Cows and crows are great judges of genius; you can take my word for it. I have sat under trees scribbling my nonsense, and in the middle of open fields attempting to place in paint the indescribable beauties of nature. Ever alert, the eyes of cows and/or crows have often sat in judgement.


We all have a sense of personality; a lingering feeling about a person, though not specific. Often you remember that they were either good or bad, but can’t remember why. What sensory perception triggers memory? Is it sound, sight, smell, or perhaps the waft of a soft afternoon breeze. The afternoon breeze puts me comfortingly back into the bed of a much loved aunt while taking an after-lunch nap together. Do the cows and crows depend upon the same sense of perception?

crows 2

When entering my garden while Henry and his pals are testing out the birdbath, do they know my face? In walking past the open field, when several cows look up in unison from their eternal munching, is it the sound of my boots on the gravel, or the motion of my passing that attracts them? I find it endlessly fascinating to believe these creatures of Nature recognize and accept me for what I am, as I accept and appreciate their attention.


I often wonder if the thin veil between the animal world and us will ever be shorn. Meanwhile, we anthropomorphize our relationships with these amazing creatures, which pleases us no end.

Jan horse 3

Who can explain the thrill of discovery we feel when a small yellow horse in a corral containing several others, looks up at the sound of his name being called?

“My Beau” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

The thing about moments–once they are gone, they’re gone forever.


crows 2

A barking dog can get your attention whether you are in the middle of a good movie or merely trying to fix a recurring computer problem. When they are in the house trying to get some action out of you, you do tend to get a bit churlish. Charlies’s frantic yelping interspersed with an occasional snarl got us on our feet yesterday, to find him under a hallway skylight window looking first up and then back at us with a “what’s the matter with you idiots?” look on his canine face.

There on top of the roof skylight lay a dark figure. prone and silent. I made out the shape of a beak on the left side of the silhouette, which told us a probable sad story of a loss of life.
Dr. Advice climbed up onto the roof to check it out the next morning only to come down empty handed. And yet the dark shadow remained.

Two days ago we had watched dozens of crows in the three large redwood trees flying crazily from tree to tree and back again. They are strange and mysterious birds anyway, so their behavior did nothing more than amuse us.


My over active imagination visualized the funereal celebration the crowd of crows may have been having before they collected their lost brother from the top of our roof to transport him,…. where? Of course, it spoiled my own plans for a burial ceremony. With no body, how could there be a funeral?

Some of you may remember Henry, the sometime bane of Charlie’s and my life. Henry of the burnished black feathers and loud raucous voice who found great joy in aggravating our household by dive bombing the dog and then giving the rest of us the razzberry when we protested. He periodically washes his food in our birdbath making it inhospitable to all the other birds, and sometimes leaves trinkets he has stolen in the bottom of the bath water. But we had not seen nor heard of Henry for a few weeks, and though he had not been on our MIA list, I couldn’t help thinking of him when the rooftop shadow appeared.

Since the top of the skylight was empty, it left only one answer—-the indeterminate darkness must be inside the double layer of the skylight. The intrepid Doctor A. climbed the beanstalk to the base of the skylight, loosed a few screws and plop fell a large piece of paint off the side wall.

No Henry, no funeral, and now to repair the damage.


crows 2 I knew life was going all too smoothly around here. When the last invasion of feathered rats departed, I thought life would return to normal. We again claimed the garden as our own; a peaceful co-existence with the birds and the bees. And then Henry appeared out of nowhere.

He came silently, treading gently on the red brick patio, gazing unhurriedly from front and then side to side as he made his way to the bird bath which is centered amongst pink pelargoniums just reaching full summer bloom.

I had to admit that his glossy black feathers looked like someone had polished him up with some carnauba wax, and he was making the most of it. He actually strutted across the yard with a smug and arrogant look on his face. When he had assured himself that all was safe and he was alone, he flew up and jumped into the bird bath. He drank and bathed and generally looked pretty cute. So I named him Henry. It seemed fitting. Rather like Henry VII; he wanted it so he took it.


The next day while watering the pots, I began to fill the bird bath, only to see it all slimy and fogged up. When I called Dr. Advice to take a look, he told me that Henry washes his food in it. Well, that’s OK I thought. In fact it’s rather nice to know that we have such a persnickety visitor, as long as he gets his food elsewhere.

That was Monday. By Tuesday he was bringing large hunks of bread over to wash, and I could see this might be the ruination of my cute little bird bath. On Wednesday I discovered several small offerings he had brought me submerged in the murky depths. There were several small pieces of walnut shell, a marble, and a large shiny screw. On Thursday, he decided to throw a party, and several of the black freeloaders showed up for dinner. Well, you know how fast a party can get out of hand when the parents aren’t at home.


