spent the night in the downstairs apartment, and we got to spend a little more time with them in the morning (my actual birthday) before they took off to explore Tuolumne and maybe Mono Lake, while we settled in to clean the rental apartment for the next guests, and then curl up with movies and a bit of champagne. All in all, a very happy birthday weekend.