Crow Diary, Week of Nov 13

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Major crow drama today!

A THIRD CROW showed up while my mated pair were having a snack. It could have been the pouring rain and low temps; finding food I imagine was maybe harder today despite what I feel are an excess of slugs out and about I have been wondering for some time when the gig would be up for my mated pair. There are so many crows in our area that there was bound to be one flying casually over, all coasting and cool, and it looks down and sees my two feasting on their own personal peanut buffet that is graciously refilled me moi every day. The flying-over crow was likely all “Oh HO, so THAT’s why Carole and Sam were so quiet at the murder meeting last week! They’ve been enjoying their own stash!” He flies down and is all “I won’t tell if you don’t,” but Carole and Sam, my mated pair, aren’t having any of that. No self-respecting crow would. Carole and Sam both cawed at the interloper, whom we’ll call Jerry, and told him to get out of town, but Jerry was like, “Yeah, no. I’ll cut you a deal. I won’t tell the rest of the murder about this and we three keep it between ourselves.” Carole and Sam are not pleased. But they have no choice but to share with Jerry now, or else they risk everyone else finding out about my free peanut kitchen, and let me tell you, I don’t have time for that. I’m already out of my original five-pound bag of peanuts. It’s going to have to be a trip to Costco for these guys soon and I’m an introvert to whom Costco is easily the seventh circle of hell, so that’s an enormous sacrifice.

Soon after this exciting showdown, all three crows left. I imagine Carole and Sam left because they were trying to pretend that my peanut feast was awful and not worth any crow’s time, particularly Jerry’s. For reasons unknown, Jerry flew away, too. Perhaps to  tell his wife, Kitty, about it and make plans for a dinner date.

In my opinion, Jerry is fool of the highest order if he doesn’t come back–either on his own, or tomorrow with Carole and Sam–because that peanut feeding often includes dog food and stale bread and today it included a slug, too. YUM. (I didn’t put the slug there. It crawled in.)

Embed from Getty Images

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The crows called me to come feed them at about 8:45 (an improvement on yesterday, which was 7:30, and I refused to come out then.)

They carefully watched me when I came. I talked to them but they weren’t really having it. I filled the tray with tasty bread in addition to peanuts and held out a bread piece, but they weren’t going to fall for that, either.

The calls they made after I went in were interesting. One flew down but was VERY cautious, going around the feeder and never directly to it. The mate sat on the wire and cawed when he saw danger. Crok crok crok crok from the female on the ground, and few single crawks from the one of the wire, and when there was danger, Caw craw craw. (longer, more drawn out.)

They are so skittish, it seems like very little progress has been made except that they call me out to feed them and I come.

Who’s the smart one here?

Crow Observation Diary, Sunday 11/12

Today I had an amazing new thing happen.

Not my crow, but a lovely photo taken by Hannes Wolf, Johannisberg, Geisenheim, Germany, via unsplash.

I started feeding my crow couple originally at around 5 pm, and they learned quickly that that was the time I came out. But then it switched to the morning because I started feeding them in the morning. What I noticed is that they didn’t always eat what was given to them in the evening, but they ALWAYS eat the morning feeding. Because, probably, crows are early birds.

Usually they like to eat around 8 am, but this morning I slept in and went out at around 10 am. The crow pair was sitting over my driveway on the telephone wires as usual, and I filled the dish for them. One o f them flew down while I was there! This was a huge milestone because previously the crows have been too skittish to come down while I was outside.

Then, in the afternoon at around 3 pm, I went out and one of the couple was sitting near my house, over my driveway. I said hi to it like I always do, and this time it went “Crock.” Just once! I was thrilled! I hoped very much this was its approximation at imitation because crows supposedly can imitate our sounds and other bird sounds. I know ravens sure can, because I’ve “talked” to a captive raven before, where she would perfectly mimic my laugh or a hum.

I said hi again and the crow again said “Crock.” Just once. Even if this is NOT a mimic, it’s very much a new sound and a new communication I’ve heard from these crows.

Thrilling, all in all.

Crow Observations

crow illustration by me

I was encouraged by my brother in law to keep a journal of what I’ve seen with my crows that I’m feeding. It was a good idea. Nothing I’ve read of crows so far necessarily helps me understand my two crows better.

Every morning I take a walk around the block with Fergus, my small terrier-schnauzer mix. It’s really a ten minute walk designed for me to stretch my foot, post ankle surgery, and for Fergus to do his morning business. For the past week, I have suspected that my two crows were following me as I walked, but of course there’s no way to tell. You can’t catch a crow and tag him; they’re far too clever to be caught. In Crows: Encounters with the Wise 

Guys of the Avian World by Candace Savage, Savage mentions that a researcher tried hard to catch crows but was outsmarted each time. So she simply threw nets over large gatherings of crows; inevitably a few would be caught. Anyway, there’s no way for me to tell my crows, but one or two does sit on the wire and cawk at me. For two days I’ve noticed it fly back over the street to my house. This makes me think it’s my crow because no other crows but mine sit by my house. I don’t know this for a fact, of course, but my mated pair are protective of their food source and they haven’t told any other crows about it.

I noticed something else today. When one of the pair is alone, he or she waits for the missing mate. He or she caws loudly into the morning, calling for the mate. But at me, sitting above the wire, it’s a different caw. When calling for the mate, it’s more of a faster, high pitched “cak cak cak cak” but when they crow to me, it’s a slower and raspier “cawk. Cawk.” This is the first time I have noticed a difference in the type of call.

Generally, the mate who is there first will not eat the peanuts until the spouse joins him or her.

In the weeks I have been feeding the crows, what I’ve noticed is this: they will look in my large living room windows at me. They definitely know who I am. They do not eat when dusk falls. They’ve managed to tell no other crows about the food source—and our neighborhood is filled with crows. They love stale bread the most, although they eat all of what I set out (roasted, unsalted peanuts and dog food mixture). They generally come at 8 am and 4 pm, give or take.

Here is a photo of the single crow this morning, taken from my living room window. He or she is waiting for the mate to arrive before commencing breakfast.



Backlog Magazine

I’m thrilled to announce the launch of Backlog, a new magazine for writers and other animals.

Backlog was born because I wanted a writing magazine that covered all aspects of the craft and publishing, but I wanted it to look like a really pretty lifestyle magazine.

The contents are:

  • Writers on writing
  • Agents on agenting
  • Editors on editing
  • Interesting things being interesting
  • Slow things being slow

The first issue is being designed now, and the articles are in copyedit. Backlog will be available for download on Kindle and also for sale as PDF on the website.

Backlog launches on November 22, 2017.

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How to Make Friends with Crows

crow illustration by me

tl;dr: this post is about how I got crows to come every day for feedings. My goal is to get them to leave me gifts.

I’m not referring to the men on the Wall in Game of Thrones. I’m referring to the amazing, intelligent creatures of the corvid family, the American Crow.

And I wanted to make friends with one.

Some Background

Some time ago I read this BBC story about a girl who fed crows every day and the crows started leaving her gifts. Shiny things they’d found, sometimes dead things (a nice gift in a crow’s eye!), and other ephemera. The article says:

In 2013, Gabi and Lisa started offering food as a daily ritual, rather than dropping scraps from time to time.

Each morning, they fill the backyard birdbath with fresh water and cover bird-feeder platforms with peanuts. Gabi throws handfuls of dog food into the grass. As they work, crows assemble on the telephone lines, calling loudly to them.

It was after they adopted this routine that the gifts started appearing.

The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn’t a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically – anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow’s mouth.