Up until this time Charlie, our Jack Russell Terrorist, had not roused himself enough to notice the new visitors. However, when they all landed up on the roof and began a loud drumming session, Charlie went berserk. There are not too many things louder or more insistent than a Jack Russell in full pursuit of prey. The sound and the fury is unimaginable. The crow population was in grave danger.

Temptations of dog cookies will do no good in a case like this. Threats of kennel imprisonment are neither heard nor obeyed when the hunt is on.

Again Dr. Advice calmly came to our rescue, solving the situation quickly and without the angst Charlie and I were putting into it. He simply went out and emptied the bird bath. Problem solved, and Henry and his loud partying pals have moved on for the time being.

Charlie has resumed his usual position, stretched out in relaxed comfort on an old Indian blanket, head on pillow, but eyes open, ever alert for trouble.


Corvus (Otherwise known as “Pesky Rotten Crows’

It was one of our all-too-seldom warm evenings, and so I grabbed two plates, piled some salad on them, poured some iced tea, and we slipped out into the garden. It is so lovely at the this time of year, with roses in full bloom and the scent of jasmine filling the air, and we have to take advantage of every opportunity to just sit and enjoy it. Charlie, the resident Jack Russell Terrier, was happy too, and after checking out the bushes for unwary lizards and such, settled down under our feet in the shelter of the big white table under the arbor. Just as Dr. Advice and I were toasting each other with our gourmet Lipton tea, a large, black and decidedly ominous shadow swooped low over the warm patio, and settled on the roof of the house. We glared at each other and set our glasses down. “They’re back”, was an unnecessary observation from my husband.

Whatever else they may be, and we all know stories of their superior intelligence and trickiness, they are loud, noisy and obnoxious as they scream out their attention-getting squawk, inviting all the other crows in the neighborhood to come watch us eat our dinner. Periodically we receive visits from most of the crow population of Northern California, and they take turns washing their food in the birdbath, and probably do a lot of other things in it too that I don’t want to know about. It was pretty cute at first, but then they began stealing food from other birds and hiding it. Dr. Advice remembers watching the crow cousin, the raven, in Homer, Alaska at a seafood packing plant. A worker was moving a large tarp-covered bin filled with shrimp. One raven sat at the front of the bin-keeping the worker busy, while his companion on the rear end was flipping the tarp off and tossing shrimp out to his waiting companions on the ground. They have discovered the great secret of humans, there’s safety in numbers. On another occasion, this time in Wrangell, Alaska, a large and lazy German Shepherd, having recently been offered a scrap of meat, painfully got up and ambled over to retreive it. A couple of wily ravens joined forces, with one awaiting at the dog’s head, and his friend annoying the dog from the rear. As the dog tried vainly to take the meat, the one at the front grabbed it and flew away.


While we bemoan the visitation rights of our crows, the famous ravens at the Tower of London are not only welcomed, but have clipped wings to keep them around and captive. The rule is there must always be six birds, and if one disappears for some reason, they have to bring another in. Only one bird survived the Blitz during the Second World War, so Winston Churchill ordered more brought in to bring the flock up to the correct size.

Superstition persists that “if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.” I have never heard the origin of this belief, or how they settled on six birds instead of ten, but they even have a bodyguard in livery, who makes sure they behave themselves. The ravens are enlisted as soldiers of the kingdom, and can be dismissed for unsatisfactory conduct. They are all named, and Raven George was dismissed and sent to Wales for attacking TV aerials. A few years ago another bird got his dishonorable discharge for visiting a local pub. You can’t blame a bird for lusting after a cool Guiness on a hot day.



Last evening was one of those rare, soft, end-of-summer kind.  It was our 66th wedding anniversary, and we had had a lovely dinner at our current favorite restaurant, and come home to enjoy the rest of the evening while sitting in the garden amid the end-of-summer flowers.  Charlie, our Jack Russell Terrier joined us on our bench under the fig tree.

Suddenly the world exploded around us when a murder of crows took up residence in the large cedar tree.  The angry noise was frightening and they had no intention of stopping any time soon, so we went back in the house and gave the garden back to them.

We never take the time to just sit and watch the wildlife living with us.  Charlie discovers the squirrels, and an occasional lizard, and the small birds frequent the birdbath and waterfall, and a pesky Blue Jay chimes in now and then.  Occasionally an owl silently glides through the garden hunting for whatever he needs to feed his family.

Red-winged and Cooper hawks hope for a newly laid egg while sailing with the air currents around the yard.

In the mornings we occasionally see evidence of an enquiring raccoon or possum, or catch the faint scent of that malodorous black and white visitor we would rather not tangle with.

All in all, free entertainment if we take the time to watch for them.  And then, as darkness falls, the night-long symphony of frog-song.  Nature giving us it’s best neighborhood show.  It’s a wonderful life.


Garden at Dusk, watercolor  painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen                                                                                                   Spidery Plants at Dusk , watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen