Category Archives: Castle Willett

Ring Around The Sun (With BBQ)

It seems that the weekends are distinguished from the weekdays only in that they slightly less hectic and crazed and busy. Not relaxing, not calm, not restful, merely the thinnest of shades less exhausting.

This weekend we managed to squeeze in a quick BBQ in 102° heat.

With the kids all grown up and moved out, the grill often seems a little empty and lonely. There’s some joy to be found in having a crowd over and milling about with beverages in hand, conversation bouncing all over the yard, and a jam-packed grill sizzling along with a second shift of assorted fare ready to go on as soon as the first round is off to the table.

While it was hot, there was a thin layer of high clouds. It made it a pain to see the ISS pass later that evening, but there was a nice 22 degree halo around the sun when I turned around from the grill.

It’s the little things. You’ve got to take them when you can find them.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography, Weather

The Nest

We’ve got a couple of bird nests on the back porch. We’ve seen the adult birds flying in and out, but I haven’t been bothering the nests or trying to peek in there to see if there were eggs.

Then it got noisy this weekend. REAL noisy.

By my account, there are at least four babies in there. Sometimes I think that I can see a fifth, but I never got pictures with all five, so we’ll call that fifth one Schroedinger.

There’s the troublemaker, who was already out and down on the vines. I’m not sure that’s a good career move at this stage of life, but you do you, dude! Then there’s the one above them, not in the nest by out on the 4×8 beam. They must have gotten tired of being in that crowded nest, where the two “good kids” have stayed where they were told to.

That was yesterday.

Today they were quieter, but I only saw three of them early in the day.

Later today, when I caught them being fed, there were just two.

Then this guy was seen hopping around on the ground

He wasn’t flying, he was hopping. I opened the door and he took off like a flapping little bat out of hell into the bushes. I let him go, despite my doubts about his life expectancy out of the nest.

He didn’t look close to being ready to fly, and out of the nest he wasn’t going to get fed. It was well over 100° out there, so that wasn’t going to help.

We put out some water and bread crumbs. We never saw this little guy partaking, but the mockingbirds and a squirrel were grateful.

Does anyone know what the mortality rate is on house wrens? I’m guessing about 50/50, but it’s a small data set. Either way, there seem to be plenty of them around. They’re hardly endangered.

We’ll see how many are there tomorrow.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters

Not Stopping To Smell The Flowers

It’s not that I don’t stop to smell the flowers – god knows there are enough pictures of them here. But as a comment on how you should slow down in life and take the time to enjoy the little things, my preferred activity would be to stop and listen to the birds.

And there are few as entertaining to listen to as the mockingbirds.

I understand that not everyone appreciates them, especially when they’re singing all damn night at top volume outside your window. My first wife in particular sort of hated them, while I look at it as Nature’s lullaby.

We’ve got several pairs in the neighborhood. While they’re not sounding off every night, 365 days a year, right now seems to be a prime time for them. (I know that it’s only the bachelor males who sing all night long.)

The other night I wandered out and recorded a few minutes of one particularly noisy (and presumably particularly horny) male, along with a passing motorcycle down on Valley Circle Drive and all of the neighbors’ air conditioning units rumbling in the background:

Enjoy! The range and variety of song just goes on and on and on! (Whether you’re trying to sleep or not…)

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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters

A Most Bizarre Fourth Of July

First, there was a pretty decent sized earthquake.

I felt it as a long, slow swaying motion, sort of like being on a dock that’s floating free when the wake from a motorboat passes by. There was no rattling or shaking, no sharp movements, and no noise. But it went on and on, at least 30 seconds, possibly twice that. I had time to feel it, know what it was, and get out into the other room, where I could still feel it while standing for a while.

I recognize that phenomenon – it means there was a fairly big earthquake a fair distance away. (I felt the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake like that even though it was over 400 miles away.) This one was about 120 miles away.

It was “exciting.”

Then this afternoon I started hearing multiple helicopters coming low over the house and multiple sirens along Valley Circle Boulevard. Unfortunately, I recognize that phenomenon as well – brush fire!

Yep, that’s the same area that burned last November and kept us for four days with all of our critical documents and belongings packed in the car “just in case.” My money says that today’s brush fire was started by some moron with illegal fireworks.

Fortunately, winds were light, it wasn’t terribly hot, and LA City and LA County and Ventura County Fire Departments jumped on it pretty quickly with over two dozen fire trucks and crews and at least four helicopters. It took a couple of hours, but it’s out.

I hope your Fourth was more fun and less stressful than mine!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Disasters, Photography

Final Countdown

I noticed when I got home from the hangar yesterday that The Big Blue Bomber was now on the last stages of the countdown to 200,000 miles.

Since I usually only drive it on the weekends to the hangar in Camarillo and back, it’s still going to take three or four months, but this milestone is getting closer.

Gotta take tiny chunks of joy (or at least interest) where you can these days.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography

Under The Extended Centerline For KBUR Runway 08

It’s over —-> way about twenty miles or so.

We really don’t get a lot of jet noise since they’re still up about 4,000′ above us. Since I’m fond of aircraft to begin with, I consider it more of a benefit than a problem.

(Image from FlightAware)

I can just sit out there and watch them come in like beads on a chain at times.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Flying, Photography

Jumpy A Little Bit?

It might be a small case of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) previously unnoticed. Or at least previously untriggered.

An hour or so I started getting a whiff or two of smoke. Very faint. Enough so the first few I wasn’t even sure that I was really smelling it.

Then there was a bit more – but not much. Enough so that I thought it might be something minor like a light heating up with some dust on it. Sort of like that burnt smell you get when you turn on the forced air furnace for the first time in the fall and the dust in the burner goes up.

But it didn’t go away, and I got a couple more stronger whiffs. Now it’s time to get up from my desk and check it out.

Nothing in the hallway at all. Go out into the living room. Nothing really, maybe just the faintest trace.

Open the front door and step out – and it hits me like a hammer. It wasn’t my imagination.

The cause was obvious. We’re hitting an unusually cool stretch for Los Angeles in late May, highs barely reaching 70°F, and the lows down into the upper 40’s. It’s 56°F now. Someone in the neighborhood, possibly a couple someones, had their fireplaces going, or a backyard firepit for their holiday BBQ. The end result was that the air was heavy with the scent of wood smoke.

No biggie, right? That’s a homey, comfortable, happy memory smell of fall and winter in Vermont, Christmas mornings… Well, it used to be. Now?

Remember last November less than a half mile from here as we had our valuables packed in the cars ready for the “Go!” command to evacuate?

That would explain the way a whiff of wood smoke put my brain into high alert mode and being outside in the dark with the air filled with the scent doubled my heart rate in a matter of seconds.

Olfactory cues can trigger strong associations with specific memories. It might be a while before the smell of wood smoke again means a cozy evening in front of the fireplace instead of panic and evacuate.

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