I was already fascinated by crows before reading this story, because of this incredible Nature documentary that shows just how intelligent they are. This documentary runs about an hour but it is well, well worth your time:

The Nature documentary above has a fantastic segment about a guy who sets a hawk on a group of crows because there were too many in one area; a Canadian town was having issues with them. The hawk takes a crow down but doesn’t kill it; the man intervenes and sets the crow free. (Start watching at 6:05 to see this segment; or start at 7:00 to see this specific hawk action.) Why? Because as the hawk owner says, “The reason that I let this crow go is that she was not much harmed and she was in good shape to join her friends there [bunch of crows in the trees] and she will tell the story of what just happened to her [being brought down by the hawk]. See, they are all coming up now and she is joining them, and she is telling them the horrible story.”

The crows she tells will know there’s a hawk in the area, and leave. It’s amazing that crows can communicate in this way, and they clearly have a language that is sophisticated enough to tell stories and vital information.

What I did

There are a ton of crows in my neighborhood because they like the tall oaks and eucalyptus trees, despite the presence of a hawk or two (their enemies) in the area. I didn’t actually expect much success on this; certainly not like Gabi in that BBC article. One evening I went out with a bag of pistachio nuts and tried to get the attention of a few crows who were sitting three houses down in a wire. Crows watch you; they watch everything going on because they are curious and intelligent and that’s what they do.

1/ So I shook the bag and called to them and, inanely, made kissy sounds. I knew they saw me, even though they were like “Hmm, that’s silly” in a droll tone of voice.

2/ Then I made sure they saw me put the nuts down. In this case, I put them on the sidewalk in front of my garden because I was afraid they wouldn’t see it otherwise.

It didn’t take long after I went back into the house before one flew over to the telephone wire in front of my house to survey. He or she was wary, and after a few moments of seeing that there were no obvious traps, the crow flew down to inspect further. It grabbed a nut and went to eat it in the street, away from any potential traps.

When there were no traps, the crow came back and scarfed up the rest.

His or her mate soon joined her. The two crows did not tell their friends about this; they preferred, over the coming week, to simply keep this food source to themselves.

3/ I promptly ordered a 5 pound bag of unsalted peanuts from Amazon and began feeding the crows around 5ish every day. Around 5ish, they appear, waiting for me.

Today, they appeared at 9 am, but only to inspect and see if they missed any yesterday. I have been putting the peanuts in my garden along the garden stones so that eventually I can lure them off the sidewalk and provide a sort of flat bird feeder. Yes, other critters will come get the food too, but no, I don’t mind.

The fact that I was able to earn the crows’ trust and provide food for them and that they recognize me as doing so is amazing. I will update if they leave any gifts!

Here are my crows:


End of Year Planner Wrap Up

tl;dr: this post is about the planners I am using in 2018. Paper planners, of course!

As 2018 approaches, those of us who are planner nerds are getting in order what we want to use for the next year. If you’re extra nerdy, like me, you already have your 2018 planner. Because I know everyone wants to look over everyone else’s shoulder to see what we use, here’s mine.

On a daily basis

I use the Day Designer on a daily basis and have for three years. It’s expensive–$59–but it’s incredibly useful and not a day goes by that I don’t use it. It’s an actual business expense. I like it because:

  • It’s pretty, so I tend to look at and use it (pretty planners tend to have that effect on me, which is good to know)
  • It’s large,  9″ wide x 9.75″ tall, so I can’t ignore it and I have lots of room to write in it
  • It has an amazing day sheet and I love the monthly view

This is the pretty cover I picked this year:

If you are interested in buying one, I have an affiliate link here. I don’t recommend products that I don’t already love and use myself, and I can honestly say Day Designer is fantastic.

On a weekly basis

I have not found a planner that I like that handles weekly spreads although Day Designer’s Bluesky for Target Weekly planner comes close. Whereas I really want the daily layout because I won’t create that myself in a free-form bullet journal, I do want a much freer layout in my weekly spread, because things change from week to week. Therefore, I really have found the most use out of a freeform bullet journal.

I use the Leuchtturm 1917 journal. I like the heft, the quality of the pages, and the two bookmarks. I tend to use stickers with this, too.

On a yearly basis

Year planners are goal planners. I did a wrap up of the four goal planners I bought in 2017, but for 2018, I’ll be sticking with Power Sheets. It’s pretty, it’s effective, and I tend to use it.

I’d love to know what you’re using. Tell me in the comments!


Happy Birthday to Me, 2017!

Every year I allow my blog to interview me on my birthday, because I am primarily the person who reads my blog, and because I can. (Here is 20132014, 2015, and 2016.)

Me: Happy birthday!

Me: Aww, thanks.

Me: What are you up to this year? Besides getting older.

Me: Well this year I’m in a cast. BUT! I’m getting it off today, on my birthday.

Me: Fantastic! What did you do to yourself?

Me: I was attacked by a tiger!

Me: Really? I don’t remember that happening.

Me: No. I had some pretty severe ankle issues and it was rebuilt. Loose tendons and cartilage issues and all. So it’s all tightened up in there.

Me: And you can walk without pain.

Me: Once this cast comes off.

Me: What else have you done this year?

Me: I went to Atlanta and Miami, and that was fun. I covered the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona El Clasico from the press box. This was pre-hurricane.

Me: Mm hmm. Anything else?

Me: Oh! I floated on the Russian River, just floating, doing nothing. That was incredible. Everyone should float down a lazy river! It’s better than therapy.

Me: That does sound nice. Any new obsessions?

Me: Oh yeah. Octopuses. I just fell in love with them–


Me: I’m not marrying one or anything.

Me: Phew.
Embed from Getty Images

Me: I just think they’re amazing. They’re SO smart and they’re very sensitive. Think about it: these amazing creatures developed intelligence totally independently of our evolutionary tree.

Me: what about the people who want to eat them?

Me: Don’t. Ever. You’re eating an intelligent being.

Me: So you’re saying only eat stupid animals?


Me: I see you’ve given the website a facelift. You’ve added these girl figures everywhere.

Me: Woman figures. And yes. It was time.

Me: So how’s the writing front?

Me: It’s good.

Me: Good?

Me: Yeah.

Me: Can you elaborate?

Me: You know me, Me. I never elaborate on writing news until it becomes a Thing.

Me: Okay, then, what else?

Me: I’m learning Dutch– I’m like 50% fluent.

Me: Ja? Ik denk het niet. That means “I don’t think so.”

Me: Well, my grammar isn’t so hot. But ja! I am learning!

Me: Didn’t your mom tell you that learning Dutch was silly because everyone speaks English in the Netherlands?

Me: Yes, but what she fails to realize is that they speak English for the benefit of HER. They actually do speak Dutch.

Me: Okay. What else?

Me: I just realized that this is kind of like Vogue’s 73 questions.

Me: It totally is!

Me: I bet they ripped it off from me.

Me: Obviously. They should do one for you.

Me: They should.

Me: Let’s close this out with some gifs, shall we?

Me: YES!


Tarot for Writers

Hello! Today I am guest blogging at Writers in the Storm and the topic is: using tarot for writers!

I’ve made a free downloadable worksheet for you, which accompanies the post. It’s the Hero’s Journey in Tarot Worksheet, with spaces to write out what you draw.

PSSST! Will you do me a favor? If you like my downloadable sheet, will you sign up for my mailing list > — over there, on the right. Look up. Yes. To the right. THANK YOU! I’ll send you MORE tarot worksheets and other excellent stuff. 

Download the Hero’s Journey in Tarot Worksheet (PDF)

Update: This download has had such a great response as a result of the post that I’ll be making more of these for tarot – please check back soon!









I also have more downloadables on various writing topics for you if you’re interested. All free! No sign ups required!

Fall to-do list

There is a tree next door to my house that is super tall and towers over both my backyard and the neighbor’s.

The tree is very seasonal, and it dropped its first leaf on September 1.

I have tried to tell it that California always enjoys an Indian Summer, and it will be quite hot yet before fall coolness settles in, but the tree wasn’t having any of it.

And let’s face it, I can’t WAIT for fall to start. In honor of that, I’ve created a Fall Bucket List printable for you!

Download now

Summer Atlanta Trip

I haven’t been to Atlanta in nearly seven years, so I’d forgotten the lushness that greets you—the kudzu that climbs up everything, the thick green of the trees bordering every road, the feeling that it’s about the rain.

It was hot and muggy, when I arrived, with a thunder storm threatening. It made me vaguely uncomfortable; tense in the waiting. Atlanta is now an Uber city and that was extremely apparent at airport pickup where every 2 out of 3 pickups, it unscientifically but probably accurately seemed, were Uber or Lyft pickups. There was nary a taxi. My dad picked me up and by the time we arrived in his town, I’d been traveling all day and was ready for a dinner. A light and refreshing salad with chicken is about the most perfect meal possible when it’s late and you’re tired. I ate and then sank into bed because the older you get the worse jetlag is.

Naturally, that meant a bout of hideous insomnia so I pretty much didn’t sleep until 2 am

The next morning, Thursday, we visited the High Museum of Atlanta, which houses the city’s fine art. I’d last been during the 1996 Olympics, during which I’d seen a spectacular exhibit at the High Museum called the Rings: Five Passions in the Art World, which tied into the 5 Olympics rings. The Rings exhibit gathered art from all over the world demonstrating a ring of passion (love, anguish, awe, triumph and joy). It was the kind of exhibit you’d have to travel the world to see and I feasted my eyes on the likes of Caravaggio’s Diana and Rodin’s The Kiss. Munch’s The Scream was also there, and that was a treat. According an exhibit book, “The 129 works include pieces by Rembrandt, Titian, Caravaggio, Van Gogh and Picasso, as well as a Persian manuscript illumination, spirit figures from Polynesia, Japan and Africa, a Byzantine icon, a Nigerian bronze relief, and a Greek trophy amphora showing an athlete crowned by Victory.”

This visit, however, was to see the Andy Warhol exhibit.

Warhol’s Mao series asks you to look at a dictator in a different way. He thought it would be “fun” to play with his image. And you know what? It is! It adds an element of playfulness that the man in reality most certainly did not inspire.

I was an undergraduate art major so I’m familiar with most major artists, but never had a special feeling one way or another for Warhol. If anything, I reject what everyone else gloms onto, which is hilarious in the case of Warhol because that’s precisely what he explored through his work: what people find popular and no longer see. Say what you want about Warhol, and there’s plenty to say, but the man makes you look at something differently, and to me that’s one of the major tenants of excellent art.

On Friday, I was flying out to Miami, but first I dragged my dad to the Georgia Aquarium to visit their great Pacific octopus. I say dragged but he was a great sport. In fact I dare say I think he had a little octopus fever, too, after I waxed on about them. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the US with over 100,000 animals, and it’s organized really as more of a family amusement destination with more emphasis on going “ooh” and not so much on the science. It has several areas of exploration (piers, cold water, etc), with massive whale sharks and manta rays in one tank, beluga whales in another. To be honest, I had one mission and it was that octopus.

But the octopus gave zero fucks about anyone and sat up in the corner of her tank, resolutely ignoring everyone. She was hard to see and definitely not coming down. That’s not unexpected, but it was disappointing. Below, you can JUST make her mantle out in the corner.

Perhaps most disappointing, though, was the utter failure on the part of anyone working for the Georgia Aquarium to answer my questions about the octopus, or to connect me with one of their biologists or handlers. It has become clear to me that major aquariums are not set up to deeply engage you—and they’re not wrong in this; they know their audience, which generally consists of people swinging by, going “ooh, lookit” and then leaving.

That was Atlanta! Next up is Miami.